|09.23.11 at 3:10 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When the punter talks, you know there’s an unusual story to follow.
Such was the case Friday when Zoltan Mesko addressed reporters for about five minutes about his left knee, injured in the third quarter last Sunday against the Chargers.
Fellow special teamer James Ihedigbo was pushed into Mesko well after the lefty booted the ball away at the Patriots 8.
“It was our own guy that tripped up and it was a bunch of people in there and it was well after the punt was gone, just a freak thing.”
The good news this week is that he’s been at practice, testing the knee. But a final decision won’t come until after Friday’s practice.
“We’ll see how I handle it. I’m looking forward to helping the team out. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get out there and give it all I’ve got. Ultimately, it’s the coaches’ decision on whether they want to take me to Buffalo. I’d be excited if they would choose so.
“My gut feeling, it’s all up to [Friday] practice. I feel good. We’ll see how it goes. We’ll test out fully. I feel like I put in all I’ve got, as far as rehab goes.
“We’ve tested it out a little bit but [Friday] is the day to decide it. Not a lot of anxiety, more so to put the work in and give it my all. If it doesn’t go, I’m not anxious because I know I gave it all I’ve got.” Read the rest of this entry »
|09.23.11 at 1:35 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Shaun Ellis remembers where he was 10 years ago today when the fate of the Patriots was changed forever. He should since he was on the field trying to get to Drew Bledsoe before Mo Lewis got to him first on the sideline at the old Foxboro Stadium.
‘I was chasing him, we got to the sideline and I dove to try to knock the ball out,’ said Ellis, then in his second year with the Jets. ‘I guess he reached back to get the ball and that’s when Mo Lewis hit him. I remember, you know if someone gets the wind knocked out of him, [but] I didn’t know the extent of the injury. I didn’t know until after the game.”
The Patriots were down 10-3 with just under six minutes left in regulation when Bledsoe was chased from the pocket by Ellis, who forced him to the near sideline. Lewis saw this and made a beeline right toward Bledsoe, who appeared to let up before the sideline. Then BOOM!
“You don’t know, you just go out there and try to play the game of football,” Ellis said. “A lot of things like that have happened in the past, where guys go down and the next guy steps in. The next thing you know he’s a Hall of Famer. That’s how it is.”
That Hall of Famer, of course, is Tom Brady. While the Patriots lost the game, 10-3, Brady rallied the troops thereafter, winning 11 of the next 14 to put the Patriots on their path to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title.
Ellis said he occasionally keeps in touch with Lewis, who now lives in Atlanta, but the two don’t often talk about the fateful hit.
How does Bill Belichick mark the anniversary that began his legacy as a future hall of fame coach?
“Obviously I’m aware of it and all but no, I don’t sit around and reflect on [it],” he said Friday. “I don’t have to write a column about it.”
Of course, Brady was victimized by a season-ending hit in the 2008 opener by Kansas City’s Bernard Pollard.
“It’s no different than any other backup quarterback going into that game,” Belichick said of Brady for Bledsoe in 2001. “He was the backup quarterback to start the season. He was the backup quarterback in that game.
“When you’re the backup quarterback you can go in after the first play like [Matt Cassel] did in ‘08. You can go in on one of the last plays of the game like Tom did in ‘01, or somewhere in between. You never know as a backup quarterback. You have to be ready to go from the first play to the last one ‘ in all situations. All the things that a backup quarterback does to prepare for that ‘ that’s what Tom did, that’s what Matt did, that’s what Doug Flutie did, that’s what Vinny [Vinny Testaverde] did, that’s what Brian Hoyer is doing right now.”
|09.23.11 at 1:33 pm ET|
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King joined Mut & Merloni Friday at noon for his weekly appearance. King discussed Tom Brady‘s hot start to the season, as well as whether Brady would have had similar success over his career had Drew Bledsoe not gotten injured back in 2001.
“I believe that Brady, whether it be 2002 or 2003, at some point fairly soon, I think that Brady was going to be their guy because I think that Bill Belichick, Charlie Weis, they wanted more of a guy who executed what they told him and didn’t audible as much,” King said. “They thought that would be Tom Brady, and obviously it turned out to be so.”
Brady has put up some massive numbers through the first two weeks of this season, throwing for 940 yards and seven touchdowns in just two games. King said that tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have been key in creating problems for defenses and giving Brady multiple options in the red zone.
“I think what has really helped them the first two weeks is that they basically have come in, and it isn’t just they’ve scored 73 points or Brady’s got these gaudy numbers, but they create such matchup problems right now with Hernandez and Gronkowski,” King said. “It looks to me like the tight ends are really helping Brady, they’ve scored four or five touchdowns already, they’re really helping Brady. It really presents some problems for defenses that are hard for them to solve.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
On Devin McCourty: “I think the one thing when I see him play, to me, I think he plays with a lot of confidence. Which he should do because he’s a very good player and he has no fear of any receiver out there. … I think it’s just two games. I think even real good corners are going to get beat and I wouldn’t put too much stock in it. I would just let him play a few more games and I wouldn’t want him to change the way he plays, either.”
|09.23.11 at 12:04 pm ET|
Patriots defensive end Andre Carter joined Mut & Merloni Friday morning to discuss how things are progressing with New England’s new 4-3 defense, as well as what he thought of the Patriots when he was competing against them.
“Playing against them and seeing them on film, it was just an organization that just does things the right way and when I mention that, I mean they play hard together, they play as a unit, it seems like they always emphasize perfection on each and every play,” Carter said. “It’s guys that love the game of football.”
Carter played with the Redskins for five seasons before coming to New England. He had enjoyed a lot of success in Washington, but when Mike Shanahan changed the defense to a 3-4 in 2010-11 season, Carter was forced to switch for linebacker. This past offseason Carter asked to be released, even though he wasn’t sure if any other team was interested in picking him up.
“I really didn’t know who was interested at the time,” Carter said. “People had asked me, ‘Why did you ask for the release?’ It just unfortunately wasn’t going to fit. I had full faith in God and faith in my abilities and knew that I was going to get picked up. I never thought in a million years that it was going to be the New England Patriots.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
On Albert Haynesworth: “This is a new chapter, for himself and for myself as well. Whatever had happened in Washington was in the past and its just a new beginning. … He’s a new man, he just wants to show his skill and show what he can do. You know what he can do and know his potential, so seeing him in practice and seeing him on the field, he’s definitely disruptive and that’s something that we’re trying to make consistent throughout this year.”
On transition to 4-3 defense being a work in progress: “Every game and every season is always a work in progress. Unfortunately with the lockout, you don’t want to make any excuses, myself, [Shaun] Ellis, Haynesworth, just everybody in general, when the lockout ended and the season started, it was definitely such a big rush of information coming at you all at once. … This was just hundreds of pages we covered at one time. As far as leadership, yes, we do have a lot of leadership. As far as work ethic, that’s definitely there. As far as jelling, it’s slowly coming together.”
On his questionable roughing the passer penalty against San Diego: “I thought it was a great hit. I just don’t know how to hit the quarterback any other way. … I call it poetry in motion [laughs]. The game has evolved from the beginning to now, the game has changed so much. But it’s football. Football is football. You can’t just hold up and be like, ‘OK, I can’t hit this guy.’ Because if you do that, then you kind of look like an idiot and whoever you’re tackling, whether its quarterback, running back, receiver, they can go out for a big gain. At the end of the day, you do your job and play.”
|09.23.11 at 11:33 am ET|
Woodhead’s first game with the Patriots came last year in a Week 3 game against the Bills, as he took over for the injured Kevin Faulk and scored his first NFL touchdown on a 22-yard run. However, Woodhead says the fact that the Pats are again playing the Bills in Week 3 this Sunday holds little meaning him.
“Things were obviously a little bit crazy at that time [last year],” he said. “It was a fast transition. Was it the first game I played in a New England Patriots uniform? Yeah, but every game’s different. I really don’t look in the past that much. I’m just trying to stay in the present and get ready for this big game Sunday.”
As for the upstart Bills, Woodhead was unsurprisingly complimentary. “They have a great team,” he said. “They’re 2-0, beat Kansas City, beat Oakland. They do a lot of things really well. That’s something that we just have to be ready for and make sure our preparation is really good and we’re ready for what comes on Sunday.”
Woodhead doesn’t have an abundance of downtime, but when asked which TV show he likes to watch, he said: ” ‘The Office.’ That’s the No. 1 show I always have to make sure is DVR’d. … I need to see what happened last night.”
|09.23.11 at 10:43 am ET|
FOXBORO — In their defensive fronts over the first two games, the Patriots have flashed an awful lot of combinations: three- and four-man looks, complete with several different personnel packages.
However, the four-man front that people have been angling to see — Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter at defensive end and Vince Wilfork and Albert Haynesworth at defensive tackle — hasn’t been on the field all that much as a package. Courtesy of our friends at Pro Football Focus, the Patriots have played 149 defensive snaps this season — Carter has played 91, Haynesworth has played 53, Wilfork has played 119 and Ellis has played 87.
(Kyle Love has actually played more snaps this year than Haynesworth — 57 to 53. Among the rest of the defensive linemen, Mark Anderson has played 48 snaps, Myron Pryor — before he went on IR this week — played 37 snaps, while Mike Wright has played 15 snaps.)
With the understanding that schemes and personnel vary from series to series, the combo of Carter, Haynesworth, Wilfork and Ellis simply hasn’t had that much time together to blend as a unit. The four do have some familiarity — Haynesworth and Ellis were college teammates for a brief stretch, while Carter and Haynesworth spent time together with the Redskins — but as a collective, they are still in the early stages of their professional working relationship.
Part of that is because of what happened in camp and in the preseason — Haynesworth practiced sparingly over the summer, while Ellis was on the PUP list working through a hip injury — it’s no surprise that they are still coming together as a group. But the bottom line remains that it takes time for defensive linemen to learn how to play together.
‘You have to get a feel for how each guy rushes and where they’re going to be and how Vince and Albert, how they (operate),’ Ellis said. ‘It’s all about getting a feel for it. I put it in terms of a jump shooter, who goes out and shoots a whole bunch of jumpers all day long. He’s just getting that feel for when he gets in the game and it just comes naturally.’
Ellis acknowledges the defensive front isn’t where it should be at this time of the year, but says they shouldn’t be judged on their body of work to this point. Instead, he says take a look at the big picture — how it appears at the end of the season.
‘Just see where we’re at at the end of the year,’ Ellis said. ‘We have guys that can get it done. We just have to become more consistent throughout the year. The only way you can really pinpoint that is at the end of the year.’
|09.23.11 at 10:15 am ET|
FOXBORO — Say this for Vince Wilfork, he is one passionate football player, on and off the field.
And when it comes to a cause near and dear to his heart, the Pro Bowl nose tackle pursues it just as hard as he does an oncoming blocker or runner through the line of scrimmage.
Vince Wilfork’s foundation main purpose is to raise money for research and awareness to fight diabetes. His passion for this comes from a close family tie to the disease.
“My relationship with diabetes comes from growing up in my household with my father just being ill for 13, 14, 15 years,” Wilfork said on Thursday. “As a kid, I’m nine, 10 years old at the time, seeing my father go through what he had to go through, give him shots at times, he was so weak.
“We had to bathe him, had to take him to restroom. There was a lot going on that my brother and I had to deal with. So, that’s why this is real close and dear to my heart. I know how this can affect a household because I was one of those people who had to deal with it.”
It’s because of awareness and attention to detail that Wilfork himself has been able to avoid the disease.
“Luckily, God blessed me to be a healthy young man, blessed my family to be healthy but everybody is not able. That’s why it’s very close and dear to my heart to actually come and bring more awareness, to raise money to try and find and fight and tackle this disease. It affects us more than we think.
“One thing that kills me the most is when I see a 4-year old with Juvenile Diabetes,” he said. “I know a lot of people probably have friends and family members that are cancer patients, they’re beating [it] ‘ I put it right up there with cancer. Every year I throw my draft day fundraiser to raise money for diabetes. There’s not one year that comes and goes that I don’t get new people either showing up to my doorstep or showing up to the fundraiser just telling me stories about how they are affected by this disease.” Read the rest of this entry »