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Tom Brady: ‘Not a lot of margin for error’ in Miami

09.29.10 at 4:52 pm ET
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FOXBORO — You’d think after three Super Bowl titles, a perfect regular season and some great wins over the last 25 years in Miami, the questions would stop about how hard it is to win in South Florida. Well, that didn’t stop reporters from peppering Tom Brady on Wednesday about his difficulties over the years with the fish. Thanks to the Patriots P.R. staff, here were his answers to that question and much more:

Q: What is it about the Miami Dolphins that has contributed to the poor record in Florida since 2001?

TB: Um, what is it about them? The Dolphins… Well, I don’t think we’ve played particularly well [in Miami]. Certainly in the early part of my career, we got beat quite a bit down there. There was a long streak for a long time that we hadn’t won down there. Then, we hit Troy [Brown] on the deep post [in 2003], then we won a few [games]. But I think what it means is that there’s not a lot of margin for error down there. So as an offense, I think we have to understand that they have a very good defense and they play well at home. So, you’re right, it’s a tough contest for us every time we go down there, every time we play those guys. In my experience here, whether it was home or away, we’ve always had some great battles with the Dolphins. I’m sure this week will be no different

Q: Do you have more options to throw to this year compared to last year?

TB: It’s only been three games, so I wouldn’t…

Q: Now you’ve spread it around more than last year…

TB: Yeah, I think the tight ends have been more involved this year. We’re running the ball like we did last week. I think that’s been a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish. So, we’re just trying to be balanced. The best offenses are the ones that run it well and throw it well. You have different [running] backs that run it like Sammy [Morris] and Benny [BenJarvus Green-Ellis] and Fred [Taylor]. And you have different receivers that you throw to that all present different challenges to the defense. We have some guys underneath we throw it to, some guys intermediate we throw to, some guys deep that we throw to, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to spread it and make them defend everything. Because if it becomes one-dimensional and you start throwing to one or two guys, then that’s not hard to defend. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bits from Belichick, 9/29

09.29.10 at 4:44 pm ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here are a few of the highlights from today’s Q&A between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and the media:

Q: Can you talk about the dimension that BenJarvus brings to the team and the options you have when he’s in there?
BB: Benny is a good, solid back. I think he does everything pretty well. [He] runs, obviously. He can pick up the blitz, catch the ball. He plays solid for us in the kicking game. He can really help us on all four downs in the game. It’s good to have players like that that are versatile and can do a lot of different things. Benny is tough. He seems to always kind of be moving forward on contact and get that extra yard or two. You don’t see him get knocked back very often. He’s got good pad level, runs hard. He’s tough.

Q: It’s been almost exactly two years since Miami unveiled the Wildcat against you guys. This year they’ve been more efficient with their standard sets instead of the Wildcat. Do you see it as something that might be coming to an end?
BB: They use it every week, so I think it’s part of their offense. They have a different version of it each week; they change the formation or the look or they give you a different look on it. But with Ronnie [Brown] – well it could be Ricky [Williams] too, they’ve used him back there – but as not the quarterback taking the snap from center and then having a variety of plays that come off it, they do a good job of disguising that. A lot of it’s just their core things they do on offense. It’s not really new plays, but it’s a new look and it puts you in a different dimension defensively. I think it’s still there. I think every team is going to see it and probably depending on how well they do or don’t do against it, you get more or less of it.

Q: Have you found your offense to be more varied this year in terms of how many different people Tom Brady can throw to?
BB: I think Tom has always tried to throw to the open receiver. We’ve always, I think for the most part, moved the ball around and had a number of different guys on the receiving end of his passes. We don’t design plays [and say], ‘Well, we’re going to go back and throw to this guy,’ or ‘we’re going to go back and throw to that guy.’ We try to keep everybody involved in the play and then depending on how the defense and what kind of coverage they present to the quarterback, he’ll make hopefully the right decision about where to go with the ball and those players will be open based on there being less coverage in that part of the field. That’s kind of how we set it up.
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Pats Wednesday practice: Taylor absent

09.29.10 at 1:23 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Fred Taylor, who was limited in Sunday’s win because of a toe injury, was among three players missing for the start of Patriots practice in full pads on the upper fields outside Gillette Stadium.

Also out were cornerback Terrence Wheatley (foot) and OL Nick Kaczur (back). Wideout Taylor Price, who missed last week with an ankle injury, was back in action. A formal injury and participation report won’t be filed on Wednesday since the NFL doesn’t require injury reports for teams playing on Monday night until Thursday.

Quarterback Brian Hoyer, TE Aaron Hernandez, safety Jarrad Page, LB Dane Fletcher and safety Sergio Brown were in black jerseys, honored as practice players of the week.

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Butler knows why he was benched

09.29.10 at 1:19 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Darius Butler knows he’s got some work to do to to earn back the trust of Bill Belichick and the Patriots defensive staff.

Step one on Wednesday might have been seen as actually fessing up to his disastrous performance in Week 2 at the Meadowlands.

The Patriots right corner said he understood why he was benched on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, one week after being targeted by Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez in a 28-14 loss in Week 2. Several times, Butler was in man coverage on Braylon Edwards, and the wide receiver burned him for five catches and a touchdown.

He was also in coverage on Dustin Keller, who had seven grabs for 115 yards and a score as Sanchez threw for 220 yards and three TDs.

“This is a production business, and if you’re not producing, you’re not going to be on the field on Sunday,” Butler said Wednesday. “I guess my play wasn’t up to par and I wasn’t on the field and that’s obviously where I want to be so I have to do whatever it takes to get back on there.”

Butler was replaced at right corner by Kyle Arrington on Sunday and didn’t appear in the Bills game until the second quarter.

Butler came in on nickel coverage and promptly allowed a nine-yard first-down reception to Roscoe Parrish to the Patriots 23 on 2nd-and-5.

He seemed to gather his bearings in the second half and played better. Whether that was good enough will likely be determined this week at practice.

“It was good because we got a win,” Butler said of the 38-30 slugfest. “Obviously, every player wants to be on the field every snap. That wasn’t the case on Sunday. But now I’m moving on to this week.

“I knew I wasn’t starting. The game played out how it played out how it played. l didn’t get too many plays. That’s how it happened.”

Read More: Darius Butler, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, New England Patriots

Patriots add Ohrnberger to 53-man roster

09.29.10 at 12:16 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots signed offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger to the 53-man roster from the practice squad on Wednesday morning. In addition, the Patriots signed offensive lineman Thomas Austin and offensive tackle Steve Maneri.

Ohrnberger, 6-foot-2, 300 pounds, was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2009 Draft out of Penn State. As a rookie last season, he played in three games and was inactive for 13 games and the postseason game vs. Baltimore (1/10). He was waived by the Patriots on Sept. 4, 2010 and signed to the practice squad on Sept. 6.

Austin, 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, was originally signed by Minnesota as a rookie free agent on April 24, 2010 out of Clemson. He was waived by Minnesota on Sept. 4.

Maneri, 6-foot-6, 290 pounds, spent the first three weeks of the 2010 season on the 53-man roster of New England after being claimed off waivers from Houston on Sept. 5, 2010. He was waived by the Patriots on Sept. 27. Maneri originally signed with Houston as a rookie free agent on May 7, 2010 out of Temple. Maneri was inactive for the first three games of the season for the Patriots.

Read More: Rich Ohrnberger, Steve Maneri, Thomas Austin,

Pepper recalls introduction to Parcells

09.28.10 at 3:44 pm ET
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Patriots Camp Football

Pepper Johnson (left) has been an asisstant coach with the Patriots since 2000. (AP)

As a player, Pepper Johnson came of age under Bill Parcells. Parcells was the head coach of the Giants when Johnson was a second-round pick of New York in 1986, and the Ohio State product played for Parcells for five seasons, helping anchor a linebacking corps that was one of the best in the league. Johnson won a pair of Super Bowl rings while playing for Parcells, who is now helping guide the Miami Dolphins.

But their professional relationship started on an interesting note, Johnson recalled on a Tuesday afternoon conference call.

“All the draft picks, he got us into one room and he told us, ‘[You’re] all a bunch of crap.’ He said, ‘We won a lot of ball games around here and none you guys are really needed around here. You just join in wherever you can find a spot,’” Johnson said of his first meeting with Parcells. “And that was the end of the meeting and he got up and walked away.

“He was a hard and tough cookie to deal with from day one and he kept that going until my last year,” said Johnson, who would also play for Parcells for two seasons at the end of his career, 1997 and 1998, with the Jets. “Year 13 he was still hard on me. I thought I was going to get a break after the little span in between, but he was the same person.”

Johnson, who has been a part of the New England coaching staff since 2000, said he’s tried to coach the same way.

“It’s the same [style], but I don’t think it’s because of Coach Parcells. I think it’s something that was just in me,” Johnson said of his own approach. “Coach Parcells was a nice guy compared to my high school coach and kind-of-sort-of my college coach. He’s a nice guy compared to those guys, especially my high school coach. When I got to the league some of the stuff that he was saying didn’t really bother me.

“The best thing I found out about Coach Parcells, I think it was maybe week 10 or week 11 of my rookie year, he brought Coach Bobby Knight out to one of our practices and one of our games. Seeing Bobby Knight over there on the sideline, that’s the type of guy I know I could work for. To see that those two guys were good friends, I just figured that [style] was Parcells’ philosophy, [and that] he carries friends around with the same type of philosophy.”

Bits from Belichick, Caserio and Pepper Johnson, 9/28

09.28.10 at 3:27 pm ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR department, here are a few of the highlights from this afternoon’s conference call between the media and Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio and Pepper Johnson:

Bill Belichick

Q: Is the Wildcat Offense still a part of the Dolphins’ game plan?
BB: You know, I would never say it was a huge part of their game plan. I think it was something they have used and continue to use. As far as their offensive package, it’s just another thing they do to keep you off balance, make you work on it. They change it up. Last year, they ran a little different version of it with Pat White. But with him not there, it’s gone back to more of the original Wildcat with Ronnie Brown running it. Although, Ricky Williams ran it some last year too, so they do a good job with it. I think it’s part of their package like several other things they do. I would put it in that category, but it’s just one of them, one you have to prepare for. But, I don’t think they’re going to be in it for 40 plays or anything like that.

Q: Do you have a sense of what problems Zoltan Mesko may be having?
BB: Well, I thought he hit the ball really well there a couple times on Sunday. As a team, we’re all striving for consistency, individually and collectively, as a unit when we’re out there. So, I’d say I think he’s had some good ones and he’s had couple I think he’d like to have back. I think we can all pretty much go in that category.

Q: Is Brandon Marshall being used the same way as he was in Denver?
BB: Well, I think it’s similar in that he’s definitely one of their go-to guys, which he was in Denver. [Miami’s] passing game is a little bit different than Denver’s passing game last year, but a lot of the routes are similar. Marshall’s a big guy, strong. He’s hard to tackle; he can go up and get the ball. He can really attack you at all three levels – deep, intermediate and short, catch and run type plays. He’s good at all those. He runs those routes, just like he did in Denver. [It’s] maybe a little different versions of it, but essentially, he’s effective at all three levels of the defense and he’s used there.
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