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Resetting the list of the Patriots’ 17 unrestricted free agents

04.12.12 at 4:45 pm ET
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With Thursday’s news that Kevin Faulk is planning on returning for the 2012 season, here’s a quick update on the status of the 17 unrestricted free agents on the Patriots radar at the start of free agency:

Running back Kevin Faulk: Has yet to sign. Previously speculated about retirement, but indicated Thursday that he’s interesting in returning for 2012.
Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis: Signed a three-year contract with Cincinnati.
Wide receiver Deion Branch: Signed one-year deal with the Patriots.
Wide receiver/Special teamer Matt Slater: Signed three-year contract with the Patriots.
Wide receiver Wes Welker: Receiver franchise tag, has yet to sign the tender.
Offensive lineman Dan Connolly: Signed three-year contract with the Patriots.
Center Dan Koppen: Has yet to sign. Has visited with Tennessee.
Defensive end Mark Anderson: Signed four-year contract with Buffalo.
Defensive end Andre Carter: Has yet to sign.
Defensive end Shaun Ellis: Has yet to sign.
Defensive tackle Gerard Warren: Has yet to sign.
Linebacker Gary Guyton: Has yet to sign. Has visited with Miami.
Linebacker Niko Koutouvides: Signed one-year deal with the Patriots.
Linebacker Tracy White: Signed one-year deal with the Patriots.
Cornerback Nate Jones: Has yet to sign.
Cornerback Antwaun Molden: Signed an undisclosed contract with the New York Giants.
Safety James Ihedigbo: Has yet to sign.

Read More: 2012 NFL Free Agency, Kevin Faulk,

Kevin Faulk: ‘I am planning on coming back’

04.12.12 at 3:49 pm ET
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PROVIDENCE — Patriots running back Kevin Faulk took part in a charity event at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence Thursday afternoon. Joined by fellow Patriots Dane Fletcher and Matthew Slater, Faulk visited multiple patients in the children’s hospital facility, taking pictures and giving away signed Patriots memorabilia before stopping to talk to the media gathered at the event. Here are some highlights from his Q&A with reporters:

Have you made a decision on what’s going to happen for this year? “I kinda knew this question was coming, so I kinda had an answer ready. First off, I have some bad news, that the softball game is not going to be this year. Some complications happened, so we’re not going to have the softball game. But I got some good news: I am training to come back and play. But it’s not up to me. It’s up to the team and everything. But I am planning on coming back, so we’ll see what happens.”

Can you tell us about coming back to play and what went into that decision and why another season for you? “Everyone says, ‘You don’t have anything to prove.’ Which, I don’t. I don’t play the game of football to prove anything to anyone. I play the game of football because I love it, I’m passionate about the game of football. It’s what I’ve been doing. It’s what I love to do. It took me a while to make a decision, but I felt like I needed this time. I’ve been playing professional football for a very long time. I’ve been blessed, in my eyes, to play for one of the best organizations in the NFL. And to have the opportunity to be able to play again? I wanted to give myself that time to think about it, and I thought about it, and I knew where my heart is and it’s always been here.”

What has been different about this offseason than in the past? “Well, I’m human – (there’s) stress. Not playing as much as I did before last year, not dressing for the Super Bowl, that kinda weighed into my [thinking], like ‘Is it time for you to let it go?’ But in my mind, I still knew that I could play the game of football. Coming back for me last year, I don’t think it was me physically playing the game, it was moreso mentally. When I say mentally … when you’ve been playing the game as long I as have at the same speed for the New England Patriots, everything has to be perfect. You have to be perfect. Last year, I didn’t feel that way at all until towards the end of the season, but at that point, it was too late, because our team was already developed. So in order to sit back and watch the guys perform and play each an every week, that was a hard thing for me to swallow. But to have the time to think what I wanted to do forward? All I did was pray to God and let him help me make decisions to see what was best for me and my family.”

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Rob Gronkowski: ‘I’m definitely excited to get rolling this offseason’

04.12.12 at 12:19 pm ET
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Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski joined Toronto’€™s 590 The Fan on Wednesday to talk about his offseason, the addition of wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, his injury and what it takes to earn the trust of quarterback Tom Brady. Here are a few quick highlights from the Q&A:

The Patriots went out and signed a deep threat in Brandon Lloyd. How great is it to have another weapon? ‘€œI’€™m excited to have Brandon Lloyd coming in. I heard he’€™s a great guy, great player. It’€™s just always exciting to meet new players coming in that want to work hard, that want to get better, that want to help out the team. ‘€¦ He knows the system, coming from the Denver Broncos with Coach McDaniels there, so it’€™s just going to be a blast. I’€™m definitely excited to get rolling this offseason.’€

When you started the 2011 season, did Belichick come to you and tell you you were going to be a bigger part of the offense? ‘€œNo, it doesn’€™t really work like that. It’€™s what you do in practice, just going out there and working hard in practice every day. You create your own roles on the team. It’€™s just going out and getting on the same page as everyone else, getting on the same page as the QBs to get open and basically just going out in practice and showing what you have, going out in the preseason games to earn a job. Whatever you show, that’€™s what they do for that season with you.’€

Was it intimidating at first trying to earn the trust of a great QB in Tom Brady? ‘€œYes, definitely. It’€™s pretty wild first going in. You just sit in the huddle and you’€™re kind of star-struck a little bit. ‘€¦ The next couple years now, I’€™ve settled in and everything and it’€™s just great going in and feeling comfortable now.’€

Were there moments leading up to the Super Bowl where you didn’€™t think you’€™d be able to play? ‘€œNot really, because your mindset is it’€™s the biggest game of the year and your mindset is you’€™re playing no matter what. That was my mindset going into the game and I was basically just doing everything possible in the training room, rehabbing and everything, to make sure I could get out there.’€

Did anyone in the organization have problems with the pictures of you that filtered out where you were partying after the Super Bowl loss? ‘€œThat was a while ago, man. I’€™m just looking forward in the future, just trying to get better now in the offseason training program.’€

Read More: Brandon Lloyd, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady,

The Slater family finds important lessons in rewatching Super Bowl defeat

04.11.12 at 6:43 pm ET
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Patriots special teamer Matthew Slater was asked Tuesday if he had a chance to watch the Super Bowl loss to the Giants.

‘€˜’€˜I watched a little bit of it, only because my dad made me watch it,’€ he said with a rueful smile. ‘€œBut, it was tough to watch it. We got so close. We were winning with four minutes left in the game. You could taste victory. A lot of effort and heart and soul was put into that [game], to get to that point. Unfortunately, things didn’€™t work out. But we can’€™t dwell on that. It’€™s time for us to look to 2012.’€™’€™

Slater was unsure why his father ‘€“ former Rams offensive lineman Jackie Slater — made him watch the game again.

‘€œI don’€™t know — you’€™ll have to ask him,’€ he said. ‘€œI think he wanted me to really relish what we were able to do, get into that stage, and it was something to be proud of. At the same time, learn from that experience and try to improve.’€™’€™

When reached by phone on Wednesday, his father had a simple explanation for the mandatory viewing.

‘€œIt wouldn’€™t make a lick of sense to reach the pinnacle of your chosen profession and not look at the things that you and your teammates did well, and then also see the things that ultimately foiled you,’€ Jackie said. ‘€œIf you can do that, you’€™ll have even more of a clear vision when you start to try and pursue that same goal again.’€

When it comes to taking another look at a Super Bowl loss, Jackie can speak from experience. He was part of a Rams’€™ 31-19 loss to the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV, and said going back and watching it again (as painful as it might be) helped his development as a player — particularly, the insight on his game from analyst John Madden.

It certainly paid dividends for Jackie, who would go on to a 20-year career in the NFL and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

‘€œExperience is the very best teacher,’€ Jackie said. ‘€œFor me personally, after playing in Super Bowl XIV and having John Madden make the comments that he made about my performance — which were all positive ‘€“ that helped keep me driven and focused in an attempt to try and get back to the zenith of my profession.’€

According to Matt, the goal going forward is to shake off any feeling that the 2012 Patriots are a Super Bowl team. The process of climbing the mountain toward the summit will begin again soon enough.

‘€˜’€˜I think it’€™s important for us as a team to understand: we’€™re not a Super Bowl team at this point. This is a new team. This is not the 2011 team,’€ he said. ‘€œWe shouldn’€™t come in there expecting for teams [to say] ‘€˜Oh, that’€™s the Patriots. They were in the Super Bowl last year.’€™ We have to re-establish an identity. There are new players. We have to create an identity for this 2012 team. We’€™re going to have to earn everything all over again. So we’€™re back at ground zero now. We have a lot of work to do.’€™’€™

Read More: Jackie Slater, John Madden, Matthew Slater,

Some notes on the Patriots and Melvin Ingram, Bruce Irvin and Jordan Bernstine

04.11.12 at 1:16 pm ET
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Three very interesting college prospects have recently connected with the Patriots: South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram, West Virginia defensive end/outside linebacker Bruce Irvin and Iowa safety/return man Jordan Bernstine:

1) Ingram, who told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday night that he was headed to meet with the Patriots, is an intriguing name. He’s considered by many to be one of the best pass-rushers in the draft, and at 6-foot-1 and 264 pounds, has some positional versatility as a 4-3 end or 3-4 outside linebacker. He’s likely to be a Top 10 selection, which would mean the Patriots, who have picks at No. 27 and No. 31, would have to trade up to try and draft him.

2) Irvin is one player who has seen his stock increase as the draft draws closer — one theory is that despite some initial concerns about his character, the West Virginia product is getting a chance to meet with teams, and because of those sitdowns, he’s taking advantage of the chance to nip any of those questions in the bud. According to Dan Pompei of the National Football Post, the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder is scheduled to take 12 visits to NFL teams, including the Patriots. Considered a hellacious pass-rusher, he projects to be a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. Our DJ Bean wrote a great piece on him after talking with him at the combine in February.

3) The Patriots are one of three teams thus far who have conducted a private workout with Bernstine (that group includes the Eagles and 49ers, and he’s also reportedly scheduled a visit with the Raiders, according to Aaron Wilson of Considered to be a late-round/undrafted free agent possibility who could provide depth at safety and work as a special teamer, Bernstine has some interesting Pro Day numbers, which included a 6.98 time in the 3-cone drill. (And we all know how much the Patriots value a good 3-cone time.) The 5-foot-10, 210-pounder also has the Belichick University angle working for him as well — as a collegian, he was coached by former Bill Belichick assistant Kirk Ferentz.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Bruce Irvin, Dan Pompei, Jordan Bernstine

No Madden cover for Rob Gronkowski

04.11.12 at 11:43 am ET
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All the promotional videos in the world couldn’t help Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, as he lost in the quarterfinals for the Madden 13 cover vote to Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, 63 percent to 37, it was revealed Wednesday morning. Johnson advances to the semifinals against Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis.

Read More: aaron rodgers, Calvin Johnson, Cam Newton, Patrick Willis

Why I delivered a Hall Pass to these three Patriots

04.10.12 at 4:55 pm ET
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FOXBORO — One of the best parts about my job is the fact that on an annual basis, I get to vote as part of a process to determine the list of finalists for the Patriots Hall of Fame class. Players and coaches who have been retired for at least four years are eligible for Hall of Fame consideration, which this year, means any ex-Patriots player or head coach who retired from the NFL prior to the 2008 season.

This year, the annual meeting — which includes both current and former members of the media, as well as several other members of the franchise and employees of the Hall itself — took place at Tavolino at Patriot Place. This year, the focus seemed to be more on coaches, including one coach who was a finalist on last year’€™s ballot, Bill Parcells. Other names who were included in the back-and-forth who could ultimately make it onto the final ballot include coaches Chuck Fairbanks and Mike Holovak; wide receiver/return men Irving Fryar and Troy Brown; offensive lineman Leon Gray; defensive lineman Houston Antwine (a three-time finalist); and special teamer Mosi Tatupu.

In addition, other impressive names were on the list of potential finalists: running back Curtis Martin, defensive lineman Julius Adams, defensive backs Raymond Clayborn and Fred Marion, linebackers Ted Johnson and Roman Phifer and tight end Russ Francis.

As was the case in previous years, the discussion was interesting for several reasons, not the least of which included the fact that I had a chance to hear from several veteran media members about the contributions of players I never saw. I have covered the team on a daily basis for more than a decade and written two books on the history of the franchise, but there’€™s always more that can be learned, especially when it comes to those who were part of the team in the 1960s.

Then, there’€™s also the debate about how players would fare when matched up against those of a different era — for example, would someone like Gray, who dominated his position in the 1970s, be able to play at the same level in the 21st century?

Included on my ballot of three finalists were the following:
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Read More: Bill Parcells, Leon Gray, Patriots Hall of Fame, Troy Brown
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