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Monday practice report

08.23.10 at 3:35 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Forced inside by the dreary conditions, the Patriots just wrapped up a Monday afternoon practice in the bubble. Here are a few quick notes:

•The session was held in shorts and shoulder pads, and the following players were not in attendance: wide receiver Julian Edelman, wide receiver Matthew Slater, defensive back Bret Lockett, defensive lineman Kade Weston, offensive lineman Logan Mankins, offensive lineman Nick Kaczur and defensive back Josh Barrett. The following players were in T-shirts and shorts, and spent much of the time riding exercise bikes: wide receiver Darnell Jenkins, linebacker Eric Alexander, offensive lineman Mark LeVoir, tight end Aaron Hernandez and linebacker Jermaine Cunningham.

•While a lot of regulars were back on the field for the first time in a while — like cornerback Leigh Bodden and outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain — the backups continued to get plenty of reps, including rookie Devin McCourty at corner, who appeared to get a LOT of time with a reasonable facsimile of the starting defense. (With the return of Derrick Burgess, it appears that, at least for now, Marques Murrell has been bumped down the depth chart.) The Patriots also made some serious rotations at the safety spot, breaking up the usual combos of James Sanders/Brandon McGowan and Pat Chung/Brandon Meriweather.

•Speaking of Meriweather, he was standing directly in the line of fire on a pass in the end zone. The ball hit him right in the hands and he dropped it.

•New offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka made an appearance shortly after the start of practice. He was wearing No. 68, spent most of the practice at tackle and had his ankles heavily taped and was wearing knee braces on both knees. While the Patriots added Ojinnaka before practice, they confirmed that defensive back Terrence Johnson had been cut loose. In addition, Patriots coach Bill Belichick hinted there would be more roster moves in the offing later today, and it appears that one of those moves would be the return of diminutive defensive back Ross Ventrone, who was back on the field with his teammates.

•Not much stood out when it came to the on-field product this afternoon, but without Hernandez on the field, it was Rob Gronkowski’s time to shine. As was the case in last week’s preseason game against the Falcons when the two connected on a touchdown pass, the rookie tight end and backup quarterback Brian Hoyer continued to display a nice chemistry, with the two connecting on multiple occasions throughout the practice session. Gronkowski also caught a touchdown pass from Tom Brady over McGowan, and Gronkowski and Brady celebrated after the score.

•Working in the bubble is always tough for special teamers — they have precious little room to practice snaps, punts and kickoff work. (When they’re outside, they usually have a full field all to themselves.) But it was a nice workout from punter Zoltan Mesko, who was booming punts off the ceiling before the team just gave up and started using a JUGS gun.

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Lewis on D&H: Block responsibility biggest difference

08.23.10 at 1:15 pm ET
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Patriots defensive lineman Damione Lewis joined the Dale & Holley show on Monday morning to talk about his first training camp with New England and the biggest differences in transitioning to this defense.

“My whole career I’ve been a 4-3 guy and an inside guy, three technique,” said Lewis, who spent the past four seasons with the Panthers. “My main job has been penetrating. Here, it’s a little bit more of a block responsibility and not to say it’s not in the 4-3, but everything is based on penetration when you’re on a one-on-one block and being able to sit down on double teams. Here, block control responsibility has been the biggest difference.”

Lewis also talked about dual practices with the Saints and Falcons and if he would mind doing it more regularly if the NFL schedule went to 18 games.

Below are the highlights of the conversation. To hear the interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Tell us how you got to the Patriots?

Well, it’s kind of hard to turn down [Bill] Belichick and these guys when they come calling. This program’s had so much success over the years and especially since my stint in my league is going into my 10th year and kind of starting that run back in 2001. I have a tremendous respect for the organization and the way they handle things. When you see guys outside of football and how they carry themselves, it speaks a lot about what they’re doing here.

How have things changed for you even from the start of training camp to now in terms of reps and expectations?

Well, I think the main thing about all of that is over the years you learn that you never know what the game is going to throw you. So, you have to be ready and ready to move forward, and that goes for me and for every other guy in the locker room. You never know what’s going to go down and you just can’t ask those kind of questions to yourself like, “What just happened?” You have to go whenever your number is called. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pats confirm Ojinnaka deal, waive DB Johnson

08.23.10 at 1:12 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots confirmed Monday that the team had added depth to its offensive line by acquiring offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka from the Atlanta Falcons for a future undisclosed draft pick.

To make room on the roster, they waived defensive back Terrence Johnson.

Ojinnaka, 6-foot-5, 295 pounds, was originally selected by Atlanta out of Syracuse in the fifth round [139th overall] of the 2006 NFL Draft.

The guard spent time in Atlanta as a back-up, but has started 12 games in his career. Ojinnaka was used primarily on special teams but, in New England, could get significant playing time and figures to compete for the starting left guard spot. Ojinnaka will have to serve an NFL-mandated one-game suspension to begin the regular season after a domestic violence issue in May 2009.

Logan Mankins is unsigned has shown no signs of reporting to Foxboro while Nick Kaczur is out indefinitely following back surgery, according to the Boston Herald.

Johnson, 24, was signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent on April 29.

In four years at California University of Pennsylvania, he finished his career as one of the most prolific defensive players in school history with 178 total tackles and 16 interceptions. He led the team in interception in each of his years with the program.

Johnson, who also played special teams, was an American Football Conference Association (AFCA) and Associated Press All-American.

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Belichick: I haven’t seen ‘Hard Knocks’

08.23.10 at 12:57 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday afternoon he has yet to see an episode of this season’s edition of HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”

Belichick went out of his way to applaud the work of NFL Films, who produces the show, saying “nobody does it better than” them when it comes to riveting TV. But he hasn’t seen this season, which features Rex Ryan and their division rivals.

“I’ve missed it,” Belichick said.

According to Patriots president Jonathan Kraft, the Patriots have been approached in the past, and Belichick didn’t dismiss the idea when he was asked about it on Monday.

“Have I been approached? I’ve had a lot of offers,” Belichick said with a smile. “I think everything NFL Films does is worth watching. Nobody does it better than they do in terms of making football interesting. … If NFL Films does it, I’m sure it’ll be good, entertaining, interesting.

“[But] I haven’t seen it,” he added. “I’m sure I’ll probably see some of it. I don’t even know when it’s on.”

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Brady on D&C: It’s a different team from last year

08.23.10 at 12:19 pm ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning and talked about the team’s new tight ends, who provided the top highlights in Thursday’s preseason victory over the Falcons.

“I caution everybody,” Brady warned of rookies Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. “These guys have never taken a regular-season snap. Everyone loves having them out there. Believe me, they wouldn’t be out there with that first group if coach [Bill] Belichick and the offensive coaches didn’t have confidence that they’d be able to do what they’re asked to do. There’s no doubt that both of those guys, even though they’re very young, both in age and experience level, they do have a great feel for the game.”

Brady also touched on the Jets being featured on “Hard Knocks” this season.

Below is the transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Are you happy with the performance from the second preseason game?

Yeah, I think anytime we’re winning I mean I like that. That’s what it all comes down to. We went down there a few days earlier and practiced against them a couple times and I think we felt pretty good about the practices too. So, each of those competitive situations that we’ve been in, whether it was practices against the Saints and the game, practices against the Falcons and the game, we hung in there pretty good. There’s a lot to be taken from that. I think guys are certainly playing with a lot of confidence. As you can see, it’s quite a different team from what you saw at the end of last year. It needed to be, I don’t think we were playing the type of football we needed to play and I think looking back at some of the things, when it boils down to it, we’re a winning football team so we have to keep it going. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rams’ Bradford might start vs. Patriots

08.23.10 at 8:15 am ET
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With A.J. Feeley injuring his thumb and elbow when he hit a defensive player’s helmet during a victory at Cleveland on Saturday night, No. 1 draft pick Sam Bradford might get the start when the Rams play the Patriots on Thursday night in Foxboro.

“Obviously, this goes without saying, if Feeley can’t work during the week, Sam would be the guy,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said Sunday. “We’ll have to see where A.J. is. It’s hard to tell.”

Spagnuolo said Feeley had a “tingling sensation” up his arm after the throw. X-rays on the elbow were negative, and an MRI was scheduled.

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Brady on D&C: ‘I refuse’ to watch ‘Hard Knocks’

08.23.10 at 7:33 am ET
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Tom Brady (AP)

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Brady talked about the team new tight ends, who provided the top highlights in Thursday’s preseason victory over the Falcons.

Rookies Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski each caught a touchdown pass in Atlanta, but Brady warned people not to get too excited. Said Brady: ”I caution everybody. These us have never taken a regular-season snap. Everyone loves having them out there. Believe me, they wouldn’t be out there with that first group if coach [Bill] Belichick and the offensive coaches didn’t have confidence that they’d be able to do what they’re asked to do. There’s no doubt that both of those guys, even though they’re very young, both in age and experience level, they do have a great feel for the game. … That’s the kind of player that works in our system.”

Brady also raved about the play of free agent signee Alge Crumpler, whose blocking helped key the running game. “Alge is really a dominating blocker,” Brady said. “He hip-checks guys. He kind of gets his arm underneath the shoulder pads, he just kind of takes one arm and throws them. There’s not too many tight ends in the league that can do that. Dan Graham was one of them, who was really a dominating blocker. He was huge in our running game.”

Last year, the Patriots came under criticism at times for offensive predictability. Brady does not agree with that assessment. “I think if there’s one thing we never are, it’s predictable,” he said. “We have a very challenging offense in terms of where we line players up, the plays we run, the amount of plays that we have, the complexity of the offense. By no means do we have an easy offense for people just to come in and learn. That’s why I think it takes a certain kind of offensive player to play in our system, because it’s a very challenging system. I think what we didn’t do [last season], whatever we were running, we weren’t running it very well.”

Asked if he was watching HBO’s “Hard Knocks” training camp documentary about the Jets, Brady said: “Honestly, I haven’t turned it on. I hate the Jets, so I refuse to support that show. … I’m sure it’s great TV. I’m glad people are liking it. But that’s just something that I have no interest in watching. I’d love to say a lot of mean things, but I’d rather not do that, either.”

Asked if Belichick would ever allow the “Hard Knocks” cameras into Patriots camp, Brady said only if the coach was headed toward retirement. “That would be tough,” Brady said. “It may have to be his final season of coaching. If you ever hear that he’s allowed that to happen, I wouldn’t think there’d be another year after that. He hasn’t told me. Believe me, I have no inside information on that. But I think coach Belichick has worked pretty hard over the years to run his practices the right way, his meetings the right way, and I don’t think he really wants to give that information away.”

Brady was asked about his first training camp, and when he felt confident he would make the team. That led to this story:

“I called my agent a couple of weeks into training camp. We had John Friesz and Michael Bishop and Drew [Bledsoe] obviously on the roster. This was two weeks into camp … I said [to agent Steve Dubin], ‘I think I want to buy Ty Law‘s condo.’ He said, ‘What are you talking about? The final cuts are in three weeks, you don’t even have any money.’ I said, ‘Don’t even worry about that.’ I forgot how much it was. I probably had 20,000 bucks to my name. Ty brought me over there. I was a little rookie sucker he wanted to sell his house to. I did end up doing it before the final cutdown. [Dubin] said, ‘Are you sure you’re going to be around.’ I said, ‘Don’t worry, of course I’m going to make the team,’ without much hesitation. When I think back to that, we kept four quarterbacks that year. … I don’t think that was the smartest real estate move I’ve ever made.”

Asked if he ever received acknowledgment from Belichick that he was doing well, Brady responded: “I’ve played with Belichick for 10 years, and I don’t think he’s ever said we’re doing good. We beat the Redskins a few year ago. He said. ‘That was a decent job the other night.’ We won by 50 points.”

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