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Rob Gronkowski: I’d be accepting of a gay teammate

03.28.13 at 8:13 pm ET
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Asked Thursday about the possibility of an NFL player coming out and whether or not he’d be accepted by his teammates and fans, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski echoed his statements from last July, saying that “if he’€™s being a great teammate and he’€™s a guy on the field doing a great job, then you have nothing to complain about.”

‘€œI got this question before, about a year ago, and I basically said the same answer that I did a year ago,” said Gronkowski during an interview with ESPN NewYork. “You have to accept the player. Everyone has their own ways to live their life and as long as he’€™s respecting me, keeping distance, respecting myself then I will respect him back. If he’€™s being a great teammate and he’€™s a guy on the field doing a great job then you have nothing to complain about. He’€™s another teammate and another friend.’€

Gronkowski was asked if he had confidence that other players in the NFL would feel the same way.

‘€œI’€™m not really sure. I never went around asking players on my team or in the NFL, ‘€˜Hey, what would you think if someone on our team is gay? How would you take it?’€™ I never thought of that and never asked anyone that and never tried to find out if there is one on the team. If someone is on my team and they are a great teammate and a great player on the field, helping the team win, that’€™s all you can ask for.’€

Click here for the transcript of the interview.

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Patriots officially announce signing of Michael Jenkins

03.28.13 at 6:58 pm ET
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The news of the Michael Jenkins signing broke earlier in the day on Thursday, but the Patriots made it official Thursday afternoon. Here’s a portion of the press release issued by the team:

Jenkins, 30, is a veteran of nine NFL seasons with the Atlanta Falcons (2004-10) and Minnesota Vikings (2011-12). The 6-foot-4, 214-pounder, originally entered the NFL as a first-round draft choice (No. 29 overall) by the Falcons out of Ohio State in 2004. He was released by Atlanta on July 29, 2011, and signed by Minnesota on July 30. After two seasons with the Vikings, Jenkins was released March 5, 2013.

Jenkins has played in 130 NFL games with 79 starts and has 354 receptions for 4,427 yards and 25 touchdowns. Last season, he played in 16 games with eight starts and finished with 40 receptions for 447 yards and two touchdowns. Jenkins set career-highs with Atlanta by compiling 53 receptions in 2007, 777 receiving yards in 2008 and seven touchdown receptions in 2006.

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Patriots unveil key dates for offseason program

03.28.13 at 6:09 pm ET
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The Patriots announced their offseason schedule on Thursday, with players set to report on April 15 for the first phase of workouts. Here’s the schedule of practices, which are closed to the public:

Report date: April 15.
Organized team activities: May 20-21, May 23, May 28-30, June 3-4, June 6-7.
Mandatory minicamp: June 11-13.

Report: Patriots will sign WR Michael Jenkins

03.28.13 at 2:01 pm ET
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The Patriots will sign wide receiver Michael Jenkins, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. The 30-year-old Jenkins, who caught 40 passes for 449 yards and two touchdowns last season with the Vikings, is a 6-foot-4, 214-pounder out of Ohio State who has been in the league for nine seasons — seven with the Falcons and the last two with Minnesota. His best seasons came in 2007 and 2008, when he caught a combined 103 passes for 1,309 yards and seven touchdowns.

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Sebastian Vollmer: New England ‘is the place I wanted to be’

03.28.13 at 1:43 pm ET
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Sounding very much like a man who is relieved the free agent process is done, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer said Thursday afternoon that he was “just happy” to be back in New England after signing a four-year deal. Vollmer, a second-round pick out of Houston in 2009, was on the open market for roughly three weeks, but expressed relief he had the opportunity to return to the Patriots.

“This is the place I wanted to be,” he said on a conference call with reporters shortly before getting on a plane and flying to Germany for his sisters’ wedding. “I’€™m just really thankful for Mr. [Robert] Kraft and his family and Coach [Bill Belichick] and whoever else was involved to let me be a part of this and to give me an opportunity so I can continue to prove myself. [I’m] excited and happy to be here.”

The 28-year-old Vollmer has struggled with back and knee issues in his four-year career in New England, but when healthy, the 6-foot-8, 320-pounder has managed to carve out an impressive resume, one that includes a second-team All-Pro nod in 2010, as well as an overall grade of +28.2 from the folks at Pro Football Focus for his work this past season.

It’s an impressive stretch for someone who played relatively little football before arriving in the United States for college, and competed on a collegiate level for a relatively small program at the University of Houston. While many of his accomplishments are because of his own hard work, he singled out offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia as well.

“He’€™s been a tremendous influence on me — just coming from a smaller program and coming to a program like the Patriots and being with Dante and just learning the game under his tutelage and really focusing on technique and schemes and whatever else goes with it,” Vollmer said. “I’€™m really grateful for having him as a coach and continuing to have him as a coach. All the praise goes to him. I’€™m just really happy to have a coach like him who makes me better.”

Vollmer, who adroitly deflected a question as to whether or not he had taken any free agent visits with other teams, now returns to New England, and his re-signing means the Patriots will now have all five members of their starting offensive line at the end of the season back for another year. That level of familiarity is big when it comes to assembling a successful offensive line.

“When you play next to a guy for a few years and you practice next to a guy, you just get certain things down. You kind of know how the other guys play certain situations and you just get a feel for each other,” he said. “I think that is important. Although, injuries do happen and whatnot and that’€™s why we practice with different combinations. I think we’€™re just happy to have the starting five now intact and everything else, we’€™ll cross the bridge then. Definitely, I think it helps, and I think that’€™s a good thing.”

According to reports, Vollmer and the Patriots have crafted a unique contract, one that allows the German native to become one of the higher-paid tackles in the league if he stays healthy over the course of the deal. While Vollmer wouldn’t get into specifics of the deal, he did acknowledge that health plays a

“I feel really good. I just left the weight room and working out and whatnot. I feel really good and [I’€™m] actually going to take a trip to Germany pretty soon,” he said when asked about his health.

“Obviously you go into a season, you’€™re trying to be healthy. You do everything you can,” he said. “Sometimes you can’€™t help it; other things you can prevent with certain preparation. Obviously, as players, we do everything we can to stay healthy and prepare ourselves for the contact and physicality of the sport. Obviously, I’€™ve continued to do that.”

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NFL free agency update: DL Vaughn Martin headed to Dolphins

03.28.13 at 12:06 pm ET
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Chargers free agent defensive lineman Vaughn Martin has agreed to a deal with the Dolphins, his agent told’s Adam Caplan.

Vaughn, 26, reportedly drew interest from the Patriots. He’s played all four of his NFL seasons with the Chargers, recording 46 tackles and three sacks in 48 games. He appeared in 12 games last season (starting all 12) and had 12 tackles and one sack.

A native of Jamaica who grew up in Canada, the 6-foot-4, 297-pounder was a fourth-round pick of the Chargers in 2009 out of the University of Western Ontario.

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NFL free agency update: Falcons land DE Osi Umenyiora

03.28.13 at 9:24 am ET
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The Falcons called a press conference for Thursday to introduce free agent defensive end Osi Umenyiora, whom they signed to a reported two-year, $8.5 million contract.

Umenyiora, who spent all 10 of his previous NFL seasons with the Giants, had six sacks and 55 tackles in 2012. He started just four of 16 games. In his career, he has 75 sacks, 21 forced fumbles and 13 fumble recoveries.

Umenyiora, 31, replaces John Abraham, who was released by Atlanta on March 1.

‘€¢ The Ravens continued to restock their defensive, agreeing to a three-year deal with Raiders free agent safety Michael Huff.

Huff, 29, played all seven of his NFL seasons with the Raiders before he was released last week. He started all 16 games last season, recording 71 tackles and two interceptions.

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