|10.26.11 at 1:08 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Before meeting with the gaggle of reporters around his locker, Rob Gronkowski made a beeline to a Patriots spokesperson and chatted for about a minute before heading over to his locker.
Clearly, just like he would during a timeout in a two-minute drill, Gronkowski was seeking advice for how he should play the next 10 minutes with the media.
The tight end had made the wrong kind of news during his bye-week break when he was photographed with an adult film star, who was wearing his Patriots jersey.
“It was good, got some workouts in,” Gronkowski said, when asked how his bye week went. “My body’s feeling good and ready to go this week. Had a good practice [Tuesday] and looking forward to today and getting some hitting in with full pads on.”
Then the questions about the tweeted pictures began.
“I didn’t intend anything or to hurt the reputation of anyone on the New England Patriots, on behalf of Robert Kraft,” said Gronkowski, who acknowledged he met with the Patriots owner and apologized for any bad publicity that resulted from the two pictures seen on Twitter. “That’s all. It was just a simple picture and that’s all, and from here on out, I’m just here to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers and the big game this weekend.”
In the two pictures, adult film star BiBi Jones is seen wearing Gronkowski’s Patriots jersey. Gronkowski admitted Wednesday he regretted the pictures being made public.
“Just not intended to hurt anyone or ruin the reputation of the New England Patriots in any way,” Gronkowski said. “It’s a great organization here and a great football program. I can’t wait to get out to practice and get focused on the Pittsburgh Steelers because that’s all I’m worried about and all I care about.”
Gronkowski said he learned a lesson about how to monitor is public activity during times when he’s away from the team.
“Yes, definitely,” he said. “I intended to hurt no one. I love this organization and I love being here. Definitely wasn’t trying to put anyone on the map or anything.”
Last year, Gronkowski — then a rookie — had his big breakout game before a national TV audience on Sunday night football in Pittsburgh. He caught five balls from Brady, including three touchdowns as the Patriots rolled, 39-26.
“It was just execution,” Gronkowski said when asked about that performance. “That’s what we have to do this year, we have to execute, use all our weapons, use the running backs, use the wide receivers, get the running game going, definitely. We have to go out and execute on every drive, just not a couple.
“Their defense is good. All of their linebackers are huge. They’re all fast, their D-line is good. You know about their safeties, Troy [Polamalu].”
|10.26.11 at 12:48 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Center Dan Koppen made a surprise appearance in the Patriots’ locker room on Wednesday morning. The veteran offensive lineman, who fractured his left ankle in the regular-season opener against the Dolphins and was placed on season-ending injured reserve soon after, said it’s been ‘tough’ sitting and watching his teammates, but he’s found ways to get through it.
‘You want to be out there and you want to be playing, but like I said before, injuries happen. Next man up has to be ready to go. As far as watching, it’s tough. But you get used to it,’ said Koppen, who was in a walking boot.
‘I just got off crutches, so I’m pretty happy about that,’ he added. ‘I’m just getting back into working out and taking it slow. No (reason to) rush back now. Just heal it up 100 percent and be ready to go next year.’
The 32-year-old Koppen has been remarkably durable over the course of his career — he had only missed one game since the start of the 2006 season. Now, he’s been forced to sit and watch. He understands the reality of the situation.
‘It was a decision that was made — it’s a business,’ he said. ‘Things have to get done. You can’t hold spots all year.
‘People have been hurt before — I’ve been hurt before,’ he added. ‘You lean on your family. Obviously, my linemates and their support. Everybody around here has been great. It’s just been fun being around and being a part of the team and rooting them on as well as I can from watching it.’
In his absence, Koppen lauded the work of his fellow linemates, saying his replacement Dan Connolly has ‘been doing good.’ But with the Boston College product currently in the final year of his contract, it’s clear where he would like to be going forward.
‘I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,’ he said of his contract situation. ‘I’m enjoying where I’m at right now, rooting these guys on and hoping they have a great season. We’ll deal with that later.
‘This is a minor bump in the road, so we’ll be back,’ he added. ‘And hopefully, it’ll be here.’
|10.25.11 at 10:23 pm ET|
FOXBORO — BenJarvus Green-Ellis wants everyone to know that he didn’t need the bye week because he was beat up as a running back.
The 26-year-old running back is in the midst of a breakout season with the Patriots, proving to everyone that he can handle the load of a feature back.
He has 391 yards on 91 carries this season, while playing in all six games.
“I don’t take a lot of pounding,” said Green-Ellis on Tuesday.
Reminded he still DELIVERS quite the punch at 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds, Green-Ellis did acknowledge the benefit of a week off.
“I guess rest is always good but at the same time, you have that urge to want to get back to football, get back to practice and right now, that’s where I’m at with it. I’m just anxious to get back on the practice field and continue to get better at the things needed to win,” he said.
Green-Ellis will have one of his biggest challenges this week against the Steelers, especially if he is called upon to pick up the blitz packages of their defense, led by perennial Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu. Whether he’s carrying the ball or staying in the backfield, Green-Ellis and the Patriots will have a sense of where Polamalu is at all times.
“Troy is kind of a spontaneous player,” Green-Ellis said. “He’ll kind of go anywhere so you’ve got to make sure you’re moving your feet and staying with him when you’re blocking and make sure your little technique things are fundamentally sound.”
Last year in Pittsburgh, Green-Ellis had a very productive day on the same Heinz Field he’ll be called upon to deliver on Sunday. He carried the ball 18 times for 87 yards, good for a 4.8 yards per carry average, which included a game-best run of 18 yards.
“They’re fundamentally sound and they know what they’re doing,” Green-Ellis said. “Sometimes, they don’t cut guys loose and they’ve been doing it for a while so that helps [them], and they’ve been playing together for a while. So, we just need to capitalize when we can.”
It came as no surprise when Green-Ellis was asked Tuesday if the week off helped his banged up toe. His answer came as even less of a surprise.
“I’m not talking about injuries,” Green-Ellis said.
|10.25.11 at 5:07 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Brandon Deaderick and Ron Brace have a big supporter.
Asked if he believes the two young defensive linemen — who could come off the physically unable to perform list at any time — could help the Patriots’ defensive line, Albert Haynesworth didn’t hesitate to respond.
‘They certainly can,’ Haynesworth said Tuesday. ‘I watched some of the film from last year, they can really play. They’re strong, powerful young guys that can really play the game.’
Brace talked about returning from the PUP list last week, but on Tuesday, it was Deaderick’s turn. The seventh-round pick out of Alabama in 2010 — a 6-foot-4, 305-pounder — underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason. He started the year on the PUP list and sat out the first six weeks of the season before returning to practice last week. The team now has three weeks to decide to activate him or move him to season-ending injured reserve.
Deaderick made great progress in 2010. He played in 11 games as a rookie, making four starts in the regular season. (He also drew the starting assignment in the playoff loss to the Jets.) He was suspended briefly at the end of the regular season, but ended the year with 17 tackles (12 solo) and two sacks.
Now, he’s joining a defensive line that’s dealt with the losses of Myron Pryor and Mike Wright to season-ending injured reserve. If he’s healthy, he’ll certainly get an opportunity to see the field.
‘Basically, I’ve got to prepare each week like I’m going to play,’ Deaderick said on Tuesday before practice. ‘I’m just really focusing on getting better. I got a lot of ground to make up, so I’m just glad to be out there.
‘Pretty much whatever they want me to play that week, that’s what I’ll be doing,’ he added. ‘I’ll be inside, I’ll be outside. Whatever they call for, I gotta be prepared to play it. D-Line is d-line.’
The time on the PUP list was a frustrating stretch for Deaderick, who now says he’s all about looking forward.
‘I’ve pretty much put that in the past, I’m ready to go now,’ said Deaderick. ‘I’m preparing this week for Pittsburgh. The past is the past, I’m just looking forward to the future.’
|10.25.11 at 1:52 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Ben Roethlisberger has earned a reputation in the NFL for many things.
He’s a riverboat gambler when it comes to quarterbacking, taking chances others at his position wouldn’t even consider. He’s known as a winner, having won two Super Bowl rings and made another last February in a loss to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. He’s gotten into trouble off the field with a motorcycle and his alleged antics at a Georgia nightclub.
But when he’s on the field, the product of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio is known as the single-toughest quarterback in the NFL to bring down to the ground.
‘Even if you hit him, you’re not going to take him down,” Patriots nose tackle Albert Haynesworth said Tuesday, five days before he and the Pats take on the big challenge at Heinz Field. “He’s a guy that can break a lot of tackles and get away from the rush. Even if you’re hitting him and he’s going down, he can still throw the ball. With him, you definitely emphasize finishing a rush or finishing a tackle because he can still get away.”
Roethlisberger can still get away because he’s still 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds and can still push defenders away. What the Patriots need to do – as shown in the picture here – is gang tackle him and finish their tackles when he has the ball, keeping him from keeping the big play alive.
‘He’s got more experience, you know, with time, but he’s still a really good quarterback. A great quarterback. The guy has won a lot of Super Bowls, and played a lot of football,” Haynesworth added.
What Bill Belichick no doubt has reminded his team of – beyond his size – is Roethlisberger’s willingness to hold the ball a bit too long. The Patriots sacked him five times last year in the 39-26 Patriots win at Heinz Field. So, as much as there’s the potential for Roethlisberger to keep a play alive, there’s also the chance he holds onto the ball too long. He has been sacked 20 already in seven games this season fumbling five times, losing four.
When linebacker Rob Ninkovich watches Roethlisberger, like he did this past Sunday on TV against the Cardinals, he sees another linebacker who happens to play quarterback.
“He’s a big guy,” Ninkovich said. “He’s big and can move. Anybody who is 260 pounds and can move is hard to get on the ground. He’s going to be a challenge for us to contain him and keep him in the pocket.”
|10.25.11 at 1:06 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Defensive back Malcolm Williams has been re-signed to the Patriots practice squad, the team announced Tuesday. To make room, the team released DB Josh Victorian from the same unit. This is Williams’ second stint with the Pats, after being released before the team’s final preseason game.
Williams, who played at Texas Christian University, was selected by the Patriots in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft with the 219th selection overall.
Williams, 5-feet-11, 200 pounds, originally signed with Oklahoma but ended up at Trinity Community College before going to Texas Christian University for the 2009 and 2010 seasons. He contributed at safety and special teams at Texas Christian. He was released by the Pats on Aug. 29.
|10.25.11 at 12:52 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Albert Haynesworth spent his bye week watching football.
‘I don’t know … what else are you going to watch on TV?’ the Patriots defensive tackle said on Tuesday morning at Gillette Stadium. ‘I’m not a soap opera guy or watching Broadway or anything like that. On Sunday, that’s what you’re going to watch. Football. Monday night, that’s what you’re going to watch. Football.’
And Haynesworth spent some time watching the Steelers, who picked up their fifth win in six games Sunday with a 32-20 win over Arizona.
‘They’re a good team. They’re kind of like where they were a year ago, and even better,’ Haynesworth said of Pittsburgh, who will host the Patriots Sunday at Heinz Field. ‘They’re not any slouch or anything like that. They have a three-game winning streak so far, and they’re a strong team. They’re definitely going to be in the postseason this year.
‘They’re a very physical team,’ he added. ‘They don’t dance around. They’re not finesse whatsoever. Everybody runs hard. They don’t mind hitting … they like to hit. So it’s a very physical team. More physical than we’ve faced this year.’
After a back injury sidelined him earlier this season, the 30-year-old defensive tackle has played the last two games — he was on the field for 21 snaps against the Jets and 27 against the Cowboys, according to Pro Football Focus. Patriots coach Bill Belichick told WEEI on Monday there’s no issue with Haynesworth’s conditioning.
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