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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Florida LB Jelani Jenkins

03.29.13 at 11:35 am ET
By   |   Comments will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that might be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2013 NFL draft. Here is one of a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.


Position: Outside linebacker

School: Florida

Height: 6-foot-0

Weight: 243 pounds

Achievements: 2012 Butkus Award preseason watch list, 2012 Preseason All-SEC third team (coaches), 2010 SEC All-Freshman team

What he brings: writes about Jenkins’ good speed and ability to move from sideline to sideline. His speed and athleticism help him with tracking down and tackling the ball-carrier. Jenkins also showcases aggressiveness, getting past his defender on the line of scrimmage and making tackles for losses on running plays. Scouts have said what’s most impressive about him though, is his abilities in coverage situations. He has the talent to keep up with defending backs and tight ends.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 4

Notes: Jenkins dealt with thumb, hamstring and foot issues in 2012 and missed three regular-season games plus the Sugar Bowl. He had foot surgery after the season. … In 36 career games at Florida, he recorded 182 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks and three interceptions.

Related articles: Jelani Jenkins attempts to justify jump to NFL Jelani Jenkins sees pro day positives Jelani Jenkins declares for NFL draft

Video: Here is a good look at Jenkins in action during the 2012 season.

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Marcus Lattimore is a great story, but would he fit in Foxboro?

03.29.13 at 1:24 am ET
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Marcus Lattimore is a walking, talking Disney film come to life.

The running back out of South Carolina suffered an absolutely devastating injury on Oct. 27, 2012 — he tore the anterior cruciate, lateral collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee in an absolute gruesome scene. (Seriously — the video is bad.) The injury ended his season, and quite possibly, could have finished him as an NFL prospect, despite the fact that it ended a string where he rushed for 100-plus yards three times in eight previous games.

But the 6-foot, 218-pounder has spent the better part of the last five months working with famed orthopedic surgeon James Andrews, and at USC’s recent Pro Day, after going through a full series of drills, he received a round of applause from reps from the 31 teams in attendance.

And now, according to USA Today, there’s the news that the Patriots will meet with Lattimore — this on top of a report from the combine last month from the Boston Herald that Lattimore met with New England running backs coach Ivan Fears at the combine.

Would be fit with the Patriots? It’s an interesting debate.

With Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden currently on the roster — as well as the possibility of Jeff Demps making his regular-season debut in 2013, and the chance that Leon Washington could also be in line for some reps on offense — running back is not a big area of need, especially with the first three currently under contract for the next two seasons.

At the same time, several draft insiders, including Mike Mayock of the NFL Network, say that if it wasn’t for the 2012 injury, Lattimore would be the best running back on the board in this draft. And in the wake of what happened, Lattimore is currently considered someone who could be available in the middle to late rounds, and New England has almost always flipped conventional wisdom on its head when it comes to the draft. (To that point, in recent years, the Patriots have drafted multiple players at the same position, including Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in 2010 and Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen in 2011.) New England has always welcomed high-character guys like Lattimore, and if they could find a way to stash him for a year while it figured out what to do with him, it could conceivably work.

When talking about Lattimore”s future, it’s important to note that Frank Gore of the Niners and Willis McGahee of the Broncos suffered similar knee injuries, but both bounced back after surgery in relatively short order to become top-level running backs. And then, there’s the case of Adrian Peterson, who tore an ACL at the end of the 2011 season, but came back in 2012 and got within nine yards of Eric Dickerson‘s rushing record. For his part — perhaps buoyed by those success stories — Lattimore said he wants to play football somewhere in 2013.

Ultimately, despite the interest shown by the Patriots, from a New England perspective, a marriage between Lattimore and the Patriots appears to be a long shot. Given the relative lack of picks New England has this season — a first-, second- and third-round selections, as well as two in the seventh round — and given the fact the Patriots have other areas of greater need, it would be something of a surprise to see him in Foxboro this fall.

But when it comes to Lattimore making it in the NFL, it’s a different story: after all, based on what he’s been able to accomplish to this point in his life, you’d have to be foolish to bet against him.

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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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