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In case you forgot, Bill Belichick thinks the world of Mark Bavaro

09.12.12 at 5:13 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Next week, we will again – no doubt – hear from Bill Belichick on how safety Ed Reed is winding up in Canton someday. And with good reason. The safety had a pick-6 on Monday night, igniting the Ravens to a 44-13 thrashing of the Bengals before a national TV audience.

But on Wednesday, we were reminded just how much he thinks of a player he used to coach in New York. Mark Bavaro is in the upper stratosphere of players he’s ever coached. Belichick – of course – was the defensive coordinator with the Giants and on the team’s defensive coaching staff for years and saw close up what kind of battles Bavaro would have with his two stars on defense – Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks.

“All the obvious things: tough, strong, physical, good catch radius, tall, good in the red zone,” Belichick said when asked to compare Bavaro to Rob Gronkowski. “Mark was a tremendous player, I mean tremendous player. In my opinion, there aren’€™t many’€¦I don’€™t know if there’€™s a more complete tight end than Mark Bavaro. There are guys that have stats that are in the Hall of Fame and whatever, but talk about a guy that could line up across from Reggie White and actually block him ‘€“ that alone would meet my criteria. Great in the red zone, tough, played great in big games, didn’€™t make any mental mistakes. He was always at the point of attack and you could always count on him: played hurt, played tough, played against the best players in the league at his time and really he handled himself well. Played against the two best outside linebackers in football every day in practice and that was a war.

“I mean, that was a war. [Carl] Banks and [Lawrence] Taylor will tell you that. When they got to the game, there wasn’€™t anybody that was tougher than they were. I’€™m sure Bavaro would tell you the same thing about those two guys after going against Banks and Taylor in practice. Whoever they were blocking, it probably wasn’€™t as bad as going against those two. It was a great competitive situation in practice. Training camp was awesome. Those are three good football players, every day, very competitive, trying to get the best of the other guy, but they all got better. Mark was great. He was a tremendous player.

Belichick realizes those days are long gone with the new CBA.

“Yeah, two-a-day practices are definitely gone,” Belichick said remorsefully. “We kissed those goodbye last year.

Why are tight ends so valued by Belichick?

“I just think a tight end is involved in a lot of plays,” he said. “He’€™s involved in the running game. He’€™s involved in the passing game because he’€™s in the middle of the field. He’€™s involved in pass protection. There’€™s really no way, there really aren’€™t hardly any plays where that guy is out of the play. He’€™s a central guy in pretty much whatever you want to do. And the more versatile he is, the more things he can do, then defensively the harder he is to defend. If you have to defend a guy in the passing game, then that’€™s an issue.

“You have to worry about them running behind him, that’€™s an issue. You have to worry about his speed, that’€™s an issue. You have to worry about him breaking tackles and catching short passes and turning them into long plays. The more versatile any player is, the more valuable they are. At that position in the middle of the field ‘€“ with skill players are involved in every play, they give you more options.”

Here’s the rest of Wednesday’s transcript from Belichick’s session with reporters at Gillette Stadium, in which he also heaped praise on Troy Brown as he enters the Patriots Hall of Fame this weekend and the athleticism of the Cardinals, this week’s opponent. (Courtesy: Patriots media relations): Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Carl Banks, Gronk, Lawrence Taylor

Patriots preparing to face either John Skelton or Kevin Kolb

09.12.12 at 5:02 pm ET
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FOXBORO — John Skelton or Kevin Kolb?

That’s a question that’s been asked around Arizona plenty as the team has tried to find a franchise signal-caller over the last two seasons, but this week it’s a question for the Patriots as they wonder which quarterback they’ll face.

The Cardinals gave up a boatload to get Kolb prior to last season, but various injuries caused him to miss eight games in the 2011-12 season. Skelton, a fifth-round pick out of Fordham in the 2011 draft, went 6-2 as a starter in his place last year and won the starting job entering this season, but an ankle sprain forced him out of the season-opener. With Skelton out of the game, Kolb came in and threw the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter to lead Arizona to a 20-16 win over the Seahawks.

It’s unknown whether Skelton will be good to go for Sunday, and coach Ken Whisenhunt hasn’t definitively said that Skelton will keep the No. 1 job. Asked about the decision-making process for the quarterback position Wednesday, Whisenhunt didn’t say anything concrete.

“We still have a few days until the game,” he said on a conference call. “A lot of [what we do] is going to depend on how John’€™s ankle as it’€™s improving, continues to improve. We feel very fortunate that it was just an ankle sprain and a low ankle sprain at that. And he’€™s getting better quickly so we feel very lucky about that.”

While Kolb certainly has a higher pedigree as a second-round pick (albeit a bit of a surprise second-round pick) of the Eagles back in 2007, neither he nor the then-rookie Skelton dazzled despite the fact that the team won seven of its last nine games last season. Kolb was 146-for-253 for 1,955 yards with nine touchdowns, eight interceptions and seven fumbles the eight games in which he played, while Skelton completed 151 of 275 passes for 1,913 yards with 11 touchdowns, 14 picks and one fumble.

Whichever quarterback is under center, Bill Belichick and the Patriots hope to be ready.

“I think their skill sets are a little bit different, but the offense is the same,” Belichick said Wednesday. “Certainly when Kolb came in last week, they didn’t change their offense. They continued to do what they do, so we have to defend the other 10 guys as well as the quarterback. It’s just more of an awareness of which guy’s in there and knowing his skills. It’s like when they have different running backs, whether it’s [Ryan] Williams or [Beanie] Wells or whoever it is, it’s still the same plays.”

Added Belichick: “They’re both good players and they’ve won with both players,” Belichick said. “We’ll have to be ready for whoever they put in there. We can’t control that.”

Read More: John Skelton, Kevin Kolb,

Tom Brady: ‘Just keep my mouth shut’ about getting fans pumped

09.12.12 at 3:33 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It’s not something Tom Brady really wants to remember.

Last year at this time, just before the home opener with the Chargers, he pleaded with the Patriots fans to get riled up and make it a real home field advantage as the Patriots kicked off their home schedule with a 4:15 p.m. ET game.

“Yeah, start drinking early,” Brady said when asked. “Get nice and rowdy. It’s a 4:15 game, they’ll have a lot of time to get lubed up, come out here and cheer for the home team.”

Of course, those words didn’t go over so well with team management or ownership, which has successfully shed a not-so respectable reputation of the 1970s and 80s, when football was secondary to partying in Foxboro.

The Patriots later clarified, “He meant ‘stay hydrated, drink a lot of water. Be loud, drink responsibly.'” And because the comments didn’t go over well with ownership, Bill Belichick was involved, something Brady knew would not make the coach too happy.

Brady didn’t make the same mistake on Wednesday when asked about this week’s home opener against the Cardinals at 1 p.m. at Gillette.

“I forgot about that,” Brady said, referring to the ill-fated comments. “Thanks for bringing that up. I heard about that for a while from Coach Belichick so I’ll probably just keep my mouth shut. Hopefully, we give them a lot of reasons to cheer, to be excited. That usually results from us playing well. Hopefully, that happens again.

“We get great support. We get great support at training camp. This is a sports town. People that come out and support us. We love them. We have great fans that cheer loud and the more touchdowns we score, the louder they’re going to cheer. Hopefully, we can get them revved up early.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, drink responsibly, lubed up, New England Patriots

Stevan Ridley: ‘I’m not trying to be Superman or anything over the top’

09.12.12 at 2:54 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Stevan Ridley apparently has studied very well at the Bill Belichick school of football humility.

Asked Wednesday about his career day of 125 yards on 21 carries and whether it’s going to be a habit this season, the second-year running back out of LSU was careful to praise the coaching staff that called his number and the linemen and receivers who blocked for him.

“Of course, coaches said something about it,” Ridley said of being prepared for the load he shouldered in the opener. “I didn’t know it was going to be 21 or whatever the carries were going to be. I just go in there and when they call No. 22, I have to go in there and make a play. I can’t predict the future on any of that. Nobody really knows what’s going on in the mind of Coach so I’m just out there playing my role and doing my job.

“That’s not my call. If it’s working and we’re doing a good job at it, I’m sure Coach is going to continue to call the plays. And that’s what he did this past Sunday. He puts us in a position to be successful and to go out there and win the ballgame. For me, I just do my job. I’m not trying to be Superman or anything over the top.”

Ridley was quick to praise the offensive line, which was particularly effective in opening large lanes in the middle as the Titans were trying to contain Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski off the edges.

“I think they did an exceptional job,” Ridley said. “They do a great job of protecting Brady, they did a great job in the run game. One hundred yards on the ground is not possible without an offensive line and some receivers that are blocking down field. It’s a team effort. It’s takes 11 of us across the board. I just did my job and pull my load but it took 10 other guys for me to get those 100 yards on the ground.”

Ridley, who is trying to prove he can be trusted with the ball in his arms this season, said Wednesday good ground production is a combination of preparation and determination.

“You can prepare so much but I think on the inside you have to have the heart at the end of the day,” Ridley said. “For me, I take every opportunity that I get. And I just try to make the most out of it. The “Patriot Way” is we’re always going to be prepared as long as coach Belichick is the coach here. He wants to win. That’s the goal we’re shooting for at the end of the day.

“It takes a great bit of both. I’d tell you it’s 50-50 but at the end of the day, you’re just trying to go out and get that ‘W’.”

One more thing, Ridley clearly doesn’t want to wind up on Belichick’s bulletin board of misguided or ill-timed quotes.

“I wasn’t perfect by any means,” he added. “There was a lot of yards left out on the field. That’s something that we’re trying to work together as an offensive group to get better this week. We got off to a start and that was a start and we have to build on that. If you get satisfied or complacent with where you’re at, you’re not going to last too long or you’re not going to have the career that you really want to have. I’m never satisfied and we’re going to continue to work just the way we are today.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, LSU, New England Patriots, nfl

Patriots defensive backs face tall task this week in trying to contain Larry Fitzgerald

09.12.12 at 1:50 pm ET
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FOXBORO — For the Patriots’ defensive backs this week, it’s all Larry Fitzgerald, all the time.

The Cardinals wide receiver is one of the best pass catchers in the league — the 29-year-old has caught at least 80 passes a season the last five years, including five seasons of 90-plus catches. The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder brings an array of skills to the field, which will be a handful for the New England secondary.

“It’ll be tough,” said safety Steve Gregory. “He’s just a great all-around receiver. He’s been doing it at a high level for years now and you definitely have to know where that guy is on the field, because he can hurt you at any moment.

“He’s made his name off of being covered but going up and catching the ball over other guys. He’s that type of receiver, regardless of whether a guy is in position or not, he has a way to change and move his body in the air to go get the ball. So we have to be ready for that.”

“He really has it all. He runs good routes. He’s a good blocker. Incredible hands downfield. Speed,” said cornerback Marquice Cole. “He’s pretty much the total package when you look at a receiver.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday that Fitzgerald “might end up being the best [receivers] ever,” a point cornerback Devin McCourty didn’t dispute on Wednesday.

“He’s one of the top receivers if not the top receiver in the NFL,” said McCourty. “For us in the secondary, it’ll be an incredible challenge this week to go out there and compete against him. For us, the biggest word for us is compete. Without a doubt, he’s going to make some plays, but we have to try to go out there and challenge him.

“We know what he’s capable of, but it’s just going out there and trying to contain and being able to compete with him.”

Read More: Larry Fitzgerald,

Bill Belichick: Rookies haven’t proven anything

09.12.12 at 1:30 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick was probably waiting for somebody to ask about the rookies on Wednesday, three days after their first three draft picks combined for a strip sack, a fumble recovery for a touchdown and an interception.

Perhaps the biggest play of the Patriots’ Week 1 victory over the Titans came when 21st overall pick Chandler Jones stripped the ball from Titans quarterback Jake Locker, with 25th overall pick Dont’a Hightower scooping the ball up and running it six yards into the endzone in the second quarter.

When he was asked whether the rookies need to be reminded that they only played one game and to not dwell on the past, Belichick talked about them like they had cost the team a win rather than help deliver them one.

“Are you kidding me? They’ve played one game,” Belichick said. “I don’t think any rookie’s got all the answers after one game. I don’t think any experienced coach has the answers after one game either. I think it’s one game. Everybody needs to be coached, everybody needs to improve. There’s a lot of things that everybody needs to do better, and I would put the rookies at the absolute top of that list. Like, not behind anybody. They would be No. 1. It’s going to get a lot harder for them before it gets easier. I can tell you that.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, chandler jones, Dont'a Hightower,

Patriots sign S Cyhl Quarles and release TE Alex Silvestro

09.12.12 at 12:44 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots announced Wednesday that they have signed safety Cyhl Quarles to the practice squad and released practice squad tight end Alex Silvestro.

Quarles, 23, was originally signed by the Ravens as a rookie free agent out of Wake Forest on May 11. The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder was released by Baltimore on Aug. 31. In 50 career games at Wake Forest, he totaled 239 tackles, two interceptions, six passes defensed, two forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery.

Silvestro, 23, originally joined the Patriots a rookie free agent defensive lineman from Rutgers in 2011. The 6-foot-3, 260-pounder, spent the majority of his rookie season on the New England practice squad. He was signed to the 53-man roster prior to the Patriots game vs. Miami last season and played in a reserve role, finishing with two total tackles. Silvestro returned to the practice squad before being signed to the 53-man roster the day before the Super Bowl. He was active but did not play in the game. Silvestro converted to tight end in the offseason. He was released by the Patriots at the end of training camp this year and was signed to the practice squad.

Read More: Alex Silvestro, Cyhl Quarles,
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