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Nate Solder back at Thursday practice, but Josh Boyce (ankle) still missing

12.19.13 at 12:02 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Left tackle Nate Solder returned to practice on Thursday, but rookie receiver Josh Boyce was missing again as the Patriots continued preparing for Sunday’s game against the Ravens.

Solder, who suffered a head injury last week against Miami and was listed on Wednesday’s injury report with a concussion, was not present for Wednesday’s practice session. He was on the field at the start of Thursday’s session, which was held inside Gillette Stadium in sweats and shells.

Boyce was clearly hobbled at the end of Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins, and was on Wednesday’s injury report with an ankle issue.

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Read More: Josh Boyce, Nate Solder,

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson headline our list of 10 finalists for NFL MVP

12.18.13 at 7:47 pm ET
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FOXBORO — As the 2013 regular season nears the end of the road, the MVP race is starting to come into sharper focus. With two games remaining, here are our top 10 candidates — in no particular order — to take the honors.

Tom Brady: After a relatively slow start — he completed 56.6 percent of his passes over the first five games of the season, and in two of those games he threw for less than 200 yards — the quarterback has nudged his way back to the forefront of the MVP debate. Over the last six games, he’€™s gone 181-for-271 (67 percent) for 2,225 yards, with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions, all while dealing with serious personnel losses. He’€™s received a boost in that time from wide receiver Julian Edelman (who could be the first Patriots wide receiver other than Wes Welker to catch 100 passes from Brady since Troy Brown broke the 100-catch mark in 2001) and Shane Vereen (who could be the first 50-catch/50-carry running back in New England since Kevin Faulk turned the trick in 2008). He needs a strong finish to really put a capper on his candidacy, but is every bit the equal as most of the people on this list.

Calvin Johnson: Johnson is enjoying another terrific season, and with 81 receptions through 14 games, appears to have an outside shot at another 100-catch year. (If he does reach 100, it would be the second time in three seasons he’€™s hit that mark.) He’€™s tied for eighth in the league in catches, but is second in the league in receiving yards (1,449) and touchdown grabs (12, tied with Vernon Davis). The 6-foot-5, 236-pounder is the prototypical big receiver, one who can only be stopped if he drops the ball (he has eight drops on the season) or someone gets to his quarterback before he can get the ball out to him. If he’€™s able to crack 100 catches and the Lions reach the postseason (right now, they’€™re 7-7), Johnson should be considered a candidate.

Peyton Manning: In the eyes of many people, the default choice for the award, based primarily on his performance over the first half of the season. (He hit on 60 percent or better of his passes over the first six weeks of the season, and didn’€™t throw a pick until Week 5.) Manning stands poised to breaks Brady’€™s single-season mark for touchdown passes in a season (50, set in 2007), and it appears the Broncos will capture the No. 1 seed in the AFC while possibly setting a handful of new offensive records. That could be enough to lift him above the rest of the field in the eyes of the voters.

Robert Quinn: Probably an outside candidate at this point for several reasons, including the fact that defensive players almost never get their proper due when it comes to MVP voting. But the St. Louis defensive lineman has really come on down the stretch. He’€™s second in the league in sacks with 15, and leads the league with seven forced fumbles. You can argue whether or not a defensive player on a team that will struggle to reach .500 deserves a shot (the Rams are 6-8 heading into the final two games of the season), but Quinn’€™s overwhelming dominance at times certainly suggests he should earn a spot in the Top 10 — at the very least, he’€™ll certainly receive Defensive Player of the Year consideration.

J.J. Watt: Another defensive lineman who deserves to be on this list despite the fact that his team has had a bad year, the Houston defensive lineman remains a transformative defensive presence. Rated as the No. 1 3-4 defensive end in the league by Pro Football Focus, PFF also has him graded out as the leading pass rusher and run stopper at his position. He has 9.5 sacks through 14 games, and while he’€™s not batting down passes as the same rate he did last season (he has six this year, as opposed to 16 last season), but he’€™s someone you have to always account for on every play. Probably not in the running for the top spot this year, he’€™ll almost certainly garner serious consideration (along with Quinn) for Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Josh Gordon: He’€™s the best wide receiver the Patriots have faced to this point in the season, and while he’€™s probably more in the running for something like ‘€œBest Offensive Player’€ as opposed to MVP, it’€™s still worth mentioning that the Cleveland pass catcher leads the league with 1,467 receiving yards, and is 15th overall with 74 catches. His epic streak of four straight games with at least 125 receiving yards included a memorable seven-catch, 151-yard effort against New England — that came on the heels of back-to-back performances of at least 200 receiving yards. Like Quinn, you can argue the merits of handing out the MVP to a player on a team that won’€™t make the postseason, but his numbers are undeniable, and that should be enough for him to warrant consideration.

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Read More: Calvin Johnson, Cam Newton, Jamaal Charles, JJ Watt

Patriots Wednesday injury report: Nate Solder (concussion), Josh Boyce (ankle) DNP

12.18.13 at 6:23 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” For a second straight Wednesday, Nate Solder did not practice. And for the second straight week, it was officially due to a concussion, this time suffered in Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins. Solder also sustained a head injury in the win over the Browns a week earlier.

Josh Boyce was also absent due to an ankle injury suffered in the fourth quarter Sunday.

In all, 13 Patriots were listed as limited, including rookie receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. New to the injury report this week was Dane Fletcher with a groin injury.

Matt Slater and Shane Vereen were removed altogether from the report after healing from their respective wrist injuries as was Marquice Cole, who had been dealing with a shin injury.

Here is Wednesday’s complete report:

Did Not Practice
LT Nate Solder (concussion)
WR Josh Boyce (ankle)

Limited Participation
WR Danny Amendola (groin)
CB Kyle Arrington (groin)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (knee)
WR Aaron Dobson (foot)
LB Brandon Spikes (knee)
CB Alfonzo Dennard (knee)
S Steve Gregory (finger)
RT Marcus Cannon (ankle)
CB Aqib Talib (hip)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins (hip)
OT Will Svitek (ankle)
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)
LB Dane Fletcher (groin)

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Nate Solder, New England Patriots, nfl

Mike Petraglia, Chris Price preview Patriots-Ravens

12.18.13 at 4:04 pm ET
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Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Chris Price, Mike Petraglia, New England Patriots

Tom Brady wonders what to get Gisele for Christmas

12.18.13 at 3:17 pm ET
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FOXBORO — In between talking about how he plans to prepare for the Ravens without Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, Tom Brady was asked about his Christmas plans during the hectic football season.

We found out that Brady loves to use Amazon to do a lot of his shopping, saving plenty of time, of course, during the end of the season when he is otherwise occupied with getting the Patriots into the playoffs.

But, no offense to Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Brady isn’t likely to be using the online giant to find wife Gisele the perfect gift under the Christmas tree.

Wednesday’s out-of-the-blue Q&A went like this:

Q: I know you’€™re focusing on football, but what do you enjoy most about the holiday season?

TB: I don’€™t know. I’€™m not sure.

Q: What about a favorite holiday movie?

TB: I don’€™t have much time to watch movies this time of year.

Q: Favorite holiday song?

TB: I don’€™t sing [laughter].

Q: Have you done your Christmas shopping?

TB: Amazon.com. I probably keep them in business. It’€™s hard to find your wife something on Amazon.com [laughter].

Q: So you still have some shopping to do?

TB: I do. Christmas, it’€™s hard to believe it’€™s around the corner, but it is.

Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.

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Read More: Amazon, Amazon.com, Baltimore Ravens, Gisele Bunchen

Veteran Logan Mankins ready to tackle another new assignment if needed against Ravens

12.18.13 at 2:50 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Logan Mankins isn’€™t surprised by much, and so when he was asked to kick outside from left guard to left tackle on Sunday against the Dolphins, he wasn’€™t exactly shocked.

The 31-year-old veteran didn’€™t need a lot of time to get used to the new spot, taking over for Nate Solder after the starting left tackle went down with a head injury in the second half.

‘€œ[There are] a lot of different angles — going against faster guys, I’€™m used to the big, powerful guys, and now, I’€™m going against the speed guys on the edge,’€ he said after practice on Wednesday. ‘€œIt’€™s just something you have to get used to and learn on the fly. It went pretty well.

‘€œI don’€™t know what our plan is this week. We have a bunch of different options, and we’€™ll hopefully get it figured out before Sunday.’€

The 6-foot-4, 308-pound Mankins, who played left tackle while at Fresno State and served as a left tackle in a limited role in the past, said that whenever he has a question about tackle technique, he thinks about former Patriots veteran Matt Light.

‘€œI always watched Matt Light all those years — we’€™re kind of the same size,’€ Mankins said of Light, who retired after the 2011 season after 11 years with New England. ‘€œWhen I’€™m out there, I always try to do what he did.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday that it was because of Light’€™s presence and steady play over the years that caused them to decide to move Mankins to left guard when he was drafted in 2005.

‘€œI think there’€™s no question that he could have played left tackle in this league, played for us,’€ Belichick said of Mankins. ‘€œBut we had Light there, we put him into the lineup right away at left guard and he and Light played together for [six] years and then we got [Nate] Solder and that was kind of the way it worked out.

‘€œI don’€™t think there was ever a thought from the coaching staff or from myself that he couldn’€™t play left tackle. That wasn’€™t it. It was more, ‘€˜We have a left tackle and he could play guard.’€™’€

According to Mankins, playing on the edge demands more finesse than when you’€™re lined up in the interior at guard.

‘€œYou’€™re running around a lot more — those guys are faster,’€ he said. ‘€œIt’€™s not always getting someone slammed into you. You’€™re feet have to be a little quicker. Move a little faster.’€

Solder was out for the bulk of the fourth quarter, and could be forced to sit out Sunday against the Ravens, a team known for their ability to create pressure off the edge with Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs.

‘€œI’€™ve lined up across from those guys a bunch of time, but they’€™re always on the tackle. They’€™ve both played in this league a long time, and I’€™ve seen them on film tons of times,’€ Mankins said of Dumervil and Suggs, who have combined for 18.5 sacks on the season. ‘€œThey’€™re both very good players — good at what they do. Powerful guys, and they get the job done out there. They’€™re good.

‘€œThey’€™re very good,’€ Mankins added when pressed about the Baltimore defense as a whole. ‘€œI think every statistic you look at, they’€™re right there near the top. They’€™re good on third down, good in the red area. They don’€™t give up many points on the first drive of the game. They’€™re a good defense and they’€™re playing well.’€

Mankins said he practiced ‘€œeverywhere’€ on the line on Wednesday, and is pretty much ready for any contingency against Baltimore.

‘€œI think as the week goes on, the more and more we know, the more I’€™ll know in what I have to do,’€ he said. ‘€œAt this point, I’€™m just looking to both to see what’€™s going to happen. We still don’€™t know what Nate’€™s status is. We’€™ve got other guys who have played tackle before, so we’€™re seeing what’€™s going to happen. We’€™ll let it play out.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Logan Mankins, Nate Solder,

Bill Belichick launches his own nonprofit organization

12.18.13 at 1:51 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick has taken a big step toward a career in philanthropy.

Belichick Wednesday announced the official launch of the Bill Belichick Foundation, a nonprofit organization created to provide coaching, mentorship, and financial assistance to individuals, communities and organizations with a focus on the sports of football and lacrosse.

According to the first official press release from his foundation, Belichick’s mission is to “bring the value of the Belichick family – love of sports, coaching and team building – to the athletic leaders of tomorrow.”

‘€œMy goal is to recognize, support and endow those with great potential who have a need for additional help and resources,’€ Belichick said in a statement. ‘€œMentorship has been ingrained in our family and we take a team approach to just about everything we do. We have been helped by so many people and we look forward to helping others however we can by relating our experiences and life lessons through a variety of athletic programs and services.’€

For 43 years, Bill Belichick’€™s father, Steve, was a college football coach and scout, most notably at the Naval Academy, where he instilled the tenets of loyalty, discipline and commitment in his son. Through his association with the Naval Academy, Bill gained a profound appreciation for elite athletes, dedicated coaches and future leaders of our country.

Also at an early age, he built his knowledge and love for football, which helped propel him into a life in coaching and ultimately one of the most successful careers in the history of the National Football League. Two of his children, Amanda Belichick, Women’s Lacrosse Interim Head Coach at Wesleyan University and Steve Belichick, coaching assistant for the New England Patriots, have also forged coaching careers. Brian Belichick attends Trinity College, where he plays lacrosse. All three Belichick children have been by their father’s side for many of his career coaching milestones, as Bill Belichick was with his father.

Bill Belichick has a long history of philanthropy and supports many causes, including a scholarship fund created in 2003 at Annapolis High School for students who have improved or excelled academically while participating in athletics. Belichick grew up in Annapolis, Md. and his commitment to the area remains strong. The Bill Belichick Foundation will formally expand that mission to the New England region and beyond.
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill Belichick Foundation, New England Patriots, nfl

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