|09.27.13 at 2:11 pm ET|
FOXBORO — His equipment travel bag was packed Friday afternoon in front of his locker but according to a report from ESPN’s John Clayton, Rob Gronkowski is not expected to play Sunday night against the Falcons. Clayton also reports that it’s highly unlikely that Danny Amendola returns Sunday night.
Gronkowski was upgraded to “questionable” from “doubtful” last week before the game with the Buccaneers but has been listed by the Patriots as limited all week as he tries to get stronger and show the coaching staff he is fully healed from offseason forearm and back surgeries.
Gronkowski has not officially missed any practices since being taken off the PUP list on Aug. 31 but has yet to see action in a game, as he has been inactive for the first three weeks. Without the star tight end, the Patriots are dead last in the NFL in red zone efficiency, coming in at just over 30 percent.
Head coach Bill Belichick said on Wednesday that Gronkowski has shown signs of getting stronger with each passing week and practice but would not commit to any probability that Gronkowski would be ready to play Sunday night.
A questionable designation indicates a 50-50 chance a player could play while a doubtful categorization indicates the team believes there is only a 25 percent chance of activation for the game.
If a player does not travel with the team on the road, the team is required to downgrade the player to out, as was the case with Gronkowski on Sept. 7, the day before the season opener in Buffalo. The Patriots are scheduled to leave Saturday afternoon for Atlanta.
Amendola (groin) has also been limited this week in practice and his travel bag was packed in front of his locker. Amendola’s availability is also in question for Sunday night, though there are reports that he is recovering much faster than expected from the injury sustained in the first week in Buffalo.
|09.27.13 at 1:50 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It’s not often that you get the kind of bold prediction on strategy that Patriots defensive tackle Tommy Kelly provided Friday when asked about the Falcons running game and how much their play-action could be a factor in keeping the Patriots pass rush honest against Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White.
“Their play-action to me, it’s alright,” Kelly began. “You know they want to throw the ball. Me personally, I’m playing pass. I’m defending the run on the way to the quarterback, personally, because these guys want to throw the ball, they want to make big plays, they want to get the ball into Julio and Roddy White’s hands. I’m going to put all my eggs in that basket thinking they’re going to throw the ball.”
With quality running backs Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rogers, why does Kelly feel so strongly?
“That’s their offense,” Kelly answered. “They want to run the ball but I mean, you have a top-5 quarterback, two big-time receivers, hall of fame tight end, they’re going to throw the ball. So, you don’t want them to run the ball. You don’t want ever for their offense to feel like they can do anything they want against you. You want to stop the run and get them in long yardage situations and get Matt Ryan off the spot.”
The stats bear out what Kelly is saying. Through three games, the Falcons are passing the ball almost exactly twice as much as they are running it. They have 119 passing plays while just 60 runs heading into Sunday’s showdown with the Patriots. Interestingly enough, the reverse is also true, as their opponents are passing at an even higher rate, with 125 passes to just 62 rushes.
|09.27.13 at 11:58 am ET|
If his foot injury keeps him out of the game, the Patriots, as they did in the second half last Sunday, will turn to Marcus Cannon and feel confident that the third year player out of Texas Christian will be able to handle the work load.
That wasn’t always the case.
On Friday, Bill Belichick said Cannon has not only overcome a non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis before the 2011 NFL draft, Cannon has learned how to become a versatile offensive lineman – a requirement of most lineman who don’t have a regular starting role.
“Pass and run blocking, guard and tackle, left tackle, both guards, right tackle. I mean, he really played right tackle only his first year and a lot of that his second year,” Belichick said. “Last year [substituted] for Sebastian a little bit more; his rookie year at the end of the season, right tackle. He’s also worked for us some at left tackle: when [Nate Solder] went to tight end very early in the season, some of those packages. He’s done a lot of different things for us. I don’t think he could have done those his first year. He’s come a long way since then.
“His rookie year he missed over half the year and just kind of started in the middle of the year. Last year, he had a much better start to the season and it carried over. This year, he’s improved on his versatility. He’s played inside as well as tackle and also some other goal-line situations, things like that, he’s done some of that; getting involved in the kickoff return and the wedge and those types of things. I think his game has expanded from a versatility standpoint and also just from experience.”
Cannon kept it low-key in talking about his new opportunity.
“I’m nowhere where I need to be yet,” Cannon said with a great deal of humility. “I’m improving every day, trying to get better every day, work harder every day to do what’s necessary to please the team and help us win. Every day there is improvement but there’s still a lot of improvement to go, have to take it every day step by step and work harder to improve more.”
|09.27.13 at 11:56 am ET|
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King made his weekly appearance on Mut & Merloni on Friday to discuss the Patriots and NFL news.
The Patriots are preparing for a Sunday night showdown with the Falcons, who are led by Matt Ryan. King said the former Boston College star needs to prove himself in the playoffs before he’s considered among the elite.
“I really like him,” King said. “I like him a lot. I think he’s on his way to being a long-term premier quarterback in the NFL. But I think we all know that if a guy doesn’t play great in the postseason, he’ll never be considered one of the all-time greats. And Matt Ryan hasn’t played great in the postseason.
“He did have a good postseason last year, obviously. He played well against the Seahawks, outdueling Russell Wilson — even though you could argue that Russell Wilson played a better game that day. And he played OK against the 49ers — and probably would like to have a couple of decisions on the last drive back. Because if he made a couple of decisions differently, they’d have been playing in the Super Bowl. ‘¦ I think he’s a top-10 quarterback. Let’s see how he does in the playoffs the next three or four years.”
Broncos linebacker Von Miller was banned six games to start this season. According to multiple reports, four of the games were for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy and two were for conspiring with a sample collector to cheat his test. King said the NFL kept the second part of the punishment relatively light because “this was going to be a long, hard fight with the union.”
“I know the NFL has heard rumors that other players have attempted to do the same thing, perhaps in Miami, perhaps in other places,” King said. “It will be interesting to see what if anything the investigation that the NFL — I’m not saying it’s a formal investigation, but the NFL is looking into the specimen-collecting process right now. But just know that the NFLPA is very much going to fight for Von Miller and probably would have stretched this out for a long time — the hearing for a long time, as long as they could. And who knows when Von Miller ultimately would have been suspended.”
|09.27.13 at 11:38 am ET|
WEEI.com’s Chris Price previews the Week 4 matchup between the Patriots and the Falcons.
|09.27.13 at 11:24 am ET|
Two significant developments in the past 24 hours could change the course of the murder case against former Patriots star tight end Aaron Hernandez. The former NFL tight end stands accused of shooting and killing former semi-pro linebacker Odin Lloyd on June 17.
Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter said Friday that Carlos Ortiz was charged Friday with accessory after the fact in the murder while gun charges against him were dropped.
Authorities say the evidence points to Ortiz, Hernandez and Ernest Wallace, being in the same car with Lloyd when all four men rode from Dorchester to North Attleboro early in the morning of June 17. Ortiz initially claimed that Hernandez and Lloyd were in the car alone at the end of that ride that ended at an industrial park in North Attleboro, where Lloyd was shot to death.
But on Thursday, in Bristol Superior Court, Assistant Bristol District Attorney Patrick Bomberg said the 27-year-old Ortiz has changed his account of the final moments leading up to the fatal shooting of Lloyd. Ortiz previously told authorities that Hernandez and Wallace got out of a rental vehicle with Lloyd in the industrial park where Lloyd was shot multiple times. Ortiz has consistently said that Wallace got out of the car, according to investigators.
But now, according to Bomberg, Ortiz ‘does not think’ Wallace exited the vehicle with Hernandez and Lloyd, Bomberg said during a bail hearing for Wallace on Thursday.
Hernandez has been charged with with being the trigger man in Lloyd’s murder and has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He is being held without bail at the Bristol County Jail. Wallace – believed by investigators and prosecutors to be Hernandez’s ‘right hand man” – is being held on $500,000 cash bail after pleading not guilty to accessory after the fact to Lloyd’s murder.
Ortiz, in custody on unlawful possession of weapons charges, is now the second man to face accessory after the fact charges. Both Wallace and Ortiz face a maximum of seven years in jail, if convicted. Attleboro District Court officials say Ortiz no longer faces weapons charges that have been pending.
|09.27.13 at 10:47 am ET|
FOXBORO — Sporting heavy white tape on his left foot, starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer returned to Patriots practice Friday morning outside Gillette Stadium. Matthew Slater was the only player missing as the Patriots worked out in shorts and shells for the second straight day on the upper grass fields.
Vollmer did not play in the second half Sunday against Tampa Bay and was replaced at right tackle by Marcus Cannon. Vollmer was not spotted in the locker room but was seen leaving Gillette Stadium in a walking boot, according to a report from Comcast’s Mike Giardi.
Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald reported that Vollmer sustained “only” a foot sprain and the injury is not considered serious. Still, his availability this Sunday night is in question as he did not participate in practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
Vollmer took part in stretching and jogging exercises on Friday during the open media portion of practice.
Slater is out 4-6 weeks after breaking his wrist in the Sept. 12 game against the Jets while Vollmer appeared to injure his foot in the first half of Sunday’s win over Tampa Bay.
Danny Amendola (groin) and Rob Gronkowski (forearm/back) were both on the field again Friday and both were listed as limited on Thursday’s official injury report.
The media was only permitted access during stretching so there was no indication of how much Vollmer, Amendola and Gronkowski participated.
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