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Mike Petraglia and Chris Price preview Patriots-Falcons

09.25.13 at 5:38 pm ET
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Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Chris Price, Matt Ryan, Mike Petraglia

Bill Belichick on Matt Ryan: ‘He does a lot of things right’

09.25.13 at 3:23 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Since leaving Boston College in 2008, Matt Ryan has ascended to the rarified atmosphere of the so-called “elite” quarterbacks in the NFL. There’s Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. On the next rung of the ladder there’s Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan.

All of those have quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl, with one exception. Matt Ryan is the only one of those who hasn’t even made it to the big game.

But that won’t keep Bill Belichick from putting Ryan in elite company.

“He looks pretty good at everything to me. He has a good touch, he does a good job throwing the ball down the field, reads coverages well, doesn’€™t make many mistakes, manages the game well, he’€™s accurate, he’€™s tough, he’€™ll definitely stand in there, throw the ball and take a hit,” Belichick said Wednesday. “He has very few bad plays, let’€™s put it that way, very few. So, consistency. I think that’€™s the mark of any great player. He’€™s pretty consistent: every play, every game, every series. He does a lot of things right.”

Belichick’s Patriots will have to defend Ryan and his weapons this week on the road, weapons like Julio Jones, Roddy White, Jacqizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling.

“Julio does, I’€™d say, pretty much everything well,” Belichick said of the Falcons big-time receiver. “He’€™s a very strong, physical receiver with good speed. In the running game, he’€™s a very aggressive blocker. He’€™ll come in and crack safeties and block well. In the passing game, he can go down the field, he can go up and take the ball away from defenders even though he’€™s covered. He has good vertical jump, timing, strong hands, go up and get the ball. Tough guy to press because he’€™s so physical coming off the line of scrimmage. He can run through most corners that are trying to press him.

“He’€™s a strong runner after the catch so they throw him a lot of short passes, under routes, tear screens, things like that. He’€™s strong to break tackles. He can take a two-yard pass and turn it into a 50-yard run or he could run a 50-yard go route and go up and catch the ball, either way. He’€™s a tough guy to match up against. He’€™s got very good speed so he can run by the defense but he’€™s strong and he can run through them too. He’€™s tough and he’€™s a hard guy to tackle. He does everything well.”

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Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Matt Ryan, New England Patriots, nfl

Rob Gronkowski: ‘I’m just improving every week’

09.25.13 at 2:25 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski has learned a thing or two from his coach.

Pressed by the media for a health update on Wednesday, the tight end didn’t offer any details regarding his medical condition.

‘€œThere really isn’€™t an update,’€ said Gronkowski, who has yet to play this season in the wake of offseason surgeries on his forearm and back. ‘€œYou know how we go — just improving every week.’€

Gronkowski was upgraded last week from doubtful to questionable in the days leading up to last Sunday’s game against the Bucs, but he’s pleading ignorance as to whether or not that means he’s closer to playing Sunday against the Falcons.

‘€œI don’€™t know even know. I don’€™t know how any of that works out,’€ Gronkowski said with a smile. ‘€œI still don’€™t understand how that works, doubtful, questionable. I mean, I guess — like I said — I’€™ve been improving every week, so whoever makes that call must have seen some good improvement to be doubtful to questionable.’€

Gronkowski acknowledged that the rehab process isn’t just about taking care of the injury, but returning to playing strength.

‘€œMy strength is improving every week, and that’€™s all I can ask for right now,’€ said Gronkowski. ‘€œIt’s definitely improved greatly from four weeks ago, and [it’s] improving every week from when I started.’€

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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Danny Amendola: ‘I anticipate being 100 percent shortly’

09.25.13 at 1:06 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Danny Amendola thinks he could be back a lot sooner than people originally thought after suffering what was believed to be a sports hernia-related injury in Week 1 against the Bills.

“I anticipate being 100 percent shortly,” Amendola told reporters in the Patriots locker room on Wednesday.

Amendola suffered a groin injury in the preseason, missed the third preseason game in Detroit and suffered what appeared to be an aggravation of the injury in Week 1 while running crossing route in the end zone in the second quarter.

Later in the week, it was reported that Amendola had suffered a completely torn adductor tendon. But in an ironic twist, the complete tear from the bone shortened the recovery time from 2-6 weeks to 2-3 weeks, meaning Amendola could be ready for Sunday against the Falcons.

Amendola has been practicing with the team for the last two weeks but has been inactive for wins over the Jets and Buccaneers. Amendola was again in full pads on Wednesday for practice outside Gillette Stadium and he was moving more comfortably. Practice was closed to reporters after stretching.

Read More: Danny Amendola, New England Patriots, nfl,

Bill Belichick: ‘I don’t know’ what impact Rob Gronkowski might have

09.25.13 at 11:22 am ET
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FOXBORO — Another day, another failed attempt to gain any sort of prediction from Bill Belichick as to whether Rob Gronkowski could make his long-awaited return to the Patriots this Sunday night in Atlanta.

Gronkowski was on the field for full pads practice Wednesday morning. He has been practicing with the team since being taken off PUP on Aug. 31. After being officially listed as “doubtful” by the team for the first two games, he was upgraded to “questionable” (50-50 chance of playing) last week for the first time this season after an offseason filled with forearm and back surgeries. He was subsequently one of the seven inactives for the third straight game to start the season.

Wednesday, Belichick was asked about Gronkowski’s physical improvement from week to week.

“He’€™s definitely made progress,” Belichick said.

Belichick was asked if the upgrade from doubtful to questionable was an indication Gronkowski has taken positive steps of late.

“Just doing better; football conditioning,” Belichick answered. “Like any player that’€™s not able to do some things, they do what they can do. The things they can’€™t do, they can’€™t do. Things they can do, they can do. Hardly anybody has a full body injury. If they have an injury in one part of the body, they can still train other parts of the body. If that’€™s the part of the body that’€™s injured, that’€™s the part that needs to be rehabilitated. But that’€™s a medical thing, it’€™s not a coaching thing, I don’€™t really have anything to do with that.”

From a playing standpoint, does Belichick feel his strength is in a good place?

“It’€™s better than what it was.”

One of the obvious areas Gronkowski is missed is in the red zone. After three games, the Patriots are ranked dead last (32nd) in the NFL in red zone efficiency at 30.7 percent. Even worse is New England’s goal-to-go efficiency without Gronkowski. They are converting just 16.67 percent. Can Gronkowski’s potential return start to change things around?

“I don’€™t know. We’€™ll see, I don’€™t know,” Belichick said.

But whether or not Gronkowski returns, there’s something else Belichick would like to see change inside the 20.

“Number one, not turning the ball over,” Belichick said. “That would be number one.”

Tom Brady threw a red zone interception last week against Tampa Bay and fumbled the ball at the goal line in Buffalo.

Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Bill Belichick, Gronk, New England Patriots

Patriots practice Wednesday: No Sebastian Vollmer, Matthew Slater

09.25.13 at 10:39 am ET
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FOXBORO — Sebastian Vollmer and Matthew Slater were the only players missing from Patriots practice Wednesday morning on the grass fields outside Gillette Stadium.

The team practiced in full pads as they prepare for the Falcons on Sunday night at the Georgia Dome.

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.

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.

Vollmer did not play in the second half 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.

If the Patriots lose the 6-foot-8, 320-pound right tackle, the depth impact could be felt immediately as they face road tests in Atlanta and Cincinnati in back-to-back weeks before hosting New Orleans. In his third season, Cannon did play well in the second half against Tampa Bay as the Patriots played with the lead.

Danny Amendola (groin) appeared to be moving slightly better but was still not at full speed. Amendola has missed the last two games after reinjuring his groin in Week 1 at Buffalo.

Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Matthew Slater, New England Patriots, nfl

How much will working with blitz-happy Mike Nolan help Josh McDaniels this week?

09.24.13 at 7:55 pm ET
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FOXBORO — When Josh McDaniels was calling the shots in Denver in 2009 as head coach, Mike Nolan was his defensive coordinator.

Now Nolan is in charge of the defense in Atlanta for head coach Mike Smith and the Patriots offensive coordinator will have to scheme against him this week. How much will that history help?

“There are definitely some similarities,” McDaniels said in a conference call Tuesday. “Certainly every year I think that most coaches adapt and evolve and change a few things here or there, so there’€™s definitely plenty of new things that I’€™m seeing, and then there’€™s some things that I’€™m sure Mike has done for a long time that I’€™m familiar with that he did there [in Denver].

“There’€™s a lot of Coach Smith’€™s, there’€™s some elements there that I’€™m sure he’€™s brought to the whole scheme. By and large, we’€™re getting ready for a new opponent, a group of players that we haven’€™t played a lot, and this is going to be a great challenge for us. We’€™ve got a lot of work ahead of us this week to make sure that we familiarize ourselves with this team that we’€™re going to play on Sunday night.

Nolan has the reputation of using an aggressive blitz package but now with Osi Umenyiora on the defense end and Jonathan Babineaux on the tackle, they’re not as reliant to bring extra bodies to disrupt the passing game. They’ve sacked the quarterback seven times, with five of those coming last Sunday against Ryan Tannehill in Miami. Umenyiora had two while the other three came via a blitz, two by the linebackers and another on a corner blitz.

“I think they have a good blitz package, that’€™s for sure,” McDaniels said. “They don’€™t have to blitz to generate pressure on the quarterback. They’€™ve done a decent job of creating pressure with some of their guys up front, and then they have, I would say, a diverse blitz package, both from their base and their sub defense where you’€™ll see a lot of different types of players come at the quarterback, whether that’€™s the linebacking corps, the safeties, the nickel backs, the corners. They’€™ve all blitzed and they’€™ve all pressured, and we’€™re going to need to do a great job of making sure that we follow our rules and are ready for anything that we could see on Sunday because they’€™ve done a lot of it.

“I would say that it’€™s probably a great blend of both. Both of them are great defensive coaches. I’€™ve had an opportunity to work with Mike Nolan and certainly had the chance to coach against both of them on numerous occasions. Their units are always disciplined, they do a great job of disguising, not trying to give you too much information before the ball is snapped, and they don’€™t give up a lot of big plays and they create turnovers. I think all of those elements are there, you see a lot of different looks from some of their sub packages that they use to try to create some confusion or some uncertainty, and yet they are certainly a disciplined group that plays the scheme well, and you can tell that they’€™re very well-coached.”

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Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, Josh McDaniels, Mike Nolan
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