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Joe Lefeged looks to follow in the footsteps of Patriots’ cornerback Devin McCourty

02.27.11 at 4:50 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS ‘€” Looking for this year’€™s edition of Devin McCourty? How about Rutgers’€™ safety Joe Lefeged.

The two spent three seasons together in the Scarlet Knight secondary, Lefeged as a safety and McCourty at corner. Like McCourty, Lefeged was a special teams demon as a collegian ‘€” McCourty blocked seven kicks while at Rutgers, while Lefeged blocked four in his college career. And now, Lefeged is trying to do the same thing that McCourty pulled off last year ‘€” make the leap from Rutgers to the upper levels of the NFL draft.

‘€œHe’€™s a competitor ‘€” a great person. Someone who I look up to. He taught me a lot of things. I’€™m trying to follow in his footsteps a little bit,’€ Lefeged said of McCourty, who was taken in the first round of the 2010 draft and quickly became one of the most indispensible rookies in the league.

‘€œWe mostly talk over the phone. I saw him probably once during the football season. He just told me to stay focused. Everything I’€™ve gone through at Rutgers, the work that I’€™ve put in, it’€™s going to pay off now. Just be myself and just go out there and be ready to compete.’€

While many were surprised that McCourty worked his way into the first round, his old college teammate wasn’€™t shocked in the slightest.

‘€œNobody expected that, [but] I expected that from him because I was around him for three years. I know what he can do,’€ the 5-foot-11, 208-pound Lefeged said. ‘€œHe was a hard worker and he deserved to be a first-round draft pick. He’€™s someone that I look up to, someone who I follow. He was a leader on our football team. And he’€™s a leader now. He still talks to me often and texts me since I’€™ve been down here. He’€™s been a big help.’€

Lefeged finished second on the team with 84 tackles and earned second-team All-Big East honors. Lefeged finished his career with 238 career tackles, appearing in 49 consecutive games. Like Lefeged, McCourty made his bones on special teams ‘€” last fall, he set a school record with 948 yards on 38 kickoff returns (a 24.9-yard average), with his career total of 1,306 kickoff return yards, fifth-best in school history. He averaged 26.7 yards per kickoff return for his career.

Lefeged boasts the same approach as McCourty, who was billed initially by Patriots coach Bill Belichick as a ‘€œfour-down player.’€

‘€œI think I can play any role on special teams. I’€™ll return punts, I can return kicks, I plated gunner last season,’€ Lefeged said. ‘€œI think I can do it all. I can change the game up playing special teams and that’€™s one thing that I take a lot of pride in. Special teams is a part of the game, and you can win a game or lose a game based on the way you play on special teams, and I know that, and that’€™s something I take a lot of pride in.’€

At Rutgers, Lefeged says that’€™s just part of the game.

‘€œCoach [Greg] Schiano always talks about that ‘€” we’€™re a punt-block team,’€ Lefeged said. ‘€œOne thing we do is that we don’€™t set up a lot of returns. We try and scheme up ways and the coaching staff does a great job trying to pinpoint and finding holes in the protection we’€™re going against and we try and exploit it. We’€™re successful a lot of the time.’€

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty, Greg Schiano

Report: Nick Kaczur likely done with Pats

02.27.11 at 4:40 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — According to a report from the Boston Herald, the Patriots have asked offensive lineman Nick Kaczur to take a “massive pay-cut” from his $3.4 million salary, and that given his unwillingness to do so, the Patriots are “going to have to” cut the 31-year-old.

Kaczur has played his entire career with the Patriots since they chose him with the 100th overall pick of the 2005 NFL draft. The Brantford, Canada Native missed all of last season with a back injury.

Chris Carter’s connection with Willie McGinest could help land him on Patriots’ radar

02.27.11 at 3:24 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS ‘€” For years, Patriots’€™ fans have been wondering how they could go about replacing Willie McGinest. The quintessential outside linebacker/defensive end, his size, speed and smarts helped create the template for what to look for when it comes to edge rushers in New England. It’€™s no surprise that since he departed following the 2005 season, the Patriots have struggled to replace him.

Now, it turns out that McGinest is helping tutor the next generation. The former Patriot is working with Fresno State’€™s Chris Carter, a 6-foot-1½, 248-pound defensive end who projects as an outside linebacker at the next level. With the Bulldogs, Carter ‘€” the 2010 WAC Defensive Player of the Year ‘€” was among the national sack leaders as a senior. In 2010, he led the WAC with 11 sacks and made 16.5 tackles for losses. He was selected first-team All-WAC each of the last two seasons, and finished his career with nearly 200 tackles and 19.5 sacks.

Projected as a mid- to late-round pick, the combination of McGinest’€™s tutelage, New England’€™s inconsistent pass rush and the fact that he plays for a former Bill Belichick assistant at Fresno in Pat Hill have likely combined to land Carter on the Patriots’€™ radar screen.

‘€œWe’€™ve been working primarily on drops,’€ Carter said Sunday at the NFL scouting combine when asked about his time with McGinest. ‘€œI know how to rush the passer. That’€™s my big thing, work on drops and perfecting that, getting the hips loose. Making sure we go over the defenses 100 percent and I know everyone’€™s assignment. When you play defensive end, you pretty much only have to know the front-seven assignments, but as a backer, one thing they emphasized is making sure we know everyone’€™s assignment.’€

While he doesn’€™t have the size that McGinest brought to the field ‘€” McGinest was 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds ‘€” Carter doesn’€™t sound worried that being ‘€œvertically challenged’€ would be a big problem at the next level.

‘€œI’€™m not too worried about that,’€ Carter said. ‘€œI don’€™t really think height makes a difference, you’€™re trying stay low, you’€™re trying to get low when you rush the end. So I don’€™t really get concerned with that.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Chris Carter, NFL scouting combine, Pat Hill

Patrick Peterson: ‘In the NFL, there’s a Jones and a Green every Sunday’

02.27.11 at 2:56 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson is the best prospect at his position in this year’s draft. That’s why he likes facing the best receivers.

Peterson, who measured at 6-feet, 219 pounds, allowed only one touchdown in his junior season, which was to Alabama’s Julio Jones. He had plenty of experience playing against Jones and Georgia’s A.J. Green, the top two receiver prospects in this year’s class, but he wishes he could have seen them even more.

“It could have been even better if I could have played those guys each and every week,” Peterson said Sunday. “In the NFL, there’s and Jones and Green each and every Sunday.

“I had a chance to go against Julio Jones three years straight, and I had a chance to go against A.J. Green two years straight.”

Peterson had seven interceptions over his three years at LSU, four of which came last season.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Julio Jones, NFL scouting combine, Patrick Peterson

Florida’s Will Hill talks about recognizing Bill Belichick and hanging out with some of the Patriots

02.27.11 at 2:36 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS ‘€” The last few years, the pipeline from Gainesville to Foxboro has been free-flowing with talent, as ex-Gators like Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Spikes and Aaron Hernandez have all made their way from the University of Florida to New England. Before than, former Gators like Jeremy Mincey and Chad Jackson (not to mention veteran Fred Taylor) were among those who have spent time with the Patriots.

According to safety Will Hill, it’€™s hard to miss New England coach Bill Belichick when he shows up on the Gainesville campus. He’€™s best pals with the Florida coach, who recently stepped away from coaching full time.

‘€œI haven’€™t really spoken to him, [but] I’€™ve seen him around,’€ Hill said when asked about Belichick Sunday at the NFL scouting combine. ‘€œThat’€™s Urban Meyer‘s best friend.’€

And because ‘€œMeyer’€™s best friend’€ maintains an affinity for several of Meyer’€™s old players, Hill said Sunday he’€™s kept in touch with several Patriots over the last year, including Spikes and Hernandez.

‘€œWhen I first got [to Florida], nobody would talk to me,’€ Hill said. ‘€œThey took me under their wing.’€

Like Hernandez (who was hit with drug allegations last offseason) and Spikes (whose involvement in a sex tape surfaced on the Internet this past year), Hill has had been dogged by character issues ‘€” his Twitter feed read like an almost exaggerated account of a hard-partying college lifestyle.

But Hill said Sunday those days are all behind him, making sure to note with reporters that he has a wife and kids. In addition, thanks to his pals on the Patriots, he said he’€™s learned his lessons, saying the Spikes’€™ incident was a real eye-opener.

‘€œWe talked about that,’€ Hill said of the Spikes’€™ tape. ‘€œAt the end of it he was like well you learned what to do and what not to do. I learned from his mistake also.

‘€œThere’€™s rumors out here that Will Hill is a party guy. If I go out now, my wife is with me and my kids. I don’€™t go out to meet people or galavant. I sit back and just relax and enjoy my time.’€

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Bill Belichick, Brandon Spikes, Chad Jackson

Nick Fairley, who didn’t hear you, defends his style, thanks Ndamukong Suh

02.27.11 at 1:30 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh has done a lot for the Lions since being selected second overall in last year’s draft. The defensive rookie of the year, Suh figures to anchor their defensive line for years to come.

Auburn’s Nick Fairley is thankful for that. With the impact that Suh has had, Fairley said in his press conference Sunday that he feels Suh proved that top-five defensive tackles, like Fairley himself, are worthy investments.

“Winning defensive rookie of the year, I think it helped us out a lot. [Suh] coming out last year, with the impact that he had on the college game and now that folks get to see it, the [defensive tackles] are starting to make some noise.”

Fairley has a couple of knocks on him entering this year’s draft. One is that he is a dirty player, and the other is that he takes plays off.

“Everybody’s entitled to their opinion,” he said. “A lot of folks out there say I play the game the way it should be played,” he said. “All I do is hit the light switch when I hit the field and don’t turn it off until I leave.”

At the next level, Fairley, who said he is willing to play anywhere on the line, will continue to model his game after Eagles, Packers and Panthers great Reggie White.

“I think that guy played the game the way it should be played, and I just try to play my game like him.”

Fairley handled himself very well with the media and made a great impression — in my opinion, the best of the three biggest names to speak here, with Cam Newton and Da’Quan Bowers being the other two.

Still, Fairley’s repeated use of a very quick “I didn’t hear you” when asked questions was a bit distracting and at times humorous. Here’s a video compilation of five of the six occurrences.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Cam Newton, Da'Quan Bowers, Ndamukong Suh

If the Pats keep drafting cornerbacks the way they do, Miami’s Brandon Harris fits the mold

02.27.11 at 11:52 am ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Would the Patriots spend another pick on a cornerback?

Despite having already drafted Devin McCourty (first round, 2010), Darius Butler (second round, 2009) and Terrence Wheatley (second round, 2008; released last season), it isn’t far-fetched that the Pats could spend one of their first four picks, all of which are in the first two rounds, on a corner. With Leigh Bodden returning from shoulder surgery and Butler taking a step backwards in his development as a second-year player, the argument could be made that the Pats could stand to add an impact player at the position.

This year’s cornerback class boasts top 10 talents in LSU’s Patrick Peterson and Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara, but there is a solid group of corners that follow those two, including Miami’s Brandon Harris. Despite declaring for the draft after his junior season, he is very experienced, having been a three-year starter.

“Being able to be a three-year starter, it gives me a whole lot of confidence,” Harris said Sunday. “I came into Miami as a freshman and was able to earn a starting spot in playing there an getting a lot of experience playing against a lot of big-time college players. Every year my confidence rose. I’m at the point right now that my confidence is so high and I believe in myself a ton.

“I would definitely consider myself a shutdown corner,” he added when asked.

Depending on how he performs at the scouting combine, Harris could go anywhere from the middle of the first round to somewhere in the second round. He doesn’t have the size of the other second-tier cornerbacks like Colorado’s Jimmy Smith, but he’s confident in his abilities.

“Me being what they consider a smaller cornerback, I think it helps me to come from a system like Miami, where I was able to still be aggressive and be physical with some of the bigger receivers,” he said.

“A lot of them don’t expect guys of my six to be able to do [that]. I’m very quick in coverage, and I can run with the best of them, but when I’m able to use my footwork at the line and put my hands on guys, that’s something that a lot of guys are impressed by when they see me do that, being that I’m not 6-foot or 6-foot-1, or anything like that.”

Harris was measured at 5-foot-9 and 193 pounds. While that might strike some as undersized, it should be noted that none of the three cornerbacks the Pats drafted in the first two rounds over the last three years have been taller than 5-foot-10. As it stands, Bodden (6-foot-1) is the only cornerback on the roster that stands taller than 5-foot-11.

So for the speedy Harris, he just may fit the mold for the Patriots. He also spoke about the versatility he brings to the cornerback position, something that would make him more attractive were he to start out by contributing as a nickel.

“I’m able to do a lot of things on the football field. They played me in the slot a lot, and they also played me outside at corner, so I was able to move around and make a lot of plays,” Harris said. “Being able to blitz from the outside and also cover guys man-to-man in the slot. I was able to do a lot of things that they wanted me to do.”

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Brandon Harris, Darius Butler, Devin McCourty
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