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Takeaways from our Thursday afternoon talk with Devin McCourty 04.24.14 at 9:43 pm ET
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FOXBORO –€” In addition to the news the defensive backs continue to try and build some semblance of chemistry, here are three other takeaways from our Thursday afternoon chat with Devin McCourty.

1. There’s no update on a new deal.

McCourty is going into the final season of a contract he signed as a rookie in 2010, but isn’t sweating his future.

“I don’t even worry about it,” he said when asked about his contract situation after 2014. “I just focus on playing football and let everything else (get) handled by my agents and the team and all that.”

2. It means something to him that he’s associated with Rutgers.

While everyone in the New England locker room displays some level of pride in their school, McCourty has been a tremendous advocate for Rutgers over the last few years. He’s maintained a high profile on campus, coming back frequently for Pro Days and workouts. (He lamented that he didn’t make it back for Pro Day this spring.) He said Thursday that it’s important for him to keep his ties to his alma mater.

“For me, it’s key, because I think that university played a huge part in my life,” he said of Rutgers. “Some of my best friends, I met there. One of the good things is that every time we go back we get to reconnect and have some fun. I just love the program. Just seeing them, now moving to the Big 10, I got to check out one of the spring practices. It’s an exciting time for them. I know they’re ready to go. I just love being a part of it. Just anything I can do to help, I’m always there to help out.”

McCourty was asked about the current group of pre-draft prospects from Rutgers, including wide receiver Brandon Coleman.

“He’s probably the most interesting (one),” McCourty said of Coleman. “The thing I loved about him is his work ethic. I remember one summer, I went back there and we were just doing 1-on-1s and 7-on-7s with those guys and he was going each time. If one of the NFL guys got up there, he would go just to get the work. I’m happy for him, getting a chance to live out his dream.

“Really, all those guys,” he added. “They work hard there. I know whether it’s here or somewhere else, those guys will land somewhere and they’ll work their butt off trying to keep a job.”

3. The only thing constant in the NFL is change.

With the addition of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner and loss of Aqib Talib and Steve Gregory, the secondary has undergone the most personnel changeover to this point in the offseason. McCourty talked about the changes:

On Gregory: “Steve is a smart football player. A guy who is always in the right spot. A guy who is a playmaker. He was big for us the last two years when he was here. He made plays. He’d kind of that older figure who has a lot of knowledge and had a lot of football games under his belt and has been able to just push us the right way. It just stinks a little bit — but that’s the business of football. Since I’ve been here, we’ve always had guys coming in and guys going, so, nothing new. Just wish him the best and hope he lands with another team.”

On Talib: “The same thing. A very good football player who has played very big for us in the last two years. But the business is the business. You just wish him the best in Denver — not that good, of course. But hope he does well. We’re happy for him.”

Read More: Aqib Talib, Brandon Browner, Brandon Coleman, Darrelle Revis
Patriots sign free agent linebacker Josh Hull 04.24.14 at 3:10 pm ET
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The Patriots announced the signing of linebacker Josh Hull on Thursday afternoon. Here’s a portion of the release issued by the team on the move:

Hull, 26, is a veteran of four NFL seasons with the St. Louis Rams (2010-12) and the Washington Redskins (2013). The 6-foot-3, 246-pounder was originally drafted by St. Louis in the seventh-round (254th overall) out of Penn State in 2010. He was released by St. Louis at the end of training camp in 2013 and signed with Washington as a free agent on Oct. 15, 2013.

Hull has played in 39 NFL games with one start and has registered 25 total tackles. Last season with the Rams, Hull played in 11 games and finished with 14 total tackles.

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

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Devin McCourty: Bonding process with new defensive backs like Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner ‘begins now’ 04.24.14 at 3:06 pm ET
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FOXBORO — For defensive backs, the getting-to-know-you process can take some time. That’s why Devin McCourty and the rest of the new look New England secondary is getting down to business as quickly as possible.

During a break in offseason workouts Thursday at Gillette Stadium, McCourty said that when it comes to getting acclimated to working together, every second counts. That’s why the old faces like McCourty are spending as much time as possible with the new guys like Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.

“I think us as a secondary, the bonding begins now,” he said. “(In year’s past), you guys always saw us in the locker room, we were always together, laughing and joking. That starts now. A group of us, we’re always working out together. We’re running together. We’re in the locker room together. The bonding as a secondary, as a unit, it starts now. The good thing is that everybody is all in and we’re down to have fun and get better together as a unit.

“It’s a great experience right now,” he added. “When you add good football players — veteran football players — with Revis and Browner in our secondary, I think it’s going to be good. Those guys have played a lot of good football, and just at this time of the year, getting that knowledge — our knowledge — and working together, (it)  will be exciting. I think the biggest thing we understand right now is that we have a lot of work. Every year, we have a lot of new guys who have to learn the defense and start working together. So that’s our focus right now, just working to try and get better together as a unit.”

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

Read More: Brandon Browner, Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty,
When it comes to best games of 2014 NFL season, revenge will be a running theme 04.24.14 at 7:00 am ET
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Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will meet for the 16th time as starters this season. (AP)

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will meet for the 16th time as starters this season. (AP)

Revenge. Redemption. Or just plain payback. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but many of them are marked by a chance at retribution — however you choose to describe it, here are our choices for best NFL games of each week in 2014.

Week 1: Packers at Seahawks, Thursday at 8:30 p.m. (TNF) The Super Bowl champs get the season started in the Thursday night opener, a rematch of the Fail Mary from 2012.
Week 2: Steelers at Ravens, Thursday at 8:30 p.m. (TNF) The rivalry isn’t what it once was, but Pittsburgh-Baltimore games are nasty, brutish affairs that always make for compelling theater.
Week 3: Broncos at Seahawks, Sunday at 4:25 p.m. A Super Bowl rematch. Can Peyton Manning and the Broncos get some payback?
Week 4: Panthers at Ravens, Sunday at 1 p.m. New Baltimore receiver Steve Smith said that when he faces his old Carolina team, “put your goggles on because there’€™s going to be blood and guts everywhere.’€ Ahem.
Week 5: Chiefs at Niners, Sunday at 4:25 p.m. KC quarterback Alex Smith returns to the Bay Area where he’ll meet the team that dealt him prior to the start of last season.
Week 6: Cowboys at Seahawks, Sunday at 4:25 p.m. Tony Romo returns to Seattle — where he botched a hold on what might have been his best shot at a playoff win — to meet the Seahawks.
Week 7: Jets at Patriots, Thursday at 8:25 p.m. (TNF) Darrelle Revis faces his old mates for the first time as a member of the Patriots.
Week 8: Packers at Saints, Sunday at 8:30 p.m. (SNF) Helmed by Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, two of the league’s best offenses square off under the dome in New Orleans.
Week 9: Broncos at Patriots, Sunday at 4:25 p.m. Brady-Manning XVI.
Week 10: Niners at Saints, Sunday at 1 p.m. San Francisco goes back to the site of its Super Bowl loss.
Week 11: Patriots at Colts, Sunday at 8:30 p.m. (SNF) Andrew Luck gets his third crack in as many years at solving Bill Belichick‘s defense.
Week 12: Cardinals at Seahawks, Sunday at 4:05 p.m. The only team to beat Seattle at home last year ventures into CenturyLink Field again.
Week 13: Seahawks at Niners, Thanksgiving at 8:30 p.m. (TNF) The meanest rivalry of the last few years goes national on Thanksgiving night.
Week 14: Seahawks at Eagles, Sunday at 4:25 p.m. Seattle’s uber-physical defense gets a crack at Philly’s high-octane offense.
Week 15: Jets at Titans, 4:05 p.m. Chris Johnson has a shot to get some payback on Tennessee, which let him walk for nothing earlier this offseason.
Week 16: Eagles at Redskins, Saturday at 4:15 or 8:30 p.m. DeSean Jackson gets his second chance of the season against his old team.
Week 17: Bears at Vikings, Sunday at 1 p.m. New Chicago pass rusher Jared Allen would love the opportunity to sink his old mates in his return to Minnesota.

Five incredibly early thoughts on Patriots 2014 regular-season schedule 04.23.14 at 8:23 pm ET
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Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots will have their hands full in 2014. (AP)

Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots will have their hands full in 2014. (AP)

Here’s the 2014 schedule for the Patriots:

Week 1: at Dolphins — Sept. 7, 1 p.m.
Week 2: at Vikings — Sept. 14, 1 p.m.
Week 3: vs. Raiders — Sept. 21, 1 p.m.
Week 4: at Chiefs — Sept. 29, 8:30 p.m.
Week 5: vs. Bengals — Oct. 5, 8:30 p.m.
Week 6: at Bills — Oct. 12, 1 p.m.
Week 7: vs. Jets — Oct. 16, 8:25 p.m.
Week 8: vs. Bears — Oct. 26, 1 p.m.
Week 9: vs. Broncos — Nov. 2, 4:25 p.m.
Week 10: Bye week
Week 11: at Colts — Nov. 16, 8:30 p.m.
Week 12: vs. Lions — Nov. 23, 1 p.m.
Week 13: at Packers — Nov. 30, 4:25 p.m.
Week 14: at Chargers — Dec. 7, 8:30 p.m.
Week 15: vs. Dolphins — Dec. 14, 1 p.m.
Week 16: at Jets — Dec. 21, 1 p.m.
Week 17: vs. Bills — Dec. 28, 1 p.m.

1. Prime-time players: For the second straight season — barring a flexed out game — New England will play five prime-time games. The Patriots will play back-to-back night games in Week 4 and Week 5 (at Kansas City and home against the Bengals), Week 7 (a Thursday night game in Foxboro against the New York Jets) and road games against Indianapolis on Nov. 16 (Week 11) and at San Diego on Dec. 7 (Week 14). By way of comparison, the Patriots had four prime-time games in 2012 and 2010, and three in 2011 and 2009. This season also marks the fifth straight year the Patriots will face the Jets at least once in prime time, and the third straight year that game will take place as a part of Thursday Night Football

2. Short weeks: The biggest turnaround for the Patriots comes in mid-October when the Patriots have clash with the Bills on Sunday, Oct. 12 in Orchard Park. Then, New England has to turn around and host the Jets the following Thursday night in Foxboro.

3. Bye week: The Patriots have a relatively good spot for their bye week, coming in Week 10 after what promises to be a monumental clash with the Broncos on Nov. 2, a Week 9 game in Foxboro. For what it’s worth, on average over the last decade, New England’s bye week has come in Week 7. This year marks the third time in a decade the Patriots will have their bye fall in Week 10 – they had it in 2007 and 2013. (The earliest bye week of the last decade came in Week 3, back in 2004.) Another positive as it relates to the bye week comes with the fact that New England will have 14 days between Peyton Manning and the Broncos (Nov. 2 in Foxboro) and Andrew Luck at the Colts (Nov. 16 in Indy). However, the bye comes in the middle of what is arguably the toughest stretch of the season for New England, a seven-game string that starts on a short week with the Jets, followed by home games against the Bears and Broncos. Coming out of the bye, the Patriots then travel to face the Colts, host the Lions, and then make their first visit to Green Bay since 2006 for a date with the Packers. It wraps up with a road game against the Chargers, the first true West Coast game since New England traveled to face Seattle in Oct. 2012.

4. Patriots-Broncos, or Brady-Manning, Chapter 16: The centerpiece of the regular season will undoubtedly be the Nov. 2 game between New England and Denver, set for 4:25 p.m. A rematch of last year’s AFC title contest, it figures to be the 16th meeting between Tom Brady and Manning. (Manning and the Broncos will have a full 10 days to prepare for the Patriots prior to the Nov. 2 game between New England and Denver.)

5. Road warriors: Last year, the Patriots played one regular-season games (Houston) and one postseason game (Denver) outside of the Eastern Time Zone. In 2014, the Patriots have four regular-season games outside of the Eastern Time Zone, including a date with the Chargers in San Diego (Qualcomm Stadium), as well as contests on the road against the Vikings (TCF Bank Stadium in Minnesota), Packers (Lambeau Field in Green Bay) and Chiefs (Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City). According to Google maps, a road trip to all eight regular-season road games — departing from Foxboro — would be 10,026 miles by car. That includes the Jets (207 miles to MetLife Stadium), as well as Chargers (2,981 miles from Gillette to Qualcomm by car). That’s in stark contrast to the 2013 schedule, which included 7,130 regular-season miles and just three regular-season road trips of 1,000 miles or more (Miami, Atlanta and Houston), with the December trip to face the Texans the longest at 1,839 miles.

(One more note, per our pal Nick Underhill of MassLive.com: Brandon Browner will miss the first four games of the 2014 season because of a violation of the league’s policy on PEDs. As a result, he won’t face Miami, Minnesota, Oakland and Kansas City.)

Patriots’ 2014 regular-season schedule unveiled 04.23.14 at 7:47 pm ET
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Here’s a look at the Patriots 2014 regular-season schedule:

Week 1: at Dolphins – Sept. 7, 1 p.m.
Week 2: at Vikings – Sept. 14, 1 p.m.
Week 3: vs. Raiders – Sept. 21, 1 p.m.
Week 4: at Chiefs – Sept. 29, 8:30 p.m.
Week 5: vs. Bengals – Oct. 5, 8:30 p.m.
Week 6: at Bills – Oct. 12, 1 p.m.
Week 7: vs. Jets – Oct. 16, 8:25 p.m.
Week 8: vs. Bears – Oct. 26, 1 p.m.
Week 9: vs. Broncos Nov. 2, 4:25 p.m.
Week 10: Bye week
Week 11: at Colts – Nov. 16, 8:30 p.m.
Week 12: vs. Lions – Nov. 23, 1 p.m.
Week 13: at Packers – Nov. 30, 4:25 p.m.
Week 14: at Chargers – Dec. 7, 8:30 p.m.
Week 15: vs. Dolphins – Dec. 14, 1 p.m.
Week 16: at Jets – Dec. 21, 1 p.m.
Week 17: vs. Bills – Dec. 28, 1 p.m.

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

Report: Patriots exercise fifth-year option on left tackle Nate Solder 04.23.14 at 7:24 pm ET
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The Patriots exercised the fifth-year option on left tackle Nate Solder on Wednesday, according to Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports.

The option is worth the average value of the third through the 25th-highest cap numbers for offensive linemen in 2014. According to our friend Miguel Benzan of Patscap.com, that would put Solder’€™€™s option at about $7.3 million for the 2015 season. Considering the market for free agent left tackles this offseason (five free agent tackles received guaranteed deals in excess of $10 million) and Solder’s level of play since he arrived in the league three years ago, it seems like a sound financial move for New England.

Teams have until May 3 to exercise the fifth-year option on the first-round picks of the 2011 draft class, and Solder is one of several members of the class to have their option already picked up — it’s a group that includes Houston’s J.J. Watt, Arizona’s Patrick Peterson, New York’s Muhammad Wilkerson and San Diego’s Corey Liuget.

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

Read More: Nate Solder,
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