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Oklahoma DC Mike Stoops: DE Geneo Grissom has versatility needed to succeed with Patriots 05.27.15 at 7:00 am ET
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Geneo Grissom was taken 97th overall by the Patriots. (Brett Deering/Getty Images)

Geneo Grissom was taken 97th overall by the Patriots. (Brett Deering/Getty Images)

When Oklahoma defensive end Geneo Grissom was taken in the third round of the NFL draft earlier this month by the Patriots, Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was maybe the least surprised guy on the planet.

“When I heard about the pick, it just kind of made sense, because he can do so much and he’s going to a team that asks their players to do a lot,” Stoops said of Grissom, who was taken 97th overall by the Patriots.

“I think that there wasn’t one thing or one game that really stood out. With Geneo, it’s a combination of things that he does that enthralls you — that’s what I ultimately think attracted the Patriots to him,” Stoops added. “Their defensive staff probably saw him rush and play well against Alabama and what he did in the Sugar Bowl as a four- and a three-technique against some of the best players in the country. They saw him stand up this past season. That’s really where his value is, and I know that’s what important to the Patriots, more so than most teams. Just the versatility that he brings.”

Over the course of his collegiate career, the 6-foot-3, 262-pounder didn’t put up overwhelming numbers. At Oklahoma, he played in 39 games with 11 starts, and finished with 88 tackles (55 solo) with 17 tackles for loss, eight sacks and a pair of picks. His finest season came as a junior in 2013, when he had 40 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and one interception.

Instead, as Stoops suggests, Grissom made his name with the Sooners as a versatile presence who can do plenty of things as an edge defender, including work with his hand on the ground as a defensive end or more of a stand-up presence. He played both defensive end and outside linebacker over the final two years of his career, and was named All-Big 12 honorable mention linebacker in his final year with the Sooners while he was making the transition from defensive end to linebacker. He played in 10 of 13 games with starts at linebacker in all 10 of those. (He missed three games because of injury.)

Any way you slice it — defensive end, outside linebacker, hand up, hand down — Grissom is best as a “five-technique outside edge guy, whether he’s standing or with one hand down,” according to Stoops.

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Ben Roethlisberger: Wouldn’t be same if Tom Brady wasn’t on field for opener 05.26.15 at 4:48 pm ET
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Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger wants to see Tom Brady in the opener. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger wants to see Tom Brady in the opener. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Deflategate has made for some strange bedfellows.

While he didn’t come out and voice his support for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Tuesday that if Brady isn’t on the field opening night for the New England-Pittsburgh opener, it wouldn’t be the same.

“He’s a guy, I’ve said for a long time, he’s the best in the business. And he proved it again last year winning his fourth [Super Bowl],” Roethlisberger told ESPN on Tuesday.

“If he’s not out there, it’s not the same. I have a lot of respect for him on the football field and some of the unbelievable things that he’s done. I guess we’ll wait and see what’s finally going to happen.”

Brady was suspended for four games for his role in Deflategate — if it stands, he would miss the opener against Roethlsiberger and the Steelers. His appeal is pending.

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Patriots announce signings of LB Dane Fletcher, WR Zach D’Orazio 05.26.15 at 4:26 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Tuesday afternoon they have signed linebacker Dane Fletcher and wide receiver Zach D’€™Orazio. Here’s a portion of the statement issued by the team on the moves:

Fletcher, 28, is a veteran of five NFL seasons with New England (2010-13) and Tampa Bay (2014). The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with New England out of Montana State on April 29, 2010. He signed with Tampa Bay as an unrestricted free agent on March 16, 2014. Fletcher has played in 54 NFL games with 10 starts and has registered 101 total tackles, 4½ sacks, one interception, three passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He has also added 41 special teams tackles, including a team-high 15 special teams tackles with the Patriots in 2013. He has played in six postseason games with one start for the Patriots, accumulating 14 total tackles. Last season in Tampa Bay, Fletcher played in all 16 games with four starts and finished with 30 total tackles and 10 special teams tackles.

D’Orazio, 23, was a two-year starter at Akron, appearing in 28 games at wide receiver and finished his career with 119 receptions for 1,422 yards and five touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 212-pounder had his most productive season as a junior in 2014, registering 62 receptions for 658 yards and one touchdown. D’Orazio began his college career as a quarterback before switching to wide receiver in 2012.

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Who will be the next over-35 quarterback to win a Super Bowl? 05.26.15 at 11:16 am ET
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Tom Brady won a title after the age of 35. Which senior signal-caller has the best chance to match him? (Elsa/Getty Images)

Tom Brady won a title after the age of 35. Which senior signal-caller has the best chance to match him? (Elsa/Getty Images)

Last season, Tom Brady entered into select company on a couple of levels. He wasn’t only the third quarterback to win four Super Bowls as a starter, joining Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw — he became the fifth quarterback to win a Super Bowl after his 35th birthday, joining Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach, Jim Plunkett and John Elway.

In truth, this could be considered a pretty good time to be an older quarterback. This season, six projected starters will be 35 or older (Peyton Manning, Brady, Drew Brees, Josh McCown, Carson Palmer and Tony Romo), and while it’s early to handicap the field, it seems to be a safe bet that at least four of them will make the postseason. But which one of them has the best chance of joining Brady in that exclusive company and being able to boast of winning a ring after his 35th birthday?

Here’s a look at the field:

Peyton Manning: Despite the fact there was talk he wouldn’€™t return for an 18th season, Manning is back in camp with the Broncos. After seeing how he struggled to the finish line last year with Denver, there are questions about his health, as well as a few members of his receiving corps. At 39, he’s slated to be the oldest position player in the league this season, and if he wins a Super Bowl this year with the Broncos, he’d be the oldest quarterback in NFL history to win a title.

Drew Brees: The Saints’ signal-caller turned 36 in January, and while he’s talked about playing into his 40s, he shown little sign of slowing down. He led the NFL in several major passing categories in 2014, including passing yards (4,952, first), completed passes (456, first) and passing yards per game (309.5). Despite the fact that New Orleans was 7-9 last season and underwent some serious personnel changes in the offseason, as long as he stays healthy, Brees will certainly be able to keep the Saints competitive for the foreseeable future.

Josh McCown: Truthfully, we’re just including him on this list because he’s become the default starter for the Browns this season. McCown, who will turn 36 in July, has had some nice moments for the six other teams he’s played for over the course of his career, but at this stage with Cleveland, is a longshot at best to become the next plus-35 quarterback to win a title.

Carson Palmer: The former Bengal, who will turn 36 in December, was looking good as a possible darkhorse last season, as he led the Cardinals to a 6-0 start. Then, he wrecked his knee and had to watch the rest of the season from the sidelines. If he stays healthy this year, it’s reasonable to think that Arizona has progressed to a point where it can be a serious playoff threat in the NFC West.

Tony Romo: Well, he’s certainly not lacking for confidence when it comes to the 2015 season. The Cowboys quarterback, who celebrated his 35th birthday last month, was able to get the first playoff win of his career last year against the Eagles, and if a catch is truly a catch, then there’s the very real chance that Dallas pulls the upset on Green Bay in the divisional playoffs and is going against the Seahawks in the NFC title game. If the Cowboys can keep the running game moving after losing DeMarco Murray and Romo is truly over any past late-season or playoff meltdowns, then Romo has a chance to join fellow Cowboy Staubach and the rest of the over-35 crowd that took home a title.

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Patriots set to enter Phase 3 of OTAs Tuesday morning at Gillette Stadium 05.26.15 at 6:30 am ET
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Phase Three of the Patriots offseason program opens on Tuesday morning at Gillette Stadium with the first of three practices. According to Article 21, Section 2 of the collective bargaining agreement, here are the rules and regulations around Phase Three:

(iii) Phase Three. Phase Three shall consist of the next four weeks of the Club’s offseason workout program. Subject to the additional rules set forth in Subsections 5(a) and 5(c) of this Article and Appendix G to this Agreement, during Phase Three each Club may conduct a total of ten days of organized team practice activity (“OTAs” or “OTA days”). The restrictions set forth in Subsection 5(b) of this Article shall not apply to OTA days. The Club may conduct a maximum of three days of OTAs during each of the first two weeks of Phase Three. A maximum of four days of OTAs may be conducted during either the third week or the fourth week of Phase Three, with the Mandatory Veteran Minicamp (Article 22, Section 2) to be held during the other week. During weeks in which the Club conducts only three days of OTAs, the Club may also conduct a fourth day of non-OTA workouts, but such activities shall be subject to the rules governing Phase Two workouts, as set forth in Subsection 2(b)(ii) of this Ar­ticle. During Phase Three, all coaches shall be allowed on the field. No live contact is permitted. No one-on-one offense vs. defense drills are permitted (i.e., no offensive linemen vs. defensive linemen pass rush or pass protection drills, no wide receivers vs. defensive backs bump-and-run drills, and no one-on-one special teams drills involving both offense and defense are permitted). Special teams drills (e.g., kicking team vs. return team) are permitted, provided no live contact occurs. Team offense vs. team defense drills, including all drills listed in Appendix G to this Agreement, are permitted, provided no live contact occurs. Clubs may require players to wear helmets; no shells are permitted during Phase Three of the Club’s offseason workout program or any minicamp.

Rookies will be made available to the media this week, with first-round pick Malcom Brown set to meet with reporters on Wednesday, and some of the rest of the first-year players on Thursday. For the media, the lone access to OTA workouts will be on Friday at Gillette Stadium.

Michael McCann: Reported deadline for league needing to schedule Tom Brady’s Deflategate hearing a ‘non-issue’ 05.25.15 at 9:59 pm ET
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According to the Associated Press, Tom Brady‘s appeal of his four-game suspension for his role in Deflategate won’t be heard by Wednesday, which was initially believed to be the 10-day deadline for the hearing to be held.

However, late Monday night, there was some confusion about the overall timeline. In an e-mail with, legal analyst Michael McCann said that May 27 deadline for the hearing that was reported is questionable for a few reasons, but is ultimately a “non-issue” and won’t have a sizable impact on the proceedings.

“I’m not sure May 27 is the deadline, when the appeal appears to have been filed on May 14, and 10 business days from that would be Friday, May 29 — since it doesn’t include the day it was filed, or Memorial Day,” said McCann, who is also the founding Director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.

“Also, usually in an event like this when a party has a right to a deadline, that deadline is considered voluntarily waived or postponed when that party takes an action that could cause delay,” McCann added. “Here, the NFLPA petitioned commissioner Roger Goodell to recuse himself. That would seem to give him grounds to take longer than normal.

“My expectation is this deadline proves to be a non-issue.”

In addition to the four-game suspension for Brady, the Patriots were also fined $1 million and stripped them of a first-round draft pick next year and a fourth-rounder in 2017 for their role in Deflategate.

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Sunday NFL Notes: Is this the week we hear from Tom Brady? 05.24.15 at 6:00 am ET
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Tom Brady met the media last year while at his celebrity touch football game, which benefits Best Buddies. (Paul Marotta/Getty Images for Best Buddies)

Tom Brady met the media this time last last year at his celebrity touch football game, which benefits Best Buddies and is part of a charitable weekend for the quarterback. (Paul Marotta/Getty Images for Best Buddies)

1. The sports media calendar starts to fill up again this week. First and foremost, there’s the potential to hear more from quarterback Tom Brady prior to his annual Best Buddies charity event, set for Friday and Saturday. In year’s past, Brady has made the rounds in a series of pre-promotional interviews in the days leading up to the event, and has spoken at halftime of his celebrity touch football game at Harvard on Friday night. In the wake of the news regarding his suspension, it’s not clear if he’ll address the Wells Report, but it should be an interesting few days for the quarterback. In addition, the Patriots are scheduled to make their rookies available to the media on Wednesday and Thursday. The introduction of the first-year players, which was delayed in the wake of the Deflategate news, will include first-round pick Malcom Brown on Wednesday, as well as other members of the rookie class on Thursday. In addition, there will be access to OTAs on Friday.

2. If Brady will be sidelined for a stretch in 2015, the natural question arises: Do the Patriots need to add a veteran signal-caller as a backup to (presumed) starter Jimmy Garoppolo? New England does have Garrett Gilbert (who ended the 2014 season on the practice squad) as the only other quarterback on the roster, but examining the list of available free agents (a group that includes Matt Flynn and Mike Vick), it doesn’t look like there are a lot of potential fits in Foxboro, even on a part-time basis. At the same time, there are financial ramifications to consider. While the move wouldn’t likely break the bank, signing a veteran as a backup for the start of the season would mean that the contract for the additional quarterback would be guaranteed. Considering that said backup would likely be jettisoned soon after Brady returns, it’s worth wondering if the Patriots would be inclined it spend that sort of money on someone who — in an ideal world — would be holding a clipboard for a few weeks. From this viewpoint, if a former Brady backup does become available between now and the start of the season (Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett come to mind), the Patriots could add them after Week One. That would give New England a relatively inexpensive insurance plan if something did happen to Garoppolo in the opener. Regardless, it’s another team-building question that needs to be taken into consideration as the team sits and waits for Brady’s appeal to take place.

3. Ever since rookie salaries became slotted, the race to get draft picks signed and into the system has lost some of its old drama. Currently, the Patriots have nine of their 11 draft picks signed, with only first-rounder Brown and fifth-rounder Joe Cardona yet to agree to contracts. Cardona (Navy) is the last fifth-round selection to sign, and given his background, it’s reasonable to speculate how much of that has to do with his uncertain future as it relates to a possible military commitment. As for Brown, he is one of 11 first-round picks who have yet to sign. Overall, as of Tuesday (according to our friend Brian McIntyre), over 80 percent of the 2015 class has signed/agreed to terms, including 91 percent of Day 3 picks.

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