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The Big Nickel: Tom Brady back at practice, Jonathan Crompton on ‘Being Peyton Manning’ 11.18.10 at 2:14 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The five most important things you need to know about the Patriots on Thursday.

1. As expected, Tom Brady was back at practice on Thursday, at least for the first 10 or so minutes of the session that were open to the media. Brady, who missed Wednesday’s practice with what was listed on the injury report as a foot problem, was not in the locker room during media availability, but went through the stretches and drills with the rest of the team at the start of practice. He did not appear to be hindered in any fashion. The injury report will be released at 4 p.m., and that should tell us if he was limited in any way.

2. Being Peyton Manning. Practice squad quarterback Jonathan Crompton said on Thursday that he and backup Brian Hoyer have been splitting duties working as Peyton Manning in practice this week, trying to prepare New England’€™s starting defense for the Indy quarterback. Hoyer has apparently been working in no-huddle sets and Crompton handling the other duties.

It’€™s a job that Crompton, a rookie out of Tennessee, is taking seriously.

‘€œWe just have to study and give our defense the best look we can. I know Brian does a real tremendous job with that, and so I’€™m just going out there and the both of us are just doing the best we can,’€ said Crompton. ‘€œThe biggest thing is that you’€™ve got to know how to handle your job. That’€™s my role on the team right now, and I’€™ve got to do the best I can.

Giving the starting defense a reasonable facsimile of Manning is the sort of thing that goes a long way around Foxboro: In the days leading up to the 2003 AFC Championship Game, former backup Damon Huard did such a good job that he was singled out by coach Bill Belichick after the game, and he received a game ball for his efforts.

3. It’€™s still really hard to sack Peyton Manning. While the Indy quarterback is a stat-producing machine, one of the most intriguing numbers are his sack totals. In 201 games and out of 6,917 pass attempts over the course of his career, the Colts quarterback has been dropped only 227 times. That equates to one sack every 30.47 passes attempts, an extraordinarily low number for a pocket quarterback like Manning. No quarterback has been sacked fewer times than Peyton Manning since the NFL started keeping official track of the statistic.

This season, Manning has been sacked 12 times through nine games. While that number is relatively high for the Colts quarterback, it remains one of the lowest figures in the league among starting signal-callers. Why is it so hard to bring Manning down?

‘€œYou have to give his line credit ‘€” he’€™s always had a good offensive line. And he knows when to get the ball out,’€ said outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich. ‘€œAny time you’€™ve got pressure, you always see him throwing the ball off to an open receiver because he knows who’€™s going to be open and he knows every route that’€™s being run. So he can go through his progression quickly and throw the ball to somebody who’€™s open.’€

[Click here to read more about what the Patriots plan to do to Manning this weekend to get him off his game.]

‘€œHis pre-snap reads are amazing. He pretty much knows what’€™s going on before he even snaps the ball,’€ said inside linebacker Jerod Mayo, who got his first career sack against Manning last November. ‘€œThat’€™s the tough part.’€

The Patriots’€™ pass rush has been inconsistent since the start of the season ‘€” through nine games, they have 18 sacks, tied for 19th overall ‘€” but they did come away with five sacks last week against the Steelers. Can any of that performance carry over this week against Manning and the Colts?

‘€œWe just have to keep moving in the right direction,’€ Mayo said. ‘€œThere was a little hiccup in the road against the Cleveland Browns, but the four weeks previous to that, we were going in the right direction. Like I said earlier this year, we have a young defense and we’€™re trying to get better.’€
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Read More: Bill Polian, Bob Kravitz, Brian Hoyer, Dallas Clark
After missing practice, Tom Brady says ‘I’m doing well’ 11.17.10 at 8:34 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Despite the fact that he missed practice Wednesday because of injury, quarterback Tom Brady expressed confidence that he’€™ll be good to go for this Sunday’€™s game against the Colts at Gillette Stadium.

After he missed his second consecutive Wednesday practice with what was described on the injury report as ‘€œright shoulder/foot,’€ Brady spoke to reporters on a national conference call. He was asked, ‘€œYou were not seen in the media portion of practice today. Can you talk about how you’€™ve been doing lately and how you’€™re feeling?’€

‘€œI’€™m doing well. I’€™m doing well,’€ Brady responded. ‘€œI’€™m looking forward to the game this weekend.’€

Brady missed practice last Wednesday and was limited in the days leading up to the Sunday night game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh because of the same injury. In that contest, he showed no ill effects of the reported foot sprain, lighting up the Steelers by going 30-for-43 for 350 yards, three touchdowns and no sacks or interceptions.

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Colts have nine players miss Wednesday practice, including Joseph Addai and Reggie Wayne 11.17.10 at 4:48 pm ET
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The Colts, who have been hit hard by injury all season, had nine players miss practice Wednesday because of injury, a group that includes running backs Joseph Addai and Mike Hart, as well as wide receiver Reggie Wayne. Here’s the complete injury report:

Did Not Practice
RB Joseph Addai (neck)
LB Gary Bracket (toe)
TE Brody Eldridge (rib)
DT Dwight Freeney (rested)
RB Mike Hart (ankle)
DB Bob Sanders (biceps)
LB Clint Session (elbow)
DB Justin Tryon (foot)
WR Reggie Wayne (knee)

Limited Participation
WR Austin Collie (concussion)
WR Blair White (shoulder)

Read More: Colts, injury report,
Tom Brady does not practice for Patriots on Wednesday 11.17.10 at 4:22 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” For the second consecutive Wednesday, quarterback Tom Brady has been listed on the Patriots injury report as having missed practice. As was the case last Wednesday, Brady was listed with a right shoulder and foot injury. In addition, safety Jarrad Page did not practice because of a calf injury and defensive lineman Myron Pryor was out with a back problem. Here’s the complete injury report for the Patriots:

Did Not Practice
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder/foot)
S Jarrad Page (calf)
DT Myron Pryor (back)

Limited Participation in Practice
G Stephen Neal (shoulder)
RB Fred Taylor (toe)
CB Jonathan Wilhite (hip)

Read More: injury report, Patriots, Tom Brady,
The Big Nickel: Tom Brady doesn’t practice, Pierre Woods returns and James Sanders is honored 11.17.10 at 2:51 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The five most important things to know from the Patriots on Wednesday:

1. Tom Brady did not practice. The Patriots quarterback was not present for the beginning of practice ‘€” at least, for the first 10 or so minutes of the session the media is allowed to watch.

Brady, who was limited in practice last week because of a foot sprain, didn’€™t show any ill effects from the injury in Sunday’€™s game, and on Wednesday, he stood while taking questions at his locker for just under 10 minutes. Given the ease with which he was maneuvering around the locker room after the game on Sunday and earlier on Wednesday, it might simply be a case of a veteran getting a day off, but we should know more when the injury report is released at 4 p.m. (Other players who were missing were safety Jarrad Page, who has been dogged by a calf injury, and defensive lineman Myron Pryor, who has been dealing with a back problem.)

In other practice-related news, the following players were wearing black on Wednesday, signifying the fact that they were named Practice Players of the Week: quarterback Brian Hoyer, wide receiver Julian Edelman, safety Ross Ventrone, center/guard Ryan Wendell, tight end Aaron Hernandez and tight end Carson Butler.

2. Brady recalls how it all started against the Colts. Brady now has 105 career wins as a starter, and was the fastest to 100 wins of any quarterback in the Super Bowl era. However, he got his first win as a starter Sept. 30, 2001, against Indianapolis at Foxboro Stadium. It was a game he talked a little bit about on Wednesday morning.

‘€œI was pretty nervous. That was a great day. They came in undefeated,’€ said Brady, who finished 13-for-23 for 168 yards in the 30-10 win. ‘€œIt was a windy, cold, blustery day in Foxborough and we played a great game. That’€™s kind of what you need to do against these guys. Our defense really set the tone that day and we scored quite a few points that day.

‘€œI remember meeting Peyton before the game. I was surprised he knew me, as a matter of fact. He said, ‘€˜Hi Tom, I’€™m Peyton,’€™ as he was out there warming up, which I thought was pretty cool.’€
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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Bill Belichick, Brandon Meriweather
The Big Nickel: Looking back at Tom Brady’s big night, wondering who could replace Dallas Clark and … Kirsten Dunst? 11.16.10 at 7:44 pm ET
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The five most things you need to know about the Patriots on Tuesday:

1. With an extra day to take a closer look at Tom Brady‘€™s performance against the Steelers, the guys over at Football Outsiders suggest that given the fact that it came against the Pittsburgh defense, it could be one of the finest single-game performance of his career.

FO’€™s Bill Barnwell writes that Brady’€™s line against the Steelers ‘€” 31-for-43 for 350 yards and three touchdowns ‘€” certainly deserves a spot in the pantheon of Brady’€™s best games. As part of an in-depth look at Brady’s night, Barnwell notes the quarterback was ‘€œdevastating when the Patriots threw downfield against the Steelers,’€ writing ‘€œon passes thrown 15 yards past the line of scrimmage or more, Brady was 5-of-7 for 132 yards and two scores. Before Sunday, the Steelers had 53 such passes thrown against them and allowed just 28 completions.’€

As for Brady, he said Tuesday that Sunday’€™s game came down to some great plays by his pass catchers, singling out tight end Rob Gronkowski on his first touchdown reception, as well as the work of Brandon Tate, Alge Crumpler, Wes Welker and Deion Branch in the passing game and BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the running game.

‘€œWe say that all the time, you know, you’€™ve got to go out and make plays. And certainly you go out there not to lose and not to turn it over, that’€™s important,’€ Brady told WEEI. ‘€œBut, ultimately it’€™s got to come down to guys making plays, and we were making plays the other night.’€

2. Peyton Manning has been without his most reliable option since last month, when the Colts placed tight end Dallas Clark on season-ending injured reserve with a wrist problem. (Indianapolis has put 12 players on season-ending IR this year.) The two, who former one of the most prolific quarterback/tight end combos in NFL history ‘€” they have paired for 44 touchdown passes, one behind all-time leaders and former Patriots’€™ Drew Bledsoe and Ben Coates ‘€” have tormented the Patriots over the years.

But on Sunday, the Patriots will see an all new offense, including Jacob Tamme, a 25-year-old who has stepped in at tight end in place of Clark this season and has 24 catches for 245 yards and two touchdowns. (Tamme was reportedly a little dinged up in Sunday’s win over the Bengals.)

According to Patriots coach Bill Belichick, the Colts haven’€™t made many changes to their offense since Clark went down. While they still lean heavily on wide receiver Reggie Wayne, Belichick said they still run the same offense they have in the past, a grouping that includes new faces like Tamme and a handful of other relatively anonymous pass catchers.

‘€œ[Jacob] Tamme’€™s done a good job for them there. They’€™ve really played four different tight ends, primarily three, after Clark, so, they use a lot of different people, different combinations,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œIt comes down to team offense. They’€™re effective moving the ball regardless of who the tight end is or who anybody is. [If] you take something away from them, they find somewhere else to go.

‘€œClark did a great job for them, but Tamme’€™s stepped in and done a good job. They’€™ve gotten production from their other receivers, from [Austin] Collie, [Pierre] Garcon and I know other guys they’€™ve used in there, as well. Blair White‘€™s done a good job for them. They’€™re definitely able to use their other tight ends: [Brody] Eldridge and [Gijon] Robinson. They’€™re able to still continue to make the defense defend everything, take the play and go to the weak spots that the defense gives them.’€
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Read More: Ben Coates, Bill Barnwell, Bill Belichick, Dallas Clark
Patriots release linebacker Shawn Crable 11.16.10 at 6:07 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Tuesday evening they have released linebacker Shawn Crable. The Michigan product, a third-round pick of New England back in 2008, played in six games in 2010 and registered four total tackles, a half a sack and one special teams tackle. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Crable was inactive for the first eight games of the 2008 season before finishing the year on injured reserve. He spent the entire 2009 season on injured reserve, and was released by the Patriots on July 28 and signed to the practice squad on September 6. He was signed from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Sept. 25.

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