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5 things you have to know about Colts 01.12.15 at 1:13 pm ET
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Andrew Luck has his team in the AFC title game against the Patriots. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Andrew Luck has his team in the AFC title game against the Patriots. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Here are five things you have to know about the Colts, who will face the Patriots Sunday night in the AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium:

1. The success of their team is bound up in Andrew Luck.

Of the four teams that remain in the postseason, none of them are as dependent on their quarterback as the Colts. The third-year signal-caller out of Stanford was the primary reason why the Colts were the best passing team in the league, averaging a stellar 306 yards per game. Luck (62 percent completion rate, 4,761 passing yards, 40 TDs, 16 INTs, 96.5 passer rating) was the only quarterback who finished the season with a completion rate of 60 percent or better, more than 4,000 yards and 40 or more touchdowns. He has a curious habit of turning the ball over, particularly against the Patriots — in his three games against New England, Luck has thrown eight picks, and he’s turned the ball over nine times in all in the three defeats. (We wondered back in November if there’s a “Belichick is in Luck’s head” narrative developing in the same way that the Patriots’ coach appeared to have Peyton Manning‘s number in his early days in Indy.) Regardless, when he drops back to pass, Luck looks for T.Y. Hilton (82 catches, 131 targets, 1,345 yards, 7 TDs) and veteran Reggie Wayne (64 catches, 116 targets, 779 yards, 2 TDs), as well as tight end Coby Fleener (51 catches, 92 targets, 774 yards, 8 TDs).

2. When it comes to running the football, they’re a little better now than they were during the regular season.

Over the course of the 2014 regular season, the Colts were one of the worst running teams in the league. Indy was 22nd in rushing yardage in the regular season, averaging 100.8 yards per game — the worst mark of any AFC team that reached the playoffs. As a team, they had seven games where they failed to hit the century mark on the ground, including two games where they had less than 20 rushing yards total. (One yard against Dallas and 19 yards against the Patriots.) Trent Richardson was the closest thing the team had to a feature back in the regular season, as he finished with 519 rushing yards on 159 carries for an average of 3.3 yards per carry. But Dan “Boom” Herron has been able to give them a postseason boost when it comes to their ground game — Herron had 12 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown in the wild card win over the Bengals, and followed that up with a tidy 23 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown in the divisional playoff victory over the Broncos. As a team, the Colts finished with 114 rushing yards against Cincy and 99 yards against Denver, but Herron will likely get the bulk of the carries against New England — the 5-foot-10, 212-pounder out of Ohio State finished the regular-season with 78 carries for 351 yards and a touchdown. He’s also a bit of a multidimensional threat, as he added 21 catches on 26 targets for 173 receiving yards on the season.

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Read More: 2010 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots
Hernandez refutes report of ‘additional violations’ involving use of marijuana 04.27.10 at 9:17 pm ET
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In response to a Boston.com story about him failing multiple drug tests for marijuana as a collegian, Patriots’ draft pick Aaron Hernandez issued the following statement through the team Tuesday night:

‘€œLeading up to the draft, I provided every interested NFL team with all the information asked of me about football and my personal life. I was as candid as I could possibly be about everything, including my one single violation of the team’€™s substance testing policy over the course of three years at the University of Florida.  That is why I was very surprised and disappointed by the recent inaccurate report of additional violations.  I regret what happened, I learned from it and will make better decisions going forward.  I couldn’€™t be more excited about beginning my NFL career and representing the New England Patriots well.’€

Read More: 2010 NFL Draft, Aaron Hernandez,
Patriots don’t weed out positive tests at 12:14 pm ET
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This past weekend’s NFL draft was one of rare depth, the kind of draft in which the average fan had actually heard of some of the team’s later-round selections. Stars were around on the third day, though not all of the upper-echelon players that went in the final three rounds were available late due to depth. As is the case with any draft, players fell due to poor combine performances, character issues and failed drug tests.

Enter Patriots fourth-rounder Aaron Hernandez. Perhaps a second-round talent based on his speed (4.56 40-yard dash) and pass-catching ability, he was removed from many draft boards due to a history of marijuana use and positive drug tests, according to a Boston.com report. Tim Tebow’s favorite target (68 catches, 850 yards, 5 touchdowns) wasn’t removed from the Patriots’ board, however, suggesting Bill Belichick’s confidence in Urban Meyer (the Patriots selected three Gators last weekend) is enough for the New England coach not to fret on the matter.

Or maybe it’s the situation itself, and a positive recommendation from Meyer didn’t help Hernandez any more than it did teammates Jermaine Cunningham or Brandon Spikes. After all, the roster — past and present — hasn’t exactly been a D.A.R.E. campaign.

In addition to Randy Moss‘  “blue moon” interview with Bryant Gumbel back in 2005 — two years before the team traded for the enigmatic receiver — the Patriots roster has seen clouds of marijuana use from the likes of Kevin Faulk, Brandon Tate and former safety Dexter Reid. While Reid, a fourth-round pick in the ’04 draft, was canned after a season when his off-field issues outweighed his contributions as a safety, the Patriots took the hit with Faulk  in the form of a one-game suspension to begin the 2008 season after he was caught with marijuana at a Lil Wayne concert. Tate, the receiver whom the Patriots selected in the third round of last year’s draft, is a case more similar to Hernandez in that the team knew about his marijuana use prior to acquiring him.

Does a player smoking marijuana make him any less of a player? Maybe not, if Moss’ career is any indication. Even so, it’s interesting to note that in the high-character, no-nonsense Belichick regime, the Patriots will take a bite on a player despite what tests suggest.

Read More: 2010 NFL Draft, Aaron Hernandez, Bill Belichick, Brandon Tate
Report: Hernandez failed drug tests as a collegian at 1:03 am ET
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Tight end Aaron Hernandez failed “multiple drug tests” while playing for the University of Florida, according to a Boston.com story that quotes a league source. Hernandez, who was selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft by the Patriots, had been considered a second-round talent but apparently slipped down draft boards because of the failed tests. Hernandez did pass his drug test at the combine in February, the source said, which means he won’t be entered in to the league substance-abuse program.

Hernandez is a 6-foot-2, 250-pound tight end who led Florida in receptions last year with 68 catches for 850 yards and five touchdowns last season with the Gators. For his collegiate career, Hernandez had 111 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Read More: 2010 NFL Draft, Aaron Hernandez,
Belichick on The Big Show 04.26.10 at 10:23 pm ET
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Bill Belichick called in to The Big Show on Monday to check in for his annual post-draft recap. The Patriots were very busy over the three days of the draft, and Belichick said the whole NFL draft process is highly unpredictable.

“It’s a very unscientific business,” Belichick said. “You make the best decision you can and we make them here. They make them throughout the league. There are players that go undrafted that have great careers. There are players that go in the first round that end up not playing very much in this league. I think that’s the way it will always be. … It makes it a little bit unpredictable, but it also makes it exciting, because it gives you opportunity.”

Belichick and the Patriots traded twice to drop down to pick 27 in the first round, where they selected Devin McCourty out of Rutgers, and he explained the process of “value” in terms of trading in the draft.

“If you have let’s say three players, say you are at a particular point with whatever number you are at,” he said. “You have three players and you feel that anyone of the three players would be a good pick at this point. They would all help our team and there really isn’t a strong preference, and you could pick up extra value by trading down or something like that, then you do that and say, ‘OK how far down can we go and get the same value at this point.’ ”

Belichick also commented on taking players from college programs where he has ties to the coaches, such as Urban Meyer in Florida or Nick Saban at Alabama.

“At the pro day down there in Florida there were almost 140 or 150 people from the NFL there,” said Belichick, who took three players from the University of Florida in this year’s draft. “I don’t think any of those guys are any big secret. We’ve scouted the Florida players since last spring, all fall, all through the all-star games, just like everybody else in the league has. … We are not partial to any particular school, but I do think that players from some of those programs, because of the way they play, what they look for in football players coming out of high school. Often there is that same correlation that those players fit the profile and the programs that we are looking for.”

Adalius Thomas was released on Monday after three disappointing seasons, and Belichick spoke on the decision to cut ties with the outside linebacker.

“We made that decision to move on with the players that we have,” Belichick said. “I think he was a good football player. He came in and had a heck of a year for us in ’07, and again at this point in time we felt that was the direction we were going to go in.”

To hear the entire interview, visit The Big Show audio on demand page.

Read More: 2010 NFL Draft, Adalius Thomas, Bill Belichick,
Tennant joins Super Bowl champs at 9:15 am ET
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Matt Tennant was in his backyard hitting golf balls on Saturday when he received the most important phone call of his life.

‘€œIt was [Saints general manager] Mickey Loomis who called me and he just said, ‘€˜We traded up for you, and you probably wish you were taken earlier, but this is a perfect situation for you. We are happy to have you be a part of the Saints organization.’€™ ‘€

The Saints traded with the Jaguars for a future draft pick to take the former BC captain with the 158th overall pick of the NFL draft on Saturday. Tennant will sit behind Jonathan Goodwin, who started 29 regular-season games at center in the last two years for New Orleans, on the depth chart.

It will take a little patience for Tennant, but he plans on making some noise in his first year with the defending Super Bowl champions.

‘€œThey’ve got two guys who are veterans, and I don’€™t know what is going to happen,’€ Tennant said. ‘€œI’€™m just going to go in and work my tail off just like I did at BC and push the guys ahead of me, but also learn from them, too.’€

Tennant will be reporting to camp in two weeks, and he said he was glad the draft process is over so he can get to playing football.

‘€œI’€™m very happy for this to be happening to me right now,’€ he said. ‘€œI get to go out and do something that I love.’€

Read More: 2010 NFL Draft, Matt Tennant,
McLaughlin scooped up by Ravens 04.25.10 at 1:49 am ET
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BC’€™s Mike McLaughlin had to wait three days and seven rounds to get a phone call about his NFL future.

The former Eagles linebacker wasn’€™t selected in the 2010 draft, but it didn’€™t take very long for the Baltimore Ravens to jump all over the undrafted free agent.

‘€œ[John] Harbaugh actually called me three or four times towards the end of the draft,’€ said McLaughlin, who also had interest from the Lions, Rams, Chiefs and Browns. ‘€œEven my agents were saying they’€™ve never seen a team go after a free agent like that. With that being said, I’€™m pretty happy.’€

McLaughlin said he made the decision to sign with the Ravens before the draft ended.

Baltimore only held seven picks in this year’€™s draft, with its last selection coming at No. 194 overall in the sixth round, and McLaughlin said the Ravens were one of the teams he spent a lot of time with before the draft started.

McLaughlin has been working on two other positions, long snapper and fullback, to go along with his linebacker duties, and he said the Ravens were impressed with all of the things he could bring to a football team.

‘€œHe was working me pretty hard,’€ McLaughlin said of his conversation with Harbaugh. ‘€œHe knows that I’€™ll be a contributor to the team. He was good. He was pretty honest. He wasn’€™t even really talking to me about the team. He said, ‘You know what, this is going to be the best fit for you to make a team and come in and play in the NFL.’ He’€™s right.

‘€œThere is always the flip side to it. If they really wanted me that bad, they could have drafted me. But I trust him. I could just tell they liked me and they really want me there. Harbaugh was calling me a ton as soon as they got their pick in when they were done for the rest of the draft.’€

While he was happy with the end result of the day ‘€” especially when he saw his old teammate Matt Tennant get drafted by the Saints (158th overall) in the fifth round ‘€” the waiting was hard on him.

‘€œI definitely saw some inside linebackers go that I thought I could go ahead of,’€ McLaughlin said. ‘€œI don’€™t want to say some of the stuff I was saying at the TV today, but it’€™s fuel for the fire. I’€™m going to remember it when I’€™m in camp.’€

Read More: 2010 NFL Draft, Mike McLaughlin,
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