|Scouting reports on new Patriots Brandon LaFell, Brandon Browner from their old coaches||03.26.14 at 1:57 pm ET|
ORLANDO to BOSTON — The NFL meetings wrapped up Wednesday in Central Florida, but not without a few interesting notes worth passing along:
1. Panthers coach Ron Rivera was asked about wide receiver Brandon LaFell. The Patriots signed LaFell to a free agent deal earlier this month after the LSU produce spent four years with Carolina. Rivera was effusive in his praise of LaFell, who can apparently play multiple spots.
“[The Patriots are] getting a steady player, very smart, headsy guy. A very intelligent football player,” Rivera said of LaFell, who had 49 catches for 627 yards and five touchdowns last season for the Panthers. “He’ll know all the wide receiver positions. He played all of our wide receiver positions, plus he knew the tight end position as well. … I love his tenacity. He’s a willing blocker. He’s a want-to blocker. He wants to block. He won’t block because he has to. He’ll block because he has to. He’ll block because he wants to. And I think that’s impressive. And he’s a solid person. He’s a good person.”
“One thing he isn’t, he isn’t a fast, quick-twitch elusive guy,” Rivera added. “But he presents a good target. And they’ll probably play him as a Z in their base personnel group, or if they do use him as a slot they’ll motion him down in and use him to crack as far as the running game’s concerned. And I think they’ll be pleased with him.”
2. In that same vein, Seattle coach Pete Carroll was asked by New England reporters about what sort of player the Patriots are getting in Brandon Browner. The 6-foot-4, 221-pound cornerback was acquired by New England as a free agent after spending the last three seasons with the Seahawks.
“He’s a fantastic football player. He’s a great competitor. He has great depth of understanding of the position,” Carroll told reporters Tuesday morning. “He played bump-and-run, press technique since he was a freshman in college back at Oregon State. He was a fantastic player in college. Went to Canada, was a fantastic player in Canada. By the time we got him, he was so savvy in playing the position. I think he really blossomed again, took a step forward. … He’s a fantastic player.
“I was kind of envious,” Carroll said of the Patriots and Bill Belichick. “[Browner is] a great baller. He’s going to get a real special guy.”
3. The four rules changes that the Patriots proposed met with mixed results:
The league approved the idea of extended the goalposts, moving them from a height of 30 feet to 35 feet. Belichick spoke on the idea at the AFC coaches breakfast on Wednesday.
“Certainly, the goal posts are outdated,” he said. “Virtually every kicker at the combine can kick them over the top of the goal posts [and] some of those guys aren’t even going to be in the league. I’d say every kicker can do that.”
The league tabled a proposal from Belichick and the Patriots that would add extra cameras along the boundaries of the field and at the end zone to better determine when a player has gone out of bounds, or when a ball has broken the plane of the goal line.
Belichick is an advocate of making the extra point a more competitive play, and he proposed moving the one of scrimmage for extra points back to the 25. The idea didn’t pass, but the league was intrigued enough to move the line of scrimmage for extra points to the 20-yard line for two weeks in the preseason as an experiment.
The league rejected the proposal that every non-scoring play should be reviewable. Belichick was pretty passionate about this at the coaches breakfast on Tuesday morning — for more on his take, check out our story here. But in the end, Jeff Fisher, the co-chairman of the influential competition committee, said that fewer than half the teams approved the idea, which means that it gets a thumbs-down, at least for now.
3. In pre-draft news, it appears the Patriots have been taking advantage of the fact that they’ve in Florida for the league meetings. Several reports indicated that the New England brain trust — specifically Belichick and personnel chief Nick Caserio — spent Tuesday working out prospects at Central Florida. In addition, a Wednesday morning tweet from Gil Brandt of NFL.com indicated that Belichick and six members of the New England coaching staff spent last Friday at Florida State working out wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin is a flat-out physical freak, a 6-foot-5, 240-pounder who caught 54 passes for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns last season for the national champions. Considered a late first-round/early second-round possibility, he presents himself as an intriguing prospect for the New England offense.
|Checking in with rest of AFC East at league meetings||at 6:00 am ET|
ORLANDO — While Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft and the Patriots have been making news this week at the NFL annual meetings in Central Florida, the rest of the AFC East was involved in the action as well. Here’s a look at some of the news from New England’s divisional foes over the last few days.
Jets — It wasn’t the old-school bravado we’ve come to know from coach Rex Ryan, but it was still a fairly brash statement for a team that hasn’t finished better than .500 since 2010.
“Watch out for the Jets, man,” Ryan said at Tuesday’s AFC coaches breakfast. “I’m just telling you.”
Ryan and the Jets have made a few moves to this point in the offseason, picking up wide receiver Eric Decker and swapping out Mark Sanchez for Mike Vick at quarterback. (Ryan indicated Tuesday that Geno Smith will remain the starter.) They’ve made some moves that give them some financial flexibility, which means they could be in on the race for DeSean Jackson if the receiver can be pried loose from Philly.
However, beyond an impressive front seven, the Jets still have questions at corner (Ryan has lamented the situation in the secondary), and despite the addition of Decker, still need to add offensive oomph this offseason. Look for them to target skill position players and defensive backs in the draft.
And look for Rex to stay Rex.
“My expectations have never changed: I want to win and I expect to win,” Ryan said. “I’ll say this: It’s time to deliver. It’s time to deliver for this community, for New York, for this entire area. We got to step up and deliver. I’m not running from it. Let’s put it that way — I expect a lot out of this football team.
“Nobody’s really talking about us, and that’s fine and dandy. They’re going to.”
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|Updates on Patriots rules proposals, Michigan’s Jeremy Gallon working out for New England and other notes from league meetings||03.25.14 at 2:57 pm ET|
ORLANDO — A few picked-up pieces to report from the NFL’s annual meetings in Central Florida:
1. The proposal to extend the goal posts by an extra five feet “seems likely to pass” when voted on Wednesday, according to Judy Battista of NFL.com. An initiative sponsored by Bill Belichick and the Patriots, the coach said Tuesday that the idea of doing it certainly seems like a no-brainer. “Virtually every kicker at the combine can kick them over the top of the goal posts [and] some of those guys aren’t even going to be in the league,” Belichick said Tuesday morning when asked about the idea. “I’d say every kicker can do that.” In addition, the other three proposals proposed by the Patriots are also scheduled to be voted on by the owners Wednesday.
2. In other end-zone related news, the league announced Tuesday it will penalize players who dunk on the goal posts in 2014. In the past, the league has cracked down on group celebrations, as well as using the football as a prop, so it would appear that this is the next step in the process. In addition, it was announced Tuesday that the NFL officiating department will help referees rule on instant replay reviews starting next season. Referees will now be allowed to consult with director of officiating Dean Blandino and his staff — who will be monitoring games from the league offices in New York — to help determine whether a call should be upheld or overturned.
3. This doesn’t have anything to do with the goings on in Florida, but according to a league source, wide receiver and special teams coaches from New England were in Ann Arbor on Tuesday to work out wide receiver Jeremy Gallon. The 5-foot-8, 187-pound Gallon has put up impressive numbers over the last two years with the Wolverines, including 89 catches for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. He also posted good numbers as a return man, compiling 589 yards on 27 kick returns in 2010, and 192 yards on 31 punt returns in 2011.
“We had an offer on the table to [Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie]. They were working through it. I don’t get involved in this stuff’this is agents and [Director of Football Administration] Mike Sullivan. It’s scholarships with price tags,” Fox said. “We obviously are an appealing place but the reality is it comes down to the contract, usually. We were all over that and then it flipped and we were very pleased to get Aqib.”
On Talib as a player: “He’s long, he’s fast, he’s quick, he’s tough. The only real negative is he had some off-the-field issues early in his career. I knew him even when I was in Carolina and he was in Tampa. I knew their coaches there pretty well. You get a pretty good feedback on players when you’re in the division’even on other teams. I knew how he grew, got married, started a family and matured.”
5. Reports continue to link running back Maurice Jones-Drew to the Patriots, with one story saying that Jones-Drew was going meet with the Patriots, Steelers, Dolphins and Jets this week in Orlando. (Jones-Drew has already apparently met with Pittsburgh, but has not received an offer from the Steelers.) It remains to be seen how all of this will play out — given the Patriots depth at running back, as well as the current state of the market, you would have to think they’d be more inclined to bring back LeGarrette Blount at a cut rate price instead of likely investing more in Jones-Drew. (Jones-Drew could also sit out until the summer to see if the market shifts and he’s able to play one team against each other in hopes of reaching the reported $3 million annually he’s seeking.) But it’s certainly a situation that bears watching going forward for Patriots fans — even if he doesn’t land in New England, two of the three other teams reportedly in the hunt for the diminutive back are in the division.
ORLANDO — Patriots coach Bill Belichick refuted the idea Tuesday that the Patriots have acted inappropriately when it comes to injury reports.
After they signed elsewhere as free agents this month, former Patriots Aqib Talib and Brandon Spikes both hinted that New England can play fast and loose with injury information. Spikes said the Patriots decision to put him on injured reserve at the end of the 2013 season was a ‘false report,’ and added ‘that’s just how things go’ in Foxboro when it comes to injuries.
As for Talib, he said he was listed with a hip injury, but in truth, it was a quad issue.
‘The Patriots have their way of reporting stuff, but I haven’t had a hip problem since Tampa,” Talib said after signing with the Broncos. ‘The injury I had was actually a quad injury. It was reported as a hip injury … but that’s how [the Patriots] do things.”
Asked Tuesday morning at the league meetings if the Patriots falsified injury reports, Belichick quickly replied.
“I don’t agree with that,” Belichick said. “No. Never.”
ORLANDO — Patriots coach Bill Belichick made some news this week at the league meetings with four proposed rules changes, and he talked about all four Tuesday morning during the AFC coaches breakfast.
“All four things are things that I’ve brought up to the competition committee in previous years, [but they’ve] never been put in front of the membership,” he said. “This year, it’s been put in front of the membership and we’ll see how they feel about those things, and whatever the league and the membership decides to do, obviously we’ll do. … I think a lot of the things that we’ve proposed are concepts — not married to a specific proposal per se, [but] could definitely be amended.”
— Moving the line of scrimmage for point-after attempts out to the 25-yard line.
“I think there are other people that voiced a similar opinion to mine, but again, there was no proposal from the Competition Committee for years. I mean, it’s been two decades, and the extra point conversion percentage is over 98 percent. Six of the last nine years, it’s been over 99 percent. In the last decade, there hasn’t been a field goal under 20 yards that’s been missed in 10 years. So, when the extra point was part of the game originally, we had players in other positions who were kicking, surfaces were a lot less ideal than what they are now. It was a tougher play. Now, we’ve made it a non-play, and I don’t think non-plays are good for the game. Just like I don’t think putting the ball on the 40-yard line and kicking into the end zone, or even putting on the 35, and having over 50 percent touchback rate. I don’t think that’s an exciting play. I can’t imagine the fans waiting to see a 99 percent extra point, and then an over 50 percent touchback play. Personally, I don’t think that’s great for the game.”
— The extension of the goal posts.
“Certainly, the goal posts are outdated. Virtually every kicker at the combine can kick them over the top of the goal posts [and] some of those guys aren’t even going to be in the league. I’d say every kicker can do that.”
— Make every play — except scoring plays — reviewable.
“I’m not proposing more challenges. All I’m saying is, as a coach, if you want to challenge a play, I think you should be able to challenge it. And why does it have to be limited to, I don’t know, there’s four or five pages in the rules book of plays that can be challenged, and now this year there are more proposals to amend that probably because of one or two plays that happened in the league last year. I think eventually, each year, there’s going to be some other circumstance, situation that comes up and we’re gonna want to add that. I mean it’s four to five pages of plays that challenge procedure. Every year it gets amended and it’s hard to keep it straight. I can’t get it right. We have a coach that’s responsible for that on game day to know exactly … I don’t know how the fans could possibly get it right if the coaches can’t get it right. For the officials themselves, it’s challenging. I think it simplifies it. And I understand it’s a judgment call. So, if I throw a challenge on an offensive holding play and they look at it, and they don’t think it’s holding, I lose the challenge. But if it’s an egregious play, I don’t see why it should not be allowed to be challenged when it affects the outcome of the game. I think we can find multiple, multiple examples of plays for example where the offense isn’t set, that if the officials could look at it, it’s very clear that they’re not set, that would nullify what subsequently happened. I can think of many situations where that would have affected the outcome of the game. So, why plays like that can’t be challenged, why other plays can’t be challenged, I think is … if we fundamentally want to try to get the games right and the plays right, then I don’t see why they should be excluded. Even though they’re judgment calls, but if you’re willing to use a timeout on that, I think you should be able to do that. It’s not going to slow the game down. It’s no different than if you challenged another play. So, I’m not looking for more challenges or anything else, just if you think it was a call that was missed, that you should have the opportunity to have the officials review it. That’s all. I don’t know if anybody agrees with that or not, but that’s the proposal.”
— The addition of cameras near the end zone to better determine whether or not the ball has crossed the plane of the end zone.
“The camera idea we’ve been talking about for years, but that’s never been formally discussed by the membership. … We just spent, whatever it was, how many millions of dollars on the replay system. I mean, there’s a thousand cameras in every stadium, so that if somebody spills a beer on somebody, we have it on record, right? Maybe we could have a bake sale. Raise some money for the cameras. Do a car wash.”
|Bill Belichick on Vince Wilfork: ‘If you have any questions about Vince, you should ask Vince’||at 9:31 am ET|
Wilfork reportedly requested his release earlier this month, and a story from the Boston Herald Monday indicated he had taken down his nameplate and cleaned out his locker at Gillette Stadium. While owner Robert Kraft seemed to sound an optimistic note about Wilfork’s status on Monday, Belichick wouldn’t comment on the matter on Tuesday.
“I’m not going to talk about anything with any of our specific players, I’m not going to get into that,” Belichick said when quizzed about Wilfork during the AFC coaches breakfast at the league meetings. “If you have any questions about Vince, you should ask Vince, or [questions about] any other players, you should talk to those players.
“You need to talk to him about any of those statements,” he added when pressed further on Wilfork. “I think you should verify first.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
Speaking at the AFC coaches breakfast at the annual meetings, Belichick didn’t sound “super excited” like owner Robert Kraft did on Monday when talking about the free agent haul, but was upbeat when speaking about the pickup of Revis.
“I think he’ll help our team,” Belichick said of Revis, who was signed as a free agent earlier this month. “He’s a good player [who] does a lot of things well. We’re looking forward to working with him.”
Belichick acknowledged that Revis was a traditional free agent pickup, saying that the Patriots believed the veteran cornerback was a “potential release,” but they weren’t 100 percent sure until Tampa Bay officially cut him loose.
“We try to keep tabs on all the players — we know the ones that are potentially [unrestricted free agents] going into the process, we know guys that are potentially non-tendered players,” Belichick said. “Some of those guys get signed back, some of them get tendered, some guys we think are going to get tendered don’t get tendered — there’s a little bit of movement there at the end and then some players get released.
“We thought he was a potential release, but we didn’t know that. They could’ve kept him, but they didn’t, so when they didn’t, that’s the process,” he added. “You never know exactly how free agency is going to go — there’s always twists and turns.
“Darrelle is a good player. We’ll see how it comes together with us, what his role is and how exactly he fits in our scheme and so forth,” Belichick added. “We’ll just have to see how that comes together.”
Belichick also touched on the acquisition of free agents Brandon Browner and Brandon LaFell.
“He was a productive player in Carolina [and] had some skills that we liked when he was coming out of LSU. We’ll see how it goes,” Belichick said of LaFell. “Obviously, [we] felt he was a good player and that’s why we signed him.”
On Browner: “Rare size for a corner. … Obviously, there’s a lot of things that we liked about it or we wouldn’t have signed him. It’s the same thing when we draft a player — we have to work with him, have them put it together and see how it comes together with that player on our team. But that’s a process we have to go through. Obviously, there’s things we liked, or we wouldn’t have signed him.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.