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Jerod Mayo on D&H: Coaches keep Patriots humble 01.07.11 at 11:38 am ET
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Jerod Mayo

Linebacker Jerod Mayo checked in with the Dale & Holley show Friday morning as part of WEEI’s Patriots Friday. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Asked if Bill Belichick has been keeping the team grounded by hammering the players in the film room,” Mayo said: “Every single day. We went over every bad play that we’ve had in the last couple of weeks, and there have been quite a few.”

Mayo said part of the team philosophy is to limit the involvement with the media. “I think coach Belichick and the rest of the staff do an excellent job keeping us humble and not paying attention to any media,” he said. “Every week, we’ll get — I don’t want to say ‘bashed,’ but he’s making sure our heads are in the right place and still preparing well like we’re playing tough teams, which we are in the playoffs.”

Asked if he will be watching playoff action this weekend, Mayo replied: “I will, especially the AFC games, just to see what guys are doing. Everybody’s pulling out all the stops this weekend, and hopefully we can find out our opponent soon.”

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The Big Nickel: Tom Brady talks about self-scouting, there’s a mystery man wearing No. 53 and Atiyyah Ellison hears the sweet sound of the cash register 01.05.11 at 2:57 pm ET
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Tom Brady says there's a lot of stuff for the Patriots to work on this week. (AP)

FOXBORO — The five most important things you need to know about the Patriots on Wednesday:

1. In a bye week during the season, usually much of the time is spent looking back and engaging self-scouting, as well as looking forward to your next opponent. However, with the Patriots’ divisional round opponent yet to be determined — it could be the Jets, Ravens or Chiefs — it sounds like the focus around Gillette Stadium, at least for this week, is going to be more on self-scouting.

In the eyes of many of the Patriots’ players, it’s not a minute too soon.

“Well, there certainly is a lot to fix. I don’t want to sit here and tell you all of the things that we’re working on, but there are plenty of things that we need to figure out — ways to do things better,” quarterback Tom Brady said Wednesday morning. Certain guys haven’t been out there in a few weeks so, a guy like Aaron [Hernandez] and Deion [Branch] – hopefully they can get out there to practice and make some improvements.

“There are teams that are practicing today and that do have games this weekend and the team that we play is going to win a playoff game this weekend, and they are going to have made improvements, and I sure hope we can make improvements, too.”

Apparently, coach Bill Belichick and Patriots were able to examine themselves sharply in a rather critical Wednesday morning film session. According to players, it’s all part of a process that will culminate at the end of the week. And once the opponent has been determined, that’s when more of the looking forward will begin.

“I think if [you] look at our work and look at what we’ve done the past couple of games, it looks good. I think the coaches did a great job of breaking down the game tape,” said Branch. “[But] I think we’ve got a lot of stuff that we’ve got to correct. And there was a lot of stuff that was pointed out. I know a lot of guys took that to heart. And we’re going to go out and improve it with these two days and the extra days that we have next week.”

“You’ve just got to make sure that when you come into work, you’re working; you’re working on something to get better,” said tight end Alge Crumpler. “We’ve all been critiqued this morning and we’ll watch a lot of film, do a lot of things, get out and practice and bang around for a little bit. I can’t think of anything else that we can do right now other than look back on the things that we can get better at and just make sure that we go into this postseaon game fully prepared and ready.”

2. The following players were missing from the start of Patriots practice on Wednesday afternoon: Tight end Aaron Hernandez, linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, defensive lineman/outside linebacker Eric Moore and defensive lineman Mike Wright. In addition, we saw red noncontact jerseys for the first time since training camp, with Danny Woodhead and Dan Connolly (both of whom have suffered concussions) and Dan Koppen all wearing red noncontact jerseys, at least at the start of practice.

In addition, there was a player working with the linebackers who was wearing No. 53. Given what we know about the length of Wright’s injury, the fact that there was a new body wearing No. 53 working with the linebackers and the fact that former Patriot Marques Murrell was still available, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that Murrell had been re-signed. (In this context, it’s important to consider that Adam Caplan of Fox Sports reported the Patriots have a seven-day roster exemption for Brandon Spikes, which began on Monday.) Regardless, we will try and get more information, but a personnel move should be announced shortly.
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Jason Whitlock on D&C: ‘Pittsburgh’s the best team in football’ at 9:45 am ET
By   |  31 Comments columnist Jason Whitlock checked in with the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday to talk about news from around the sports world. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Looking at the AFC playoffs, Whitlock ranks the Steelers ahead of the Patriots. “The biggest threat to the Patriots, to me, is the Pittsburgh Steelers,” he said. “I still think Pittsburgh’s the best team in football. … That does not mean that the Patriots won’t win the Super Bowl, because I think they’ve got the best quarterback in football and I think they’ve got the best coach in football. But the best team, top to bottom, I think is the Pittsburgh Steelers, on both sides of the ball. I love their quarterback, not as much as I like Tom Brady, but I do like Ben Roethlisberger, I think he plays big in the playoffs. I love Troy Polamalu. There’s a lot to like about Pittsburgh.”

Whitlock wrote a column this week in which he was especially critical of Chiefs coach Todd Haley and general manager Scott Pioli. He called Haley “insecure, mean-spirited, emotional and irrational.” Of Pioli, the former Patriots vice president of player personnel, Whitlock wrote: “I can’t stand Scott Pioli. It’s true. In any environment, Pioli is a low-character, self-absorbed egomaniac in love with the sound of his voice.”

Whitlock stood by his comments Wednesday but also readily acknowledged those two men deserve credit for the Chiefs’ success this season. “Despite having a low opinion of Scott Pioli as a person, I think he’s done a masterful job as a general manager,” Whitlock said. “I feel like he’s followed the [Bill] Belichick blueprint, or the New England blueprint perfectly.”

Whitlock recounted a dinner he had with Pioli, Haley and other writers when Pioli took the Chiefs job and Whitlock was columnist for the Kansas City Star. According to Whitlock, Pioli spoke over Haley and tried to intimidate the media members. “He was trying to draw a line in the sand. ‘There’s a new sheriff in town,’ ” Whitlock said, and that led to a verbal confrontation between the writer and GM.

Whitlock has since moved on from the Kansas City paper and into his national job, but he reports that Pioli has not changed. In fact, he’s gotten worse. “Yes, he’s even more of a bully now,” Whitlock said.

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Revisiting ‘Cooking with Bill Belichick’ 01.04.11 at 10:28 am ET
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We came across this a few years ago when it first surfaced, but after Deadspin posted it on Monday, it got us thinking that a few people might have missed out on it the first time around. So here, in all it’s glory, is the most surreal piece of video involving Bill Belichick you will ever come across: “Cooking with Bill Belichick.”

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Bits from Bill Belichick: Coach talks about bye week, special teams and Black Monday for NFL coaches 01.03.11 at 12:40 pm ET
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Bill Belichick just wrapped up a quick conference call with the media. He started his opening statement by saying, “After last night, we were 14-2. This morning, we’re 0-0,” while discussing a variety of topics. Here are a few quick highlights:

On how they’ll spend their next few days: “We’re going to spend these next few days working on things that we feel like we need to work on; regardless of who we play, there are certainly a lot of things we can improve on and do a better job with technique-wise and assignment-wise and our overall execution. We’ll do our preparation on the three teams that we can possibly play, but we won’t know which one that is until after this weekend’s games. Until we can specifically tailor those improvements and adjustments an corrections to a particular team, we’ll just have to do it on a generic basis to try and help ourselves get better for whoever that next opponent happens to be.”

On the special teams in general on Sunday, and specifically, the blocking on Julian Edelman’s punt return: “I thought overall, it was inconsistent. I thought we covered well, other than the last kickoff where we let them bounce outside to the 40-yard line. The return game was inconsistent, kickoff return, we only had one chance, but it wasn’t very good. Our punt return, we hit a big play there, but I didn’t think it was great blocking. It was OK — Julian did a good job making a couple of guys miss, but we didn’t exactly have them all blocked, so … I think there’s still some room for improvement. Our field goal protection and all that operation was fair. Wasn’t anything great. There are still a lot of things we can work on.”

On Taylor Price’s first game action of the season: “I thought he did some good things. Just really his first chance to play since preseason. I thought he did some good things. He caught the ball inside, caught it in some traffic. I thought it could have been better, but I think he showed up and made some positive plays for us.”

On the performance of Brian Hoyer: “Some good things, some things he could have done better. … The first half was a much shorter time — he was only in for a handful of plays. The second half he had an opportunity to play more. But I’d say overall it’s true for the whole game. He did a lot of good things, he handled himself and the team well in a lot of situations. There’s a a couple of things he could definitely do better. I’m sure he’s aware of some of those. Others are more subtle, and we’ll point those out to him. No different than any other player, really.”
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Tom Brady on D&C: Brian Hoyer is ‘going to be a great player in this league’ at 9:09 am ET
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Tom Brady throws a pass during Sunday's 38-7 victory over the Dolphins. (AP)

Quarterback Tom Brady joined the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning for his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Patriots Monday. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots closed out the regular season Sunday with a 38-7 win over the Dolphins, allowing several backups to get playing time in the rout. “I think we got what we wanted out of it,” Brady said. “A bunch of guys got opportunities to play. … It was really a great win.”

Brady noted the play of quarterback Brian Hoyer and receiver Taylor Price, who made big plays in the first games of the season, as well as receiver/punt returner Julian Edelman. “That’s what this team is made of,” Brady said. “It’s a bunch of guys who are trying to go out there and give everything they’ve got. And I think that’s what we’ve done, that’s what worked, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”

Brady said he’s confident Hoyer could step in at any time for him. “He’s everything you’re looking for in a player,” Brady said. “He’s a perfect Patriot. He works his tail off, loves the game, is a student of the game. And he really performed well when he gets the opportunity, since the day that he’s gotten here. And I think he’s earned it. He’s going to be a great player in this league.”

Brady got his chance due to an injury to Drew Bledsoe, and Brady’s injury in 2008 opened the door for Matt Cassel to make a name for himself. This is not lost on Brady and Hoyer. “[Hoyer] could be the quarterback in the first quarter two weeks from now. You just never know,” Brady said. “And knock on wood as I say that, but that’s the way this game is. You never know when you’re going to get your opportunity. I certainly didn’t know when I was going to get my opportunity. And neither does Brian. But I know that I know that he’s prepared. And when he gets it, he’s going to do a great job with it.”

Responding to a joke about his car accident earlier this season, Brady said: “I still haven’t been through that intersection. I haven’t gone through. I’m avoiding it. Never again.”

Brady went on to discuss in more detail how players such as Edelman and Hoyer have been great students this season. “Both Julian and Brian, there’s a reason why they can go out like they did yesterday and play so well, because they’re prepared for the opportunity,” he said. “They practice so hard and they play hard and they work hard and they make a huge commitment to the team.

“I love the fact that I can be a mentor, I’ll you that. Because I learned from Drew, I learned from John Friesz. I learned from Jim Miller. I learned from Vinny Testaverde and Doug Flutie and Damon Huard and Matt Cassel. All those guys that I learned from, things that they do well and reasons why they’re successful, I take from all those guys. And I’m glad that Brian can look at me and say, ‘Man, these are some of the things that I want to do to be successful.’ Because that’s how you learn. You look around and you say, ‘Yup, these are the examples, and these are good examples and these are bad exempts.’ Julian’s got a great one to look up to in Wes Welker. Wes is such a great leader for that team.”

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Boomer Esiason on D&C: Pats should be wary of Steelers at 9:01 am ET
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Boomer Esiason

CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about the Patriots and the NFL. To hear the interview, including Esiason’s thoughts on Brett Favre and his embarrassing final season, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Following the Patriots’ rout of the Dolphins on Sunday, Esiason said Tom Brady will get his vote for MVP. “I do believe he’s playing his best football of his career,” Esiason said. “Even the years that he won the Super Bowl and even the year they went 19-0 and went to the Super Bowl. To me, this was by far his best season, especially in the last six games. … Brady has been on another level since the Cleveland game.”

Added Esiason: “I would not be surprised if he wins the award going away, probably 95 to 5 percent of the votes [for Michael Vick].”

However, for Coach of the Year, Esiason said he’s likely to pass over Bill Belichick in favor of the coach of the Buccaneers. Said Esiason: ”Raheem Morris, 10-6, they’re not in the playoffs, I’m leaning to him because they have the youngest team in football. They also have the lowest-paid team in football. They have a goofy ownership down there. I don’t know how he did it with Josh Freeman. It’s really been a remarkable season.

“Now, if you say NFL Executive fo the year, I don’t know if Bill Belichick qualifies for that. But I would think he would have to, given all the moves and all the decisions that he has made.”

Looking at the playoffs, Esiason pointed to a Patriots-Steelers rematch as the most appealing matchup. “That’s the one team I would worry about right now if I were the Patriots,” he said.

Asked his opinion of the Seahawks reaching the NFC playoffs despite a losing record, Esiason said: “I hate it.” Esiason said he would prefer to see two divisions (instead of four) in each conference and the playoffs expanded to eight teams, eliminating the first-round bye for the top two seeds.

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