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Some of the highlights from Bill Belichick’s Friday afternoon Q&A 08.10.12 at 7:20 pm ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’€™ PR staff, here are some of the highlights of Bill Belichick‘€™s Friday afternoon conference call with the media:

Opening statement: ‘€œAfter going through the tape here, I think that there were definitely some encouraging things last night and also a number of things we need to work on, both individually and from the team or overall scheme standpoint. I thought overall the players competed well. We were trying to, obviously our first time out there, trying to get our game day operation running without too many bumps in the road. I thought that was a step in the right direction. The big thing for us this week is we just have to, really the only chance we really have in the whole preseason to actually string some practice days together, so it’€™s important for us to get the most out of them and try to improve our team because once we play again, we’€™ll be playing three games right in a row. There won’€™t be really much time to do anything but very quickly prepare for the next game. That’€™s kind of where we’€™re at for today. On the injury front ‘€“ the news on Dane [Fletcher] doesn’€™t look very good, so he’€™ll probably be out for a while, which is unfortunate because he’€™s worked hard, specifically this offseason and training camp. We’€™ve had good competition at the position so it we’€™ll have to look for somebody else to step in but it’€™s unfortunate for Dane. That’€™s where we’€™re at for today.’€

You mentioned some encouraging things, outside of the way the team competed which you mentioned last night, what were some of the encouraging things you saw after reviewing the tape? ‘€œI thought individually there were good plays from a lot of players. We were inconsistent in certain areas or guys had good plays and the other plays weren’€™t so good. Some of the things that we worked on in practice showed up out there on the field from the fundamental or technique standpoint and that’€™s been a big emphasis, as it always is in training camp, is to play with good fundamentals, blocking, tackling, things like that. We had some production running the ball. Defensively we didn’€™t give up a lot of points. I thought we played competitively against both the running and passing game. Overall the kicking game was pretty competitive. Again, as I said there’€™s a lot of, I wouldn’€™t say that we’€™re three in any of those areas.’€

Specifically in the run game, in this game it seemed like this was a little bit of I-formation. How much of that did you guys do last year without the pure fullback on the roster? ‘€œNot a whole lot.’€

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Bill Belichick,
Aaron Hernandez: The new NFL practice rules are ‘saving me’ 08.08.12 at 5:54 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Aaron Hernandez knows exactly what he is in today’s NFL.

He’s a tight end who uses his speed and quickness off the line of scrimmage to separate and get open like a wide receiver for Tom Brady.

He’s not a physical, bruising tight end like his teammate Rob Gronkowski. Critics would say that’s part of the problem for Hernandez, who has missed four games in his first two seasons due to various injuries, while starting only 19 of his 28 games.

For that reason, said Hernandez after Wednesday’s glorified walk-through, he needs to conserve and preserve his body. Enter the new NFL. Thanks to last summer’s 10-year CBA, there are no longer “two-a-day” practices allowed by NFL teams.

“With all the new rules, I love it,” Hernandez said. “It’s saving me. Two practices beats up on your body. Bill [Bill Belichick] regardless is gonna find a way to beat up on us, so regardless we’re gonna be tired.”

Hernandez has not look fatigued in this camp. As a matter of fact, he has looked as sharp as any receiver Brady has thrown to in the first two weeks of camp. He has been one of four go-to receivers for Brady, along with Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker.

But as great as the work has been, Hernandez knows there’s plenty of room for improvement, especially when it comes to communication with the quarterback. That’s why when there are minor breakdowns like last week – Brady calls Hernandez over for a lengthy discussion – Hernandez said the offense is still a work in progress.

“I’d say we’re still at the beginning,” he said. “We gotta keep getting our timing down, and he’s gotta start reading me, and I gotta read him and know what he wants. He has to know what he wants me to do and stuff like that. But we keep improving everyday and we’re gonna get on point and we’re gonna come out this season firing.”

At one point Wednesday morning, Brady and Hernandez hooked up on four straight completions during 11-on-11 drills.

That type of production shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise since Hernandez had 79 catches last year, including seven touchdowns, for 910 yards. That’s an average of 11.5 yards per reception. That followed up a rookie season that included 45 catches for 563 yards and six touchdowns.

Not bad for a guy that gets overshadowed by the Gronk and another tight end on the field Wednesday, New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham.

“Good player, obviously,” Hernandez said of Graham. “The whole league knows about him, and that’s about it. We’re all good players, we’re all different and all got different qualities, but I say, it is what it is.

“I say we’re different players and we do different things. [Graham] and Gronk are similar in their playing type and I have a different type of way I approach defenders and approach the game. I think we all have different qualities that are real good.”

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Aaron Hernandez, Bill Belichick, Brandon Lloyd
Ten Things We Learned Wednesday at Patriots Training Camp at 2:18 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Sunshine again baked the practice fields outside Gillette Stadium Wednesday morning as the Patriots and Saints finished their final joint practice in advance of their Thursday night preseason game in Foxboro.

The two teams warmed up for 45 minutes before going against each other for approximately 90 minutes in a toned-down practice in shorts and shells.

The two teams will meet on Thursday night at 7:30 at Gillette Stadium in the preseason opener for the Patriots.

ROLL CALL
The notable absentees from Wednesday included linebacker Brandon Spikes for a fourth straight day, defensive lineman Gerard Warren, offensive linemen Kyle Hix and offensive lineman Dustin Waldron. Also missing again were Spencer Larsen, Matt Kopa, Tracy White, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jake Ballard and Jonathan Fanene.

In shorts were tight end Daniel Fells,, offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer, Ron Brace and Myron Pyror, rookie cornerback Alfonzo Denard, and tackle Markus Zusevics .

Fullback Eric Kettani and offensive lineman Darrion Weems were both in attendance in shorts and shells and participated in all of practice in shorts and shells.

Here are nine other things we learned from Day 12 of training camp:

OFFENSIVE LINE:

In what could be the starting lineup for the offensive line for Thursday night, Nate Solder started at left tackle, Donald Thomas was at left guard, Ryan Wendell was center on the first unit, Dan Connolly got extensive work at right guard and Marcus Cannon opened up at right tackle. The interesting note from Wednesday was Nick McDonald getting a look at center for several snaps as the Patriots mixed up their rotations along the offensive line later in practice. Dan Koppen again found himself on the second team offensive line. McDonald – while playing right tackle – was the only Patriots player to take a lap on Wednesday for a false start during 11-on-11 drills.

DEFENSIVE GROUPINGS:

Rookies Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones continue to get a lot of work with the first team, an indication they could be starting when the defense takes the field for the first time Thursday night. With Spikes missing his fourth straight practice, Hightower continues to play on the inside linebacker spot with Jerod Mayo playing on the outside. Vince Wilfork and Brandon Deaderick again swapped out with Kyle Love on the defensive line.

VINCE THE QUARTERBACK:

Vince Wilfork likes to joke about his offensive prowess after intercepting a pair of passes last season. Well, on Wednesday, he was the quarterback handing off to Kyle Love early in defensive line drills as the second and third string D-linemen got their work in against each other early in practice. Wilfork had some fun handing off both under center and in the shotgun.

SPECIAL ADVICE:

Bill Belichick won’t hesitate talking to anyone if he thinks he can gain some perspective on the game he hasn’t had before. Such appeared to be the case just before the two teams began scrimmaging as he spoke to veteran placekicker John Kasay. The 42-year-old Kasay is entering his 22nd season in the NFL after being drafted in the fourth round of the 1991 NFL Draft by the Seahawks. Belichick and Kasay chatted for about 10 minutes on the sideline. Belichick also spoke with someone on the sidelines who was wearing an NFL hat and may have been a so-call “spot-checker” – someone from the league that visits NFL camps to make sure all practice guidelines are being followed. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Bill Belichick, Drew Brees, Joe Vitt
Ten Things We Learned Tuesday at Patriots Training Camp 08.07.12 at 11:44 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Sunshine and temperatures in the 80s provided the ideal atmosphere for the Patriots and Saints to hold the first of two joint practices Tuesday outside Gillette Stadium.

Rock star Jon Bon Jovi was in attendance, taking in practice with Patriots owner Robert Kraft on the field before visiting with Saints (and Hornets) owner Tom Benson and his wife under a tent. The Saints and Patriots warmed up for the first 30 minutes on their own before spending the final 90 minutes going against each other in various drills, such as 7-on-7, 11-on-11 and special teams.

And Sean Payton was out as his one-year NFL suspension for “Bountygate” is officially underway.

The last time the two teams scrimmaged (in 2010), Payton was the coach. Belichick was asked about his absence on Tuesday.

“I miss Sean not being here,” Belichick said. “I think the world of Sean and he’€™s a great friend. I look forward to seeing him back out here soon.”

The two teams will practice again on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. in a lighter walk-through workout.

ROLL CALL
The notable absentees from Tuesday included linebacker Brandon Spikes for a third straight day, fullback Eric Kettani, offensive linemen Kyle Hix, offensive lineman Darrion Weems. Also missing again were Spencer Larsen, Matt Kopa, Tracy White, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jake Ballard and Jonathan Fanene.

In shorts were tight end Daniel Fells,, offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer, Rob Brace and Myron Pyror, rookie cornerback Alfonzo Denard, and tackle Markus Zusevics .

Here are nine other things we learned from Day 11 of training camp:

OFFENSIVE LINE:

Dan Connolly once again got extensive work at the right guard position on the first unit, joining center Ryan Wendell, right tackle Marcus Cannon, left guard Donald Thomas and left tackle Nate Solder. Dan Koppen again found himself on the second team offensive line, centering a unit that including right tackle Dustin Waldron, right guard Derrick Dennis (sporting Robert Gallery‘s old No. 72), left tackle Jeremiah Warren and right tackle Nick McDonald as the Patriots swapped out the left and right sides of the second unit on Tuesday.

DEFENSIVE GROUPINGS:

The Patriots showed off more of their two-down technique on Tuesday with Vince Wilfork and Brandon Deaderick swapping out with Kyle Love on the defensive line. Of particular note, linebacker Bobby Carpenter continues to see plenty of rotations in different groupings. He started off on the weak side Tuesday but showed up on the strong side on a blitz next to Rob Ninkovich. With Spikes out, rookie Dont’a Hightower again played inside while Jerod Mayo saw some snaps on the weak side.

GETTING TESTED:

Drew Brees connected on his first seven passes in 7-on-7 drills as Jimmy Graham was a star, collecting a pair of TD catches and dunking them over the goal post. Marques Colston also got the best of Ras-I Dowling and Devin McCourty. But, in 11-on-11 drills, the Patriots exacted a measure of revenge as Dane Fletcher picked off Chase Daniel in the end zone.

BRADY UP AND DOWN:

Tom Brady completed six of his first seven passes in 7-on-7 drills, including a nice post route TD to Jabar Gaffney. Brian Hoyer came on completed one pass before Brady returned for the next seven snaps. He threw two more TDs but Rob Gronkowski was called for offensive pass interference while Brady was intercepted linebacker Curtis Lofton.

BRADY vs. BREES:

Tom Brady and Drew Brees are two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, hands down. Both defenses are getting the benefit of facing both of them for three straight days in camp and preseason as they prepare for the season. “You talk about trying to play those top guys in the league like Tom, and now having Drew in here, we don’€™t get a break, so you really have to try to be perfect. It sounds crazy ‘€“ so you try to be perfect on every play but when you go against quarterbacks of that caliber you really do because you know 90 percent of the time they’€™re going to be perfect,” Pats DB Devin McCourty said. “The ball is going to be where it has to be and you really have to play very well on defense to try and compete with those guys.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Bill Belichick, Bonjovi, Bountygate
Bill Belichick ‘respects’ decision of Robert Gallery to retire and other Sunday nuggets 08.05.12 at 2:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots coach Bill Belichick gave his first public comments since Friday’s fights at practice and Saturday’s retirement of 31-year-old offensive lineman Robert Gallery.

‘€œI’€™ve talked to Robert several times in the last few days,’€ Belichick said of Gallery, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. ‘€œHe made that decision. I respect it. He’€™s a good player, had a good career. I’€™m sorry it didn’€™t work out this year, but I understand it. He worked hard while he was here, did everything we asked him to do.’€

Meanwhile, Belichick said fullback Tony Fiammetta was placed on the exempt/left squad list for ‘€œpersonal reasons’€ while pointing to special teams and secondary experience for the signing of defensive back Derrick Martin on Saturday.

As for fullback Kareem Huggins, who was signed and released in the space of 19 hours, Belichick said, ‘€œobviously, just never really got off the ground there. Before we put him on the field, we didn’€™t feel like we could put him on the field.’€

Belichick was asked once again about another veteran offensive lineman – Brian Waters – who has been excused from camp. “No update” was once again his response.

Belichick said he expects the NFL replacement officials will arrive by Monday morning’s practice.

‘€œCan’€™t wait,’€ Belichick said of the officials, who will work with the Patriots and Saints this week while the regular officials negotiate for a new contract with the NFL.

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, Robert Gallery
Players battle the heat – and each other – in Friday’s practice 08.03.12 at 8:19 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Two days after Nate Solder and Brandon Spikes got into a notable scuffle during practice inside Gillette Stadium at Wednesday night, there were multiple incidents during Friday afternoon’€™s session out on the practice field. However, the temperature rising up into the 90s in the mid-afternoon sun may have been as much as an instigator as the players themselves.

Linebacker Bobby Carpenter and offensive lineman Ryan Wendell got into an early, uneventful tussle before a fracas between defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick and offensive lineman Darrion Weems opened the door to nearly the whole team mobbing the center of the field. That group ended up sticking together as coach Bill Belichick, having seen enough, sent the entire squad ‘€“ plus a few coaches ‘€“ to run three laps.

‘€œAs it goes every year, it gets hotter, days get longer.’€ Carpenter said. ‘€œWe’re at about nine, 10 days now. Guys start getting a little irritated, agitated, and things get a little hot sometimes, but fortunately, that’€™s what those laps were for, to cool us off.’€

The wind did little to lessen the effect of one of the hottest practices so far this year. The heat combined with a higher stakes environment for many players, as the Patriots move ahead with the new 90-man roster put into place by the new CBA, leading to even more players fighting for the same number of roster spots.

‘€œIt’€™s hot out there. It’€™s long days of practice, coaches are in your ear, been cooped up in meetings all day, watching film,’€ second-year running back Stevan Ridley said. ‘€œIt’€™s just battling. We have competition going out here. Any time you have people out here competing for a spot, competing for a job, tempers are going to flare. But we’€™re a team. We’€™re trying to get better as a group and sometimes that happens. But there’€™s nothing you can do about it besides move forward, take the coaching and move on.’€

By the team the team began to take their laps, the heat had taken a visible toll on the players beyond just their frustrations. Shortly after the players began running, offensive lineman Dan Connolly was taken to the sideline with a trainer, who treated him with wet towels as he attempted to recover.

The Patriots now prepare to welcome the New Orleans Saints to Foxboro next week for a series of practices prior to their first preseason game. The arrival of a new batch of players will be a welcome respite for the Patriots, who have been going up against the same teammates since camp first opened.

‘€œYeah, we’€™ve been getting after each other a little bit the past couple of days,’€ wide receiver Jabar Gaffney said of the team’€™s frustrations in camp. ‘€œSo it’€™ll be good to see another color jersey come in here this week.’€

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Bill Belichick, Bobby Carpenter, Stevan Ridley
Tom Brady delivers a birthday message with some punch at 7:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO — This wasn’t the birthday message Tom Brady wanted to deliver.

But after watching his teammates endanger themselves with two dog piles in the period of five snaps in training camp practice Friday, and being forced to run three laps on his 35th birthday, the quarterback had enough.

After Bill Belichick yelled at the team and had them run three laps the length of the field, Brady had his chance to get his unique message across.

“We need everybody here, everybody that’s on the field, we need them,” Jabar Gaffney said of Brady’s central message. “We can’t have foolishness out there like fighting and somebody get hurt.”

Why was Brady the right man to deliver the message?

“Brady’s our leader,” said running back Stevan Ridley, who had a great view up close of both the fights and Brady’s speech. “It’s Brady’s show out here so for him to say something, to voice his opinion, that’s nothing we haven’t heard before. He’s only going to tell us what’s best for this team and for us to get better. So, we all listen, we all key in when he talks because we all know that at the end of the day he’s just trying to get to another championship. And that’s what we want to do. We all buy into what he has to say.”

Added Gaffney, ‘€œHe’€™s still the leader of this team and he goes out there and shows that and proves it every day.”

Friday’s foolishness was a scrum started when linebacker Bobby Carpenter charged in on center Ryan Wendell during a running play. Carpenter lost his balance and was dragged to the ground by Wendell, who then pinned him on the ground. Rob Ninkovich and Patrick Chung jumped on the pile and a dog pile ensued.

Belichick spoke to the team after the laps and quarterback Brady called for a players-only huddle.

“It’s the same stuff it always is,” Carpenter said after Friday’s practice. “It’s guys trying to go all the way through the whistle and things get a little heated and one thing leads to another and before you know it, there’s 60 guys out there. But Coach Belichick talked to us. Hopefully, that won’t happen again. We can’t be fighting ourselves. We have to be working to improve.”

This came two days after Nate Solder and Brandon Spikes fought before 22,000 fans inside Gillette Stadium.

Moments after the Carpenter-Wendell scrap, Dane Fletcher and Donald Thomas threw their arms and elbows at each other after getting entangled during a running play. The final fight involved backups, as defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick got into it with offensive lineman Darrion Weems. Belichick then interceded and told the players he had seen enough and sent them off to laps.

“There were a few choice words in there,” Carpenter said of Belichick’s disciplinary message at the end of the penalty laps. “But that was the general message… Competition is good, fighting is not. There’s a fine line between taking it to the whistle and taking it a little bit beyond. As it goes every year, as it gets hotter and camp gets longer, we’re in about nine, 10 days now, guys start getting a little irritated, agitated and things get a little hot sometimes but fortunately, that’s what those laps are for, to cool us off.

“That’s the first time I’ve done three laps probably since high school so that definitely was a surprise for me.”

After practice, Brady made his way off the field and accepted many birthday well wishes with a smile. It was as if he was relieved he could finally enjoy the rest of his special day.

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Bill Belichick, Bobby Carpenter, Brandon Deaderick
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