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Devin McCourty ready for the challenges that await 08.22.11 at 1:36 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” After one of the finest rookie seasons in Patriots’ history, cornerback Devin McCourty knows that the challenges will be even greater entering his second season.

Many believe that the biggest adjustment for an NFL player is not the move from college to the pros, but going from his first season in the league to his second. With the arrival of a sophomore season, teams have a book on each and every player ‘€” status as an unknown commodity is a thing of the past. There’s no sneaking up on anyone, especially for someone like McCourty who, as a rookie, started every game, made 82 tackles and ended the season with seven interceptions. (His seven interceptions in 2010 are the second-most by a Patriots rookie and were tied for second in the NFL in 2010.)

“There’ll be more challenges [this year],” McCourty acknowledged before practice on Monday afternoon. “I think the biggest thing [coach Bill Belichick] tries to remind you is to be focused and not really think as a second-year player or a veteran. Kind of lean more toward thinking you’re a rookie. You still have a lot to learn. I think that’s the biggest message he gives you ‘€” just continue to try and learn and do the things you did well last year and kind of fix the things you didn’t do well last year.

“I don’t think you can come back and be the same player, I think you can either get better or get worse, so my focus is just trying to get better as a player.”

This coming from a player who was selected to his first Pro Bowl, becoming the fourth Patriots player to be selected as a rookie. In addition, he was named to the Associated Press All-Pro Second Team. Where can the improvements come from? Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty, pat chung,
Tight end Garrett Mills returns to New England while Patriots cut a pair 08.21.11 at 5:19 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Sunday they have signed tight end Garrett Mills and released safety Bret Lockett and rookie free agent offensive lineman Zach Roth.

Mills, 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick of the Patriots in the 2006 NFL Draft out of Tulsa and spent the majority of his rookie season with New England on the injured reserve list. Mills is a veteran of five NFL seasons and has played with New England (2006), Minnesota (2007-09), Philadelphia (2010) and Cincinnati (2010). In all, he’€™s played in 16 NFL games with three starts and has nine receptions for 110 yards.

Mills was also at the center of an interesting squabble between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and former Vikings coach Brad Childress. Days before the start of the 2007 season, Childress claimed Belichick called to ask him not to claim tight end Mills off waivers so New England could get him through to the practice squad. Childress even claimed that Belichick offered to avoid picking up a player the Vikings cut as a reward. Childress declined, and the Patriots responded by claiming linebacker David Herron. Neither player had any sort of long-term impact with their new club, but it was enough to stir some bad blood.

‘€œ[Belichick] didn’€™t really care for that,’€ Childress told Minnesota’€™s WCCO-AM after everything went down. ‘€œHe was trying to leverage, but you always find out who is honest and straightforward.’€

Lockett, 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, was claimed off waivers and awarded to the Patriots from the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 7, 2009. He originally joined Cleveland as a rookie free on May 4, 2009 out of UCLA. As a rookie with the Patriots in 2009, he played in 10 games and finished with two tackles on defense and five special teams tackles. He missed the 2010 season after being placed on injured reserve with a chest injury.

Roth, 6-foot-6, 319 pounds, was signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent from Texas Christian University on August 13. Last season, Roth started 10 games at right tackle and helped anchor an offensive line that enabled TCU to set a single-season school record for touchdowns (73), points scored (541) and total offense (6,199 yards).

Read More: Bill Belichick, brad childress, Bret Lockett, David Herron
Shaun Ellis knows what he’s in for: ‘I was born into this family’ 08.20.11 at 6:23 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Shaun Ellis has been sidelined on the physically unable to perform list since he first arrived in New England earlier this month, but it’€™s not like he doesn’€™t know the challenge that lies ahead. After all, he’€™s become pretty familiar with similar systems over the course of his 11-year career.

‘€œI’€™ve kind of been through it a little bit ‘€” I was born into this family with [Bill] Parcells, being drafted by him, and going through that period my rookie year, and going through it with [Eric] Mangini,’€ he said after practice on Saturday, his first since coming off the PUP list. ‘€œYou [just] have to get back into the swing of things.’€

The 6-foot-5, 290-pounder, who was signed by the Patriots on Aug. 7, was back on the field on Saturday. He spent Saturday’€™s low-intensity walkthrough with a helmet, standing and watching many of his counterparts during the hour-long session. He did take part in the end-of-practice stretching and jogging.

‘€œIt felt good,’€ said the 34-year-old Ellis. ‘€œJust being on the field, around the teammates, moving around a little bit. It felt good.’€

It’€™s been a frustrating stretch for Ellis the last two weeks ‘€” he’€™s been trying to get up-to-speed in other areas while watching his new teammates play a pair of preseason games.

‘€œLifting weights, running ‘€” doing some extra conditioning,’€ said Ellis when asked what he’€™s been doing over the last two-plus weeks. ‘€œ[I'€™m] just trying to get caught up to speed with the rest of the guys. They’€™ve been running a lot, so I’€™ve just been trying to get caught up with them and get ready for the season.’€

While Ellis has been sidelined, he’€™s watched the New England defensive line offer a pair of absolutely dominant performances, silencing Jacksonville and Tampa Bay in preseason action.

‘€œIt’€™s been great,’€ Ellis said of the performance of the Patriots’€™ defensive line over the first two games. ‘€œIt made me want to be a part of it that much more. We have a lot of guys who can stop the run and also get after the quarterback ‘€” a lot of talent. I’€™m just eager to be a part of it and just go out there and contribute the best way I can.’€

Going forward, Ellis said he isn’€™t sure if he’€™ll be good to go for the next preseason game ‘€” set for Saturday in Detroit against the Lions. (‘€œI’€™m going to see this week. What Belichick wants me to do, that’€™s what I’€™m going to do,’€ he said.) But he believes that this New England defensive line could be capable of some ‘€œgreat things.’€

‘€œJust on names alone, it’€™s good. But we have to go out and put the work in in practice and all of us get out there and play together. I think it’€™ll gel,’€ he said. ‘€œWe all have to work hand-in-hand. I think we all have the potential to do great things with this defense, but we have to get some practice in and get down the mental aspects of playing defense.’€

Read More: 2011 training camp, Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, Eric Mangini
Bill Belichick recaps win over Tampa Bay, says final score was deceiving 08.19.11 at 5:28 pm ET
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After taking a look at the film of his teams’€™ 31-14 win over Tampa Bay on Thursday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the final score was a bit deceiving.

‘€œI think in the first half we still made a lot of ‘€¦ there’€™s a lot of things we need to do better. In the second half, I think there were a lot of good things out there but a lot of those were negated by a few bad things,’€ Belichick said of the Patriots, who pushed to a quick 28-0 halftime lead and didn’€™t look back. ‘€œThe first half probably wasn’€™t quite as good as it looked [and] the second half probably wasn’€™t quite as bad as it looked.

‘€œIn any case, collectively as a team in all three phases of the game, we still have a lot of work to do.’€

On a conference call with the media Friday afternoon, Belichick also addressed several other points, including the status of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (for more on that, click here), as well as the Patriots’€™ ability to generate a lot of pressure early against Tampa quarterbacks Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson.

‘€œA couple times, when we pressured, it looked like they just had a breakdown in assignments ‘€” they just didn’€™t block a guy. So we had a few of those,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œAnd then we had some good rushes up front at times and were able to beat some blockers and get pressure on the quarterback. But I would say it was a combination of things. A couple times, it was more them making a mistake than us making a great play. And there were times where we had good rushes when they should have had us blocked, but we were able to be disruptive with even an individual pass rush or a stunt that was called or something like that.’€
Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 training camp, Albert Haynesworth, Bill Belichick, Bret Lockett
Bill Belichick on Albert Haynesworth: ‘He’s day-to-day’ at 4:39 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick described defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth as “day-to-day” in a conference call with reporters on Friday afternoon. Haynesworth, who has practiced twice with his teammates since he was first acquired in a trade from Washington on July 28, has been kept out of practice since Aug. 3, and has not played in either of New England’s two preseason games. However, Belichick also assured the media that Haynesworth is at Gillette Stadium with the rest of his teammates.

Haynesworth, who is reportedly dealing with a knee issue, has “put in a lot of extra time and a lot of extra effort” since he arrived, according to Belichick.

“I think Albert has been great since he’s been here,’€ Belichick told WEEI last week. ‘€œHe’s worked hard. He’s done more than really what we’ve asked him to do. He’s put in a lot of extra time and a lot of extra effort to get back on the field, to study, to catch up on things from a playbook standpoint that’s he a little behind on.”

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Bill Belichick,
Devin McCourty on D&C: Chad Ochocinco’s work ethic ‘incredible to watch’ at 10:23 am ET
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Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty spoke with Dennis & Callahan Friday morning following the Patriots’€™ 31-14 preseason victory over the Buccaneers Thursday night. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

While McCourty would not grade the Patriots’€™ defense Thursday, he said he liked how quickly the defense asserted itself.

‘€œWe were able to get out there and get a couple of three-and-outs, just to kind of get the offense back on the field and keep them on the field,’€ McCourty said.

McCourty said the key to pass defense was a balance between a strong pass rush and competent defensive backs.

‘€œYou can’€™t have one without the other,’€ McCourty said. ‘€œIf you have a great defensive line that gets to the quarterback fast ‘€¦ then you find out the offense will just say, ‘€˜You know what? We’€™ll just throw quick throws to our receivers. They have bad defensive backs and we’€™ll just attack that way.’€™ And then if you have a bad front and you have a great secondary, quarterbacks have all day to throw the ball. So at the end of the day you still get picked apart, because no one can cover forever.’€

McCourty said this defense is more experienced than last seasons, more familiar with the situational football that ‘€œcoach [Bill] Belichick is big on.’€

‘€œWe have some guys coming back that have a better understanding of what we’€™re going to do on offense,’€ McCourty said.

McCourty also called the work ethic with which Chad Ochocinco has approached his first training camp with the Patriots ‘€œincredible to watch.’€

‘€œOften at practice, you’€™ll see him just talking to himself, trying to stay on top of himself,’€ McCourty said, adding: ‘€œYou can just see how hard he’€™s trying to get it and trying to work at it.’€

McCourty also said Ochocinco’€™s work ethic may be justified by the complexities of the Patriots offense.

‘€œI don’€™t know how hard it is to learn,’€ McCourty said. ‘€œI just know how hard it is to defend.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Chad Ochocinco, Devin McCourty,
Tom Brady to Chad Ochocinco is a communication connection 08.18.11 at 11:56 pm ET
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The Chad Ochocinco era is officially underway in New England after the star wide receiver caught two passes from Tom Brady for a grand total of 14 yards and one very easy touchdown on a pass that was not defended by the Buccaneers Thursday night.

But that’s probably the way Bill Belichick and Tom Brady want it – at least at the start. They are giving Ocho just enough to nibble on so that Ocho’s appetite for knowledge of the Patriots offense and system grows and grows.

Certainly, they want to give Ochocinco some confidence, confidence that comes from catching a wide open 8 yard “pop” route in the red area for a touchdown on the Patriots’ second possession. But Ocho took his lumps, too, taking a head shot from linebacker Mason Foster earlier in the drive. He also ran a route in which Brady failed to connect with him on 2nd-and-10. In all, Ocho was targeted four times and came away with two catches.

Brady also made it clear that he doesn’t want to overload Ochocinco with too much, too soon since he is still trying to bring the receiver up to speed with the rest of the veteran receivers like Wes Welker and Deion Branch who already know it like the back of their hand.

‘€œWe’€™ve missed a lot of time,” Brady said. “That’€™s the reality of the off-season. We’€™ve missed a lot of time over the course of six months that we really couldn’€™t do anything football-wise. So, a lot of it just trying to continue to talk, and the only way you can make corrections is to communicate between the two of us.

“Even with Deion and Wes, we haven’€™t played football in eight months, or been on the field together. So a lot it is all receiver group, tight end group, quarterbacks and skill guys being on the same page so you can anticipate the things going on out there, you can play with confidence so you can go out there and play with confidence.’€

It’s that confidence that Brady – through teaching on the sideline with Welker and Branch looking on – is trying to get through to No. 85. Once Brady feel comfortable that Ocho is comfortable and confident, then the quarterback can make the next step. The goal is to take as many steps as possible before the season opens on Sept. 12 in Miami. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 training camp, Bill Belichick, Chad Ochocinco, New England Patriots
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