|Bill Belichick sings praises of Mike Lombardi as ‘one of the smartest people I know’||11.02.16 at 10:08 am ET|
FOXBORO — Of all the opinions expressed on the Jamie Collins trade, the one held by Mike Lombardi has generated the most intrigue as to why the Patriots shipped the linebacker off to Cleveland.
On Monday, shortly after the trade to the Browns was made, Lombardi, a close confidant to Bill Belichick, took to social media to explain why he was not surprised by the trade.
On Tuesday, Lombardi appeared on Kirk and Callahan to defend his support of the trade and explain his criticism of the way Collins was playing and why he no longer was a fit in the Patriots’ system.
On Wednesday, Belichick held his first press conference since the trade and directed most questions to the Dale and Holley transcript on WEEI, when he appeared Monday afternoon on the show.
Belichick was asked specifically about Lombardi, who worked with Belichick in 2014 and ’15 before leaving for Fox Sports this year. But Belichick’s relationship with and respect for Lombardi goes well beyond those two seasons. He was on the Belichick staff in Cleveland for all five seasons (1991-95) and actually was there four years before Belichick arrived.
Lombardi remains one Belichick’s most trusted sources and advisors on all football personnel matters, as Belichick believes in his ability to quickly break down film and make informed opinions. What does Belichick think of Lombardi’s opinions on Collins?
“Look, Mike’s one of the smartest people I know,” Belichick said. “He’s one of the smartest people I’ve worked with. He was a huge asset to me for the two years he was here. Mike’s a smart guy and he studies football and he knows it very well. I would say probably on all teams.”
“So, you [go] talk to Mike,” Belichick said. “You should ask Mike about whatever Mike said. I’m sure everybody had something to say. Go talk to them. I don’t know.
“I expressed my feelings. I think other coaches have expressed their feelings and I’m sure there are a lot of other people who’ve got an opinion. Want to talk to them, go talk to them. I don’t care.”
|Bill Belichick recalls Sunday’s trip to Jim Brown statue, explains why he’s ‘greatest player that ever played’||10.10.16 at 7:54 pm ET|
Bill Belichick has a long-held admiration for two Browns. One is the namesake for Cleveland’s NFL franchise. The other is still considered by many the greatest running back in NFL history.
Shortly after his Patriots disposed of the Browns 33-13 in Cleveland, he took his players on a short field trip outside FirstEnergy Stadium. Belichick wanted the team to visit the Jim Brown statue outside and explain to many of the younger players the significance of the trip.
“I think honestly any person, football player or otherwise, can learn a lot from Jim Brown and what he represents and what he stands for,” Belichick explained Monday. “But particularly as it relates to our football team, Jim Brown’s in my opinion the greatest player that ever played. I’ve had an opportunity to have known him Jim for over 20 years now.
“I met him when I was the coach at the Browns and just had so much more respect and appreciation for him knowing him well as a person and as a friend, even just as an observer from a distance, but I think he’s meant so much to this game.”
Statistically, Brown needed only nine years in the NFL (before leaving for a movie career) to become the NFL record holder for both single-season (1,863 in 1963) and career rushing (12,312 yards), as well as the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (106), total touchdowns (126), and all-purpose yards (15,549). But above the stats, Belichick has always been impressed with Brown, the man.
“He’s paved the way for all of us; players and coaches,” Belichick said. “[He’s] part of many people who have made professional football, the game of football, the great game that it is. I just felt like it was an opportunity for us as a team after the game to recognize and pay a tribute to Jim and all that he stands for, both in and out of football. But in particular, what he has meant to the game of football and how much he has done for us, for the game, which means for all of us.”
It was Jim Brown whom Belichick sought out for advice when he was in Cleveland as head coach from 1991-95. Belichick knew what he meant to the franchise and was immediately impressed with not just his football knowledge but the words of wisdom he gave him about handling people in and around Art Modell.
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|Rob Ninkovich happy to be away from diapers at home, helps Pats D dispose of Browns||10.09.16 at 7:48 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — Tom Brady wasn’t the only one relieved to be back on the field Sunday.
After serving his four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance and coming back from a triceps injury, Rob Ninkovich was back on the field with one tackle and a near-interception in a 33-13 win.
“I missed it a lot. I was ready to stop changing diapers and get back to football,” Ninkovich said. “My wife put me to work there. Just really happy to be back, happy to just come into work and just practice, little things that you miss out on. Super-pumped to back and look forward to this coming week.”
As for the contact itself on the field?
“It felt good. I hadn’t tackled anyone since the AFC Championship Game so it felt good and my arm feels good,” Ninkovich said. “I really worked hard this week and tried to get as many reps in as possible, even on scout team to try and get the football feeling back.”
Ninkovich had just one tackle but was part of a Patriots defense that limited the NFL’s best rushing attack to just 27 yards on 22 carries.
“You have to give credit to them,” Ninkovich said of the Browns rushing attack that was averaging 150 yards a game over the first four weeks. “They have done a great job running the ball this year. They really run hard and do a good job in the rushing attack.”
The Patriots forced a three-and-out on the first series of the game, setting the tempo and giving Tom Brady the ball just two minutes into the game.
“You have to start fast in this game,” Ninkovich said. “There are a lot of great football players out there, and we knew they have a good football team so we prepared well and executed today.”
|Julian Edelman gets his best buddy back: ‘It’s Tom Brady. You don’t expect anything less’||at 7:22 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — Julian Edelman was a happy guy Sunday. The Patriots wide receiver had his quarterback back throwing him the football. No offense to Jimmy Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett, but Edelman might have been the happiest to see Tom Brady back on the field.
Edelman caught five passes for 35 yards, and was targeted a team-high 10 times by Brady in a 33-13 win over the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. It all started on Brady’s very first play from a scrimmage, a 10-yard out to the right sideline for a first down.
From then on, Brady seemed in a rhythm. And it was Edelman who kick-started things.
“We had a lot of fun,” Edelman said. “We tried to go out and get a good team win like we did against a conference team on the road. It’s a good win.”
What was it like catching passes from No. 12 again?
“You play with a guy for a long time and you build a friendship,” Edelman said. “You get excited for guys who haven’t been around for a while.”
Brady found five different receivers in the opening quarter and seven for the game. Edelman wasn’t surprised Brady got things going so quickly.
“He knows the system. I mean, it’s Tom Brady so you don’t expect anything less,” Edelman said.
Edelman played college football in Northeast Ohio at Kent State. He was very aware of the significance of having thousands of Patriots fans attend the game in Cleveland to support Brady.
“It was awesome. I played football here in Northeast Ohio, and they’re very passionate about their team,” Edelman said. “To see a lot of Patriots fans out here tells you something.”
CLEVELAND — To the naked eye, Tom Brady didn’t seem to show any rust Sunday.
But even after throwing three touchdowns and passing for 406 yards in a 33-13 cruise-control win over the Browns, the quarterback said there was lots for him to improve upon after making his return from a four-game suspension Sunday.
“I think there was plenty of rust out there,” Brady said. “I can do better in a lot of areas.”
Brady came out blazing, completing 14 of his first 16 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns, building a 23-7 halftime lead.
“I thought the team played really well,” Brady said. “It was fun to be a part of it. It’s been a fun week to get ready to play and be back doing what I love to do. Just proud of the way our guys played, our line played great. We tried to hit some plays down the field.”
Brady also spread the wealth Sunday, distributing passes to seven different receivers, led by six catches by Martellus Bennett and five apiece from Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Chris Hogan caught four passes for a team-leading 114 yards.
“Hoes, Martellus, Jules, Gronk all made plays,” Brady said. “I was just trying to focus on what my job is and what I have to do. It felt very much like a normal week for me once I got into it so it was fun to come out and play, fun to win.”
Overall, Brady left FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday feeling pretty good about himself and the team.
“4-1 is a pretty good place to be right now,” Brady said. “We have a long road ahead so we have to stay focused.”
CLEVELAND — Tom Brady had his eighth career 400-yard passing game and three touchdowns to Martellus Bennett. Life is good once again for the Patriots after a 33-13 victory. WEEI’s Mike Petraglia has the recap from Cleveland.
|Snap Judgments: Tom Brady (406 yards, 3 TDs) returns in style, Patriots romp over Browns||at 4:10 pm ET|
CLEVELAND – Martellus Bennett led an impressive “Welcome Back” party for Tom Brady on the shores of Lake Erie.
The Patriots superstar quarterback returned from his banishment and took it out on the hapless Cleveland Browns Sunday. Brady completed 28-of-40 passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns to Bennett in a 33-13 blowout win before 67,431 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
It was the eighth 400-yard passing game of Brady’s remarkable career.
Bennett finished with six catches for 67 yards and three touchdowns while Chris Hogan caught four passes for a team-leading 114 yards as the Patriots improved to 4-1 on the season. Rob Gronkowski added five catches for 109 yards as seven different Patriots caught passes on the day.
Brady came out of the game with 6:02 left in the game to a standing ovation and was replaced by Jimmy Garoppolo, making his first appearance since injuring his right shoulder on Sept. 18 against the Dolphins.
The Browns (0-5) remain the only winless team in the NFL.
The team was clearly fired up from the start, as Julian Edelman raced down the field to a section of Patriots fans during introductions and thousands of Patriots fans chanted Brady’s name during warmups.
[For the complete boxscore, click here.]
Brady wasted no time rewarding the fans who made the pilgrimage to Northeast Ohio. He engineered touchdown drives the first three times the Patriots had the ball and posted a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3 in staking the Patriots to a 23-7 lead.
In the first four drives, Brady opened 14-of-16 for 248 yards, with a pair of short touchdown passes to Martellus Bennett. He could’ve been 16-for-16 but Julian Edelman and James White couldn’t haul in short passes.
The Patriots seemed destined for a fourth touchdown in the first half when Brady connected on a perfect fly pattern to Hogan for 63 yards over Joe Haden down to the Browns 6. But on fourth-and-goal from the 1, LeGarrette Blount was stopped for a one-yard loss. It was the first time the Patriots were stopped in the opening 30 minutes.
Brady came out looking to get everyone involved. He found Julian Edelman for 10 yards on his first attempt. Then he hit Rob Gronkowski for 19 yards over the middle. Then he found Bennett for two yards.
Gronkowski looked like his old self on an epic 34-yard rumble after catching a short pass from Brady. He broke five tackles and rambled down the right sideline to the Browns 2. Two plays later, Blount easily walked in around the left end.
Before the touchdown, there was a scary moment, as Bennett went down in a heap at the Browns 2. He injured his right ankle. He lay on the ground for several minutes before hopping up and trotting to the sideline. As Blount scored, he was on the sideline getting his ankle taped but did not miss a series.
Obviously, his red zone production was not affected. He had touchdown catches of seven and five yards. On the seven-yarder, he was wide open and celebrated by winding up for a Gronk-like spike – raising his left leg – but the ball slipped out of his hands as he attempted the spike.
The defense stopped the Browns to open the game, forcing a three-and-out on the first possession. But on the second possession, rookie quarterback Cody Kessler drove the Browns down for a game-tying touchdown on a nine-play, 75 yard drive, capped by a 11-yard pass to Andrew Hawkins. On the play, rookie slot corner Cyrus Jones got turned around in the end zone, allowing Hawkins to spin free.
The Patriots improved to 41-6 following loss since the start of 2003.
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