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Jimmy Garoppolo ‘a hungry guy’ who tries to ’emulate’ Tom Brady 07.29.15 at 1:21 pm ET
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Jimmy Garoppolo learned a lot from Tom Brady last season.  (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Jimmy Garoppolo learned a lot from Tom Brady last season. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — With Tom Brady‘s four-game suspension being upheld and the case now reportedly going to court, there is a chance Brady does not play in at least a few games this season.

If that were to happen, second-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo would take the reins and lead the team.

Safety Devin McCourty said Wednesday if that were to happen, he believes Garoppolo is ready as he spent his rookie season learning everything and anything from Brady.

“I don’t know what to anticipate from him, but I can just tell you that he’s a young guy who has come in and as a rookie quarterback continued to get better. I think last year we faced him every day on the scout team then and this offseason — OTAs and minicamp — he’s a hungry guy,” McCourty said. “You can tell he sits and hangs on every word and everything that Tom kind of does. You see him trying to emulate that and try and do it. I think all of our guys here, they are hard workers and the greatest thing about football and a team sport and competitive sport as it is is everyone is looking for an opportunity to play. If you’re a backup you don’t want to be a backup your whole career.

“Everyone wants to play, so him just like every other guy I think is anxious and ready to go. That’s the good thing about training camp. Everyone starts at the same level and is a bunch of competitive guys trying to earn spots on the roster, starting spots.”

Asked if he had confidence in Garoppolo, McCourty kept it in generalities.

“I think we have full confidence of everyone on this team,” he said.

Garopollo appeared in six games as a rookie and went 19-for-27 passing with 182 yards and one touchdown and no interceptions.

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Devin McCourty: ‘We all support Tom [Brady] and we believe in him’ at 1:04 pm ET
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Devin McCourty supported his quarterback Tom Brady on Wednesday. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Devin McCourty supported his quarterback Tom Brady on Wednesday. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Robert Kraft came to the defense of his star quarterback Tom Brady on Wednesday and so did his teammate Devin McCourty.

Speaking as captains typically do at the start of training camp, McCourty was asked his thoughts on Brady’s four-game suspension being upheld.

The safety echoed his owner’s comments from earlier in the day.

“The great thing about this organization is no matter who comes up here and speaks they really represent and speak for the organization as a whole,” McCourty said. “When Mr. Kraft comes up here and he talks, he’s not just talking for himself, coach Belichick or the coaches, but the players as well. We all feel the same way. Mr. Kraft came up and addressed things earlier. We feel the same way. We all understand we all have different roles on this team and our role is to play football. That’s what we have to do and that’s our focus.”

“Like I said, we all support Tom and what Mr. Kraft said,” he added. “We all support Tom and we believe in him.”

Obviously no one in the organization wants to deal with the attention that the matter has drawn to the organization, but like the team does better than most in sports, they are blocking the noise.

“I think like everyone else, it’s been disappointing, but I think like anyone in this organization, we’d rather not go through it, but we understand what it is and have to deal with it,” McCourty said.

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Read More: Deflategate, Devin McCourty,
Countdown to camp: Safeties 07.28.15 at 6:43 am ET
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Devin McCourty returns as the undisputed leader of the Patriots secondary. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Devin McCourty returns as the undisputed leader of the Patriots secondary. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

As training camp approaches, we’ll offer a position-by-position breakdown of the 2015 Patriots. We started with the wide receivers and moved on to the tight ends, offensive line, quarterback and running backs. After a check on the cornerbacks, here’s a look at the safties.

Depth chart: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner, Jordan Richards (R), Dax Swanson


1. Unlike the cornerbacks, the safeties seem to be as close to a sure thing that there is on defense. That starts with Devin McCourty, fresh from signing a five-year, $47.5 million deal, with $28.5 million guaranteed. Since moving from corner to free safety full-time in 2013, the 27-year-old Rutgers product has been a staple in the Patriots secondary. He has taken over calling all coverages and, perhaps just as importantly, providing leadership in the secondary. Darrelle Revis often pointed to McCourty’s direction and calmness as a reason for the secondary coming together the way it did in 2014.

2. Patrick Chung has emerged as a solid piece in his second go-around in New England. When Chung left after the 2012 season, there were those in New England who openly wondered exactly what the Eagles were thinking. That thought grew around the NFL when Chung struggled in Philadelphia in his lone season as a free safety, the Eagles cut him loose. Bill Belichick saw this as a chance to bring back a player with understanding of his system. He made one tweak. He gradually eased Chung back into the defense in training camp and preseason as a strong safety, a position he hadn’t played on a regular basis since his second season in 2010. It paid big dividends last year, as he made 62 tackles, starting 15 of his 16 games at strong safety. With Revis on board, Belichick was able to take a lot of deep zone pass defense responsibilities off his plate and play him in the box. There were several cases where Chung lined up as a linebacker to support in run situations. He was sixth on the team in defensive snaps in 2014.

3. Versatility is the name of the game. Belichick has always asked his young safeties learning the system to earn their roster spots by showing they can fill numerous roles, i.e. special teams. This is how Nate Ebner and Tavon Wilson have hung around so long, especially Wilson. There have been times where Wilson’s days seemed numbered given his inability to earn regular defensive snaps. But that’s not where Wilson has shown his true value. “The more you can do, the better you’re going to be,” Wilson said after being drafted by Belichick in 2012. “I just come in, play special teams, be the best whatever position they play me as; just try to be the best I can. I love to play special teams. It’s a part of the game. I played it in college, I love to do it.”

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Read More: Countdown to Camp, Devin McCourty, New England Patriots, Patrick Chung
What Patriots are up to as their summer vacation winds down 07.14.15 at 10:39 am ET
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We all know what Gronk’s been up to lately, but what about the rest of the Patriots? Here are some of their recent tweets about what they’ve done with their summer vacation:

Julian Edelman certainly started off his summer with a bang when he got the chance to direct the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall. Maybe they recruited him after watching him direct the offense.

More recently, we learned that Edelman is incredibly passionate about Shark Week.

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Read More: Devin McCourty, Jamie Collins, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski
Sunday NFL Notes: Does Greg Hardy’s suspension reduction affect Tom Brady? 07.12.15 at 6:00 am ET
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As it stands now, Tom Brady is suspended for the first four games of the season. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

As it stands now, Tom Brady is suspended for the first four games of the season. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

1. The first question that came to Patriots’ fans minds when it was announced Friday that Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy’s suspension was knocked down from 10 games to four was how this might affect Tom Brady‘s suspension appeal? The appeals are different, especially in the fact that Hardy’s wasn’t heard by commissioner Roger Goodell, it was heard by former NFL executive Harold Henderson, who also heard Adrian Peterson‘s appeal last December. Brady’s was heard by Goodell, who seemingly would be less likely to reduce a suspension in which he already had signed off on. With that being said, as it stands now, Hardy is being suspended the same number of games as Brady when Hardy’s case is involving domestic violence and Brady’s case is involving deflated footballs. Common sense says Goodell will reduce Brady’s suspension because of what kind of message it sends if the two end up having the same suspension for one being a serious real-life incident and one involving Brady being found “more probable than not” to having knowledge of deflated footballs in the AFC championship game. From this viewpoint, Hardy’s suspension reduction is good news for Brady and the Patriots as it becomes more likely Brady’s will be reduced with the message it would send if the suspension stays at four games.

2. With all the Deflategate talk that has dominated the news with the Patriots this offseason, on the field a position not getting talked about as much as it should is cornerback. The Patriots lost two of their best corners in Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, as well as Kyle Arrington this offseason and didn’t do much to replace them. As it stands now, Logan Ryan is the longest-tenured cornerback on the roster, likely starting on one side of the field with Super Bowl-hero Malcolm Butler on the other. The team added Robert McClain, Bradley Fletcher and seventh round pick Darryl Roberts — none of which jump off the page as impact players. While Ryan and Butler have the ability to be solid corners, they won’t be even close to what the team had last year in Revis and Browner. Although it is way too early to be concerned with a specific position, it certainly is a position that should be closely monitored.

3. It was a special July 4th holiday for linebacker Dont’a Hightower as he had a street named after him in his hometown of Lewisburg, Tennesee. A section of First Avenue North officially became Dont’€™a Hightower Parkway. His mom and sister where there with him for the ceremony. “It’€™s an awesome accomplishment,”€ Hightower said to the Patriots’ team website. “€œI’€™m blessed. It has always been a dream and a goal for me to achieve this. What better time to get it than after celebrating my first Super Bowl?”€ Hightower is currently working his way back from offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum.

4. With a potential Brady suspension looming, there certainly is the possibility for second-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to start in at least one game this upcoming season. Wide receiver Brandon LaFell was on Sirus XM radio this week and gave Garoppolo a vote of confidence. “Jimmy has grown a lot since he first stepped foot up there in Foxboro last year,” LaFell said. “He got a little experience during the later part of the season against Buffalo; he showed a little glimpse of what he can do. He’s been having a nice OTAs, a nice offseason with us.

“I feel like studying behind Tom has been great for him. If we have to be without Tom for the first couple games, I’m pretty sure Tom will be in Jimmy’s ear helping him prepare each and every way he can to go out here and lead this team. I think we have a great group of guys around him that will kind of take the pressure off Jimmy so he won’t have to feel like he has to go out there and win the game himself with me, Gronk, Edelman, Scott Chandler, we have all great guys around here.”

5. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski is playing the 2015 season under the franchise tag, having a cap hit of $4.59 million, which according to Miguel of Pats Cap is the second-highest for a kicker of all-time. According to NFL rules, the Patriots have until July 15 to come to terms on an extension, as they won’t be able to negotiate a new contract with him until after the season. With as good as the kicker has been, he will certainly draw plenty of interest on the open market next offseason and franchising him again would force a 20 percent increase in salary, so he would be paid $5.33 million in 2016 — off the charts for a kicker. This isn’t suggesting the Patriots wouldn’t be able to sign him to a new contract next offseason, it’s just pointing out, although unlikely to happen, getting a new, multi-year contract done over the next few days could be a good idea long-term.

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Read More: Devin McCourty, Greg Hardy, Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler
Bill Belichick on positional groupings in OTAs: ‘It’s not really about that’ 06.04.15 at 8:57 pm ET
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FOXBORO — There’s been plenty of speculation on who might fill void in the secondary created by the departures of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington.

But Bill Belichick has a warning for those wanting answers to roster questions like that after just two weeks of OTAs.

“Six practices, I think we’€™re getting a little bit better each day, just try to keep building on our base and a good foundation. We have a lot of guys working different positions, different groups. It’€™s not really about that,” Belichick said after Thursday’s session at Gillette Stadium.

Devin McCourty, who has been spotted at his customary safety position during workouts, indicated Thursday that he’d like to remain at safety.

“Devin does a great job for us,” Belichick said. “He’€™s like everybody else ‘€“ he’€™s out here trying to do his job, trying to refine his skills, and that’€™s what everybody else is trying to do. It’€™s about everybody getting an opportunity to learn what’€™s going on and execute it and us trying to build our overall system, which we’€™ll continue to do that next week,” Belichick said, before looking forward to a busy week ahead.

“It’€™s a four-day week, so hopefully we’€™re ready to build into that and just keep pushing ahead,” Belichick said.

Belichick insisted again Thursday that it’s about teaching right now, not evaluating the 72 players on hand for Thursday’s one hour, 45-minute session.

“We have a lot of players out there and they’€™re in different phases,” Belichick said. “Some guys have done a lot of it, some guys haven’€™t done very much of it. So, it’€™s a little bit of everything. Each guy is different, but we try to do the best we can to get everybody caught up and on the same page as much as possible.”

Bradley Fletcher and Robert McClain are two of the players Belichick has his eyes on, veterans who could help answer the questions about the cornerback position.

“We have a lot of guys in that category,” Belichick said. “I think evaluations really come in training camp when we get the pads on, be able to work at a higher, competitive pace. Right now, it’€™s more of a teaching camp. But they’€™re doing fine.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty, New England Patriots,
Devin McCourty: ‘I want to play safety but it’s out of my control’ at 1:46 pm ET
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FOXBORO — If he has anything to say about it, Devin McCourty will be staying put at safety.

The possibility of moving back to cornerback has been raised with the losses of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington.

But when asked Thursday following the latest OTA outside Gillette Stadium, the six-year veteran confirmed that his preference is to stay where he’s become a fixture in the defense for the last several seasons.

“It’s up to the coaches,” McCourty said. “I want to play safety but it’s out of my control. Whatever the coaches decide is what it will have to be.”

Has it been discussed?

“You have to ask the coaches about that,” McCourty added. “I’m not in the staff meetings.”

The Patriots did bring in several veteran corners like Chimdi Chekwa, Bradley Fletcher and Robert McClain to add to the likes of Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler. They also drafted Darryl Roberts out of Marshall. Chekwa has already been cut while the others remain on the roster.

McCourty has always been a good soldier for Bill Belichick and the Patriots. McCourty came into the league in 2010 as a first-round pick at corner and earned a Pro Bowl berth in his rookie season as well as All-Pro mentions on several postseason lists.

What’s important to note is that the Patriots play so many different defenses with multiple looks that occasionally safeties are asked to play different roles, including corner.

“I think for us we do so many different things defensively, game-plan wise,” McCourty said. “Right now, it’s not as much since we’re not game planning for an offense. Whether you want to call it a safety playing a linebacker role, a corner playing a safety role or a safety playing a corner, depending on a match-up or how we want to play a team, yeah all that can happen.

“That’s what’s good about this time of year. You know we’re just running defense and guys are playing positions and going out there competing. That helps us as we get into the season.”

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