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Free Agent Snapshot: Hakeem Nicks 02.10.15 at 11:58 am ET
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Logan Ryan makes a play on Hakeem Nicks in the AFC championship game. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Logan Ryan makes a play on Hakeem Nicks in the AFC championship game. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. With the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag, here are a few possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that all of these guys aren’€™€™t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they’€™€™re players we think would be a good fit in New England. We already featured C.J. Spiller, and this series will continue over the coming days and weeks.

Hakeem Nicks
Position: Wide receiver
Age: 27 (Jan. 14, 1988)
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 208 pounds

The skinny: Nicks is coming off a disappointing and underachieving season in Indianapolis, where he signed a one-year, $5.5 million free agent contract last March. Since his breakout seasons of 2010 and ’11, Nicks has fallen off the map in terms of production. In 2010, just his second season, he had 79 catches for 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns. The next season, he was a key part of Giants Super Bowl championship run, hauling in 76 catches for a career high 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns. It was that production that opened the door for Victor Cruz to break onto the season for the Giants. But in the three seasons since then, Nicks has a total of seven touchdowns and hasn’t broken the 900-yard plateau.

By the numbers: In the Week 17 game against the Titans, Nicks had 3 receptions for 46 yards, putting him over 5,000 receiving yards for his career. But he finished his first season in Indy with just 38 catches for 408 yards and four touchdowns. In his last three seasons, Nicks has managed yardage seasons of 692, 896 and 405 respectively.

Why it would work: Nicks could be a viable and relatively cheap option to bring into camp to push Aaron Dobson and Brian Tyms and add depth to the receiving corps. Nicks could be looking for that one bust-out season to show that 2010 and ’11 were not just flashes in the pan. He is playing for one more big contract. He also could be very well motivated to work with Tom Brady (who wouldn’t be?) as Brady aims for a record fifth Super Bowl title. Bill Belichick knows Nicks’ game very well from preparing for him twice in 2011, including the Super Bowl against the Giants, and twice last season against the Colts, including the AFC championship. Nicks caught 10 passes for 109 yards in Super Bowl XLVI and had a nice touchdown pass on a fade route against the Patriots in the November meeting. Belichick knows you can’t have enough veteran savvy players and Nicks certainly qualifies as both. He is considered a very intelligent player who is capable of making adjustments in-game and in-route. That is a must with Tom Brady. Nicks also has a history of posting huge games: 12 catches vs. Houston, Oct. 10, 2010 and 199 receiving yards vs. Tampa Bay, Sept. 16, 2012 and three touchdowns against Carolina, Sept. 12, 2010.

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Read More: 2015 Free Agent Snapshot, Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots
Dean Blandino admits footballs are not logged: ‘Certainly something that could be a thought’ 01.29.15 at 6:15 pm ET
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PHOENIX — Following a 20-minute press conference inside the Phoenix Convention Center Thursday, the NFL’s director of officiating acknowledged that likely changes are coming in the way NFL officials check in game balls before every contest.

At the heart of the Deflategate controversy is how the Patriots game balls were handled prior to the AFC championship game against the Colts by referee Walt Anderson. Questions have arisen as to whether every ball was checked to be between the required 12.5 and 13.5 PSI before being approved for use in the game. Dean Blandino attempted to clarify the rules and clear his officials of any wrongdoing.

“Walt did it himself. Walt gauged the footballs himself,” Blandino said. “That’s something that he’s done throughout his career.”

Did Blandino and the league simply take ref at his word? “Yes,” Blandino said. “There were balls from both teams that were tested but with the investigation going on, I can’t get into specifics.

“They’re not logged and that’s certainly something that could be a thought. They’re tested, they make sure that they’re in that acceptable range and then they basically mark the football to say this is an acceptable football in that proper specification.

“Whatever it is, if it’s in that acceptable range, we leave it where it is. It’s only when it’s either above or below that we have to get it in that acceptable range. We’re confident proper protocols were followed.”

In other words, according to Blandino, there’s no specific PSI record of each individual ball.

There has also been the suggestion that the Colts gave the league a heads up that the Patriots were doing something to the footballs as far back as November, when Mike Adams picked off Brady twice. It is customary for NFL teams to talk with officials of an upcoming game to alert them to concerns they might have. Did the Colts contact Blandino or his office before the AFC championship?

“No they did not,” Blandino said when asked by “We were not made aware.”

This directly contradicts a claim by Colts GM Ryan Grigson, (which the New York Post reported two weeks after the Super Bowl) who said the NFL had direct knowledge of the Colts’ concerns. It would seem highly unlikely the NFL office would know something and the officials would not.

Who does the measuring of the footballs?

“It’s either the referee or someone he delegates that job to,” Blandino said. “They’re responsible for gauging all the footballs but the referee himself will inspect every football and then put his mark on the football.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dean Blandino, Deflategate, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots
Report: Tom Brady tells teammates behind closed doors he prefers footballs ‘a certain way’ 01.22.15 at 2:19 pm ET
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Tom Brady took a season low seconds from snap-to-throw last Sunday. (Getty Images)

Tom Brady reportedly told the Patriots he likes the football “a certain way.” (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Tom Brady is apparently accepting responsibility for Deflategate with his teammates.

According to a report from NBC News, the quarterback addressed his teammates behind closed doors Thursday, telling his team that he prefers the football “a certain way.” The report also indicates Brady told everyone to stay focused on the Super Bowl.

The Patriots quarterback told WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan Monday that talk of the team purposely deflating footballs is “ridiculous.” Apparently the whirlwind of national media focus on the story has changed his mind enough to address it in a team meeting.

Bill Belichick acknowledged Thursday morning that the team would be more diligent in the future to ensure that the footballs they hand the officials are inflated beyond the minimum 12.5 pounds per square inch.

If Brady or someone else had the balls deflated below 12.5 psi intentionally, he and the Patriots were breaking NFL rules.

Read More: Deflategate, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Super Bowl XLIX
Andrew Luck: Deflategate controversy ‘blown out of proportion’ at 12:55 am ET
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Andrew Luck said the Deflategate controversy had been "blown out of proportion." (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Andrew Luck said the Deflategate controversy has been “blown out of proportion.” (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Andrew Luck shrugged off the Deflategate controversy, saying that “€œthings in the media tend to be blown out of proportion.”

Speaking at the Pro Bowl draft, the Colts quarterback appeared to dismiss the uproar of underinflated footballs that were reportedly used by the Patriots in the AFC title game last Sunday in Foxboro.

“Everybody has a preference and our equipment managers sort of handle our footballs in a sense,” Luck told reporters. “I get them as they are, I guess.”

When it came to how he felt about preparing for the Pro Bowl instead of the Super Bowl, Luck appeared to fire off a good Deflategate one-liner, even if it reporters who were present believed it might have been inadvertent.

“The energy is sucked out of you. You feel deflated,”€ he said before perhaps realizing his gaffe, smiling, and adding, “Aww, shoot”€ with a sheepish laugh.

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Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Andrew Luck, Deflategate, Indianapolis Colts
John Harbaugh: No issues with footballs in divisional game against Patriots 01.21.15 at 3:38 pm ET
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Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday that he didn’€™t notice anything odd about the state of the footballs in their divisional playoff loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium earlier this month.

“We did not notice anything,” Harbaugh told reporters. “We never had a ball that they used or anything like that on offense, so we don’€™t know anything about that in our game. We didn’€™t have a chance to handle any of their offensive footballs.”

The Patriots are reportedly under investigation for under inflating footballs in last Sunday’€™s AFC title game against the Colts.

Earlier in the week, CBS Sports reported some Ravens were questioning the kicking balls used in the game after Baltimore’s€™ kicks and punts did not travel as far as usual. Harbaugh said there was an explanation for it.

“As far as the kicking balls, it was 20 degrees out, so the balls were softer,” Harbaugh said. “Our guys told us during the game, and I just chalked that up to the fact that it was cold and that both teams were kicking the same kicking balls, so I didn’€™t think really anything of it during the game. Other than that, it’€™s not something we’€™ve really given any thought to at all.”

Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, John Harbaugh
Bill Belichick continues to deflect on deflation, focused only on Super Bowl game plan 01.20.15 at 2:13 pm ET
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Bill Belichick is focused only on getting ready for the Super Bowl against Seattle. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick is focused only on getting ready for the Super Bowl against Seattle. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick has no time for any “Deflategate” questions, nor does it appear he will in the next two weeks.

Asked Tuesday during a conference call if the NFL has contacted him about the ongoing issue surrounding deflating footballs, Belichick deflected to the league office on Park Avenue in New York.

“Any questions on that you should talk to them about,” Belichick said.

Belichick and his coaching staff are busy right now putting together a game plan for Seattle to give to the players when they return from their two-day break on Thursday.

Belichick was asked how the team is going to handle this week in terms of how much of the game plan will be in place prior to leaving for the Super Bowl, likely on Sunday.

“We’€™ll work through that the next couple days and be ready for the players when they come back on Thursday. We’€™ll have it figured out by then,” Belichick said.

Naturally, “Deflategate” has dominated the conversation following the Patriots’ 45-7 win in the AFC championship against the Colts. It was learned earlier on Monday the NFL was looking into the matter, and now we reportedly know where it all originated.

According to Newsday, it all started following Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson’s interception of Tom Brady in the second quarter. Jackson gave the ball to a member of the Colts’ equipment staff who thought the ball was under-inflated. The staff member then told coach Chuck Pagano.
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Read More: 2015 playoffs, AFC Championship, Bill Belichick, Deflategate
Bill Belichick insists Patriots will ‘cooperate fully with whatever the league wants [to know]’ about game balls 01.19.15 at 3:38 pm ET
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Bill Belichick said the Patriots will cooperate fully with the NFL during a conference call Monday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick said the Patriots will cooperate fully with the NFL during a conference call Monday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — The Patriots will cooperate with the NFL investigation to the use of game footballs used in the AFC championship game Sunday night.

Bill Belichick said during a conference call Monday that he wasn’t aware of the investigation by the league until Monday morning.

“We would cooperate fully with whatever the league asks us, wants us to do.” Belichick “I didn’t know anything about it till this morning.”

Asked specifically if he were aware the Patriots were using intentionally deflated balls, Belichick responded with:

“The first I heard about it was this morning. Whatever we need to do to cooperate we’ll do,” said Belichick, who did not indicate whether he had been formally contacted by the league on the matter.

Patriots players were more dismissive of “Deflate-Gate” Monday afternoon when speaking with reporters at Gillette Stadium.

Multiple reports now indicate the NFL is looking into the report of deflated footballs being used in Sunday’s AFC title game.

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Bill Belichick, Deflated balls, Indianapolis Colts
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