|Jerry Rice on M&M: Ravens will edge Patriots||01.17.13 at 1:36 pm ET|
Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice chatted with Mut & Merloni on Thursday to give his prediction for Sunday’s AFC championship game and discuss other NFL news.
“I know you guys are in Boston, but this is going to be a great game between the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens,” Rice said. “I know the last game was questionable just a little bit. I think Tom Brady‘s going to come out and exceptional like he always does, but I think they’re going to get edged out a little bit by the Baltimore Ravens.
“I think the Ravens right now are just playing exceptional football. I look at Joe Flacco and the thing that really impresses me with him is that he doesn’t have any INTs. Ray Rice is running the ball well, and all of a sudden Torrey Smith — they stretch the ball downfield, throwing it deep, he’s making plays. I’m sure Anquan Boldin‘s going to be a factor. On defense, Ray Lewis and [Ed] Reed, those guys are going to be ready and I think they’re inspired with this might be Ray Lewis’ last football game. They feel like they have an opportunity to do something special, so it should be a great football game.”
Reed and his fellow defensive backs will attempt to shut down Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker. Welker had eight receptions for 131 yards in this past Sunday’s win over the Texans.
“I don’t like him breaking my records,” Rice joked. “I had an opportunity to meet this guy, he’s such a great individual, he’s a hard worker and you just cannot cover this guy one-on-one. He’s going to continue putting up big numbers like that if you try to line him up with a linebacker or safety because he’s just too quick off the line of scrimmage and he’s too explosive and he’s going to make plays.
“He can pretty much take over a ballgame, and that’s really what you ask for in a playmaker that’s a receiver on the football field, and he’s capable of doing that. Like I stated, he is not going to be covered and I know Tom Brady is always going to go to him. He’s like that security blanket for him and he knows that this guy is going to get open and make plays. So, I think he pretty much has earned his money and they should pay him a lucrative contract.
“I think he’s in the top five [receivers in NFL] without a doubt. What he brings to that team, and also he sets the standards. The way this guy prepares, his preparation, his hard work during practice, and that carries over to the game on that given Sunday or that Monday. Those are the types of guys you want to give the big contracts and you want the other guys to look at these guys and say, ‘Wow, this is the way to be a professional and this is how you should conduct yourself.’ ”
|Rob Gronkowski continues his march into history||10.28.12 at 9:59 pm ET|
As Rob Gronkowski marched in the end zone, his attempt to pay homage to the Changing of the Guard — in his words to reporters, “That little nutcracker dude that’s guarding the house” — more closely resembled a mechanical toy soldier. And in some ways, his mechanical march perfectly embodied what the third-year tight end has become.
Simply put, he is a touchdown machine. In 2½ NFL seasons, he’s established himself as one of the foremost scoring threats in league history, someone who has assumed end zone residence as no one else at his position in the modern history of the game.
That notion was underscored on Sunday against an overmatched Rams team, as Gronkowski delivered one of the most dominating games of his career. He matched a career high with eight catches and two touchdowns while amassing 146 receiving yards, the second most of his career. He nearly had a third score, in fact, getting touched down at the 1-yard line on a tremendous diving catch at the end of the first quarter.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the performance — aside from the celebration and charming absurdity of its explanation — was the fact that it was almost unremarkable. It simply represented what has become a characteristic romp over NFL defenses, which have yet to identify a defensive grouping — defensive linemen are too big and slow; linebackers too small and slow; safeties and defensive backs too small — to prevent Gronkowski from getting to the end zone.
The result? Gronkowski has scored 34 touchdowns in 40 games in his career, and he now is marching through end zones and into history books in a fashion befitting his robotic Sunday celebration.
Gronkowski now has 11 games with multiple touchdown catches in his career. He joins Jerry Rice as the only players in NFL history with that many multi-TD games in his first three seasons; but Gronkowski, of course, still has eight games left this year to set a new standard. No tight end has come remotely close to such a figure. Read the rest of this entry »
|Wes Welker on the bye week: ‘It’s not like it’s Spring Break’||10.19.11 at 12:37 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Wes Welker is heading back to Oklahoma for a few days during the bye week, but don’t expect him to cut loose when he gets there.
“It’s not like it’s Spring Break, like we’re in college or anything like that,” he said with a smile. “It’s more of everybody understanding that you still have to work out and do some of those things.
“You’re not out there running routes and doing all those things you do on a daily basis, but (it’s about) making sure you’re getting a lot of reps and a lot of sleep and making sure you’re not staying out late and a lot of those things,” he added. “(Just) really kind of taking advantage of your time.”
Welker enters the bye week as the NFL’s leading receiver — he has been targeted 75 times and has 51 catches for 785 yards. He’s just off the pace to shatter the league records for most catches, but can still break the record for most receiving yards in a season. (At this rate, Welker will have 136 catches and 2,093 receiving yards. Marvin Harrison holds the single-season reception record with 143 in 2002, and Jerry Rice tops the single-season yardage mark at 1,848 in 1995.)
The receiver, in the final season of a five-year contract, said the bye comes at a good time.
“I think the answer to that, no matter where you are in the season, would be yes. Just not only from a physical standpoint but a mental standpoint a lot of times. It’s kind if nice to get a few days to kind of relax and get away,” he said.
“I think you kind of put it out of your mind for a few days. There’s just so much, every single day, of football, football, football, and so it’s kind of nice to get a few days and kind of relax and spend time with family and friends and get away from it for a few days.”
Read the rest of this entry »
|Some highlights from Wes Welker’s Q&A with NFL Network that aired Sunday morning||10.16.11 at 1:51 pm ET|
Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker sat down with Michael Irvin of the NFL Network for a chat that aired this morning, and Welker shared his thoughts on a variety of subjects, including why he’s been so successful, facing pressure and how he works with Chad Ochocinco. Here are a few of the highlights:
On how he is able to have success, despite his size: “The mind can be a powerful thing. I think just believing in yourself and if you go out there every single play with that mindset of hey, I’m going to make a play here, if I don’t make it, nobody is going to make it, I think ultimately that’s the most key thing about being a receiver.”
On getting cut by the Chargers and going to Miami: “I was pretty devastated after that and really didn’t know what was going to happen. I was kind of lost and next thing you know, I was on a plane to Miami. I was going to be on the practice squad at first there and then ended up getting bumped up.”
On if he thought he matched Jerry Rice’s record-breaking paces: “No, not at all. I thought I was going to return kicks and punts my whole career. I didn’t know that it could become this. At the time, I was just trying to keep a job. I was thinking the more receiver I can play, then they’ll see I can do that and help out there and they’ll keep me around longer.”
On the pressure of being the No. 1 target on the field: “It’s definitely pressure, but at the same time I love it. I love being that guy and having that attitude that I have to get this done for us and make sure that I’m making the plays necessary for us to win. You know, having No. 12 back there doesn’t hurt either and once you get that first play, it kind of takes the pressure off everybody.”
On how he encourages Ochocinco: “Keep on encouraging him and keep on bringing him along, talking about different routes and telling him at some point, you’re going to have to have a breakout game for us to win. We have all the confidence in the world that’s going to happen.”
|No matter what you thought of him, Randy Moss was certainly never boring||08.01.11 at 4:34 pm ET|
Love him or hate him, you always had to pay attention to Randy Moss.
With the news the wide receiver has decided to retire after a 13-year NFL career, the image of Moss that remains is an athlete who commanded the spotlight like few others. On the field, he always had to be accounted for, a monster offensive threat who was instantly ticketed for Canton even before he set foot in New England in 2007. A freakish big-play receiver with breathtaking speed, he ranks second all-time with 153 touchdowns, fifth with 14,858 receiving yards and eighth with 954 receptions over the course of a 13-year career.
After stops in Minnesota and Oakland, he joined the Patriots in April 2007, where he and Tom Brady became the football equivalent of Lennon and McCartney, putting together the best combo for a quarterback and wide receiver in league history and sending sportswriters looking for more adjectives. That year, there were moments of real brilliance between the two, as the quarterback won the MVP and had 4,806 passing yards and 50 touchdowns, with Moss accounting for 1,493 receiving yards and 23 touchdown catches. (In three-plus years in New England, he had 3,904 yards and 50 touchdown receptions.)
However, when it came to Moss, it was always complicated. He talked about loving the Patriots, but a bizarre postgame monologue about his contract situation after the 2010 season opener signaled the beginning of the end of his time in New England. His teammates loved him, but nagging incidents like LateGate and an in-game clash with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien left some wondering how deep that commitment to the team really was. In all, there was more than enough sophomoric stuff over the course of his career — mock-mooning the crowd in Green Bay, nudging a traffic cop with his car, more than a few incidents of loafing, squirting water at a referee, “Straight cash, homey” and declaring that he would “play when I want to play” — to keep people talking.
That was true not only for opposing defenses and fans, but for us in the media as well. In New England, the receiver was lockered next to Brady, and as a reporter, even though there were days Moss was clearly not speaking; you always had to stay in the neighborhood just in case the mood struck him. When he did — and he started by informing the media on almost every occasion “Y’all got three [questions]” — he was almost always insightful and interesting.
On the occasion of his retirement, Moss is on the short list with Jerry Rice as one of the greatest receivers of all time, and his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is all but assured. And as was the case when he was a player, if/when he stands up to make his speech while wearing that trademark yellow blazer, we will all be paying attention.
|Deion Branch advises Chad Ochocinco: ‘Try not to learn too much’ for now||07.31.11 at 3:21 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Deion Branch is not threatened by Chad Ochocinco‘s arrival on the scene in Foxboro. As a matter of fact, the veteran receiver said Sunday following a walk-through at Gillette Stadium that he welcomes another star receiver who has the potential of improving the passing game.
But Branch cautioned both fans and Ochocinco himself not to expect too much, too soon in camp in an offense that quarterback Tom Brady admitted can be very difficult to pick up for newcomers.
“I think it’s one day at a time,” Branch advised. “Try not to learn too much. We’re in Day 4, try not to learn Day 8 right now. It’s all about taking one day at time and get everything right before you can do it fast. It’s a big difference when you’re doing stuff fast and wrong. We’re all out here still making mistakes. Nothing’s perfect right now. We’re all learning each and every day. Chad’s not the only person that’s learning, let’s be honest.
“It means a lot. This guy’s been known for stretching the field, just a great player to have on your team. With open arms, I’m excited to have him. I’m glad he’s part of our team and we’re not going against him.”
Branch, who has played with the Patriots and Seahawks, has played under four different offensive coordinators and says this offense under Bill O’Brien and led by Brady might be the most complicated he’s seen.
“It’s pretty hard. A lot of guys go through a bunch of different offenses. I’ve been in four myself. It’s quite complex but I think if you take it one day at a time, you’ll get it.”
So what makes it so tough?
“The coaches expect a lot from us,” Branch said. “Tom expects the same thing. Guys just have to get into the playbook. It’s a complex offense. There’s a lot of things that go on at the line of scrimmage. It’s varies from game-to-game.”
As for the offense in general, Branch said it was great to be out on the field again and working with Brady. Branch and Ochocinco worked with Brady and the first-team offense on Sunday during the fourth day of training camp practices as head coach Bill Belichick looked on.
“It’s great,” Branch said. “We still have a lot of work in progress. We have to sit back and wait and let coach Belichick unfold everything and then we’ll see what we can put on the football field.”
Branch was asked if having Ochocinco would’ve helped stretch the field in the playoff loss to the Jets last January.
“It’s a whole lot of stuff that went wrong,” Branch said. “I don’t want to talk about the past but we beat them the first time with just doing our normal stuff, doing out thing. They had a great game plan. They executed, we didn’t. That’s why we lost.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Are there really 20 players better than Tom Brady?||11.05.10 at 3:34 pm ET|
FOXBORO — In the this day and age of immediate analysis and opinion, the mere mention of trying to rank the top 100 players in NFL history generates endless hours of discussion and debate.
Putting together a series interviewing players and coaches and having special “presenters” of each player is brilliant. Enter NFL Films.
The top 10 was announced on Thursday night and there was no Tom Brady (No. 21) but rather Peyton Manning ranked No. 8. Every Patriots fan will tell you the difference. Three titles for Brady, two Super Bowl MVPs, four Super Bowl appearances, the greatest single statistical season for a quarterback in NFL history (2007), an undefeated regular season and the second-best postseason record (14-4) in NFL history.
But Manning was rated 13 places higher with one Super Bowl title and a slew of offensive records since his breakthrough in 1999. Perhaps the strongest mark in Manning’s column is the remarkable run of winning regular seasons – at least 12 wins in seven straight seasons entering this year – with five already in 2010.
But Manning 8th, Brett Favre 20th and Brady 21st? Really? Bill Belichick offered the following perspective:
“Well when you get into the Hall of Fame conversations, what’s the criteria? Is it an outstanding season? Is it the longevity of the career? Is it a stat thing, which a lot of times it is versus what some players do that aren’t in stats. They are hitting values. Just how do you want to measure it? Probably all those 20 guys, you can probably take more than that and make a case for a lot of them. It just depends on what your criteria is, which I don’t even know what it was.”
All of which begs the following: What would be Belichick’s criteria? Read the rest of this entry »
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