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John Fox downplays fights with Patriots: ‘Those weren’t fights, those were just pushing matches’ 08.16.16 at 1:53 pm ET
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John Fox downplayed the fighting the past two days with the Patriots. (Patrick Gorski/USA Today Sports)

John Fox downplayed the fighting the past two days with the Patriots. (Patrick Gorski/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Monday it was Malcolm Butler. Tuesday it was Bryan Stork.

For the second straight day the Patriots had a player kicked out of practice as during 11-on-11 drills, Stork shoved Bears linebacker John Timu after a play. To Timu’s credit, he didn’t let things go any further and walked away.

This was the last of a few dust ups on Tuesday as earlier in the session Harold Jones-Quartley shoved Julian Edelman to the ground after a reception several seconds after a catch in 11-on-11 work. Aaron Dobson came over to Edelman’s defense, but it was just a lot of yelling back and forth.

A few plays later Martellus Bennett got into it with Lamarr Houston, as they did on Monday and during Bennett’s time in Chicago.

Following the practice Bears coach John Fox downplayed the fights.

“Those weren’t fights, those were just pushing matches,” he said.

Once again it illustrates the different philosophies between the two teams as the Patriots ban fighting all together, while the Bears have a fine system in place for fighting.

The two teams will have the third joint practice Wednesday morning, but it’s expected to be a walkthrough.

Read More: 2016 training camp, John Fox,
John Fox on Matt Forte: Veteran RB still has lots of football left 02.24.16 at 1:29 pm ET
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Matt Forte certainly caught the attention of Bill Belichick prior to a 2014 meeting between the Patriots and Bears. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Matt Forte is expected to draw the attention of several teams as a free agent. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS — In the wake of the Bears’ decision to let Matt Forte walk, there were many out there who said New England could make an ideal landing spot for the veteran running back.

Chicago coach John Fox wasn’t interested in getting much into where Forte might end up, but he said Wednesday at annual scouting combine at Lucas Oil Stadium that while it was a tough decision to let him go, the 30-year-old back still has plenty of football left.

“I don’t think Matt’s football is over,” Fox said of Forte, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards five times in his eight years in the NFL. “I think that’s part of the reason we were pretty early and honest with him about moving forward. I think (the release) helps him, and I think Matt Forte will play more football. We wanted to give him that opportunity.

“I think any time a guy with Matt Forte’s reputation — what he’s been through with the organization, such a great, great pro,” Fox added, “it’s never, never an easy decision. But at the end of the day, I think it was best for him — the timing — and best for us.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: 2016 NFL combine, John Fox, Matt Forte,
Tough enough: Even into their 30s, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning remain two of NFL’s most durable quarterbacks 10.29.14 at 4:20 pm ET
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Despite their ages, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning remains two of the NFL's most durable quarterbacks. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Despite their ages, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning remains two of the NFL’s most durable quarterbacks. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — When you’re talking about football toughness, it’s easy to overlook the quarterback position.

They’re the ones who draw the multimillion dollar deals, marry the supermodels and get too much of the credit when their team wins and too much of the blame when they lose.

But at the same time, they remain some of the toughest players on the roster. And on Sunday, two of the most durable quarterbacks in the recent history of the game will do battle when Tom Brady and Peyton Manning meet for the 16th time in their careers at Gillette Stadium.

“I think really to play in the National Football League, you have to be tough. It’s a tough way to earn a living,” said Denver coach John Fox. “In my opinion, [the quarterbacks] earn every penny.”

Brady and Manning can be measured using a wide variety of metrics, but one thing that certainly sets them apart from their contemporaries is their durability. Brady had started 88 consecutive games, fourth-best among current NFL quarterbacks. (By way of comparison, Eli Manning is first overall with 158 straight games played, all of them starts. San Diego’s Philip Rivers is second with 137 straight games played, while Baltimore’s Joe Flacco is third with 104 straight games played.)

Before he sat out the entire 2011 season following neck surgery, Manning had a consecutive start streak of 227 games (including the postseason), one that dated back to his rookie year of 1998.

When talking about durability on Wednesday, both referenced Brett Favre, who started 297 straight games over 19 seasons.

“His toughness and his durability [have] been similar to Brett Favre,” Brady said of Manning, who has started 43 straight games with the Broncos since e took over as the starter prior to the 2012 season.

“That’€™s probably why he’€™s been breaking all those records because he’€™s been so consistent and durable [and] dependable for his team,” Brady added. “He’€™s off to another great start this year. He does everything right. I don’€™t know what more else I can say about him as a player. It means a lot to him. Obviously, he’€™s got great leadership, and that’€™s what it takes at the quarterback position.”

As for Manning, his durability comes down to a simple philosophy.

“Certainly, I think quarterback’s job — first and foremost — is to be out there,” Manning said on a conference call Wednesday afternoon. “I’ve always wanted to be there.

“I’ve always had great respect for Favre’s consecutive start streak because he was always there. He played hurt and had great toughness and durability. I think Eli holds the longest streak now, which speaks to his [durability],” he added. “That was always one I was always kind of proud of — making all those starts until I got injured. That was kind of difficult, because I couldn’t always be there. I wanted to get back out there. I’ve been pleased I was able to be there for these two and a half years.”

Despite the fact that Brady was sidelined for most all of the 2008 season because of a knee injury he suffered in the regular season opener, Manning views Brady through the same lens.

“Brady is always there,” Manning said of the New England quarterback. “He’s always there. He had his long season where he was injured [in the first half] of the first game of the season, I think. I know I’ve talked to him. I know that was difficult for him for a lot of those same reasons. He couldn’t be there to help his team. Now, he’s been back, and he’s been playing like Tom Brady does.

“That’s one of his real strengths — always answering the bell.”

Read More: Brett Favre, John Fox, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady
Updates on Patriots rules proposals, Michigan’s Jeremy Gallon working out for New England and other notes from league meetings 03.25.14 at 2:57 pm ET
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ORLANDO — A few picked-up pieces to report from the NFL’s annual meetings in Central Florida:

1. The proposal to extend the goal posts by an extra five feet “seems likely to pass” when voted on Wednesday, according to Judy Battista of NFL.com. An initiative sponsored by Bill Belichick and the Patriots, the coach said Tuesday that the idea of doing it certainly seems like a no-brainer. “Virtually every kicker at the combine can kick them over the top of the goal posts [and] some of those guys aren’€™t even going to be in the league,” Belichick said Tuesday morning when asked about the idea. “I’€™d say every kicker can do that.” In addition, the other three proposals proposed by the Patriots are also scheduled to be voted on by the owners Wednesday.

2. In other end-zone related news, the league announced Tuesday it will penalize players who dunk on the goal posts in 2014. In the past, the league has cracked down on group celebrations, as well as using the football as a prop, so it would appear that this is the next step in the process. In addition, it was announced Tuesday that the NFL officiating department will help referees rule on instant replay reviews starting next season. Referees will now be allowed to consult with director of officiating Dean Blandino and his staff — who will be monitoring games from the league offices in New York — to help determine whether a call should be upheld or overturned.

3. This doesn’t have anything to do with the goings on in Florida, but according to a league source, wide receiver and special teams coaches from New England were in Ann Arbor on Tuesday to work out wide receiver Jeremy Gallon. The 5-foot-8, 187-pound Gallon has put up impressive numbers over the last two years with the Wolverines, including 89 catches for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. He also posted good numbers as a return man, compiling 589 yards on 27 kick returns in 2010, and 192 yards on 31 punt returns in 2011.

4. Broncos coach John Fox was asked about the courtship process that brought former Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib to Denver, as well as comment on his thoughts on Talib as a player.

“œWe had an offer on the table to [Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie]. They were working through it. I don’€™t get involved in this stuff’€”this is agents and [Director of Football Administration] Mike Sullivan. It’€™s scholarships with price tags,” Fox said. “We obviously are an appealing place but the reality is it comes down to the contract, usually. We were all over that and then it flipped and we were very pleased to get Aqib.”

On Talib as a player: “€œHe’€™s long, he’€™s fast, he’€™s quick, he’€™s tough. The only real negative is he had some off-the-field issues early in his career. I knew him even when I was in Carolina and he was in Tampa. I knew their coaches there pretty well. You get a pretty good feedback on players when you’€™re in the division’€”even on other teams. I knew how he grew, got married, started a family and matured.”

5. Reports continue to link running back Maurice Jones-Drew to the Patriots, with one story saying that Jones-Drew was going meet with the Patriots, Steelers, Dolphins and Jets this week in Orlando. (Jones-Drew has already apparently met with Pittsburgh, but has not received an offer from the Steelers.) It remains to be seen how all of this will play out — given the Patriots depth at running back, as well as the current state of the market, you would have to think they’d be more inclined to bring back LeGarrette Blount at a cut rate price instead of likely investing more in Jones-Drew. (Jones-Drew could also sit out until the summer to see if the market shifts and he’s able to play one team against each other in hopes of reaching the reported $3 million annually he’s seeking.) But it’s certainly a situation that bears watching going forward for Patriots fans — even if he doesn’t land in New England, two of the three other teams reportedly in the hunt for the diminutive back are in the division.

Read More: 2014 nfl annual meetings, Aqib Talib, Bill Belichick, Dean Blandino
Setting the scene from the Mile High City as Patriots battle Denver Broncos in AFC championship 01.19.14 at 1:04 pm ET
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DENVER — Mother Nature is apparently a big fan of the Broncos and Patriots.

In January weather more befitting of Florida or Southern California, sunshine and 67 degrees is expected for the 1 p.m. MT kickoff here in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, as the Patriots and Broncos do battle in ideal conditions for the AFC championship.

The temperature is expected to reach as high as 69 by halftime before cooling off in the evening.

If that holds, it will unofficially go down as the warmest outdoor game in Patriots playoff history.

On Jan. 12, 1986, when the Patriots beat the Dolphins, 31-14, the game-time temperature at the Orange Bowl was 64 degrees. It was officially 60 when the Patriots lost in the 1998 playoffs in Jacksonville. When the Patriots beat the Chargers, 24-21, in the 2006 playoffs it was only 53 and Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville was only 59.

Ironically, today’s AFC championship is the 12th anniversary of the epic “Snow Bowl” at Foxboro Stadium, a game won by the Patriots over the Raiders, 16-13, in overtime in the last game ever played at the venue.

The two biggest injury question marks coming into the game appear to be the health of two rookie receivers that could challenge the Broncos secondary deep.

Kenbrell Thompkins continues to nurse a sore hip while Aaron Dobson is dealing with a stress fracture in his left foot. Both were limited all week in practice and both were questionable coming into the game. Dobson returned to practice on Wednesday after missing the Colts playoff game.

The Broncos have won both previous playoff meetings against the Patriots in Denver, beating the Patriots 22-17 in the 1986 AFC divisional round and winning, 27-13, in the 2005 playoffs, the game most infamously remembered by New England fans by Champ Bailey‘s game-changing 100-yard interception return off a Tom Brady pass to the end zone.

The Patriots gained their revenge two seasons ago when they blew out Tim Tebow and the Broncos, 45-10, in the divisional round. Including Super Bowl XXXVIII, when the Patriots beat the Panthers, 32-29, Bill Belichick is 2-0 against John Fox in the postseason.

Read More: Aaron Dobson, AFC Championship, Bill Belichick, Champ Bailey
Patriots-Broncos predictions: Media prognosticators lean toward Denver taking close game 01.17.14 at 1:17 pm ET
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One thing is clear about the predictions coming in for Sunday’€™s AFC championship game between the Patriots and the Broncos — most believe it’€™ll be a close game. Both local and national media favor Denver, but, like the score predictions, neither team has a blowout lead.

On WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan, Gery Callahan was the only one to favor the Patriots. While Callahan thinks Tom Brady will lead New England to a 31-28 win, John Dennis (37-24) and Kirk Minihane (31-24) believe Denver will win it behind a Peyton Manning MVP effort. Minihane and Callahan predict the 49ers will take the NFC title, while Dennis projects the Seahawks will pick up the game on their own turf.

On Mut & Merloni, Mike Mutnansky is going with the Broncos, 35-28. Lou Merloni has the Patriots emerging victorious, 31-27. The two are split on the NFC game as well, with Mutnansky taking San Francisco and Merloni tabbing Seattle.

At SB Nation, the Patriots and Broncos split the panel, with Ryan Van Bibber, Jason Chilton and Stephen White leaning toward New England while Joel Thorman, David Fucillo and Matt Ufford predicting a Denver win.

ESPN‘s group of 13 panelists, on the other hand, favor the the Broncos. Merril Hoge, Adam Schefter, Mike Ditka, and Cris Carter project that the Patriots will come out with the win. Meanwhile Eric Allen, Mike Golic, Ron Jaworski, KC Joyner, Chris Mortensen, Mark Schlereth, Seth Wickersham, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson are sticking with Denver.

USA Today‘€™s panel of seven favors the Broncos 6-1, with Jarrett Bell, Jim Corbett, Lindsay H. Jones, Pete O’€™Brien, Tom Pelissero and Simon Samano favoring Denver. The lone vote for the Patriots came from Nate Davis.

Following are more predictions from around the country:

Vinnie IyerSporting News: Patriots 26, Broncos 23 — “The Patriots didn’t need to play the Bengals, and blew by the Colts. Now that they survived to get to the Broncos, it’€™s easier to trust them to advance. While the expected hype is around Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, the real matchup is Bill Belichick vs. John Fox.”

Don BanksSports Illustrated: Broncos 34, Patriots 31 “It still sounds quite strange, but I think Tony Dungy had it right when he told me on Monday that this meeting of Hall of Fame-bound quarterbacks will likely come down to the running games, and the run defenses.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, John Fox, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady
Ex-Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker ready to face his old team again 01.16.14 at 6:00 am ET
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When asked Wednesday about Wes Welker and the impact he’s had on the Denver offense in his first season with the Broncos, coach John Fox and quarterback Peyton Manning didn’t mince words.

‘€œHe’€™s been exactly what we thought we were getting,” Fox said when asked about Welker. “Even people in the New England organization said that we would enjoy coaching him, and we have. He came in, made a pretty big impact. The fact that he was voted captain and just got here is a pretty good indicator of what his peers and teammates think of him. He’€™s fit in in exactly what we thought he would be, and that’€™s important.’€

‘€œLike Coach Fox said, a lot of things that I think a lot of people thought about Wes as an opponent all proved to be true once he joined us as a teammate,” Manning said. “I always assumed that he was an extremely competitive guy that loved football and a guy that loved to work, he loved to practice. The way he played ‘€“ I saw him many a time play Colts versus the Patriots ‘€“ so to have him become a Bronco, all those things checked out.

“He’€™s a gym rat. He loves the game, loves to work after practice [and] loves to talk in meetings about routes that he thinks might have a chance to get open,” Manning added. “He’€™s very knowledgeable of defenses and how teams have played him in the past, whether they’€™ve double-covered him or whatever it may be. So he’€™s been a fun guy to play with, I’€™ll say that.’€

After six seasons in New England, Welker finished his first year with the Broncos with with 73 catches for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games. After going down with a concussion that caused him to miss the final three weeks of the regular season, he returned to the lineup in last weekend’s divisional playoff win against the Chargers, and had six catches for 38 yards and a touchdown.

Welker said that after his first game against the Patriots — which ended in a loss in his return to Gillette on Nov. 24, a game where he had four catches for 31 yards — he was able to get some of that nostalgia of facing his old team out of the way. Now, heading into this weekend’s AFC title game, the focus is on football.

‘€œIt’€™s still another game,” he said Wednesday when asked about facing the Patriots. “You understand it is the AFC Championship, and everything like that. You want to go out there and prepare as much as possible. At the same time, it is still an opponent and it’€™s a team and you’€™re going out there and playing to the best of your ability and go out there and try to win the game.’€

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Read More: John Fox, Peyton Manning, Wes Welker,
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