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Patriots continue tradition of involvement at NFL rookie symposium with talks from Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater 06.25.12 at 7:03 pm ET
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Patriots' veteran Matthew Slater will talk to rookie at the rookie symposium this week. (AP)

Patriots’ veterans Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater are two of the players who will be addressing the rookies about the perils they’ll face in the league during this week’s annual rookie symposium. According to AFC PR chief Corry Rush, Devin and Jason McCourty addressed the NFC rookies Sunday, and will speak to the AFC rookies on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Slater will address the NFC rookies Tuesday and the AFC rookies on Friday.

The rookie symposium isn’t the same old seminar — speakers (both current and former players, as well as ex-coaches) focus on cautionary tales of sex, drugs (both performance-enhancers and otherwise), personal conduct and financial matters. Created in 1997, the Patriots have long been part of the process: Tedy Bruschi and Richard Seymour have addressed rookies, with Seymour talking in 2002 after his own rookie season. In a story Seymour later related to reporters, he talked a night where the rookies had to take the veterans out to dinner. A first-round pick in 2001, Seymour to fork over $15,000. “That was when I decided to put myself on a budget,” he later said.

And the Patriots’ rookies have won the “Ultimate Rookie Challenge,” a trivia contest held at the end of the symposium that featured questions on the materials they learned twice in the last four years, with each rookie taking home a flat-screen television for their efforts.

All of the members of New England’s 2012 draft class are expected to be in attendance this week. And in addition to McCourty and Slater, other players who have experienced a myriad of off-field issues are scheduled to address players, including Michael Vick, Adam Jones and Michael Irvin. In addition to McCourty and Slater, other current and former players scheduled to talk are Terrell Owens, Antonio Freeman, LaVar Arrington, Aeneas Williams, Jamie Dukes, Luther Ellis and Carl Eller. They will speak on a variety of topics, including subjects like “Are You Bigger Then The Game” and “What Defines Success?”
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Read More: Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, Michael Vick,
Five years later, Donte Stallworth ready for his second stint in New England 05.15.12 at 1:45 pm ET
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Donte Stallworth meets the media Tuesday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. (WEEI.com photo)

FOXBORO — A little older and a little wiser, wide receiver Donte Stallworth is ready for his second act with the Patriots.

The well-traveled Stallworth, who spent the 2007 season in New England before leaving as a free agent, jumped at the opportunity to return to the Patriots, signing a one-year deal as a free agent in March. It was a chance to not only go back to the scene of some of his greatest professional success, but to do so with an increased wisdom, one he confessed he didn’t necessarily have in his first go-round with New England.

“I’m a lot more mature now than I was then,” Stallworth said Tuesday during a break between workouts at Gillette Stadium. “I feel like I’m playing better. I’m in a better place mentally, physically and I just felt like at that time I was still trying to mature and grow into a professional athlete. I feel like I’m a lot further down the road than I was last time.

“Back then, I was really more relying on my talent,” said the 6-foot, 220-pounder. “Now that I’m going into my 10th year, I think I run better routes now and understand different coverages and what teams are trying to do.”

The 31-year-old Stallworth, who had 46 catches for 697 yards and three touchdowns with the Patriots in 2007, said a large portion of that increased off-field maturity is because of what he went through in 2009 when he was charged with DUI manslaughter following an accident in Florida. He spent time in jail, and was suspended for the duration of the 2009 season.

“The year I was out and just sitting around and watching my teammates play and watching my friends play, it was not a good feeling,” Stallworth said. “It’s the same, even when you’re hurt. Guys never want to miss games. Anytime you miss something that you appreciate in life or that you love in life, if you have an opportunity to get it back, you always have a better appreciate for it next time.”

Stallworth said that after spending time with the Browns (2008), Ravens (2010) and Redskins (2011), walking back into the New England locker room was an “interesting” experience.

“It was a little weird feeling. It was kind of surreal,” he said. “But honestly, I think it took about a week or so to get adjusted and to really realize that, hey, I really am back; it’s not just a dream. It’s been good being back and seeing a lot of the same, familiar faces — friendly faces. So it’s been good. It’s been five years, but not much has changed other than all the restaurants and stuff around here. That’s a big difference.”

Stallworth enters a crowded field at wide receiver — the Patriots have loaded up this offseason at a position they were already pretty well stocked coming off the 2011 season. Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Gonzalez and Brandon Lloyd join a group that includes Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, Britt Davis, Matthew Slater and Chad Ochocinco.

“It’s going to be good competition; we’re all friends, we all have known each other for awhile and respected each other’s games, so we’re going to make each other better,” Stallworth said. “We’ve been doing that now, with the workouts and really having fun, and the real fun gets to start on Monday when we start practicing. Who knows how it will play out, but I’m feeling good; I’m feeling healthy.”

Here are some more highlights of Stallworth’s Q&A with the media:
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Read More: Anthony Gonzalez, Brandon Lloyd, Britt Davis, Chad Ochocinco
Dane Fletcher free of cast, says he’s fully recovered from thumb injury 04.12.12 at 7:38 pm ET
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Dane Fletcher (AP)

PROVIDENCE — After undergoing multiple surgeries on a thumb injury sustained in the preseason, Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher has finally removed the cast that had been on his hand for much of the offseason.

Fletcher took part in a charity event at Hasbro Children’s Hospital Thursday in Providence along with teammates Kevin Faulk and Matthew Slater, bringing smiles and signed memorabilia to patients before taking part in a charity radiothon. While speaking to media after visiting patients, Fletcher also had news that should bring smiles to the faces of Patriots fans.

“We’re good baby,” Fletcher said, cheerfully waving his unencumbered hands in the air in front of a gaggle of reporters. “No worries there.”

The thumb injury had limited Fletcher for much of the regular season and forced him to miss six games entirely before returning against the Redskins on Dec. 11. Now, though, Fletcher is back where he wants to be, healthwise, and ready to get back on the field, telling reporters that he is pleased with his offseason preparation.

“It’s been good,” Fletcher said. “I’ve been progressing just like I wanted to and I just hope to continue there and enjoy my time a little bit back in Montana and relax.”

Now that he’s back at full capacity, Fletcher is now itching to get back on the field. His timing couldn’t be better, with the Patriots’ OTAs beginning next week.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Fletcher said. “A lot of the same faces, a lot of new faces, just get to know everybody again and start from scratch.”

Slater and Fletcher spoke about participating in charity functions like this one and how giving back was just another part of being a player in the NFL.

“As players, we’ve been extremely blessed with all the opportunities that we’ve been afforded and I think the least we can do is come back and visit these kids and try to put a smile on their face,” Slater said. “So, me and Dane, we’re excited about coming out here and visiting these kids and trying to make their day. What they get through on an everyday basis is real life and they’re going through some real struggle and hopefully we can give them a pick-me-up.”

Read More: Dane Fletcher, Matthew Slater,
The Slater family finds important lessons in rewatching Super Bowl defeat 04.11.12 at 6:43 pm ET
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At the urging of his father, Matthew Slater went back and rewatched Super Bowl XLVI. (AP)

Patriots special teamer Matthew Slater was asked Tuesday if he had a chance to watch the Super Bowl loss to the Giants.

‘‘I watched a little bit of it, only because my dad made me watch it,” he said with a rueful smile. “But, it was tough to watch it. We got so close. We were winning with four minutes left in the game. You could taste victory. A lot of effort and heart and soul was put into that [game], to get to that point. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out. But we can’t dwell on that. It’s time for us to look to 2012.’’

Slater was unsure why his father – former Rams offensive lineman Jackie Slater — made him watch the game again.

“I don’t know — you’ll have to ask him,” he said. “I think he wanted me to really relish what we were able to do, get into that stage, and it was something to be proud of. At the same time, learn from that experience and try to improve.’’

When reached by phone on Wednesday, his father had a simple explanation for the mandatory viewing.

“It wouldn’t make a lick of sense to reach the pinnacle of your chosen profession and not look at the things that you and your teammates did well, and then also see the things that ultimately foiled you,” Jackie said. “If you can do that, you’ll have even more of a clear vision when you start to try and pursue that same goal again.”

When it comes to taking another look at a Super Bowl loss, Jackie can speak from experience. He was part of a Rams’ 31-19 loss to the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV, and said going back and watching it again (as painful as it might be) helped his development as a player — particularly, the insight on his game from analyst John Madden.

It certainly paid dividends for Jackie, who would go on to a 20-year career in the NFL and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Experience is the very best teacher,” Jackie said. “For me personally, after playing in Super Bowl XIV and having John Madden make the comments that he made about my performance — which were all positive – that helped keep me driven and focused in an attempt to try and get back to the zenith of my profession.”

According to Matt, the goal going forward is to shake off any feeling that the 2012 Patriots are a Super Bowl team. The process of climbing the mountain toward the summit will begin again soon enough.

‘‘I think it’s important for us as a team to understand: we’re not a Super Bowl team at this point. This is a new team. This is not the 2011 team,” he said. “We shouldn’t come in there expecting for teams [to say] ‘Oh, that’s the Patriots. They were in the Super Bowl last year.’ We have to re-establish an identity. There are new players. We have to create an identity for this 2012 team. We’re going to have to earn everything all over again. So we’re back at ground zero now. We have a lot of work to do.’’

Read More: Jackie Slater, John Madden, Matthew Slater,
Taking a look at a six-pack of Patriots’ free agent decisions from Thursday 03.16.12 at 12:41 am ET
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The Patriots made some noise in free agency on Thursday, picking up a pair of new players in defensive lineman Marcus Harrison and safety Steve Gregory; re-signing a pair of their own free agents in offensive lineman Dan Connolly and special teamer Matthew Slater; and apparently kicking the tires on safety LaRon Landry and defensive end/outside linebacker Trevor Scott. Here’s a quick look at what it all means for the franchise.

Harrison: A guy who has been in New England before — he was on the roster for a day last October — Harrison is a 6-foot-3, 316-pound defensive tackle who projects as a backup along New England’s defensive front. The 27-year-old was a third-round pick of the Bears in 2008 (90th overall) out of Arkansas, but in 37 career games over three seasons with the Bears, Harrison has done little to distinguish himself: he’s amassed 55 tackles, 3.0 sacks and three passes defensed. (He had previously failed a physical with the Panthers in September because of a knee problem.)

Gregory: This is probably the biggest signing of the day. New England gets itself a safety who some believe was playing out of position with the Chargers — next to Eric Weddle, San Diego had him in more of a strong safety position. (Pro Football Focus had him graded out as a -10.8 for the 2011 season.) With the Patriots, the 29-year-old could find a home at free safety, challenging James Ihedigbo for snaps. In addition, the presence of Gregory on the roster (and the possible acquisition of Landry) could mean Devin McCourty will make a full-time return to corner in 2012. Regardless, the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder does have some positional versatility — he has worked as a safety, and also spent time in the slot and on special teams, bringing the positional flexibility that they crave in Foxboro. According to reports, it’s a three-year deal worth roughly $8 million.
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Read More: 2012 NFL Free Agency, Andre Carter, Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen
Five thoughts on the second day of NFL free agency and how it all relates to the Patriots 03.14.12 at 2:44 pm ET
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Steve Gregory has attracted the attention of the Patriots. (AP)

Here are five thoughts on what’s gone on during Day 2 of NFL free agency and how it relates to the Patriots:

1. Per a league source, the Patriots will host safety Steve Gregory on a visit Wednesday afternoon. Gregory is a 29-year-old undrafted free agent out of Syracuse who has spent six years in the NFL, all with the Chargers. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder does have some positional versatility — he has worked as a safety, and also spent time in the slot and on special teams. Hard-nosed and versatile, Gregory (who was suspended for PEDs in 2010) had 67 tackles and one interception in 2011. As some have already noted, there’s a belief that Gregory was out of position playing alongside free safety Eric Weddle in San Diego, and could be better suited playing more of a free safety role next to someone like Patrick Chung. (It tells you something about the state of the safety position that Gregory is starting to develop a following — a league source indicates that Gregory has at least four other teams who are interested in his services, including the Broncos and Panthers, with a few more teams poised to inquire about him by the end of the day.)

2. In addition, the Patriots have reportedly expressed interest in safety LaRon Landy, late of the Redskins. The five-year veteran was plagued with injuries last season, including an Achilles tendon problem that forced him to injured reserve in mid-December. The 6-foot, 220-pound Landry is a really interesting case — he has some working knowledge of a Bill Belichick-type of system, as he played in college for Nick Saban when Saban was at LSU. Because he’s coming off an injury, he’s likely to come at a discounted price. And with the depressed safety market, he could be the best value out there, especially when you consider the fact that he played very well over the first three years of his career (including a 90-tackle season in 2009). But the 27-year-old has had major injury problems over the last two years — he’s played in just 17 games the last two seasons, and fair or not, there are concerns about him being able to stay on the field. (According to Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports, the Jets, Eagles, Lions and Bears have also apparently expressed interest in Landry.) And I’m not even sure what to make of his arms.

3. BenJarvus Green-Ellis continues to be the biggest name available among current Patriots’ free agents. The running back, who was attached to two “unknown teams” on Wednesday at a price of roughly $3 million to $4 million a year, will reportedly take a visit with Cincinnati, according to Cole. (It’s not known if the Bengals were one of those two teams that were previously listed on Tuesday.) Cincinnati would be a good landing spot for Green-Ellis — the Bengals have a lot of room under the cap, and the running back would give a playoff team a positive, dependable presence in the backfield. It’s also interesting to see the feedback from Patriots’ fan on Twitter regarding Green-Ellis’ situation. When faced with the prospect of losing Green-Ellis to a bigger deal somewhere else, almost everyone has wished him well. Speaks to his likeability among the New England fan base.
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Read More: 2012 NFL Free Agency, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Bill Belichick, Eric Weddle
Five early thoughts on free agency and the Patriots 03.13.12 at 6:52 pm ET
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Brandon Marshall is out of the AFC East, which will make the New England cornerbacks very happy. (AP)

After the first few hours of NFL free agency, here are five incredibly early Patriots’-related thoughts:

1. Devin McCourty is a happy man. The deal that sent wide receiver Brandon Marshall from Miami to Chicago for draft picks gets one of the premiere receivers in the division out of the AFC East, which should make life considerably easier for the New England secondary, and McCourty in particular. Marshall absolutely hammered McCourty and the Patriots last season, going for seven catches and 139 yards in the season opener and adding six catches for 143 yards and a touchdown when the two teams met again in December.

2. Wes Welker is a happy man. Before the start of free agency, the Patriots hit Welker with the franchise tag, which will likely mean the veteran wide receiver will get a $9 million payday for the 2012 season. But the next time the two sides sit down at the negotiating table, the landscape will be far different, especially after the Redskins reportedly signed fellow receiver Pierre Garcon to a five-year, $42.5 million deal, including $21.5 in guaranteed money. While Welker is a full five years older than Garcon, his numbers over the last three years have been demonstrably better than the former Colts’ pass catcher. So that effectively changes the market for Welker, who will likely look for something north of that when the two sides do decide to revisit talks.

3. BenJarvus Green-Ellis could be a happy man soon.
There’s apparently some movement with Green-Ellis. The veteran running back was one of New England’s 16 unrestricted free agents who hit the market on Tuesday afternoon, but according to Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports, there are two “unknown teams” involved in a possible pursuit of the free agent, while the Patriots “want him back.” (In the past, the Chiefs have been mentioned as a possible suitor for Green-Ellis.) Cole says to look for a deal in the $3 million to $4 million range, which is probably a little too much for New England. Not saying the Patriots would be completely against signing him at that price — only that it would make New England take a long look at their in-house options at running back going forward and what might be available in free agency.

4. No Red Bryant for the Patriots.
The talk about the defensive tackle possibly heading to New England hit a fever pitch Tuesday afternoon, but it was quickly squelched when the Seahawks locked up Bryant with one of the first big deals in free agency. The 6-foot-4, 332-pounder started all 16 games for Seattle last season, the team that drafted him in the fourth round out of Texas A&M in 2008. (As for another big defensive body, Mario Williams is making a visit to the Bills on Tuesday night, who appear to be very aggressive in their pursuit of what is likely the premiere defensive player on the market.)

5. As for the Patriots, they were mostly quiet.
The one bit of news that did pop up specifically relating to the franchise was the report that New England was expected to re-sign special teams ace Matthew Slater some time on Tuesday, per Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network. Slater, who made the Pro Bowl this past season, just finished up his fourth season with the Patriots, having worked as a wide receiver, defensive back and special teamer. The 6-foot, 200-pounder, an unrestricted free agent, caught one pass for 46 yards this season, and also saw extensive time at safety.

Read More: 2012 NFL Free Agency, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Brandon Marshall, Devin McCourty
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