|After 3 games, Patriots punter Ryan Allen on pace for remarkable record||10.05.15 at 8:29 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Lost in the record-setting start for the 2015 Patriots is the fact that punter Ryan Allen is on pace for a milestone year, at least when it comes to inactivity.
Through three games, Allen has punted just five times, easily the lowest total in the league. (Prior to New England’s bye week, there were three teams tied for second with 10 punts each.) Those totals are even more skewed now after the Patriots were on a bye — at this point on the schedule, the Cardinals have punted 12 times and the Seahawks punted 13 times going into the Monday night contest to round out the top 3.
To give you some sort of idea as to just how remarkable that number is, through four games, there are nine punters who have punted 20 or more times this season, including Philadelphia’s Donnie Jones, who now has 26 punts after four games.
It’s always dicey to try and figure out a final stat line for anyone after just three games, but that would mean Allen and the Patriots are on pace to punt just under 30 times over the course of the 2015 season. That would be an NFL record, as the record for fewest punts over the course of a full 16-game campaign is 34, set by Greg Montgomery and the 1990 Oilers, a run-and-shoot team that finished second in the league in scoring at 25.3 points per game. (That team finished 9-7 and ended up losing to the Bengals in an AFC Wild Card contest.)
Predictably, the franchise record for fewest punt attempts in a 16-game season belongs to Chris Hanson, who punted just 44 times in the record-setting 2007 campaign. That’s fifth-best in NFL history for a 16-game schedule, trailing only the Oilers, the 1993 49ers, which punted 42 times that season, and the 2000 and 2000 Rams, which punted 43 times each.
(For the record, the NFL record book lists the 1982 Chargers and Bengals with the fewest punts in a single season with 23 and 31, respectively. However, because that season was marred by a 57-day players’ strike, the season was reduced from 16-regular season games to nine. In addition, the 1941 Bears only punted 32 times, but that was an 11-game season. So we’ll throw those records out, at least for purposes of this story.)
It’s not like he hasn’t done well when called upon — his 45.6 net average and 49.0 yard overall average are both good for fourth-best in the league. It’s just that with an offense that’s leading the league in points per game (39.7 per contest through the first three contests of the season), he understands that he’s probably not going to get much of an opportunity to ply his trade.
“The offense has done a great job this year,” he said in the locker room following practice Monday afternoon.
Allen, who didn’t punt at all in the Week 3 win over the Jaguars, said he wasn’t aware of the possibility of a record, but the occasional inaction (at least when compared to his colleagues around the NFL) doesn’t really faze him.
“I warm up the same wherever the offense starts,” said Allen, who didn’t punt at all in the Week 3 win over the Jaguars. “I’m going the same progression every time. Nothing changes for me. It’s just when I decide, or I can’t know when I’m called upon. I just have to be ready when I’m called upon. That’s my job.
Because the punt team hasn’t gotten as many reps as usual, one of the keys has been mental reps, as well as the occasional decision to “push the tempo” in practice, according to special teams captain Matthew Slater.
“Mental reps have obviously been a big part of Ryan’s game this season,” Slater said. “He does a great job of preparing himself mentally; he’s always in the game and talking situations and I think that’s rare for a guy as young as Ryan. He’s in his third year and he approaches it like a 10-year veteran. That’s been good for us.”
Slater added: “When it comes to the specialists, they do a great job. Every kick for them is like game mode — Ryan is over there taking his steps and going through his patterns and is always very focused. Same with [kicker Stephen Gostkowski]. I think we have to try as best we can to simulate game speed out there and hopefully, we can execute when the game comes around.”
“Mental and physical reps are important for any position — it’s definitely a part of my progression,” said Allen, who ended up punting 66 times last season. “But at the end of the day, nothing really changes for me from week-to-week. You never really know. You never know how a game is going to play; every game goes differently, and you can’t presume how it’s going to go. We’re kind of used to that as specialists. It’s a little different, but we know that. We understand our position.”
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|Teammates say Rob Gronkowski’s greatness lies in ‘commitment’ to game||09.23.15 at 1:07 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Piggybacking on Bill Belichick’s comments about Rob Gronkowski as a leader on Wednesday morning, several teammates spoke about what the big tight end has brought to the team from an off-field perspective as well.
For Tom Brady, the mental toughness of what Gronkowski has endured over the last few years sticks out for him.
“What he’s overcome the last few years, with his arm, his back and then his knee, I just think he sets a great example for our team,” said the quarterback. “With the work ethic, he’s a fun guy to be around. Ultimately, he goes out and performs the best he possibly can. He does it with toughness, no matter what he’s asked to do.
“Obviously, he gets a lot of attention for catching touchdown passes,” he added, “but he does all the dirty work, too. He’s in there blocking for the backs and in pass protection and takes a lot of pride in all those things. He’s been out there every day this year practicing as hard as he can. I think it’s showing a huge commitment by him and really to all of us players to what it means to him. I think he’s been a great example for all of us.”
“He’s just a great teammate — there’s no other way to put it,” said kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who has been a teammate of Gronkowski since the tight end was a rookie in 2010. “He’s definitely a guy you want to have on your team.”
“Obviously, not just when it comes to production,” he added. “But I don’t think I’ve ever seen the guy have a bad day or not have a smile on his face, which can go a long way when it’s the same old monotony every day and sometimes things can seem low, like you lose a game or something like that or have a bad day. But you see a guy going out there happy, having fun and doing well, that’s something you kind of miss playing professional sports. It’s not like when you’re a kid. It’s just nice to see. It takes you back to when sports was a lot of fun and there wasn’t all the extra stuff around it to complicate it. To see him do well and do it his way, it’s awesome to see.”
Special teams captain Matthew Slater is another player who has known Gronkowski since he arrived in the league as a rookie.
|Matthew Slater warns: Teams will ‘try to intimidate us’||09.21.15 at 5:59 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots have spent all offseason preparing themselves to be the hunted every time they take the field this season.
On Sunday, the Bills provided a loud and clear reminder of what this season as defending Super Bowl champions will be like for the Patriots. The Bills not only got their crowd behind them but they tried to get the Patriots to take the bait in a backyard brawl.
“I think, overall, we did a good job of controlling our emotions,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said Monday. “Obviously, it was chippy, and the referees were letting a lot of that go, letting us play so we have to do a good job of keeping our heads. Teams, for whatever reason, come out and try to intimidate us in that way, and that’s something we’re going to have to get used to seeing throughout the course of the year.”
Practice and preparation leads to game reality. It’s a credo of the Belichick Patriots. And it’s something Slater said he can see in these Patriots.
“I certainly appreciate the way the way we practice and prepare,” Slater said. “We’ve had a tough offseason, training camp and early season here. The practices have been pretty grueling but I think this team has really bought into what it takes to prepare to be a winner and prepare to have success. I appreciate the young guys, the effort they’ve given, and obviously the veteran leaders on this team have worked the way they’ve always worked. That’s something that’s good to see. We’re going to need that. We’re going to need to continue that trend as the season moves along.
“Here, it seems every year we have kids that come in and buy in. I think because of what Coach Belichick has put in place here, it’s either you buy in or they’re going to find someone who does. I can’t really think of a time since I’ve been here where we’ve had a problem with young guys buying in. They’ve always done a good job of buying in and we get the right kind of guys in here that understand the way we need to do things. I think that’s a big part of the reason why we’ve had success over the years.”
A 19-3 fourth quarter spurt by the Bills made the game a lot closer than anyone thought possible in the third quarter. That is all part of consistency that leads to a killer instinct. Slater said you can’t close out games without consistency.
|Tom Brady, Brandon LaFell among 5 Patriots players not on field prior preseason finale||09.03.15 at 7:09 pm ET|
Just five Patriots players weren’t on the field dressed in full uniform prior to the preseason finale with the Giants Thursday night.
They were: quarterback Tom Brady, wide receiver Brandon LaFell, safety Brandon King, offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, center Bryan Stork.
It should be noted just because many of the starters were on the field pregame, it does not mean they’ll play in the game.
For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
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|Patriots, Saints not expecting to fight like Cowboys and Rams: ‘Competitive level is very high’||08.19.15 at 1:33 pm ET|
The video of Dez Bryant getting sucker punched in the face was likely all anyone on the Greenbrier resort football field in West Virginia had to see to learn an important lesson. Compete but don’t fight.
That’s what the Patriots and Saints began doing Wednesday morning when they began joint practices in White Sulphur Springs.
Patriots and Saints coaches and players were asked about the now-infamous brawl between the Cowboys and Rams Tuesday that spilled into a spectator’s area at the Cowboys’ facility in Oxnard, California.
“Obviously, when you go against a new opponent, adrenaline kicks in and the competitive level is very high,” Matthew Slater said. “It’s a very good football team we’re going against. The intensity was definitely up and I think it was good for our football team to get some good work today.”
Is there a conscious effort to stay away from the brawl situations that seem to escalate quickly?
“I’m not going to comment on those situations, but I know that Coach [Bill Belichick] has always stressed that we’re here to work and just play football, and that’s what we try to do is just try to play football and not let all that other stuff come into the picture,” Slater added.
Chandler Jones joked Saturday about how no one has ever challenged him in a football fight. He took a more serious tone Wednesday after practice.
“You understand that practice is going to be very competitive,” Jones said. “We’re out here to get better. That’s what we’re doing. Our job is to get better. The Saints are trying to get better. The Patriots are trying to get better. And that’s our main goal; that’s what we’re coming out here to do every day.”
Both Jones and Slater said they were happy to get on the practice field against another team Wednesday.
“I think it’s huge,” Slater said. “I think it’s very challenging; it’s a chance to work on your craft. I know for me, I get a lot out of these things, so I think it’s huge to be able to do this and simulate as best we can game speed in practice.
Added Jones, “It felt good to get out here and compete against a different team. You get a lot of different looks, and it’s good for our team.”
Jones said the tempo is similar to what he’s seen in the last two weeks in Foxboro.
“I feel like the coaches do a good job of getting on the same page and merging the practices together, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Jones said.
|Matthew Slater on D&H: Tom Brady is ‘the ultimate professional’||08.18.15 at 6:00 am ET|
Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater joined Dale & Holley with Thornton on Patriots Monday. Slater talked about Tom Brady and the leaders of the 2015 squad. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
The biggest storyline of the offseason, which has continued into training camp, is the lingering potential four-game suspension for Tom Brady. Fortunately, the team doesn’t need to worry about it negatively effecting Brady.
“I think Tom is the ultimate professional,” Slater said. “His focus is laser-like. He loves the game of football. He’s always going to do whatever he can to put the team first and to be a great teammate and have himself prepared. You really appreciate playing with a guy like Tom. You really appreciate his body of work he’s been able to put together over the course of his career. I know he’ll handle this like a professional and it’s up to the other 89 guys on this team to get themselves better, to continue to prepare and to continue to make steps in the right direction.”
As a captain, Slater knows what it takes to be a leader. The Patriots lost one of their biggest in the offseason when Wilfork departed for the Texans. When asked who are the two biggest leaders on the team this year, Slater named Brady, as well as Jerod Mayo.
“You look at this football team and two guys come to mind — obviously Tom [Brady] for what he’s done here. His body of work speaks for itself and the way he’s stepped up time and time again. And I think Jerod Mayo is a guy who really can relate to every guy in that locker room,” Slater said. “He’s able to touch every guy in that locker room and you’re able to appreciate having those two guys in that locker room and what they mean to this football team.”
Here are more highlights from the conversation. For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
|Special teams captain Matthew Slater happy to be back on field||08.11.15 at 7:00 am ET|
FOXBORO — Suffice to say, red isn’t Matthew Slater‘s favorite color.
The Patriots special teams captain returned to the practice field for the first time this summer, but he was in a red non-contact jersey, the result of offseason shoulder surgery. That meant he was on the field for the initial series of stretches, warmups and drills, but sat for the contact work
While it was nice just to be back out there with his teammates, Slater wasn’t happy about not being a full go after being unable to put on pads for the first nine practices of camp.
“Not fun. Red means stop,” he said with a smile after his first on-field work of the summer. “It’s not something that I’m used to doing, but the medical staff knows what’s best for me, so you just have to listen to the doctor’s orders and take it one day at a time.
“It’s my job to be obedient, listen to the staff,” he added. “They have a plan. They’ve done this before, so I’m just trying to do everything that they want to have me do and take it one day at a time — and hopefully come back and be a contributing member of this team.”
The four-time Pro Bowler confessed to having some butterflies in advance of his return to the practice field.
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