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Bill Belichick sings praises of Mike Lombardi as ‘one of the smartest people I know’ 11.02.16 at 10:08 am ET
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Mike Lombardi. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

Mike Lombardi. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Of all the opinions expressed on the Jamie Collins trade, the one held by Mike Lombardi has generated the most intrigue as to why the Patriots shipped the linebacker off to Cleveland.

On Monday, shortly after the trade to the Browns was made, Lombardi, a close confidant to Bill Belichick, took to social media to explain why he was not surprised by the trade.

On Tuesday, Lombardi appeared on Kirk and Callahan to defend his support of the trade and explain his criticism of the way Collins was playing and why he no longer was a fit in the Patriots’ system.

On Wednesday, Belichick held his first press conference since the trade and directed most questions to the Dale and Holley transcript on WEEI, when he appeared Monday afternoon on the show.

Belichick was asked specifically about Lombardi, who worked with Belichick in 2014 and ’15 before leaving for Fox Sports this year. But Belichick’s relationship with and respect for Lombardi goes well beyond those two seasons. He was on the Belichick staff in Cleveland for all five seasons (1991-95) and actually was there four years before Belichick arrived.

Lombardi remains one Belichick’s most trusted sources and advisors on all football personnel matters, as Belichick believes in his ability to quickly break down film and make informed opinions. What does Belichick think of Lombardi’s opinions on Collins?

“Look, Mike’s one of the smartest people I know,” Belichick said. “He’s one of the smartest people I’ve worked with. He was a huge asset to me for the two years he was here. Mike’s a smart guy and he studies football and he knows it very well. I would say probably on all teams.”

“So, you [go] talk to Mike,” Belichick said. “You should ask Mike about whatever Mike said. I’m sure everybody had something to say. Go talk to them. I don’t know.

“I expressed my feelings. I think other coaches have expressed their feelings and I’m sure there are a lot of other people who’ve got an opinion. Want to talk to them, go talk to them. I don’t care.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Cleveland Browns, Jamie Collins, Mike Lombardi
Patriots LB coach Brian Flores: ‘Freelancing’ was never an issue when it came to Jamie Collins 11.01.16 at 10:29 am ET
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Linebacker Jamie Collins was dealt to the Browns on Monday. (Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Linebacker Jamie Collins was dealt to the Browns on Monday. (Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores said that when it comes to Jamie Collins and “freelancing” it was never an issue, as far as he was concerned.

Collins, who was dealt by New England to Cleveland on Monday, has been ripped by former Patriots executive Mike Lombardi for doing his own thing. But Flores, who is in his first year as coach of the linebackers after coaching New England’s safeties for the previous four seasons, said he never had a problem with that when it came to Collins and his performance.

“I wouldn’t say freelancing was an issue,” said Flores. “Jamie was a very good player for us. He made a lot of plays and helped us win a lot of ballgames. I keep saying that time and time again. He was a good player.

“Freelancing? Look, did he make mistakes? Absolutely. But like I said before, everyone makes mistakes. There’s not a player in the league who doesn’t make mistakes. Again, he made more plays than he made mistakes. I would say that. He was a great player for us.”

Flores also rejected the idea that there was a consistency issue with Collins’ performance, saying that he was “definitely” a coachable player.

“I thought he was a consistent player. Again, I keep saying this; I thought he did a lot of good things for this team. Helped us win a lot of ballgames,” Flores said. “Did he make mistakes? Yes. But every player in this league makes mistakes. It’s just kind of how it goes. Every coach makes mistakes. In any profession … I’m sure you guys make mistakes in your profession.

“From a consistency standpoint, he was definitely very solid. Again, he did a lot of great things for this team, and helped us win a lot of games.”

Flores indicated he was sad to see Collins go, but that’s just “part of the business” when it comes to life in the NFL.

“It’s always sad to see players leave,” Flores said. “Players come and go. Jamie was great for us. I had a great time coaching him. He was a great player for us. It’s kind of where I’m at.”

“Having been here — this is my 13th season — I’ve seen a lot of guys come and go,” he added. “I’ve seen some trades happen. Was I surprised? Any time you trade a player in your specific group, there’s a little bit of a surprise. … You have to move on at some point. Obviously, we have a long season ahead. We have a lot of improvement we have to make as a team. As a defense. For me, I start thinking about the next things I have to do to help us win some games and play better defense.”

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

Read More: Brian Flores, Jamie Collins, Mike Lombardi,
Browns coach Hue Jackson has no problem with Jamie Collins freelancing on defense 10.31.16 at 7:50 pm ET
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Jamie Collins

Jamie Collins

As far as Browns coach Hue Jackson is concerned, linebacker Jamie Collins can freelance all he wants.

In the wake of the deal that sent Collins from New England to Cleveland, former Patriots executive Mike Lombardi ripped Collins on Twitter for a number of misdeeds, either perceived or real (depending on who you talk to). That included a predilection for freelancing.

On Monday, Jackson sounded like a man who was OK with Collins’ freelancing.

“He can freelance for me, then,” Jackson told reporters. “Hey, the way he freelances is OK with me.”

Jackson praised Collins’ versatile skill set, specifically praising the pass rushing skills of the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Collins, who has 10.5 sacks in his three-plus years in the league.

“I think he’s a tremendous pass rusher,” Jackson added. “He can play linebacker — I think there are several things he can do. He has a real versatile skill set, because he’s done both there at New England. So, we’ll definitely find ways to plug him in.”

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

Read More: hue jackson, Jamie Collins, Mike Lombardi,
Former Patriots executive Mike Lombardi: Jamie Collins didn’t follow team strategy in New England at times at 1:49 pm ET
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If anyone knows the mind of Bill Belichick, it is former Patriots executive Mike Lombardi, who is now an analyst for Fox Sports.

Following the Patriots’ reported trade of Jamie Collins on Monday, Lombardi sent out a series of tweets on the move, saying he wasn’t surprised and that Collins does his own thing a lot on defense, making reference to one play Sunday against the Bills.

Collins was reportedly traded to the Browns for a compensatory third-round pick. He was going to be a restricted free agent after this season.

Read More: Jamie Collins, Mike Lombardi,
Mike Lombardi on K&C: Tom Brady will ‘play under control’ in return from suspension 10.07.16 at 10:18 am ET
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Michael Lombardi

Michael Lombardi

NFL analyst Mike Lombardi, making his weekly appearance with Kirk & Callahan, predicted Tom Brady would have a good day Sunday in his return to the Patriots but warned against taking the Browns lightly. To hear the interview, go to the Kirk & Callahan audio on demand page.

With Brady returning from his Deflategate suspension, many are suggesting this will lead to a big day for the New England offense.

“I think he’ll play well. I really think Tommy will play good,” Lombardi said. “I don’t know if he’ll go nuts. I think he’ll just play good. I don’t think he’ll try to overextend himself and put himself in a dangerous position where he can turn the ball over. Look, the only way they lose the game is if they lose the game turning the ball over. I think he’ll be careful and he’ll play under control.”

The Browns come in at 0-4 and are starting their third quarterback, rookie Cody Kessler, following injuries to Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown in the season’s first two weeks.

“I think they’re a 45-minute team,” Lombardi said of Cleveland. “I don’t have power rankings, I break teams down [by] the amount of minutes they play really good football and then they kind of fall apart. And I think the Browns are about a 45-minute team.

“They run the ball. They have two running backs on the team that average over six yards a carry [Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson]. So they can run the football, they’re running game is really good. They’re able to make some plays offensively, [Terrelle] Pryor’s been outstanding. Cody Kessler, I think what you’ll see out of him is he’s playing his third game, he’s not a big man, he wears down, his arm strength isn’t great, he can’t really throw the ball down the field. I think this is a good game for the Patriots to prove that their defense can take a step up.

“Offensively [for the Patriots], look, they’ve played against this scheme a long time, going back to Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh, and Brady knows it well, Josh McDaniels knows it well. They’ll move the ball on them. And I think the key is going to come down to the red zone, getting it in there.

“But this is not a game where you can take this opponent lightly, because as you said, they clearly could have beaten Miami. Washington’s defense isn’t very good, but [the Browns] moved the ball effortlessly on Washington, they just couldn’t finish drives. I think it will be a game where they’ll play hard and the Patriots are going to have to beat them.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Mike Lombardi, Odell Beckham Jr., Tom Brady
Cleveland’s Terrelle Pryor thought he was going to join Patriots last year 10.01.16 at 9:26 pm ET
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Terrelle Pryor thought he was coming to New England (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Terrelle Pryor thought he was coming to New England (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Terrelle Pryor is with the Browns, but a year ago, he would have bet anything he would have been a Patriot.

The Ohio State product, who has blossomed into an offensive chess piece in Cleveland, thought he was earmarked for New England last year after a workout and visit with the Patriots..

“I really thought I was going to be a Patriot,” Pryor told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I know Bill Belichick really liked me. I had a great workout for them and everything went really well. I really thought he was going to sign me.”

Pryor was cut by Cleveland, and was a free agent before re-signing with the Browns later in the year. He said the connection with New England didn’t happen due to concerns about a lingering hamstring injury.

The 6-foot-6, 240-pounder had 144 yards receiving, 21 yards rushing and 35 yards passing last week against the Dolphins while lining up at a variety of spots. How could he have been used by the Patriots? The possibilities boggle the mind.

Former Patriots front office staffer Mike Lombardi has lamented the fact that New England didn’t take a shot at Pryor.

“We blew it,” Lombardi recently said repeatedly on the Bill Simmons podcast. “The league often gives you a chance to be great, and if you don’t talk advantage of it, it’s your own fault and that was one of those times we didn’t take advantage of it in New England, clearly.”

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

Read More: Mike Lombardi, Terrelle Pryor,
Mike Lombardi on K&C: Patriots might be planning to play both QBs vs. Bills 09.30.16 at 10:16 am ET
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Michael Lombardi

Michael Lombardi

NFL analyst Mike Lombardi, making his weekly appearance with Kirk & Callahan, said the Patriots are justified in waiting to decide until shortly before game time who will start at quarterback against the Bills on Sunday. To hear the interview, go to the Kirk & Callahan audio on demand page.

Lombardi said the Patriots need to wait as long as possible to see if Jimmy Garoppolo can play through the injury to his shoulder.

“I don’t know if anybody can know that until Sunday,” Lombardi said. “I really don’t. And I don’t mean to be skirting the issue. But I think that Garoppolo is in such an iffy situation. I think Jacoby Brissett’s fine. I think whatever the rumors were about Brissett were wrong. I think Brissett’s fine, I think he can play. I think they probably tried to split reps [in practice].

“But I think the key’s going to be, it’s going to be windy on Sunday, can Garoppolo throw the ball all the way around the field, and how much pain can he tolerate. I don’t know if they’re really going to know that until Saturday — at least Saturday, or Sunday [after] another day of treatment. And if he can go, I would suspect he’ll go, but I have a feeling they’ll play both quarterbacks. … I don’t know if Jimmy’s going to be able to play for 60 minutes, and I don’t think they’ll want to risk that.”

Lombardi said this game likely will come down to New England avoiding mistakes and winning a low-scoring battle.

“They’re going to manage the game,” Lombardi said. “The first thing they’re going to do is not lose the game. So they’re going to protect the ball, not turn it over. And look, they’re not playing a juggernaut, they’re not playing the greatest offense on turf, So you’ve got to look at them and say, ‘OK, look, if we keep them in the pocket, if we don’t turn the ball over, if we don’t give up a big run, the game’s going to be in the teens.’ They’re not going to score very many points. So that’s how you have to approach the game plan: ‘Look, we’re not going to give up a big play down the field. If [wide receiver] Marquise Goodwin comes on the field, everybody on the sideline, play the deep ball. You’ve got to handle that. We’ve got to handle the down-the-field throws. Keep them in the pocket, don’t let them get out of the pocket.’

“It’s the law of inversion. This is what makes [Bill] Belichick so brilliant, is he operates under the Charlie Munger law of inversion. He asks what he must eliminate before he can win. And that’s what he does. They’re going to eliminate the big play, they’re going to stop the run, they’re not going to turn the ball over, and one of my pet peeves of all time is they typically are not going to get penalties on special teams.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

On Rex Ryan: “I think he’s a really good defensive coordinator. As a head coach I think there’s a lot to be desired.”

On which team is second best in the AFC East: “The Jets are clearly the second-best team. Their defense is good. The Jets have no depth. That’s the problem with the Jets.”

Read More: Jacoby Brissett, Jimmy Garoppolo, Mike Lombardi,
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