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Patriots announce offseason award winners 08.01.15 at 7:00 am ET
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FOXBORO — On Friday, the Patriots announced their offseason award winners. The honors are doled out on the combination of attendance at offseason workout programs, physical testing and overall improvement, and usually come with a prime parking space closest to the players’ entrance at Gillette Stadium.

This year’s winners are: safety Nate Ebner, linebacker Jonathan Freeny, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, defensive lineman Antonio Johnson, linebacker Eric Martin, safety Devin McCourty, left tackle Nate Solder and center Bryan Stork.

By way of comparison, here’s a look at the offseason award winners the last three years:

Defensive end Chandler Jones, wide receiver Julian Edelman, linebacker Jamie Collins, safety Devin McCourty, cornerback Logan Ryan, fullback James Develin, safety Nate Ebner, linebacker Jerod Mayo, offensive lineman Dan Connolly and linebacker Dont’a Hightower.

Wide receiver Danny Amendola, quarterback Tom Brady, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, linebacker Dane Fletcher, linebacker Jerod Mayo, defensive end Rob Ninkovich, special teams captain Matthew Slater, left tackle Nate Solder, cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork.

Linebacker Bobby Carpenter, safety Patrick Chung, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, wide receiver Julian Edelman, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, linebacker Jerod Mayo, linebacker Trevor Scott, left tackle Nate Solder, linebacker Jeff Tarpinian and running back Danny Woodhead.




Read More: Antonio Johnson, Bryan Stork, Devin McCourty, Eric Martin
Countdown to camp: Offensive line 07.23.15 at 11:12 am ET
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As a rookie, Bryan Stork became an absolutely vital part of New England's offensive line. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

As a rookie, Bryan Stork became an absolutely vital part of New England’s offensive line. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

As training camp approaches, we’€™ll offer a position-by-position breakdown of the 2015 Patriots. We started with the wide receivers and moved on to the tight ends. Now, it’s the offensive line.

Depth chart: David Andrews (rookie), Tre Jackson (rookie), Chris Barker, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming, Caylin Hauptmann, Josh Kline, Shaq Mason (rookie), Bryan Stork, Ryan Wendell, Jordan Devey, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer.


1. While there are other players with more experience in the system, the new leader of the line is Bryan Stork. The FSU product, who remains the spiritual descendent of Logan Mankins (right down to the occasionally questionable facial hair, the nasty attitude and preternatural skill set), stepped into the center spot last year as a rookie and immediately stabilized the line. There were some durability issues as the season went on (he missed the AFC title game with a knee injury, and he was actually listed as questionable in the days leading up to the Super Bowl), but he was far and away the pick for New England’s Rookie of the Year in 2014. As long as he stays healthy, there’s no reason to think that Stork won’t be the Patriots’ franchise center for the next decade.

2. Nate Solder probably deserves a pass for any issues he may have had last season. The left tackle out of Colorado appeared to struggle at times over the course of 2014, but still managed to hold up well while protecting Tom Brady‘s blind side over the course of the season, and earned his first Super Bowl ring along the way. But in hindsight, the news that he had been treated for testicular cancer last spring means he fundamentally gets a mulligan for what happened in 2014. Bottom line? Solder isn’t the sort to make excuses, but we’ll give him an out here. Given a clean bill of health, we fully expect Solder to return to the same high-level status he enjoyed over the course of his first three seasons in the NFL.

3. While there are some questions about how he reacts under pressure, Tom Brady still remains really good at gauging the state of the New England offensive line. We’ve hit on this many times over the last few years, but it’s tough trying to quantify good offensive line play — in many cases, you don’€™t necessarily need the five best pure linemen. Instead, it’€™s the five who work the best as a unit, so it takes time to find the best combinations. While the Patriots were going through those issues at the start of the 2014 season, one of the things that appeared to help turn things around (in addition to the evolution of Stork) was a concerted effort from Brady to speed up his release times. It’s important to remember that things vary from week-to-week depending on opponent, scheme and personnel, but looking at Brady’s release times over the course of the 2014 season, it was clear that getting the ball out fast in the passing game was a real point of emphasis for the New England offense. (For a deeper dive into those numbers from last season, check out Ryan Hannable’s excellent story here.)

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Read More: Bryan Stork, Cameron Fleming, Countdown to Camp, Dan Connolly
Nate Solder explains ‘great transformation’ after beating testicular cancer, and ‘big things to come’ 05.05.15 at 2:17 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Nate Solder has a fresh look on football, and life.

The Patriots starting left tackle has had a couple of life-changing victories over the past 12 months. But truth be told his Super Bowl win over the Seahawks in Glendale pales to his defeat of testicular cancer. On Tuesday, taking a break from offseason workouts, the 27-year-old Solder spoke about both in detail and what he’s learned from both.

In the spring of 2014, Solder was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Just months later, it was gone after surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, a treatment that didn’t require chemo.

“Those guys were fantastic, and they’€™re not the kind of guys that I even need to name ‘€“ they know who they are and they’€™ve done a wonderful job,” Solder said. “All the staff at Mass General has been fantastic and wonderful. Highly professional.”

He was able to return to the team and play a full season with the Patriots, protecting Tom Brady‘s blind side.

The lesson?

“I think it’€™s just early detection,” Solder said. “The sooner you detect it, the sooner you get to a doctor, the less of a problem it can be, the quicker you’€™re going to be healed.

With the great care of the doctors and everybody that took care of me it was a couple of weeks, I was cured, I was healed and just moving forward. Be vigilant. Check yourself. If you’€™re feeling anything, the best solution is to go tell a doctor.”

Solder acknowledged that he had the benefit of having an annual thorough physical with the Patriots played a key role.

“I think the fact that I had the physical here, the fact that I had a lot of people looking after my health is probably something that a lot of men don’€™t have at my age, so I think that made a difference,” Solder said. “The comments you see on the articles, it’€™s changed some people’€™s minds on the issue and I think a lot of people have come out and said they’€™ve gone through similar things.

“Tons of support from all my teammates, which I’€™d expect nothing less ‘€“ those guys are awesome.”

Solder also said his faith has been strengthened after the experience.

“I think it definitely grew my faith with God,” he said. “I had this great transformation, great hope, great peace about the whole deal, and it really was my relationship with Jesus Christ. I don’€™t know if I can deal with anything, but you do the best you can. The great thing too is you can spend more time with the ones you love, focus more on the people that matter the most. I think that was the message I really came away with.

“It changes your perspective a little bit.”

Now his wife is expecting, with a due date sometime in the summer before the regular season begins.

“I guess it wasn’€™t a surprise because we didn’€™t know when it was going to happen, but we were trying to make it happen,” Solder said.
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Read More: Nate Solder, New England Patriots, nfl, testicular cancer
Matthew Slater on Nate Solder’s testicular cancer: ‘The way he handled that last year was really admirable’ 04.21.15 at 3:14 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The general population learned Tuesday morning of Nate Solder being diagnosed and treated for testicular cancer prior to last season. But, for some of his teammates they knew last year, and were blown away with how he handled it, especially during a Super Bowl winning season.

“I was aware of it, and you know, I have so much respect for Nate Solder and the type of man that he is, the faith in God that he has and the way he carries himself and I can’€™t think of anyone who’€™s handled a situation like that better than he did,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “I don’€™t want to get too much in detail, I’€™ll let him speak on that, but Nate Solder is a great man and the way he handled that last year was really admirable, with so much courage and a positive attitude, a sense of peace, it was really something to behold.”

Devin McCourty, another veteran and team captain, said he knew, but said there were some players on the team who didn’t.

“I don’t know if everyone knew,” he said. “I think some guys knew, but I think that was more for him a personal process. It wasn’t something as a team that everyone talked about, it was more for him. I think as a teammate you’re just blown away by everything he was able to do — getting over that, playing at a high level.

“To me it was highly impressive. Nate is a great guy and he does so many things — on the field, off the field and I think that is another battle that he passed and now he’s going to do great things with it spreading awareness.”

The report Tuesday morning said Solder goes to Mass General every three months for check ups and everything is going according to plan.

For more Patriots news, visit

Read More: Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, Nate Solder,
Nate Solder reveals he was treated for testicular cancer prior to last season at 8:24 am ET
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In an interview with ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, Patriots left tackle Nate Solder revealed he was diagnosed and treated for testicular cancer prior to the 2014 season. He said he first became suspicious right before his season physical. After the physical he received an ultrasound and three days later he had surgery.

“I knew nothing about it. It was a complete surprise,” Solder said to Reiss. “You Google something like that and it kind of scares you, so I was like, ‘I’m not going to freak out about this.’ Had I not had a routine physical, I probably wouldn’t have checked it, saying, ‘Oh, it’s just in my head, I’m going to be fine.'”

Solder is now out to raise awareness, urging people to get checkups regularly to raise early detection. Solder still goes to Mass General for checkups every three months, and everything has gone as expected so far and there is optimism it will continue to moving forward.

“I was completely healthy, I’m a professional athlete. It can happen to anybody,” Solder said. “Make sure you get yourself checked out, especially young men, because that’s who it’s really targeted toward.”

The left tackle credited his Christian faith and his wife Lexi along with his family with helping him deal with the process.

“The biggest thing is letting people know and giving them the information. And maybe giving people some courage that if they are in a situation like I was, maybe they would go and say something, and that could make a difference,” he said.

“It’s more common than people realize. A lot of people are either afraid to do it, or they don’t think it’s important enough to get it checked. It’s a simple check. Six months, a year, and then it starts spreading and then you start to feel symptoms and it’s a more serious situation. So that’s a big thing; you can save lives with early detection.”

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A brief history of Patriots and their pre-draft contact with recent top picks 03.16.15 at 1:50 pm ET
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Before he was drafted by the Patriots last spring, Dominque Easley had an inkling New England was interested in his service. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Before he was drafted by the Patriots last spring, Dominque Easley had an inkling New England was interested in his service. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the pre-draft process now in full swing — and private workouts and visits looming for each team starting later this month — fans and media alike will undoubtedly try and gauge the level of the Patriots’ interest in a player through visits, contact and workout sessions. With the understanding that some of the pre-draft conversations can be a smokescreen, some of it can be done for intel down the road and some of can be for practical scouting purposes, here’s a look at the pre-draft connections New England has made with some of their top draft picks over the last seven years.

Defensive lineman Dominique Easley (taken with New England’s first pick in 2014, 29th overall): Easley was brought in to Foxboro for a pre-draft visit with the Patriots. He later recalled that Bill Belichick showed up at his pro day, and they “talked a whole lot and got to know each other,” according to the Florida product.

Linebacker Jamie Collins (taken with New England’s first pick in 2013, a second-round selection at No. 52 overall): Belichick flew South to work out Collins before the draft, but the linebacker later indicated he didn’t talk much with the Patriots throughout the pre-draft process, at least when compared to other teams.

Defensive end Chandler Jones (first-round pick 2012, 21st overall): Jones said the only substantive contact he had with New England prior to being drafted was a conversation at the combine that winter in Indy. “I talked to the Patriots — I talked with them at the combine,” he said. “That was the most formal thing we did. That’s basically it — we talked at the combine.”

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower (first-round pick 2012, 25th overall): He didn’t work out for Patriots, but he said he “had a small (idea)” the Patriots were interested, he indicated following the draft. “I met with those guys at the combine and I met them at one of the pro days,” Hightower recalled, “I knew that they were kind of interested in some of the defensive players that we had at Alabama.”

Tackle Nate Solder (first-round pick 2011, 17th overall): Solder had “fairly limited contact” with the Patriots throughout the pre-draft process. He met with former offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia the Monday before the draft in Colorado, but also had a scheduled visit to Foxboro cancelled at the last minute as he was preparing to leave for New England. “I don’t know exactly what happened,” Solder later explained. “I was scheduled to visit (but), the minute before I left, it was cancelled. That’s all I know.”

Defensive back Devin McCourty (first-round pick 2010, 27th overall): McCourty met with Belichick prior to the draft, where the two had a film session on campus at Rutgers. “Bill Belichick had come to my school for a coaches’ clinic, and he was going to fly right out after the clinic to see his son play in a lacrosse game,” McCourty recalled. “But we had an hour, we watched some film and we spoke for a little while. We had a real generic conversation, but he showed me some things on film, just watching and helping me out as far as being a player.”

Linebacker Jerod Mayo (first-round pick, 2008, 10th overall): Mayo had 11 visits with teams during the pre-draft process, and remembers his visit to Foxboro fondly. “I had a great visit when I came down there,” he said after the draft. “The coaches and I sat down and talked football for a long time. Like I said, I just had a great visit and I felt like we clicked.”

Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, chandler jones, Devin McCourty, Dominique Easley
Patriots players dismiss talk of deflated footballs 01.19.15 at 2:59 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots players weren’t in the mood Monday afternoon to talk about the report of deflated footballs in Sunday’s AFC title game.

Reports have surfaced that the Colts believe that there were some partially deflated footballs used in Sunday’s game, with a story from WTHR-TV in Indianapolis quoting a source saying the Patriots partially deflated the footballs.

Asked if the ball felt “a little deflated” when he caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady in the second half. left tackle Nate Solder laughed.

“I don’t know anything about that. I’m glad I caught it,” he said with a smile. “[But] I don’t anything about that. Nothing.”

Wide receiver Julian Edelman was a little more dismissive of the idea that deflated balls played a role in the game.

“No. I don’t even know anything about that. I think it’s just a story. Whatever,” he said Monday. “I don’t know anything about it, like I said. It’s funny.”

According to NFL rules, officials test game footballs two hours prior to kickoff, and they can measure the pressure during the game. As a result, it’s not clear how a team could deflate footballs surreptitiously during a contest.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady laughed off the talk on WEEI on Monday morning, saying he had ‘€œno idea’€ what the controversy was all about.

‘€œI think I’€™ve heard it all at this point,’€ he said.

Added Brady: ‘€œThat’€™s the last of my worries. I don’€™t even respond to stuff like this.’€

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Julian Edelman, Nate Solder,
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