|Bill Belichick on opening of training camp: ‘Welcome to football season’||07.23.14 at 3:51 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Bill Belichick couldn’t be happier that the next stage of the football season is upon us. As a matter of fact, in some ways, it’s the most important phase before actual games begin.
Starting Thursday, the Patriots will hold training camp and ramp up their practices and preparation for the 2014 season, which opens Sept. 8 in Miami. And to many Patriots fans, the eve of training camp is somewhat akin to Christmas Eve, the day before they get to see their team on the field for the first time since watching them lose the AFC championship game last January.
“Welcome to football season,” Belichick beamed. “We’re here. It’s always an exciting time of year ‘ the start of training camp. I thought that we had a real productive spring with a lot of our players, a couple new coaching staff members. We’re kind of pulling it all together. That’s really to put us in a position to start camp and we kind of get it going today with some conditioning stuff. We’re not in pads for a couple days and then we’ll roll into them by the weekend. It’s a good opportunity to get off to a good start. We’ll see how it goes.
“We obviously have a lot of work to do. We’ll just take it day by day and try to string some good days together and then see if we can get ready to go down and have good weeks against Washington and Philadelphia and into the preseason. From our coaching standpoint, I think it’s all going to happen pretty fast. Again, the spring preparation has been a really important part of this whole process. Now we’ll take it into the next step and hopefully get off to a good start these next couple days and getting into a good, solid week of work by ourselves and then be ready to work against two quality teams, two quality organizations.”
The Patriots will only be in shorts and shells in the first two days, with the first full pads practice expected by the weekend.
“I think this is where we really start finding out; a lot of teaching in the spring and the evaluations are more now,” Belichick says. “So, we’ll see. I think everybody has had their opportunity to participate in the spring workouts, to learn what we’re doing, to get in shape, to be ready to go and now we start competing and we’ll see how that turns out. I don’t know.”
More than anything, training camp is about conditioning as the team begins to work in pads for the first time. The running game is the one part of the offense that can’t be truly duplicated without seeing live bullets or in football terms – live pad-on-pad action.
“I think we’ll find that out after a week of training camp; start stringing some days together and see how we all look,” Belichick said of conditioning. “I know we’ve had guys here for a couple days but that’s not quite the full camp so we’ll see how it goes, take it day by day.
“It’s good to see all the players that are out there, out there. The ones that aren’t out there yet that are working hard to get back, we’ll look forward to seeing them as soon as they’re able to participate. We have 90 players on our roster and the ones that are out there actively participating, I’m happy to see all of them.
“We’re certainly not anywhere near where we need to be or will be, but I’d say we’ve already crossed part of that bridge in the spring. We had 13 practices together and at this time of year, as we do in the spring, we work a lot of different people in different combinations and let the competition sort itself out. I think that we’ve had good, productive communication at all the positions. There’s always going to be turnover. There’s turnover every year on every team. This is nothing unique. We’ll just see how it plays out. I don’t think that necessarily has to be a problem but it could be. I don’t know.”
|Mike Petraglia, Chris Price preview Patriots camp Thursday, including return of Rob Gronkowski||at 2:05 pm ET|
FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price preview the opening of training camp for the Patriots on Thursday outside Gillette Stadium. On Wednesday, head coach Bill Belichick announced that tight end Rob Gronkowski has been cleared to practice with the Patriots as camp begins.
A TV reporter asked the Patriots head coach if he were concerned about the text messages exchanged between Aaron Hernandez and members of the Patriots organization, including Belichick himself.
“I think that was addressed by a lawyer last week and I don’t have any further comment on it,” Belichick said, referencing the statement put out last Friday night by Andrew Phelan, a partner at Bingham McCutcheon. Phelan clarified that there were not 33 pages of texts between the two sides but rather a total of 34 texts.
“Earlier this week, a report indicated that an exchange of text messages between the team’s head coach and Mr. Hernandez totaled 33 pages,” Phelan said in Friday’s statement. “While it is unknown how the texts were printed or displayed, I thought it was important to clarify that during an early investigation conducted by state prosecutors, the team produced a total of 34 text messages (not pages of texts) spanning a period of five months (December 2012 – April 2013) between the head coach and Mr. Hernandez.”
On Tuesday, Michael Fee, an attorney for Hernandez, said the dispute over text messages had been resolved.
Hernandez is in a Boston jail awaiting trial in two separate murder cases. Hernandez is accused of killing Odin Lloyd in June 2013. He was released by the Patriots before the calendar turned to July. Hernandez is also accused in the double homicide in Boston in Feb. 2012, just weeks after taking part in the Super Bowl loss to the Giants in Indianapolis.
Still, the reporter continued her line of questioning with Belichick Wednesday morning at the end of the 12-minute news conference.
Is it something you routinely do with your players, texting back and forth?
“I don’t have any further comment on it,” Belichick said.
Do you approach your new players differently now based on what [Hernandez] allegedly did weeks before camp [in 2013]?
“No further comment,” Belichick said before the news conference came to an end.
|After several medical battles, Armond Armstead finally announces his retirement||07.16.14 at 3:39 pm ET|
The mystery over Armond Armstead has ended in retirement.
The 23-year-old defensive tackle originally signed with the Patriots on Feb. 1, 2013, after one season with the Toronto Argonauts. The 6-foot-5, 305-pounder, who was brought in as potential depth along the defensive line, was placed on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury List on Aug. 26, 2013.
There was plenty of speculation about his future in New England before the move to place him on the NFI list and over the course of this offseason, including OTAs and minicamp.
But all of that ended Wednesday, eight days before the opening of full training camp. as it turned out, Armstead could never fully recover after surgery on July 29, 2013 to treat an undisclosed infection.
“It has been a pleasure being around Armond, as he gave everything he could to play for us,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday in a team-issued statement. “Armond worked extremely hard since joining us last February. He’s had a lot of adversity personally that he’s had to deal with, unusual compared to most other players, but he’s always had a great attitude, worked hard and really did everything we asked him to do.
“While it is unfortunate he will not be able to play football, Armond is an outstanding young man who has a very bright future in whatever path he chooses.”
Armstead played for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2012 out of the University of Southern California. He compiled 43 tackles, two special teams tackles and six sacks with Toronto. He was also named to the CFL All-Star game and helped Toronto win the Grey Cup. He started in 24 games at USC from 2008 through 2010.
Armstead suffered a heart attack while playing for USC, a medical event which he has blamed on unsolicited injections of the pain medication Toradol. That led to a lawsuit against the USC team physician, University Park Health Center, and an unnamed pharmaceutical company for unspecified damages, claiming the improperly administered Toradol injections caused the heart attack and affected his NFL career.
|Vince Wilfork: ‘I’m holding no type of grudge’ against Patriots||06.19.14 at 2:43 pm ET|
FOXBORO — All is forgiven, if not forgotten, when it comes to Vince Wilfork and the Patriots.
The perennial Pro Bowl nose tackle spoke Thursday after the conclusion of minicamp for the first time since re-working his contract to return to New England.
Wilfork tore his right Achilles last September in Atlanta and was lost for the rest of the season.
Wilfork returned to Gillette Stadium to be around the team during his rehab but that loyalty didn’t immediately earn him the benefit of the doubt with the organization.
According to multiple reports, he felt slighted by the team and asked to be traded, going as far as removing his nameplate from his locker inside the Patriots locker room.
But after agreeing to a complicated, incentive-laden $23 million, three-year extension ($4 million signing bonus) in late March, Wilfork began the process of moving on. A big step in that process came this week when he stepped on the field for minicamp practices on Tuesday. On Thursday, he spoke for the first time about his return, making it clear that business is business and he’s all about football going forward.
“I’m here. That’s a dead issue,” Wilfork said. “I’m here for a reason. If I didn’t believe in the things that were brought to me, I wouldn’t have signed it. I’m here. There’s a reason that I’m here. I’m not upset. I’m not holding no type of grudge. Business is business. Everybody handles business different ways.
FOXBORO — Here we go again.
In the latest edition of Monday Morning Quarterback on SI.com, columnist Greg Bedard reports that new Browns head coach and former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine believes that old copies of the Jets playbook, circa 2011, may have wound up in the hands of the Patriots.
“The initial playbook itself is actually quite thin, and that’s by design,” Pettine told Bedard. “I don’t put a lot of graduate-level information in it. We know in places like New England, it’s only a matter of time that they somehow mysteriously end up with our playbook.”
Pettine told Bedard that there was a story circulating that at Wes Welker‘s wedding in 2012, Tom Brady laughed with Jets outside linebackers coach Mike Smith (Welker’s college roommate at Texas Tech) that the Patriots “may or may not” have had possession of some Jets defensive playbooks.
“It didn’t shock me because Rex would give them out like candy anyway,” Pettine continued. “He gave one out to [Alabama coach Nick] Saban and I was like, ‘Don’t you know Saban and Bill [Belichick] are pretty good friends? I have a feeling it’s going to end up in New England.’ ”
Belichick, who told reporters he was allowing just three questions before leaving for the summer, was asked about the charges after Thursday’s final minicamp session. Belichick was specifically asked if he has ever had the Jets playbook at some point.
“[Go] talk to Mike Pettine. I don’t know,” Belichick offered.
Darrelle Revis played for Mike Pettine as recently as 2012, when he tore his ACL in September in a game against the Dolphins. Revis was also asked about the playbook charges after Thursday’s minicamp. He laughed and was somewhat more insightful when asked if he knew the Patriots may have had the playbook.
“No, I don’t know anything about that,” Revis said. “I don’t know. I don’t even know how to answer that. If they did, they did. If they didn’t, they didn’t. At that point, it really doesn’t matter. You still have to go out there and compete and go out there and win the game.”
|Mike Petraglia, Chris Price talk about fire that still burns in Tom Brady, end of Patriots minicamp||06.18.14 at 7:00 pm ET|
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