|Bill Belichick short and sweet on Griff Whalen and his potential: ‘We’ll see’||12.09.16 at 10:28 am ET|
FOXBORO — The man most noted for his participation in an epic fake punt fail against the Patriots in 2015 is now providing some insurance in the Patriots’ wide receiver corps.
Griff Whalen, a 26-year-old receiver who was an undrafted rookie in 2012 out of Stanford, has been signed to the Patriots active roster to provide some insurance after the ankle injury suffered by Danny Amendola against the Rams. Defensive tackle Darius Kilgo was released Thursday to make room on the roster.
Friday morning, Bill Belichick confirmed the move. Belichick noted how the Patriots have been down this road before, signing a veteran receiver in the middle of the season when a player on their roster was injured.
“Haven’t seen much of anything from him,” Belichick said of Whalen, who played in eight games this season with the Chargers, catching two passes for 22 yards. “We’ll see how it goes. We’ll see how that works into our receiver situation. I don’t know. We’ll see. He’s been more of an inside receiver. He’s done some returning. We’ll see.”
Whalen, who was released by the Chargers on Nov. 22, had his best season in 2013, when he caught 24 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns for the Colts in Andrew Luck’s second year. With Amendola providing punt return insurance behind the struggling Cyrus Jones, Belichick was asked if Whalen, with four kickoff returns for 56 yards this season.
“No. I’d say there are some returners out there,” Belichick said. “He hasn’t had a ton of production as a returner but he’s returned [kicks]. Again, we’ll see.”
|Devin McCourty ready for daredevil Joe Flacco, Steve Smith and Ravens ‘West Coast’ offense||12.07.16 at 8:27 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The last time Devin McCourty went up against Joe Flacco and the Ravens, the end result was great. But the journey to a 35-31 win in the AFC divisional round was like pulling teeth.
Even with an interception in the game, it wasn’t an experience that McCourty tries to recall all that often, partially because Flacco and the Ravens were able to score at will on the Patriots secondary, a secondary that also featured Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.
Flacco threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers and Baltimore had leads of 14-0 and 28-14.
“We won. That’s it. I mean it was a tough game,” McCourty recalled Wednesday. “We were down 14 twice but just kept playing. [We were] able to make some plays offensively and defensively that really decided that game, but a little bit different teams on both sides personnel-wise, so we’ll see if that even has any bearing on this one.”
That was the game McCourty picked off Flacco, the first playoff interception of Flacco’s career. In that game, Steve Smith caught the first of four touchdown passes from Flacco. What has made 37-year-old Steve Smith so good for so long?
“I don’t know him personally but I would probably guess his work ethic,” McCourty said. “To still play at a high level I think one thing is obviously he’s very competitive. He goes out there and competes his butt off every game for 60 minutes. To keep getting older and keep getting better you have to probably have a tremendous work ethic and he obviously has that and he [has been] a tough matchup for years in this league.”
Smith is also one of the biggest trash talkers in modern NFL history.
“I don’t even think I need to say anything. I mean guys are competitive,” McCourty said Wednesday. “You’ve just got to go out there and play. You know, each week you’ve got guys that talk and obviously he’s elite at it, definitely. You’ve watched him do it for years. But I think it starts with going out there and playing well.”
The Ravens have gone through several offensive coordinators in the last several seasons. In 2012, on their way to Super Bowl XLVII, they fired Cam Cameron and replaced him with Jim Caldwell. In 2014, Gary Kubiak replaced Caldwell. This year, they fired Marc Trestman after a loss to the Redskins and promoted Marty Mornhinweg.
“If we do those things then we don’t have to worry about anything that’s being said out there and just have to focus on what we’re doing,” McCourty added. “I think just from a total team standpoint and aspect, we understand how important that is to do what’s best for the team out there on the field and we’ve talked about that numerous times as players, and coaches tell us. So I don’t think that will be an issue for us.”
|The special significance of Pearl Harbor to Joe Cardona||at 12:40 pm ET|
FOXBORO — No one in the Patriots locker room has a keener appreciation of Wednesday’s 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor than long snapper Joe Cardona.
The 24-year-old active naval officer spoke about the significance on Wednesday.
“We had naval history courses where we studied the past naval battles, past wars,” Cardona said. “Obviously, being at the Naval Academy, just seeing when Dec. 7 came around people took it a little more somberly because it is a part of our history as a Navy.
“It’s just a day of remembrance for the men that were involved in defending Pearl Harbor and trying to really remember their legacy and honor those who are still here today from that generation, the sailors that were there, came under attack unexpectedly. They fought back and a lot of the survivors were part of the campaign in the Pacific to take back the Pacific and really make a huge impact on that war.”
Bill Belichick addressed the lessons of Pearl Harbor in his press conference Wednesday, pointing to how Americans banded together to unite and respond in the face of attack and war. That is something Cardona echoed in his comments in front of his locker.
“That’s a huge takeaway from it, just with preparedness and always being ready for any circumstance that comes across, whether that be from a [military] defense standpoint or now, on this side, from a football standpoint, being ready for whatever,” Cardona said. “Obviously, as a Navy, we look back and reflect on this day and remember the lives lost but also just take moment to appreciate those that fought in that war and defended our freedom.”
Cardona, a 2015 graduate of the Naval Academy, said he’s never been to Pearl Harbor but definitely plans on visiting someday.
“Definitely. A huge bucket list item to go see the memorial and to be able to see that kind of history,” Cardona said. “I’ve had the opportunity once or twice to meet Pearl Harbor survivors and it’s just unimaginable to have come under attack like that.”
|Mike Petraglia, Ryan Hannable talk Ravens-Patriots rivalry, what Pearl Harbor means to Bill Belichick||at 11:16 am ET|
FOXBORO — Just how tough are the Ravens and what did Bill Belichick say in remembrance of Pearl Harbor Wednesday in Foxboro? WEEI’s Mike Petraglia and Ryan Hannable discuss inside Gillette Stadium.
|Bill Belichick on lessons of Pearl Harbor on 75th anniversary of attack: ‘[It’s] what the response was from our nation’||at 10:25 am ET|
FOXBORO — On the 75th anniversary of the attack that changed the course of history forever, Bill Belichick took time to recall his naval roots and the lessons learned from Pearl Harbor, lessons that he continues to impart on his team to this day.
“It’s a pretty big day in our history, certainly in naval history,” Belichick said. “For me, the lesson on Pearl Harbor and for us as a team and individually I would say, is not what happened on Dec. 7, although that was a lesson there, but the response and what the response was from our nation, from our military, from our civilians, from our population to battle the world on two fronts and win both of them.
“What this country did under [Franklin] Roosevelt’s leadership as well as the multiple military leaders and to go fight in Europe and go fight in Southeast Asia and Japan in response to what happened on December 7, 1941 is pretty impressive.”
Belichick’s father, Steve, served in the Navy in World War II, something that greatly influenced the younger Belichick when he was growing up. Steve Belichick would return from his service and spend a lifetime working as an assistant football coach at the Naval Academy.
“I remember my dad talking a lot about that, and when it happened, when he found out and then when he went into the Navy and went to Great Lakes and eventually went to Europe and eventually went to Okinawa,” Belichick continued. “It was a tough time for this country but it was a great example of the patriotism of citizens, men, women, fighting together, pulling together and being victorious in a lot of different ways.
“It’s special, special day, one we hope we don’t have to see again. Tough day for the Navy but they responded, they bounced back. The Battle of Midway was really a huge turning point. Had that not gone the way it did, I don’t know. Probably been a longer fight.”
Belichick also noted the work of filmmaker Rhode Island filmmaker Tim Gray, a former sportscaster who has earned a reputation as one of the most respected historians and chroniclers of World War II.
|Matt Patricia is ready for some ‘old-school’ toughness from the one and only Steve Smith, Sr.||12.06.16 at 8:50 pm ET|
The Patriots will not play a team with stronger mental toughness than the Baltimore Ravens. And leading the way is one of the toughest players in the NFL.
Steve Smith, Sr. is in the 16th season of a career that could very possibly earn him a place in Canton.
Smith has twice come back from career-threatening injuries, including an Achilles injury in 2015, in what was supposed to be his final season of his career. But instead of retiring, Smith decided to come back for a third season with the Ravens.
This year, fully healthy, Smith has 54 catches for 589 yards and three touchdowns for a Ravens team that is tied with the Steelers at 7-5 atop the AFC North.
What is it about Steve Smith, now 37, that makes him such a unique and still-productive receiver?
“What a tremendous competitor. This guy is tough. He plays extremely quick,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “You wouldn’t really think that he has been in the league as long as he has but he out-competes his opponents every play. He’s just got a drive about him that is definitely, I would say a little bit of an old school mentality that just he’s not going to be out-worked, he’s not going to be out-hustled, he’s not going to be out-competed by anybody else on the field. He’s a tough guy. He plays with great strength and they do a good job of utilizing him.”
This is the same Steve Smith that, while playing for Carolina, caught four passes for 80 yards and a touchdown and returned a kick 30 yards against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII. This is also the same Smith who made headlines during training camp in 2008 when he was involved in an altercation with teammate Ken Lucas. Smith broke Lucas’ nose during the fight and was later sent home for the remainder of the day after reportedly apologizing.
He was given a two-game suspension by the team. Smith then suffered a severe concussion during the 2008 preseason opener against the Colts, where Smith was hit in the head when catching a pass. He continued to play that game, but did not travel with the team to their next game against the Eagles. After returning from suspension and scoring his first touchdown of the 2008 season, Smith presented the ball to Lucas on the sideline. His career is so remarkable that it was documented in the NFL Films “A Football Life” this season.
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|Bill Belichick isn’t into second-guessing his decision to leave Tom Brady in||12.05.16 at 11:50 am ET|
We already know that Tom Brady wants to keep his foot on the gas pedal when it comes to staying in apparent blowout games late.
Bill Belichick feels pretty much the same way as he made clear in his conference call Monday.
During Sunday’s game against the Rams, the Patriots had a 26-3 lead against a Los Angeles team that couldn’t move the ball all day. With 5:52 left in the fourth quarter and the Patriots up 23 points, there was some speculation across social media that Brady would come out and give Jimmy Garoppolo a chance to get some snaps in.
That turned out not to be the case, as Brady took the the field and continued his attack as normal against an LA team that could still provide a formidable pass rush.
“After the game turns out and it’s easy to go back and make those suggestions,” Belichick said. “I’ve seen a few games in this league. I’ve seen double-digit leads evaporate in a minute or two. I know that’s not a big concern when it doesn’t happen. But when it does happen, it’s a major crisis. Then it’s a lot of second-guessing about what should’ve been done or shouldn’t have been done. Just try to win the game.”
As it turns out, the Rams did put up some points late when Jared Goff hit a wide-open Kenny Britt on a 66-yard pass on 4th-and-11 at the Los Angeles 33. Several plays later, Goff hit Britt for a TD pass and it was suddenly a two-score game with 1:15 left.
There was no onside kick and the Patriots recovered the kickoff in the end zone for a touchback and ran out the clock.
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