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Malcolm Mitchell not worried about fantasy football: ‘Don’t think about anything more than they tell me to do’ 12.09.16 at 1:18 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The rookie wide receiver of the Patriots out of the University of Georgia really sounds like he gets it.

Malcolm Mitchell refuses to be distracted by anything, not injuries to Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola that affect his role in the passing game. Not his first Monday night football appearance. And certainly not his new celebrity as the most-added receiver in fantasy football leagues over the last several weeks.

Mitchell in the last three games has 17 catches, 222 yards and three touchdowns in wins over the 49ers, Jets and Rams.

“I’ve said from the day I entered [Patriots], I feel blessed to even have the opportunity to be a part of this organization,” Mitchell said. “From the time they drafted me to now, I still feel the same way. The philosophy around here is pretty simple, and it’s said all the time: Just do your job. I just do what they tell me. And that’s how I like to keep it. I just keep it that simple, honestly. I don’t think about anything more than they tell me to do.”

Mitchell said there’s no added pressure with the likes of Gronk and Amendola out of commission.

“If they tell me to go in, I go in,” Mitchell said.

As for fantasy implications, Mitchell is not the guy to ask.

“Not really at all. I don’t know much about it,” Mitchell said Friday. “I have family members mention it but I never know what they’re talking about. I’m not sure how that works. I don’t know. I need to look back through my phone. If someone said that, I probably have no idea what they’re talking about.”

As for his status as most-added receiver in many leagues?

“That’s cool,” Mitchell said, adding, “I really have no idea about fantasy football.”

Jacoby Brissett, who is two lockers down from Mitchell, yelled, “I got you on my team.”

Mitchell’s real team will have its hands full with the 7-5 Ravens Monday night.
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Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, New England Patriots
Devin McCourty ready for daredevil Joe Flacco, Steve Smith and Ravens ‘West Coast’ offense 12.07.16 at 8:27 pm ET
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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.”

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Read More: Baltimore Ravens, joe flacco, New England Patriots, nfl
Mike Petraglia, Ryan Hannable talk Ravens-Patriots rivalry, what Pearl Harbor means to Bill Belichick at 11:16 am ET
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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.

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, Mike Petraglia, New England Patriots
Jonathan Kraft: Patriots are going to push off a return to mediocrity ‘for as long as we can’ 12.04.16 at 1:13 pm ET
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Jonathan Kraft

Jonathan Kraft

FOXBORO — Jonathan Kraft remembers what the bad old days were like in Foxboro.

That’s why, with 2001 Patriots back in town for a reunion, the team president says he and his father are going to do everything in their power to make sure they don’t fall back there anytime soon.

The 2001 Patriots have been honored all season in the 15th anniversary of the Super Bowl win over the Rams. Several members were are in town this weekend for the festivities. On Saturday night, there was a gala dinner of sorts where everyone got together to reminisce.

“Bill made a very emotional speech about that [Saturday] night,” Kraft said on the team’s pregame radio show.

“When we saw we were playing the Rams and noticed it was a multiple-of-5 [years], it was a special time in the country, the last time a team played in Foxboro Stadium. We gathered 35-40, guys just relaxed and a handful of other people. A lot of reminiscing and story-telling. It was really fun to listen to. There were a bunch of guys that had been with us since the mid-90s on, and that really started the cultural change. Guys like Willie [McGinest] and guys like Drew [Bledsoe] and Ty [Law], Lawyer [Milloy] and Tedy Bruschi.

“As Teddy Johnson said to me, ‘I remember when I started playing here, no one cared about pro football in this town. It feels really good when I come back here now, the place pro football has. It was fun to celebrate it.

“I remember sitting on a lot of empty days at [Foxboro] Stadium and watching a lot of losing football There are cycles in the NFL and teams win and lose but it felt like… nothing ever really went all that right. That’s not to criticize anybody. That’s not directed at anybody. I do remember what that’s like and we do think about that all the time here and if you’re on edge, you can get back there pretty quick. It’s a not a place you want to revisit. You want to push it off. Eventually, you might have to but we’re going to avoid it for as long as we can.”

Kraft also sent out his best wishes to Rob Gronkowski and insisted the team considers the tight end a vital part of their future.

“You’re not happy,” Kraft said of the injury news this week. “Rob works as hard as anybody as we’ve talked about before. You really feel for Rob. it’s terrible. He loves football. It’s awesome to watch him play and he’s just a bigger than life personality, on and off the field, and you feel for him. He’s gone through a lot physically and you just feel for him.”

Kraft said there was a specific reason the team and the Gronkowski family issued a joint statement.

“I think for both sides, sometimes there’s this misperception in the public about what the relationship is,” Kraft said. “The relationship is between Rob and his family and Drew Rosenhaus [and the team] is a very strong relationship but when you’re a player of Rob’s caliber and stature, not just in New England but across the NFL, there’s a different level of attention and the conspiracy theories. Both sides remained in communication the whole time.
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Drew Bledsoe, Jonathan Kraft, Los Angeles Rams
Bill Belichick sheds little light on Rob Gronkowski: ‘We’ve talked about everything we can talk about here’ 12.02.16 at 10:34 am ET
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FOXBORO — When the Patriots and the family of Rob Gronkowski issued a joint statement Thursday night about the status of the star tight end, it was the document that gave Bill Belichick the reference point he needed to answer all questions.

In his weekly Friday morning press conference at Gillette, Belichick made the most of it.

“Obviously, we’re all disappointed,” Belichick noted in his opening remarks before taking questions. “Nobody’s worked harder than Rob and been a better teammate and all that. So hopefully things will work out positively as possible with him. All the information we gave you, really that’s all we have for now. I’m sure there’ll be more coming in as we go through the next few days. Just take it as it comes. It’s an unfortunate situation for him. That being said, we’re turning our attention to the Rams.”

Then the questions began:

Are you fortunate to have Martellus Bennett to help fill the void? “Happy to have all the players we have.”

With the loss of Gronkowski and his contributions, how big a blow is this to the team? “Again, we appreciate all our players.”

But Gronkowski has meant so much: “You want to rank them. They’re all important. They’re all important. Rob’s a great player. They’re all important.”

Might the Patriots look outside the organization for depth? “We’ll always do what we feel is best for the football team.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Gronk, New England Patriots, nfl
Jeff Fisher reminds everyone he had the foresight to sign LeGarrette Blount: ‘I gave him a start’ 11.30.16 at 4:23 pm ET
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Ryan Shazier and the Steelers struggled to stop LeGarrette Blount. (Justin K/ Aller/Getty Images)

LeGarrette Blount has been a beast for the Patriots. (Justin K/ Aller/Getty Images)

Jeff Fisher may not know all the names of the Patriots running backs but he knows one for sure.

In running down the list of Patriots running backs Wednesday, the Rams head coach referred to a Danny and a Brandon. Danny Woodhead is on the Chargers and has been out of New England since 2012 while Brandon Bolden is almost exclusively on special teams.

But he also mentioned LeGarrette Blount. There’s good reason Fisher would remember him beyond the fact he’s on pace for 1,300 yards this season.

“I have a place in my heart for LeGarrette, because I gave him a start, and I have great respect for him,” Fisher said. “He’s a big back, and he’s hard to get down. And as they rotate through, different guys play in different situations, and they do a good job with it. He knows where the ball’s going to go, and the guys are very, very disciplined.”

His history with the Patriots power running back is a fascinating one.

Because of his discipline issues at Oregon – including the infamous punch he threw in the game against Boise State – Blount was not drafted in 2010. He did agreed in principle to a free agent contract with the 49ers following the draft. However, after a meeting with then-Titans coach Jeff Fisher, Blount decided to sign as an undrafted free agent with the Titans. That August, Blount was involved in another incident in which he threw a punch, this time with a Titans teammate, defensive end Eric Bakhtiari, a few moments after having his own helmet ripped off in practice.

The play ended with some pushing and shoving, Blount threw a right fist, contacting Bakhtiari’s facemask. Blount quickly talked to Fisher, who explained away Blount’s behavior.

“He apologized, and I said he didn’t have to apologize,” Fisher told reporters. “It’s football. It’s training camp. His past is his past. Is that the first punch you’ve seen in camp this year? No. I’m not disappointed whatsoever. I have great confidence in the young man that he learned from his mistake, and he’s very competitive. That’s why we brought him in here is to watch him run the football like that.”

Blount survived the final roster cut and was placed on the Titans’ 53-man roster. But there was one more twist. Blount was then waived to make room for veteran linebackers Tim Shaw (signed from the Bears) and Patrick Bailey (Steelers). Titans officials told Fisher Blount could be signed to the rookie practice squad once he cleared waivers. Blount was waived and almost immediately claimed by Tampa Bay, a moment Fisher recalled Wednesday.

“We signed LeGarrette as a college free agent in Tennessee so I had him throughout the offseason through the end of training camp,” Fisher said. “Just his athletic ability, his strength and his run instincts and his dedication. He just was that guy just wanted to be a real pro. We got in a situation right at the final cut-down where the roster was tight and got bad advice and thought he would probably, potentially clear [waivers] and I could get him back to practice for a week or two and we would go from there. And he was claimed by Tampa.

“Disappointed that we lost him but very, very excited about him and the career he’s had.”

Read More: Jeff Fisher, LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots, nfl
Bill Belichick sounds ready to send Johnny Hekker to Canton at 10:59 am ET
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Oct 2, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Rams punter Johnny Hekker (6) punts the ball against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Hekker has established himself as one of the best punters in football. (Joe Camporeale/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Bill Parcells famously once said about Curtis Martin, “Let’s not put him in Canton yet.”

Bill Belichick spoke Wednesday like a man throwing that caution to the wind when it comes to Rams punter Johnny Hekker.

In the ultimate pumping of the tires of an opposing player, Belichick spoke in glowing terms about the punter out of Oregon State, who once beat out Patriots punter Ryan Allen, forcing Allen to transfer to Louisiana Tech.

“Start with the kicking game, Hekker is a tremendous weapon,” Belichick beamed. “This guy looks like as good a player as I’ve seen at that position. He’s tremendous weapon in his ability to punt the ball, punt it inside the 20, directional kick it, involved in fake, can throw, can run, very athletic.”

The numbers support Belichick’s respect. Hekker is second in the NFL in average net yards (44.9), punts inside the 20 (35), fair catches (27) and fewest touchbacks (1). In five years in the league, he has averaged 46.3 yards per punt and a net average of 43.0 yards.

Those numbers over his first five years have put him in the highest regard by Belichick and every other coach who values special teams. Belichick thinks Hekker, because of his athletic ability, is much more than just a punter.

“But you’re talking about an athlete with Hekker,” Belichick continued. “He’s a little more athletic than [Sean] Landetta, just to pick a name. Ray Guy, Ray kicked for great average.”

“Look, these guys lead the league in punt coverage. They lead the league in gross punting, lead the league in net punting, lead the league in inside-the-20 and lead the league in punt coverage. If you’re in front in one of those categories, it’s very good. Last year, they led the league in all three. They’re right up there this year. Plus, he’s a threat on fakes and stuff like that.”

Obviously, the hope is that the Patriots see Hekker a lot on Sunday.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Dave Jennings, Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Rams
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