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Tom Brady expects to play a half, ‘hopefully, play a lot more than that’ against Panthers 08.20.14 at 6:16 pm ET
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Tom Brady ready for preseason game No. 3 against the Panthers. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Tom Brady ready for preseason game No. 3 against the Panthers. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Tom Brady knows what everyone else does about preseason game No. 3 – it’s the real dress rehearsal for the regular season opener on Sept. 7 in South Florida.

And Brady will be going up against a very physical and aggressive Panthers team that is thinking along the same lines when the Patriots and Carolina square off Friday night at Gillette Stadium.

For that reason, Brady and his offensive mates have done a lot of game-planning off tape from their game last November in Charlotte and Carolina’s first two preseason games to be ready for what’s ahead Friday.

“We’€™ve done a bunch of that, and it’€™s a good game to really gauge where we’€™re at because we’€™re playing a really good team, a great defense ‘€“ one that we played last year and really struggled with at times,” Brady said, referencing the 24-20 loss to the Panthers on the controversial no-call involving Luke Kuechly and Rob Gronkowski in the end zone. “So, this will tell us where we’€™re at.

“We’€™ve got to go out there and execute really well in order to move the ball down the field. They’€™ve got some of the best linebackers, a very good secondary and one of the best pass rushes in the league. It’€™s a good challenge, and I think the guys are excited. This is big week that we’€™ve tried to make some improvements, and we’€™ll see if it pays off.”

Besides Kuechly, the Panthers feature linebacker Thomas Davis and defensive linemen Greg Kelly and Star Lotulelei who combined to sack Brady twice while recording three tackles for losses in the Panthers’ win. Game planning for this preseason opponent only makes sense.

“Yeah, definitely,” Brady said. “I think this has been a good week of preparation for us. In the last two weeks, we’€™ve actually had the opportunity to practice against both those teams, which you’€™re kind of learning on the fly. We didn’€™t do a lot leading up to those two weeks because we figured the three days of practice would get us familiar enough. This week has been much more like a normal week.

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Read More: 2014 training camp, Carolina Panthers, Luke Kuechly, New England Patriots
Rob Gronkowski clears another rehab hurdle with return to live practice action 08.18.14 at 6:10 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski took another step forward in his rehab Monday, as he got extensive work in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills while in full pads.

The tight end acknowledged he’s still on the road to recovery after last year’s season-ending knee injury, but just the sight of him on the practice field with the rest of his teammates engaged in something more than a low-intensity walkthrough is certainly encouraging.

“It felt good,” he said following a practice session that went for roughly two hours on Monday afternoon. “I wasn’t like full,full contact or anything like that — it was just little routes and that kind of stuff. But I’m feeling good. Progressed a lot out there — routes versus the defense in 7-on-7, some team things. Overall, it just feels good to be back out there with my teammates and competing.

“It’s always a step forward when you’re participating in more and more. Probably [Tuesday], pick it up even more,” he added. “It’s going well so far — no setbacks or anything. Just having a blast being back out there, having fun catching some balls and making some plays.”

Gronkowski didn’t go wire-to-wire in the 7-on-7s and 11-on-11 drills, but in his first action in a padded practice since last December, he certainly didn’t appear to struggle with his routes. He was able to make a couple of impressive connections in the early going with quarterback Tom Brady, and while he didn’t take any sizable hits, he did get some contact while wearing a massive black brace/sleeve on his left arm. There was one play where he was stripped near the sidelines by rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler, but other than that, he appeared to be in good shape for someone who suffered a serious knee injury the first week of December.

Of course, Gronkowski has gone through this process before. Last summer, the world anxiously awaited his return from a variety of injuries, including a forearm issue that ultimately ended his 2012 season. While he wouldnt compare last year’s rehab to the one he’s currently going through — “We’re not allowed to do that,” he said with a grin — you get the feeling that he’s more confident in his ability to play the entire regular season this time around as opposed to last summer.

“Still operating off the same plan,” he said when asked if the goal is to play the entire 2014 season.

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Read More: 2014 training camp, Rob Gronkowski,
Fantasy Football: Top 30 tight ends 08.12.14 at 10:57 am ET
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FantasyFootball_2014_hdr

This is the final position rankings article in our summer series. If you want to keep up with all our rankings and updates, head over to rotobahn.com, where you will find all up-to-date rankings and cheat sheets. And, yes, it’s still free.

Today we’ll rank the tight ends and place them into tiers as we did with the other positions. If you missed any of our earlier articles, they are indexed below. Remember, our rankings are based on standard scoring rather than PPR.

The tight ends are insanely deep if you just need a decent option. There is more startable depth than we’ve ever seen before. Having said that, if you are looking to gain an edge at the position, you will want to focus on options from Tier 1 or 2. I’ll get into exactly how I am drafting the position when we release Rotobahn’s 2014 draft plan, and also in my Drafting In Reverse series that will premier next week.

On Sunday, Jim Hackett and I hosted our first Fantasy Football Hour on 93.7. If you missed it, you can listen here. Jim and I will be back with a fresh podcast later this week and we’ll be back on the air next Sunday at 7:30 a.m.  Join us!

Tier 1 (1)

Jimmy Graham, Saints

Yes, he gets his own tier. No offense, Rob Gronkowski fans, but Graham has to be considered a better bet to stay healthy. He’s also going to be harder to double team with all the young talent in New Orleans. Graham’s foot injury from 2013 is a mild concern in terms of re-occurrence, but all other fantasy arrows are pointing decidedly up.

Tier 2 (2-3)

Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
Julius Thomas, Broncos

Gronkowski would be at the top of Tier 1 if his injury history wasn’t so significant. Even with all the surgeries and missed games, he still is the best option at the position on a per-game basis. Thomas is a step down from the top two, but he’s locked into a large role in Peyton Manning‘s offense and that’s huge. Manning made Dallas Clark a star and he made Jacob Tamme relevant. What else do you need to know?

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Read More: 2014 Fantasy Football, Jimmy Graham, Jordan Cameron, Julius Thomas
Rob Gronkowski on practice sessions against Darrelle Revis: He’s making me a better player 08.10.14 at 6:30 pm ET
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FOXBORO — One of the most notable scenes in camp this summer has been the sight of Rob Gronkowski working off to the side, catching passes from Tom Brady while working against Darrelle Revis.

The tight end, who continues to work his way back from a season-ending knee surgery, has been a regular presence in pads throughout camp. However, he hasn’t engaged in any 11-on-11 work to this point in the summer. Instead, the closest he’s come has been semi-regular work with Brady, catching passes in a series of drills with the quarterback while Revis offers resistance.

“It’s good just to have a defender out there, instead of [me] just running my routes [against] air,” Gronkowski said following practice on Sunday when asked about working against Revis. “To break off a guy right in front of you, just like it’s a game — you have to break off the guy, break off the defender. Having Darrelle out there and having him give me some contact — a little bit, pushing me on my routes — [it's] just making me a better player out there right now.”

The work looks a lot like what Brady and former teammate Randy Moss used to do when the receiver was with the Patriots from 2007 through 2010, with the only difference being that those sessions were used to build communication and a rapport between Brady and Moss. The current work between Brady and Gronkowski is another step in the rehab process for the tight end, as well as a chance for Revis to spend some time working against a bigger target like Gronkowski.

“[It's] basically more of a drill for me, but he’s definitely learning too, I would say,” Gronkowski said. “He’s just breaking a little bit, not going full, full out. He’s just helping me out and getting me back adjusted to having a defender out there in front of me.”

Gronkowski, who did not play in the preseason opener against the Redskins (and missed the three practices leading up to the contest) remains optimistic about the state of his rehab.

“Pretty good. Improving every single week,” Gronkowski said. “No setbacks or anything like that — just going out there and getting better every single time I get out on the field.

“Getting closer every single day to getting in there with the team and getting in there and getting some contact,” he added. “Just talking to the trainers — we don’t have a set date yet or anything. Just taking it day-by-day and we’ll see how tomorrow goes. Just improving every day.”

Read More: 2014 training camp, Darrelle Revis, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady
Wednesday practice report: DeSean Jackson leaves early after getting ‘cleated,’ Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett get in final reps 08.06.14 at 11:13 am ET
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RICHMOND, Va. — The Patriots and Redskins held their third and final joint practice session in only shorts and shells Wednesday morning in comfortable conditions, leading into Thursday’s preseason opener at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. The only significant news of the 90-minute walkthrough came in 11-on-11 drills when DeSean Jackson appeared to get tangled with a Patriots player off the line off scrimmage.

As he has been all week, Darrelle Revis was defending Jackson and appeared to make contact. Jackson left hobbling and did not return. Redskins coach Jay Gruden opened his post-practice press conference by announcing that Jackson was “cleated” and left with an ankle injury.

“DeSean got cleated today in a walkthrough and twisted his ankle just a hair,” Gruden said. “We’ll see how he does at rehab or treatment and all that. We’ll find out.”

Asked after practice about the contact with Jackson, Revis told reporters, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The injury is not believe to be serious but it’s likely that the Redskins will be without two of their top receivers Thursday night as Pierre Garcon is nursing a hamstring issue.

The Patriots left immediately after practice, preparing to make the trip north to Landover, Md. for Thursday’s game.

Here are some other takeaways from Wednesday morning:

Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui once again headlined the players absent at practice. Also missing were receiver Aaron Dobson, running back Brandon Bolden, defensive back Jemea Thomas, running back Tyler Gaffney, linebacker Cameron Gordon, tight end D.J. Williams, linebacker Ja’Gared Davis, offensive lineman Chris Martin, first-round pick defensive lineman Dominique Easley, receiver Jeremy Gallon and Sealver Siliga, who injured his left hand on Tuesday.

With Gronkowski, Hoomanawanui and D.J. Williams all missing practice Wednesday, expect to see a lot of rookie tight end Justin Jones out of East Carolina. To that end, Jones saw first team reps toward the end of Wednesday’s walkthrough.

Another rookie, running back James White, received significant time with the first team at the start of 11-on-11 as Tom Brady worked on offensive sets near midfield.

Another player to keep an eye on Thursday is receiver Brian Tyms, who has been getting a lot of work with Ryan Mallett and the second team. Tyms has been one of Mallett’s favorite targets this week and made a nice catch on a bullet pass in the back of the end zone in a goal line situation against the Redskins.

Defensive lineman Chris Jones, who played well during his chances last season, was playing alongside Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly as the Patriots continued to show a 3-4 front on Wednesday.

Read More: 2014 training camp, Darrelle Revis, DeSean Jackson, Jay Gruden
Mike Petraglia breaks down Day 1 of Patriots-Redskins practices in Richmond 08.04.14 at 5:46 pm ET
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RICHMOND, Va. — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia assesses Day 1 of Patriots-Redskins practices, including the absence of tight end Rob Gronkowski and the performance of backup quarterback Ryan Mallett in Monday drills.

Read More: 2014 training camp, Gronk, Mike Petraglia, New England Patriots
Monday Patriots practice report: No Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Bolden as Pats D steps it up against RGIII at 11:59 am ET
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RICHMOND, Va. — The Patriots and Redskins began their 2 1/2-hour initial scrimmage Monday morning under cloudy skies but by the time the haze burned off, it was a sunny, warm day with temperatures in the upper 70s.

The conditions expect to be much more intense Tuesday as the two teams will scrimmage again in the heat of the mid-afternoon here in Richmond.

Rob Gronkowski was not on the field as he continues to work his way back into full practice mode. To this point, the tight end has only been taking part in walk-through reps and individual passing drills in full pads.

Other Patriots players not taking part in the practice were special teams captain Matthew Slater, receiver Aaron Dobson, running back Brandon Bolden and center Bryan Stork.

Here are some quick observations from practice:

Tom Brady overthrew Kenbrell Thompkins on the first play of full 11-on-11 scrimmage. The pass was a route over the middle and Thompkins attempted to climb the ladder and would’ve been hit hard by the cornerback if it were in game conditions. Brady then was nearly perfect on the next three passes, two to Julian Edelman and one to Danny Amendola, as Edelman worked on D’Angelo Hall.

Brady felt heavy pressure in the pocket on the next series and stepped up and threw a bomb to wide-open Thompkins, who ran a post pattern.

Ryan Mallett continued to struggle badly with consistency. He made one sharp touch pass on a sideline pattern to Shane Vereen and an accurate pass over the middle to Justin Jones, but he threw two interceptions and overthrew Brandon LaFell on two other passes.

Rookie Jimmy Garoppolo also saw time against Redskins backups as he ran the second-team offense. He connected with D.J. Williams on one pass over the middle and found Brian Tyms down the right sideline in 7-on-7 drills.

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Read More: 2014 training camp, Aaron Dobson, Brandon Bolden, Gronk
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