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With Tom Brady back, Jonathan Kraft ‘can’t remember’ a bigger regular season home game 10.16.16 at 12:47 pm ET
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Jonathan Kraft

Jonathan Kraft

FOXBORO — The anticipation has been building all summer for Patriots team president Jonathan Kraft.

And the day is finally here for him and the rest of Patriots Nation.

Tickets for this week’s game against Cincinnati – the 2016 home debut of Tom Brady – were going for more than $500.

Kraft was ssked before the game if he can remember a bigger regular season home game than Brady’s return after the four-game Deflategate suspension.

“I can’t remember one but my memory isn’t what it used to be,” Kraft said on the team’s pregame radio show. “This is a pretty special one. We’ve been, since the middle of the summer and this week, just getting calls, not only from people all over the country but from Patriots fans overseas that said they wanted to be here.

“It’s going to be I think pretty special the first time the offense takes the field today.”

Kraft also pointed out that last week’s Brady return in Cleveland somewhat overshadowed the job Rob Ninkovich did in helping the defense in his first game back from his four-game ban for testing positive for a banned substance.

“I’ll tell you, it’s great to have Rob [Ninkovich] back,” Kraft said. “I think Rob really set the tone in the running game at the start of that game against a team that was the best running team in the National Football League and they made a statement as well, and having Rob back clearly made a difference as well.”

Brady threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns to Martellus Bennett in his return. Can he do it again for the home fans?

“I think all of us in New England have sort of expected a standard of what is exceptional quarterback play [and] the bar has been raised so high because we’ve been watching this guy for so long,” Kraft said. “To say I was surprised wouldn’t be accurate. You knew he would come back and be in a position to play really well. The last couple of times we had played in Cleveland, it hadn’t been good. To watch him come out, he was almost surgical. The numbers he put up, it was really in two and a half quarters. I think if we had been in a game where he was running the offense, it would’ve been [even more impressive].”

Read More: Cincinnati Bengals, Jonathan Kraft, New England Patriots, Rob Ninkovich
Rob Ninkovich happy to be away from diapers at home, helps Pats D dispose of Browns 10.09.16 at 7:48 pm ET
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Screen Shot 2016-10-09 at 7.47.41 PM

Rob Ninkovich speaks to reporters after Sunday’s game in Cleveland. (Mike Petraglia/

CLEVELAND — Tom Brady wasn’t the only one relieved to be back on the field Sunday.

After serving his four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance and coming back from a triceps injury, Rob Ninkovich was back on the field with one tackle and a near-interception in a 33-13 win.

“I missed it a lot. I was ready to stop changing diapers and get back to football,” Ninkovich said. “My wife put me to work there. Just really happy to be back, happy to just come into work and just practice, little things that you miss out on. Super-pumped to back and look forward to this coming week.”

As for the contact itself on the field?

“It felt good. I hadn’t tackled anyone since the AFC Championship Game so it felt good and my arm feels good,” Ninkovich said. “I really worked hard this week and tried to get as many reps in as possible, even on scout team to try and get the football feeling back.”

Ninkovich had just one tackle but was part of a Patriots defense that limited the NFL’s best rushing attack to just 27 yards on 22 carries.

“You have to give credit to them,” Ninkovich said of the Browns rushing attack that was averaging 150 yards a game over the first four weeks. “They have done a great job running the ball this year. They really run hard and do a good job in the rushing attack.”

The Patriots forced a three-and-out on the first series of the game, setting the tempo and giving Tom Brady the ball just two minutes into the game.

“You have to start fast in this game,” Ninkovich said. “There are a lot of great football players out there, and we knew they have a good football team so we prepared well and executed today.”

Read More: Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Rob Ninkovich,
Scene-setting from Cleveland: Tom Brady finally makes his return at 9:54 am ET
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Tom Brady will take the field at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland in his return to the NFL. (Mike Petraglia/

CLEVELAND — The moment has finally arrived.

Tom Brady is back on the football field after serving his four-game suspension.

There is no precipitation anticipated as the forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 60s for the 1 p.m. kickoff. Wind could be a factor, with a breeze off Lake Erie at 10-12 MPH.

The Patriots will be looking to rebound from a loss, something they have mastered in the Tom Brady era. Since the beginning of 2003, the Patriots are a remarkable 40-6 (.869) following a loss.

Today’s game is also the first of three straight against AFC North opponents, as they play the Browns, Bengals and Steelers in succession, with two of those three on the road.

As a matter of fact, following their three-game homestand, the Patriots begin a stretch where three of four games will be on the road.

Chris Price has the scouting keys to today’s game while Ryan Hannable has 10 fun facts about the game.

Also returning today from a four-game suspension is defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who also is coming off a triceps injury. Ninkovich could have a big role in the defensive game plan as linebacker Shea McClellin is one of three early inactives with a concussion, sustained in last week’s loss to the Bills. Brandon Bolden will also miss the game with a left knee injury.

Ninkovich figures to have a big role in helping the pass rush as Jabaal Sheard has struggled at times to get to the quarterback. Sheard does lead the Patriots with three sacks in the first four games.

The game could also mark the debut of defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton, as he was signed off the practice squad on Saturday and takes the place of Vincent Valentine, who did not make the trip due to a back injury.

The Patriots also made room on their roster coming into the game by releasing offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper on Saturday. Cooper was the player acquired from Arizona in the Chandler Jones trade.

Read More: Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, nfl, Rob Ninkovich
Jacoby Brissett absent from practice Friday, Marcus Cannon, Julian Edelman on hand 10.07.16 at 12:31 pm ET
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Jacoby Brissett

Jacoby Brissett

FOXBORO — Let the speculation continue with regard to Jacoby Brissett.

There has been plenty of talk that, with this week’s return of Tom Brady, the Patriots could send their third quarterback to injured reserve with his thumb injury. On Friday, Brissett was not seen during stretching at the start of practice, the first practice he’s missed since injuring his thumb against the Texans on Sept. 22. His absence could signal a move being made in the near future to open a spot.

The Patriots received two roster exemptions this week, one for Brady and another for Rob Ninkovich, both coming off four-game suspensions.

Also on Friday, Marcus Cannon (calf) and Julian Edelman (foot) were both in attendance. Cannon returned after missing practice on Thursday. Edelman was present after being added to the injury report on Thursday, when he was listed as limited in practice.

Linebacker Shea McClellin (concussion), running back Brandon Bolden (knee) and Vincent Valentine (back) all missed practice again Friday. All three players were absent the entire week are likely to miss this Sunday’s game in Cleveland.

Read More: Cleveland Browns, Jacoby Brissett, Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots
Patriots roster moves before Sunday’s game could include more than Tom Brady, Rob Ninkovich at 11:03 am ET
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Tom Brady and Rob Ninkovich will need to be added to the active roster by Saturday. (Jim Dedmon/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady and Rob Ninkovich will need to be added to the active roster by Saturday. (Jim Dedmon/USA Today Sports)

There will be some roster movement for the Patriots between now and Sunday afternoon when they take on the Browns in Cleveland.

Assuming Rob Ninkovich plays (he’s expected to coming back from a triceps injury and his four-game suspension), the Patriots need to clear another roster spot to make room for both he and Tom Brady.

The team is down to 52 players after it released tight end Clay Harbor earlier in the week.

Some possibilities include releasing running back D.J. Foster, linebacker Elandon Roberts, offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle or even placing third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett on injured reserve with his injured thumb.

It could have been as easy as just making one of those moves, but with injuries suffered in last Sunday’s game against the Bills, things are a bit more complicated.

Running back Brandon Bolden (knee) and defensive tackle Vincent Valentine (back) were injured in the game and haven’t practiced this week, which leaves their status for Sunday in serious doubt. In addition, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon missed Thursday’s full-padded practice with a calf injury, also putting his status for Sunday in question.

As it stands now, the Patriots would have just three healthy running backs on the roster in LeGarrette Blount, James White and Foster. It seems highly unlikely they could go into the game with just two healthy backs, so it would seem Foster needs to stay on the roster at least for this week and be active in the game. It’s also worth keeping in mind there is running back Bishop Sankey on the practice squad, if they wanted to elevate him to the roster.

If Cannon can’t go, then Waddle would also need to stay on the roster as a backup tackle, assuming Cameron Fleming starts, as it seems he has passed Waddle on the depth chart.

Then on the defensive line, without Valentine the Patriots would only have Alan Branch, Malcom Brown and Trey Flowers as interior linemen. With the Browns’ rushing attack, it would seem like a strong possibility they would need to add a player for this week. Possibilities include elevating practice squad players Geneo Grissom or Woodrow Hamilton.

In sum, it would appear the Patriots may need to clear a second and potentially a third roster spot before Sunday — one for Brady/Ninkovich, one for a defensive tackle and possibly one for a running back.

The Patriots need to announce any moves they make by 4 p.m. Saturday.

Read More: Rob Ninkovich, Tom Brady,
Rob Ninkovich (triceps) reportedly healthy enough to play vs. Browns 10.03.16 at 1:44 pm ET
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The Patriots could be getting more than Tom Brady back against the Browns on Sunday.

According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, Ninkovich is “healthy enough to play” with his triceps injury and could play against Cleveland this coming weekend.

Ninkovich was suspended the first four games of the season after a positive test for a banned substance late in the preseason. This came after he injured his triceps during training camp, which put his Week 1 status in doubt.

Like Brady, Ninkovich was able to return to the Patriots’ facility on Monday.

The 32-year-old is in the final year of his contact and has had at least 6.5 sacks in five straight seasons. Ninkovich appears excited to return to the team.

Read More: Rob Ninkovich,
Bill Belichick is taking nothing for granted with return of Tom Brady at 11:41 am ET
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Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick

The working assumption around the NFL is that the Patriots just got immediately better with the return of Tom Brady back in the building on Monday.

Bill Belichick is not working on that same assumption, as he pointed out multiple times during his Monday morning conference call.

Asked about the Brady impact on his team, Belichick said Brady has to perform before he makes any judgments.

“It would just be speculation at this point. He hasn’t done it,” Belichick said of his quarterback’s absence in the first four weeks.

Rob Ninkovich also returned Monday from his four-game suspension, a fact that Belichick noted when asked what impact Brady might have in the locker room.

“I think it’s great to have Tom and Rob back but I can’t answer the question,” Brady said of the leadership role in the room. “I haven’t seen it. It would just be pure speculation. It’s good to have them back. I’m not going to speculate on what will and won’t happen on anything going forward, because that’s all it would be, is speculation.”

Brady and Belichick have often spoken of the challenge of players jumping back on the “moving train” in the middle of the season. How much work will Brady have to do to catch up?

“We’ll just take it day-by-day and see where he’s at and just go forward one day at a time,” Belichick said. “Football [preparation] is everything. I don’t know how you can do one thing and not do something else or not be able to do something else. You have to be able to do it all.”

Belichick was then asked about how long the Patriots would be able to carry Brady and Rob Ninkovich (also coming off a four-game suspension Monday) and whether the team would apply for exemptions for both players.

“I don’t have an exact answer for that right this second. Why don’t you call the league and ask them. I’m sure they have the answers,” Belichick said.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Deflategate, New England Patriots, Rob Ninkovich
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