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Nate Ebner (finger), Cameron Fleming (finger) not spotted at Friday practice 10.03.14 at 12:02 pm ET
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Nate Ebner

Nate Ebner

FOXBORO — For a third straight day, Nate Ebner and Cameron Fleming were the only two players not spotted at the start of Patriots practice on Friday outside Gillette Stadium.

The two were also missing from Wednesday and Thursday practices, with each player suffering from what the team described in the injury report as a finger injury. With both missing all three days of practice, it’s likely neither would be available against Cincinnati Sunday night. The injury report (along with their chances for playing) will be released later Friday afternoon.

Also missing from the sweats and shells workout on the upper grass fields was practice squad offensive lineman Caylin Hauptmann.

Ebner, a core special teamer, has seen more and more time as a defensive back over the first four weeks of the season. Meanwhile, Fleming, a rookie offensive lineman out of Stanford, made his first NFL start last Monday against the Chiefs at right guard.

Also in attendance at practice Friday were Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya of NBC “Sunday Night Football” broadcast crew. The game will kick off at 8:30 p.m. Sunday and be seen nationally on the network.

Read More: Cameron Fleming, Caylin Hauptmann, Cincinnati Bengals, Cris Collinsworth
Vince Wilfork: ‘We’re going to have to play an ‘A-plus’ game’ to win 09.26.13 at 4:06 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork doesn’t need to be reminded of the challenge that lies ahead for him and the Patriots defense this Sunday night in Atlanta.

Wilfork is always respectful when mentioning the opponent but on Thursday he sounded like the president of the booster club for Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons.

“Right now, it’s a challenge for us. We’re going to have to defend everything,” Wilfork said. “It’s like four or five or six of them. It’s going to be a battle, definitely going to be a battle. We’re up for the challenge. It’s going to be tough to pull out a ‘W’ but it’s been done before but we’re going to have to play an ‘A-plus’ game for it to happen.”

Does Wilfork consider Ryan among the “elite” quarterbacks in the NFL?

“Absolutely, 100 percent yes,” Wilfork said. “He’s smart. He runs that offense to a ‘T’ and any situation you put him in, he can put the team in the right situation so hands down, he’s one of the best.”

Wilfork continued:

“They are one of the best team when it comes to everything they do,” Wilfork said. “There’s a reason these guys win a lot of ball games. They have a quarterback that leading them that’s one of the best. He’s young but he’s one of the best. You can put him up there with the best quarterbacks in the game, just the way he operates that team. We know this is going to be a challenge, Sunday night going down there at their stadium. It’s going to be rocking.

“Receivers, tight ends, running back, offensive line, I mean everywhere you look they have weapons. We know how important it is for us to practice well and prepare and hopefully, we can get it done on Sunday but it’s going to be a big challenge for us.”

Wilfork was reminded that the Falcons are 1-2 while the Patriots are 3-0.

“Trust me, they won’t [play like] 1-2,” he said. “This team is an elite team, that’s their problem but we’re not even looking at the records. We’re looking at what’s on film. They’ve been in some close games and sometimes football comes down to playing 59 minutes of good football and one minute can make a difference in a ball game.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Matt Ryan, New England Patriots, nfl
Tom Brady perfects the art of advance scouting 12.12.12 at 9:35 pm ET
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FOXBORO — For all those who think all of the Patriots have a “one-game-at-a-time” mentality, Tom Brady provided an exception to the rule on Wednesday.

Realizing several weeks ago that this would be a very short week against two outstanding NFL teams, he decided to take advantage of the long break between their Thanksgiving rout of the Jets and their Dec. 2 division-clincher over the Dolphins. Instead of looking ahead to Miami, he stole a little time and looked three weeks down the road.

“After our Thursday night game against the Jets, I tried to do a bunch of work on the Niners,” Brady said Wednesday. “So I put a couple of days in there and actually after the game on Monday night, I felt like I just had to watch their most recent game and I was caught up. So, you try to take advantage of a little extra time, a little planning. [I] probably wouldn’€™t have done that 10 years ago.

“It’€™s probably most important for the quarterback position. I don’€™t think the receivers are necessarily doing that. They study what they need to study. I kind of have my own routine and preparation. A lot of guys prepare differently. I know Matt Light, who we honored at halftime last week, didn’€™t watch much film at all. He said it screwed him up. He’€™s one of the best players I’€™ve ever played with, so there’€™s something to be said about that too.”

How hard is it for Brady to look ahead to a particular game, but also stay focused on the next game?

“I’€™ve done it before, so you just kind of close the chapter and then move on and focus all of your attention on Houston,” Brady said. “We had eight days to do that, which was good. And certainly we had extra time with Miami too, so it was just part of time management.”

Brady knows he’ll need every advantage he can get against a defense that is ranked second in the NFL in total yards (275.2), rushing yards (90.8) and passing (184.7). And at 14.2 points allowed per game, no one in the NFL has been better.

“It’€™s speed, they play well together, they’€™re physical, they stop the run, they rush the passer, they can cover, they create turnovers, they play well in long yardage situations, they’€™re good in the red area,” Brady said in summing up the Niners D. “They do everything well. Like I said, they were in the NFC Championship last year and had a great season. They’€™re off to a great start. They won some really tough road games ‘€“ at New Orleans is tough, they won that one; at Green Bay is as tough as it gets, they won that one. So they can win on the road. They’€™re a very good team.”

Read More: New England Patriots, nfl, San Francisco 49ers, Sunday Night Football
Josh McDaniels knows the value of a quick start against superstar pass rushers 12.11.12 at 11:58 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots scored the first three times they had the ball Monday night.

How important was getting off to a fast start in a game against a team that was thought to be superior to the Patriots?

“I think it’€™s always something you’€™d like to do, is get off to a good start and get ahead in the game,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “You always try to run the best plays you can or put the groupings out there that you think can give you the most success or try to put the players in the best positions to be successful as many times as you can and that starts with the beginning of the game.

“I don’€™t think that changes based on who you’€™re playing. You always try to get out there and play well early. And against a really good team as we played yesterday, to go out there and put some points on the board in the first quarter, credit goes to the players. They did a great job of executing some of those things and really made some adjustments there and made some critical plays under pressure that helped us get off to a good start yesterday and play from ahead.”

McDaniels spent all week scheming against – J.J. Watt – one of the most dangerous defensive players in the NFL.

Watt did have three hits of the six hits on Tom Brady, forced a fumble on Danny Woodhead that resulted in a Brandon Lloyd recovery for a touchdown in the end zone. But he did not have a sack and the Patriots were able to throw deep

“He’€™s a great player and I don’€™t think we felt like we were going to be able to just [keep] him from making any plays, hopefully you can contain him from making any impact plays, where he tips the ball up in the air and get an interception, which has happened multiple times this year or sack the quarterback, strip-sack the quarterback ‘€“ all those kinds of plays that he’€™s making throughout the course of the season that have changed the course of games or the outcome even. That’€™s what we’€™re trying to prevent. When you can get help on a special player like that, you can try to, but there’€™s so many ways to avoid that as the defensive play caller, too.”

Could that help this Sunday against the 49ersAldon Smith, the only pass rusher who has more sacks (19.5) than Watt?

“We can’€™t control what other people are saying or what’€™s being said outside of the building, obviously,” McDaniels said. “The thing we can do is come to work every day. I’€™ve seen a number of players already in today getting film and treatment and all those things and just prepare and go through our normal process of preparation. I know that’€™s the best way to focus on our next opponent and control the things that we can control and I think that our guys are really intent on having another good week of preparation as we did last week and just trying to put the best performance we can out there on Sunday night against a really, really talented defense. I mean, this is as good as we’€™re going to face. We certainly have a great deal of respect for the way they’€™re coached, the way they way, the style of defense they have. They have great players at all three levels of their defense, Pro-Bowl caliber players. This will be a tremendous challenge for us. Really, we’€™re going to have our hands full with just the preparation and getting ourselves ready to play against a really, really special defense.

“We’€™re just getting ready to play them. I’€™m sure they’€™re going to come in here and play hard, just like they always do and that’€™s what we’€™re going to do, too. Extra this or that, I’€™m not sure that anybody needs it this time of the year. We’€™re all fighting to win each and every game that we can and I’€™m sure they’€™re going to come in here and play hard and hopefully we can have a great week of preparation and put our best performance out there on Sunday night.”

Read More: Aldon Smith, j.j. watt, Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots
Setting the scene: Patriots-Ravens 09.23.12 at 12:40 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — Emotions will be running very high on a number of different levels when the Patriots and Ravens kick off their AFC Championship rematch at M & T Bank Stadium as New England looks to avoid its first losing record since starting 2003 with an 0-1 record.

It will be a crisp night, as the forecast calls for clear skies and a temperature of 67 degrees for the 8:20 p.m. start (WHDH-TV). Wind should not be a factor as a light breeze out of the northwest at 6 MPH is expected.

As for the emotions, Ravens second-year receiver Torrey Smith lost his 19-year-old brother Tevin early Sunday morning. Tevin Smith was killed in a motorcycle accident when he struck a utility pole in Westmoreland County, Virginia.

Smith confirmed the tragic news this morning on his Twitter page and moments later tweeted a picture of himself with his younger brother.

“I can’t believe my little brother is gone…be thankful for your loved ones and tell them you love them…this is the hardest thing ever.”

Smith was excused from the team to be with his family in Virginia. It was immediately unclear whether he would return in time for the game.

The Baltimore Sun reported just before 4 p.m. ET that Smith had rejoined the Ravens after spending part of his day with his family in Virginia and is likely to play.

“This is devastatingly sad, sad news,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Torrey and his family are a close, special family, and our hearts and thoughts reach out to all of them. Our hearts ache today. We pray for Tevin, his mother, Torrey and the rest of the family. God bless Tevin.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Torrey Smith after the passing of his brother, Tevin,” the team said in another statement.

Several Ravens, including LaQuan Williams, Tandon Doss, Bryan Hall and Vonta Leach, have also expressed their condolences to their teammate and his family on Twitter.

“My prayers and condolences go out @TorreySmithWR and his family through their trying times,” Williams tweeted.

The game was already expected to be played at very high level with the emotional Ray Lewis leading the Ravens in the “Purple Palace”, one of the loudest home field advantages in the NFL. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, John Harbaugh, New England Patriots
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