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Tom Brady going to the Derby, Devin McCourty goes back to Rutgers and Patriots kicking tires on college wide receivers 04.14.14 at 12:29 pm ET
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1. Tom Brady is going back to the Kentucky Derby. According to this report, the quarterback is expected to make the trek to Churchill Downs this year, along with current teammate Vince Wilfork, ex-Patriot Wes Welker and a boatload of celebs. This year’s Derby takes place on May 2 and 3, so expect more of these pictures sooner rather than later.

2. According to our pal Dan Duggan, Devin McCourty was back in New Jersey over the weekend to watch the Rutgers spring game, and it’s clear that he continues to have a major impact on the Scarlet Knights. Some current Rutgers defensive backs talked about the impact that McCourty, as well as several other former Rutgers guys who play for the Patriots

“When I really started getting deep into my recruiting process and really starting to narrow down where I want to go, I started paying attention to what position I wanted to play and I started realizing Rutgers put a lot of defensive guys in the league, especially in the secondary,” current Rutgers DB Nadir Barnwell. “I definitely want to go to the next level, so this is definitely a good place to be. They’ll definitely take my game to the next level.”

“I still don’t get why they don’t get some of the best defensive backs every year, just if you watch what they’ve been able to do and what guys have done throughout the league,” McCourty said. “We definitely take pride in it. We have a lot of guys that play in the secondary in the NFL and hopefully it continues.”

3. More pre-draft receiver buzz around the Patriots: South Carolina wide receiver Bruce Ellington has drawn interest from multiple teams around the league — according to Mike Garafalo of Fox Sports, that includes New England. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, he’s already had a workout with the Patriots. The 5-foot-9, 196-pounder had 49 catches for 775 yards and eight touchdowns last season with the Gamecocks. Ellington, who also started as a point guard with the USC basketball team, projects as a slot receiver with great speed at the next level. (He’s also the cousin of Cardinals running back Andre Ellington.) Here’s some video on him:

In addition, the Patriots have already had a follow-up visit with University of Washington wide receiver Kevin Smith. The 5-foot-11, 214-pound Smith, who suffered a torn ACL in December 2011, became a huge part of the UW offense last season,, finishing with 50 catches for 765 yards and four touchdowns. Known for his sure hands and positive locker room influence, Smith is a former high school basketball standout who also has special teams value as a kick returner.

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Rob Ninkovich talks Vince Wilfork, Patrick Chung and rest of Patriots offseason moves 04.08.14 at 4:20 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Rob Ninkovich talked about the additions of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner on Tuesday morning, but also addressed a handful of other topics, including the return of Vince Wilfork, the loss of coach Pepper Johnson and some of the other offseason moves made to this point by the Patriots:

On the return of Vince Wilfork: I’€™m happy I’€™ll be able to look inside and see him next to me. I’€™m happy that he’€™s still my teammate, and we’€™ll be able to go out there and win some football games.

On the offseason return of Julian Edelman — who Ninkovich referred to as “my guy” — as well as some of the other moves: We’€™ve got some great receivers coming back, and with Tom (Brady), we can pretty much do anything. Offensively, we’€™re looking good. Defensively, just adding a couple pieces, and what we have so far, those guys are tremendous talents. As a defensive end, I’€™m happy to have two great talents that can shut down two receivers at the same time. That’€™s awesome. And we have a great safety. So again, defensively, we’€™ve improved, but we’€™ve got to put in the work. That starts now. That starts in the offseason, because you have the talent, but you’€™ve got to put in the work together to get to that ultimate goal. ‘€¦ We’€™re in this thing to win. Everything that we do is directed toward winning football games. The way things work around here is to give our team the best chance of winning, and with those guys, it gives us a better chance.

On the return of Pat Chung: Pat, obviously, went somewhere else and it didn’€™t work out. Coming back, he’€™s a good football player. He’€™s a good, competitive, talented football player who obviously is going to go out there and play hard. He has experience here, he knows what to expect, and it’€™s good to have him back.

On the offseason workouts to this point: Me and (Jerod) Mayo are in there. He’s a pretty explosive guy, so I try to keep up with (him). He’s looking good right now. I’ve been training with him for a long time, and it’s always good to have somebody to push you and make you better.

On losing Pepper Johnson: Pep obviously, he was a tremendous coach in terms of having that game-time experience. But again, the coaching staff that we have here, they’re pretty good. Having Bill involved with the defense all the time, that’s helpful. Any time I have a question or there’s something going on, I’ll go right to Bill and ask him, ‘€˜Hey we’€™re doing this, we’€™re doing that, give me the stuff that I need to know.’€™ I was with Pep for awhile, and wish him all the best in the future. But that’s part of the business. You always have to adjust to changes. There’s always people leaving — coaches leaving, coaches coming. And that’s the way of type game. You deal with it and the new coach that comes in, you get them up to speed on what we’re doing, and get ready to roll.

On motivation needed to get back to AFC title game: I’€™m very motivated. I need to get back to that game and we have to win it this time. Nobody thinks about the time and effort put in to get to a championship game, and the workouts, the offseason, minicamp, training camps, 16 games you have to get through just to get to the playoffs, and then, getting to that AFC Championship Game, it’s a long road. It’€™s a lot of work, and to get back there I have to do it all over again. I’€™m up for the challenge. I want to get back there.

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Report: Teddy Bridgewater visiting Patriots 04.02.14 at 8:09 am ET
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The Patriots are set to meet with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater on Wednesday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

The 6-foot-3, 198-pound Bridgewater, considered one of the best signal-callers in the draft, had 9,817 career passing yards and 72 touchdowns while at Louisville. He’s the second high-profile quarterback who has a Wednesday meeting set up with the Patriots — it was revealed Tuesday night that Johnny Manziel also has a session with New England.

As for why the Patriots might be inclined to use one of their 30 pre-draft visits on one of the elite quarterbacks — even with Tom Brady under contract for the foreseeable future — we detailed those reasons here when news of Manziel’s visit surfaced. And it’s likely the same reasons hold true for Bridgewater’s visit, including the fact that the Patriots face four of the top-10 teams in this year’s draft order.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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Trying to figure out why Patriots would meet with Johnny Manziel 04.01.14 at 8:10 pm ET
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Johnny Manziel reportedly has a pre-draft meeting with the Patriots. (AP)

Johnny Manziel reportedly has a pre-draft meeting with the Patriots. (AP)

So why would Johnny Manziel meet with the Patriots?

While it’s unlikely the Patriots are in the market for a quarterback — and it’s also unlikely that Manziel would last until New England was on the clock at No. 29 — if there is a meeting set for Wednesday, it could mean one of four things:

1. Bill Belichick has often used his pre-draft visits on a player he knew he wasn’t going to be able to draft, but instead took advantage of the opportunity to use the sit-down as sort of an scouting report — a chance to get inside the head of a youngster who he’ll be facing down the road. (To that end, the Patriots will play four the teams who pick in the top 10 of the 2014 draft — Detroit, Buffalo, Minnesota and Oakland — which means there’s at least a decent chance they could see him in 2014.) As Nick Underhill of Masslive.com notes, they did the same thing with pass rusher Dion Jordan last year.

2. The Patriots are famous for the phrase “due diligence,” and that could certainly be the case here. There’s the real possibility that they want to take a look at him and kick the tires on someone who has become one of the more intriguing prospects in the draft.

3. Smokescreen. While Manziel doesn’t necessarily need any more buzz around him, the fact that the Patriots have displayed some interest in him would certainly resonate around the league.

4. As ridiculous as it sounds, and that’s why we’re listing it as the last reason here, the Patriots have always made a habit of drafting a quarterback ever year, regardless of Tom Brady‘s status. Not saying they’d push all of their chips to the middle of the table to try and chase after Manziel, but if something unforeseen happens, the New England braintrust wants to make absolutely sure it has all the info they need before making a decision.

When it comes to Manziel and the Patriots, it is worth mentioning that there’s one notable connection — he’s leaned on Brady throughout part of the pre-draft process.

“For him to reach back out to me after I extended a text message to him was extremely cool,”€ Manziel said at the combine when asked about his communication with Brady. “(It was) kind of a really funny conversation at first and worked our way into a little more serious conversation. It was really nice, and very thankful for him to be able to extend a hand out to me in the situation that I’€™m in.”

As far as the advice, Manziel said Brady kept it simple.

“€œBig thing was just enjoy the process,” Manziel said. “He kind of gave me a little joke — if I can teach him how to run like I can, he’€™ll do anything in the world for me. It was pretty funny hearing it from him.”

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Tom Brady recounts firsthand view of Back Bay fire on D&C: ‘It was just a tough day’ 03.27.14 at 9:29 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady watched Wednesday’s horrific Back Bay fire from his nearby home, and he checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning to talk about his experience and his respect for the first-responders, especially the two firefighters who lost their lives battling the blaze. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

 

“I can’t express my gratitude and thanks enough to all the first-responders and the people that were there fighting that fire all night last night,” Brady said via phone while driving to Gillette Stadium. “I had a firsthand view of all the action and was just blown away by the bravery and the teamwork that they really displayed. I’ve lived in the Back Bay for a long time, and that was one of the scarier days. I feel so badly for the families of the two firefighters that were lost. And obviously all the men that were associated with fighting that fire yesterday, losing one of their close friends.

“We as athletes think that we’re heroes, but when you witness firsthand what I saw yesterday, you realize who the real heroes are in this world, and that’s the people that work hard to protect our lives and protect our safety, our freedoms in America. Certainly the firefighters and Boston Police and the state troopers.

“I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Brady said his wife, Gisele Bundchen, initially alerted him to the fire, and he quickly realized the seriousness of the situation.

“I was in my bedroom. I’m about four doors down from [the building that was on fire],” he explained. “My wife and my daughter were in the house. My wife [said], ‘Look outside, there’s a fire.’ I looked out the front of our house and could see the flames, and then kind of went back to my room and then went back about two minutes later and just saw it growing. At that point I had gone to the back part of the house, from my deck, and could see kind of what they were up against. At that point all the fire engines were coming down the street. I was watching for obviously a long time. At one point I saw a pretty big explosion of flames, and a lot of the firemen were coming out of the building. That’s when I really got nervous. I felt so badly for them.

“Our lives were never in jeopardy at all thanks to those men, brave men who were there fighting that fire for us. That was a very intense day of weather and wind. You just can’t imagine all those things that really happened and how quickly those things can get out of control. I have such a newfound respect for nature and what it’s all about and under those conditions for those men to watch them try to put out the fire in freezing conditions and all the different elements they had to deal with. There’s no way to prepare for things like that. They gave everything they had, and a few of them paid the ultimate price.

“My respect and sincerity and love and admiration of what they do — it’s hard to put it into words.”

Brady said he watched the fire for a little while before deciding to leave his home for a safer situation.

“Once I saw all the firefighters getting out of the house, I told my wife, ‘We’ve got to go.’ We went just down the street to our friends’ house,” he said, adding that they then watched the news for updates before returning around 7:30 p.m. “I came back a few hours later just to kind of see what was going on. It was just a tough scene. It was just a tough day.”

An emotional Brady said he feels for the firefighters who lost two comrades, Michael Kennedy and Lt. Edward Walsh.

“You just think of how strong an event that is when you realize that a lot of your things, your house could just be gone. And you’ve got to think about, obviously our lives is what’s most important. And the firemen who risk their lives. That’s who I just can’t pay enough respect toward,” he said.

“I drive by the fire station in the Back Bay on Hereford and Boylston. I’ve driven by that fire station thousands of times in all my years in the Back Bay. That was the group that was closest to the action and were the first ones into the building. I can’t obviously thank them enough and understand the tragedy that that fire station’s gone through.”

Added Brady: “Those firemen, they’re in my thoughts and prayers all day, and my family. Without them, it could have been a very tragic day for not only the houses in the neighborhood and the lives of people, but they kept everybody safe. That’s really where I can’t thank them enough.”

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Julian Edelman: Tom Brady is ‘my dawg’ 03.20.14 at 4:15 pm ET
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Julian Edelman and Tom Brady have developed quite a bond. (AP)

Julian Edelman and Tom Brady have developed quite a bond. (AP)

Julian Edelman said Thursday the prospect of signing with another team in free agency — and leaving Tom Brady — was too difficult to even think about.

“It would be very tough to leave [Brady], because he’s my dawg,”€ Edelman said Thursday on a conference call with reporters.

Edelman and Brady have grown close over the years. Whether it’s the fact that they’re neighbors in the locker room, both California natives or relish the chance to needle each other at any turn (Brady dubbed Edelman “Minitron” last season), it’s clear the two have established a good-natured bond over the last five years.

On Thursday, Edelman said Brady was a key part of the process that ultimately led him back to New England.

“€œHe let it be known that he would love to have me back and part of the team,” said Edelman, who is coming off a career-best season where he caught 105 passes for 1,056 yards and five touchdowns. “Tom is also a good friend of mine. He’€™s one of the guys who helped me develop into a professional in this league. He also told me that I have to take care of myself and my family. He kind of mentored me. It was definitely a very tough decision that you have to deal with. He would have been right there behind if I would have left or if I would have stayed there.”

Edelman, who signed a four-year deal to return to the Patriots earlier this month, has some security for the first time in his professional career — the seventh-round pick out of Kent State said Thursday he felt like if he had a bad practice, he “could potentially get cut the next day.”

“It’€™s good to have a little security and knowing that a team believes in you enough to pay you that kind of stuff, and a little security on how many years I’€™ll be here,”€ Edelman said. “I’€™ve really never been in that situation. I’€™ve always felt like if I had a bad practice, I could potentially get cut the next day.

“€œIt’€™s good to be back with this franchise.”

Here are some of the rest of the highlights of his Q&A
Read the rest of this entry »

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Chance to catch passes from Tom Brady played major role in luring Brandon LaFell to Foxboro 03.19.14 at 6:38 pm ET
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Brandon LaFell signed a three-year deal with the Patriots. (AP)

Brandon LaFell signed a three-year deal with the Patriots. (AP)

When it came to the possibility of the Patriots landing free agent wide receiver Brandon LaFell, Tom Brady didn’t have to do any recruiting. Turns out, his mere presence was enough to lure LaFell to Foxboro.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound receiver, who spoke with the New England for the first time Wednesday since signing a three-year deal with the Patriots, answered quickly when he was asked what went into his decision to depart Carolina.

“Because I had a chance to play with a Hall of Fame quarterback,” he said on a conference call with reporters. “One day, Cam [Newton] will be there probably, but he’€™s not there now. I felt like it was a better chance to come up here to get more balls and win up here than it was in Carolina. Nothing against those guys, it’€™s a great organization. Those guys are going to win, I can see them winning but it’€™s proven up here, man.

“We were winning last year in Carolina,” he added. “These guys were winning up here for the last 10-plus years, so why not come to a winning organization?”

LaFell recalled watching film of Brady and the New England offense last season, and recalls being amazed at the level of quarterback play.

“We were watching film last year when we were going to play those guys, (and) we were always like, ‘€˜Man, those receivers have to put their hands up.’€™ No matter what route they ran, no matter how the guy was on them, if they just put their hands up, the ball was always in perfect placement,” he said.

“When you have a guy that can pinpoint the ball like he does year-in and year-out, it’€™s great.”

The 27-year-old LaFell is an LSU product who has been in the league for four years ‘€” all with the Panthers ‘€” and has 167 career catches, including 49 receptions for 627 yards and a career-high five touchdowns last year.

While he hash’t had the chance to connect with Brady face-to-face quite yet — he said they’ve traded texts the last few days because Brady is out of the country — he has spoken with another LSU teammate in running back Stevan Ridley, who was apparently pretty fired up about the possibility of lining up alongside his old friend.

“He was so excited. He was like, ‘€˜You have to be lying to be right now,’” recalled LaFell. “He was like, ‘€˜We have a bunch of young guys that play a lot of good ball, but we need another veteran that will step in and help those guys grow. You’€™re proven and this and that. You can be one of those final pieces of us, taking us to the next level.’€™

“He just kept saying the word sacrifice; sacrifice and hard work. ‘€˜If you’€™re committed to do that with the rest of the guys, you’€™re going to fit in well and help us win games.’€™”

Here are some of the highlights of the rest of the Q&A:
Read the rest of this entry »

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