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Lights out… 09.09.08 at 8:43 pm ET
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Sometimes timing can be a funny thing in our business. I had the chance to speak with San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith last week for a piece for “San Diego Sport” Magazine.

A number of subjects came up, including the decision by Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman and his decision to play on two sore knees to start the season, with his left knee being particularly bad.

“With Shawne, we all know the situation,” Smith told me. “Shawne’s a great player and he’s an intergral part of our success, there’s no doubt. He’s been a major part of our success. He had a tough decision to make here and he made it and he’s going to try and go and help this football team. We obviously hope that everything works out for him and us and that’s the way we’re looking at it. He weighed a lot of things and made some decisions and we’re just hoping for the best.”

Then he went out and played Sunday against Carolina and one game was enough to change his mind.

“Shawne informed me he did not feel right and thought it best to shut it down,” Smith said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon. “The road to winning the AFC West just got more difficult, but not impossible. Nothing is impossible. Shawne is a great player and an inspirational leader. He will be missed. We wish him a successful surgery and a speedy recovery.”

So, each team will be without at least one superstar when they meet on Sunday night, Oct. 12 in San Diego. It’s just the Patriots don’t have to worry about a dance at midfield.

Read More: A.J. Smith, San Diego Chargers, Shawne Merriman, Tom Brady
Band of Brothers… 09.08.08 at 3:45 pm ET
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The notion that the New England Patriots can be successful the rest of the NFL season without Tom Brady directing the offense is being scoffed at by some pundits around the country.

Take one step into the Patriots locker room as we did Monday afternoon and you get the immediate impression that the players don’€™t give a flying safety what the rest of the league thinks.

‘€œOne player doesn’€™t win or lose ball games,’€ said Rodney Harrison. ‘€œIt’€™s 53 guys collectively as a group and we understand that as a team and that’€™s why it’€™s a team. It’€™s not 11 guys against one, it’€™s 11 guys on the field against 11 guys on the field. That’€™s something we understand, all the guys in the locker room understand and that’€™s something we’€™re going to move forward with and look forward to doing.’€

Rodney Harrison says life goes on in the NFL

Harrison, who himself had to return from a season-ending knee injury at Tennessee at the end of the 2006 season ‘€“ a hit many thought was dirty ‘€“ had advice for Brady

‘€œJust be patient and just work hard. We’€™re praying for him. He’€™s a tough guy and will overcome this,’€ Harrison said.

Other notables, and you might notice a theme:

Mike Vrabel:’€œThere’€™ll be a game at 4:15 (on Sunday afternoon) at the Meadowlands, regardless of who our quarterback is, or who’€™s playing receiver or who’€™s playing nose guard. You move on and you prepare and you hope that you go out there and play the best you possibly can possibly play. I’€™m going to try to do that, just like everybody else does.

‘€œI think this team is a lot more mature than what we were in 2001,’€ Vrabel said when asked to compare this to the Mo Lewis hit on Drew Bledsoe that began the Brady era. ‘€œWe had a lot of new players who were coming together. I think guys know each other a little better. I think we’€™re a better football team than what we were in 2001.’€

Matt Light:’€œI think everybody in New England knows and has seen what’€™s he’€™s been able to do throughout his career. It’€™s just been a great pleasure of mine to play with Tommy all these years. And when you lose a guy like that, it’€™s tough.’€

Matt Light on loss of Brady

Richard Seymour:’€œAs cliché and as basic as it is, it’€™s the truth. There isn’€™t going to be any magical formula or any magical pill he can take and he’€™ll back out there on Sunday. Cassel’€™s our guy and we’€™ll ride with him. There’€™s always a way to win. We just have to game plan and look for our opportunities to get it done.’€

Richard Seymour says no magical formula

Ty Warren:’€œI couldn’€™t do Tom’€™s job and if Tom were here, he couldn’€™t do my job. Everybody has a role and everybody has a position to play on this team and there’€™s a little slogan we have is, ‘€˜Do your job’€™ and put your work in to do that job the best you can. That’€™s what we’€™re going to continue to do. It’€™s not just Tom. It’€™s many guys around the league. When you hear about the injuries that take you out for any amount of time, it’€™s difficult but you have to just move on.’€

Read More: knee injury, Matt Cassel, Matt Light, Mike Vrabel
Trags Take… Pregame Chiefs 09.06.08 at 8:57 am ET
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What the Pats need to do to win:

1. Keep Brady upright. With his right foot and no preseason games as warmup, ’nuff said.

2. Dominate an inferior team early and give them ZERO confidence.

3. Make Brodie Croyle feel the wrath of of the Pats defense so that Kansas City’s big and talented receivers Tony Gonzalez and Dwayne Bowe don’t have the time to get open for Croyle.

4. Don’t let Larry Johnson get more than four yards on first and second down. K.C. will try to play keepaway as will most Patriot opponents, so make sure they don’t.

5. Offensive line needs to establish itself early and often and stay away from third and long. Kansas City, with Gunther Cunningham as its defensive guru, was the best in the NFL in third-down defense last year at (30.2 percent) and negative plays forced.

Bill Belichick has already touched on these points several times during his sessions with the media. Obviously, the same is true in the locker room.

Enemy Edge: “He’s been fine. We anticipate he’s going to be a good football player for us. He’s played in the last couple of preseason games for us and he’s ready to go.”  —  Kansas City head coach Herm Edwards on first-round pick DT Glenn Dorsey out of LSU.

Opposing View: For a look at the Kansas City perspective here’s a story from Kansas City Star reporter Kent Babb on their desire to stop New England’s running game and and the pregame notes from the Chiefs.

This and that: The Pats named their eight team captains for 2008 on Friday. On offense, no surprise that Tom Brady, for the seventh straight season, leads the list along with Randy Moss and Matt Light. On defense, Tedy Bruschi joins Brady as serving as captain for the seventh straight season, along with Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison and Vince Wilfork. Special Teams captain Larry Izzo rounds out the list.

Read More: Gunther Cunningham, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Patriots preview
From Foxboro… 09.01.08 at 7:31 am ET
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Belichick spoke at 10:45 and then we headed into the locker room at 11:10 and had interesting access, interesting in that we were finally able to talk to Matt Light and Wes Welker, both of whom had missed a lot of time in the preseason with injuries.

“I feel good and I’m excited to get the season started,” Welker said, adding, “You’ll have to ask Coach Belichick (about playing Sunday). It’s his decision.”

Certainly Bill will be asked when he appears on “The Big Show” this afternoon on Patriots Monday on WEEI.

Light said he’s gotten to know the training staff very well this preseason. “I spent a lot of time with the trainers, they’re great people,” Light said. “I feel too fresh.”

Both suited up for practice and both are a good bet to be ready for Sunday’s opener, along with a chipper Tom Brady, who addressed us for a good 14 minutes here at Gillette.

Of course, he already has given us some great nuggets on Patriots Monday on WEEI.

Certainly his teammates are looking forward to his return.

“I think everyone is looking forward to that,” Light said. “He’s definitely the leader out there and it’ll be great to have him out there, as far as the communication goes, and the leadership. It’s pretty invaluable.”

Beyond Tom Brady’s right foot, some things worth following today include what the team plans to do at the corner position and the defensive backfield in general with the weekend release of Fernando Bryant and John Lynch. How do Deltha O’Neal and, dare we say, Ty Law.

“Prepare all the players during the week. give you the injury report on Friday,” Belichick said . “We’ve got to get ready for Kansas City. We’re all in the same boat on that.”

On the release of Chad Jackson,

“I think Chad worked hard this camp,” Belichick said. “In the end, we had to make some decisions. I think Chad is a good football player.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Matt Light, Patriots, Tom Brady
Remember when?… 08.20.08 at 10:35 am ET
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Tom Brady was a lanky, sixth-round pick out of Michigan and he was, like Kevin O’Connell, way down the Patriots depth chart at quarterback.

Going back to Tampa Bay on Sunday night had John Lynch remembering the 2000 season opener at old Foxboro Stadium. While with Bucs, defensive guru Monte Kiffin told him about that skinny kid in the No. 12 jersey across the way.

“I was telling (Brady) that I remember his first year, being the fourth quarterback, and Monty Kiffin saying, ‘Hey, they kind of like this kid. But don’t worry about. I’m sure we won’t see him.’ And to think all these years later about what he’s gone onto to do,” Lynch said. “That’s pretty impressive.”

John Lynch on his talk with Brady

Don’t expect to see Brady this week as he continues to get treatment on his reportedly sore right foot.

Old friend (and Ohio State alum) Albert Breer has an interesting read on what it takes to be a back-up quarterback.

Many New Englanders will recall Breer’s terrific work with MetroWest Daily News and the Boston Herald while on the Patriots beat.

After a stint covering the T.O. circus for the Dallas Morning News, he’s back in the Boston area, Sudbury to be exact, but working as the national football writer for The Sporting News on-line.

Why the praise? Because he’s an Ohio State Buckeye, through and through and he knows the pain of playing an SEC school when the national title is on the line.

Read More: John Lynch, Kevin O'Connell, Monty Kiffin, New England Patriots
Quiet For Now… 08.19.08 at 7:30 am ET
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In the Patriots media room for the first time since mini-camps in the spring and it’s all quiet as I join a couple of other scribes in waiting for Bill Belichick to address us at 11:30 on the status of his team.

It’s not likely that we’ll get a lot of detail on either Tom Brady’s right foot or Brandon Meriweather’s leg. But the moment we do, I’ll let you know.

Say what you will, the world could be coming down on the Patriots and they STILL wouldn’t have the gall or nerve to bring back Chris Henry. Was listening to 700 WLW on satellite radio this morning and Bengaldom is not taking the news well that a multiple-offender of the law and common decency is getting another chance with Mike Brown’s Bengals. I know, I know, this is about the New England Patriots but it shows you just how different the two franchises are and how polar opposite they are when it comes to handling character in and out of the locker room. Maybe Mike Brown is trying to make working conditions so bad he is encouraging people to quit instead of firing them, read: Marvin Lewis.

One of the best columnists I’ve read is Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Here’s his read (And I don’t have to waste anymore time on this).

Read More: 700 WLW, Bill Belichick, Chris Henry Bengals, Tom Brady
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