|Goodbye to Vince Wilfork ‘one of toughest things’ Robert Kraft had to do as owner||03.23.15 at 9:55 pm ET|
Seeing Vince Wilfork depart was “one of the toughest things” Robert Kraft had to endure as the owner of the Patriots, he said Monday.
“It was even harder than anything else,” Kraft told reporters at the league meetings in Arizona. “He’s someone we watched come in here; I developed a very strong personal tie to him. It’s the hardest part of this game, speaking as a fan and also someone who got to know him and Bianca and his kids.”
The veteran defensive tackle, who had spent 11 seasons with the Patriots, announced on March 5 that the team was not going to pick up his option, and that he would become a free agent. And on March 16, while bidding a fond farewell to New England, he announced he was signing with the Texans.
Kraft said Wilfork’s goodbye to the Patriots was “something beautiful.”
“He’ll always be a Patriot and he’s keeping his home here. Sometimes the player is more valuable to one team than other team given how they’re constructed. Losing Vince is probably one of the hardest things that happened. (There are) some emotional ties. He’s a pretty special guy.”
|Who are Bill Belichick’s favorite trade partners?||03.19.15 at 4:13 pm ET|
If you’re of the mind that the Patriots need to make some deals in hopes of shoring up the secondary of defensive line in the wake of the personnel losses of Darrelle Revis or Vince Wilfork, you should be checking out the rosters in Houston, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.
History tells us that when it comes to dealing, Bill Belichick has a relatively small circle of teams — and more specifically, individuals — he prefers to deal with more than others. Since he took control of the Patriots in 2000, by our count, Belichick has made 102 trades. In all, he’s made the most deals with Oakland (9), followed by Denver, Chicago, Tampa Bay and Green Bay (all 6). That’s followed by Houston, New Orleans, Baltimore and Philly (5).
The Raiders have been Belichick’s most frequent trade partner, and deals with Oakland have arguably produced the most blockbusters, including the trades of Richard Seymour and Randy Moss. However, it’s worth noting that since the death of Al Davis in October 2011, the Patriots have not made a single deal with Oakland. (The last trade between New England and Oakland came when the two teams swapped picks on draft weekend in April of that year.) That’s not to rule out any sort of future trades between the two teams — only to suggest that the Raiders might not necessarily be the first team Belichick targets when he picks up the phone to talk about a deal this time around.
As for the best of the rest, it’s also unlikely that the Patriots and Broncos look to make a deal anytime soon, given the nature of their rivalry, as well as the fact that old friends Mike Shanahan or Josh McDaniels are no longer with Denver. Tampa Bay and Green Bay remain intriguing trade partners, as the Packers and GM Ted Thompson have shown a willingness to work with Belichick in the past on more than a few occasions over the last decade, with the last trade between the two teams coming last summer when New England acquired defensive tackle Jerel Worthy for a draft pick. And while the Patriots and Bears made a couple of notable deals a little over a decade ago (New England acquired Ted Washington in 2003 and a swap of draft picks that same year netted the Patriots Ty Warren), the two teams haven’t made a deal since 2007.
(Two teams we do know who are likely off Belichick’s trade radar: the Colts and Jets. While New York received compensation for losing Belichick to the Patriots in 2000, since he arrived in New England, Belichick has not made a personnel swap with either Indy or the Jets.)
That brings us to the Texans, Ravens, Eagles and Bucs. All four of these franchises have shown a willingness to work with the Patriots in the past, and given the deep relationship Belichick has with most of the decision-makers in each one of the four teams, it makes it a possibility that they could put together another deal in the not-too-distant future.
|Ted Johnson on D&C: NFL doctors once knew dangers of concussions, but never shared information||at 9:57 am ET|
Former Patriots linebacker and current Houston sports radio host Ted Johnson joined Dennis & Callahan Thursday morning to talk about the concussion dangers in football. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Johnson dealt with post-concussion syndrome after he retired in 2005 and the topic has come up again this week after 24-year-old 49ers linebacker Chris Borland retired because of fears of brain damage.
When Johnson retired there wasn’t much information about the serious dangers of concussions, but can relate to what Borland felt.
“I retired in the summer of 2005, the first day of training camp in 2005,” Johnson said. “I knew almost going into the offseason after we won our Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004, I kinda knew that it might be coming to the end for me, but I wasn’t quite sure. I just knew my head hurt. I knew [from a] behavioral standpoint things weren’t right. I just knew my mood was shifting and something was wrong. I feel like I made the right decision.
“I feel like in a way I was maybe like what Patrick Willis, after his his eighth year shutting it down. I feel like after my 10th year that I was making the right decision even though I wasn’t educated and I wasn’t full informed on what I was dealing with. There was no name to what I had or what I was feeling. … For me I could relate to a lot of what Chris was going through and maybe what Patrick Willis and other guys who have retired because of the way their heads were feeling. I feel like for me in a lot of respects I don’t have a lot of regrets in that regard.”
The former linebacker said he didn’t know what post-concussion syndrome was until after a year after he retired and he started speaking with Chris Nowinski, the co-founder and president of Sports Legacy Institute, a non-
Johnson said the NFL and NFL doctors knew the dangers of concussions when he played, but just didn’t share the information.
|History, recent personnel losses means Patriots will get defensive early in draft||03.18.15 at 12:28 am ET|
Predicting how the Patriots will approach the draft can be a fool’s errand. But history tells us that when it comes to their approach with high-value picks — combined with the recent personnel losses of Darrelle Revis or Vince Wilfork — if they end up sticking with just one selection in the top 50, they’ll try and find a defensive back or defensive lineman.
Since Bill Belichick took over just prior to the 2000 draft, the Patriots have had 24 picks in the top 50, and they have spent half of those on defensive linemen or defensive backs — six each. (In addition, they’ve taken four offensive linemen, three tight ends, two wide receivers, two linebackers and one running back with those selections.)
Of that group of 24, you can easily count 10 players as being long-term starters: Wilfork, Devin McCourty, Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Richard Seymour, Dont’a Hightower, Jerod Mayo, Rob Gronkowski, Chandler Jones and Nate Solder. You could also make an argument that three others (Benjamin Watson, Ty Warren and Patrick Chung) were in the league long enough to qualify as contributors.
While it’s unclear how that stacks up against the rest of the league — that’s a more in-depth blog post for another day — the fact that the Patriots have been able to hit on 42 percent of those picks is a good number. That stat is made all the more impressive considering the fact that New England has had just two picks in the top 10 in that span (Seymour at No. 6 in 2001 and Mayo at No. 10 in 2008). That’s second on the list of fewest top 10 picks in that span. By way of comparison, since 2000, the Lions and Jaguars have had the most top 10 picks (10 each), while the Colts, Steelers, Broncos and Giants have had the fewest (one each).
How does all this figure into this year? Ultimately, no one throws more curveballs on draft weekend than the Patriots, and the same should be true this time around. (It’s no surprise that no draft expert can seem to agree on what direction New England will go this time around.) But if you’re looking for the Patriots to utilize their 32nd pick on a defensive lineman, history tells us that’s usually a good thing: Of the six defensive linemen they have taken in the top 50, they’ve hit on four of them: Wilfork, Seymour, Warren and Chandler Jones. One was an undisputed miss (Ron Brace) and the sixth (Dominique Easley) gets an incomplete for playing roughly half of his rookie season before going on injured reserve.
However, as successful as they’ve been at targeting defensive linemen and plugging them immediately into the system following those high value picks, they’ve struggled when it comes to identifying and drafting defensive back, at least when it comes to those same high-value picks. McCourty and Chung are the only two defensive backs taken in the top 50 who have enjoyed successful careers — Eugene Wilson had one very good year before a slide in semi-obscurity, but Brandon Meriweather, Darius Butler and Ras-I Dowling have all made little to no impact at the NFL level, at least when they were in Foxboro.
Of course, when it comes to drafting and developing defensive backs, maybe the organizational philosophy is more about quantity than quality: Since 2000, the Patriots have used most of their picks at defensive back (26), while defensive line (22) and offensive line (22) round out the top three. They’ve drafted 17 linebackers, 13 wide receivers, 10 tight ends, eight running backs, eight quarterbacks, three fullbacks, two kickers (one, Owen Pochman, also worked sparingly as a punter), one punter and one long snapper.
In the end, no one is suggesting that the Patriots will be able to replace Revis or Wilfork with a rookie. There’s always a ton to consider when the pick is submitted — scheme fit, approach, playing style, how one position stacks up against another. And simply put, there’s no one in this draft class at either cornerback or defensive line who can have the impact on the 2015 Patriots that Revis or Wilfork would have had if he was still a part of the franchise. (That’s not to say that a player taken at that spot couldn’t eventually grow into that role — it’s important to note that Revis was taken 14th overall by the Jets in 2007, while Wilfork was selected 21st overall by New England in 2004.)
But when you consider their historical approach, combined with their recent personnel losses, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see New England lean on a semi-familiar formula when they’re on the clock this spring.
|Tom Brady says so long to Vince Wilfork via Facebook||03.17.15 at 12:24 pm ET|
On Tuesday, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gave a farewell salute to departing defensive lineman Vince Wilfork via Facebook. After 11 seasons as a teammate of Brady in New England, Wilfork signed with the Texans on Monday.
|Bill Belichick on Vince Wilfork: ‘Best defensive lineman I ever coached’||03.16.15 at 6:16 pm ET|
“Few players reached or will ever reach the special level of Vince Wilfork. He is a great champion and one of the classiest people I have ever been around — just a kind, genuine and giving person who was all about our team, football, winning and bringing joy to others. There may have never been anyone at his position with as much strength, toughness, intelligence, instinctiveness and athleticism. He is the best defensive linemen I ever coached, an all-time great Patriot whose place on our team will be missed but whose remarkable career as a Patriot will be remembered forever.”
|Vince Wilfork: ‘Excited’ for new start in Houston||at 5:40 pm ET|
The Texans have released some quotes from defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, who has signed with Houston after 11 years in New England:
On signing with the Houston Texans: “Me and my family, we’re excited to be here in Houston and playing as a Houston Texan. My goal is to help this team win as many games as possible and bring winning to this town. I think we deserve that, so that’s my number one goal.”
On the fit with the Texans: “I look at it as a great fit. Being here with a coach that coached me as a rookie in RAC (Romeo Crennel) and a coach that played with me in (Mike) Vrabel. Also, Billy O (Bill O’Brien) being there for a couple years with me and (George) Godsey. Being able to have a chance to play with a dynamic player such as J.J. Watt. Also, getting (Jadeveon) Clowney going and (Brian) Cushing and Johnathan Joseph, all those guys, and the offense and what they bring to the table. It’s a young, exciting team to be around. My goal is just to bring leadership, bring a lot of fun, and bring a lot of experience. I’m not a coach by no means, but at the same time, I’ve been on another level where I’ve won a lot of games and won Super Bowls. If guys want to know what it takes or how it feels, I’m here for that. At the same time, I think we can do a lot of damage here ourselves, especially winning ball games, and that’s the key. The key is winning ball games, so I’m excited and looking forward to playing with these guys and playing in Houston. I’ve heard the fans are some great fans, so I can’t wait to be a part of that.”
On what he would say to the New England Patriots fans: “I’ve been playing in New England for 11 years. That organization with (Robert) Kraft and Bill Belichick that drafted me, being a rookie and playing there. I played in four Super Bowls and won two. I’ve been very blessed and privileged to play up there and learn from the best coach that ever done it. Also, to play with one of the best quarterbacks that’s in the game. From my teammates, there’s nothing but love for them. They are brothers to me. The fans always treated me with respect. We had a lot of fun. I had a lot of fun in New England and I’m going to cherish all of that because at the end of the day, I’ve been there for 11 years, so it’s hard to close that door on my teammates, my fans, my coaches, and the owner. We built relationships over the years with the fans, my owners, my coaches, and my teammates. That’s something that’s going to be missed. Not being able to see my guys that I used to go to battle for every day in practice and in games. That’s one of the things that I’m going to miss with those guys. I always respected the nature of the business. That’s the sad thing, sometimes we get so caught up in playing the game that we forget that it’s a business. I wish there was no salary cap and you can always keep every player you want, but that’s not the way the game is anymore. I’m just happy with the decision we made to come here to Houston, but at the same time, where I’m coming from just understand the 11 great years there from my fans, the organization and my teammates, You can’t replace that.”