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Sunday 7: Eventually, Tom Brady will have to address Gisele Bundchen’s concussion comments 05.21.17 at 6:00 am ET
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Tom Brady will likely need to address Gisele's concussion comments at some point. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady will likely need to address Gisele’s concussion comments at some point. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

1. The biggest football story of the week was Tom Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, going on CBS This Morning and saying Brady has had concussions over the course of his career, including last year. This wouldn’t seem like a big deal given Brady has played 17 years in the NFL, but the issue is Brady hasn’t missed any games besides when he tore his ACL and he’s never been listed on the injury report with a concussion. The NFL responded by saying it has no record of any such thing and later in the week his agent Don Yee released a carefully worded statement saying Brady “was not diagnosed” with a concussion last year. He didn’t say Brady didn’t have one, he said Brady wasn’t diagnosed with one. A big difference. Whether he wants to or not, at some point Brady is going to have to address what Gisele said. Concussions are one of the biggest topics of discussion in the NFL and when the biggest star in the game is in the middle of it, he’s going to need to address it. With all the measures put in place for player safety when it comes to concussions (now having concussion spotters and specialists on the sidelines), it appears, at least according to Gisele, Brady has slipped through the cracks. It’s important to note the Patriots didn’t break any rules by not reporting anything because it’s likely a case of Brady not telling anyone. In 2015, Brady was asked on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan if he’s ever had a concussion. “I’d really not like to get into that,” he responded. But then, last year he said concussions are a “very important topic.” “I think there’s been more awareness from the general media on what CTE is, how it affects you, the long term ramifications of it,” Brady said, via ABC News. “I think, as an athlete, you have to take all those things into consideration and try to be as proactive as you can. Gain information, then go through the proper protocols if you do get a concussion.” With how much damage chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) can have, Brady contracting himself by saying what an important topic concussions are, and then seemingly ignoring his own will likely need to be explained.

2. This is a big week for the Patriots and their offseason program as OTAs are set to begin. They will be held Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, with Thursday’s session being open to the media. Contact isn’t allowed, but 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills are allowed. This will give the media its first chance to see what the 2017 team looks like. The running back position will be an area to keep an eye on to try and get some glimpse as to how the carries and playing time will be split. It will also be worth keeping an eye on Malcolm Butler and how he interacts with his teammates, especially Stephon Gilmore following the Patriots signing him to a megadeal this offseason. Cyrus Jones is also a player to watch to see if he is showing signs of bouncing back after a tough rookie season. As always, the quarterback position is worth watching, especially Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett to see how big of strides both players have made from last season. It is worth keeping in mind any observations should be taken with a grain of salt considering it’s just OTAs and contact isn’t permitted, but this is the only thing there is to go on before training camp in late July.

3. LeGarrette Blount officially will not be on the Patriots next season, as the 30-year-old running back signed a deal with the Eagles this week. His career in New England deserves to be recognized. Many believe any running back can succeed in Bill Belichick’s system with Brady at quarterback, but Blount did things no one else could do. How many backs can carry four or five guys on their backs for 10 extra yards? How many backs have the ability to wear defenses down and run over defensive backs in the second half of games? Blount was also one of the happiest players in the locker room, always having a smile on his face and laughing with teammates. The connection was shown this week when many of his former teammates reached out to him on social media congratulating him on his new deal. Blount had a very underrated career in New England playing a large role in winning two Super Bowls.

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Read More: Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Sunday 7, Tom Brady
Vince Wilfork almost certainly played his last NFL game Saturday night 01.15.17 at 1:07 am ET
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Vince Wilfork will likely be retiring from the NFL. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Vince Wilfork will likely be retiring from the NFL. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — It’s only fitting.

Texans defensive tackle Vince Wilfork walked off the Gillette Stadium field saluting the crowd Saturday night after falling to the Patriots 34-16, ending his season, his second with the Texans after 11 years in New England.

In the past few weeks Wilfork said he would be contemplating retirement at age 35 years old and he all but confirmed it after the game.

“No emotions and I will take my time and think about it,” Wilfork said. “I think I have played my last NFL football game. I will take the time and do my due diligence and sit back and see if I really want to retire. We will see. I don’t know how long that will take. I will see, it doesn’t change the fact that I enjoyed every bit of my career.

“I enjoyed 11 great years in New England and two great years in Texas with unbelievable teammates. I couldn’t have any better teammates from both organizations and you talk about the organizations themselves and you talk about top of the class. These are two owners that anyone would love to play for.”

After the game Wilfork embraced dozens of his former teammates and coaches on the field and walked off to a large ovation. Before the game when he was walking on to the field he was shown on the video board, which drew a large ovation from the crowd.

Given Wilfork started his career in New England, it seems fitting he also ends it there.

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Mike Petraglia, Ryan Hannable recap historic night as Patriots clinch 6th straight AFC title appearance, Vince Wilfork’s last game at 12:52 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots, thanks to Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman, made some NFL playoff history Saturday night in what will likely be Vince Wilfork’s final game in the NFL. The Patriots advance to their 6th straight AFC championship with a 34-16 win over the Texans. Mike Petraglia and Ryan Hannable have the details inside Gillette Stadium.

Read More: Dion Lewis, houston texans, Mike Petraglia, New England Patriots
Scouting Report: What you have to know about Texans-Patriots 01.13.17 at 3:01 pm ET
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Tom Brady will make the 32nd postseason start of his career Saturday against Houston. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Tom Brady will make the 32nd postseason start of his career Saturday against Houston. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Everything you need to know for Saturday’s divisional playoff contest between the Patriots and Texans at Gillette Stadium.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL

This may not be a big component of the game in the early going, but it will be before things are all said and done. LeGarrette Blount (299 carries, 1,161 rushing yards, a league-high 18 rushing touchdowns) was able to run for big yardage when these two teams met back in September (24 carries, 105 yards, 2 TDs), and while it’s dicey to try and compare these two teams now to what happened a few months ago, stats tell us that the Texans are still vulnerable when it comes to rush defense; they finished the year 12th in the NFL against the run, yielding an average of 99.7 rushing yards per game. One thing with Blount, as we saw in September? There are few guys in the league better when it comes to executing in a four-minute offense. In the second half of that win over Houston, he had 17 carries for 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It’s not so much Blount’s total yards that matter, but when he gets them. One other guy worth watching will be Dion Lewis (64 carries, 283 yards), who got a significant uptick in reps between the tackles over the last month of the season as a changeup offering to the wrecking-ball approach of Blount.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL

If they’re all healthy, we’re an advocate for the idea of dressing all five receivers and giving New England the sort of depth in the passing game that they haven’t had in a playoff game in a long time. Basically, give Tom Brady (67 percent completion rate, 3,554 passing yards, 28 TDs, 2 INTs) as many options as possible when it comes to the quick hitters; you get the ball out as fast as possible, it minimizes the chances of the Houston pass rush getting after the quarterback. Expect the bulk of the targets to go to Julian Edelman (98 catches, 159 targets, 1,106 yards, 3 TDs), who has been as rock solid as they come over the second half of the season. Martellus Bennett (55 catches, 73 targets, 701 yards, 7 TDs) and Chris Hogan (38 catches, 58 targets, 680 yards, 4 TDs) will also figure into the mix.

Over the course of the season, the Texans were second against the pass (201.6 yards allowed per game), while their 17 takeaways were tied for 26th in the league. Safety Quentin Demps, who has been dogged by a hamstring issue, leads Houston with six interceptions. Per Football Outsiders, the Texans aren’t great at slowing backs in the passing game, which means there could be more chances for Lewis (17 catches) and James White (60 catches) on Saturday. Meanwhile, Whitney Mercilus (7.5 sacks), Jadaveon Clowney (6 sacks) and Benardrick McKinney (5 sacks) lead one of the better pass rush groups in the league. Look for lots of heavy sets with an extra blocker (Cam Fleming) when it comes to helping the tackles keep Brady as clean as possible. For what it’s worth, Brady has gone up against a Romeo Crennel-led defense on three occasions, and has averaged 20-for-32 (63 percent) for 242 yards, just over two touchdowns, no interceptions and two sacks per game.

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Read More: A.J. Bouye, Brock Osweiler, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola
Tom Brady admits he hates playing against Vince Wilfork 01.11.17 at 7:03 pm ET
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Tom Brady will face Vince Wilfork for a second time on Saturday. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady will face Vince Wilfork for a second time on Saturday. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — After playing with him for 11 years in New England, Saturday night will be the second time Tom Brady has gone against Vince Wilfork on the other side of the ball.

(Brady missed the Week 3 game earlier this season between the Patriots and Texans.)

Despite being 35 years old, Wilfork is still playing at a high level and Brady acknowledged he’d prefer if Wilfork was on his own team.

“I’ve looked over center for many years and seen him. He’s just in a different jersey. But he’s still just a force,” Brady said on a conference call with the Houston media. “I mean both in the run game and the pass game. He still gets pressure in the pocket. Vince [Wilfork] has been one of the best players in the league since he got in the league. He’s been a great addition for that team. I hate playing against him. I’d much rather have him on our team, but that’s not the way it works out, or worked out last year. But it’s still great to see him playing and playing well”

The Texans are 0-4 in their history at Gillette Stadium being outscored 150-49 and have allowed 40 or more points in three of the four meetings. The only time they didn’t allow 40 points was this past season when the Patriots won 27-0 in Week 3.

Brady doesn’t know why teams like the Texans always have an issue at Gillette Stadium.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “I’ve never really paid much attention to that. I think for us Coach [Bill Belichick] always says ‘It’s how we play; it’s not who we play or where we play.’ I think for us playing well at home, I think it does help offensively, just the communication because you can make some last second adjustments to run stuff, protection, you can change routes or change concepts with very little time left on the play-clock, which is I guess challenging to do when you’re on the road. We try to build some things in on the road that make it a little bit easier to communicate, but it’s certainly easier to communicate at home.”

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Read More: Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork,
Vince Wilfork brought up 2007 Giants when asked about 16-point spread for Saturday’s Patriots-Texans game 01.10.17 at 3:35 pm ET
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Vince Wilfork isn't worried about the point spread. (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today Sports)

Vince Wilfork isn’t worried about the point spread. (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork doesn’t care about the Texans being 16-point underdogs to the Patriots on Saturday in the divisional round.

Speaking to the New England media on a conference call Tuesday, Wilfork brought up the 2007 Giants when they beat the Patriots, 17-14 in the Super Bowl despite being 12-point underdogs.

He also brought up the National Championship Monday night, as Clemson upset Alabama.

“I think last night we saw the game with Alabama and Clemson where these so-called experts had Clemson as the underdog,” Wilfork said. “In ’07 the experts had the New York Giants as underdogs and both of those teams went on to win the Super Bowl and the National Championship so it goes to show you what these experts know.”

Added Wilfork: “We don’t pay attention to outside what people have to say about us or how good or how bad we are,” he said. “I think this team is a close-knit group. We play well together and we approach everything as a family. Win or lose. Win as a team, lose or as a team.”

While this year’s Texans team isn’t close to what the 2007 Giants were, it’s a reminder anything can happen.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

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Vince Wilfork talks upcoming decision: ‘Even if I do call it quits, I had a great career’ at 2:56 pm ET
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Saturday could be Vince Wilfork's last game. (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today Sports)

Saturday could be Vince Wilfork’s last game. (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Whenever Vince Wilfork and the Texans’ season ends, the 35-year-old will have a decision to make: Continue to play and sign a new contract, or retire.

Last week Wilfork told reporters in Houston he is contemplating retirement after the season and he reiterated those comments Tuesday on a conference call with the New England media.

“It still stands what I said last week,” Wilfork said. “At this point in my career, [that will be something] I will be thinking about once the season ends to see what I really want to do. It’s hard to walk away from something that you love and have been playing for so long, but we can’t play the game forever. That’s a decision I will make at the end of the season and give it some time and some thought and a lot of different things and go from there.

“Whenever I make that decision, I am full fledged making the decision. I won’t be one of those ones to call it quits and say, ‘No, I’m not retiring. I am coming back’ and play that game. When I hang my cleats up, I am going to hang them up for good. That’s something at the end of this season I will take a look at and weigh my options and see how I feel about it.”

The defensive tackle will be a free agent after signing a two-year, $9 million deal with the Texans following winning Super Bowl XLIX with New England.

If Wilfork does indeed retire, he would do so making the playoffs in every year of his career, except for one. In 2008, led by Matt Cassel the Patriots didn’t reach the postseason, but it came down to the final week of the regular season.

Wilfork knows how lucky he is.

“That is a blessing and it’s rare,” he said. “My 13-year career, 12 years I have been in the postseason and the one year I didn’t make it, [we were] 11-5 and having a chance at the last game of the season, different guys going in, all of this, different scenarios and having a chance at going to the postseason. I played a lot of football in my career. I don’t regret anything I’ve done. I had a great career — even if I do call it quits, I had a great career.

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