|Jason Campbell ‘looks sharp’ and gets the start Sunday vs. Patriots||12.06.13 at 1:55 pm ET|
After a week of guessing, the Patriots finally know the quarterback that will be facing them on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski announced Friday afternoon that veteran quarterback Jason Campbell has been cleared from his concussion suffered on Nov. 24 against Pittsburgh and is expected to start Sunday. Campbell practiced for the second straight day Friday and showed no ill effects from the concussion.
Campbell’s record this season is 1-3, with his only victory coming against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. Campbell has completed 87-of-153 passes this season for 933 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.
Of course, most Patriots fans will remember Campbell as the quarterback of the Washington Redskins in 2007 when the Patriots obliterated Joe Gibbs and Washington, 52-7, at Gillette Stadium. He was 21-of-37 for 197 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
Campbell practiced for a second straight day and impressed those in attendance, including his coach. “He looks sharp and hasn’t missed a beat,” Chudzinski said.
Campbell vs. Pats 2007 with WAS–21-for-36, 197 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT in 52-7 loss 2011 with OAK–25-for-39, 344 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT in 31-19 loss
— Christopher Price (@cpriceNFL) December 6, 2013
Quarterback Brandon Weeden will not be Campbell’s back-up. He has not yet been cleared to practice and will be inactive for the game, Chudzinski said. He was the only Browns player not at practice Friday.
Caleb Hanie, who was signed this week as a free agent, or Alex “Trickshot” Tanney, signed last week off Dallas’ practice squad, will get the nod as back-up but Chudzinski says that won’t be announced until Sunday.
#browns Campbell is probable. Has been cleared to play. Will start vs patriots
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) December 6, 2013
|Bill Belichick recalls how Bill Parcells taught him how to manage the winds of change||10.28.13 at 12:11 pm ET|
FOXBORO — As the Patriots were facing a third-and-10 at Miami’s 30 yard line with 18 seconds left in the third quarter Sunday, Bill Belichick recalled the 1986 NFC championship game, and a valuable lesson he learned from Bill Parcells.
“I’d say one of the biggest decisions and most critical decisions that I’ve ever been a part of on that was in the 1986 NFC Championship Game against the Redskins,” Belichick recalled Monday in a conference call. “It was a windy day in Giants Stadium. We’ve had many of those and we won the toss and Coach [Bill] Parcells elected to take the wind which wasn’t very common. It wasn’t a very common decision because, let’s face it, you take it in the first quarter you’re not going to have it in the second quarter.
“That was what he decided to do and we were able to really take advantage of that situation against the Redskins. We got three stops and 17 points and we had a 17-0 lead at the end of the first quarter in part due to the wind, good defense and good offense helped of course. But the field position was huge and that ended up being the final score of the game. That decision, the initial points and the way that the game started really was a huge part of what was reflected in a huge degree to that decision that Bill made. That was a good lesson for me to learn in my career. It was a great decision by Coach Parcells.”
Sunday was another windy day for Belichick, this time with a 20 MPH breeze out of the north and behind the Patriots for 18 more seconds in a tie game. Belichick decided to call the first of his three second half timeouts after second down so he could be assured of holding the wind for the last two plays of the quarter and a potential go-ahead field goal.
Sure enough, third down was an incomplete pass and Stephen Gostkowski was brought on for the 48-yard field goal that would give the Patriots the lead for good. As it turned out, the incompletion probably saved Belichick another timeout. Gostkowski made it easily and Belichick talked about the decision to use the timeout in great detail Monday.
“We were at that point where we were in field goal range but it was a long field goal and it felt like if we changed ends of the field then that field goal range might not be there as evidenced by when we went for it on fourth down in the fourth quarter going into the wind in a similar field position situation,” Belichick said. “When the clock was running there, we wanted to try to give ourselves a chance. Of course in a close game like that, the game was tied at the time, you hate to waste timeouts because they can be valuable at the end, as we’ve seen many times this year, but I felt like it was worth it to be able to have a better opportunity on the kick. Not saying that Steve couldn’t have made it going the other way, I just think it would have been a harder kick based on the conditions that were out there yesterday. Then we threw the incomplete pass and that might have helped us there, because had we completed the pass and not gotten the first down, then that would have been another situation and decision whether to use another timeout to preserve that but fortunately we didn’t have to do that.
“If we had converted, then obviously we would have then gone into the fourth quarter but it would have been closer to the goal line, at least at the start, if we had picked up the first down and then been able to, even if we got stopped, it would have been a kick that I would have felt better about going that direction. It wasn’t just the direction of the wind, there was also significant crosswind that all the specialists had to deal with. Yeah, of course, back to the first days I remember watching football, playing, watching, being a part of it, the wind conditions are always a factor in the kicking game first and then in the passing game.”
|Ex-Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather suffers season-ending injury||11.19.12 at 6:08 pm ET|
Former Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather, a two-time Pro Bowler, suffered a season-ending tear of the ACL in his right knee in his first and only game of the 2012 season for the Washington Redskins. Meriweather, who signed with Washington as a free agent this spring, had missed all of the Redskins season until Sunday due to a pair of left knee ligament sprains suffered in training camp. He reinjured the knee twice — including once in warmups before he was to be activated in Week 4 — before finally getting on the field in Washington’s 31-6 win over the Eagles on Sunday. Meriweather was a force, with an interception and seven tackles, but he blew out his knee without contact early in the third quarter.
Per the AP story:
“I want to start off by saying I’m sorry to all the redskins fan. Y’all are the best,” Meriweather posted on Twitter shortly after receiving the diagnosis. “But this was a bad season for me.”
For more, click here.
|With Gheorghe Muresan as inspiration, Zoltan Mesko becomes one of the best in the NFL||12.15.11 at 11:15 am ET|
FOXBORO — When Zoltan Mesko pinned the Redskins inside the 5 on his first punt of the afternoon Sunday, it resulted in arguably the biggest touchdown of the game.
Andre Carter sacked Rex Grossman in the end zone, forcing the ball loose, and allowing Vince Wilfork to pounce on it for an early 7-0 lead. Both teams would score three offensive touchdowns and kick a pair of field goals but it was the defensive TD that was the difference.
Mesko has quietly been having an outstanding season.
In just his second year out of Michigan, he is sixth in NFL in net yards punting at 40.6, pinned the opponent inside the 20-yard line 16 times and is allowing just 8.6 yards per return, a testament to his hangtime on his punts.
“It comes down to performing practice first,” Mesko said. “If you’re going to do it in practice, it will carry over to games. I’ve done not many things different. I’ve tweaked my technique here and there a little bit, and everyone does that with any type of technique they’re involved in, whether it’s golf or football or anything. It’s just the continuous search for improvement.”
Mesko was quick to credit the work of Matthew Slater and Sergio Brown for getting down the field quickly and down the punt that was one of the key early moments in the 34-27 win.
“To me, I realize that I am making a difference and the field position battle is huge any Sunday,” Mesko said. “It’s good to have teammates like Sergio Brown and Matthew Slater that can get down there and make the play for me. The guys do a great job of blocking and Danny [Danny Aiken] does a great job of snapping – couldn’t ask for more.
“The only thing I can do is get more repetitions. Through preparation comes confidence. So, it’s a mixture of both that pays off on Sunday.”
“He’s built on his rookie year and he’s done a real good job for us,” Bill Belichick said on Wednesday. “His holding has been very good – not that it was ever not good, but it’s gotten better. He’s really worked hard on that. Again, punting is so situational. You don’t just sit out there and bang it away; you’ve got rushes you have to do deal with, you have field position, wind conditions, things like that. His situational punting has really improved.
“There are still some things that he can do better, but I think he’s taken a solid jump from his rookie year in terms of his overall mechanics and also his situational awareness and being able to execute different types of kicks in different situations. Again, the holding is also part of it too. You don’t want to overlook that. He’s a big part of the field goal operation.”
So where has all the inspiration come from for Mesko?
Turns out he had a chance meeting this past weekend in Washington with his childhood hero – and former NBA legend – Gheorghe Muresan, the 7-foot-7 beast of a center from Romania who starred for the Washington Bullets. Mesko, who stands 6-foot-4 himself, felt like a kid again next to “Ghorgeous Gheorge.”
“I did feel short on that occasion,” said Mesko, who was also there with 5-foot-8 Danny Woodhead. “I’m glad I got Danny in there. Should’ve done a Sprint commercial.
“Just a connection through a couple of Romanian journalists that made the connection. They’ve been friends for a long time. I wanted to meet my childhood hero. It was awesome. It was like talking to a movie star – which he was in “My Giant”. I admitted to him that I’ve seen “My Giant” about 20 times and I still own it on VHS. He gave me a high-5 for it.”
What about this week in the mile-high air of Denver? Is Mesko looking forward to kicking the ball out of the stadium like he did for a kicking camp promotion last year?
“I haven’t kicked in Denver but I’ve been to Denver,” Mesko said. “I’ve gone skiing a little bit so I know what the air is like. But you get a sense for that watching film, how guys compare in kicking the ball but until I get there and try it out in warmups myself, that’s when the adjustments happens.”
As for another sports legend, he’ll be trying to lengthen the field for Tim Tebow, making it hard for Broncos to excel in “Tebow Time.”
“I think it’s cool for the league,” Mesko said. “He’s done a lot of the league this year, and ignoring the noise.”
|Jerod Mayo knows Sunday’s performance ‘won’t be good enough any other week’||12.11.11 at 7:50 pm ET|
LANDOVER, Md. — In a game that saw the Patriots give up big play after big play to Rex Grossman, it was Jerod Mayo to the rescue with 20 seconds remaining to preserve the Patriots’ 34-27 win over the Redskins Sunday at FedExField.
He intercepted a bobble by Santana Moss on a throw from Grossman with the Redskins threatening inside the Patriots’ 10.
“Tracy [Tracy White] made a great play on the ball and kind of separated the man from the ball, and it just popped up and fell into my hands,” Mayo said.
Moss was upset following the game when asked about the offensive pass interference penalty the play before that negated the game-tying touchdown. Replays showed Mayo getting screened off on a corner route by Moss, who appeared to get his hands extended, with the side judge throwing the flag.
“I’ve been playing this game for a long time and I still find it hard to believe that it’s all right for somebody to mug us at five yards but we can’t get the guy off us, so they called pass interference on us,” Moss said. “How can I get open if a guy is going to put his hands on me, and if I put my hands back on him? You feel me? It’s just stuff that has been going on for years but we’re wrong if we do it, but if they do it, it’s OK.”
Back to the Patriots, was Mayo’s pick enough to erase what happened in the first 59 minutes, 40 seconds, when the Patriots couldn’t come up with a big defensive stop?
“A little bit, but at the same time we still want to put together a full game and, it was good enough today, but it probably won’t be good enough any other week,” Mayo said.
No one on the Patriots defense was targeted more than Devin McCourty in the first three quarters. And after giving up a 51-yard completion to Donte Stallworth in the first quarter, he knew the Redskins would be coming back his way all game. Read the rest of this entry »
LANDOVER, Md. — If you thought Tom Brady was not going to stand up on the podium and take full responsibility for his critical red zone interception in the fourth quarter – a pick that nearly let Rex Grossman and the Redskins tie the game and led to a heated confrontation with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien – you haven’t been paying close attention to Brady for the last decade.
“I threw a bad interception, so he wasn’t happy about it,” Brady said of the argument. “There was probably a long line of coaches and players who were pretty pissed at me after that, but Billy got to me first. He let me have it. I deserved it.”
It was the first of five questions in his postgame press conference about “The Argument”.
With 6:37 remaining in the game and the Patriots leading, 34-27, the Patriot offense was at the 4-yard line on third-and-4 when Brady attempted to throw the ball to wide receiver Tiquan Underwood at the back of the end zone. Instead, Redskin cornerback Josh Wilson stepped in front of Underwood to make the interception.
“I made a terrible play,” Brady continued, “so, he just let me know I made a terrible play. It’s football, man. It’s a game of emotion. It’s athletics. I was looking there adn then I was trying to throw to Tiquan in the back [of the end zone] and was trying to get it over Gronk and there were two other guys on him, and I put too much air on it. I have the DB a chance to make a play, so not the ideal time to throw an interception with a seven-point lead.”
What ensued was a sign of a highly competitive and frustrated quarterback and an angry offensive coordinator.
The two had to be physically separated by several coaches and head coach Bill Belichick.
“I think this was a real competitive game and we have a lot of competitive players on this team,” is all Belichick would say in describing what he saw transpire.
Rob Gronkowski – whom Brady looked to at first before seeing he was double-teamed and throwing to Underwood – was on the sidelines but said he didn’t know the two got into a verbal tussle.
“I didn’t see it. I’ve got to go watch the tape,” Gronkowski said with a good-natured laugh.
Brady and O’Brien spent the next five minutes calming down while talking to each other side-by-side on the Patriots bench while the Redskins drove down the field.
The Redskins almost tied the game with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game following the interception, but Jerod Mayo intercepted Grossman at the New England 5-yard line to end the game.
Although the Patriots win Sunday did not seem satisfying for Brady, he admitted that winning ugly and making mistakes is simply part of the game.
“There’s nothing perfect in football – unless you’re the Packers,” Brady said.
LANDOVER, Md. — Before his NFL record-breaking 14th touchdown catch as a tight end, Rob Gronkowski ran into franchise lore with a catch, run and rumble that goes down as one of the most memorable in Patriots history.
One play before, Gronkowski caught a crossing route pass from Tom Brady and fell to the ground untouchded. He got up and ran to the sideline, shaking off two would-be tacklers, including DeJon Gomes, whom Gronkowski routinely flung off like a rag doll at the Redskins 40. Gronkowski then rumbled down another 20 yards before being tripped up. He kept his balance long enough to get to the Redskins 11.
“Tom just made a great throw,” Gronkowski said. “The defender was right there. He put it where no one could get it besides me. I just made the catch and I just noticed the guy didn’t touch me at all. So, I got up, started running, just happened to spin off a couple of guys and got down to the  so it was a good play, big play. It was a good pass so, that’s where it started, was the pass.”
Did he think he was out of bounds after flinging Jones to the side?
“I don’t even know,” Gronkowski said. “There were no whistles or nothing so I was just running. When I don’t hear whistles, I just keep running.”
On the next play, Gronkowski ran a seam route into the end zone and caught the ball for his 14th receiving touchdown, the most by a tight end in any one season in NFL history. Antonio Gates (2004) and Vernon Davis (2009) had the previous record at 13.
He spiked the the ball and then looked up in the air to see where it was before retrieving it and getting to one of the Patriots equipment managers.
“I got the ball back and everything,” Gronkowski said. “It’s cool to get a record and everything but that really doesn’t matter. We got the team victory, we got the ‘W’ and that’s all that matters when coming out. The defense played well at the end of the game, they got that interception, which was huge. It can’t be any better coming out with a victory.”
In the third quarter, he broke free after being jammed at the line of scrimmage and hauled in a pass that resulted in a 37-yard TD reception, his 15th. He celebrated that by leaping into the stands and getting some love taps from a Patriots fan in a white jersey.
“I just do things on the spot,” Gronkowski said. “I never thought of that before. I just saw the guy with the New England jersey in the first row so got to give him some props, gotta give him some love because he’s got first row at an away game with the New England jersey on.”
There were thousands of Patriots fans inside FedExField Sunday that made it sound like “half the stadium” was behind them, according to Gronkowski.
Patriots fans everywhere will remember Sunday as the day Rob Gronkowski – with 160 yards and two TDs on six catches – further cemented his place in franchise lore in just his second season.
His 160 yards fell just one yard shy of the franchise record set by Ben Coates against the Dolphins on Sept. 4, 1994 at Miami.
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