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April 29, 2007

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FOXBORO, MA -- New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has mentioned on more than one occasion over the years about his admiration for Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed, and according to several publications the Patriots may have drafted a player who may fit that mold.

The Patriots selected University of Miami standout Brandon Meriweather in the first round as the 24th overall selection on Saturday, who many publications have compared to Reed. The safety's hard hitting style apparently got Belichick's attention, and now he's heading to Foxboro as the newest member of the Patriots.

"I am lost for words right now," Meriweather told reporters Saturday after being selected by New England. "I'm pretty much thinking about getting to the team and helping out the team in every way that I can, to learn my playbook and get ready to play in the games."

Meriweather adds depth to a secondary that has seen their fair share of injuries over the past couple of seasons. Where he will fit in will obviously depend on what he shows after the coaching staff has a chance to evaluate him in practice, but the former Miami Hurricane also brings a key factor that everyone knows Bill Belichick is looking for to the table, and that's versatility.

"[He was] a versatile player for the University," said Belichick on Saturday. "He's played some corner. He's played some inside nickel position in their sub-defense, played safety, both down and back. I think he's a real intelligent football player. He has a real good understanding of concepts and some versatility at a high level of competition."

His versatility started from the time he was in high school where he lead his team to a Florida Class 6A state championship after starring as a kick returner, in which he returned four kicks for a touchdown. He also saw limited playing time as a quarterback, and in college played was used in both the dime and nickel defense. He's a very intelligent player who Belichick said he had a chance to spend some time with during a visit to Miami, and apparently feels will be a good fit.

"He's played some inside nickel position in their sub-defense," said Belichick. "[He's] played safety, both down and back. I think he's a real intelligent football player. He has a real good understanding of concepts and some versatility at a high level of competition."

The biggest question surrounding Meriweather have been character issues both on and off the football field. The former Miami Hurricane was involved in a shooting incident where he reportedly shot his registered handgun three times while defending himself during a suspected robbery attempt at his South Miami residence. He was also suspended for one game after kicking a downed player during a brawl that erupted in following his team's 35-0 victory over Florida International.

The shooting incident is tough to fault him for, considering that he was not charged because he had a permit to carry the gun and following the investigation of the incident even the police determined he had acted in self-defense. The hard part was looking past the incident against Florida international which lead to a one-game suspension and a black mark on what was an otherwise impressive college career.

"Pretty much my emotions got the best of me," said Meriweather regarding the incident. "I was headed out to the field and I made a bad decision, one that I shouldn't have made and should have thought better of. That is something that happened already and I have rebounded from it. Now I'm ready to do something to correct it. It is something that won't ever happen again"

Head coach Bill Belichick also didn't sound worried about it when he was asked about the incident, and felt it was just a mistake and not a real indication of his character.

"He ran over there and made a bad decision," said Belichick of Meriweather. "I don't think that's who he is. I've spent time with him and a lot of people in that program. I think football is important to him. He works hard at it and he's a good player. I think that's more of a representative of him than that incident. But, it happened. He made a mistake."

Now Meriweather is set to prove that the teams who let him slip so far into the first round will think they made one by not selecting him. While he can't change the past, he's focused now on making his future a success, and it appears that will hopefully be as a productive member of the New England Patriots.


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