By: Ian Logue/
September 19, 2009

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Patriots notebook: Season starts with Houston at Foxboro

It's definitely been quite a week here in new England, and after everything that's gone on I think it's safe to say that every Patriots fan has seen enough to realize that if the Bill Belichick/Eric Mangini "rivalry" wasn't bad enough, new Jets head coach Rex Ryan has taken it to another level. Here's a look back at what's gone on here in Foxboro this week, and hopefully this will help you find out anything you may have missed heading into Sunday's game against the Jets.

New England kicked off the 2009 season Monday night, which featured the return of quarterback Tom Brady who was taking the field at Gillette Stadium for his first regular season game since suffering that devastating knee injury he sustained during last year's home opener. Brady didn't disappoint, leading the Patriots back from a 24-13 4th quarter deficit en-route to a dramatic 25-24 win over the Buffalo Bills.

The win improved them to 8-0 during their opening night games at Gillette Stadium, and this one saw the team dressed in their throwback uniforms commemorating their AFL roots as the "Boston Patriots".

The Patriots also held a halftime ceremony honoring their 50th anniversary team. Among those in attendance were Hall of Famers Andre Tippett, Nick Buoniconti, and Mike Haynes, along with broadcaster Gino Cappelletti and Super Bowl heroes Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, and Ty Law. One interesting note reported by WBZ after the game was the fact that Haynes is a cancer survivor, having overcome prostate cancer which he said he credits to the fact the doctors caught it so early.

Haynes is now speaking out, in partnership with the NFL and the American Urological Association Foundation, encouraging men to talk to their doctors which will hopefully allow many more men to have their lives prolonged thanks to early detection.

"Before I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I never knew I was at risk for this disease. Now I know how important it is to play defense against prostate cancer and to start getting tested at 40," says Haynes. "A simple test saved my life."

Haynes is leading a campaign with the AUA to hopefully raise awareness of the disease. Joining Haynes is Tony Dorsett, Anthony Munoz, "Mean" Joe Greene and Michael Irvin.

It was a great night on and off the field, but it came with a consequence. Linebacker Jerod Mayo went down midway through the first quarter with a knee injury that will reportedly sideline him for 6-8 weeks. According to reports on Wednesday Mayo suffered a strained MCL and was spotted in the locker room on crutches and wearing a knee brace.

The good news is that wide receiver Wes Welker (who missed the final two preseason games) returned to action, and joined Randy Moss with the two finishing with 12 catches each on the night. However, the biggest story was tight end Ben Watson, who caught two touchdowns in the final 2 ½ minutes of the game and finished the night with six catches for 77-yards. But it was his final grab that electrified Gillette Stadium and brought everyone to their feet.

Brady said after the game that Watson's second TD catch was one of the best he's ever seen him make.

"He ran two really great routes," said Brady of Watson after the game. "The first one was an incredible route - great protection - and the second one was an incredible catch. It was the same play and it was the same coverage and the safety really squeezed him on the second one because he recognized it. I tried to throw it high on his back shoulder and he just went up and made a phenomenal catch, so I told him it was the best catch I've ever seen him make. Hopefully there're a lot more of those in store."

As the postgame celebrations winded down the focus turned to the New York Jets, who with Ryan as their new head coach have a completely different personality from that of former head coach Mangini. Ryan is a very vocal and outspoken individual who for the most part doesn't seem to think before he speaks. He said during a radio interview back in June that he wasn't intimidated by Belichick, among other things. It's bizarre to say the least.

"I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick's rings," said Ryan then. "I came to win, let's put it that way. I'm certainly not intimidated by New England or anybody else."

So with that in mind Moss told Reiss afer the game that with the Jets coming off of a 24-7 win over the Texans last weekend, Sunday's matchup is definitely going to be interesting.

"I can remember Coach (Rex) Ryan talking about that he isn't coming to kiss (Bill Belichick's Super Bowl) rings, so I think that it's going to be a big game,"

"I think he really meant what he said and I think he has a really good team backing him."

Ryan spoke out again on Wednesday when asked again about his comments.

"It's how I felt, and it's how I feel," said Ryan. "I have a lot of respect for Bill Belichick, but again, hey, I'm not his friend on Sunday. I'm going to compete against him. I'm a competitor."

The talking continued throughout the week, with Jets defensive tackle Kris Jenkins calling this game the Jets' "Super Bowl" and on Wednesday, free safety Kerry Rhodes took it a step further and is so focused on ending the Patriots eight game winning streak against them at the Meadowlands that he hopes to "embarrass" them.

"You go out from the first quarter on, from the first play on, and try to embarrass them," Rhodes told the New York Daily News. "Not just go out there and try to win, try to embarrass them. Try to make them feel bad when they leave here. We don't want to just beat them. We want to send a message to them, 'We're not backing down from you and we expect to win this game, and it's not going to be luck, it's not going to be a mistake.' "

He also went on to say that they'll be bringing pressure against Brady, and with the Pats QB still getting comfortable again in the pocket with his reconstructed knee, he says they're focused on getting to the Patriots quarterback and knocking him around. He even went so far as to say they'll "hit him more than six times".

Tom Brady is 8-0 at the Meadowlands in their last eight meetings. (PHOTO: ICON/SMI)
Meanwhile here in New England, things remained quiet with the Patriots focused on preparing for would potentially be the team's 22nd consecutive regular season victory. When Brady met with reporters on Wednesday he wasn't interested in responding to any of the comments being made.

"Obviously, we are very confident as a team, but talk is cheap," said Brady.

As for the talk of this being the Jets 'Super Bowl' - the veteran quarterback more or less insinuated that if that's what they needed to do to get themselves ready, then so be it. However to him it's just another key divisional game that they know could be important later down the road when the road to the real championship game actually begins.

"They can treat it however they want to treat it," Brady said. "We're going to treat it like we treat every game. It's a tough place to play, but it's not the Super Bowl. That doesn't get played until February, but it's as important as they come in our division."

It was also announced Wednesday that Brady was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his heroic performance Monaday night against Buffalo.

One interesting thing discussed on Wednesday was the fact that the Jets traded for Patriots quarterback Kevin O'Connell after the Detroit Lions claimed him off of waivers. With Ryan so focused on beating the Patriots, the obvious thought was that he acquired O'Connell in hopes of getting some inside information.

"We're going to release him after the game," he cracked.

Ryan claims he was kidding, but Wednesday reporters asked Belichick what type of inside information O'Connell might provide the Jets. Fortunately Belichick didn't seem to be concerned.

"I'd say it's probably overrated," said Belichick. "Certainly you could pick up -- from somebody who's been in the system for a long time -- something that would be helpful. Some of that information, especially with teams like this that are in the same division -- that have played each other for quite a while that know each other well -- I don't know how much new information there really is coming out of there in something like that."

When the team practiced on Wednesday, Mayo obviously didn't participate. But according to Reiss here's the rest of the injury report from their first day of preparation against New York:

Limited participation
Adalius Thomas (foot)
Rob Ninkovich (calf)
Center Dan Connolly (back)
Receiver Julian Edelman (ankle)
Defensive lineman Myron Pryor (calf)
Safety Matthew Slater (elbow)
Receiver Wes Welker (knee)
Cornerback Terrence Wheatley (knee)

Full participation
Quarterback Tom Brady (right shoulder)

The fact that Slater participated at all is a minor miracle. Apparently he's double jointed because the angle that his elbow bent at during the team's final preseason game left many wondering if he'd possibly be gone for the year. The fact he's back is good news, especially should the team need more depth in their secondary.

Meanwhile with Mayo sidelined, the Boston Herald reported on Wednesday that the Patriots were interested in Tampa Bay free agent Derrick Brooks. But Brooks would sign with ESPN as an analyst, although he's not ruling out a return to football. The Patriots and Bears reportedly remain on his radar but he's not expected to make a decision until next week.

According to Shalise Manza Young from the Providence Journal, there were a few players wearing black as practice players of the week. Those names included: WR Sam Aiken, QBs Brian Hoyer and Isaiah Stanback, and DBs Brandon McGowan and Bret Lockett. McGowan also had a boxing-style championship belt hanging at his locker he reportedly received for being the team's scout player of the week.

Back in New York it was reported that Ryan decided to appeal to New York's season ticket holders for plenty of noise, asking them to be loud Sunday and give them one extra advantage as they face off against the Patriots.

"Hey this is Rex Ryan Head Coach of the New York Jets," said Ryan in the voicemail that went out to the team's season ticket holders. "I just want to let you know how much we need you this week. You know, I've already admitted that the Patriots have a better head coach and they got a better quarterback than us, but ... we got to see who's got a better team. And the other part, the reason I'm so confident is that they've got to face you and the got to face the rest of our fans. And my challenge to you is that we need you at your best, so let's come get ready to go for four quarters and get after them, especially when our defense is out there we really need you and we want it to be miserable for Brady & Company and seem like there's 13 or 14 guys out there on defense. It's tough enough when we have 11 but when our fans are into it it's almost impossible to do anything against us. So, that's my challenge to you and again I admit that I'm not as good as Belichick, but at the end of the game, I want to be 1-0 against him. So, help me out if you don't mind, so that's my challenge. OK? Thank you. Bye."

Moving on to Thursday, here's a look at the practice participation, with Mayo obviously sitting out again:

Limited Participation
C Dan Connolly (back)
WR Julian Edelman (ankle)
G Stephen Neal (back)
LB Rob Ninkovich (calf)
DL Myron Pryor (calf)
WR Matthew Slater (elbow)
LB Adalius Thomas (foot)
WR Wes Welker (knee)
CB Terrence Wheatley (knee)

Full Participation
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)

Reiss reported Thursday that free-agent defensive lineman Antwan Lake visited the Patriots on Thursday night, and had previously visited a couple of weeks earlier but reportedly left without signing a contract.

Lake is a six-year veteran and has played in 79 career regular-season games. As of Friday night he still had not signed with the team. According to the National Football Post the Patriots also tried out former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Paul Spicer. As of Friday night neither has signed with the team.

Friday morning's New York Post revealed that the Jets are focused on showing Brady - who lives in New York City during the offseason but apparently needs to be reminded what it's really like - "The Bronx". Defensive lineman Kris Jenkins told the newspaper that fans are going to see a team with a "New York mentality" that is focused on making a statement.

"They will see a team with the New York mentality, we'll just say that," Jenkins said. "I've been around in the subways, I've been in some clubs, I've been in some places in New York - we're just gonna say they're gonna see a team with the New York-type of mentality."

Friday's practice in New England was uneventful, with Mayo again the only player not participating and officially listed as "Out" for this weekend. But the big news that broke was the fact that linebacker Adalius Thomas was fined $5,000 for his roughing the passer penalty on Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards. The penalty came in the fourth quarter of Monday night's game, when Thomas wrapped up the 231-pound Bills quarterback who did not immediately go down. Since there was no immediate whistle, Thomas stayed with it and threw Edwards to the ground.

According to the Boston Globe Thomas says he will appeal.

"I don't know," Thomas told the newspaper. "Either you got to have a fast whistle or the guy is going to get taken to the ground. I didn't think I slammed him to the ground, nothing like that. Right before I got ready to swing him down or whatever or tackle him my feet are off the ground and I'm on his back kind of. You don't really know what to do. You're stuck between a rock and a hard place. Do you let the guy go and let him throw the ball? He is a tough guy then."

Some drama broke out Friday night after the war of words in New England escalated. With little being said from the Patriots camp and their coach likely telling them to be careful what they say to the media, former Patriot - and now television analyst - Rodney Harrison doesn't have that restriction any longer. He fired back at Rhodes' comments about going after Brady and hitting him "six times".

"Kerry Rhodes is not really a tough guy, i saw him pass on plenty of tackles... i want to see what kind of game he brings Sunday," tweeted Harrison.

Rhodes initially responded with this comment:

"I'm detecting a lil jealousy from @rodneyh37 he must wish he was playing 2morrow. My talent outweighs his ask belichick."

Which sparked Harrison to fire back and really go after him.

"@kerryrhodes Kerry, you talk big for someone who has yet to even win in the playoffs you think you will ever accomplish what i accomplished?" asked Harrison.

But he didn't stop there.

"@kerryrhodes I definitely respect your game on the field Kerry, but i didn't appropriate what you said about the Patriots its disrespectful"

@kerryrhodes The talk about Brady's knees and promising to hit him more than 6 times is what hit a nerve did you ever come back from...

"@kerryrhodes And even though i respect your game, you do have flaws and i have seen you pass on tackles and not always been physical."

Rhodes fired back with these three Tweets:

"@Rodneyh37 r u playing sunday? i respect ur game but u crossed line. and i never talk smack u started it. i kno u respect my game! Tweet it!"

"@Rodneyh37 and i told u i respect ur game and u have flaws 2 lol. and so does ed reed! thats a given."

"@Rodneyh37 u being someone who played the game knows the media runs it i said we are gonna try to embarrass them! lol u should respect that"

You can follow Rodney's Tweets on Twitter at

Needless to say it's been quite a week. This rivalry has definitely reached a new level, and now it's time to settle it out on the football field. They say actions speak louder than words - and we'll find out who can take care of business when these two teams face off on Sunday.


- On thing that needs to be mentioned one more time is Shalise Manza Young's "Up Close" with Belichick that was posted earlier this week. Belichick opens up about several different topics, and it's definitely a great read for anyone who may have missed it.

- Seems as though there's a bit of irony in the fact that Mayo is out with an injury, after Jackie MacMullan wrote an in-depth piece on the 2nd year linebacker. It's a great piece, and was also another one that needed to be mentioned for those who may not have seen it.

- Mike Reiss of ESPN caught up with wide receiver Troy Brown earlier this week, and Brown was asked to share some stories from the old Foxboro Stadium. According to Reiss one that stood out to him was the AFC Championship game against the Jaguars from the 1996 season, when the power went out. "It was extremely cold," said Brown. "We came in and took a shower, and there was no hot water. It was muddy, we were all sweaty, and you felt [bad] when you came in and you couldn't take a warm shower. But you still loved playing in that place. The crowd was right on top of you, and you couldn't ask for anything better."

- That Laurence Maroney's performance Monday night started out strong, with Maroney taking the opening kickoff of the game 52 yards, putting New England in Buffalo territory for their first possession of the night. He had a good start in the first half when he averaged over seven yards per carry on five attempts. "I played good; I felt like I played good," he told the Providence Journal after the game. "It is definitely a great feeling; I missed more than half the season (with a broken bone in his shoulder). I was like a kid in a candy store today. It felt like forever since I've been out there." But one thing pointed out by Young was the fact that Maroney talked about a bet that he and former college teammate and close friend Marion Barber have. He and Barber, now with Dallas, reportedly have a standing bet for a steak dinner for each week's game; the winner is the one with more yards and/or touchdowns. Barber won this week -- he had 79 yards and a touchdown in the Cowboys' win on Sunday -- and when Maroney looked at his phone there was a text from his friend declaring victory, but Maroney laughingly vowed that he will end up with more steak dinners by the season's end.

The 'Week In Review' will be posted every Saturday morning throughout the season, so be sure to check back each week to get caught up on "the week that was" heading into each game. You can also follow Ian Logue on Twitter at and be sure to leave feedback by clicking on the "Post Comment" link back at the top of this column.