Morning Huddle 9/26 - Injuries Continue to Mount, Falcons Adding a Wrinkle, Today's Links

Ian Logue
September 26, 2013 at 10:06am ET

No Brady or Gronk, but plenty of storylines at Patriots OTAs
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski not at the start of the team's OTA's today
NFL notes: Don't be surprised if Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers rise up for Patriots
New Patriots DL Danny Shelton preps to hit the hill
Patriots center David Andrews excited with his new Georgia Bulldog teammates

Some quick thoughts on this Thursday morning as the Patriots continue preparing for the Falcons:

Vince Wilfork was among the injured on Wednesday.
(USA TODAY Images)

1) Injuries continue to mount, this time on defense - Injuries continue to be an issue, with several key names ending up on the list Wednesday on the defensive side of the football.  Jerod Mayo (ankle), Vince Wilfork (foot), and Kyle Arrington (groin) were all listed, with both Mayo and Arrington being "limited" in practice.  Wilfork was reportedly a full participant, which is a good sign but considering Mayo's value in terms of the overall function of New England's defense, his situation will certainly be something to keep an eye on heading into this weekend.  The good news is according to Nick Underhill of MassLive, Arrington seemed relatively upbeat, which is a positive as he's not only a valuable component of New England's secondary, he's also part of a special teams unit that has already lost Matthew Slater to injury.

2) Amendola appears to be a no go, while Gronk seems to be a maybe - Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald reported yesterday that Amendola is "not likely" to play this weekend, but may return next week against the Cincinnati Bengals.  The veteran receiver told reporters Wednesday that he's getting closer to being 100%, which is encouraging after he's missed the last two games.  Meanwhile Gronkowski was once again limited in practice, and it seems that he may finally have a shot to return this weekend.  The veteran talked to reporters yesterday, which is always a good sign as guys who are hurt generally don't talk to the media.  He told the Herald yesterday that he'll play 'when the time is right.  “How will I know? Just when it clicks,” Gronkowski said. “All I can ask for is to work hard every day and do what the coaches ask me to do, do what my teammates ask me to do, do what the training staff ask me to do. If I can do that full-speed with what I can do, that’s all I’m really asking for. When the time is right, the time is right.”

3) Brady Broke Some News on Wednesday - Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has kept in touch with some of his former teammates, with the veteran accidentally breaking some news after saying that Matt Cassel may start for the Vikings this weekend ahead of the injured Christian Ponder.  Ponder is battling a rib injury but said he hoped to play this weekend. "It's a little sore and it's going to be something I will have to work through, but I threw more than I thought I would be able to," Ponder said. "We'll wait to see how this week plays out, but my expectation and my hope is that I will be playing." However, reports out of Minnesota said that Cassel got the majority of the reps in practice on Wednesday.

4) Red Zone continues to be a struggle - New England may be ranked third in the NFL with 13 trips inside the red zone, but they've managed just four touchdowns, with a 30.8 success rate that ranks them last in the NFL.  As mentioned yesterday in 2012 Tom Brady had a much higher completion percentage through three games in scoring territory, completing 9-of-14 of his passes (64%) for 56 yards along with 1 sack and threw three touchdowns.  This season he's completed 8-of-19 (42%) for 55 yards, 1 sack, but has thrown 4 touchdowns.  However, the interception he threw was big, and one that had him frustrated after it was over.  Brady blames himself and says that "poor execution" has been "one of the main cluprits."  Having Gronkowski back would help, as Gronk lead the team at this point last season with two touchdowns inside scoring territory, and he's been one of their most consistent guys down there with his long arms and his ability to give Brady a big target down there.  "He’s just a big target and he’s got a great catch radius," said Brady of Gronkowski. "He really hasn’t been out there this year. Hopefully at some point when he’s back, he can play a role. When he’s not out there, look, we have to count on the other guys to do it. I know we haven’t been great in the red area this year, but it’s no excuse."


Brady had some fond things to say about Brian Hoyer, who will reportedly get his second start for the Browns this weekend.  Brady said the two text back and forth and he's glad that he's getting an opportunity to play.   "Brian, we text back and forth and talk with him," said Brady on Wednesday. "It’s great to see him and it’s hard work really pays off and guys that stay at it and are mentally tough, always trying to do the right thing, like Brian has done, like Matt has done, like Ryan Mallett has done, it’s great when they finally get an opportunity to play."


After a report last week regarding a personnel change that saw Atlanta make changes offensively at tackle during practice, the Falcons have shut down access to reporters in practice after 30 minutes, which is something that appears to be ruffling some feathers down there.  Here in New England reporters have always had limited access during the Belichick era, but some of the buzz down there this week appears to center on the fact the Falcons may be adding a couple of wrinkles for this weekend's upcoming game against the Patriots that they don't want getting out.  Clearly after last week, after being one of the few teams left that's been fairly open to the media, they no longer seem to trust them to keep it quiet.



Patriots vs. Falcons matchup breakdown: DE Chandler Jones vs. LT Lamar Holmes - Erik Frenz - Frenz has a good look a the match-up between these two players, including some great film between the two.

NOTEBOOK: Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez will provide huge test for Patriots - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer files his notebook this morning and looks at the match-up between these two teams.

Danny Amendola: 'I anticipate being 100 percent shortly' - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer has comments from Amendola from Wednesday where he revealed that he's getting closer to being healthy.

ON FOOTBALL: Next three games will challenge Patriots' defense - Ben Volin - Volin has a good read on the defense, with Rob Ninkovich telling reporters, "I dodn't want to hear it" when they asked him about some of the numbers they've put up so far.

Gronkowski and Amendola work toward returns - Shalise Manza Young - In this piece whether or not Amendola or Gronk will be ready is discussed, as well as the implications that getting them both back in the line-up will have on the offense.


Patriots ground game is a time share - Karen Guregian - Guregian has a look at the Patriots rushing attack, which last week was by committee against the Buccaneers.

Patriots' plan: Run silent, run deep - Jeff Howe - Howe has a good article this morning on the challenge facing the Patriots in playing in a hostile and loud road environment.

Notebook: With no regrets, Danny Amendola close to return - Jeff Howe - Howe has an article on Amendola, who is focused on getting better after his groin injury.

Rob Gronkowski remains matter of when - Tom Leyman - Leyman has an article on Rob Gronkowski, who at this point his status no longer is a matter of "if" he returns, but a matter of "when" and he told reporters yesterday that he'll know when things start to click and will play "when the time is right".


Following up on Danny Amendola - Mike Reiss - Reiss writes that whether or not Amendola travels with the team on Saturday will be a better indication of his availability for this weekend.


Five Things You Have to Know About the Falcons - Christopher Price - Price has some facts about the Atlanta Falcons, including the fact that Atlanta is among the best teams in yards after the catch.


Rob Gronkowski feels he's making improvement, but won't say if he'll be ready to play this week - Nick Underhill - Underhill has comments from Gronkowski, who wouldn't say whether or not he's playing this weekend.


Amendola fighting injury, history - Mark Farinella - Farinella writes that the wide receiver is battling his own injury history as he tries to come back from this groin injury and hopefully stay healthy the rest of the way.


One for Safety: Patriots Secondary Shows New Wrinkle vs. Buccaneers in Week 3 - Oliver Thomas - Thomas has a good look at last week's win where the Patriots showed a one safety look against Tampa Bay.


Patriots' Danny Amendola has no regrets about playing with injury - Rich Garven - Garven has an article on Amendola, who doesn't regret going back during the Bills game in week one despite his injury.

Patriots having success with four-man rushing attack - Rich Garven - Garven has an article on the running back position, with each player having contributed so far.