By: Ian Logue
Fridays used to be relatively boring in New England in previous seasons, however, every week so far this year has led to having to keep an eye on practice reports while trying to guess which Patriots’ players may, or may not, play in that given week. Saturday also falls into that category after what happened last week, and we’ll once again be in that situation this week as we wait to see which players will/won’t travel to Cincinnati for Sunday’s game against the Bengals.
Running back Stevan Ridley is reportedly “OUT” for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.(USA TODAY Images)
Patriots running back Stevan Ridley had missed Wednesday and Thursday with what had been reported to be a “thigh bruise” that wasn’t believed to be serious, but he ended up also missing Friday’s session and that now has him out for this weekend, which certainly shakes up New England’s ground game. With Brandon Bolden also banged up, it thrusts LeGarrette Blount into the lead role, and it will be interesting to see if he can maintain a lot of the success he’s had so far carrying the football.
Blount actually has a higher yards-per-carry average than Ridley, having carried the ball 34 times for 155 yards, which has him averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Ridley to this point has 47 carries for 174 yards while averaging 3.7 yards per carry, but his average was dragged down primarily due to his week two performance against a tough Jets defense. In that game he carried the ball 16 times for 40 yards (2.5 avg) , including four carries for a loss and two for no gain, the most non-positive rushes he’s had all season.
The run game helped New England in Atlanta after the Patriots finished the game with perfect balance, having thrown the football and carried it a total of 31 times each. In all likelihood out in Cincinnati that may change if Blount should struggle, leaving the Patriots forced to throw the football against a Bengals defense that is ranked 13th in the league against the pass. The Bengals are also ranked 11th against the run, so they’re expected to certainly make Sunday’s game a challenge.
News also came out that Rob Gronkowski will miss another week, with ProFootballTalk.com reporting that the veteran tight end is once again unlikely to play this weekend. Gronkowksi took part in practice all week and despite the release of Sudfeld on Thursday, it appears that he’ll sit out one more game, which leaves them with Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan for Sunday’s contest. Mulligan scored his first touchdown last week and has been spotted on the game film having made some blocks and seems to be making the most of his opportunities, which is good for a team that has needed the depth at this point in the season.
Meanwhile, the team still has some additional questions on the offensive side of the ball, with receivers Kenbrell Thompkins (shoulder) and Aaron Dobson (neck) both still question marks heading into this weekend. Thompkins still sounds to be the more likely player to play this weekend after telling Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston he’s “fine” on Friday, while Dobson told Nick Underhill of Mass Live he’s “taking it day to day”. We’ll have to wait and see what that means for the rookie out of Marshall. As for Danny Amendola, the future looks brighter for him after he told reporters he had a good day on Friday and that he’s “looking forward to Sunday.” All three players were listed as “questionable” on the team’s injury report, so we’ll see what that means by the time kickoff rolls around.
The team did sign receiver Austin Collie this week, who appears for now to be a stopgap player to help add some depth thanks to all the injuries. His presence would lead you to believe someone isn’t healthy enough to play, so we’ll have to wait and see what that potentially means.
From there we’ll have to see who is/isn’t on the team plane today to close out this list. Certainly makes the weekends a little more interesting.
COLLIE SPEAKS TO THE MEDIA:
Newly signed Patriots receiver Austin Collie spoke to the media on Friday for the first time, and for those of you who missed the video and are interested in what he said, here’s the complete transcript from that session:
On if he’s ready to play on Sunday:
“You want to know what? I’ve been ready. But right now all my focus is just getting to know this offense, getting better, and just getting accustomed with the play calling.”
On how coming to the Patriots unfolded for him and whether or not he had been here before for a workout and how it all worked out:
“Like you said, I came here for a workout. I had been working out with other teams. They just gave me a call and I hopped on a plane, and came over here.”
On how the first few days of practice have been:
“Oh, it’s awesome…it’s awesome. There’s definitely a unique feel here. Definitely great guys in the locker room, great team camaraderie. So it’s fun man, it’s a great place to be.”
On how much he missed football when he was away from the game:
“You know what? When you’re not playing, obviously you’ve been doing something since you were a little kid and it’s kind of what you know, it’s kind of what you’re used to this time of year – playing football. But thankfully for me I’m here, and playing.”
On the report that he was willing to sign a waiver due to his concussions and whether or not he had to do that here:
“You know…I’d rather not, rather not talk about that. Guys, I’d rather not talk about the concussions or the past injuries. All that stuff’s behind me. I think I’ve been asked those questions a lot the past couple of years and I’m ready to put all that stuff behind me and move on. I’m just worried about being here, being a part of this team and helping any way I can.
On after arriving here Thursday and having a game Sunday, how realistic it would be for him to play this weekend:
“That’s not up to me. That’s the coach’s call. But my mindset is, there could be an opportunity, you never know, and always prepare like you’re going to play. So that’s kind of my mindset in the game, but I couldn’t tell you what would happen. I mean, like I said, that’s coach’s call.”
On if there are any concepts that he sees or carryover after getting into the playbook these last two days:
“This is a great system. Obviously a system that’s proven itself year in, year out, and I love being in it. There’s a lot of balls to be caught and can’t wait to learn more about it. Can’t wait to get that chemistry down with number twelve, and gel with this offense and become part of this offense.”
On if this is one of those opportunities he’s been waiting for his whole life:
“I wouldn’t think that too deep into it. All I want to do is just play football and that’s what I’m doing so I’m a happy man.”
On if he’s had any prior experience working with Tom Brady before this week:
“No, just congratulating each other after games, that’s about it.”
On having been on the other side of the Patriots/Colts rivalry and his impressions of this team from that perspective:
“Like I said, they’re known for winning. We’re an organization that’s going to bring it every single week, and you know we’re going to bring it every single week. There’s guys here that don’t need to be told how to work, they know how to work hard, they know what’s expected of them. It’s a phenomenal work environment, makes your job a lot easier.”
On after being away from the game if there’s a part of him that’s motivated to prove he can still play:
“Not really. Like I said, my mindset is just getting in here, getting back to where I was, helping this team out in whatever way possible, and playing football again. That’s my main mindset, just playing ball again.”
On if he needs football in his life, and if without it he’s not the same:
“No, to be quite honest with you. But it is something that I feel like I’m good at. It’s a gift I’ve been given and I want to maximize that gift and I feel like I have a lot more left to give. If I didn’t feel that way, if I didn’t feel like I had more to give, if I felt like I kind of topped my…or maximized my potential already, then I’d walk away. But I still feel like I have a lot more.”
On how hard it is to get acclimated to a system when he’s not here for the preseason, the games, etc:
“Obviously you’re behind the eight ball a little bit. But hopefully with a little extra study time, a little more time with my coach, a little more time with Tom, help from the other receivers, I’ll be able to pick it up quick.”
On what he meant about there being a unique feel here:
“It’s just a…like I said, there’s not many places where you go in and you can just tell, winning is expected here. You’ve got a bunch of grown men here who know how to handle their business. They don’t need anybody looking after them. They’re all self motivated and I think that’s a rarity to find that every single guy on a squad is like that. But you can definitely tell that here is one of those places.”
On what it’s like meeting Tom Brady for the first time:
“It’s just like meeting you.”
Well, did he say, ‘Hey, what’s up?…’
“Yeah, he said ‘Hey, what’s up.’ I mean he’s a great quarterback. But it’s just like meeting Julian Edelman, it’s just like meeting Danny [Amendola] or any of the other guys, and that’s what’s great about him is you can tell that he’s just another one of the guys in the locker room and that’s the kind of attitude that he carries with him. He realizes that he’s a leader of this team, but at the same time he’s not afraid to be one of the guys.”
On the fact it can’t be just like meeting Gronkowski, and that has to be different?
“I haven’t got to see much of Gronk, but I’ve only been here for a day. But like I said all the guys around here are great.”
On if he has any friends or anyone he knew from past experiences:
“Danny and Julian, we all worked out together during the lockout down in L.A.”
On if they’ve been a help to him so far:
“Yeah, they’ve done a wonderful job.”
BELICHICK AND LEWIS THE LAST MEN STANDING:
In a league that seems to change all the time, Bill Belichick and Marvin Lewis find themselves as the longest tenured head coaches left, with Belichick having been the coach here for the past 14 seasons, while Lewis has been in Cincinnati for the past 11. Belichick talked about that fact on Friday and says it’s different from his earlier years when there was certainly more stability.
“Yeah. It’s kind of surprising, really,” Belichick told reporters on Friday. “It is and it isn’t. When I came into the league, that’s the way it was: coaches coached for a log time with the same team. They had a consistent program. There was always turnover, but not like there is now where guys coach for a year, year and half and the team makes a change and brings in somebody else. Wheels spin pretty fast in that and along with it goes all the changes – head coaches then therefore coordinators, position coaches.
“I mean, you go to the Combine and it seems like every year a third of the coaches are wearing a different jacket than they wore the year before when you saw them. From that standpoint, it’s a big change from what I was used to, the way I was brought up on the league, brought up in football. We all know it’s a production business; we all know that you’re not guaranteed anything for very long. But the way things turnover in this league and in pro sports in general… It turns over pretty fast. It’s pretty amazing, really.”
BRADY POISED FOR ANOTHER MILESTONE SUNDAY:
An interesting stat pointed out by the NFL on Friday was the fact that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is currently one touchdown shy of tying Fran Tarkenton with 342 touchdowns for the 4th most ever, and is also 78 touchdowns shy of Dan Marino, who had 420. He’ll hopefully reach Tarkenton’s mark on Sunday, and if so he’ll also continue his touchdown pass streak and extend it to 53, leaving him one shy of tying it against the man who currently holds the record – Drew Brees – next Sunday when the two meet in Foxboro at Gillette Stadium.
As for reaching the record, he’s got a long way to go to catch Peyton Manning, and Brett Favre. Manning is ahead of Marino but is obviously still an active player, and currently has 452. Favre has 508, but it appears Manning and Brady are two likely candidates to eclipse that mark, it’s just a matter of when they’ll reach it. With the way both players have looked the past couple of seasons, it may not take long at all.
PATRIOTS HAVE ANOTHER STREAK:
Our friend Russell Baxter from ProFootballGuru.com pointed out on Friday that the Patriots are among three teams with the longest current regular season winning streaks, having won 6 straight games dating back to last season. Ahead of them are the Seahawks (9) and Broncos (15). For now it’s just the Broncos that the Patriots will get the opportunity to beat head-to-head to end that streak, with the Broncos last loss coming – ironically – against New England just over a year ago back on October 7th, 2012.
HOYER RESPONDS TO THE SUPPORT:
Former Patriots QB Brian Hoyer suffered a season-ending ACL injury Thursday night in his third start with the Cleveland Browns, and a lot of disappointed fans reached out to show their support for him via Twitter. Hoyer was thankful, and issued a Tweet to let everyone know he plans on fighting back next year.
“Thanks for your support and prayers,” Tweeted Hoyer on Friday. “Just a minor speed bump on the road to success. Can’t wait to get back!” Here’s to hoping that Hoyer can come back strong again next season.
ON TO THIS MORNING’S LINKS:
Amendola May Be Ready to Return– Jeff Howe – Howe files his notebook this morning and writes that wide receiver Danny Amendola may finally be ready to return after missing the last three games.
Borges: Joe Vellano knows job will get tougher – Ron Borges – Borges has a column this morning on defensive lineman Joe Vellano, who now has a bigger role than he previously did before Wilfork went down.
Tommy Kelly relishes being Vince Wilfork’s main sub – Jeff Howe – Howe has an article on Kelly, who expects teams to try and run the football now against them now that Wilfork is out.
Collie’s not done just yet – Mark Daniels – Daniels has an article this morning on wide receiver Austin Collie, who told reporters Friday that he loves football and feels like he has more to give.
5 Questions with Cincinnati Bengals writer Joe Reedy – Ben Volin – Volin sits down and gets some information from the other side, with Reedy from the Cincinnati Enquirer offering up some good insight on the Bengals.
Stevan Ridley out for Sunday’s game – Shalise Manza Young – Manza Young looks at the Patriots injury situation heading into tomorrow, which has Ridley listed as out as well as the status of other players.
LeGarrette Blount running into bigger role – Michael Whitmer – Whitmer has an article on Blount, who with Ridley injured and Brandon Bolden banged up will likely be the player carrying the load Sunday.
Unconventional Preview: Patriots-Bengals – Chad Finn – Finn has his preview for this weekend, with some interesting commentary about Sunday’s match-up.
W2W4: Five things for Patriots-Bengals – Field Yates – Yates has his “what to watch for” piece, which includes the pass protection of Brady against a tough Cincinnati defensive line.
The write stuff: Belichick takes note of everything – Tom Curran – Curran has a great piece this morning on the fact Belichick still uses index cards to make notes on during the game, with the coach telling him if he writes it down, it’s usually “pretty significant”.
New Patriot Austin Collie eager to bolster receiving corps – Jennnifer Toland – Toland has an article on Collie, whose status for Sunday is up in the air in terms of whether or not he’ll see his first game action.
New England Patriots release CB Marquice Cole – Nick Underhill – Underhill writes that cornerback Marquise Cole was released again on Friday as the team tried to clear roster room to bring up their necessary players for this weekend.
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
DT Jones Getting his chance with Patriots – Mark Farinella – Farinella is one of the only writers to do a piece on Chris Jones, and it’s actually a pretty good read.
Is this a golden age of cornerbacks? – Adam Schefter – Schefter offers up an interesting read this morning, which includes a section on what the Patriots have been able to do over their 4-0 start.