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Archive for the ‘ News ’ Category


Patriots S Devin McCourty was not franchised by the team and may reach free agency if an agreement can’t be reached in the next week. (USA TODAY Images)

Following Monday’s decision to use the franchise tag designation on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, it was interesting to find out that apparently the communication between New England and safety Devin McCourty doesn’t seem to be as good as it probably should have been.

According to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, McCourty didn’t really know what the Patriots were going to do from that standpoint until the decision was made.  Now it seems like he’s starting to believe he could end up elsewhere.

“I guess it’s more realistic now that (there’s) a chance that I might not be back there,” McCourty told Anderson. “Or there’s still a chance that I will, but I guess (there’s) more of a chance now with the franchise tag going to Steve that I could be playing in a different place. Still, keeping an open mind and trying to enjoy the process.”

For now it appears that McCourty could very well be headed to free agency and that could be bad news for New England, who may see one of the league’s top safeties receive an offer far above what they may be willing to pay him.  The franchise tag number for the veteran was $9.6 million and the decision to target Gostkowski instead likely may have more to do with the fact it was a number they felt was simply too high.

There’s still time to get a long-term deal done as well as a chance to still bring him back, but it sounds like his time in New England could very well be coming to an end.  Needless to say it will remain one of the bigger things to watch in the weeks to come.

REVIS HEADED TO FREE AGENCY?

For anyone hoping Darrelle Revis may have had enough fun in his first season to try and take a shot at winning a second ring and may have been eager to get a deal done, it appears that the veteran may have alternate plans and may be focused on still getting maximum value.

According to Adam Schefter Revis may also be headed to free agency as unless the Patriots pick up his $20 million option for the 2015 season, he’s apparently ready to test the market.

Darrelle Revis has a clause in his contract that says he can’t be tagged,” Schefter said via NESN. “There’s a $20 million option bonus payment that would carry a $25 million cap number. The bottom line is, it would surprise me if New England picked that up. So, the chances are — not chances are, it’s going to happen — Darrelle Revis is going to hit the market. He’ll be another coveted free agent.”

Now the bigger question will be whether or not Revis wants to remain a Patriot, or if he’ll simply continue his stance of the business of the NFL and go wherever he’ll get the most value.

“This all comes down to whatever Darrelle Revis wants to do,” Schefter said. “He’s got a Super Bowl ring, his career has been validated. He’s got one more big score left. One score in terms of big contract. So, does he want to take that big contract with a team like the New York Jets, who are dying to make a run at Darrelle Revis? Or the Buffalo Bills? Or is he willing to take less to go back and play with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and be in the environment he’s been in in New England? “That’s a call that only he can make.”

Hopefully if the two sides are close he’ll opt to stay, but for now it’s looking like there’s a chance this team may look quite different next season.

ADDITIONAL NOTES: 

Some good news for those who wish the worst for one of the biggest Patriots killers, as it appears the Tennessee Titans appear to be on the verge of cutting Bernard Pollard.  Pollard finished 2014 on injured reserve after tearing his Achilles and the 30-year old will now be headed to free agency.  Here’s to hoping he ends up somewhere playing for a team New England won’t face next season…

With $55 million dollars to spend, the Jets are reportedly making a “big push” for Revis, if he is cut loose before his bonus money is due. According to SI, Woody Johnson has told GM Mike Maccagnan that it needs to get done. Johnson made comments about the same thing publicly in December which led to a Patriots charge of tampering. If Revis is released and signed by the Jets, how would the league view those tampering charges then?

While Revis talk is dominating talk in New England, the “Spring of Suh” has begun.  Lions DT Ndamukong Suh was not franchised and will be a free agent when the period begins on March 10. He’s the biggest name, both figuratively and physically to be looking for a new team. His potential suitors are deemed to be the Raiders, Colts, Dolphins, Bears and Jaguars. Other top free agents include Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray, Packers WR Randall Cobb, Broncos TE Julius Thomas, Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin, and designated pass rushers include the Bills Jerry Hughes, Steelers Jason Worilds and the Redskins Brian Orakpo.

With the NFL mandated salary cap set at $143.28 million for 2015, the Patriots had over $6 million in carryover from 2014 which was slashed down to just over a million due to adjustments. Right now, the Patriots cap for 2015 is $144,578,084. The Patriots are currently more than $11,280,000 over the cap. They now have a week to remedy that situation. With big contracts of Revis, Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo being looked at, the Patriots have some work to do…

With the Patriots using the franchise tag on K Stephen Gostkowski, they join only four other teams to use the tag in 2015. The other four teams include: Justin Houston, Kansas City, Dez Bryant, Dallas, Demaryius Thomas, Denver, Jason Pierre-Paul, NY Giants. The Dolphins placed a transition tag on TE Charles Clay which means other teams can make an offer to Clay, but Miami will have the opportunity to match any offer made.

 


Collins has become a game-changing player in the Patriots defense. (USA TODAY Images)

It was just over two years ago that we first heard the name Jamie Collins, although at the time we had no idea he would be drafted by the Patriots, let alone become the player he’s been in their defense.

In 2013 during the NFL combine, Collins caught the attention of quite a few scouts following what was considered to be one of the better performances of the weekend.

He came within an inch of breaking the event record with a 41.5-inch vertical leap, ran a 4.64 40-yard dash, and led every linebacker who was there after recording an 11-foot, 7-inch broad jump. It was quite a showing, and clearly the Patriots liked what they saw because they went on to take him in the 2nd round with the 52nd overall selection.

On paper it’s impressive but the thing that’s actually more intriguing is the fact that knowing how hard it is to stand out even when a player comes from a winning program, Collins came from a winless Southern Miss team in 2012 before the 2013 draft. When the Golden Eagles hosted their Pro Day following the Combine that February, Collins opted to let the impression he made at the Combine stand and stood on his numbers, opting instead to have teams look at him in private workouts. Two teams that he reportedly met with prior to the draft included the Bills and Steelers, and New Orleans was also said to be interested after sending four scouts to his Pro Day.

Fortunately he obviously ended up in New England, and looking back at what happened in Arizona it’s hard not to appreciate the fact that Collins was a key factor in the Patriots victory over the Seahawks. He finished the game as the team’s leading tackler, leading all Patriots defenders with eight.

Overall in 2014 Collins lead the team by a landslide with 115 total tackles during the regular season, and was also the team’s leader in tackles on third down with 22, including three QB hits and one tackle for a loss. In the postseason he also led the team in tackles with 23, recorded two QB Hits, one interception, and was tied for the team lead in passes defenssed with Devin McCourty and Malcolm Butler with three.

That just emphasizes how athletic he is and back in December Bill Belichick did something pretty surprising and praised the second-year player, admitting that Collins is a pretty special guy.

“Look, Jamie Collinses don’t … it’s not like there’€™s two or three dozen of them in the draft every year,” Belichick said at the time. “We’€™re lucky to have one. Was Lawrence Taylor a prototype outside linebacker? Where’€™s the next Lawrence Taylor? Those guys don’€™t grow on trees.”

“I think that’s part of building your team is trying to anticipate where your team is going and to a certain extent where, especially defensively because you have to react to what they put on the field. Defensively you have to be able to defend those things. How do you construct the defense so you can handle the different challenges that you have?”

Easy, you take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself and fortunately Belichick didn’t miss out on snatching the linebacker away from the rest of the league. He’s been a tremendous addition that should hopefully serve this team well for the foreseeable future, and adding “Super Bowl Champion” to his resume in just his second season doesn’t hurt.

Needless to say he should be fun to continue to watch in the years to come and as Belichick said, they’re lucky to have him.


Collins may only be in his second year, but he played like an experieneced veteran last season. (USA TODAY Images)

COLLINS RECORD FALLS AT THE COMBINE:

As they say, records are made to be broken and a local player made a name for himself this weekend after putting up some impressive numbers.

University of Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones set a combine record in the broad jump, leaping 12-feet-3 inches, eight inches ahead of the previously mentioned total by Collins, which had been the previous record.

Interestingly enough according to the official school website for UConn, Jones’ leap also topped the official World Record in the track event, which is held by Norwegian Arne Tvervaag, who jumped 3.71 meters (12 feet, two inches) on November 11, 1968.

His record may have fallen, but that shouldn’t take anything away from Collins’ accomplishment given the fact that he’s a linebacker and Jones is a cornerback, so obviously they’re two different body types. But, like Collins, that type of athleticism should hopefully help his stock rise. He’s reportedly recovering from shoulder surgery which prevented Jones from running his 40-yard dash, but he’ll apparently run one when the team holds their pro day.

The Patriots last defensive back drafted out of UConn was Darius Butler, who was taken in the 2nd round by New England back in 2009 but was never able to settle in and is now a member of the Indianapolis Colts.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

The Patriots are obviously the Champions of the league, but apparently the Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t interested in comparing themselves to Bill Belichick’s group. According to Mike Prisuta of the Steelers’ official site, Pittsburgh is more focused on making sure they measure up better to Baltimore instead of New England, since the Ravens were the team that knocked them out of the postseason. “We don’t get to compare ourselves to anyone else but Baltimore in my opinion because (the Ravens) are the ones that eliminated us,” GM Kevin Colbert said… Jets head coach Todd Bowles took the anti-Rex Ryan route at the Combine, telling reporters that focusing on New England was a bad move because it’s going to take more than that to have success next season. “I don’t think it means anything to us right now. You can’t beat the Patriots in February,” said Bowles. “Just beating the Patriots is not going to cut it if you lose to everybody else. We’ve got to have a growth process of how to win while we’re winning and trying to beat more than just the Patriots.” … The Patriots have some interesting decisions to make this offseason, one of which may potentially involve the receiver position while they decide whether to bring Danny Amendola back, as well as monitoring how things will play out with forgotten man Aaron Dobson. According to Jason LaCanfora, he believes the Patriots will be in the mix for Percy Harvin if things don’t work out in New York with the Jets. Seems like an odd fit, but obviously stranger things have happened… Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, has apparently teamed up with the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) to participate in its annual player externship program that began February 16 and runs through March 6. According to the press release, as part of the three-week externship program, New England Patriots practice squad defensive back Justin Green and former Baltimore Raven Ryan Bartholomew have been drafted in the Communications and Marketing and Government Relations Departments at Events DC to gain valuable post-NFL career insight and hands-on experience to further their skills in the game of life and give them a better opportunity for life after football. It’s a great program, and always nice to see a Patriot mentioned in these… Rob Gronkowski has certainly come a long way, and his latest admission should continue to quiet his critics who in the past had questioned how he handled his offseasons. According to the Boston Herald Gronkowski has said he won’t be doing “Dancing With The Stars” and was taking a pass because the show would interfere with his offseason training. This is a guy who has already had his football mortality tested and got a taste this season of what his ability can help produce when he’s able to stay healthy. Now he’s got a ring, and it appears he’s hungry for another. Good stuff… File this under one of those articles that stood out thanks primarily to Google. A short chubby man wearing a Patriots hat reportedly handed a bank teller a note and made off with at least $1200 in cash Monday morning, which now has police looking for the suspect. According to the Cliff View Pilot The Bergen County Sheriff’s Bureau of Criminal Identification is processing evidence but here’s a look at the suspect, and you should obviously notify authorities if you recognize him. Good to know he enjoys supporting the team while he’s out robbing banks. Nothing says “I love my team” more than that.


According to the Boston Herald, it appears that Hightower may be sidelined until at least the start of the 2015 season. (USA TODAY Images)

The Patriots have been fortunate they’ve been able to deal with the loss of Jerod Mayo to season-ending injuries over the past two seasons, but heading into 2015 it sounds like they’re potentially going to be in a bit of a bind through the early going.

According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, linebacker Dont’a Hightower’s offseason shoulder surgery could potentially cause him to miss training camp, with a 6-7 month timetable for recovery possibly keeping him out until at least the start of the regular season.

Hightower, who underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum after the team’s Super Bowl win, had a big year all around and ended up being one of the Patriots biggest playmakers in his expanded role.  He finished second on the team behind Rob Ninkovich with 13 quarterback hits (Ninkovich had 16), tied for second on the team with Chandler Jones for sacks with 6 (Ninkovich had 8) and second behind Ninkovich in tackles for a loss with 9 (Nink had 11).

Another thing worth mentioning is the fact that as Howe points out, the Patriots are in a situation where they’re going to have to figure out how to handle Mayo’s high cap hit of $10.287, which would seemingly involve him to have to restructure his deal.  Obviously New England was able to win a Super Bowl in his absence, but there’s no denying the value Mayo brings to this defense.  Given that there’s always a possibility of a setback in Hightower’s rehabilitation, keeping Mayo in the mix would re-solidify an already formidable group that included Hightower and Jamie Collins, both of whom had terrific seasons in 2014.

Mayo also has a high cap number for 2016 and 2017, so it would make sense for the two sides to rework the deal.  Another player who could fall into that category is Vince Wilfork, who may also see his deal potentially redone.  But both veterans are important parts of the defense and two that would allow the Patriots to continue making even more dangerous heading into next season, especially if they can keep Darrelle Revis in the fold for the long-term.

At the end of the day Hightower performed beyond expectations after being thrust into his new role, and earlier this month credited his teammates for helping him through it.

“I was trying to do a little bit more than I was comfortable doing,” Hightower said via the Montgomery Advertiser. “I’m not a big vocal leader. I think that was the biggest thing. Not understanding how to operate things. … I have really good players around me to help me out a lot. … I needed that push on me.”

At 24 he’s already a Super Bowl Champion.  It’s a tough injury to come back from and his recovery, as well as Mayo’s contract situation, will be two key stories to watch in the months ahead.


Even after winning it all, Brady can’t wait to get back to work.
(USA TODAY Images)

BRADY EXCITED FOR 2015

The 2014  season was one of the more interesting ones in terms of seeing the dynamic of how people would react if this team was ever no longer a championship contender, with the even more surprising thing being how fans would treat Tom Brady if the going got tough.

The answer?  There were fans and even media who had no issue pulling the trigger and calling for the Jimmy Garoppolo era to begin at the first signs of adversity. Looking back it’s now pretty ironic considering how this group was able to turn things around as they, led by Brady, straightened out a 2-2 start and obviously ended up winning a championship.  Kudos to those who stood by him and the chants of “Brady, Brady” this season both in the Cincinnati 43-17 blowout win in Week 5 and as he walked off the field in the AFC Championship Game to an incredible ovation, stand out as two of the better moments of last season in terms of the level of appreciation that was shown for the guy who brought four titles to this region.

It’s interesting to know that the fire appears to be burning just as hot as he prepares to start it all over in the months ahead.  According to Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, sources close to Brady have revealed that they’ve never seen him as excited to start putting the work in to get ready to try and win it all again in 2015.

One tidbit I came across looking back after he won the last one in 2004 was the fact that he appeared on 60 minutes and admitted that while it’s great to win, it’s important to celebrate but make sure it’s kept in perspective.

“Yeah, sure do,” Brady told Steve Kroft back in June of 2005 when asked if he gets excited about winning the Super Bowl.  “At the thoughts of winning it. Oh, yeah. Every time, it’s been a different feeling, too. It’s been the ultimate high. You know, you gotta find a way to, as best you can, keep it in perspective, or else you’re just gonna kinda wither off those two months later.”

Brady also said something in the interview which, as we know, defines who he is here in New England.  Brady admitted that it was someone who spoke to his team about avoiding self-defeating attitudes and being positive, which if he was able to do that would affect not only himself but guys around him.

“I had talked to a guy who worked with a lot of the athletes at the school. He was a really neat person, a person I stay in contact with,” said Brady, who at the time was just 27 when he won his third ring.  “He used to come and speak in front of our whole team about self-defeating attitudes and behaviors, and how you can beat yourself before you even go out there to compete, not only athletics, but in life. And just the positive attitude, and setting goals, and understanding that the only thing you can control is your attitude. Regardless of any of the other things that happen in your life, there’s only so much you can do, and you can control what you can control. And that was my preparation, my effort, my leadership – not how other people affected me, but how I affected them.”

Obviously it’s been an approach that’s served him well, and looking back on this season it likely played a big role considering the adversity this team dealt with early on.  But in the end he never faltered, and now at the age of 37 it seems like he’s excited about getting another shot.

ADDITIONAL NOTES: 

Speaking of Brady, according to Star Magazine it appears that the thought of being in the movies is something that could be in the cards for the veteran quarterback once his career comes to an end.   The source reportedly told the magazine: “At 37, Tom knows he only has a few seasons left before retirement. He’s thinking ahead and believes he could become a huge movie star.”  Brady’s already set to appear in “Ted 2″ and “Entourage” next summer, and he had a memorable appearance on Saturday Night Live a few years ago.  It’s tough to imagine Brady not involved with football, which seems to be a more likely future.  But hopefully it will be a while before it’s something he’ll need to worry about… Steelers GM Kevin Colbert  stood behind his decision when asked about cutting LeGarrette Blount, who was let go after he walked out on the team in his final game with the Steelers after getting on the bus with plenty of time left during their Monday night win over Tennessee back in November.  When asked about if he had any regrets, he replied, “None whatsoever.”  Obviously no one in New England is disappointed and after winning a championship, one would believe Blount likely isn’t either… Last offseason Bill Belichick played an important role in one of the league’s rule changes, including the extension of the goal posts by five feet, and it actually came into play at one point in the season against the Broncos. According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Belichick’s influence on the rules may play a factor this offseason after he proposed last year at the NFL’s annual meetings to reduce current restrictions and allow coaches to challenge any call on the field, particularly judgment penalties such as pass interference. It didn’t go through, but considering the issues the league had in 2014 it’s reportedly expected to be a “major” topic of discussion this year, according to Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who is a leading member of the NFL’s competition committee…. As the “Deflate Gate” saga drags on, I came  across a tidbit from SI.com regarding the Patriots ability to file a lawsuit against the league given how this whole situation has played out should they be penalized.  Robert Kraft obviously demanded an apology before the Super Bowl if they’re cleared, but if they’re not, it sounds like they’ll be stuck with whatever penalty they’re handed and won’t be able to file a lawsuit.  According to SI.com, “Under the league constitution, the commissioner’s punishments of teams are final and not subject to review. Teams also contractually assent to not sue the league or one another, meaning the Patriots won’t be filing a lawsuit against Goodell or the NFL.”  That apparently ends the debate that the team will have any recourse, but knowing that, it now makes how this plays out even that much more interesting… Nick Caserio is going to have quite the job this offseason in trying to put together the 2015 version of this football team, which includes some deals getting done like ones for Revis, Devin McCourty, Shane Vereen, and others.  One thing he noted was the fact that things are probably going to change and that this team will be “different” next season.  Caserio told the team’s official site, “Those are decisions that will be made at the appropriate time. The reality is our team is going to be different from what it was last year.” … Former Patriot Armond Armstead saw his career in New England come to an end before it even had a chance to get started, but now according to the Boston Herald, apparently his brother, Arik, is trying to “carry on that torch” for him.  “My brother not being able to play anymore, that’s why I’m trying to carry on that torch,” Arik Armstead told the newspaper. “Going through recruiting in high school, I wanted to be like him. I really started playing football when I fell in love with the game early on when I was little. My brother, hearing his name, he was a big-time recruit in high school and I wanted to be just like him. I fell in love with football and he’s been helping me ever since. He kind of paved the way for me.” … Malcolm Butler’s life has been a whirlwind since making the interception heard around the world earlier this month and he was honored Saturday in Vicksburg, Miss. with what one resident told the Clarion Ledger was the “biggest parade ever”.  Butler’s been in quite the demand and according to the newspaper it was LeGarrette Blount who foreshadowed how different his life was about to vecome.  “Somehow, I could hear his voice,” Butler said of Blount.  “And he just kept saying, ‘You have no idea what you just did. You don’t realize how your life just changed.’ And I really didn’t. I guess it takes a day like this for it to really hit me.”  Good for him. … And finally Chris Price of WEEI pointed out yesterday that Julian Edelman has apparently moved ahead of both Brady and even Gisele Bundchen in the fashion world.   Edelman was named “the most fashionable celebrity in Boston by” US Trendy, beating out Brady, who came in at No. 7, and his wife, Gisele, who was No. 3.  Let the trash talking begin.


Edelman’s hit may sideline Seattle’s Lane heading into 2015. (USA TODAY Images)

Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman once filled in at cornerback during the 2011 season and knows how to hit people, and it appears Seahawks defensive back Jeremy Lane suffered more than a broken arm when Edelman hit him following Tom Brady’s interception in the Super Bowl.

According to ProFootballTalk.com, Seattle general manager John Schneider apparently revealed that Lane also sustained a knee injury when Edelman hit him on his return which will require surgery.   Now it seems that surgery may keep him out by the time the 2015 season begins, leaving the team thin at the position.

That’s bad news for Seattle, who may lose their other starting corner, Byron Maxwell, this offseason to free agency.  Listening to Schneider’s press conference on Thursday it seems like he has doubts about Maxwell’s return and that the market should be strong for his services.  Schneider said that if they lose him, they’ll simply have to look for another player like him.

“I’m sure down here at the combine you’re talking to a ton of different agents, and so his people are going to do the same thing,” said Schneider.  “We’ve had great discussions with them, we have a good relationship with those guys.  Byron’s one of ours, it would be hard to see him leave but I would think his market would be pretty strong.  He’s a heck of a kid and a heck of a player.”

“We’re not changing anything we do and so if Byron does move on, we’ll be hopefully having another young Byron Maxwell out there.  He’s a great guy.”

After losing against the Patriots earlier this month, it’s a game Schneider also said he hasn’t gotten over and that it will stay with him.  The Patriots have been in this position before having lost two previous Super Bowls and know all too well what it feels like.  This time around they came out on the right end of things, which is now pushing Schneider to try and make his team better heading into 2015.

“No, I’m not over it, I think it’s always going to stay with you,” said Schneider.  “It’s just part of life.  There’s a lot of big games that I’ve been a part of that don’t got your way, you can go all the way back to high school if you want.  It drives you.”

COLTS GRIGSON ADMITS THEY NOTIFIED THE LEAGUE BEFORE PLAYING NEW ENGLAND:

One of the more bizarre things that happened on Thursday was the fact that Colts GM Ryan Grigson admitted to reporters that they did reach out to the NFL about their “concerns” prior to their showdown against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game that lead to the Deflate Gate mess that has dragged on and still hasn’t been resolved.  It’s the first time we’ve heard a direct admission from anyone inside the Colts’ camp that they tipped off the league about the matter.


Brady and the Patriots demolished the Colts 45-7. (USA TODAY Images)

“Listen, you know, earlier in that week, prior to the AFC Championship game, we notified the league about our concerns,” said Grigson.  “We went into the game and we had some issues but we’re going to do what we can and that’s to participate with the league in the investigation and wait until the Wells report comes out. I mean we really have no other recourse but to wait until that investigation comes about.”

“I’m not going to get into specifics. Like I said, the report should have all the information for everybody. But just did my job and here we are.  Hopefully, you know, everything will come out and everyone will be able to have a clear look at the situation.”

“We had concerns just like I think any General Manager would do, [they] want their team to play on a level playing field, and we took the proper steps to try to ensure that and it’s up to the league to make sure that happens. Again, if rules were broken, we’ll see…if not, that’s what the investigation is for. But again, we’re just doing our jobs and trying to ensure we’re giving our team the best chance to win on a level playing field.”

Grigson’s admission adds further fuel to the fire by those who believe the league blindsided the Patriots with this whole situation.  As we know, the vehement denials by Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick proves that they believe otherwise, so as Grigson said, we’ll see how it plays out.

ADDITIONAL NOTES: Yet another conflicting note surrounding Grigson’s admission, Colts coach Chuck Pagano claimed he was unaware of the team’s prior concerns before the game, which seems a little strange that the head coach would be kept in the dark as he prepared his players for the contest.  He also shot down some of the theories that the Colts deflated the ball that D’Qwell Jackson brought to the sideline, saying “That’s ludicrous.”… If Jeff Howe’s latest report surrounding Shane Vereen is true, it seems that the Patriots running back may soon be headed elsewhere this offseason.  According to Howe, Vereen is reportedly seeking a deal worth $5 million a season as a free agent which likely means he’ll hit the open market on March 10th when free agency begins.  Howe points out that Vereen’s perference would be to stay, but he also highlights former Patriot running back Kevin Faulk’s largest deal, which was for six years and worth $15-million.  Looking back and remembering how valuable Faulk was it’s hard to feel like Vereen has reached that level yet. Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston said in his chat Thursday that a respected NFL source mentioned to him that a benchmark was Donald Brown’s three-year, $10.5 million pact that included $4 million guaranteed.  As a result, it’s tough to imagine a huge payday in Vereen’s future if it comes down to that, but obviously there’s plenty of time for the two sides to bridge the gap…Most Patriots fans have seen the way Julian Edelman has evolved, going from a running quarterback to one of the best receivers in the league and Lafayette running back Ross Scheuerman apparently looks a little like him to many NFL talent evaluaters who have seen him.  Scheuerman said he’s willing to make the transition.  He told the Allentown Morning Call, “A lot of teams have talked to me about that and they see me playing a little bit of that position as well, so it’s something I’m willing to do.” … Former Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett is coming off of an injury down in Houston, but the Texans seem focused on re-signing him and GM Rick Smith told the Houston Chronicle he was impressed with what he saw from Mallett’s brief time on the field before the injury.  “I was impressed,” Smith said. “He worked hard and obviously played pretty good that (Cleveland) game. … Somewhere along the line there, (he) suffered that injury. So it was disappointing for him, but we’re hopeful that we’ll get him back as well and he’ll have another opportunity to continue to help us.” … The Patriots are already doing some due diligence as they meet with players, with Doug Kyed of NESN reporting that the team met with Iowa OL Brandon Scherff on Wednesday night.    The team currently holds the 32 overall pick in the first round and Scherff is believed to be a Top-10 pick, which makes him seem like an unlikely candidate.  Although given how crazy the draft tends to go sometimes, anything could happen…Malcolm Butler is getting a little love in his home town, with WHDH reporting that the city of Vicksburg Mississippi is set to honor him with a parade.  He’s a Vicksburg High School graduate from the class of 2009, and will also reportedly receive a key to the city.  Good for him, it’s well-deserved…Devin McCourty and his brother Jason are set to host their second annual Casino Night from 7-10 pm Saturday at Brother Jimmy’s BBQ in the dowtown part of New Brunswick.  Tickets are $75 per person and corporate sponsorship opportunities are available beginning at $2,000.  “It’s amazing the amount of traction that it has picked up and the fact that people now associate us with this,” Jason said. “With Devin making it to the Super Bowl this year, I was out in Arizona doing Radio Row, wearing a (Tackle Sickle Cell) T-shirt and speaking about it to different outlets that we would never have imagined.”  Hopefully it goes well.

Seahawks Notebook: Thomas Plans On Playing Sunday vs Patriots


Pete Carroll is likely hoping for a repeat when his team takes on the Patriots next Sunday in Arizona.

This is the time of year where players are obviously banged up, but the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl certainly isn’t going to keep Seattle All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas out of action next weekend against New England.

Thomas, who injured his shoulder in the NFC Championship game, told the team’s official site after landing in Arizona that when you’ve got the opportunity to prepare for the biggest game in the world, that environment “makes it better” and he expects to be out there against the Patriots.  The veteran missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday, but participated in the team’s Friday session.

Having already won one championship last year, the Seahawks are obviously focused on trying to make it two in a row, something that hasn’t been accomplished since the Patriots did it in 2003-2004.  It would be quite a feat and Thomas admitted that he felt like he was in a movie and reliving a dream.

“Since I was a little kid, every time I got hurt I always came back in the game,” Thomas told the website. “I played third base on my All-Star baseball team and a lined ground ball hit me in my mouth. I was wearing braces at the time, so my lip got stuck to my braces. I had to go to the emergency room. My dad said, ‘Do you want to play? Do you want to go back and play?’ I was like, ‘Of course.’

“So this is me. I love competing. And I’m just glad. We’re reliving our dream. It feels like a movie.”

CARROLL HAS HIS TEAM FOCUSED:

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has come a long way since his days in New England, and with his team back in the hunt for another title he’s got them in the right mindset as they get set to begin their preparations for their showdown against the Patriots.

Carroll had two words for his team before they headed off to Arizona, which were “stay humble”, trying to remind them of the task at hand.  Carroll’s no stranger to big games, especially having already led them to one title, as well as the success during his tenure at USC which included two national championships.

“I think this is a good challenge,” Carroll said via Seahawks.com. “Like I told the guys today, this is a challenge to maintain the humility that you need, that is necessary. There is so much pomp and circumstance and following and praise and everybody’s patting you on the back and all that kind of stuff.

“We need to stay balanced and stay in the middle, and make sure we don’t sway from where we normally are and hold on to the mentality and the focus that helped us get to these kinds of situations. I think that’s the big deal. We’ve been through the playoffs and the matchups and those kinds of thing and that kind of conversation. But it’s more about how this whole media thing elevates the focus and attention, and we want to do it really well and handle it really well and make sure that we’re ready and capable of playing like we’re capable come game time.”

BENNETT CALLS DEFLATE-GATE “PROPAGANDA”:

Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett hasn’t been paying much attention to the “deflate-gate” story that’s been playing out across the country surrounding the Patriots, and as far as he’s concerned it sounds like he’s not reading too much into it.

Bennett, who told the Seattle Times that he was watching “Dora the Explorer” with his three daughters during Belichick’s news conference on Saturday, feels it’s nothing more than one big story line to add more build up to what should be a tough match-up.

“I think it’s all propaganda, just to get a chance to build the game up,’’ Bennett said via the newspaper. “It’s all inflating the game right now. It’s like just to make it even more worth it than what it’s really about. It’s really just about us, two great teams, playing. I think a lot of people are shying away from that aspect of it. They have the Patriots, who are arguably one of the best teams of this decade, and we’re starting to try to catch up to where they’re at and what they’ve done in the last 10 years. Bill Belichick is one of the best coaches of all time. I think people are forgetting that. The coaches going and the players playing, it’s too much about the balls. Hopefully everybody starts to talk about the game again.”

CARROLL SET TO HAVE A TALK WITH LYNCH:

Marshawn Lynch’s obscene gesture in the NFC Championship game cost his him $20,000 this week, and apparently officials have already warned the team that it will cost them 15-yards in the Super Bowl should Lynch pull the same move next Sunday should he score against the Patriots.

With that in mind, Carroll acknowledged that he’ll be having a conversation with his star running back, and said that the situation will be addressed.

“I haven’t talked to him yet about the thing that came up with the league, but that will be addressed,” Carroll said via ESPN on Sunday when the team arrived in Arizona. “I think he’s going to have a great Super Bowl week and have a great time doing this and playing in this game.”

SEAHAWKS BOOED IN PRO BOWL:

There weren’t any Seahawks participating in Sunday night’s Pro Bowl, but they found out what fans in Arizona thought of them after receiving a less than warm welcome from the home crowd.

There were five players for Seattle who were elected to attend the NFL’s annual All-Star game, but since they’re playing next weekend in the Super Bowl, they obviously declined.  However, they did make an appearance during the contest, with safety Kam Chancellor, running back Marshawn Lynch, cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Earl Thomas and linebacker Bobby Wagner each on hand to take in the game.

Midway through the first quarter they were announced to the crowd, who booed them.  Not that it should be that much of a surprise.  With the game being played in the home stadium of the Arizona Cardinals, clearly fans aren’t happy to see their NFC West rivals with an opportunity to celebrate a Super Bowl title on their home field.

That would be the same as the Jets playing in the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.  Fortunately the odds are pretty good that won’t happen, not because Gillette Stadium probably won’t be a host for the foreseeable future, but because that would require the Jets to get there – which is the even less likely scenario.

Belichick On Deflated Footballs: “I Had no Knowledge Whatsoever”


“I had no knowledge whatsoever about this situation until Monday morning.” – Bill Belichick

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick met with the media on Wednesday and was surprisingly candid during his opening statement as it related to the “Deflate-Gate” story that continues to rage on following the team’s victory over the Colts on Sunday.

Belichick told the media that he was unaware of the situation until Monday morning, saying he had no knowledge and that he’s learned more about ball pressure in the last three days than his entire 40-years of coaching.

“When I came in Monday morning I was shocked to learn of the news reports about the footballs. I had no knowledge whatsoever about this situation until Monday morning,” said Belichick (via PFT).  “I’ve learned a lot more about this process in the last three days than I knew — or had talked about — in the last 40 years that I’ve coached in this league. I had no knowledge of the various steps involved in the game balls, the process that happened between when they were prepared and went to the officials and went to the game, so I’ve learned a lot about that. Obviously, I understand that each team has the opportunity to prepare the balls the way they want, give them to the officials, and the game officials either approve or disapprove the balls, and that really was the end of it for me, until I learned a little bit more about it the last couple days.”

One thing we know about Belichick over the years has always been his philosophy as it pertains to ball security, which is why in practice he’s always made the footballs as bad as possible with the intention of giving players the worst situations to deal with so that they could be ready for any type of condition on the field.

That was a point he made as he addressed the media, and that he has never had any sympathy for players who complain about the condition of the football.

“Let me just say that my personal coaching philosophy, my mentality, has always been to make things as difficult as possible for players in practice, and so with regard to footballs, I’m sure that any current or past player of mine would tell you that the balls we practice with are as bad as they can be,” said Belichick.  “Wet, sticky, cold, slippery, whatever. However bad we can make them, I make them. Any time that players complain about the quality of the footballs, I make them worse, and that stops the complaining.

“So we never use the condition of the footballs as an excuse. We play with whatever, or kick with whatever we have to use, and that’s the way it is. That has never been a priority for me, and I want the players to deal with the harder situation in practice than they’ll ever have to deal with in a game. Maybe that’s part of our whole ball security philosophy.”

Belichick also went on to say that moving forward, the Patiots will make sure the footballs are inflated higher than above the minimum limit to prevent any potential situation where they would fall to a level below the minimum limit.  But his general response was consistent to what he’s always said about the weather, or any other situation. The condition of the footballs has never mattered, and that they’ll play with what’s out there.

“I can tell you that in my entire coaching career I have never talked to any player, staff member about football air pressure. That is not a subject that I have ever brought up. To me, the footballs are approved by the league and game officials pre-game, and we play with what’s out there. And that’s the only way that I have ever thought about that.”

Belichick didn’t add much beyond that, saying that they’ll continue to cooperate with the league, and that he’s disappointed the stories are centering around this and not the two terrific victories from his football team.

“The National Football League is investigating the situation. We have cooperated fully, quickly and completely with every request that they have made, continue to be cooperative in any way that we can. I have no explanation for what happened, and that’s what they’re looking into, so I can’t comment on what they’re doing. That’s something that you should talk to them about.”

“It’s really unfortunate that this is a story coming off two great playoff victories by our football team and our players, but again we’ve been cooperative with the NFL investigation. We’ll continue to do so, and we’ll turn all our attention, focus on the Seattle Seahawks.”

He ended the press conference shortly after, following a flurry of questions that were mostly responded with, “I’ve told you everything I know” and “I don’t have an explanation for what happened.” It ended shortly after that.

REPORT: NFL Finds 11 of 12 Patriots Footballs Under-inflated

It appears that things just got interesting.

According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com, the NFL has found that footballs used by the Patriots against the Colts Sunday night were indeed under-inflated, with 11 of the 12 footballs used by the team in the AFC Championship game found to be under-inflated by two pounds each.

The findings only add further fuel to the fire on this discussion, which has been dominating most of the stories in the media since New England advanced by blowing out the Colts 45-7 at Gillette Stadium to clinch the Conference Championship.


ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that 11 of the 12 balls used by the Patriots Sunday night was under-inflated.
(USA TODAY Images)

Mortensen reports that one source within the league is, “disappointed … angry … distraught,” after spending considerable time on the findings earlier Tuesday and the big question now will be what penalty will be handed down by the league, and who they’ll hold responsible.

It’s interesting to note that the majority of the officials, who handle the ball after every play, didn’t seem to notice and one report from Newsday said the investigation stemmed from linebacker D’Qwell Jackson’s second-quarter interception.  After giving the ball to a member of the Colts’ equipment staff, that person noticed the ball seemed under-inflated and he then notified head coach Chuck Pagano. Colts GM Ryan Grigson was then notified, followed by Grigson taking matters into his own hands and notifying league officials, who then notified the on-field officials at halftime.

If changes were made, they didn’t slow down the Patriots, who ran off 21 points in the 3rd quarter.

The next question will likely be trying to figure out exactly when the balls were altered, if that was indeed the case.  The league rules specifically put them in the hands of the officials, who are the ones who open them and they’re checked at that time.

From the offiical NFL Rule book: “The home club shall have 36 balls for outdoor games and 24 for indoor games available for testing with a pressure gauge by the referee two hours prior to the starting time of the game to meet with League requirements. Twelve (12) new footballs, sealed in a special box and shipped by the manufacturer, will be opened in the officials’ locker room two hours prior to the starting time of the game. These balls are to be specially marked with the letter “k” and used exclusively for the kicking game.”

The balls are required be inflated between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch, although it’s unclear what the number was that the league found during their investigation.

The team didn’t comment on the reports, although Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski each dismissed the news, with Brady laughing off the report on the radio, while Gronkowski added his thoughts on Twitter.

Obviously what happens now and what penalty the league imposes remains to be seen.  It’s enough to make you wonder, if Brady doesn’t throw the interception, does this story even come to be considering the officials seemingly didn’t notice anything abnormal?

As Greg Bedard mentioned on Twitter, the next thing that will need to happen – at least in fairness to New England – will be having each of the footballs the Colts use tested as a comparison.  If that investigation finds no alteration to any of the balls they used, that obviously wouldn’t be good news for the Patriots.

Needless to say, it doesn’t look like this story will be going away anytime sooon.  If nothing else, it’s likely only going to become that much more heated in the days ahead.

Wilfork Helps Woman Trapped in Her Jeep After Championship Win

2014-AFC-Championship-Tom-Brady-Vince-Wilfork-600w

Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork has always been known as a compassionate person, and following Sunday night’s AFC Championship victory he showed even more why he’s one of New England’s most beloved players on and off the field.

According to Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, Wilfork spotted an accident on Rte. 1 near Gillette Stadium where a woman rolled her Jeep Wrangler onto its side.  The veteran defensive tackle reportedly pulled over and helped pull her out of the vehicle and stayed with her until Massachusetts State Police arrived shortly thereafter.

After Wilfork left, the woman was charged with driving under the influence and arrested by police.

Wilfork told the website that seeing the accident just after winning a Conference Championship made him reflect on what was important.  But in the end, he and his wife, Bianca, were just glad to have been there to help.

“You kind of reflect on life a little bit,” he said. “Here I am, we won the most important game of our season, and flashing right in front of your eyes is the life of someone who is in danger. … After I drove off, my wife and I kind of talked in the car and said there are things that are a lot more precious in life than games or anything you accomplish in life. There are things out there that are more important. It showed last night, even though we won the AFC championship, it was life and danger. We were just happy to help.

“I don’t want anything from it. If I saw it a million times, I’d do it a million times no matter what the situation would be.”

Ravens Cry Foul in Loss to Patriots

In a game where they were down by two touchdowns on multiple occasions, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels had to get creative to try and stop a Ravens pass rush that got to quarterback Tom Brady quite a bit in the first half, including two sacks during a second quarter drive that knocked them out of field goal range.

The result saw them employ a four man offensive line while adding an additional player up front as an eligible receiver.  To make matters worse, the Patriots didn’t report the eligible receiver until just before the snap, preventing the Ravens from being able to adjust.


Brady and the offense got creative in the second half to slow down the Ravens’ defense. (USA TODAY Images)

The result?  A second half that saw them outscore Baltimore 21-10 and now the Patriots will advance to yet another AFC Championship game next weekend at Gillette Stadium.

The move apparently caught Ravens head coach John Harbaugh by suprise and he wasn’t happy about it, further adding some future fire to a rivalry that already has enough bad blood between the two sides.

“It’s a substitution type of a trick type of a thing,” explained Harbaugh after the game.  “So they don’t give you the opportunity, they don’t give you the chance to make the proper substitutions and things like that. It’s not something that anybody’s ever done before. The league will look at that type of thing and I’m sure that they’ll make some adjustments and things like that.”

Harbaugh said he spoke to the officials to try and understand what was happening because he was trying to get a handle on the players that needed to be covered. However, what really frustrated him was the fact they were snapping the ball so quickly which made it difficult, and the Ravens coach said that there was “deception” in what the Patriots were doing.

“We wanted an opportunity to be able to ID who the eligible players were, because what they were doing was they would announce the eligible player and then time was taken and they would go over and snap the ball before we even had the chance to figure out who was lined up where, and that was the deception part of it,” said Harbaugh. “And that was where it was clearly deception.

“The officials told me after that they’d give us the opportunity to do that, which they probably should have done during that series but they didn’t really understand what was happening. That’s why I had to go and take the penalty, to get their attention so that they would understand what was going on because they didn’t understand what was going on. And they said that that was the right thing, that they’d give us the chance to ID the eligible receivers so we could actually get them covered. That’s why guys were open, because we didn’t ID where the eligible receivers were at. So, that’s the nature of that particular thing they were doing, that’s what made it so difficult.”

Harbaugh said that he hadn’t seen it before, and also went on to say that, “Nobody’s ever seen that before.”  When asked if he considered it cheap or a dirty tactic, he said he wasn’t willing to comment on that.

Brady was pretty blunt during his press conference when asked to react to Harbaugh’s comments, and surprisingly candid.

“Who knows. Maybe those guys gotta study the rule book and figure it out,” said Brady. “We obviously knew what we were doing and we made some pretty important plays. It was a real good weapon for us. Maybe we’ll have something in store next week.”

After being told that Harbaugh called it clear deception and that the league was going to look at it, Brady reacted saying, well, let them.

“They’ll look at it then,” said Brady. “I don’t know what’s deceiving about that. [They] should figure it out.”

For now, the Patriots were able to overcome the game plan the Ravens had put together to stop them, and whether Harbaugh likes it or not, New England has advanced to battle the winner of the Colts and Broncos next Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Ravens Heading To Foxboro For Divisional Match-Up


Bill Belichick now knows who he needs to get his team ready for this week. (USA TODAY Images)

Now we know who the Patriots will be facing.

The Baltimore Ravens went into Pittsburgh and took care of the Steelers Saturday night, winning 30-17 and now will come into Gillette Stadium for yet another showdown against the Patriots in next weekend’s AFC Divisional Game. Kickoff is slated for 4:35pm ET on Saturday.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco finished Saturday night’s game 18-of-29 (62%) for 259 yards and two touchdowns, but it was the Ravens’ defense that eventually ended up being the difference in the game against a Steelers team that just couldn’t get anything going despite being at home.

Baltimore kept Roethlisberger under pressure for most of the game, sacking him five times and it was their play in the fourth quarter that ended up eventually closing the game out. They put a big hit that left the Steelers’ signal caller dazed after his head struck the ground hard, knocking him out of the game for three plays to under go concussion testing before later being cleared to return. The bad news is, the cobwebs were still thick and after he re-entered he threw what was essentially a game-ending interception in the endzone on his first play.

There were a lot of hits like that by the Ravens in the final quarter, with Baltimore’s defenders drilling Steelers receivers, including one play where tight end Heath Evans took a big shot, while Markus Wheaton also got lambasted on another play.

Needless to say this sets up what will likely be quite a physical match-up. Fans likely remember a previous AFC Championship game where the Patriots defeated the Ravens back on January 22, 2012, but it came at a cost as they lost Rob Gronkowski to a significant ankle injury after a tackle by Bernard Pollard that drastically limited his effectiveness against the Giants in a disappointing 21-17 Super Bowl loss. Pollard is long gone, but the Ravens defense was hitting hard in Pittsburgh and got the job done well enough to advance.

The Ravens last visited Foxboro in the postseason during another AFC Championship Game, where they beat the Patriots back on January 20, 2013 to win the Conference before eventually defeating the 49ers to win the Super Bowl.