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Gostkowski Praises Patriots For Continued Upgrades at Gillette Stadium

Twelve years later, Gillette Stadium is still among the best venues in the NFL. (USA TODAY Images)

Last season there was a report that surfaced regarding some upgrades that would be done at Gillette Stadium over this past offseason, and it appears the players got a chance to see them first hand during the first day of voluntary workouts on Monday.

According to Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, those who were on hand Monday had a chance to get a glimpse of the new improvements at Gillette, which reportedly includes a brand new training room for players. It’s all part of a massive expansion project that’s been going on that should help improve football operations at the Stadium.

A previous report pointed out that the idea behind the move was to upgrade the scouting and coaching offices, and also to try and get everything together and consolidate them.  Previously the offices spanned a number of different sections of the stadium, but the 25,000 square-foot two-story complex that’s under construction on the east side of the stadium should help alleviate that problem.

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski answered questions from fans and signed autographs at the Patriots Hall of Fame after taking part in the Speaker Series on Monday, but told Reiss the improvements were a welcomed sight.

“The new training room is really nice,” Gostkowski said. “It’s all new stuff, bigger, more conducive for as many players as we always have [on the roster].”

Since opening in 2002, the latest additions join the long list of upgrades done at Gillette in recent years.  The Stadium recently replaced their field turf, going with the latest technology after being the first NFL stadium in 2006 to install the original state-of-the-art turf that was put in.

They’ve also installed Wi-Fi for the fans, which ultimately led to the addition of an impressive “Game Day” app for fans to have exclusive access to video of the game live on their phone or tablet.  For anyone who has attended a game in recently, you have the capability within moments of a play to view the replay right in the palm of your hand.  They’ve also added brand new HD Screens in both endzones along with new upgraded concessions.

There are more on the way, as the organization also plans to erect a freestanding, permanent “pavilion” in front of the stadium.  As for inside, they’re also reportedly planning on adding two elevators, as well as expanding the large suites on the west side of the stadium.

Twelve years later it’s still heads and shoulders above the old Foxboro Stadium, and for now it seems the upgrades are still making it one of the top facilities in the league for both the fans and players.  Gostkowski praised the organization for doing their best to make sure it’s on par with other NFL stadiums.

“It’s like colleges that have the nicest stuff. It makes the players excited,” Gostkowski told Reiss. “They show up and it’s like, ‘This is awesome.’ We’re here every day for 8-10-12 hours a day during the season, so you want it to be a place you want to come to. They’re doing a job of keeping things new and keeping things up to date to be on par with other teams in the NFL; it’s state-of-the-art and top-of-the-line.”

Newly Signed Patriots CB Brandon Browner Will Wear #39

For those of you scoring at home, Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston that newly signed defensive back Brandon Browner will wear #39 when he takes the field with his new team in the coming months.

Browner wore the same number with his previous team, the Seattle Seahawks, and didn’t have to fight anyone here in New England to claim it.  Reiss points out that the last player to wear that number was practice squad player Sam McGuffie, with the fomer running back from Rice University having been part of roster cuts back in March.

The veteran was reportedly one of many players who were on hand for the first day of voluntary workouts at Gillette Stadium.

Deadline For Option Looming For Patriots’ Solder

Solder has been a solid part of the Patriots’ offensive line since being drafted in 2011.
(USA TODAY Images)

Patriots left tackle Nate Solder has been a staple at the position protecting quarterback Tom Brady’s blind side since being drafted in 2011, and it appears the veteran could be in line for a pay increase in the near future.

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe pointed out in his Sunday Football notes that Solder, who is entering into the fourth year of his rookie contract, stands to receive a bump in pay should the team exercise his option for 2015.  Thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement all drafted players enter the league with four year contracts, and first round picks also have an option fifth year that teams are also able to exercise.

In the case of Solder, according to Volin, his option salary is right around $7.44 million,  which is quite a bump from the $1.54 he’s scheduled to earn in 2014.  It’s clearly a lot more than what he’s currently making, but likely still less than what he could earn in free agency.

Solder was originally selected 17th overall in the first round of the 2011 draft, which was the pick they acquired from the Oakland Raiders from the Richard Seymour trade in 2009. He reportedly worked out for former offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia just a few days before the draft.

The deadline for the Patriots to exercise his option is May 3rd, and one would have to believe an extension is also likely in his future as New England will likely try and make sure he remains in the fold for the years to come.

Patriots 2014 Preseason Opponents Announced

The New England Patriots announced their preseason opponents earlier this afternoon, giving fans a glimpse of how the Patriots exhibition season will shape up when they kick things off in the months ahead.

The team will open up on the road in Washington, followed by two home games against Philadelphia and Carolina before finishing on the road against the Giants.

No dates and times have been announced just yet.

As for the NFL Patriots regular season schedule, we’ll have to wait a bit for that as that will be announced later this spring.

Patriots Free Agent TE Matthew Mulligan is Now a Member of the Chicago Bears

It appears free agent tight end Matthew Mulligan will be taking his talents to the Windy City in 2014, with Nick Underhill of reporting that Mulligan has signed with the Chicago Bears.

Mulligan leaves New England having made two receptions in 2013, including one for a touchdown during their week four win down in Atlanta over the Falcons.  The local native and University of Maine standout filled in admirably during Rob Gronkowski’s absences, often times as a blocking tight end in the Patriots’ offense.

Unfortunately having lost both of their dynamic tight ends in recent years to either injury or jail, New England may be planning on addressing that position in the upcoming draft and Mulligan may have elected to try and move on to a different city where he could potentially get more playing time.

For now the 29-year old joins a crowded group as he’s one of five tight ends on the Bears roster, which includes Martellus Bennett, Zach Miller,Fendi Onobun and Dante Rosario.  As it stands currently the Patriots have Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui, and D.J. Williams.  One would have to believe that will likely change in the coming months, especially with Gronkowski coming off of offseason knee surgery as the Patriots look to add depth at that position.

REPORT: Vince Wilfork Agrees to Three-Year, $22.5M Extension

There have been plenty of whispers about the future of Vince Wilfork after the veteran defensive lineman reportedly cleaned out his locker thanks to a difference of opinion about a potential restructure, but it appears that his future is now safe here in New England.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Wilfork and the Patriots agreed on a three-year, $22.5 million contract extension, which will now see him remain with the team that drafted him 10-years ago.

Wilfork was heading into the final year of a 5-year deal that he signed in 2010 that saw him carry a high cap number of over $11-million, which was something the team needed to address as they continue trying to add talent to a group that finished just shy of a Super Bowl berth last season.  Fortunately Wilfork has a deal that according to the Boston Herald could see him earn up to $8 million this season, which includes $3 million guaranteed.

Overall it’s a win-win as the team now has some financial breathing room and Wilfork’s future is more secure, and all he’ll need to do is continue rehabbing the Achilles injury that he suffered in week four that sidelined him for the remainder of the 2013 season.

The veteran offered up his thoughts on Twitter, which now has him focused on helping his team win a championship.

REPORT: Vince Wilfork has already cleaned out his locker

We’ve heard the recent reports surrounding Vince Wilfork’s unhappiness regarding the team’s need to restructure and lower his salary cap number, and it sounds like the veteran wasn’t kidding when he asked for his release recently.

According to Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald, Wilfork has already ripped his nameplate off his locker stall and cleaned out his locker, which was a clear indication of how contentious those discussions apparently were.

No timetable has been released in terms of when that event occurred and the nose tackle was reported to have been on vacation, so it will be interesting to see if, in fact, Wilfork cleaned out his locker prior to heading off on vacation and if that’s the case, whether after having some time to cool off, the two sides can come back together and still get something done.

That’s a detail we don’t know, and one that we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out before rushing to any sort of judgement in what’s already a tough situation.

Robert Kraft told the Herald he’s “still not giving up hope that he’ll be a part of our team next year.” However, Kraft also said that due to the salary cap they also have to figure out something that obviously works both for Wilfork and his football team.

“We’ve been very close and I’ll let Vince speak to whatever he feels is appropriate,” Kraft told the newspaper. “We’re probably results-oriented and life is about execution so either we get it done or we don’t. I very much hope we get it done, and I believe he very much would like to do it as well. We’ve been so lucky to have him. So we’ll see what happens.”

“You know, for him, he’s making some individual decisions,” Kraft added. “For us, we have to put a team together of over 50 people. We have a salary cap. In the end, it’s about both parties feeling it’s a good transaction and it’s a win-win. I think that’s what we’re both shooting for.”

Hopefully there’s still time to reach a resolution. Losing Wilfork would leave them thin in a group that for now behind Tommy Kelly still has some question marks. Even if Wilfork’s not the player he was prior to his injury, one would have to believe he’s still good enough to be effective alongside Kelly. There’s also the intangible of what he brings to the table in terms of his leadership on the field.

Now the only question will be whether the Patriots will place enough of a value on him to make him happy, or if it will be another tough decision that will lead to change on this football team.

Edelman On Being Back with Patriots: ‘It’s a surreal moment’

After losing one of their top free agents in Aqib Talib early in the process, there were quite a few people who wondered whether or not Julian Edelman would be the next player out the door in the process.

Edelman and the Patriots couldn’t come to an agreement before the start of free agency on a new contract, and the veteran receiver decided to take his chances on the open market.   However, in the end New England was where he wanted to be, and Edelman told the media on Thursday despite the reality he could have played elsewhere, he’s glad things worked out.

Julian Edelman ultimately decided he couldn’t leave Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and re-signed with the Patriots.
(USA TODAY Images)

“The most difficult time of this process is planning on the worst and that’s moving on and going to another place,” said Edelman.  “It’s very tough, especially when you’ve been in a place for five years and you’ve developed a love for the area. You have teammates, coaches that you’ve been through battles with, you have fans that are just outrageously great.”

“It’s just a great area to play football in,” continued Edelman.  “There’s a reality that I could have played somewhere else. You didn’t know what direction your life was going to go, so it’s definitely great to have the process over and I’m looking forward to getting started and doing this right now. ”

Edelman also said that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made it known he wanted him back, and when it came down to it, the veteran receiver admitted that the two have a good relationship and it would have been difficult for him to leave him behind.

“TB let it be known that he would love to have me back and part of the team,” said Edelman. “But Tom’s also a good friend of mine, one of the guys that’s helped me develop into a professional in this league. He also told me that I would have to take care of myself and my family. He just kind of mentored me through the process. It’s going to be a very tough decision. It was definitely a very tough decision that you had to deal with but TB was right there behind me if I would have left or if I would have stayed. I couldn’t leave the guy, he’s my dog. ”

Fortunately he won’t have to after signing a 4-year, $17-million contract, which Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported  also includes a $5 million signing bonus and up to $8 million in guaranteed money, as well as an additional $2 million in incentives that could increase the total value to $19 million.

Edelman admitted that the fact the team believes enough in him to reward him that way certainly made him feel good, and having the security of knowing he’ll be part of the offense for years to come is something he’s glad he has now that his contract is out of the way.

“It’s good to have a little security and knowing that a team believes in you enough to pay you that kind of stuff,” said Edelman. “A little security on how many years I’ll be here, I’ve never really been in that situation. I’ve always felt like if I had a bad practice, I could potentially get cut the next day, like stuff like that. Ultimately it’s good to be back with this franchise and it’s a surreal moment.”

Now that he’s back, Edelman admitted he’s liked what he’s seen so far with some of the early personnel moves they’ve made, which has seen the likes of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, as well as receiver Brandon LaFell come into the fold.  Edelman feels that things like that make camp and OTA’s more competitive, and he has confidence in the front office and the fact they’ll make sure they’ll be as competitive as possible when they take the field in the months ahead.

“I have full trust in what those guys do and who they bring in because it’s proven that it works,” said Edelman. “So, if we’re bringing in these guys, you obviously know Revis, how great of a player he is. Then Browner, how he’s had a lot of success over there on the West Coast. LaFell, having another receiver to have for Tommy [Tom Brady], so I mean, all these guys, it’s pretty good to have that. It’s just going got make camp and OTAs a lot more competitive. It’s going to make us better.”

After having been a part of this area for so long, now that he’ll be continuing his career here, Edelman also admitted that he’s ready to start calling himself a New Englander. That should be music to the ears of the fan base that has seen him grow quite a bit since being taken in the 7th round back in 2009.

“You know, I’ve spent most of my adult life out there so I can tell you right now, I know Boston better than I know San Francisco,” said Edelman, who is from California and visited with the 49ers during free agency. “I go to the Cape more than I go to Lake Tahoe. I mean, I guess I am a New Englander when it comes down to it. It’s pretty crazy to think but if you look at it close, I don’t know the city of San Francisco that well but I grew up 30 miles south. I didn’t go to the city that often as an adult. Now in Boston, I’m there three times a week. I guess I would say I’m a New Englander.”

Patriots Armond Armstead May Finally Be Ready to Get to Work

With the injuries to starters Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly on the defensive line last season, most fans were hoping to see Armond Armstead by midseason last year to help give them some additional depth. Unfortunately he suffered a setback thanks to a mysterious infection, which ultimately prevented that from happening.

Now according to the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe, Armstead is reportedly on pace to be ready April 21st when the Patriots begin their offseason program.  Howe reports that it’s unclear exactly what the team can expect from the 23-year old, but his depth could certainly help them on a group that for right now still remains relatively thin heading into the remainder of free agency and the upcoming NFL Draft.

After starting the season on the non-football illness reserve list, Armstead never made it onto the active roster and was ultimately placed on injured reserve, just months after undergoing surgery at the end of July to treat a reported infection.  In early November Bill Belichick told reporters in a conference call that it “looks less likely now with each day that goes by” that Armstead would return, and ultimately, he wasn’t able to and ended up being lost for the season.

If he’s able to return, he’s certainly an intriguing prospect. He finished with six sacks in his 2012 season in the Canadian Football League for the Toronto Argonauts, and he was released last January per his own request to try and pursue a career in the NFL.

Today’s news is certainly at least encouraging, and it will be interesting to see if this is the year he’s able to finally hit the field here in New England.

When Darrelle Revis takes the field for the Patriots this season, there’s a possibility he may have a discussion with safety Adrian Wilson to see if Revis can convince Wilson to relinquish the number he’s worn in past seasons in New York and Tampa Bay, as well as the number of a player he apparently holds a lot of admiration for.

According to Revis, former Patriots defensive back Ty Law, who wore number twenty-four during his career in New England, has apparently been a mentor throughout the veteran’s life and the two still communicate even now.

“Ty has been a mentor through my whole life,” Revis told reporters on Monday.  “He’s a very close friend to my family. We had a conversation. It is not about the situation I’m in at hand, but I talk to Ty all the time – about life and football. I can’t get into details of even what me and him talk about.

“I’m just happy that he was there, he’s on my side and if I can bounce questions off of him and ask him certain things because he has a lot of experience then that’s what I can do. Ty’s always there in my corner to help me whether it’s football or life. I thank Ty for that. I’m sure he’s not listening, he’s not on the call but I’ll tell him that later.”

After losing free agent cornerback Aqib Talib to the Denver Broncos, the Patriots surprised everyone after they were able to quickly get a deal done to bring Revis into the fold. Law is a local analyst for Comcast Sports New England and was pleased with the move, telling USA TODAY that Revis was an “upgrade” over Talib.

“Darrelle is an upgrade,” said Law. “No disrespect to Aqib, who is a great corner in his own right. But outside of Denver in the AFC, who else do you see besides the Patriots?”

Law also said he had never seen Revis happier.

“He’s ecstatic,” said Law. “He’s in a damn good place — able to get paid and play for a championship team, especially after going through that tumultuous (4-12) year in Tampa Bay. Playing in New York, he smelled a Super Bowl a couple times. He can taste it right now.”

Revis admitted during the process that when he was released by the Buccaneers, he and his agent weighed their options before ultimately making the decision to come to New England.  Revis felt that the oppoortunity to play for a winning program ultimately was the deciding factor.

“We had to weigh our options,” Revis explained.  “It was a lot of stuff going on after I got released, teams calling and we had to weigh our options. Me and my agents had to weigh our options. We felt like New England was the best place. They’re a winning program, they’re a winning organization and we wanted to be a part of it. I know the New England Patriots very well from playing against them when I was a Jet and we just felt like this is the right situation for me. Everything fell into place.”

For now Revis is trying to get settled and begin the process of getting acclimated into New England’s system.  He’s somewhat familiar with their personnel, and the goal over the next few months is to try and start getting comfortable before they begin work during OTA’s as he begins the process of preparing for the 2014 season.

“As of right now, I’m just trying to focus on being a Patriot right now,” said Revis.  “Everything has happened so fast over the last couple days, so I’m still trying to soak everything in. I know we’ve got Brandon [Browner], I know we’ve got [Devin] McCourty and Logan Ryan. We’ve got some great talent back there. But as of right now, I’m still trying to soak it in and look at the next step ahead and that’s OTAs right now.”

One question obviously is the health of his surgically repaired knee, which Revis said hampered him early last season but got stronger as the season progressed.  However, he doesn’t expect it to be a problem, and he’s just excited to get back on the field to start the next chapter of his career.

“It was a long process,” Revis said of his rehabilitation.  “I did finish all 16 games. I was slow and maybe sluggish in the beginning of the season but week to week, I got stronger and stronger. Toward the end, I probably felt my best as a football player.

“That’s a thing where it took some time and I thank [the] Tampa Bay Buccaneers for everything they did to help me with my rehab throughout the course of the year. It was a big process to get through that and fight through it but right now I feel great. I’m just ready to play ball.”