Linebacker Oscar Lua, who got the start tonight at linebacker against the Giants, went down with what appeared to be a right knee injury with roughly 12 minutes left in the first quarter. He was down on the sidelines for a few minutes before he got up slowly and headed to the locker room accompanied by a member of the Patriots support staff.
Hey everyone … after some crazy traffic, we’re here at Gillette and ready to blog about tonight’s preseason finale between the Patriots and Giants. Many of the first teamers — includign quarterback Tom Brady — are on the field and warming up. We’ll pass along more info as it becomes available.
The Patriots have just announced a number of moves, including the official signing of cornerback Asante Samuel, as well as the moving of wide receivers Troy Brown and Chad Jackson to the PUP list, the movement of cornerback Mike Richardson to the reserve/injured list and the release of offensive lineman Chris Patrick. Here’s the complete release, straight from the team:
The New England Patriots have signed cornerback Asante Samuel. Samuel was designated as the club’s franchise player on Feb. 16, 2007. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Additionally, the Patriots placed three players on the reserve/physically unable to perform list – wide receiver Troy Brown, wide receiver Chad Jackson and cornerback Eddie Jackson – and also placed rookie cornerback Mike Richardson on the reserve/injured list. Richardson will miss the 2006 season with a hand injury. New England also released rookie offensive lineman Chris Patrick. New England is in compliance with the NFL’s 75-man roster limit, which took effect at 4:00 p.m. EDT today. The Patriots have been granted a roster exemption for Samuel.
Samuel, 26, has played in 59 regular season games with 39 starts and has appeared in 11 playoff games with eight starts since being selected by the Patriots in the fourth round (120th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft. The 5-foot-10-inch, 185-pound cornerback has recorded 16 career regular season interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns. The Central Florida product has also recorded four career postseason interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns. His three career playoff interceptions returned for touchdowns are tied for the all-time NFL lead with former Oakland Raider Willie Brown. In four NFL seasons, Samuel has also totaled 184 tackles (162 solo), 63 passes defensed and three forced fumbles.
In the 2006 regular season, Samuel tied Denver’s Champ Bailey for the NFL lead with 10 interceptions and also led the league with 24 passes defensed (Baltimore’s Chris McAlister finished second with 22). Samuel’s 10 interceptions were the highest regular season interception total by a Patriots player since 1964, when Ron Hall recorded a franchise-best 11 interceptions for the Boston Patriots. Samuel’s 24 passes defensed in 2006 were the second highest single-season total in franchise history, trailing only Ty Law’s 1998 franchise-record 27 passes defensed.
Samuel added two interceptions in the 2006 playoffs and returned both of them for touchdowns – a 36-yard touchdown return in a first-round playoff game against the New York Jets and a 39-yard scoring return in the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts. Samuel’s 12 total interceptions in the 2006 regular season and playoffs were the highest combined single-season total in Patriots history.
Here’s the latest on the Brady baby watch, courtesy the AP:
Bridget Moynahan reveals name of son with Patriots QB Brady
BOSTON (AP) – New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s newborn son is a JET.
A publicist for actress Bridget Moynahan on Tuesday announced the name of the son she had with her ex-boyfriend — John Edward Thomas Moynahan — and revealed Brady did make it in time to Los Angeles to be with her for the child’s arrival.
“Bridget is very thankful for a happy baby, excited about being a mother, and very pleased that the father, Tom Brady, was able to be there for the birth,” publicist Gary Mantoosh said.
Mantoosh refused to release any other details, including the size of the baby or whether the Thomas in his name was in honor of his father.
“Both mother and baby are at home, happy and healthy,” he said.
Brady flew to California last Wednesday for the birth and returned to his team a couple days later for a preseason game.
Moynahan and Brady split up late last year after a three-year relationship. Brady has been dating supermodel Gisele Bundchen.
Moynahan, 36, is a former model who has starred in such films as “Coyote Ugly,” “I, Robot” and “The Sum of All Fears.” Her television credits include “Sex and the City” and the ABC series “Six Degrees.” She grew up in Longmeadow, Mass.
Brady, 30, has led the Patriots to three NFL titles and is a two-time Super Bowl MVP. New England opens its regular season against the rival New York Jets on Sept. 8.
Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the full Q&A from Bill Belichick’s meeting with the media today at Gillette Stadium. We’ll have news on the cuts as it happens.
BB: You got the announcement on Chris [Patrick] this morning. We’ll have to make some other roster moves to be in compliance with the 75-man limit by four o’clock today. We’ll release those once they’re in place later on this afternoon. Otherwise it’s moving ahead on the Giants. We’re kind of winding down here at the end of camp, similar to what we talked about yesterday. It’s just another step on that. This is kind of our last chance here to get a few things generically, training camp things, back in order. Next week it will be the start of the game planning situation. That’s where we are. Hopefully we’ll be ready to go.
Q: Has Asante [Samuel] signed his franchise tender yet?
BB: Yes. He’s signed.
Q: Will he practice today?
BB: Asante will go through the same procedures as every other player.
Q: He hasn’t passed the conditioning test?
BB: There’s things he needs to do. It’s just like everybody else at the start of camp. I’m glad he’s here. I’m glad that we got things worked out. I’m looking forward to working with him. We drafted him four years ago and this will be his fifth year. He’s been a very productive player for us. I’m glad it all got worked out.
Q: With the guys on the PUP list, do you hold out hope they’ll be able to play this week?
BB: They’re day-to-day. We’ll evaluate them on a day-to-day basis.
Q: Is there a balance you have to strike there with the roster spots and the PUP guys who may be ready at say week four of the season, but you need that roster spot?
BB: Sure. Yes. Absolutely. We have to be in compliance with the roster limits, just like everybody else does. There are a lot of factors. There are a lot of moving parts. There are a lot of questions that nobody really knows the answer to. You just have to go on an estimate or a guess on how you feel about that situation. Sometimes there are other situations that play into them – depth on the roster, depth in another position, maybe somebody else on the team is in some type of situation where you’re questioning their availability. Yes, those are all part of it. We just try to balance that and make the best decision we can for the football team and move on and then we’ll have to make some more next week, we know that too. Some of the moves this week are certainly related to the moves that are going to have to be made Saturday, so that’s not that far off. It’s all related.
Q: What does Asante have to do to catch up to the other players?
BB: They’ve been here working for over a month. I’m sure that he’ll work hard to make up that ground. They’ve been here practicing and doing all of the things they do. I know he’s been doing things on his own, but it’s not quite the same. He’ll just have to make up that ground and just take it day-by-day.
Q: You mentioned last week that you wanted to get a look at some guys this week who maybe didn’t play as much last week. The guys who do play this week, are they going to be getting the reps as the first stringers this week?
BB: I think, as I’ve mentioned the last two days, we’re working on a lot of different things. Certainly the Giants are a part of it, but again, these last two days of practice, Monday and Tuesday, yesterday and today, were kind of our last two days to just take care of some generic things in training camp and we’ve done that every week with all of the preseason games. We work on things that are important to our team just to install, to know how to execute, whether it be in a situation or a particular play or an adjustment or whatever it happens to be. At the same time, to give some type of preparation to the team we’re playing, I just don’t think you can prepare your team for the season by just focusing it totally on your preseason opponents. There are going to be things that are going to come up during the year where we just want to cover it and we want to make sure that we get those covered and then we allocate time to our preseason opponents so we can be prepared for them. But, it’s a balancing act, whereas once the season starts, then all of our preparation goes on that weekly opponent and that’s it until the bye week. We’re not quite in that mode, but we’re definitely not in that mode like we are in the regular season.
Q: You mentioned yesterday on the radio that Randy Moss was closer. Do you think he’ll be ready by week one?
BB: He’s day-to-day.
Q: Tom [Brady] and Randy haven’t played together in the preseason. Does that concern you at all?
BB: We do what we can do. They practiced together for a while. Randy has been out for a little while, but we do what we can do.
Q: When you have to cut a younger guy, is it just a guessing game if he’ll make it through waivers if he’s someone you want to sign to your practice squad?
BB: It’s a guesstimate. It would be a guesstimate. I think that’s part of the overall decision-making process. If you think that you need to carry a player to have him or would he be claimed and how much interest is there in that player, you don’t know. It only takes one team to claim him. 30 teams could not want him and one team could and that answers your question. It’s a very inexact science. I think in the end, you have to do what’s best for your football team. Now sometimes there’s a little strategy involved in personnel moves, kind of like there is in the draft. Sometimes you can maneuver a little bit if you want to do a little bit of a draft strategy on who might be available, who might slide, who might not, that type of thing. I think there’s a little bit of that, but I think in the end, the best decision is to make decisions that we feel are best for our football team. I would say that 95 percent of it is probably that and then there might be a little percentage of trying to figure out what’s going to happen. But I’ve seen it go the other way too. I’ve seen other teams call about a certain player and you think you’re going to be able to trade this player or trade this player and, okay, it doesn’t work out and then you release him and then nobody claims him. You say, ‘Well I know this guy is gone because these two or three teams have called and even thought about trading for him,’ and then you release him and they don’t pick him up. This time of year there’s a lot of things in flux. There really are. A team could be interested in a player, but then somebody else becomes available and then they’re not interested in that guy anymore and vice versa. A lot can change in a hurry and everybody has injuries, everybody has particular situations on their roster by certain positions. Everybody has young players who are ascending but haven’t caught the veteran players yet, maybe veteran players who maybe aren’t what they were the year before, but they’re still better. When do you make the switch, when do you not make it? How many young players is too many? How many veteran players is too many? How do you balance that? Where are you now in September? Where do you think you’re going to be in the middle of October? Where do think you’re going to be in November relative to some of those decisions? Is the young guy going to improve, where is he going to be one month from now, two months from now? Maybe he’s not ready now, but where do you think he’s going to end up? The flipside of that is sometimes it’s the older players – where do you think they’re going to be halfway or three quarters of the way through the season. Again, I can’t sit here and say there’s a formula. You just try to take everything into consideration and make the best decisions you can for the football team. Each year is different. Every player is different. Every situation is different. I don’t think there’s any formula or perfect example of, ‘If you put these things in and you come out with this.’ I just don’t think it works that way.
Q: Do you think teams play games with that?
BB: Sure. I’m sure there’s some of that. I’m sure personnel people try to figure out what’s going to happen on a roster just to try to get a head start on it. ‘All right, if they’re going to keep this guy, then maybe that means they’re going to release somebody else, or, that’s going to put them in a squeeze in another position,’ or something like that. Yes, I think there’s plenty of that going on. Absolutely.
Q: Is it ever a situation where you might say, ‘I want this guy for my practice squad, so I’m not going to show him in this last preseason game?’
BB: Well, in all honesty, I think that that last preseason game is a hard game to evaluate because you have so many… I think you could pick out, ‘Here’s three or four players around the league that we’re interested in and let’s really focus on them,’ I think you could do that. What I think is more common is we’re so concerned with our roster, our situation and trying to get our team in the best position we can that it’s really hard to evaluate the other 31 teams. Even though you have some scouts out there, the college season has already started. They’re making their college visits. They’re going to college games. So your personnel staff gets spread kind of thin as to how many people you can allocate to the pro end of it because the college season is ramping up. So what normally happens is I’d say around the middle of September to early October is when the league, in general, has a chance to really go back and take a good look at that last preseason game, that next to last preseason game, and you find a guy that maybe has fallen through the cracks a little bit or he’s not on a practice squad or maybe he is on a practice squad, but maybe we’d like to have this guy on our roster kind of thing and in those games, I think get evaluated in that September timeframe, somewhere in there. But it’s really hard. By the time you get the tape in, the cuts are made. These games are done. I see a lot more of that kind of movement in the early part of the season, maybe the first three or four weeks of the season. Scott [Pioli] will do that. He’ll come to me during maybe the second or third week of the regular season and say, ‘Hey, we’ve been looking at this guy. This is so-and-so. We made a tape on him. I think he could do this or he could do that,’ maybe it was an injury. It could be a lot of circumstances, but I’m telling you, there are a lot of players to grind through here these last couple of weeks of preseason. There really are.
Q: So you might have two or three guys on your radar?
BB: Well I’m saying you might look at the team and say, ‘Okay, here’s two or three guys they’re going to have to release one of them and if it was this one, maybe we would want to claim him. If it was the other two, we wouldn’t.’ Maybe that situation is on two or three teams in the league somewhere hypothetically. So you kind of focus on those areas because you know what the targets are, but there’s a lot of players out there and there’s going to be a lot of players that are going to be released and some of them are going to be good football players, they’re guys that we want to keep on our team. I’m sure there are going to be players that other teams release that they would want to keep and maybe if some of those players were in a different system, they might have even more upside. That’s what you have to try to evaluate. Look, the rosters are never going to be any smaller than they are on Saturday. If you’re looking for football players, that’s when the market is flooded. Everybody has to cut to 53 and it’ll never be that thin again, not until one year from now. The rosters, they just increase from there, guys go on injured reserve, guys get locked into the practice squad. Then the season is over and then it starts up again with the draft and build up that roster again with a new pool of talent. Now is the time when the most players are available and we’re all under the most stress to try to pick the right guys for our team, I’m saying all 32 teams. It’s a good time to look for players, but you have the fewest spots. That’s the way it is. That’s why this weekend will be a busy weekend for all of us.
Q: How does Mathias Kiwanuka’s move affect your game planning this week and for your game against the Giants in the regular season? Do you think the Giants have improved on defense because of that move?
BB: I don’t that it’s a big game planning situation in preseason. I really don’t. I think you basically try to run the things that you’ve been working on, in other words, I don’t think you want to work on something in training camp and then come into a preseason game and say, ‘Well, we don’t want to do any of those things. We want to do something else because we’re playing so-and-so.’ I think if you’re going to work on those things, you probably want to see them under game conditions and try to help evaluate them. Certainly we play close attention to the Giants because they’re on our schedule this year, but then again, it is the last game. I’m sure that when we see them at the end of the year, there will be some differences between the two teams from what we have right now. As I said, I think we keep an eye on them. We certainly want to try to measure them the best that we can, but we know that four months from now there’s going to be a few differences and it will be a lot different if we were playing the team say the second or third or fourth week of the regular season like the last time we played them. I think it was like the fourth game, something like that, back in ’03. It was a much different situation. I think this is more like any other preseason game, even though we play them in the regular season. It’s so far away that there’s going to be a lot of changes.
Q: Will you have the Jets on your mind this week at all?
BB: I think that there is a part of that. Certainly we have our eye on the Jets, that’s opening day and we have our eye on the Giants because we play them and there are some other things that apart from both of those that are important to us just in terms of preparing our team for the season. Again, it’s kind of a balancing act to address all of those needs, but at the same time, not trying to give the players four different, not game plans, but for different emphases, ‘This plays is for the Jets. This play is for the Giants. This situational play is for another situation.’ It’s really hard to make any progress when you do it that way. I think you have to find a logical way to put it together so that you can be effective. Going back to the Kiwanuka question, certainly you can’t miss him out there. He’s still a force in the pass rush like he has been as a linebacker. You can’t always get a lineman on him like you can when he’s a lineman. He’s a little bit of a mismatch guy. It looks like he’s worked on his pass coverage and his drops and that kind of thing. You can kind of see that getting better through the preseason. He’s more of a pass rusher than he is a coverage linebacker we all know that. But he’s certainly improved in those areas. I think he’s a guy you have to be careful of because if you get mismatched on him, he’ll make you pay for it.
Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the transcript of Asante Samuel’s session with the media this morning at Gillette Stadium:
Q: Looking back on the whole process, what did you learn?
AS: I just learned to be patient and pray about it and put it in God’s hands and let him take care of everything.
Q: Did you miss two-a-days?
AS: You know, as much as you guys probably think being home and not being in that sun, I really did miss the guys and joking around in the locker room.
Q: Was there a winner and a loser to signing this contract?
AS: Like I said, both sides had to agree to it. There’s no winner and no loser. We got it done and I’m here.
Q: Did you feel it was important to get a week of work under your belt before the season started?
AS: I just thought it would be good to get in as soon as possible, not a week. As soon as I get in, I’m ready to work and I’m ready to get back into my normal playing form.
Q: Were you worried that you would be out for 10 weeks or so?
AS: You know I’m not going to get into that. I already made my statement in the past. That’s the past. I’m ready to go, I’m here and I’m happy.
Q: You said that you’re happy now, but what was the difference between now and four weeks ago?
AS: I’m here. Both sides made an agreement and both sides are happy. So if I’m here, I’m obviously happy.
Q: Yes, but you could have gotten the same agreement weeks ago.
AS: How do you know? I’m not going to go answer that. You can go and find that out through somebody else.
Q: How did the thought of possibly playing on a Super Bowl contender play into your decision making process?
AS: I love my team. It’s always been a great organization. It’s always had great fans, great players, great coaches. We’ve been doing well since I’ve been here so I’m glad to be here and I’d love to be here for the rest of my career.
Q: How many of your teammates did you stay in contact with?
AS: I talked to a lot of guys. I’m not going to name all of them, but I talked to Rodney [Harrison] Rosie [Colvin], Jarvis [Green]. I talked to a lot of guys. We talked about how much fun they were having and how coach was taking it easy on them in Training Camp, things like that. We kept in touch.
Q: With your current deal, do you worry about being in the same situation next year?
AS: It is what it is, you know. I’m happy that we came to an agreement and I’m ready to play ball.
Q: What do you think of this team and its acquisitions heading into this season?
AS: I don’t know. I haven’t been out there with those guys and seen what they can do and what they’re working on. The fact that we’ve kept the main guys here and the offseason moves, obviously they’re here to help the team. Hopefully, we can get it done.
Q: When did you get into town?
AS: I got in Sunday night. Who ratted me out? (Laughs.)
Q: Did Lance Briggs situation at all change the way you looked at your situation?
AS: His situation is his own situation and mine is mine. I don’t look at different situations. I know what makes me happy and we got it done.
Q: When the July 16th deadline passed, what were you thinking?
AS: I can’t worry about that any more, that’s in the past. I have a contract, I’m happy, I’m here to play football.
Q: Is there anything you need to work out as far as field drills or anything like that?
AS: I just went through my normal routine. It’s worked for me at the beginning of training camp so now I hope it works for me at the end of training camp. I didn’t change anything. I just worked harder.
Q: Have you ever been in a situation that you had to come in during the middle of training camp because of an injury or go without the first couple weeks of the season?
AS: No, I’ve never been in a situation like that. It’s new for me and I’m ready for the challenge. Hopefully, I’ll overcome it and do my best.
Q: Do you have any regrets about the way things played out?
AS: No, I don’t have any regrets. It is what it is. I did what I felt I needed to do and I’m ready to play football.
Q: Will you be practicing today?
AS: I don’t know yet. You’ll have to ask coach about that.
Q: Did you take the conditioning test?
AS: You’ll have to talk to coach about that.
Q: I know last year you said you felt more comfortable playing on the left side, do you still feel that way?
AS: Nah, I’m not going to get into details. Wherever they need me, I’m here to help the team. I’m here to play football like Asante Samuel knows how to play football.
Q: You had a breakout season last year and because of that the perception by some was that you were trying to cash in and get the big deal. Was there any truth to that?
AS: I’m not going to get into any contract talk and things like that. You know, fourth year, fifth year are your prime years. I’m in those years and hopefully I can keep things going. Hopefully I can lead and do what I did last year and that would be great for all of us.
Q: What was your reaction to Ty Warren’s deal?
AS: I’m happy for him. If that makes him happy and that makes the organization happy, I’m happy for them. I’m happy for him. That has nothing to do with me.
Q: Do you feel, yourself, that you’re ready to play opening day?
AS: Like I said, I’m not going to get into that. I haven’t even been on the field yet. You all can ask Coach Belichick tomorrow about how it went and I’m sure he’ll give you an answer.
Q: I know some people might see this as a money thing, tell us about your drive to be a great player in this league.
AS: No doubt about it. I’m a competitor. I’ve been a competitor since I was born. Everything I do I want to be the best at. I want to leave a legacy. I want Asante Samuel to be a stone in the NFL when I leave this game. I’m going to work hard and leave it out on the line and make plays like I know how to make plays.
Q: You hear names like Champ Bailey when people talk about the best corners of this era. Is there anybody in this game that you feel like you’re still chasing?
AS: I mean you guys in the media or whoever ranks cornerbacks, I feel how I feel about myself and that’s all that really matters at the end of the day. I feel that I’m one of the best in the NFL and I’ve just got to play and keep proving it. I’m a fourth-rounder, I come from the bottom of this league. I made my name all on my own. Nothing was given to me, so I’m happy. I’ll let you guys that hold the microphone [decide]. Am I the best?
Q: Technically it wasn’t a holdout, you just didn’t sign a contract, but by not being in camp you were sort of branded. How do you feel about that?
AS: Well yeah, that comes with the territory. A lot people go through these situations where sides don’t agree on things and they hold out for whatever reason. I mean my name was thrown out here and there in a negative way. That doesn’t really matter to me.
Here’s the complete transcript of Bill Belichick’s Q&A with the media this morning at Gillette Stadium:
BB: Asante [Samuel] came to the facility this morning. I spoke to him. He’s going through the normal process that any player would go through at the beginning of camp in terms of taking the conditioning run and so forth. That’s basically where we are on that one. As far as this week goes, I think this is another big week for us in terms of pulling some things together as we finish up our preseason and training camp. There’s still a lot of things that we need to work on before we get into a weekly game plan situation, starting with the Jets. This is kind of our last chance on the practice field to get some generic, general things, specific situations, things like that, so that’s what we’re going to try to do. It’s a combination of finishing up our training camp, getting ready for the Giants and trying to get our last look at some evaluations and at the end of the week, of course, we’ll turn our attention towards opening day.
Q: Do you expect that it will be easier for Asante to work his way back since he’s had five years in this system?
BB: I don’t know we’ll just take it day-to-day just like everything else.
Q: Are you glad this is behind you? Is it good to have your whole roster here?
BB: Yes, it’s always good to have all of the players available. Sure.
Q: Have you talked to him about his conditioning?
BB: I told you what the extent of it is. That’s it.
Q: If he did not report, would you have been okay with the group you had?
BB: He came in today. He’s here.
Q: I’m aware of that.
BB: Well, the rest of the hypothetical questions, they’re all hypothetical. I don’t know. It doesn’t make any difference. It’s day-to-day and go with the information that is available.
Q: Is it easy for you to let bygones be bygones?
BB: All I do is coach the team. That’s it. I just try to make the team better. I try to give the team the best chance to win and do what I can do to help the football team. That’s my job. That’s what it’s been. That’s what it’s going to be.
Q: Will Asante’s return allow you to work Brandon Meriweather at safety?
BB: We’ll take it day-to-day.
Q: Would you like to see Brandon at safety?
BB: Asante hasn’t been on the practice field yet. The first thing he’s going to do is take his physical and then go through the normal process. We’ll take it day-to-day.
Q: Do you have to talk to the guys who have been here working in camp and working at that spot, guys like Randall Gay, about how Asante’s return will affect them?
BB: We’ll take it day-to-day. I talk to the players everyday.
Q: Are you happy with where the defense is and it’s progression?
BB: I think we have a lot of things we need to work on. There are some things that we’re doing that are okay and have been okay against certain opponents. We’ll meet other challenges this week and other challenges next week. We have a lot of things to work on. We have a long way to go in every phase of the game and in every aspect of offense, defense and special teams. We’re nowhere near where we need to be or where we’re capable of being. There’s a lot left in the season, I hope we can make a lot of improvements between now as we go forward.
Q: With the progress that James Sanders has made, is he a guy who can play both safety spots?
BB: Well, I think everybody in our defense has to play both spots. If they move the tight end, they formation in different ways, you have to do that anyway. The linebacker has to play strong and weak – to the tight end, away from the tight end. Sometimes there are two tight ends. Sometimes there’s no tight end. Sometimes they move them. Stuff like. I think you have to learn how to play that. A good offensive team that formations you and shifts and that kind of thing can force you into that situation. I think everybody has to learn how to play both. They need to be able to play both.
Q: Are you in a position right now where you know what your roster is going to be? Will there still be roster spots available that players can win in Thursday night’s game? Where are you right now?
BB: I think there are a number of questions that we can answer as a football team, a lot of different ways things could go. We have a lot of different roles on our team that need to be filled. They could come from a lot of different directions. There are a lot of things that we haven’t decided and a lot of things we haven’t even talked about because it’s still premature. We’ll see how things turnout after the last game.
Q: How would you compare your rookie linebackers this year compared to the rookie linebackers you had last year?
BB: I think each player is different. We’ve all seen players that start fast and then don’t maintain that same rate of progress. We’ve seen other players start at a slower rate and then increase their rate of progress. I think as long as the player is improving, you keep working with him and you see what point he can get to. If at some point you have to make a decision, then you make it. But, as long as they’re improving, then you keep working with them. The rate of progress is definitely not anything that you know is going to be constant. It may be constant, but you don’t know that. We’ve all seen it go at different rates. So we just have to evaluate that as it happens.
Q: When you look at Richard Seymour’s development as a player, how important was it to guys like Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork for Richard who came in and set the bar so high? What has it meant in their development?
BB: I don’t know. You’d probably have to ask them that. It’s a pretty competitive group. They all work hard. It’s a good group. Mike [Wright]. Jarvis [Green]. Vince. Ty. Le Kevin [Smith]. Santonio [Thomas]. It’s a hard working group. How much of that is them, how much of it is somebody else, how much of it is a combination? I’m not sure about all of that.
Q: Do you feel like Richard has developed into a leader?
BB: Yes, I think he’s a well-respected guy, no question. He’s a well-respected player on this team.
Q: Would that development be quicker than normal?
BB: I don’t know what normal is. We have one of the youngest defensive lines in the league. We’ve had it for several years. Anthony Pleasant was here. Bobby Hamilton and those guys. They gave us great leadership. In the last couple of years, we’ve had a pretty young group therefore younger players are leaders. Those players aren’t here anymore. I don’t know if that’s normal. It’s probably not like a lot of defensive lines in the league. Sometimes that’s the way it evolves.
Q: What kind of improvement have you seen in Willie Andrews from last year to this year?
BB: I think he’s made a big jump, both defensively and the kicking game. He has a full season under his belt and he has a lot more experience in our system, obviously, than he had last year and that was a big jump coming from college, from Baylor, seeing the types of offenses that we see compared to what they saw in their league. Willie is a hard working guy. He’s been out there consistently. He’s missed very little time since he’s been here, so he continues to get better. He’s a hard working kid.
Q: For a safety, does he play bigger than his size?
BB: I think that’s fair to say. I would say that. He’s a tough kid and he plays with, probably, a little better strength than some guys with that size.
Q: Has Oscar Lua done anything to impress you? Is there anything that he can work in his game? What else can he work on?
BB: I think he has a lot of things to work on. He’s a rookie linebacker. Oscar is a hard working kid too. He’s smart. He understands the defense. He communicates well. He’s able to, not only do his assignment, but also control the guys in front of him, the front seven, and line calls and adjustments and things like that. He gets better out there everyday. He pays attention. I know he’s very attentive to what the veteran players do in the classroom and on the practice field. He’s always alert and trying to pick up more information. I think he’s working hard and he’s getting better.
Q: From an outsiders perspective, it may seem like the guys who are fighting for a roster spot may need to do something in this last preseason game in order to make the team. Is that necessarily the case?
BB: I think a good performance helps everybody, no matter what they’re doing. Whether it’s establishing more of a role or a playing time situation, whether it’s making a roster or a practice squad or whatever it is. I think every opportunity to practice and play is invaluable for everybody – for players that are so called on the team, which certainly there are some who would fall into that category, guys who maybe aren’t as secure in their position, but it’s an opportunity for everybody. I think that should be something that we’d all want to take advantage of, there aren’t that many of them. We only play once a week.
Q: Do you start looking at the Jets this week?
BB: I think when you go through training camp, you’re aware of your first few opponents. There are some things, that depending on how your schedule falls, that you need to do to prepare for those games in the season and take advantage of the little bit of time that you have in training camp to do that. Certainly there are aspects of the Jets that would fall under that category. We’ve played two 3-4 teams early in the season. We’re a 3-4 team. I don’t think we just want our offense to work exclusively against 3-4 fronts the entire camp because that’s not the way it’s going to be during the year. You have to find a way to balance that out. We have teams that we play that are two back teams. We have teams that we play that are more one back teams. We’re probably more of a one back team than we are a two back team. We have to find a way to balance that out defensively so that we don’t come out of 30 practices in training camp where we’ve never seen something that we’re going to see during the year, especially if you’re going to see it in let’s say the first month of the season. I don’t think that would be a good way to prepare your team for the season. Like I said, as you go through camp, you’re trying to balance off getting ready for the opening game – physically, mentally and schematically, but also trying to prepare your team to play a 16-game regular season schedule and there are things that are going to come up during the year, that if you wait to cover them the day before they happen, you’re probably not going to get it right. That’s part of the preseason preparation. Whether it’s a situational thing or whether it’s a schematic thing, you know sooner or later that somebody is going to do. Somebody is going to max-blitz you. They’re going to blitz their secondary guys, maybe it doesn’t happen opening day, maybe it does. If you think you’re going to go through the whole season and not see it and not work on it because you haven’t seen it, and then it happens, we all know how that’s going to go. Punt rushes. Have we been rushed a lot in preseason on the punter? Are the Jets going to do it? I don’t know, but we’re going to get it at some point, so we better work on it. There’s things that fall into that category.
Q: Do you foresee the cuts being made today?
BB: Well, they’re due tomorrow. I would say that you could probably expect them tomorrow. If something happens today, you’ll be the first to know. We don’t want to keep anything from you.
Q: Are the cuts at 75 easier than the cuts at 53?
BB: Right now it’s only five players. No, it’s not easier to tell those five players than it is to tell the next, whatever it is, 22 , from 75 to 53. Is it easier in terms of making decisions to reduce your roster from 80 to 75 than it is from 75 to 53? Well, you know the answer to that question. But no, I don’t think it makes it any easier to release a player now or Saturday. Guys that working hard that are putting everything they have into it that have been with you for however long they’ve been with you, whether it’s a year or more than that, all through the spring and so forth, when you have to release a player like that, it’s the worst part of the job, but it’s a necessary part because we have to comply with the roster limit, so that’s the way it goes.
Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the complete transcript from Bill Belichick’s Q&A with the media this afternoon via conference call:
BB: I think everything that we kind of talked about last night was what we saw on the film. It was obviously a much better effort running the ball than what we’ve had in the first couple of games. I thought that overall we defended the running game with some consistency. There certainly are a lot of things that we can do better in both our run defense and our running game, but I thought it was definitely a step in the right direction. I thought that we did a decent job defensively of getting off the field. We gave up a big play there before the half. We had a couple of third and longs in the third quarter, but overall we had about half of our series were three and out and that was good. I thought our kickoff coverage was good. Our field goal rush was pretty good. We left some points out there on the field. Our return game wasn’t what we would like for it to be. The bottom line is there are still a lot of things that we need work on. Some of the things that went well statistically, or looked like they were executed pretty well in the game, still can be cleaned up. A couple of the other things that didn’t look quite as good, actually, with one or two corrections could’ve been a lot better. That’s what we’re trying to do is go through the tape today and get ourselves moving closer to real good execution and the difference between some big plays and not so good plays sometimes is a real fine line. As I said, a lot of people that played a lot in the game last night we’ll probably switch some of that playing time around this week so we can kind of get a look at everybody here in the last two preseason games and obviously by Tuesday we’ll have to make some roster reductions to be compliant with the 75-man roster size and we’ll do those when we feel like the right time is. It could be tomorrow. It might be Monday. It might be Tuesday. We’ll just have to wait and see how that goes for us. There’s obviously a lot of balls that we’re juggling on that between some guys that are banged up and depth at certain positions and so forth. There’s no real timeframe on that. It will just be when we feel like we’re ready to do it.
Q: After the game, you had talked about run defense. I think you were pretty pleased with it. Can you elaborate on the front seven getting the proper fits and how good you feel about that area of the game right now?
BB: I think that the run defense is total team defense and there were a number of plays that Carolina ran to the outside, perimeter type of plays, where our secondary also was a big factor in those and a couple of them went for losses. It’s really just total team defense, understanding where each person fits on a particular blocking schemes, depending on what our call is, and how to be consistent with that along front so that the runner doesn’t have an opening or a place to read the yardage and we have to really make him work to work and fight for every yard. Some of those were good. Some of them could’ve been better and some of them, a couple of them actually, weren’t that good and we just need to be more consistent with it. It’s the front seven. It’s the secondary force and perimeter defense, it all needs to be tied together. At times last night, it was better than it was in the first two games.
Q: With Laurence Maroney, I know that last night was the first time that he’s seen preseason game action. Would you feel comfortable at this point with that being the only action he needs to see heading into the regular season?
BB: That’s one of the things that we’ll talk about this week. Every player will be talked about specifically and individually, so I don’t think it’s quite the same for probably any two players. We’ll talk about them all during the week and also factor in their physical situation if there’s something that we want to give them a little bit more time on or whatever. All of that will be factored in and then we’ll make our decisions closer to the Giants game. In the meantime, everybody that can practice, hopefully they’ll be out there. Everyone that can practice will be out there practicing and then we’ll decide how to play them probably next Tuesday or Wednesday night.
Q: Does the progress of each player kind of play into that?
BB: First of all, I don’t think anybody is ready to go. I think everybody is getting better and everybody needs to continue to get better and everybody has a long way to go. The coaching staff. The players. Everything. Our whole operation. We’ve made a lot of strides in three weeks, but I don’t think we are where we eventually need to be. I wouldn’t put anybody in that category. But it still comes down to balancing out, giving people a look to give everybody an opportunity so you can make the right decision, get people ready. It’s just a priority type of thing. You just try to decide what’s the most important thing, what do you need to do and how do you get that done. You can’t do everything that you want to do, but that’s the way it is.
Q: Were the blocked field goals something that was encouraging?
BB: We really got our hands on all three kicks. The extra point that went through that was deflected at the line as well. Sure, it’s always good to reinforce the practice time and the drills that you do out there in preparation for the game and to see those come to fruition when they actually get out there and compete against an opponent in that particular situation. We were able to make a couple of plays there, hopefully we can make them along the line in the regular season. Sometimes when one or two guys make a play, particularly in a rush situation, whether it be a punt or field goal, a lot of times your opponents will see that and make sure they take that away and sometimes that opens up opportunities for somebody else if you can take advantage of those. We’ll just have to see how all of that plays out down the road. It’s always good to go out there and be productive and make plays and, again, that reinforces the teaching and the practice that we’ve had through the last four weeks.
Q: Can you talk about what your impressions have been of Marcellus Rivers since he joined the team in the middle of training camp?
BB: Well, he came in late and it was a real rush job to get him in there for the first one, Brian [Jones] as well. They’ve both worked hard and improved. Pete [Mangurian] has spent a lot of time with them. Marcellus, he’s a veteran player. He’s been through camps before and been in the league before, so he picked things up pretty quickly. He’s done a good job for us, as has Brian. Ben [Watson] and Garrett [Mills] have been out there working in that spot. Garrett also worked in the backfield. I think that overall the tight end position, it’s certainly a whole lot better than it was three weeks ago when we played Tampa. There’s no doubt about that. It’s helping our offense become a little bit more consistent because we’re able to get in formations that we are a little bit more comfortable in, not that we don’t do a little bit of everything, but to not have a tight end in the game, that doesn’t happen all that much for us. It’s good to have that and Marcellus and Brian and Ben and Garrett have done a good job.
Q: What was the rationale behind starting the game with nine straight running plays.
BB: To work on the running game.
Q: Why that in particular? Was it sending any kind of message? Was there anything more to it than that?
BB: Well, if you want to work on your running game, you have to call running plays. I don’t know how else to do it.
Q: Did Maroney’s presence have anything to do with that because you hadn’t seen the game reps and you felt like you had to get him ready a little bit?
BB: We ran the ball throughout the whole course of the game. It didn’t really matter who the back was in there. We wanted to put some emphasis in the running game and we did that by calling more running plays. Some of it was better and some of it there’s certainly room for improvement.
Q: Is Stephen Gostkowski is kind of working through a nagging injury?
BB: I wouldn’t say so.
Q: I noticed he had his ankle taped up last week. It could be an issue. You wouldn’t say he’s injured?
BB: Obviously every kicker would like to make all of his kicks. The two last night that he missed were a couple of feet from being in, so they weren’t good, but I think that a small error, one of them was on a long kick. We just have to be a little bit more accurate and get those through. I don’t think we’re talking about…the margin of error on those two was not very big, not good enough, but I don’t think it’s that far off.
Q: For the coaching staff, is it easier to work with because all of the kicks were going the same direction when they’re missing? Is that a technical flaw that’s easier to pick up or is it just a coincidence that they all go that way?
BB: Well, it’s all technique of course. Kicking, that’s what it is. It’s technique. It’s a team operation between the snapper, holder and kicker and the timing on the protection. But as far as the kicking motion itself, it’s all technique.
Q: It seemed like Adalius Thomas was maybe being a little more aggressive in the running game, quicker to diagnose things. Have you noticed him becoming more comfortable and maybe a consistent upward arch in his play against the run?
BB: I think he’s been pretty consistent all the way through camp. Again, there are always plays that everybody could play a little bit better. Some of it depends on, even though it might look the same to a fan who is watching the game, there are different coverages that are called and different pass responsibilities that a player has when the defense comes to the line of scrimmage, and we don’t always know it’s going to be a run. Sometimes those plays get played differently depending on what the player’s pass coverage responsibility is as well. Anyway, not to get too technical, but I would just say that I think that Adalius has been consistent playing the running game all through camp. I don’t think it’s anything dramatic. I think he did a good job at the beginning of camp and I think with each week and more reps and seeing some new plays and all of that, he knows that our entire defense, including him, has improved technique wise and has improved in their overall consistency and there’s still a ways to go.
Q: It seems like he’s also given you some flexibility in the nickel. Is that one of the things that was really attractive to you?
BB: He absolutely gives us flexibility on third down, as we have with some other people out there as well and being able to move those guys around a little bit and change up or get different guys to do different things and create a different look for the offense and line up in a different front and that type of thing, I think it’s and advantage for us and it’s something that we want to make effective and he absolutely is a part of that.
Q: What do you think of the way Jarvis Green has played in camp and in the preseason?
BB: I think that Jarvis has had a good camp. I think Jarvis is a good player for us. I think everybody has felt that for quite a while and I don’t think there’s been anything to change that feeling on Jarvis. He’s a player that we all have a lot of confidence in. He’s a good football player.
Q: What did you think of the way your offensive line performed and responded after taking some criticism during the week?
BB: I think that we showed some improvement from the previous week and I think we still have a way to go, but we ran the ball with more consistency and that helped the passing game, like it usually does, when you create some kind of balance in your offense. It kept some of the third down situations shorter and more manageable. I just thought overall we had a better balance and more consistency on offense and certainly the line deserves credit for that, the receivers, the tight ends, the backs. It was a solid effort offensively, even though we left some points out there on the field and some plays and some yards on the field that I think we should’ve had. Like the rest of the team, it was another step towards our preparation for the regular season.
Q: Was that fourth down call a vote of confidence in the line in any way? Maybe to challenge them?
BB: I think it was a challenge to the whole offense. When you’re deep in your own territory and you go for it on fourth down, you’re counting on everybody to come through there – the guys who are blocking, the guys who are carrying the ball, the guys who are faking, guys who are cutting off on the back side away from the play. It’s something that everybody has to do. There’s going to be situations during the year where we are going to have gain a yard and it’s going to be a tough yard. Last night, we were in that situation and fortunately we were able to convert it. So I hope that we’ll be able to do that at some point during the year, when we need a tough yard we’ll be able to pick it up. That’s part of football. Defensively there’s going to be times where we are going to need to stop somebody from getting a yard. Hopefully we’ll be able to do that.
Q: For some of your receivers and DBs and your linebackers that are going to be competing for a roster spot here over the next week to make that 53-man, how important does special teams become?
BB: I think it’s very important. You can look at our roster in the last few years, or even since I’ve been here, and find plenty of players on the 53-man roster who had a significant amount of playing time in the kicking game and had very little offensively or defensively. There’s no question that there’s a place for those players on our roster and they’re important players to us. Some players give us offensive and defensive depth and fewer plays in the kicking game. Other players give us a lot of plays in the kicking game and fewer plays as depth on offense and defense. Some guys are more balanced. When you put your roster together, you have to find a way to get all of those bases covered. There’s no question that special teams is a big factor in the makeup of your team and in some roster decisions. No doubt about it.
Here’s a quick link to a weekly football column I do for Boston Metro entitled “10 Things We Learned Last Night,” which appears the day after every Patriots game on the Metro site.
The full transcript of Coach Belichick’s Q&A with the media this afternoon will be posted shortly.
Courtesy of the Patriots’ PR staff, here are some postgame notes from tonight’s preseason victory over the Panthers:
Tom Brady completed 17-of-21 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns, good for a 131.5 passer rating. He came out of the game with 6:07 remaining in the third quarter. Brady spread his 17 completions out to eight different receivers, hitting Benjamin Watson four times, Donte’ Stallworth and Wes Weker three times each, Sammy Morris and Heath Evans twice, and Reche Caldwell, Marcellus Rivers and Kelley Washington once each.
The Patriots blocked two field goals against the Panthers, with Vince Wilfork and Jarvis Green each swatting down a John Kasay field goal bid. The last time the Patriots blocked two field goals in a regular-season game was on Oct. 21, 2001 against Indianapolis, when Brandon Mitchell and Tebucky Jones each batted down a Mike Vanderjagt attempt. Against Carolina, Wilfork blocked a 49-yard try in the second quarter and Green blocked a 43-yard attempt in the third quarter. The Patriots scored touchdowns on the drives immediately following each field goal block. Following Wilfork’s block, the Patriots took over at Carolina’s 45-yard line and put together a 10-play drive that ended in a 6-yard touchdown reception by Marcellus Rivers and a 10-0 Patriots lead. Following Green’s block, the Patriots took over at their own 31-yard line and drove 74 yards on eight plays to take a 24-7 lead on a 2-yard run by Heath Evans.
EVANS IN THE ZONE
Heath Evans scored two touchdowns against the Panthers – one on the ground and one in the air. He hauled in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to give the Patriots a 17-7 lead in the third quarter and later plunged in from two yards out to give the Patriots a 24-7 third-quarter advantage. He helped set up his scoring run with a 43-yard rush earlier on that drive. Evans also scored on a 2-yard run last week against Tennessee and his three touchdowns this preseason lead the team. Evans has scored one career touchdown in the regular season, on a 1-yard reception from Brady against Miami on Oct. 8, 2006. Evans scored three rushing touchdowns for the Patriots in the 2006 preseason.
Rookie linebacker Oscar Lua intercepted a David Carr pass in the fourth quarter to thwart a Panthers scoring bid. The Panthers had driven to the Patriots’ 15-yard line after moving 68 yards on 11 plays, but Lua picked off the ball at the 10-yard line and returned it 13 yards to the Patriots’ 23-yard line. Lua was selected by the Patriots in the seventh round (211th overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft out of Southern Cal.
Tom Brady found an open Marcellus Rivers for a 6-yard touchdown strike in the second quarter to give the Patriots a 10-0 lead. Rivers, who was signed by the Patriots as a veteran free agent on Aug. 8, has played in 75 career games with 13 starts for the New York Giants (2001-04) and Houston Texans (2005). Rivers also spent time with the Oakland Raiders in the 2006 preseason and was on the New Orleans’ Saints roster for one game during the 2006 regular season, but was inactive for that contest. Rivers has recorded 51 career receptions for 395 yards (7.7 avg.) and four touchdowns.
The Patriots put together an 18-play, 90-yard drive in the first quarter that ended in a 23-yard field goal and a 3-0 Patriots lead. After gaining possession at their own 5-yard line, the Patriots marched to their own 24-yard line and faced a fourth-and-one. Instead of punting, New England elected to go for it and gained the first down on a 5-yard run by Sammy Morris. Laurence Maroney ran eight times for 38 yards on the drive, while Morris and Wes Welker each caught a pair of passes.
•Rookie defensive back Mike Richardson reached in a batted away a Jake Delhomme pass intended for Steve Smith on third-and-five in the second quarter, forcing a Carolina punt on the next play.
•Adalius Thomas and Rosevelt Colvin stuffed Carolina’s DaShaun Foster for a loss of four yards in the first quarter.
•Mike Vrabel sacked Carolina’s David Carr for a 7-yard loss in the third quarter.
•Rookie Justin Rogers sacked Carolina’s Brett Basanez for a 14-yard loss in the fourth quarter.