September 05, 2009
Patriots Week In Review 9/5/09
BY: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
It's definitely been quite a busy week here in Foxboro.
Thursday night's 38-27 victory over the New York Giants marks the end of the preseason here in New England, and with final cutdowns looming later this afternoon here's a look back at this week's events that took place down in Foxboro.
The week kicked off with a bang as Bill Belichick surprised everyone when it was announced that the team had released presumed back-up quarterback Kevin O'Connell late Sunday afternoon. O'Connell clearly struggled during this exhibition season, having completed less than 50% of his passes after finishing 12-of-26 for 108 yards and two interceptions with a meager quarterback rating 25.8.
Most fans were initially surprised by the move, especially considering they're more or less giving up on a third round pick just a little over a year after selecting him. However, give Belichick credit for admitting now that he wasn't right for this system and letting him go, as many teams wait much longer in similar situations. O'Connell was later claimed on Tuesday by Detroit.
But the biggest surprise came Sunday night, when NBC Sports broke the story that linebacker Tedy Bruschi was calling it a career after 13-seasons.
Bruschi held a press conference Monday afternoon, which saw his coach become very emotional. Belichick talked about everything Bruschi had to overcome, from being called 'too small', to rising to every challenge and simply being able to excel as a player.
When asked at the end to sum Bruschi up, he took it a step further and called him, "The Perfect Player".
"I'd say he's the perfect player," said Belichick when asked to sum up Bruschi in so many words. "He helped create a tradition here that we are all proud of."
"I don't think I've ever seen a player do what he's done. To be as great of a college player as he was, and then to morph into a great professional player in so many different ways but still bringing the same qualities, it's truly special."
Bruschi's departure marks the last of the remaining players from the 1996 season which lead to a trip to the Super Bowl, and just happened to be his rookie year and Belichick's first year (as defensive coordinator) in New England. He's played for the likes of Bill Parcells and Pete Carroll, but said it wasn't until Belichick became the head coach did he truly learn how to become a winner.
"He turned me into a champion," said Bruschi of Belichick. "Yes I learned how to play linebacker, and I knew how to play. I mean (Bill) Parcells came in, (Pete) Carroll came in, but I didn't know how to win until Bill came here. He taught me how to win, he taught everybody in that locker room how to win."
Meanwhile the other big story on Monday was quarterback Tom Brady, who took a big shot from Albert Haynesworth in their 27-24 preseason win over the Redskins on Friday night. All 350 pounds of Haynesworth landed on Brady and his throwing arm, which ended his night and sent Patriot Nation into a tailspin as the speculation ran wild and brought visions of last year back to everyone as the video of that hit ran over and over on local television.
Brady joined WEEI in his weekly radio appearance Monday morning, and the obvious topic was the state of his throwing shoulder. When pressed on the topic Brady said, "What does it matter? We don't play for two weeks, so the reality is that no matter what I say -- how confident I am -- we're just going to have to wait until September 14, or hopefully this Thursday if Coach lets us play. Traditionally, he doesn't let [me] play in this game. If he wants me to play, I'll play. For me to make a bunch of predictions on something that is two weeks away, I don't understand what the point is of that."
On Monday Brady was spotted at practice, although he was only seen handing off during the portion of practice that media members had access to.
There were some players who missed Monday's practice, with Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe reporting the following players out of action for the session:
There were three roster moves made on Monday, with rookie ILB Tyrone McKenzie (knee) being placed on season-ending injured reserve. OT Mark LeVoir (shoulder) was placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, while rookie WR Brandon Tate (knee) was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list. The team also made O'Connell's release and the release of veteran long-snapper Nathan Hodel official. Hodel's release more or less reveals that rookie Jake Ingram has won the long-snapping job.
Unfortunately the move with McKenzie was expected after he tore his ACL in rookie minicamp, and with LeVoir and Tate moved to reserve lists, they will not be eligible to play until Week 7 at the earliest.
Lost in all that went on Monday afternoon was the fact that running back Kevin Faulk was named the 2009 New England Patriots Ron Burton Community Service Award winner Monday evening at the team's annual Kickoff Gala.
"For the past 10 years, Kevin Faulk has been one of our go-to guys, both on and off the field," said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. "He has been quick to volunteer for dozens of charitable events through our community relations department and is always the first player to arrive and the last to leave. For the past few years, he has been bringing his children to the community events he attends to teach the values he learned as a child, to help those who are in need. We are proud to present Kevin with the 2009 Ron Burton Award. He is a deserving honoree."
Faulk is now the seventh Patriots player to be selected as the Ron Burton Award winner, joining past honorees Joe Andruzzi (2003), Troy Brown (2004), Matt Light (2005), Jarvis Green (2006), Ty Warren (2007) and Larry Izzo (2008).
Tuesday things began to quiet down regarding quarterback Tom Brady, as the media reported they saw him throwing passes at practice and he showed no ill effects from the hit. Reiss again reported the following players missed Tuesday's session:
One final thing worth noting from Tuesday was the fact that Reiss talked about the fact that the team still honors Marquise Hill in the locker room. Following his death the Patriots left his locker intact throughout the entire season that year, and apparently they now have a case dedicated to Hill, including his jersey and various pictures of him, which was erected in the corner of the locker room. It's good to see his memory lives on among a lot of guys who I'm sure probably still miss him.
Ironically Tuesday evening brought tragedy to Patriot Nation as former runningback John Stephens was killed in a car accident in his native Louisiana. Stephens was known as a tough player by most fans, and was drafted 17th overall by the team in 1988. He gained 1,168 yards as a rookie, and ended up earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, along with being selected as a starter in the Pro Bowl that year. Our thoughts go out to his family, including his daughter Sloane Stephens who was spotlighted in this article in the New York Times.
As we moved on to Wednesday the speculation began regarding who could be the possible replacement for the departed O'Connell, with the biggest name coming up as Philadelphia's AJ Feeley. Unfortunately he's under contract until 2010 and according to several reports, their need at tight end could be the deciding factor in making a deal for the veteran QB.
The news was relatively quiet otherwise, with the team taking a look at veteran free-agent guard Kendall Simmons in a workout at Gillette Stadium. Simmons to this point has not been offered a contract.
By Thursday fans were ready for football, and more importantly looking for some sign that the team's signal caller was indeed O.K. The good news was that both Brady and teammate Wes Welker (who had missed practice time) were both dressed for the evening's match-up against the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium. While neither of the two were in action, their mere presence was certainly encouraging.
Before the game it was also announced by Patriots owner Robert Kraft that linebacker Tedy Bruschi was added to the Patriots' 50th anniversary team. A great finish for what had obviously been an emotional week for his fans and his teammates.
However, by the time the game was over the big story of the night was the fact that Brian Hoyer started and played the whole game, with Andrew Walter not seeing any action. Hoyer impressed everyone as he lead the team back from a 21-0 deficit, and they would outscore them 38-6 the rest of the way en-route to the win. Hoyer finished the night 18-of-25 passing with 242-yards, but the other highlight of the night came from runningback BenJarvus Green-Ellis who rushed 29 times for 125 yards and three touchdowns, and that performance likely secured himself a spot on the roster.
When asked why Hoyer was left in there for the whole game, Belichick told reporters after the fact he wanted to see if he could bring the team back after they were down 21-0 in the first quarter.
"You know, we had him in there," said Belichick. "The way the game went, we were coming back [and] we felt like he deserved a chance to keep playing and see what he could do with the outcome of the game."
Meanwhile Walter wasn't impressed. According to the Boston Globe he was clearly agitated and didn't sound happy after game.
"I'm ready every week," said a reportedly red-faced Walter after it was over. "As far as any other questions I think the guys who played should be the ones to answer the questions."
He was then asked if although he hadn't seen much action during the exhibition season, would he still be confident to run the offense during the regular season if called upon?
"Well, it's my job to be a pro," he said. "I'm going to leave it at that."
Meanwhile special teamer Matthew Slater injured his left arm while returning a kickoff after the Giants' third score of the night. On the play Slater tried to brace his fall and you could clearly see his extended arm bent at an odd angle. It was definitely ugly, and one would have to believe he'll be out of action for quite a while.
Friday morning answered the question on Walter, as the team released him. Later that afternoon Billy Yates, Roderick Rogers, Steve Williams, Vinny Ciurciu and Robert Ortiz became the next group of players released, leaving the current roster at 66 players. The team now has 13 players remaining to be let go in order to get down to the mandatory 53-man roster by this afternoon at 4pm ET.
Needless to say it's been quite a week, and we'll have information on the remaining roster cutdowns later this afternoon as it becomes available.
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