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New England Patriots News 2-28 and AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
February 28, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

New England Patriots News 2-28 and AFC East Notes(PHOTO: Steve Balestrieri -

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Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news notes.

NFL Owes Players $120 Million + Integrity of the Game? In what amounts to the league cooking their books, the NFL has been ordered to turn over to the Players’ Association more than $120 million into an account that handles money sharing with the players.

Apparently the league mischaracterized ticket revenue and used some not-so-legal accounting practices to hide ticket revenues, something that they are supposed to share with the players. What the league called an “technical accounting issue”, Players Association DeMaurice Smith called something totally different, telling Fortune magazine “they created an exemption out of fiction and got caught.”

With the return of the money, the cash went to the salary cap and now the limit is now raised league wide by $1.5 million. After seeing this unfold this week, one must wonder where the calls of the “integrity of the game” went.

Patriots In “Early Talks” with LaGarrette Blount: The Boston Herald has reported that the Patriots want RB LaGarrette Blount to return. Blount injured his hip in December against the Texans and was placed on IR.

The reports state that the negotiations are in the early stages and still have a long way to go. The Herald also reported that there is “mutual interest” in Blount returning. That wouldn’t be a surprise as outside of New England, there wouldn’t be much of a market for the 29-year old running back.

Blount rushed for 703 yards on 165 carries, for a 4.3-yard average and scored six touchdowns. Many Patriots fans and media members have envisioned an overhaul at the big back position for the team, which could still happen regardless of whether Blount returns or not. One thing to keep in mind, after Blount went down, the Patriots went 2-3 down the stretch.

Combine in Full Swing: The NFL Combine has been entertaining as it is every year and the NFL’s Network Mike Mayock as always does a fantastic job. While you may not agree with everything he says about these prospects, in the vast majority of the cases, he’s right on and has done his homework.

A couple of quick thoughts on the Combine, while it has been held in Indy for the past 30+ years, and is centrally located in the country, perhaps, like the NFL Draft, it is time for the Combine to make the rounds and visit other cities. I would love for Boston to host the Combine one day, as I’m sure many cities would.

The other, although I wrote earlier in the week that I believe the interviews and medicals to be of the utmost importance, the players’ performances on the field are always compelling, must-watch television.

A couple of players that really seemed to help themselves the past two days were OT Jason Sprigs from Indiana, RB Kenyan Drake from Alabama, WR Will Fuller from Notre Dame and Braxton Miller, WR from Ohio State. Sprigs displayed some amazing footwork and moved effortlessly in the drills. His lateral movement was among the best on display. In the aftermath of the Super Bowl and the call everywhere for tackles in the draft, he definitely helped his own stock with that performance.

Drake has largely been in the large shadow cast by Derrick Henry. But he had an excellent day running and doing the positional drills. He was impressive and helped his own draft stock.

Fuller was a big play producer but came with to Indy with questions about his hands. On Saturday, he looked very sharp and was catching everything thrown his way during the WR drills. He also ran a blistering 4.32 in the 40-yard dash.

Miller, a player that has been rumored to the Patriots didn’t light the world on fire with 40 time or his leaping ability but his lateral movement and agility were among the best. The 6’1, 201-pound WR turned excellent times in the short shuttle (4.07), 60-yard shuttle (10.84), and the all-important 3-Cone Drill (6.65).

Some players who didn’t help their draft stock were RBs Alex Collins from Arkansas who didn’t run well and looked out of sorts in the passing game. Kelvin Taylor, RB from Florida and son of long-time Jaguars and Patriots running back Fred. He was very underwhelming overall and perhaps would have been better served to finish his last season of eligibility.

One quarterback who really took a step back was Michigan State’s Connor Cook. He entered the Combine with questions about his arm and specifically his accuracy and his performance on Saturday did nothing to alleviate those. His throws were sailing high and wide and his ball placement was awful.

DL/LBs to the Forefront Today: With the defensive linemen and linebackers doing their on-field testing today there are a couple of players that definitely bear watching from a Patriots perspective.

Scooby Wright, 6’1, 245 from Arizona, the ILB had a great 2014 but his final season was a bit inconsistent due to injuries. That may cause him to drop a bit, which could be beneficial to the Patriots. He has a constant motor and a great work ethic but is considered only average athletically. He’s outstanding in the running game and a tackling machine.

Terrance Smith from Florida State is another tackling machine inside but comes with some injury history so that may hurt his draft stock. The 6’3, 235-pound Smith is an athletic sideline-to-sideline linebacker who, if he can stay on the field, projects to be a big ILB that can really move. With his speed, he would be a great addition to sub-package pass coverage.

Kyler Fackrell from Utah State is a big (6’5, 245) guy who can play outside and be a very disruptive presence on the edge. He’s a tackling machine who can be disruptive but holds up well in run support. He’s a guy to watch today.

Help Save and Rescue Dogs and Meet a Patriots Legend: Odie’s Place is a registered 501c3 Animal Rescue organization run by Brian Harrington and his wife Kerrie down in Dartmouth, Mass.

They rescue dogs that are either in a bad situation or from shelters that are about to put them down. Rescuing these animals, placing them in temporary foster homes and finding them a safe, happy permanent home is time consuming and takes money.

On Saturday, March 6 at the New Bedford Home Show, he’ll be doing a fundraiser with Patriots Hall of Famer Steve Nelson who’ll be signing autographs for a small fee with all of the money going to Odie’s Place. They’ll also be raffling off a Nelson jersey that will be autographed by Nellie on site as well as taking some pictures with fans.

Come down and support a great cause and talk some football with a Pats legend…BTW my own family recently adopted a two-year old English Bulldog from Odie’s Place and we are happy to have added her to our household.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

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About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at, as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Tags: 2016 NFL Combine 2016 NFL Draft 2016 NFL off-season Bill Belichick LaGarrette Blount New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Patriots linebackers Patriots running backs Patriots wide receivers Tom Brady

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