Tag Archives: Joint Practices

New England Patriots News, 4-14, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 14, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-14 and AFC East Notes.

It is looking like it is going to be another soggy Boston Marathon this year, we’d like to wish all of the competitors the best of luck tomorrow.


As we stated last week we have begun our draft profiles on players that we feel would fit the team, our first on tight ends can be seen here:  And our follow-up post on possible wide receiver fits can be seen here: Our draft profiles on defensive tackles is here:

ICYMI: Our second Mock Draft 2.0 attempt at building the 2019 Patriots roster is in the books. You can recap it here: I believe we all expect the Patriots to be very active in this one, possibly packing some picks for a trade or perhaps moving around the board as they are very used to doing. Mock Draft 3.0 will be coming out early this week.

Derek Havens and I have been doing a special podcast highlighting the upcoming NFL Draft in addition to the regular one we do with host Russ Goldman. This week, we’re planning on having ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates with us to discuss the draft, what the Patriots may do, especially in the early rounds and about the NFL in general. Please do check that out around mid-week.

Last week did a draft mailbag podcast which can be listened to here:

Quick Hitters:

Tom Brady was on his Instagram account beginning his offseason work at his home. The interesting thing about that was he was still picking confetti from the Super Bowl out of his helmet. Speaking of which, he can no longer wear his old one and must wear the newer version which he tried a few times last year.

Chris Hogan signed a one-year deal with the Panthers. Hogan had quite a few memorable moments and catches in his three years in New England, helping the team get to three Super Bowls and winning two. But his leaving this spring is not a surprise, it seemed like a long shot for him to return.

Pat Chung has signed a one-year extension according to NFL.com, locking up the Patriots safety thru the 2021 season. Ian Rapoport was the first to report the news. Chung broke his arm in the Super Bowl but is expected to be fully healthy by training camp

Tim Tebow was in Pawtucket playing the Paw Sox for the Mets minor league affiliate and was asked about his brief time with Tom Brady. Tebow gave a long answer, gushing over the qualities of Brady as both a QB and a teammate. Then apologizing for giving an answer that was too long.  Tebow was and is always a class act.

RIP Forrest Gregg the longtime Packer great offensive lineman who passed away at age 85 this week. Gregg set a record (since broken) of playing in 188 straight games and later became the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, and Green Bay Packers. Vince Lombardi called Gregg, “the greatest player I ever coached.”

The Patriots were supposedly interested in making a trade for NY Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepherd, but for the second year in a row, the Giants when they found out there was interest in their player (OBJ last year), gave the player a fat extension. In Shepherd’s case a 4-year, $41 million dollar extension.

Seferian-Jenkins Is Excited to Play in New England:

With the signing of TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins this week, it was a move we immediately pegged as a win but then turned around and stated that he probably would not be a #1 tight end here. And we’ll double down on that. The move was for the veterans’ minimum salary with just a $50,000 signing bonus and incentive bonuses totaling only another $40,000. That is peanuts; so the outlay of cash and risk for the team is very minimal.

Seferian-Jenkins could….could step into a #1 role for the Patriots, but they don’t obviously think that is so or they would’ve enticed him earlier with more money. It will be interesting to see how he works out with the team in the spring. And if he can stay healthy and on the field.

A best-case scenario for the team would be for them to get one of the top TEs in the draft (which is still a big need) and have Seferian-Jenkins step into the #2 role as a complementary receiver.

Jenkins took to social media posting a picture of the original Pat the Patriot (he immediately got high marks from here) and thanked the Patriots and stated “I am ready to go to work.” And why wouldn’t he be? Look at the QBs he’s played with and he’s never been on a playoff team.

Belichick Praises Caserio, Scouting Dept. Ahead of the Draft:

Bill Belichick held a pre-draft press conference at Gillette on Weds. and opened with nearly a 7-minute statement praising the work of Nick Caserio, the Pats Director of Player Personnel.

With a big turnover in the coaching staff, Belichick said that there was less scouting of college prospects by the coaching staff than in previous years. But he raved about the job that Caserio and the Director of College Scouting Monte Ossenfort and Pro player Scouting Dave Zigler have done. With the absence of so many coaches, Zigler and his staff jumped in to help with the process.

“So it gives us a tremendous opportunity for him to connect with the coaches and understand the schematics of what’s going on with the coaching side of it, and to try to integrate and correlate the players we’re evaluating on all different levels,” Belichick said of Caserio.

Belichick added that the goal, as always is to come away “as good a predictor as possible as to how the player will fit in and perform on our team, and in our system, (emphasis mine),  in New England regardless of what the league value is for the player. It’s really what the player can do for us is what the final evaluation goal we’re trying to achieve.”

Patriots and Titans Will Hold Joint Practices This Summer:

The Patriots always try to conduct joint practices during training camp and this season will be no exception. Prior to their Week 2 preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, the two teams will conduct joint practices against one another at the Titans’ facility.

“Sure, we are going to practice against the Patriots,” Vrabel said on Friday.

“They’re going to come down here, and it’ll be great for our fans to come out here and see a lot of great players, the team that won the Super Bowl last year. And they’ll be able to watch those practices and see our work and see how we compete against each other and try to improve.”

That immediately set off a lot of good-natured trash talking between old friends and former Patriot Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty, and Pat Chung. Ryan said he was going to play one snap at WR to burn the McCourty Twins. He tweeted, “Easy money, he getting old.”  Which immediately got a response from Devin where he answered, “Which one? I guess it don’t matter, I don’t like you vs anyone!” Chung jumped in with “I mean damn, Let’s do it!…LOL.”

The two teams will meet there in Nashville during the week of August 12. If fans are looking for a nice vacation trip…Nashville is nice any time of the year.

Seahawks and Patriots Trading for #21 Pick in the Draft?

The Seattle Seahawks are expected to be trading back from the #21 pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft. And depending upon how the board plays out, the Patriots with a plethora of draft picks could be in a prime position to move up if one of the tight ends they covet are there or perhaps one of the premier edge guys like Clelin Ferrell.

Seattle has only four picks in the upcoming draft, (1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Rounds) so creating a few more would seem to be the order of the day for Pete Carroll. According to the Draft Value Chart, Seattle’s pick at #21 is worth an even 800 points. So to give them adequate compensation, the Patriots could package their first round pick at #32 (590 points) and #73 (225 points) to give Seattle a slight perceived edge or you could delve really deep and package #32, and some of the Patriots mid-to-later round picks for the Seahawks #21 and one of their mid-round picks.

Of course, they won’t be alone. Everyone knows that Seattle may be looking to trade back and that means the Seahawks brass will be looking for the best deal for them. That’s what makes this time of year so interesting.

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Speaking of the draft, I was talking about Boston College OL Chris Lindstrom to a high school coach that coached against him in school last week and he remembered how impressive the former Shepherd Hill OL was back then. “They ran those tight formations (Double Wing) and watching him pull out and road grade thru the defenses was impressive,” he said.  “Back then he was about 270 (pounds) and he was still one of the faster players on the field. You could tell he was going to a really special player.”

We say that because don’t go to sleep on a player like Lindstrom. He played right tackle for the Eagles, but projects to be an interior OL at the next level. But he has the versatility to maybe do both.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Looking For A Big Draft to Upgrade Offensive Weapons:

The Buffalo Bills were very active in free agency and signed six offensive linemen as well as two wide receivers during the early going of free agency. Don’t expect the Bills to stop there. Buffalo has 10 picks in the upcoming draft and they have the flexibility to move around the draft to search for the weapons to surround 2nd year QB Josh Allen with the talent he needs to succeed.

The Bills OLwas a mess in 2018 and they signed three guards, two tackles and one excellent center to help protect their franchise QB. They also added WRs John Brown, Cole Beasley and TE Tyler Kroft to the mix.

But now they are poised to make some noise in the draft. With the #9 pick in the draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper has them taking Iowa T.J. Hockenson and then adding Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry with their 40th pick. The Bills just had the other Iowa TE Noah Fant in for a visit.  Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll doesn’t need to see Alabama TE Irv Smith up close for a visit, he coached him with the Tide.

The Bills also signed FA DE/OLB Eli Harold this week. Harold played two seasons for the 49ers and last year with Detroit where he had eight tackles, four sacks and a pass deflected in 13 games for the Lions.

Dolphins To Pass on Early QBs in the Draft? Quite Possible:

The Miami Dolphins and new head coach Brian Flores have a lot of holes to fill in the 2019 roster. After the jettisoning of Ryan Tannehill and the signing of journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, most experts believe the Dolphins may reach early for the next potential franchise QB at #13 in the draft. Not so fast…

If someone they like is still around at #13 could Miami pounce on them, but with big holes to fill at DE, the offensive line, running back and corner, they Dolphins may wait to select a QB they can develop in the middle rounds.

Fans may scream given Fitzpatrick’s track record as a starter, but with Brian Flores coming from the Belichick regime, they may be looking at the long-term best solution first rather than trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, which is how they ended up in this predicament.

Jets Ink Montgomery, Maybe the End of the Line for Powell:

The New York Jets signed RB/WR/KR Ty Montgomery this week to back up Le’Veon Bell. The former Ravens player was also reportedly being courted by the Miami Dolphins. A talented kick returner, Montgomery was cut by Green Bay after an ill-advised return at the end of a game with the Rams. Montgomery was told to take a knee and returned it out of the end zone and then fumbled.

He was dealt to the Ravens where in six games he rushed for 83 yards on 15 carries, with no touchdowns. He also caught 10 passes for 65 yards. He began his career as a WR and switched to RB with the Packers. It is expected that head coach Adam Gase will try to find a niche role for him behind Bell.

But that news is probably the end of Bilal Powell’s time as a New York Jet. He suffered a neck injury last season but was thought to be able to continue his career fully. In his eight seasons with the Jets, the 30-year old Powell rushed for 3,446 yards and 15 touchdowns, while catching 204 for 1,567 yards and five touchdowns. He was never the Jets #1 running back but led them in scrimmage yards in both 2013 and 2016.

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We’ve all seen those commercials “Want to Get Away?” When someone does something silly or just plain dumb… How about the editorial staff on Sportsnaut? This week they published a piece on “NFL stars about to fade in 2019” and who leads off the list? Danny Amendola. Okay you say, that could happen, but what? Danny Amendola of the New England Patriots.

“This veteran receiver will likely see an uptick in targets next season now that Rob Gronkowski has retired. In no way does this mean the 33-year-old Amendola is going to be as efficient as we’ve seen in the past.” Ouch. Ummm Amendola hasn’t been with the Patriots since 2017, having spent the 2018 season with Miami and now with Detroit.

The facts checker took the day off it seems. Want to get away? …

“Is it time for the Draft yet? So, how was your week?”

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Patriots Joint Practice Observations, 8-16, Edelman Puts on a Show

Steve Balestrieri
August 16, 2016 at 4:10 pm ET

Pats, Bears Conduct Competitive, Tough Practice

The Patriots conducted their 15th practice of training camp during the second of three joint practices with the Chicago Bears on Tuesday morning at the Gillette practice fields. It was a good competitive practice, with both teams having good and not-so-good moments. There was some more of the dustup nonsense that occurred yesterday and today Bryan Stork made the Walk o’ Shame back to the locker room after being ejected.

Did Not Participate: WR Malcolm Mitchell, RB D.J. Foster, RB Dion Lewis (PUP), RB Donald Brown, RB Brandon Bolden, S Nate Ebner (rugby exemption), TE Bryce Williams, DE Rob Ninkovich, G Tre’ Jackson (PUP), RG Jonathan Cooper, RT Sebastian Vollmer (PUP), WR Danny Amendola (PUP), WR Keshawn Martin, TE Rob Gronkowski, DE Jabaal Sheard

Nate Ebner returned to the Patriots and was in shorts and his jersey. After the warmup session, he joined Ninkovich, Amendola, Mitchell, Foster, Brown, Williams, Jackson and Martin on the lower practice fields with members of the training staff to work on their conditioning.

Here are our Practice Observations:

Edelman Returns to Team Drills and Dominates:
Julian Edelman worked on team drills for the first time since tweaking his foot on August 8 and was virtually impossible to stop. During the 1-on-1 drills, he was dominating against Tracy Porter and the second time, he juked the veteran corner so badly that Porter stopped running and threw up his hands in frustration before the ball was even thrown.

Edelman

During 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s, Edelman was thrown to nine times, five times from Brady, four from Garoppolo and the ball hit the ground once. And on that play, a corner route from Brady, he was open again but the pass was just a bit too long and it fell inches from his outstretched hands.

He also took a shot after beating Porter on a crossing route. As he was nearing the sidelines, Harold Jones-Quartey lowered his shoulder and popped #11 with a good shot that flattened him. Aaron Dobson took immediate exception to that and Martellus Bennett joined him. Calmer heads prevailed but not for long.

Bryan Stork was ejected for head-butting and then taking a wild swing at LB John Timu after a LeGarrette Blount run. Belichick wasted little time and that put a stop to the extra nonsense right there.

Alshon Jeffery Has an Impressive Day:
On the flip side, Jeffery had a very impressive morning. He and Malcolm Butler shook hands on the field before practice, thereby putting an end to that stuff. The Patriots decided to work Butler on the opposite side of the field today.

He gave Logan Ryan and Justin Coleman fits during the individual drills and then beat the veteran corner Ryan on a deep Jay Cutler pass down the sidelines. Kevin White had a good day going against Butler today.

The Bears were conducting a strange WR drill on the sidelines during STs work. One coach would toss a ball well to the right or left of a Bears WR, who had his back turned. When the ball was in the air, they’d have to turn and react, all the while a second coach was tugging on their jerseys. Strange but effective.

Brady has the hot hand:
QB Tom Brady had a good day and was mixing it up to who he was throwing to. In his first work during 7s, he hit James Develin in the flat and Nate Washington on a comeback route. He then targeted Martellus Bennett on a crossing route, Edelman on a shallow crossing route, with an obvious mismatch of having a linebacker, Timu in coverage. Brady recognized the mismatch with Timu again and completed an easy slant to Edelman.

Brady was 11-15 on the day and that is with his last three attempts going incomplete. The pass to Edelman that was just a hair too long in the end zone and had two passes defensed. One on a nice play by Kevin Peterson who deflected a pass away from Nate Washington. And the other a big hit by Sam Acho, where he clobbered Clay Harbor just as the ball arrived and it fell incomplete.

Jimmy Garoppolo worked against the Bears first team defense today and struggled, going only 4 of 9 during 7s and 9-16 overall. He seemed to have a tough time, finding the windows to complete his passes pretty narrow.

After a hot start to training camp, Aaron Dobson has cooled off. He was targeted only twice today. He caught an outlet pass from Brady for about a four-yard gain and was targeted once on a crossing route from Garoppolo that fell incomplete.

After being the best player on the field for the Patriots defense yesterday, Justin Coleman was picked on today by Cutler and Brian Hoyer in both individual and team drills. He was targeted on successive plays by Hoyer, once a deep comeback to Cameron Meredith and on the next play with a bomb down the sideline to Joshua Bellamy who beat him cleanly.

In the “opportunity” session with the third team offense, QB Jacoby Brissett had a very impressive outing. He went 8-9 and looked very sharp and decisive with the ball. The only incompletion was a nice defensive play by Timu who knocked the ball away from Tyler Gaffney.

Jamie Collins and Chris Long would have had sacks in a game situation as they were able to bust in on Cutler with nice rush moves.

Chris Harper and V’Angelo Bentley were taking punt return reps ahead of Cyrus Jones today. During one punt coverage drill, Matthew Slater beat the blockers down field, and although he tried to pull up at the end, buried WR Kieren Duncan with a big hit. But he got up and gave him a hug as an apology for not pulling up.

Cre’Von LeBlanc spoke after practice about the competitiveness in the locker room.

Tomorrow’s Patriots – Bears joint practice session is slated for 10:00 a.m. It is also the final public open practice of the season. After the preseason game on Thursday, when the Patriots return to practice it will be only a regular season type schedule. The media will only be allowed to observe the first 15 minutes or so and then the practice will be closed.

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

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

Patriots – Saints Joint Practice Observations 8-9

Steve Balestrieri
August 9, 2016 at 4:43 pm ET

Saints and Pats Get In Good Joint Workout Tuesday

The Patriots and Saints had a good, spirited joint practice session on Tuesday morning under hot, sunny skies at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots, however, weren’t at their best offensively and were rather sloppy with dropped passes across the board by multiple players.

Earlier in the morning prior to the workout, Bill Belichick stated that the team was excited for Sean Payton and the Saints to be here. He said the Pats have a great relationship with Payton and the Saints. Something Payton reiterated later after practice was over.

Many of the Patriots coaches, including Bill Belichick, wore Nate Ebner’s rugby jersey in  a nice show of support during practice. The US National Rugby team plays its first match later tonight.

Notable absences: Nate Solder who’s been practicing every day was out. Sebastian Vollmer, Dion Lewis, Jonathan Cooper, Bryce Williams, Danny Amendola and Nate Ebner (Olympics), were also not spotted.

But more importantly, Julian Edelman left practice after clutching his left leg during 1-on-1 drills. He didn’t return, although the NFL Network stated that his injury “wasn’t serious”.  But he could be seen throwing his helmet in frustration. Rob Ninkovich left early with what is being characterized as a “triceps” injury. He’s slated to have an MRI tomorrow.

Not a Banner day for the offense: The Pats offense has had better days and it begins with Jimmy Garoppolo. The Pats QB suffered thru his third straight session of making poor decisions with the ball. He had some shaky moments in there, but those things are to be expected and is the reason they hold practice.

Photo-Jimmy-Garoppolo-and-Tom-Brady-m6erN-250x250He was also victimized by a series of drops, and the Patriots receivers across the board were having issues holding onto the football.

With Solder and Vollmer out, the top offensive line consisted of LaAdrian Waddle at LT, Joe Thuney at LG, David Andrews at C, Josh Kline at RG and Marcus Cannon at RT.

After going thru warmups and a period of positional drills, the teams got together about 40 minutes into practice with the WRs and DBs going against one another.  The highlight of this segment was Julian Edelman putting an absolute filthy move on safety Vonn Bell. Edelman ran straight up the seam and faked to his right which Bell bit on and Edelman cut left leaving Bell far in his wake.

Brady led off the segment at QB and was followed by Garoppolo.  Meanwhile on the other side, Drew Brees was hooking up with WR Brandin Cooks who was battling hard with CB Malcolm Butler. Cooks was winning the majority of the battles but Butler did have a really nice pass breakup in the end zone. Logan Ryan had a nice pass breakup in the end zone.

7-7: This was followed by 7-on-7 drills with the Patriots offense on one field and the Saints on the other. Once again Brady took the initial reps followed by Garoppolo. Brady’s first pass, a screen to James White over the middle was nearly picked off by linebacker Stephone Anthony. Brady hit Devin Lucien deep in the end zone. He also connected with Chris Hogan, Nate Washington, and Clay Harbor.

11-on-11s Still Sloppy: Next came the 11-on-11s. Brady’s first pass was picked off this time, by Sheldon Rankins on a screen to White. He hit on only two of his first five passes. Garoppolo came on and hit  Rob Gronkowski down the seam. Gronk was wide open but dropped the ball, one of his three drops on the day.

Brees was doing a lot of check-downs to the backs Mark Ingram, Marcus Murphy and C.J. Spiller in his early work. Asked later if that was planned Saints coach Payton said no, that the Patriots were doing a great job of disrupting routes at the line of scrimmage.

Later when Luke McCown came on for Brees, he was picked off by Duron Harmon. Not to be outdone, the Saints De’Vante Harris picked off Garoppolo during the two-minute drill. Jimmy G. was trying to hit Aaron Dobson on a crossing route and it was a pass he’d probably like to have back.

Both Brady and Garoppolo suffered what would have been a couple of sacks in the goal line sequence and the two-minute drill. For the Patriots defense, Shea McClellin, Jamie Collins, and Trey Flowers who had arguably his best practice were bringing pressure from the edge. Flowers and Dont’a Hightower each got QB pressure/sacks twice.

While the focus in the secondary was on the Cooks, Butler matchup, Cyrus Jones had a solid day. He recorded passes broken up in both individual 1-on-1 drills and during the 11s. Jones was also solid in the kick return game, fielding all of his punts cleanly and having a good return straight up the middle on one play, displaying good vision and a nice cut.

Late in practice, the third QBs, Jacoby Brissett and Garrett Grayson each got to take some extended reps with the third team offenses. The teams return to action on Wednesday morning with the scheduled start time for practice being 9:15 a.m.

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

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

 

Patriots – Saints Joint Practices Help Competition, Evaluation

Steve Balestrieri
August 8, 2016 at 11:00 am ET

Coaching Staffs Communicate and Have Respect for one another

The Patriots will conduct joint practices with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday and Wednesday, August 9-10 prior to their first preseason game on Thursday night.

This will mark the fourth time that the Patriots and Saints will conduct joint practices, the third time in Foxboro. The Saints visited here back in 2010 and 2012 and the Patriots visited the New Orleans training camp facility in White Sulphur Springs, WV a year ago.

It is interesting that in the constantly changing landscape of the NFL that the Patriots and Saints both have the same head coach/quarterback combination as they did back in the first joint practice in 2010.

Sean Payton and Drew Brees remain with the Saints while Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are still working their magic in New England. The two sides are deep with respect for one another, a year Belichick spoke about the respect he has for Payton and the Saints staff.

2012-Patriots-Saints-Joint-Practice-150x150 “I have all the respect in the world for the Saints, their entire organization, Sean, the way they do things,” Belichick said. “We’ve got a great working relationship with the Saints, Sean and his staff. From a coaching standpoint, we both feel like we get done things that are beneficial to our teams. Players work hard, but they do it in the right way.”

Drew Brees and Brady have long maintained a cordial relationship during these practices and have a mutual respect for one another. “I’m a big fan of Tom Brady,” Brees said. “As a player and I really enjoy being around him as a person.”

Unfamiliar Opponent and Chance for Added Competition: The Patriots traditionally under Belichick have loved these joint practices and they attempt to do a couple each season. And they work for the simplest of reasons. One is that after facing their teammates in training camp for a while now, this will give them the opportunity to face off against an unfamiliar opponent and changes things up a bit.

Going against another team always stokes the competitive fires in players and for those players on the bubble at the back end of the roster, it gives them extra reps against an opponent that may help them win a roster spot. Where  in a preseason game a certain player may only get a couple of snaps to show what he can do, in the joint practices they’ll get  more opportunities to shine.

The coaches also get to work on game specific situational football scenarios that they have recently installed into the offense/defense. It takes good communication between the head coaches and there has to be a level of trust there. Belichick spoke about that in his press conference on Sunday.

2012-Camp-Tom-Brady-Saints-150x150“Yeah, somebody you can work with, that’s the number one thing. That’s above all else. We have a great relationship with the Saints, with Sean [Payton] and his staff, the organization,” Belichick said. “It’s always worked out well the times we’ve done it with them, so if we have an opportunity to do it with them we try to take advantage of it. It’s been really good. They’re great to work with.”

“I think we know what we want to try and do. We’ll talk about it when they get here. We’ll kind of go over it one more time. We’ve still got practices that are important to us before we get to that, but we want to be organized with them. I think we are and we’ll just kind of fine-tune that when they get here, but we’re good to go.”

And a final advantage to these practices is that you can always find a player that may not be a fit for the opponent that may fulfill a role with your team. That allows the coaches to evaluate the player and see more of him in a close, working situation.

The Patriots saw that with the Saints Akiem Hicks who didn’t have a role in their defensive rebuild a year ago but was traded to the Patriots and played very well for the team in 2015. The Patriots also got to see ST/LB Ramon Humber last season, who they signed as a free agent this spring.

But the list is long, others the Pats practiced against and then brought in includes but isn’t limited to, Frank Kearse, E.J. Biggers, Jonathan Casillas, and Aqib Talib.

So the Patriots will be installing some new wrinkles in the playbook and will be using them against the Saints in the next few days. Belichick told the media, that they won’t be installing anything new per se, that they went over these things in the spring and now they’ll evaluate the players on how well they produce.

“Well, we still have things we need to install. We still have a lot of situation work we need to cover,” he said. “I know we’ll be doing some of those things against New Orleans, so it’ll be good to have already put it in, to have run it, and then run it against them, rather than go out there and have that be the first time. A lot of times there is some ironing out to do. We’ll try to get some of that out of the way the first time or two and then try to run it competitively.

If you’re planning on heading down to training camp for the two joint practices against the Saints, be advised plan on arriving early. Those workouts are traditionally very crowded and as always, it is first-come, first served. Both practices are scheduled to run from 9:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. daily. But check with Patriots.com for any updates.

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

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

New England Patriots News 6-19, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 19, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 6-19 notes and what’s happening around the AFC East.

Patriots Announce Joint Practices with Saints, Bears:
The Patriots made the “official” announcement for training camp dates, (we’ve been doing a countdown for a month). But the bigger news was the set dates for the joint practices with the Saints and the Bears. Prior to the two respective preseason games, the Patriots will have two practices  with each of those teams.

The Patriots and Saints will conduct joint practices on August 9-10 prior to the preseason game on August 11. The next week the Bears come to town and the teams will practice together August 15-16 prior to the preseason game on August 18.

All of the practice sessions will be open to the public and a word to the wise…arrive early. The crowds are huge for these practices and if the joint practice with Philly two years ago is any indication, it will be crowded. The Patriots opened the stadium walkways so that fans could attend and watch the practices from high above.

Gronk, “Huge Development” for Garoppolo:

On Monday, Pats TE Rob Gronkowski was asked if there’s concern with the possibility of QB Jimmy Garoppolo starting the first four games of the 2016 season. With Tom Brady’s suspension still looming, if any of the assembled media was thinking he’d be concerned…think again.

“He’s doing great — definitely,” Gronkowski. “You can see a huge development over the last two years in the way he handles the offense now. He’s doing a great job going out there, listening to coaches and just working together with the whole team.”

Jimmy-G,-James-White

Gronkowski then turned the attention to Brady and once again to no one’s surprise, he was very upbeat. “He looks pretty good… No, he look’s great,” Gronkowski said. “He looks the same every day that I’ve been here. He’s always coming out with a competitive edge, his arm always looks strong. His football knowledge, you don’t have to talk about it, it’s second to none.”

Kraft Among Investors Attempting to Buy UFC:
Robert Kraft is among the investors looking to buy the UFC. According to ESPN, there are two bids on the table to buy the UFC, supposedly for $4.1 billion dollars.

Kraft is a minority investor in the WME-IME bid where the members of the group were asked to contribute between $25 – 50 million dollars each. Kraft’s investment would only be about 1 percent of the total but if the deal goes thru, UFC would then have a partner in the largest sport in the world.

The UFC like the NFL shows no signs of slowing down with the fans and would be a very savvy investment.

Lombardi Leaving Patriots After Two Years:
Mike Reiss of ESPN broke the news that after two years as an assistant the Patriots coaching staff, Mike Lombardi is leaving the team and his position immediately, although the departure is reported to be amicable. Lombardi, a good friend of Bill Belichick has been a confidante and aide to the coach, helping make personnel decisions as well as helping on the practice fields. He was in attendance during minicamp on the field a week ago.

Reiss reports that Lombardi may be joining his friend Bill Simmons in a new HBO sports show. Lombardi has been  a fixture in NFL circles, having worked in a variety of positions, including the GM of the Cleveland Browns in 2013. He’s also been in front of the cameras, being a regular on the NFL Network from 2008-2012.

Kraft Honoree at ESPN Humanitarian Awards:
Patriots owner Robert Kraft will be recognized on July 12 as a Stuart Scott ENSPIRE award honoree at the ESPN 2nd annual Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards.

In honor of the late ESPN commentator Stuart Scott, this award celebrates someone who uses the power of sport to make a positive impact on society. Candidates can include anyone who works within the sporting world. The honorees will be awarded a $50,000 grant from ESPN to be used at the charity related to the award-winning humanitarian efforts.

ESPN’s announcement stated:

“Kraft has donated hundreds of millions to charities since becoming the owner of the Patriots, yet it’s not just the number that’s impressive, but the innovative and personal way he’s leaving an imprint on communities across the region. Kraft is a fierce advocate for ensuring all residents of New England have access to quality healthcare. To that end, he’s investing millions of dollars to attract the best clinicians to assist the most under-served populations through the community healthcare systems. He started a fellowship that provides coursework at Harvard, mentoring, clinical practice and even a student-loan repayment of $50,000 per year in return for a three-year commitment to community health following completion of the program.”

Brissett Inks 4-Year Deal:
And then there were nine. Jacoby Brissett became the final member of the Patriots 2016 draft class to sign his contract.  Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston posted the details of Brissett’s deal which include:

Base salaries are $450,000 in 2016, $580,038 in 2017, $735,076 in 2018, and $890,114 in 2019.

Brissette drops back to pass

Brissette drops back to pass

He receives workout bonuses of $25,000 in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The total compensation of his deal is $3,410,832, while the total guarantee is $680,604 (which is his signing bonus). Brissett’s deal (at max value) is higher than all 17 of the 3rd Round draft picks selected prior to him (#91 overall).

Many fans were openly wondering if this means that Jimmy G. is gone after the 2016 season. Not so fast. Much will depend on Garappolo’s play if he does  play during the first four games. If Garoppolo plays and performs well, he could be traded to a QB needy team. But with Brady at age 39, the Patriots may be inclined to keep him for when the day finally comes that Brady retires.

Ed Reed’s Son a Patriots Fan:
Here is a bit of strange news this week. New Bills assistant coach Ed Reed who was a long-time member of the Baltimore Ravens had some family opposition in joining Buffalo. His own 8-year old son Henry.

It seems Henry is a Patriots fan. Say What? How could his son root for his dad’s biggest nemesis? Well as Reed says, it’s easy.

“His mom is from Boston, though she’s not a Patriots fan,” Reed said. “His grandmother lives up there, and the kid likes champions, man. What can I say? I grew up in New Orleans, I loved my home [town] team, but I was a San Francisco 49ers fan. I was a Joe Montana fan. So that’s just how it is.

“When you’re a kid and you’re watching sports growing up, who’s winning those championships? You tend to gravitate toward winners. Which is a good thing. It helps you from a work ethic standpoint, who you’re watching. Who wants to follow losers? Just saying.”

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Miami Gardens Mayor Worried Dolphins Would Bolt Without Stadium Upgrades:
Things are looking up for the Dolphins as well as the city of Miami. The team will host the Super Bowl in 2020 and the mayor of Miami Gardens is breathing a sigh of relief.

There were underlying tones that unless the state or the county helped pitch in with the upgrades for the Dolphins stadium, that the team may bolt the city. According to Mayor Oliver Gilbert, the threat was real.

“I worried some because sometimes people don’t necessarily know what they have until it’s gone. And I never want that to be the case,” Gilbert said recently. “It’s interesting that we like to call ourselves a world-class community. To be a world-class community, you have to have the Miami Dolphins, you have to have the Miami Heat. You also have to have culture and the arts. You have to have all of those things. It’s a composite. It’s not a singular picture.”

Now that the work is nearly complete, the Dolphins have a state-of-the-art facility that cost them nearly half a billion dollars for the renovations. The stadium will boast a 14-acre canopy that reportedly makes the experience much cooler for the fans during the hot weather games. Miami’s heat has always been part of their home field advantage, so there is some give and take.

Jets Still at an Impasse with Fitzy, Wilkerson:
Todd Bowles finally had enough and told the NY media this week, that he’d no longer entertain questions about unsigned QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Jets signal caller in 2015 is out there in free agency still and no deal appears imminent. Bowles did say that if…a big if he returns, he will be the team’s starter.

Likewise, the team has no deal on the radar for their best defensive player, Muhammad Wilkerson. Wilkerson, 26, has been franchised ($15.7 million dollars in 2016) and is looking for a long-term deal.

With the recent contract for Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox, Wilkerson is likely to be looking for similar cash. And he’d be justified. Since 2012, Wilkerson has had more sacks, 33.5 – 22.0, more forced fumbles, 8 – 5, and more batted passes, 14 – 5. Wilkerson has been a durable, productive player and seems to be digging in his heels. Stay tuned.

Bills “Won the Offseason”, Rex Ryan Says:
This didn’t take long. Rex Ryan never one to back away from bombastic quotes came up with another doozy this week.

“I’m excited about this team,” Ryan said. “Obviously, a lot of things have to happen, and we’re a month or so away, but I told our players today to ‘win July.’ We won the offseason. I would challenge any team. I think we’ve won the offseason.”

One thing’s for certain, the Bills with Ryan at the helm will never be boring and he’s putting the heat and the bulls eye squarely on his own shoulders. With rumors that both he and GM Doug Whalley are on the hot seat, he’s embracing the challenge. Training camp practices for the Bills begin on July 30.

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 PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots TC Report: Why Bill Belichick Loves Joint Practices

Steve Balestrieri
August 19, 2015 at 6:00 am ET

Team will get more from the next two days of practice than PS game

The Patriots are on their way down to West Virginia to conduct two joint practices with the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday and Thursday prior to their preseason game. The Saints have been a frequent partner of the Patriots in these joint ventures, as New Orleans coach Sean Payton like Bill Belichick, is a firm believer in the value of joint practices.

The respect that each coach has for each other is evident in that the teams are looking to improve and will help each other help themselves for the next two days. We’ll get more to that later. But the fact that the teams have worked closely many times with very few issues is a testament to the respect between the two teams unlike the fiasco that Houston had to put up with versus the Redskins last week.

Some coaches, like Packers coach Mike McCarthy isn’t a believer in joint practices, preferring to work on his own with his own team. It was thought that the Patriots attempted to work jointly with Green Bay prior to the preseason game but were turned down.

We’re totally on-board with the joint practice venture. Beyond the fact that on a given afternoon we can watch Tom Brady and Drew Brees do their thing and then walk off to the same sideline and talk between drills is really cool, it just makes sense from a football perspective. Here’s a few reasons why joint practices work.

Situational Football: One of the reasons the Patriots (and Saints), have excelled in certain situations year after year isn’t magic (or some nefarious acts as some hysterical dweebs will have you believe), but the simple fact that they PRACTICE them.

Why is no one better than Belichick and the Patriots in situational football? Practice, practice and more practice. And joint practices are the best place to drive the point home. How many 3rd down and 16s will you face from the opponent 35 yard line in a preseason game? One? None? Well let’s do that and if we don’t like the way it looked, let’s run it again and again. And again if necessary until we get it right. The list could go on and on but the best way to be productive in any situation is to have experience in dealing with it.

Last season, the Sporting News asked Bill Belichick why the Patriots favored joint practices and he had this to say: “We may get a handful of red-area plays in the preseason games. I don’t know, we might not. But we know we’re going to get probably over 25 today. Same thing on third down—I don’t know how many third downs some of our guys who are going to have a lot of playing time during the year are going to get in preseason, but by the end of the week we’ll probably have 30 third down situations here. “

“You just can’t get the reps in preseason games like you can get out here on the practice fields.’’

Veterans Need Work: Last week against the Packers, Tom Brady played a total of seven snaps, Malcolm Butler the same and Rob Gronkowski? Zero. Think how many snaps each will get against a quality opponent in the next two days of joint practice.

This work in a controlled environment isn’t the same as a game but is still invaluable in preparing the veterans to be ready to go once the games become real on Week 1 of the NFL season.

While Brady will get more reps against the Saints in the preseason game than he did last week, he still won’t play much past the first half. But he and Jimmy Garoppolo will each get plenty of reps in the practices.

Different Looks by the Opposition: After facing your own teammates for the past two weeks in practice, the joint practice venture will allow the players, especially the younger ones the chance to react to different looks and schemes that are the staple of your opponent.

It is some great experience to go against a different, spirited opponent and breaks the monotony of training camp practices that all seem to run into one another. It also gives coaches the ability to give longer looks at some of the players on the bubble at an opponent where in a preseason game, that player may only get a handful of snaps.

Since the new CBA of 2011 did away with the old two-a-day practices, coaches like Bill Belichick are always looking for ways to introduce physicality and hitting into practice during training camp and joint practices are the wave of the future.

Once again Belichick was ahead of the curve on this one and the Patriots will no doubt continue to try to use the joint practices as often as they can during the preseason.

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 PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Saints’ Coach Payton Looking Forward To Working With Belichick, Patriots

Ian Logue
August 17, 2015 at 5:00 am ET

As the Patriots get set to hold joint practices with the New Orleans Saints later this week, the goal is to hopefully provide both sides with opportunities to work on situational football and create certain situations that might not necessarily arise during their exhibition game.

The last time these two teams got together for these was back in 2012, and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Saints coach Sean Peyton were able to have productive sessions and when it was over, both felt pretty good about what they accomplished.

Payton spoke to the media on Sunday and said he has a lot of respect for the Patriots, and he’s looking forward to having his team work with them this week.

“I’ve said this before, back in 2006 in any business you would study closely who is having success and they have been a team we study to see the sustained power they have had year in and year out has been pretty impressive,” said Payton. “Any time we get a chance to work with them, 2010, 2012, again this year, it gives us a great opportunity.”

“I know this, I know how he is going to handle it with his players and we felt coming off the times we’ve worked together it has been real positive. We’ve already gone through the practice schedule for next week. We kind of have it all laid out. We will go in the morning both Wednesday and Thursday. I think when you can be around a Super Bowl champion, as much as they have won, I think it is a great opportunity for a team like us and certainly for me as a head coach.”

One of the things that Payton was asked about were some of the things he admired about how Belichick runs the team, and one of the things he pointed out was how they’ve dealt with personnel decisions.

“Shoot, everything from how he acquires personnel,” said Payton. “I think he is very good at identifying what they are looking for. They have a role for a player when they sign him. There has been a ton of things just when you watch what they have put together over the years. They have kind of been the benchmark.”

The two teams will practice on Wednesday and Thursday of this week in anticipation of Saturday night’s game, with Payton pointing out that he’s taken some tips on how Belichick runs practices, and he’s always had great communication with him.

“You do not have that firsthand experience with how he might run a certain practice,” said Payton. “We understand how we run a joint practice. You try to receive as much information, visit with him when you can while they are here. Things come up, questions come up and he has always been good to me.”

According to the the Saints official site, both joint practices are set for 9:30am at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.