Tag Archives: Patriots Hall of Fame

New England Patriots News 04-07, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 7, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-07 and AFC East Notes.

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.

And be sure to check out for pre-Draft Podcasts with Derek Havens and I going over some of the possible fits for the Patriots in the upcoming draft.

Quick Hitters:

Michael Bennett had the felony charges against him dropped in Texas. After the Super Bowl in Houston, he was trying to get on the field to congratulate his brother Martellus when he supposedly shoved a 66-year-old paraplegic security staffer, who suffered a sprained arm. The DA dropped the charges “in the interest of justice” as they didn’t feel there was sufficient evidence to earn a conviction.

Tom Brady was in People Magazine after he signed what he dubbed, “the coolest helmet I’ve ever signed.” The helmet with many Patriots-themed illustrations didn’t appear to have a clear area for #12 to sign. We’ll leave the picture here for fans to decide on the coolness of it.

Patriots Huge in China: The Chinese have definitely taken a shine to the Patriots. According to CNN, the Patriots have enjoyed a “monumental” year in the world’s most populous nation, becoming the first NFL team to hit 500,000 followers on Weibo, which is the Chinese version of Twitter. Weibo has around 300 million monthly active users.

The Patriots were the team that put the biggest onus on creating daily content that would specifically be attractive to Chinese fans. Which included graphics in Mandarin,, and short video explainers on American Football.

“The Patriots this past season have set themselves apart from the rest of the league in terms of creating original Chinese content,” Gideon Clark, client director at Mailman, said to CNN.

Red Sox/Patriots championships for the 2018 season will both be honored at the Red Sox home opener on Tuesday. RS President Sam Kennedy told media members that the Patriots have accepted their invitation to attend and conduct a joint celebration.

The Patriots are celebrating their sixth title since 2001 while the Red Sox are recognizing their fourth since 2004.

Patriots Draft Caps were released by New Era caps that the players who are drafted by the team will wear on stage when they are selected. In a word…bland.

Rodgers and McCarthy Excoriated in B/R Piece:

Aaron Rodgers was raked over the coals in the recent piece by Bleacher Report’s Tyler Dunne. And former head coach Mike McCarthy wasn’t spared the rod either in this compelling yet disturbing story. Calling this an unflattering look at Rodgers is like saying the Titanic encountered ice problems on her maiden voyage.

This was a truly toxic relationship and Dunne says it was over before it began. Rodgers, it was said, never forgave McCarthy for drafting Alex Smith before him in the NFL Draft and it poisoned their relationship before it even began. This story, unlike the one that pictured Brady and Belichick at odds, named names and had quotes from many former Packers players.

Rodgers changed about a third of the plays McCarthy called and frequently told receivers to run different routes than what was called. After McCarthy was fired, Packers President Mark Murphy called Rodgers to tell him the team was hiring new coach Matt LaFleur speaks a lot of how bad things have gotten in GB.

Murphy called Rodgers to tell him who they were going with. He didn’t ask for permission—he told him who the choice was. There was a brief pause on the other end of the phone before Rodgers eventually spoke. Murphy made it clear that Rodgers would need to accept coaching. “Don’t be the problem,” he told him. “Don’t be the problem.”

Leon Gray Elected to the Patriots HOF:

With the meeting of the Patriots Hall of Fame Committee this week to select the three finalists for this season’s fan induction, the 10-member Senior Selection Committee met to elect a player who has been retired for 25 years or longer. This year’s selection was former Patriots offensive tackle, Leon Gray.

Gray was drafted by Miami but cut at the end of training camp. He was quickly scooped up by Chuck Fairbanks of the Pats and quickly became one of the best tackles in the NFL. He and John Hannah comprised an outstanding combination at guard and tackle and were instrumental in setting the NFL record for team rushing yards in 1978, a record that still stands today.

Gray was underpaid in relation to tackles around the league and would be gone by 1979 to Houston. He later played for  New Orleans. He was a four-time Pro Bowler with two All-Pro seasons. He died in 2001. The selections for the team HOF will be announced later this week.

Why A 1st Round WR? He’s a Perfect Fit:

“The Patriots have NEVER selected a WR in the first round of the Bill Belichick era.” Yes I know, and judging from the emails I received after Mock Draft 2.0, a lot of Patriots fans know that too. But if there is one thing about this team, we’ve learned is to never say never.

So, with that being said, we opted for a wide receiver from Ole Miss at the end of the first round who was still there, during a draft simulation.No, it wasn’t D.K. Metcalf, the physical freak who has everyone drooling in fantasy football dream scenarios. It was his teammate A.J. Brown who was actually a ton more productive.

Metcalf caught 67 passes for Ole Miss during parts of three college seasons. Brown caught 189 for 2984 yards (15.5-yard average) with 19 touchdowns. He’s been compared to JuJu Smith-Schuster by several draft writers.

He’s got very good size at 6’0, 226, and has good but not great long speed. But before everyone begins to say a “deep threat receiver” keep in mind that Brown can do a lot more than that. He can work as a traditional “X” wide receiver, the “Z” or out of the slot. His route running and route tree is much better than his ex-teammate.

He can be a chain mover and stretch the field horizontally as well as vertically, something the Patriots offense is more aligned with. He’s versatile and can play multiple positions. He can be a very productive receiver in this offense. Now the only question that remains is, would he fall as far as #32 and if he did… would the Patriots, who already had a visit with him, select him in the 1st round?

Saban on Advice from Belichick – “Let the Players Play”:

There are times when you see obscure tweets and you at times just skip over them. There’s no way you can read everything that zips past your timeline. But when a good friend (@PatriotsSBLIII) tweets something, I usually stand up and pay attention. And when I miss something and frequently do, he’s always sharing stuff with me.

Nick Saban, head coach at Alabama was on the podium and talking not about coaching but “over-coaching” which can sometimes happen to coaches who try to hammer home every detail into players’ heads.

“Sometimes players are kind of depending on that reinforcement all the time in practice,” Saban said. “In a game, there’s no coach out there. I coached like that when I was an assistant — we’d have a scrimmage at the Cleveland Browns, and Belichick would chew my butt out, man. He’d say, ‘Let the players play.’

“And I was like, ‘Wow. I’ve never had my butt chewed out before for coaching and teaching.’ “

But as Saban continued, he said that learned that Belichick was right and adopted the same style of coaching.

“I say the same things to our coaches now, because there’s a time when you’ve just got to let the players play. Because in the game, they’ve got to know what to do, they’ve got to know how to do it, they can’t depend on somebody else to make a call for them. They can’t depend on somebody else to recognize things for them.”

“So, we actually do stuff in practice now, when we do team I make the coaches get off the field, make the calls, let the players play,” he added.

One of the hallmarks of Belichick coached teams and a trait that they value is having smart football players. Guys who will take the coaching, do the preparation needed and be able to recognize what they see in front of them in a game and know what they’re supposed to do.  This is just a small example of how blessed the Patriots fans are in New England.


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Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Adam Schein Is Bullish on Bills and Allen:

Sports radio host and NFL analyst Adam Schein is really high on both the Buffalo Bills and their second-year QB Josh Allen and predicts great not good things for the duo in 2019. He appeared on the One Bills Live radio show and echoed those thoughts.

“I’m obsessed with the Bills. I love the coach; I love the GM; I love the potential of the young quarterback. I think he’s going to be great and I’m not just throwing that word around. I think Josh Allen’s gonna be an absolute star,” Schein said.

“Here’s a stat: 5-6. That was Allen’s record as a rookie starter. And given what people initially expected of the 2018 Bills, as well as the underwhelming offensive talent that surrounded Allen, that 5-6 mark speaks volumes,” Schein penned in an NFL.com article.

“A couple more stats that sing: 631 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Allen’s rushing ability was a revelation. Remember the hurdle of Anthony Barr? That’s not normal for a quarterback. Special stuff.”

He added, “Long story short: Allen enjoyed an encouraging rookie season. He silenced many naysayers. And that was just the beginning. Josh Allen is going to be great.”

That particular radio show had to be music to the ears of the fan base hungry for a contender. While many writers don’t share Schein’s optimism regarding Allen, he’ll have the chance to prove them all wrong in September.

Dolphins Meet With Duke QB Daniel Jones:

The Miami Dolphins search for a franchise QB, something they’ve struggled to find since Dan Marino retired continues. With their trade of Ryan Tannehill, they signed journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick as a bridge QB, but that signing is strictly a band-aid fix.

Jones played in a pro-style offense and has the arm strength, size, and patience in the pocket. He has a quick delivery and processes things quickly and accurately. It will be interesting to see if Miami pulls the trigger on Jones in the draft. The Duke signal caller has also drawn interest from the Broncos, Giants, and Chargers.

Miami also announced that Richmond Webb and Kenyan Drake will announce some of their 2019 NFL Draft picks in keeping with the recent tradition of having former and current players announcing selections for the team.

All Quiet on the Jets Front:

The New York Jets are keeping a very low profile heading into the draft. And there hasn’t been much of them in the news. While they prepare for the #3 pick in the draft, how the first two selections go will have a big influence on their decision.

Most of the talk this week was on the Jets new uniforms which are IOHO very boring, with the black third jersey looking far too much like the Philadelphia Eagles uniform. Sometimes new isn’t better, the Jets 1980s look to me was their best, just like the Patriots red uniforms, especially the away unis with red pants and white jerseys.

But in other “news” Robby Anderson is excited to be in Adam Gase’s offense, although he hasn’t officially seen it yet. And Jamal Adams doesn’t believe Gronk stays retired…Yawn.

“Is it Draft time 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.

Raymond Clayborn to be honored today at Gillette Stadium

John Morgan
September 24, 2017 at 11:30 am ET

The Patriots will honor the newest member of the franchise’s Hall of Fame today. During a half time ceremony at Gillette Stadium the Pats will hold a ceremony for Raymond Clayborn. The legendary number 26 is coincidentally the 26th person to join the Patriots Hall of Fame.

While I most certainly hoped Clayborn would get the nod this year, I wasn’t expecting it to turn out this way. I was very pleasantly surprised that the voting by Patriot Nation looked beyond recent star players. Thank you to all Patriot fans who did a bit of research that resulted in Clayborn’s induction. Fans could have easily gone along with the more recent memories. Richard Seymour, a future Pro Football Hall of Famer in my opinion, was a finalist. So was Mike Vrabel, a key defender for three championship teams, and one of the most versatile players in NFL history.

Clayborn set the franchise record with 36 career interceptions (since tied by Ty Law). He returned three kickoffs for touchdown his rookie year, averaging 31 yards per return that season. Clayborn became a starter his second season and along with Mike Haynes combined for one of the best cornerback tandems in NFL history.

Don’t take my word on it; consider what the Pro Football Hall of Fame CB had to say on the subject.

“(NFL.com) did a poll of the top cornerback tandems, and they had myself and Lester Hayes at No. 1,” recalled Haynes. “You know what? Myself and Raymond might have been just as good. Really. Raymond Clayborn was a star.”

Clayborn was a three-time First Team All Pro but stats alone do not adequately state his impact. He was part of a core group of players that turned the franchise around from the worst team in the league to one of the NFL’s best. Perhaps if he had a Super Bowl ring – which was earned but stolen away in the Ben Dreith travesty – he and some other players from the late seventies would have been held in higher regard. Clayborn played in a team record 161 consecutive games and was named to the Patriots All-Decade Team for both the 1970s and 1980s.

Congratulations to Raymond Clayborn on this well deserved honor.

Patriots To Honor Raymond Clayborn At Halftime On Sunday vs Texans

Robert Alvarez
September 22, 2017 at 12:04 pm ET

2017 New England Patriots Hall of Fame inductee Raymond Clayborn will be honored one final time this season in a special halftime ceremony at Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon against the Houston Texans.

Per the Patriots official press release;

“Clayborn, a Texas native who currently resides in Katy, Texas, just outside of Houston, was voted by fans as the 26th person to be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame. He was officially inducted into The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon in a ceremony on the NRG Plaza on July 29.” 

“Clayborn was a three-time Pro Bowl player (1983, 1985, 1986) during his 13-year Patriots career that extended from 1977 through 1989. He was drafted by the Patriots in the first round (16th overall) out of Texas in 1977 and quickly established himself as one of the game’s best cornerbacks, as well as a superb kickoff returner. He set a franchise record with 36 career interceptions, a record which Ty Law tied in 2004 and remains today, 28 years after Clayborn finished his Patriots career. His 555 interception return yards rank second in franchise history to Law’s 583 return yards. Clayborn also returned 57 kickoffs for 1,538 yards and three touchdowns. As a rookie in 1977, he returned 28 kickoffs for 869 yards and led the NFL with a 31.0-yard return average and returned three kicks for touchdowns, both of which remain franchise records. He is one of just 20 NFL players since the 1970 merger to finish a season with a better than 30.0-yard average on kickoff returns (min. 20 returns) and is the only Patriots player to accomplish the feat. ” 

Raymond Clayborn Named 2017 Patriots Hall of Fame Inductee

Robert Alvarez
May 22, 2017 at 9:09 pm ET

The New England Patriots formally announced on Monday that cornerback Raymond Clayborn had been selected as the 26th member of the teams Hall of Fame following a vote by the fans.

This year, Clayborn beat out defensive end Richard Seymour and linebacker Mike Vrabel after previously losing the public ballot the last three years. (Law 2014, McGinest 2015 and Faulk 2016)

Per the Patriots press release;

“Clayborn was a three-time Pro Bowl player (1983, 1985, 1986) during his 13-year Patriots career that extended from 1977 through 1989. He was drafted by the Patriots in the first round (16th overall) out of Texas in 1977 and quickly established himself as one of the game’s best cornerbacks, as well as a superb kickoff returner. He set a franchise record with 36 career interceptions, a record which Ty Law tied in 2004 and remains today, 28 years after Clayborn finished his Patriots career. His 555 interception return yards rank second in franchise history to Law’s 583 return yards. Clayborn also returned 57 kickoffs for 1,538 yards and three touchdowns. As a rookie in 1977, he returned 28 kickoffs for 869 yards and led the NFL with a 31.0-yard return average and returned three kicks for touchdowns, both of which remain franchise records. He is one of just 20 NFL players since the 1970 merger to finish a season with a better than 30.0-yard average on kickoff returns (min. 20 returns) and is the only Patriots player to accomplish the feat.”

“I was fortunate to be a season ticket holder during Raymond’s entire Patriots career,” said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. “For the first half of his career, he teamed with Michael Haynes to form one of the best corner tandems in league history. Throughout his career, Raymond was a physical, shutdown corner. One of my favorite memories was watching the 1985 team advance to the Super Bowl after Raymond helped us break the Orange Bowl curse when he stymied future Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino with a dominant performance against Pro Bowl receivers Mark Duper and Mark Clayton. Raymond had six passes defensed and an interception to help us claim our first conference title. It was the greatest upset victory in franchise history at the time and one the entire New England region celebrated. It is a well-deserved honor and I look forward to presenting him his hall of fame jacket.”

The Patriots will honor Clayborn in a special ceremony at The Hall at Patriot Place on a date to be determined around the time training camp opens.

https://twitter.com/PatriotGreat26/status/866733366548332544

https://twitter.com/bigsey93/status/866743058200657920

Stalemate may lead to no entry to Pats HoF for Raymond Clayborn

John Morgan
April 12, 2017 at 8:30 pm ET

I just read this disheartening Mike Reiss article from his espnBoston blog:

Logjam among senior candidates for Patriots’ Hall leads to stalemate

Arguably the biggest surprise of Wednesday’s New England Patriots Hall of Fame Nomination Committee meeting was the stalemate among voters between senior candidates Raymond Clayborn (cornerback) and Leon Gray (offensive tackle).

The column goes on to point out how difficult it is for older players such as Clayborn and Gray to gain entrance to the Patriots Hall of Fame, because fan voting inevitably results in younger, more recently retired players winning that popularity contest.

In regards to the ten-person senior committee, a nominee has to receive at least 80% of the votes. Neither side wanting Clayborn or Gray backed down, so neither got enough votes. Fred Marion and Ron Burton were the other nominees.

Reiss has a rather ominous speculation for those of us that have lobbied not only for Clayborn, but for more consideration and genuine opportunity for those that were part of the franchise prior to 2000.

It sparks the question of whether either will break the 80 percent senior threshold in the coming years to earn induction.

Is it time to change the process for Patriots Hall of Fame?

The time has come to at least reconsider the entire process for enshrinement to the Patriots Hall of Fame. It was a nice gesture by Robert Kraft to include fans by having them vote for the three finalists. That process however has proven to be flawed. The most recently retired players are fresh in people’s minds, and garner more votes. Older players don’t stand a chance of recognition.

Maybe the roles should be reversed. Have fans vote for the nominees, with a maximum number on the players and/or coaches from each decade. Then send those nominations to the entire committee to be pared to three finalists. Have the entire committee reconvene and vote on the winner. Make the whole process transparent by making the votes public.

We already waited too long for Houston Antwine, Jim Nance, Julius Adams and Chuck Fairbanks to be honored publicly, before they passed away. Let’s not let that happen again with Raymond Clayborn and other Patriot legends.

Remembering Patriot DT Houston Antwine

John Morgan
April 11, 2017 at 8:00 pm ET

Houston Antwine was born on April 11, 1939; he would have been 78 today. He was one of the best players in football history that is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Antwine is also the greatest player in Patriot history that most Pats fans don’t know about.

Antwine played in 142 games over eleven seasons for the Patriots. 270 pounds may not be big by today’s standards, but in 1961 it was. Houston Antwine was a man among boys, constantly commanding double or even triple teams by opposing offenses. He wasn’t just some big slug though; Antwine was extremely athletic, using skills he had acquired as a collegiate wrestling champion. ’Twine was not only strong but also very quick on his feet, and nearly impossible to move out of the middle. He was also a well-rounded, versatile player; not only devastating against the run, but also tenacious on his pass rush, totaling 39 sacks in his career and leading the Pats in sacks three straight years.

“Houston Antwine was the kind of football player you don’t forget if you ever saw him, but he’s the kind few remember today because he did his playing before ESPN highlight shows existed. If they had, ‘Twine would have been a staple because he was everything you wanted in a defensive tackle — Warren Sapp before there was a Warren Sapp, but without the need for volume control.”

Antwine was an AFL All-Star six straight years, and was named to the All-Time All-AFL Team. Now stop and think about that for a moment. If a player that was named to the NFL’s all time team of the decade for say the 1990’s or 2000’s that also went to six consecutive Pro Bowls, would there even be any discussion as to whether or not he should be voted in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Probably not. Yet Antwine earned identical honors that just so happened to be at an earlier time. Why was he be penalized for that?

Perhaps the biggest reason is because it took far too long for his own team to honor him. The Pats set up their team Hall of Fame in 1991. John Hannah was the original inductee, in the same year he became the first Patriot enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The following year Nick Buoniconti and Gino Cappelletti got their bust at Patriot Place. Antwine was more deserving these two legends though. Buoniconti is more well known for his championships in Miami rather than his seven seasons with the Patriots. As good as Cappelletti was he was never the league’s premier player at a position the way Antwine was.

Legitimate cases can be made for those three, but not for the next group. In 1993 the Pats’ HoF added three more players from the sixties. Nothing against Bob Dee, Jim Lee Hunt or Babe Parilli, but Houston Antwine was a far more dominant football player. In terms of the Hall of Fame the Patriots were ‘on to the seventies and eighties’ after that, for all intents done with AFL-era players.

Houston Antwine

Yes, the Patriots eventually did add Antwine to the hall in 2015. Sadly it was four years after he passed away. He deserved to go in twenty-plus years earlier, while he was still alive. So why did that not happen? His play on the field was such that he deserved to be the first player after John Hannah to enter the Patriot Hall of Fame.

Rumor has it that some of the old time writers did not care for him. Maybe he wasn’t friendly enough with the old guard and they held a grudge. He was one of 22 players to boycott the 1965 AFL all star game in New Orleans, where Jim Crow laws and blatant racism still prevailed; maybe that protest against conditions there had something to do with it.

Regardless of the reason, it started a vicious circle. The thought process was that if Antwine’s own team would not honor him, he couldn’t have been good enough for the Pro Football Hall of Fame – who already were showing an obvious bias against consideration for AFL players.

More time passed, and fewer and fewer writers and fans were old enough to remember or appreciate Antwine. The thinking of those nominating and voting for for the Patriot Hall of Fame mirrored that of those voting for enshrinement to Canton. On the rare occasion his name was brought up it was quickly dismissed. The sentiment was that ‘he couldn’t have been that good if all these other old timers are in and he is not’.

Commencing in 2011 a ten-person senior committee was formed. They were scheduled to convene and have the option of adding one Patriot that had been retired for at least 25 years. It seemed like such a no-brainer; Antwine surely would finally be honored in Foxboro. He had already been a finalist three times, futily up against more recent and recognizable players. Incredibly his election still did not happen. Jon Morris was a good guy with a nice career but he was not close to the same level of player as Houston Antwine. Apparently the old time writers refused to let go of whatever grudges they were holding on to.

In December of 2005 Antwine was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The disease was allegedly caused by repeated blows to the head from his playing days, back when concussions were just “dings” and players were expected to just shake it off and keep going. Houston Antwine passed away in December of 2011 at the age of 72, a few months after Morris was inducted to the Pats Hall of Fame. The senior committee must have felt a bit of remorse; they then voted Antwine in the next time they met.

 

Fan voting for the Patriots Hall of Fame will commence in the next few days. Hopefully Pats fans will carefully consider “forgotten” players such as Raymond Clayborn, and not simply cast their ballot for the most recently retired nominee.

Happy Birthday to The Duke, Gino Cappelletti – Mr. Patriot

John Morgan
March 26, 2017 at 7:00 am ET

Happy Birthday to The Duke, Gino Cappelletti. Mr. Patriot turns 83, born on this day in 1934 in Keewatin Minnesota. With all due respect to the GOAT, nobody embodies the entire history of the Patriot franchise more than this legend. His absence from the Pro Football Hall of Fame is shameful, something that will hopefully be rectified before it is too late for him to be honored in person.

After a two year stint in the Army and some time playing football in Canada, Cappelletti was one of hundreds of players to tryout for the Boston Patriots. On September 9, 1960 he kicked a field goal at Nickerson Field for what would be the first points scored in an American Football League game.

When he retired eleven years later he had scored an AFL record 1,130 points. At that time the only NFL player with more career points were Hall of Famers Lou Groza and George Blanda.

Cappelletti was incredibly versatile. In that 1960 season he was a starting cornerback. For the next three years he was the Pats starting split end, and then was the team’s starting flanker for the next four years. Of course he handled the kicking duties as well from 1960-1970. Cappelletti caught 292 passes for 4,589 yards and 42 touchdowns, picked off four passes and kicked 176 field goals in his storied career.

For those who played prior to the 16-game schedule Gino holds the second and third most points in a single season. Those 155 points in 1964 and 147 points in 1961 are the most in AFL history, and still to this day rank in the top 25 in NFL history. He also holds the AFL record of 28 points scored in a single game. Cappelletti holds the pro football record for points per game over six consecutive seasons (9.5), points per game over 11 seasons (7.5), and percentage of a team’s points over eight seasons (34%).

The Duke was a five-time All-Star and AFL MVP in 1964. His versatility is perhaps best exemplified by a milestone that will never be broken. In 1960 he ran for a two-point conversion, completed a pass for a two-point conversion, caught a pass, intercepted a pass, returned a punt and returned a kickoff. Nobody in pro football history has ever before or since accomplished that feat. In 1992 Cappelletti became the second player to be enshrined to the Patriots Hall of Fame, and his number 20 is now retired.

His contributions to football did not end with his retirement at age of 36 prior to the 1971 season. Mr. Patriot became the voice of the Pats, providing the commentary for Patriot radio broadcasts for 28 years. He also did Boston College games, and was the voice famously proclaiming ‘he caught it, he caught it, I don’t believe he caught it!‘ on Doug Flutie’s miracle Hail Mary touchdown pass against the Miami Hurricanes in 1984.

Considering all of this, can anybody honestly justify how people like Jerry Jones, Bill Polian or Kurt Warner are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – but Gino Cappelletti is not?

I didn’t think so.

 

If Vince Wilfork Retires, His Next Stop Should be Canton

Steve Balestrieri
January 16, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

The Patriots defeated the Houston Texans last night 34-16 in the Divisional Round of the playoffs and will host the AFC Championship Game next Sunday against either the Steelers or Chiefs. After the game, Vince Wilfork said he may have played his last game in the NFL and may retire. It was sad to watch the big man walk off the field for perhaps the last time.  If he indeed does retire, he should have a bust in Canton.

It won’t be easy, the voters for the NFL Hall of Fame don’t like the big heavies. The two-gap run stuffers who are so integral to what some teams do defensively. Why? We live in the era of fantasy football. Voters want the guys who have the impressive sack totals, the penetrators, the fast, speedy guys who make the crowd ooh and ah when they rush the quarterback.

Guys like Wilfork and Casey Hampton who played for the Steelers for a long time will never get those gaudy sack numbers and don’t have that streamlined physique that makes those guys the subject of so many articles and photos for the media. Nope, guys like Wilfork are built like a fire hydrant. Wide, squat, and low to the ground with legs like tree trunks. Built for the marathon of taking on double teams in the interior of the trenches.


Vince Wilfork was an immovable object inside for the Patriots for nine seasons. (USA TODAY Images)

Wilfork never had more than 3.5 sacks in any season but his worth went far beyond that. The Patriots defense relied on him to eat space and double teams at the point of attack in the running game and set the table for the linebackers to clean up. Early in his career, those linebackers were Ted Johnson, Tedy Bruschi, and Mike Vrabel. All of whom had great success in the Patriots defense.

Later, players like Jerod Mayo, Junior Seau, Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower took their places and the defense continued to use Wilfork as the immovable object inside. The defensive philosophy demanded his solid play and the fact that he played on multiple Super Bowl teams speaks of his worth.

Another player that immediately comes to mind was Richard Seymour who was a dominant defensive lineman for the Patriots for several years and had a couple of very productive years for the Raiders. As adept at rushing the passer as stopping the run, Seymour didn’t have eye-popping sack totals but was a tremendous, versatile player who could play inside or outside.

There was an extended period of several seasons where it easy to make the argument that Wilfork was the best at his position, doing what he did better than anyone else in the NFL. From 2007 to 2012, Wilfork made the Pro-Bowl five times and was a first-team All-Pro member once. His 2011 season was arguably his best with 52 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a memorable interception of Philip Rivers, where the big man rumbled for 28 yards downfield. He added nine tackles and 2.5 sacks in three playoff games.

One thing is certain…if indeed Wilfork retires which it appears he will, in five years, he’ll be a first-ballot inductee to the Patriots Hall of Fame. That is a no brainer. But Canton? That will be a difficult sell. Like the catcher in baseball that calls tremendous games for his pitchers and is integral to their success, no one remembers who caught the no-hitters or the perfect games, just the pitchers.

Wilfork is worthy of the gold jacket and will need some help in getting in there. Someone will have to stand up and advocate for him. Which is a shame really. Just turn on the tape from any number of years and watch the traffic jam inside the trenches. Right in the middle of it was #75.

Look around the Hall of Fame and see how many big, two-gapping run stuffers are in there. It is about time that Canton recognizes the excellence of one of them… Just clear off a big space, give his bust a two-gap and very large gold jacket.

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.

Ty Law Named Finalist for Pro Football Hall of Fame

John Morgan
January 3, 2017 at 11:39 pm ET

Former New England Patriot corner Ty Law has been named as a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

 

The Pats drafted Law 23rd overall in 1995 out of Michigan. Law is one of a select few to have won three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots. His pick-six off Kurt Warner and the heavily favored St Louis Rams in Super Bowl 36 is an iconic moment in New England sports history.

 

Law was named to five Pro Bowls and was twice a first team All Pro. He was named to the Patriots’ All-Decade Team for both the 1990s and the 2000s, and was also selected to the Patriots’ 50th Anniversary Team. In 2014 Law was honored as a member of the New England Patriots Hall of Fame.

 

In 1998 Law led the NFL with nine interceptions, and again led the league in 2005 with ten picks. Law finished his career with 59 interceptions, including six in the post-season. Five of those playoff picks came against NFL golden boy Peyton Manning. Further proof of how Law shone bright in the clutch is evidenced by 25 of his interceptions coming in the month of December.

 

Other finalists for the 2017 Hall of Fame class include running back LaDainian Tomlinson. LdT seemed to be a polar opposite of Ty Law when it came to games that took place after Thanksgiving – but he’ll still probably get enshrined in his first year of eligibility. Defensive end Jason Taylor and safety Brian Dawkins are two others on the ballot for the first time.

 

The fifteen finalists will be pared down once more to a group of no more than five. WR Isaac Bruce, G Kevin Mawae and OT Tony Boselli join Law in advancing this far for the first time. WR Terrell Owens, K Morten Andersen and G Alan Faneca were in the round of 15 last year, and return for another shot at Canton.

 

Former head coach Don Coryell, RB Terrell Davis, OT Joe Jacoby, S John Lynch, and QB Kurt Warner are also on the final 15 last. That group made it to the final ten a year ago.

 

As part of a separate voting process Paul Tagliabue and – no, this is not a misprint – Jerry Jones have received nominations as well as contributors. Safety Kenny Easley was also nominated by the veteran’s committee.

 

Notable names missing the final cut include HC Jimmy Johnson, LB Clay Matthews Jr, S Darren Woodson, S Steve Atwater, LB Karl Mecklenburg, OT Chris Hinton, RB Edgerrin James, WR Torry Holt and WR Hines Ward.

 

New England Patriots Training Camp Day 5 Observations

Steve Balestrieri
August 1, 2016 at 11:57 pm ET

A Good Session with the Hall of Famers Present

The Patriots concluded Day 5 of training camp inside Gillette Stadium in front of a raucous crowd on Monday night. The team dressed in shorts and shells after being in full pads Saturday and Sunday. After having a crowd of over 21,000 people on Saturday, more than 24,000 fans filled the lower bowls at Gillette for the session.

The big news of the day was Kevin Faulk being inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame. Bill Belichick in his remarks and later in his press conference called him one of the most unselfish players he’s ever coached. He said that Faulk and Troy Brown were two of the toughest, most clutch, and best decision makers on the team.

Faulk once again climbed the stage wearing a Tom Brady jersey under his suit coat. Something he did at the NFL draft this May. But he was in for a surprise. Brady came out in uniform for practice and unzipped his warmup jacket to reveal a Faulk jersey.

Faulk later said he was speechless by the gesture. Brady called Faulk, one of the best players, one of the best teammates and one the best friends he’s had. When fans began to chant Brady-Brady-Brady… the QB stopped them and said that night was about Faulk.

There’s something to be said for the respect that Brady has for his former teammate as this is the first time he’s spoken this summer.  Faulk later addressed the media at the end of Belichick’s press conference and stated he wanted to savor the moment. “That’s the good feeling,” he said when asked about donning the red HOF jacket.  He was deeply touched by Brady’s gesture. “So much love, so much emotion…great moment,” he said.

Faulk had some words for the legions of Patriots haters who accuse the team of being cheaters. “Let them come in here and watch the work we put in,” he said.

Not Practicing: Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Alan Branch (NFI), Dion Lewis, Tre’ Jackson, Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Ebner (Olympic Games), Keshawn Martin, Chris Hogan were not spotted at practice.

Offense Looks Mostly Sharp: When the team isn’t in full pads, it is the offense that usually rules the roost and Monday night was no exception. Tom Brady took the first reps with top offensive unit all night. While the competition was spirited, the practice didn’t have the intensity that the weekend workouts did.

When Brady was off the field, he was idly chatting with Tedy Bruschi in the end zone, something that we haven’t seen much of this summer. Brady however, was mostly sharp on the night. The only poor throw he made was to Martellus Bennett who was running a deep cross from right to left and was wide open. Brady’s pass was behind him and when Bennett tried to stop to make the catch, he lost his footing.

Brady made a beauty of a deep throw to Chris Harper who beat Jonathan Jones. And on another, he showed outstanding touch to Rob Gronkowski on a deep slant over Jamie Collins who had tight coverage.

Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t as sharp as Brady but had an ok session. He was picked off by Devin McCourty after his pass went right off the receiver’s hands. He had another nearly picked by Justin Coleman. But he showed some sharpness too. He made a nice connection with Aaron Dobson over Cyrus Jones for about 20 yards.

Jacoby Brissett didn’t have a great practice. As happens with rookies, he was holding the ball too long, made some poor throws, was picked off twice, nearly had a couple more and had too many throwaways.

Kick Returner Seems to be Jones’ job to Lose: Rookie Cyrus Jones continues to get the first reps with the STs kick return unit. He’s showing good vision and decision-making and has that burst that can be dangerous if he gets past the first wave of coverage.

Harper, V’Angelo Bentley and DeAndre Carter also are getting reps in the return game.

Rookies Continue to Work with Top OL Unit: Rookies Joe Thuney and Ted Karras continue to get the 1st team reps in the interior of the offensive line. Thuney looks very comfortable out there and Karras bring a little bit of that nastiness that the team has lacked in the past few years.

Shaq Mason was activated off of PUP but has had a difficult time seeing the field. He spent the majority of Monday evening watching from the end zone. Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon operated at the tackle position with David Andrews at center for the first team unit.

Play(s) of the Day: Brady not only hit Gronkowski once in the corner of the end zone but did it twice. The big man is having a terrific summer and is darn near un-coverable. So while he’s been on fire he’s also been playing to the crowd. Immediately after his second touchdown, he ran over to the fans in the end zone and was firing them up even more so than they wore before.

Which leads us to the next point. Watching the body language of the defensive players after Gronk’s second touchdown and resultant celebration, they were pissed. And rightfully so.

Once in a while the celebration a big score is acceptable, but there is beginning to happen an alarming trend of daily scenarios where they cavort and are showing up the defensive players. Two words here…. Brandon Browner.

Remember two years ago when the WRs were taking too much advantage of their defensive opponents in shorts and shells and they got a bit cocky. Browner set the tone immediately at the start of the next practice. He slammed Kenbrell Thompkins at the line then well after the whistle flung him to the ground like a sack of mail.

We may have another Browner moment soon. If the team is in full pads on Weds or Thursday, look for Hightower or Collins to send a message that the defense is ready for all comers.

The team is off on Tuesday and get back to work on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday with practices scheduled for 9:15 a.m.

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