Ask Shalise: Where’s Freddy T?

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So here we are, nine games into a season full of surprises, both for the Patriots and the NFL at large. New England upped its record to 7-2 with its win in Pittsburgh, and five of those wins have come with veteran running back Fred Taylor on the sideline and nursing a difficult case of turf toe. It’s a question that’s come into the inbox often since Taylor was hurt against Buffalo in Week 3, and it is a hot topic once again.

The bag is a little thin this week — let’s fill it up for next Tuesday!

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Just wondering if Fred Taylor will ever make an appearance this year and help the running game? Has Sammy Morris fallen out of good graces with Bill Belichick? He has seen very little field time as a replacement for BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Mike DeSimone, Ludlow

I believe we’ll see Fred this week, Mike. Though he did practice all three days last week, being that it was the first time he had taken part in practice in well over a month, it seemed like a long shot that he would get the opportunity to play. I got the sense from talking to him on Friday that he was itching to get back in uniform, but ultimately it is the decision of the medical and coaching staffs as to whether they feel a player coming off injury is ready to play. Turf toe sounds like a minor thing, but it can actually be a nagging, serious injury: Taylor revealed last week that because of damage to the ligaments it was initially believed that he’d need surgery. This is not at all how Taylor thought this season would go — he looked very good in the preseason coming off his in-season ankle surgery last year, and wants very much to contribute to a winning team.

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As for Morris, I’d be surprised if he has fallen out of Belichick’s good graces when it comes to his commitment and preparation. Running backs coach Ivan Fears recently lauded Morris for continuing to mentor Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead despite his presently limited role. I think New England really likes Woodhead and it likes Green-Ellis, and given Morris’s injury history, it would seem smart to use him in specific situations in the hopes of keeping him healthy and available.

Do you know why Coach Belichick went for two with the score 29-10 in the 4th quarter (against the Steelers)? Had they taken the extra point, Pittsburgh would have needed 3 touchdowns to take the lead. It seemed like a tactical error.
Paul Victor, King, N.C.

You’re right that an extra point, thus putting the score at 30-10, would have meant Pittsburgh needed three touchdowns to take the lead, Paul, but had they converted the two-point try and gone up 31-10, the Steelers would have needed three touchdowns just to tie the game. Bill Belichick, like most NFL coaches, has a chart with him during games outlining scenarios in which he should have the offense go for two; I’d be surprised if he went for two against the “advice” of his chart.


Was that (“trickeration”-type) touchdown play by Cleveland where the linemen were standing perfectly legal, or did the referees just get caught off-guard? It seems like an offensive lineman can get called for a false start if they just flinch their hand or rock an inch. How can it then be legal for lineman to be standing, turning their heads, etc.? Can you break down how the rules weren’t violated? Thanks.
Ed C., Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Hi Ed – You’re right, an offensive lineman can be flagged for a false start if he flinches after he’s taken his three-point stance. Since none of the Browns’ linemen went down into a stance, they couldn’t be flagged for a false start on that play. By the way, I’m still trying to figure out how Josh Cribbs got the ball into Chansi Stuckey’s arms — that was a trick worthy of David Copperfield.
Here’s a link to the NFL’s online rulebook, which gives a little bit more detail on what does and doesn’t constitute a false start.
Will there ever be a Super Bowl played in Gillette Stadium? It’s a state-of-the-art stadium, and with the New Meadowlands recently being awarded a Super Bowl, the weather shouldn’t be an issue in February, right?
Nick K., Birmingham, Ala.

Robert Kraft was a big proponent of the new Meadowlands getting Super Bowl XLVIII, but at the NFL’s spring owners’ meetings in May, when the vote was taken as to whether there would be a New York (New Jersey) Super Bowl, Kraft said “that ship has sailed” when asked about a Super Bowl at his stadium.
Gillette (remember when it was known as CMGi Field for all of a month or so?) has been open since 2002, and the trend in recent years has been to award Super Bowls to teams that build new stadiums within a couple of years of the stadium opening. Ground for Gillette was broken in 2000, meaning the team would have most likely been making a pitch for Super Bowl XXXVIII or XXXIX (both of which, ironically enough, it played in), and back then, it seemed crazy to think a Super Bowl would be played in a cold-weather location. Detroit and Super Bowl XL was the first cold weather championship, but that is an enclosed stadium, as is Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where the 2011 Super Bowl will be played. New York will be the first open-air, cold weather Super Bowl. The combination of a $1-billion-plus stadium and the NFL wanting to give yet another example of the city’s strength post-9/11, and likely a nod to the late Wellington Mara, one of the founding fathers of the modern NFL as Giants’ owner for over 40 years, all helped New York land the game.