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Patriots notebook

Heads-up play by Meriweather

His hits against S.D. worthy of NFL praise

Putting his shoulder into it, Brandon Meriweather takes down Patrick Crayton with a hard tackle. Putting his shoulder into it, Brandon Meriweather takes down Patrick Crayton with a hard tackle. (Harry How/Getty Images)
By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / October 26, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — Brandon Meriweather yesterday earned praise from a member of the NFL office for his play Sunday, after the league enacted stricter rules on helmet-to-helmet hits. Meriweather was fined $50,000 last week for his helmet-to-helmet hits on Ravens tight end Todd Heap and wide receiver Derrick Mason.

In Sunday’s 23-20 victory at San Diego, Meriweather leveled Chargers receiver Patrick Crayton with a textbook open-field tackle.

Ray Anderson, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, lauded the play of Meriweather and Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who was fined $75,000 last week for his hit on Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, saying they “heeded our emphasis.’’ No flags were thrown for illegal hits to defenseless players in Sunday’s 13 games.

“We like to think we’re off to a good start in terms of the new emphasis and the recognition that we are going to play aggressively, but well within the rules,’’ Anderson told the Associated Press. “It’s a good start.’’

Meriweather, though, said yesterday during an appearance on WEEI that the new rules did not alter his physical approach.

“I just lowered my target zone, that’s all I did,’’ he said. “I took some much-needed advice from some people I trust, Big V [Vince Wilfork] being one of them. I took some advice from him, and Bianca [Wilfork], and talked to Mr. [Robert] Kraft and Bill [Belichick] and everyone told me to just keep playing. Just lower your target zone.’’

“Last week, we were appropriately calling him out and chastising him,’’ Anderson said of Meriweather. “[Sunday], Meriweather made two very tenacious, effective and legal hits in similar situations. But you could see it, he lowered the target area, blasted the opponent with his shoulder. He adapted, showing it can be done. It is appropriate to praise him for the tough play.’’

When Anderson’s remarks were relayed to him, Belichick seemed a bit taken aback.

Asked if he ever remembered a league official praising one of his players, Belichick said, somewhat facetiously, “Nah, it’s got to be a first for me. The officials now are evaluating the players and their performance, I mean, that’s great. I can’t say how much that means to me, really.’’

Last week, commissioner Roger Goodell issued a league-wide memo and video to all 32 teams, outlining the stricter rules regarding helmet-to-helmet hits. He instructed each head coach to review the memo and show the video to his team. Belichick had not done so last Friday before the team left for San Diego, but he indicated yesterday he had complied with the directive.

“As we have always done here, we know the rules and we try to play within the rules and we try to coach the techniques that are consistent with the rules and the interpretations of the officials,’’ Belichick said. “We try to do that to the best of our ability, every week, every year, with all our players.

“We don’t try to go out there and try and commit penalties and infractions and things like that,’’ he said. “If they happen, we try to correct them and try to make sure that the player understands what they can and can’t do and what’s legal and what’s a foul and try to coach them in a way where they can do their job without committing a violation.’’

He knows foe
Sunday’s game against the Vikings marks the return of Randy Moss, who was traded to Minnesota Oct. 6 during the bye week.

Asked if his familiarity with Moss gave him any advantage in game-planning for the Vikings, Belichick said, “I don’t know how they’re going to use him, but we know Randy, and certainly when you’ve had a player, or you’ve coached him and had him on your team, you have better knowledge of him than you do if that wasn’t the case.’’

“But they have all kinds of weapons,’’ Belichick said. “They have a tremendous running back [Adrian Peterson], quarterback [Brett Favre], tight end [Visanthe Shiancoe], receivers [Percy Harvin, Greg Lewis, Moss]. Pretty much anyone they put out there is dangerous and very good in their particular role. They have a lot of weapons and they’re very dangerous no matter who has the ball, so they’ll definitely be a challenge to prepare for, defensively.

“They’re different from San Diego, but similar in that they have a lot of weapons and are very explosive on offense. They present a lot of matchup problems for any defense; they’ll present a lot of problems for us.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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