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Training Camp Today: Spikes back in action

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff July 31, 2012 08:58 PM

Greg A. Bedard and Shalise Manza Young report from Gillette Stadium after the Patriots held their fifth training camp session of the preseason.

Practice rundown #5

Posted by Greg A. Bedard July 31, 2012 07:00 PM

FOXBOROUGH – Here’s a rundown on what went on at Patriots’ practice this afternoon:

ATTENDANCE PLEASE
Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.
Physically unable to perform: LG Logan Mankins (knee), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), C Nick McDonald (unknown), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder), WR Jeremy Ebert (hamstring).
Red jerseys: WR Matthew Slater (shoulder), S James Ihedigbo (shoulder).
Not participating: S Nate Ebner (unknown), CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), C/G Jamey Richard (concussion), DE Rob Ninkovich (unknown), WR Deion Branch (unknown), FB Tony Fiammetta (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown).
Returned to practice: LB Brandon Spikes, OT Darrion Weems.

INJURIES

None.

DRESS CODE
Full pads for the third-straight practice.

TOP PLAYS
- In a red-zone drill pitting receivers against cornerbacks, QB Tom Brady and WR Brandon Lloyd hooked up on a great timing touchdown that victimized CB Ras-I Dowling.
- In the same drill, QB Brian Hoyer showed terrific touch to WR Donte’ Stallworth over CB Devin McCourty.
- LB Dont’a Hightower deflected a pass in the goal-line session after having a tackle for a loss in an earlier team period.

THUMBS UP
The Patriots seemed to be rewarding three players for their play so far in camp as Donald Thomas received most of the snaps at left guard, Sterling Moore took some of the nickel cornerback reps from Ras-I Dowling and Ron Brace was elevated from the third team. Good to see strong play rewarded. All of the players – especially Thomas and Brace – have earned a longer look to this point.

THUMBS DOWN
In our subjective opinion, center Dan Koppen has lost his last five one-on-one matchups, some very lopsided. His struggles are becoming predictable and alarming. Koppen hasn’t been able to match the strength of the Patriots’ defensive tackles, and his trademark feet don’t seem to be as quick. Brandon Deaderick easily went through Koppen in one-on-ones. Would be nice to see Dan Connolly get more reps in the starting spot he earned last season.

SUPERLATIVES
- Dropped passes: Brandon Lloyd, Shane Vereen, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater.
- Nice catch: Donte’ Stallworth, Edelman.
- Fumbled: RB Brandon Bolden.
- Interceptions: Ross Ventrone (of Ryan Mallett off Aaron Lavarias tip).

ONE-ON-ONES
One man’s personal opinion on how the offensive and defensive lines matched up in one-on-one drills (our favorite part of camp). Records shown indicate wins-losses-draws.

Standouts-Offense: Marcus Cannon (2-0-0), Darrion Weems (1-0-0). Defense: Jermaine Cunningham (2-0-0), Brandon Deaderick (2-0-1), Chandler Jones (1-0-1), Vince Wilfork (1-0-1)
Struggled-Offense: Dan Koppen (0-2-0), Matt Kopa (0-2-0), Jeremiah Warren (0-2-0). Defense: Trevor Scott (0-2-0).
Decided victories: Jones (vs. Nate Solder), Cunningham (vs. Kopa), Gerard Warren (vs. Jeremiah Warren), Justin Francis (vs. Kyle Hix), Deaderick (vs. Koppen).

  • Darrion Weems was able to practice in pads for the first time and asserted himself at tackle by knocking rookie DE Jake Bequette to the ground in one-on-ones. Weems also leveled Carpenter in a run drill.
  • Jones continues to show much wider array of moves for a rookie – especially one that came out early. He’ll need to show more power to play every down, but so far so good. Jones used a rip move on Solder on their first go-around. Solder got some measure of revenge the next time with a very strong punch, but he couldn’t hold off Jones the entire time.
  • Cunningham used a terrific inside spin move to leave Kopa in the dust. You never saw that last year in camp. He also had a sack against Weems in teams drills.
  • Cannon rebounded nicely from a tough day on Sunday but is struggling in other drills.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Spikes was back on the field but you can tell he doesn’t feel all the way back – he didn’t quite have his usual high level of energy. It sure was nice, however, to see Spikes on the field at the same time as Jerod Mayo and first-round pick Dont’a Hightower. If they can stay healthy, that’s going to be a formidable group.
  • There shouldn’t be any concern about whether or not WR Wes Welker will continue to be a highly productive player. He is still the most dangerous and slippery receiver when it comes to man coverage. He was outstanding in the one-on-one battles on Tuesday, the first time we’ve seen those WR vs. CB drills in camp.
  • WR Julian Edelman has been very good in that department as well. He’s been one of the surging players in this camp.
  • CB Devin McCourty is slowly becoming a better player in coverage. His technique at the line still needs refining – he’s still getting a bit out of phase against the WRs.
  • CB Ras-I Dowling, who seemed to pick up his game on Sunday, was up and down on Tuesday. He has still yet to make a play on the ball, but you get the sense that it’s coming. Dowling seems to be playing with more confidence. He’s going to have to fend off Moore, who deserves a shot at the third corner job.
  • Kyle Arrington seems to be growing into the slot CB role but he’s going to have to watch how much contact he uses near the line of scrimmage.
  • TE Rob Gronkowski had a nice back-shoulder snag against LB Bobby Carpenter but still isn’t himself with the ankle. Gronkowski got rag-dolled by Scott in a run-blocking drill. That never happens.
  • The running backs did much better in the pass-blocking drill on Tuesday, probably because the backs were allowed to go out for passes on occasion. That kept the linebackers honest, and allowed FB Eric Kettani to make Hightower look bad in coverage.
  • Brandon Bolden has played well but he didn’t himself with the first RB fumble of camp.
  • Vereen hasn’t wowed running the ball but there shouldn’t be any questions about his pass-catching ability. Outside of Danny Woodhead, Vereen is the best receiver of the bunch. Catches the ball very nicely over his shoulder.
  • In the goal-line period, Jones stuffed Stevan Ridley for no gain, Brady threw incomplete to Spencer Larsen when Hightower tipped the ball away, Cunningham and Gerard Warren blasted the right side of the line to halt Bolden, and then Bolden scored when he bounced a run outside.
  • Bequette, who has already been used at end and tackle on defense, was used a third tight end.

SCHEDULE
- Wednesday's practice: 6:30 p.m. (Closed evening practice in the stadium for season-ticket holders and Foxborough residents).
- Thursday’s practice: 1:30-4 p.m.
- Friday’s practice: 1:30-4 p.m.

The rest is TBD.

Familiarity in special teams, coaching staff for Carpenter

Posted by Alex Prewitt July 31, 2012 06:14 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- With six seasons under his belt entering his first with the Patriots, Bobby Carpenter doesn't really feel like the new guy anymore.

In fact, he might be feeling a little old in a relatively young linebacking corps.

"There's a couple older guys," Carpenter said. "You know when you're getting old when you start counting the guys older than you rather than younger than you, because there's less of them and more of the younger guys."

The adjustments have been few and far between for Carpenter, a versatile linebacker who coach Bill Belichick has praised for how "comfortable" he looked doing different things.

“I think anytime you can play multiple positions you’re going to help yourself," Carpenter said. "They put a premium on that here, they try to work guys around, so hopefully that’s something they think I can still do and hopefully I can still do it. You’ll have to ask them.”

That versatility should serve him well in the special teams, where Carpenter has been seeing reps.

"They put a premium on that here as well," said Carpenter, noting that the position is nothing new to him. "Everybody is playing something, whether you’re playing 60 snaps on defense or 10, they want to make sure that guys are getting in there and playing special teams. So that’s something I’m excited about as well. [Scott O’Brien] is a great coach, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Of the familiar faces, linebackers coach Pepper Johnson's son, Dionte, played with Carpenter at Ohio State, and Carpenter himself is a former Buckeye.

“Pepper is a terrific coach, he knows his stuff and he’s a high intensity guy who relates well to players," Carpenter said. "From playing for 12 or 13 years in the NFL at such a high level, he obviously garners the respect of his players with anything he says. So you’re going to listen to him, he’s been there, he’s been in the fights, he knows what it’s all about and you’ve just got to take advantage of that.”

Versatility drew Patriots to Trevor Scott

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 31, 2012 05:18 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots are inching closer and closer to having a positionless front seven. Designated linebackers are playing defensive end, ends are playing tackle, and the team's nose tackle doesn't mind peeking outside either.

So when the the team looked to revamp its defense this offseason, particularly after losing 20 sacks of production from Andre Carter and Mark Anderson with their departures, it was no surprise the kind of players that they were seeking to fill the spots: hybrids.

Trevor Scott fits that mold for Bill Belichick. From his time as an Oakland Raider he has contributed as a player that can't be put in a box, according to the coach.

"He played a couple different positions out at Oakland during his time there – some defensive end, some outside linebacker, some sub rush responsibilities," Belichick said. "A lot of times he was on the line, sometimes in a three-point stance, sometimes in a two-point stance but he also did play off the line in linebacker roles. We saw him do a lot of different things, in addition to the kicking game. He has some versatility, he’s young and he’s worked hard. He had a real good offseason for us in terms of our offseason program; he was one of our award winners there."

Scott, for his part, had no idea the coach had been following him that closely.

"We only really met after the free agent process," Scott said. "So that was about it. I'd never really talked to him before. It did surprise me. But he knows everybody's history, he's Bill Belichick."

The designated defensive end has played a big part in the team's first and second team defense during practice, mixing and matching with different counterparts on the left and right side. So far, he has mainly played with one hand in the grass. What he does come the season though, doesn't really matter to him.

"No matter what they ask me to do," Scott said, "I just go 100 miles per hour."

Patriots' Brandon Spikes gets in on the action

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 31, 2012 04:51 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- After being regulated to watching the last four practices and more or less bandying about during team drills, Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes got his first taste of action today.

The now three-year pro took part in all of the linebacker drills and was active in the Patriots' 11-on-11s, marking the first time he had been in live action since the Super Bowl in February.

Spikes had his knee scoped in the offseason after suffering an injury last year. He missed eight games last season. But today, in the Patriots' fifth practice of training camp and third in pads, he was inserted right into the first-team lineup.

"You know it's kind of frustrating just watching from the sideline," Spikes told reporters afterward. "Just to get out, run around, and get a little contact, it feels good."

He wouldn't say where he was in rehabilitation.

"I'm just working to try to get out there full time," Spikes said. "So, whatever they ask me to do I try and do it, 100 percent."

Everyone's a coach in the Patriots secondary

Posted by Alex Prewitt July 31, 2012 04:45 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- Patrick Chung was asked about what he has concentrated on for improvement. But the Patriots safety didn't turn to anything physical. He didn't mention the work that resulted in being honored as one of New England's 10 top performers during its off-season program. Nor did he reference building up his strength to avoid a relapse of the injuries that caused him to miss eight games last season.

Instead, he talked about teaching.

"Being a coach on the field," Chung said. "They give us the information, and we've got to execute. It's good to have a couple guys out there who can think like coaches, direct traffic, let everyone else be on the same page."

The Patriots have eight safeties on the roster: Chung, Josh Barrett, Sergio Brown, Nate Ebner, Steve Gregory, James Ihedigbo, Ross Ventrone, and Tavon Wilson. Will Allen also played safety during off-season practices, and could slot in at the free safety position.

"We've got a couple smart guys," Chung said. "We're all in the same room, we're learning the same things. We help each other in the film room, so when we come out here on the field, the communication is still the same. We're working constantly, regardless of whether it's out here or sitting in chairs.

"It's all about coming in and having the mentality, I want to learn. You can make it as hard as you want to. If you come in focused, ready to learn, ready to pick up on whatever you got to pick up on, follow the veteran, follow the lead and take the lead, the sky's the limit."

As for the positional competition?

"Ton of it, everywhere we go," Barrett said. "It's a competitive camp. That's how it should be, and I'm looking forward to it. Everyone thrives off it at this stage in the game. You know what you're daily requirements are."

Chung took a different route in answering that question.

"That's like having all you guys out here, seeing who's the best reporter," he said.

Roll call: Practice #5

Posted by Greg A. Bedard July 31, 2012 02:07 PM

FOXBOROUGH - Here is a quick rundown of practice attendance and headlines after the first practice.

We'll be back later with a full rundown of what transpired.

Dress code
Full pads for the third-straight practice.

Attendance
Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

Physically unable to perform: LG Logan Mankins (knee), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), C Nick McDonald (unknown), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder), WR Jeremy Ebert (hamstring).

Red jerseys: WR Matthew Slater, S James Ihedigbo.

Not participating: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), S Nate Ebner (unknown), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), C/G Jamey Richard (concussion), DE Rob Ninkovich (unknown), WR Deion Branch (unknown), FB Tony Fiammetta (unknown).

Returned to practice: OT Darrion Weems was able to practice in pads for the first time according to league rules.

LB Brandon Spikes (knee) took part in all the drills for the first time.

Injured during practice: None.

Headines

  • With Spikes back on the field we were able to see the LB trio of Spikes, Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower on the field for the first time.
  • DE Jermaine Cunningham continued his surging play, both in drills and team periods.
  • Donald Thomas got a majority of the reps at left guard instead of Robert Gallery. Thomas has earned that with his standout play so far.
  • Former great Giants LB Carl Banks was on hand.
  • Brandon Bolden had the first running back fumble of camp and had to run a lap.
  • Ross Ventrone intercepted Ryan Mallett thanks to Aaron Lavarias' pass break up.
  • With Ninkovich out, Trevor Scott and Chandler Jones continued to start.
  • Jones dominated Nate Solder in one-on-ones and then the LT got revenge with a strong punch block.
  • Lot of red zone work.
  • Tavon Wilson got some first-team reps with the first team for Steve Gregory.

Belichick: With 10 more players in camp, no real advantage

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 31, 2012 01:24 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- This is the first year in which teams can carry 90 players into training camp, either giving the opportunity for 10 more players than the year prior to win jobs or taking away the precious repetitions from veterans and rookies destined to make the team.

It turns out, whether there are 80 or 90 players in camp, it doesn't matter much for Bill Belichick.

"We have the same number of people that everybody else has," said Belichick during Tuesday's afternoon press conference. "Whatever it is, it is. If it's 80 it's 80, if it's 90 it's 90. If it's 100, it's 100."

The Patriots coach acknowledged the preparation and number of players in camp is a significant change from when he started in the NFL, most notably the lack of an offseason program. But at the time, in the 1970s, there were six preseason games and a couple of scrimmages.

Other things discussed in the press conference:

- Belichick said there was no update on Brian Waters' absence.

- The coach was coy on linebacker Brandon Spikes, who has not participated in all of the team's drills but has dressed every day. "Whatever he can do, he can do. With any player that can change from day to day."

- What drew the Patriots to Trevor Scott? "We saw him doing a lot of different things," Belichick said. "He has some versatility, he's young, he's worked hard. He's had a real good offseason with us."

- Brandon Bolden continues to impress. The coach indicated he has played well on special teams and has caught the ball well out of the backfield, despite a number of drops he had early on in training camp. "It seems like he has done a decent job in the areas we have asked him to work in ... But like all the rookies, he's made plenty of mistakes."

Cunningham among 10 honored for offseason workouts

Posted by Greg A. Bedard July 29, 2012 08:30 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- Bill Belichick apparently wasn't delivering a Laurence Maroney-like kiss of death in June when he said end Jermaine Cunningham had a "great" offseason.

Belichick meant it.

Cunningham was one of 10 Patriots players to be honored in front of their teammates during a recent team meeting as top performers during the Patriots’ offseason program, a league source said.

The other Patriots, who will receive a premium front-row parking spot in the players’ lot as a reward:

  • LB Jerod Mayo
  • LB Bobby Carpenter
  • LB Jeff Tarpinian
  • SS Patrick Chung
  • WR Julian Edelman
  • LT Nate Solder
  • DE Trevor Scott
  • RB Danny Woodhead
  • K Stephen Gostkowski


The players honored not only had stellar attendance but also made the most progress in the weight room and on the practice field during organized team activities.

What also should be noted is free agents Carpenter and Scott, and second-year players Tarpinian and Solder were honored after their first participation in the Patriots' offseason program.

Cunningham, who had a forgettable sophomore campaign after showing no improvement following the lockout, impressed his teammates with his performance in the offseason.

“I just think that from his first year until now, obviously he’s matured a little bit,” Ninkovich said. “[He’s] just kind of taking more of an attitude toward what football is, and it’s busting your butt every day in the weight room and doing everything you can to put your best performance out on the field. So I think this offseason he was just working hard and trying to get back to where he was a couple years ago.

“Anytime you have a guy who’s always giving a ton of effort, you obviously respect what they’re doing so we all respect and think that Jermaine is going to go out there and give it everything he’s got.”


Practice rundown #4

Posted by Greg A. Bedard July 29, 2012 07:32 PM

FOXBOROUGH – Here’s a rundown on what went on at Patriots’ practice this afternoon:

ATTENDANCE PLEASE
Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.
Physically unable to perform: LG Logan Mankins (knee), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), C Nick McDonald (unknown), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder), WR Jeremy Ebert (hamstring).
Red jerseys: WR Matthew Slater (shoulder), S James Ihedigbo (shoulder).
Not participating: S Nate Ebner (unknown), LB Brandon Spikes (knee), OT Darrion Weems (no contact per CBA), CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown).
Returned to practice: DL Justin Francis (left leg) avoided a scare after being carted off on Saturday.

INJURIES


  • Reserve C/G Jamey Richard was escorted off the field after suffering what a league source said was a concussion. He had one at the end of the 2010 seasonw with the Colts.

  • DE Rob Ninkovich did not take part in team drills. Hard to tell the exact injury.

  • TE Visanthe Shiancoe wasn’t able to finish practice with a undisclosed injury.

DRESS CODE
Full pads for the second-straight day.

TOP PLAYS

- A drill pitting linebackers against running backs in a pass-blocking drills, LB Dont’a Hightower went through Eric Kettani and sent the FB into RB coach Ivan Fears, who tumbled to the ground.
- Another day, another bomb from Tom Brady to Brandon Lloyd after safety Steve Gregory bit on a little trickery.

THUMBS UP

Second-year QB Ryan Mallett easily had his best day of this camp (and maybe last year as well) as he finally looked more comfortable and played in the rhythm of the offense. Mallett showed nice touch at the end of practice hooking up with TE Tyler Urban for a touchdown in a goal-line situation. Mallett has appeared to be playing and throwing in slow motion up to this point. It’s like he’s thinking too much going over all the coaches’ instructions in mind. Nobody can play like that. Perhaps today was a turning point for him.

THUMBS DOWN

TE Rob Gronkowski may be running fine after off-season ankle surgery, but he’s not quite 100 percent. That’s been showing up with his blocking – which puts a lot of pressure on the legs and is normally one of the best parts of his game. Gronkowski has had a tough time in blocking drills against the DE/OLBs. He didn’t win any of his matchups today, and lost to veteran DE Tim Bulman. In a running drill, DE Trevor Scott easily shed the tight end to take down Stevan Ridley, and rookie DE Jake Bequette also had little trouble with Gronkowski. He added had two drops today -- one that was intercepted by S Patrick Chung and another that would have been a touchdown in goal line. Gronkowski could probably use Monday’s off day to recuperate.

SUPERLATIVES
- Dropped passes: Gronkowski (2), Ridley.
- Nice catch: Lloyd.
- Fumbled: QB Ryan Mallett.
- Interceptions: Chung (of Brady).

ONE-ON-ONES
One man’s personal opinion on how the offensive and defensive lines matched up in one-on-one drills (our favorite part of camp):

Standouts-Offense: LG Donald Thomas (2-1-0), RT Matt Kopa (2-1-0). Defense: DT Ron Brace (2-0-0), DT Gerard Warren (2-0-1), DE Trevor Scott (1-0-1), Marcus Harrison (1-0-1).
Struggled a bit-Offense: C Dan Koppen (0-3-0), C/G Dan Connolly (1-3-0), LT Kyle Hix (1-3-0), RT Marcus Cannon (1-2-1). Defense: DE Jermaine Cunningham (1-2-0), DL Marcus Fortson (0-1-2).
Decided victories: Offense- Thomas (vs. Jonathan Fanene), Richard (vs. Kyle Love), Nate Solder (vs. Cunningham). Defense-Vince Wilfork (vs. Koppen), Love (vs. Koppen), Fanene (vs. Connolly), Bulman (vs. Solder), Cunningham (vs. Cannon).

  • For the second-straight day, Wilfork lost his opening matchup, this time to underwhelming Wendell. Of course, on his next rep Wilfork shredded Koppen, who did not look today. Waiting to see how guys look after the off day before we start having strong feelings about some poor performances.
  • The two starting offensive tackles – Solder and Cannon – were not impressive outside of Solder’s complete stoning of Cunningham. Veteran DT Tim Bulman got into Solder quickly so he couldn’t extend his long arms and then moved him at will. Cannon nearly missed Francis altogether, and then allowed Cunningham (who wasn’t sharp overall) to kill him with a spin move. Cannon’s technique is off. He’s just not getting back in his stance and in good position.
  • Everyone’s having trouble with Fanene’s size/speed combination inside.
  • Don’t look now, but Brace is turning some heads. He’s showing off power and surprising quickness. Amazing what actually practicing can do. This is the first of his three camps where Brace is on the field in the first week.
  • Matt Kopa is distancing himself from Kyle Hix for fourth tackle. Darrion Weems can finally practice in pads on Tuesday.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • The running backs did not fare well in their pass-blocking drills against the linebackers (4-10-3). Spencer Larsen held LB Jeff Tarpinian, and then had LB Bobby Carpenter dance around him. Dane Fletcher just about made Stevan Ridley whiff. LB Niko Koutouvides dominated Eric Kettani on one rep. Danny Woodhead lost both his mismatches against Jerod Mayo. Ridley and Shane Vereen each had one win but a couple losses as well.
  • The second-team defensive line of Cunningham, Deaderick, Fanene and Jake Bequette were causing a lot of problems in team drills.
  • In addition to his interception, Chung also broke up a pass to Gronkowski.
  • Bulman also used his veteran savvy to make quick work of Cannon in team drills to take down Ridley for a loss.
  • A day after being carted off the field, Francis returned and continued to impress. He’s energy and enthusiasm is apparent on the field – and his play is backing it up.
  • Despite being beat down the field, CB Devin McCourty had another pass breakup.
  • Jones showed off his length when he batted down a Brady screen pass on the first snap of 11-on-11.
  • With Ninkovich taking most of the practice off, the Patriots took a look at Scott and Jones playing together on either end of the line.
  • On the second play on the goal line, DT Kyle Love destroyed Connolly and took down Ridley for a loss.
SCHEDULE - Monday's practice: Players are off. - Tuesday's practice: 1:30-4 p.m. - Wednesday's practice: Closed evening practice in the stadium for season-ticket holders and Foxborough residents.

The rest is TBD.

Edelman 'confident but never comfortable'

Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff July 29, 2012 07:12 PM
29edelman.jpg

AP

Julian Edelman's confident in his multiple abilities.

FOXBOROUGH – At the moment, Julian Edelman is currently locked into competitions for three different positions (five if you count kick and punt coverage), and as he's shown over the past four years he has no problem being a Swiss Army Knife if he needs to be.

The battle among the wide receivers couldn't be thicker, but so is the one for kick and punt returns, a niche that Edelman's done well to carve out for himself, leading the team with 300 punt return yards on a career-high 28 returns and returning 12 of the team's 47 kickoffs and averaging a team-high 23.7 yards per return.

In camp, Danny Woodhead, Donte Stallworth, and Kyle Arrington have all fielded kickoffs, and Edelman welcomes the competition.

“I'm just going to go out there and do whatever I have to do to get myself better to try to help this team win ballgames,” he said. “I'm sure there's other guys doing the same thing, and competition, it makes you better. If you're afraid to compete then you're in the wrong business.”

He has yet to take any defensive snaps in camp this year, and was coy about whether he's been in any meetings with the defense (“I don't know if that's team policy,” he said). But with the laundry list of all-purpose duties he's performed, he's prepared.

“It's typical of training camp,” Edelman said. “You're just going out there trying to work on your fundamentals. Doing what the coach asks you to do. Going out playing whatever they ask you to do and doing it to the best of your abilities.”

Wherever he is, he said, he feels confident.

“I'm confident, but never comfortable,” said Edelman. “We're building confidence right now, in practice, that's what you do out here. Execution in practice becomes game reality. I'm gaining my confidence by how I'm playing out here and hopefully we can keep that going.”

Bulman excited about New England homecoming

Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff July 29, 2012 06:49 PM

By Julian Benbow, Globe staff

FOXBOROUGH – Just before the start of training camp on Thursday, Tim Bullman got the call from his agent. The veteran defensive end had just worked out for the Patriots earlier in the summer, and the day after, the phone rang.

Tim Bulman.jpg“My agent said, 'Get on down to Foxborough, you've got a 1 o'clock meeting,” Bulman said.

He played high school football at BC High and then college ball at Boston College where he was second team all-Big East in 2004. So he jumped at a chance for a homecoming.

“I was like, 'Oh, man,'” as surprised as anyone. “So it was like, 'Okay, it's happening. I told my wife and mom and I was like, 'Hey, I've got to roll.' They were like, 'What?'”

After spending five years with the Arizona Cardinals and two with the Houston Texas, a long way from home (“Way too far,” Bulman said.), his family was able to see him in camp.

“Which was pretty cool because my parents I don't think have ever seen me in camp other than maybe a game.

He can remember watching the Patriots draft teammates Ron Brace and Dan Koppen. He was a freshman at the Heights when they won Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002.

“I remember I had workouts the next morning, but I had to stay up and watch that game,” he said. “I was going nuts with the rest of the Boston fans.”

He's carved out a career for himself after going undrafted, now he's looking to contribute in New England again.

“It's great to be a part of a great organization,” Bulman said. “I was fortunate to be able to get an opportunity to work out for them. And I'm just very glad to have an opportunity to come to camp, compete, try to get better, try to do good things and possibly help this team out.”

He's put in work so far.

In one-on-one pass blocking drills in today's practice he lost a matchup against right tackle Matt Kopa, but later on showed his veteran awareness by getting inside of Nate Solder's long arm reach and dominating the matchup.

By the end of the day, he walked off the field with a cut above his lip that was still bleeding just slightly.

“I think my chinstrap came up,” Bulman said, he said grinning. “I can't even see it yet. They said I might need stitches. I'm like, 'Come on.'”

He's already gotten requests for tickets and swag. His response: Not so fast.

“I think jokingly, and I told them, I'm not even thinking about that,” he said. “I'm trying to take it day to day, learn this, learn that, don't get ahead of yourself.”

Roll call: Practice #4

Posted by Greg A. Bedard July 29, 2012 02:21 PM

FOXBOROUGH - Here is a quick rundown of practice attendance and headlines after the first practice.

We'll be back later with a full rundown of what transpired.

Dress code
Full pads for the second-straight day (not a surprise with an off day on Monday for the players).

Attendance
Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

Physically unable to perform: LG Logan Mankins (knee), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), C Nick McDonald (unknown), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder), WR Jeremy Ebert (hamstring).

Red jerseys: WR Matthew Slater, S James Ihedigbo, 

Not participating: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), S Nate Ebner (unknown), LB Tracy White (unknown), LB Brandon Spikes (knee), DE Rob Ninkovich (unknown. He was on the field but didn't do much).

Returned to practice: DL Justin Francis (carted off with left leg injury on Saturday).

Injured during practice: C/G Jamey Richard left practice with a concussion, a league source said. He dealt with one at the of the 2010 season with the Colts, so this will need to be watched.

TE Visanthe Schiancoe (undisclosed) did not finish teams drills but walked off after practice.

Headines

  • There didn't appear to be any injuries during practice. Not true. Richard and Shiancoe did not take part in team drills to finish practice.
  • QB Tom Brady and WR Brandon Lloyd again hooked up on a bomb. I know, big shock at this point.
  • But the offense overall did not have a good day. Seemed a bit sluggish.
  • Saw a lot of Chandler Jones and Trevor Scott on the field together at DE. Ninkovich didn't participate much.
  • Saw our first LB vs. RB pass blocking drills. Dont'a Hightower demolished FB Eric Kettani right into RB coach Ivan Fears, who fell to the ground. Jerod Mayo was very active in the drill, and Dane Fletcher made Stevan Ridley look pretty bad at one point.
  • Francis continues to impress after an injury scare on Saturday. He's extremely active and energetic in drills and team sessions.
  • OG Donald Thomas and DT Ron Brace were among those to standout in one-on-ones.

Thick competition is good for special teams

Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff July 29, 2012 01:17 PM
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Globe staff

Kyle Arrington is competing for the job as kick returner.

By Julian Benbow, Globe staff

FOXBOROUGH – So far in training camp, Danny Woodhead, Donte Stallworth, Julian Edelman, and Kyle Arrington have all fielded kickoffs. The Patriots have several core special teams players in camp and the competition among the group is thick.

“I think one thing I think Bill's done ever since I've been with him, that's bringing in competition for everybody,” said special teams coach Scott O'Brien. “Right now, we've got a lot of competition and it will sort it self, and with that not just young players but experienced players. Now only will it make us better with better competition and give people more options but they make each other better in some of the situations you get into with experienced players vs. young players.”

The Patriots were 19th in the league in kick return yards last season. On average they started started their drives from the 29 yard line, ninth in the league according to football outsiders. O'Brien said the unit is always looking for ways to improve.

“Obviously, last year, was an area of still inexperience for us,” O'Brien said. “It's like any phase, at the end of the season you're always looking to improve no matter how good you or or how poor you are. But you're evaluating schemes, personnel what you have, what you can go forward with.

“It's like anything, it's a point of emphasis for us, but it always is. In our case it's a good example of the learning curve of the things that happened the way they happened that were either good or bad, and hopefully we can learn from those things and continue to improve.”

FULL ENTRY

Patriots Daily Briefing, 7.29.12

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff July 28, 2012 10:36 PM

Good morning. Here is your PDB for Sunday, July 29, 2012. It contains all the links, info, analysis and occasional humor that you'll need to start your day. If you can't detect sarcasm or take yourself and/or football too seriously, this may not be your thing.

WHAT'S ON TAP

Today
Approx. 12:30 p.m. - special teams coach Scott O'Brien press conference
O'Brien is standing in for Bill Belichick today
1:30-4 p.m. - Patriots training camp session No. 4
With rain in today's forecast, make sure to follow our Twitter feed @GlobePatriots or mine @shalisemyoung for up-to-the-minute updates on practice access. You can also call the Patriots' camp hotline at 508-549-0001.

Tomorrow
TBA

TO RECAP
When Tom Brady talks, everyone listens, and yesterday was the first time he's met with reporters in training camp. This is Brady's 13th training camp, and he still calls it the most fun he has, and he still relishes the opportunity he has to be the quarterback of the Patriots.

While Brandon Lloyd had the play of the day yesterday, rising to take a deep ball off Sterling Moore's helmet on the first play of 7-on-7 and with Brady throwing him the ball, the newcomer is preaching patience when it comes to his on-field rapport with Brady. If he feels like it can only get better, Pats fans, watch out.

And our notebook leads off with Robert Gallery, the veteran offensive lineman who is getting plenty of run with the top offensive line in camp with Logan Mankins (knee) out and Brian Waters not yet with the team.

QUOTE/TWEET OF THE DAY
"I was thinking about maybe the Olympic diving team but it’s hard not to make that splash."
- QB Tom Brady, when asked about photos of him "cliff" diving in Costa Rica (We say "cliff" because while it was technically a cliff, the amount of attention the jump has gotten compared to how high it actually is is absurd.)

AROUND THE DIVISION
Tim Tebow is getting so much attention at Jets camp that three of the New York papers each have a reporter at SUNY-Cortland whose job is to cover Tebow every day. Yesterday, the morning buzz was because Tebow ran off the field, in the rain, sans shirt. Never really saw a reason why he did, though.

A little later in the day, the Tebow story was him getting some groans or a bit of heckling (depending on which report you read) from the fans after some wobbly passes. (Another shirtless shot with this story, if that's your cup of tea.)

The big news out of Dolphins camp yesterday was the team and first-round pick Ryan Tannehill coming to a contract agreement. Reports indicate that Tannehill wasn't willing to miss any more time (today is the third day of full-team camp) and acquiesced on offset language, which is the amount of money the Dolphins would pay him, if any, were he to be cut before his rookie deal runs out.

Not surprisingly, the Bills' defense dominated in the team's first full-pads practice yesterday. Buffalo also had a bit of a scare yesterday when receiver David Nelson, who had a strong game in the Bills' Week 3 win over the Pats lasst season, bumped knees with a teammate and was down for a couple of minutes. But it looks to be just a bruise and nothing more serious for the third-year player.

Video: First day in pads for Patriots

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff July 28, 2012 08:14 PM




Boston.com's Zuri Berry reports from Gillette Stadium on Day 3 of Patriots training camp. It was the first day in full pads for the players.

Practice rundown #3

Posted by Greg A. Bedard July 28, 2012 07:03 PM

FOXBOROUGH – Here’s a rundown on what went on at Patriots’ practice this afternoon:

ATTENDANCE PLEASE
Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.
Physically unable to perform: LG Logan Mankins (knee), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), C Nick McDonald (unknown), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder), WR Jeremy Ebert (hamstring).
Red jerseys: WR Matthew Slater (shoulder), S James Ihedigbo (shoulder).
Not participating: S Nate Ebner (unknown), LB Brandon Spikes (knee), OT Darrion Weems (no contact per CBA), CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring).

INJURIES


  • DL Justin Francis had to be carted off with what appeared to be a left knee or calf injury. He appeared to be in a lot of pain. That would be a tough blow to an undrafted player who had made a good early impression.

  • LB Tracy White, who had sports hernia surgery in the offseason, walked off with the field with a trainer and did not return.

  • TE Rob Gronkowski took a shot to the face, left with trainers and then returned to action with a bandage on his chin.

DRESS CODE
Full pads for the first time in camp.

TOP PLAYS
- The crowd had a huge roar on the first play of 7-on-7s when QB Tom Brady went deep down the right sideline to WR Brandon Lloyd. CB Sterling Moore had great coverage, but Lloyd won the battle in the air when he plucked it off Moore’s helmet.
- On a similar play later, CB Devin McCourty did a nice job reading Lloyd’s hands and knocking the ball away at the last second.
- Undrafted rookie RB Brandon Bolden continued to open eyes with his all-around play, including the biggest run of the day in team drills. He reminds more and more each day of another former undrafted player, BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Real good body control and vision.
- On his first one-on-one drill of camp, NT Vince Wilfork was beaten by LG Dan Connolly. That’s an accomplishment. Wilfork was never defeated in 2011, going 9-0-10. Wilfork got his revenge later with a decided victory.

THUMBS UP
While we’re a long way from having a definitive answer on how much first round-pick Chandler Jones will contribute as a rookie, he got off to a very good start in the first padded practice. Not only was he a perfect 3-0 in the one-on-one drill, Jones did a nice job being physical and active during 11-on-11s. It wasn’t perfect – Jones got turned around once and gave up leverage a few times – but an impressive day.

THUMBS DOWN
Outside of Dan Connolly and Dan Koppen, the interior players on the Patriots’ offensive line have been subpar. They were dominated for the most part in one-on-ones and didn’t get much movement during a goal-line drill. We didn’t expect much without Mankins and Waters on the field, but the play has to improve or the Patriots will have to look at taking a look at other players.

SUPERLATIVES
- Dropped passes: None.
- Nice catch: Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker.
- Fumbled: Aaron Hernandez.
- Interceptions: None.

ONE-ON-ONES
One man’s personal opinion on how the offensive and defensive lines matched up in one-on-one drills (our favorite part of camp):

Standouts-Offense: OG Donald Thomas (1-0-2), OT Matt Kopa (2-1-0). Defense: DE Chandler Jones (3-0-0), DT Jonathan Fanene (3-0-0), Ron Brace (2-0-0), Gerard Warren (2-0-1).
Struggled a little bit - Offense: OT Kyle Hix (0-3-0) C Ryan Wendell (0-3-0), OG Jamey Richard (0-3-0), Robert Gallery (0-2-2), OG Jeremiah Warren (0-1-1). Defense: DE Tim Bulman (0-1-0), DE Jake Bequette (0-1-0), DT Marcus Harrison (0-0-2).
Decided victories: DT Vince Wilfork 2 (vs. Richard, Connolly); DE Trevor Scott (vs. Hix), DE Rob Ninkovich (vs. OT Matt Kopa); Jones (vs. Hix); Fanene (vs. Wendell).

  • In two sessions combined, the defensive line had its way with the offense going 21-11-7 overall.
  • In addition to Jones’ good debut, Fanene made a very good first impression in pads when he showed the interior pass rush that he was known for with the Bengals.
  • Jones showed he can use power and finesse. He flashed his own version of the up-down move – used a lot by Mark Anderson last year – to get around Hix on one rep.
  • DE Trevor Scott looked impressive even though he finished 1-1-1. Has good playing strength. Not as flexible as Jones.
  • Nate Solder went 2-2-1 in his first go at LT. Line coach Dante Scarnecchia was giving him a lot of instruction. Solder got better as the drills progressed.
  • Marcus Cannon, who didn’t go through camp last year while recovering from cancer treatments, was 1-2-1.

ODDS AND ENDS


  • WLB Jerod Mayo has been the best defensive player through three days as he continues to grow into the playmaking role the Patriots have carved out for him.

  • First-round pick Dont’a Hightower took more of the first-round snaps from Bobby Carpenter at strong-side linebacker. We expected that at some point, but maybe not quite this early. Hightower also continues to play the middle on the second team. Hightower was quickly in the face of Hoyer on one play, but the quarterback made a nice play to connect with Donte’ Stallworth.

  • Brady just keeps clicking. He was 13-of-15 in 7-on-7s. Ryan Mallet was 8 of 9, and Hoyer received just three reps (he hit all three). The feeling here is the Patriots know what they have in Hoyer, but they need to find out what Mallett is capable of, especially with Hoyer likely entering his final season. At this point, Mallett is no threat to Hoyer’s backup spot.

  • Safety Sergio Brown had another miscue when he took a bad angle and then bumped into CB Ross Ventrone, who was in coverage against WR Jesse Holley.

  • Gallery and Wendell did a nice job executing ahead of a screen pass to Stevan Ridley.

  • Rookie safety Tavon Wilson got a dose of the NFL when TE Aaron Hernandez faked Wilson out of his drawers after a pass. He shouldn’t worry, that happens to a lot of players against Hernandez.

  • TE Visanthe Shiancoe and Koppen both would have been called for holding against Jones and Marcus Fortson, respectively, if officials were on the field.

  • There were a lot of penalty laps being run for players being offsides. Coach Bill Belichick will probably have something to say about that.

  • LB Jeff Tarpinian, who is still playing all over top special team units, had a nice pass breakup.

  • We’ve been seeing more and more of CB Ras-I Dowling getting looks at both cornerback spots.

  • The Patriots continue to tinker with something we saw a lot of last season: safeties playing linebacker in subpackages. Both Wilson and James Ihedigbo, who was in the role last year, showed off their versatility.

SCHEDULE
- Sunday’s practice: 1:30-4 p.m.
- Wednesday’s practice: in-stadium evening practice for season-ticket holders and Foxborough residents.

The rest is TBD.

Bolden taking in as much as he can

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 28, 2012 05:42 PM

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FOXBOROUGH -- There's only so many repetitions to go around, so each player has to make do with what they get.

As the Patriots continue their training camp, heavy attention will be placed on the team's position battles on the defensive line, the secondary, and even the wide receivers.

But what may appear settled -- at least by New England's standards -- is the running backs situation. It's almost a given that Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen will split duties this upcoming season, with Danny Woodhead working as the team's third down and no-huddle option. But that doesn't mean those on the outside of that plan are battling for attention. That's where Brandon Bolden is working.

The undrafted rookie out of Mississippi is getting his fair share of reps. In practice, he's shown good speed and burst. At 5-11 and 220 pounds, his size suggests he would be a good downhill runner, although through the first three days of camp, he has shown has the ability to make cuts just as easily as Ridley and Vereen in drills and in seven-on-sevens. At Mississippi, he racked up 3,681 yards and 33 touchdowns over a four-year career by being more than just a bruising back. But he's had several drops too, which won't fare well for him.

It's not just the play on the field that can trip a player like Bolden up -- he also has to learn the team's complicated offense. Digesting the Patriots playbook and carving out a niche on the roster are no easy chores, particularly for the undrafted.

"It's everything step by step, day by day," Bolden said. "I mean you just got to take your playbook and just try to eat as much as you can up at one time. Just try and get in there and get in your book and come out and bring it on the field. And just try to get better each and every day."

As far as Bolden's reps, he's taking them all in stride as he gets acclimated to the pro game.

"You get in [and] do what you can," Bolden said. "You don't get in, you gotta take mental reps. You know you gotta teach yourself the game and also learn from everybody else on the field."

So far, the one person Bolden looks like in practice has been the recently departed BenJarvus Green-Ellis, another undrafted player out Mississippi. Same size, same speed, and the same college.

Bolden is hoping for the same outcome, too: a roster spot.

Brandon Lloyd: 'It takes time'

Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff July 28, 2012 05:00 PM
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AP

Brandon Lloyd and Tom Brady's relationship is the early stages.

FOXBOROUGH – From OTAs to minicamp, the rapport between Brandon Lloyd and Tom Brady has been a good one. They've hooked up for plays in the first three days of training camp, including one today where Lloyd grabbed a ball off Sterling Moore's helmet to make the catch, but Lloyd isn't getting ahead of himself by any means.

The unspoken chemistry between quarterback and wide receiver is an ongoing process, and right now, Lloyd said, it's “way too early.”

“It just takes time,” he said. “We're continuing to talk and work together and seeing what one another is expecting out of the route running and eventually it will start clicking.”

He said Brady's a great communicator on the field (“that's what makes him such a great leader”) but when it comes to their dynamic being a back-and-forth dialogue, he said they're both trying to carry out instructions.

“There's no give and take,” Lloyd said. “It's what we're coached to do, and we all go out and execute.”

While they're building a relationship in camp, Lloyd said he knows that the real steps will be made once they start playing games.

“It just happens,” he said. “Most of the time that kind of stuff happens when we're in the game and everybody's just on the same level. You can talk and you can discuss and practice a lot of stuff, but you really figure things out in the game-time situations.”

Tom Brady: Competition is good for the team

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 28, 2012 04:53 PM




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FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots have 10 wide receivers on their roster. That's not even counting Aaron Hernandez, who lined up as wideout more times last season than as a tight end. With all the competition on the team for what is likely to be six or seven spots, the veteran quarterback realizes that some of his friends will not make this team.

He's OK with that.

"I think competition is good for all of us," Brady said. "I don't think it's any one has earned a spot. You got to earn it every year. I think the one thing about this place is there's no entitlement to the positions out here. You do it based on what you earn. That's why you come out here every day working hard to develop that trust from your coaches and your teammates so that they want you out there. Part of being a team player is doing what's best for the team. If someone is better than you, than it's better for the team for them to play.

"The more good football players on your team, the better you're going to be," Brady continued. "We've got some depth at the receiver position. I don't know how it's going to sort out. But based on what we do out here on the field, that's everybody's opportunities. The quarterback, running back, receiver, tight end -- we've got a lot of competition at a lot of positions."

Brady, in speaking with the media for the first time during training camp, also touched on his so-called "cliff diving" pictures briefly.

"It was a fun jump, I'll tell you that."

Roll call: Practice #3

Posted by Greg A. Bedard July 28, 2012 03:08 PM

FOXBOROUGH - Here is a quick rundown of practice attendance and headlines after Saturday's session.

We'll be back later with a full rundown of what transpired.

Dress code
Full pads, for the first time in camp.

Attendance
Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

Physically unable to perform: LG Logan Mankins (knee), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), C Nick McDonald (unknowns), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder), WR Jeremy Ebert (hamstring).

Red jerseys: WR Matthew Slater, S James Ihedigbo, 

Not participating: S Nate Ebner (unknown), CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), OT Darrion Weems (no contact for new players per the CBA), LB Brandon Spikes (no team drills).

Injured during practice: TE Rob Gronkowski left the field after taking a shot to the face. He returned a short time later with a bandage on his chin.

DL Justin Francis had to be carted off after suffering a left knee or calf injury. It did not look good. The undrafted free agent from Rutgers was ascending, so this is a bit of a blow.

LB Tracy White also had to leave the field with an undisclosed injury.

Headines


  • Francis could end up being the first significant injury of camp.

  • CB Ras-I Dowling had the first big hit of camp when he took out RB Stevan Ridley. Players are not supposed to tackle to the ground, but the tackle appeared accidental.

  • S Patrick Chung, who is always looking to get in on the action, had to run a lap when he tackled Ridley to the ground on the next play.

  • Initial impressions from one-on-ones between the offense and defensive lines: DE Chandler Jones did well for himself, LT Nate Solder was up and down, and NT Vince Wilfork lost for the first time since 2010 camp to Dan Connolly. Wilfork was undefeated last camp.

  • LB Dont'a Hightower took more first-team reps at strong-side LB in place of Bobby Carpenter. Hightower continued to back up middle LB.

No word on whether Brian Waters will return

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 28, 2012 01:19 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio addressed the media today instead of coach Bill Belichick, and he declined to elaborate on guard Brian Waters' continued absence while also saying he was unsure if cornerback Alfonzo Dennard would participate in today's practice.

Waters has been absent from Patriots activities for the last two months, including minicamp and now the first three days of training camp. The team has declined to comment on whether the 12-year veteran will retire.

"I don't have any updates on it at this point," Caserio said. "[There's] really no change at this point from the other day."

Asked if Waters could be fined for missing camp, Caserio didn't want to get into specifics.

"Any decision we make on a player, we'll keep that internal," he said.

Caserio did say the Patriots would take it "day by day" with Dennard, who walked off the practice field Friday with an injured hamstring and didn't return. He did not say if Dennard would practice.

In other notes:

- Caserio said the team doesn't really have a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. "I'd say we've been a multiple team for as long as I've been around ... It's really specific to the team we're playing."

- With 90 players on the roster, the team will shed some 35 to 40 players in the next month. Caserio said he believes a lot of those players will find jobs elsewhere.

- After the Patriots cut running back Joseph Addai and went into camp with 89 players, they picked up offensive guard Darrion Weems. Caserio was asked if the team was more confident in the running backs group or less confident in the offensive line, which has been stung with offseason injuries and Waters' absence.

"I think that any player that we bring into the program we bring 'em in because we feel that they're going to be competitive on our team. So the roster is constantly changing and constantly evolving ... We're always monitoring that, we stay in contact with different players, different agents throughout the course of spring and summer. We worked out a number of players from May up until this point. So you really take it day by day, see how practice goes, see how the team is faring and make a decision from there. We'll just go out there and see how it goes."

Patriots Daily Briefing, 7.28.12

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff July 28, 2012 08:30 AM

Good morning. Here is your PDB for Saturday, July 28, 2012. It contains all the links, info, analysis and occasional humor that you'll need to start your day.

WHAT'S ON TAP

Today
Approx. 1 p.m. - Nick Caserio press conference
Caserio is standing in for Bill Belichick today
1:30-4 p.m. - Patriots training camp session No. 3
Approx. 4 p.m. - Tom Brady press conference
With thunderstorms in today's forecast, make sure to follow our Twitter feed @GlobePatriots or mine @shalisemyoung for up-to-the-minute updates on practice access. You can also call the Patriots' camp hotline at 508-549-0001.

Under the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement, today is the first day that the full squad can be in full pads, and it is fully expected that will be the case at practice.

Tomorrow
Approx. 1 p.m. - Bill Belichick press conference
1:30-4 p.m. - Patriots training camp session No. 4

TO RECAP
A day after over 12,000 fans came to the opening day of training camp, setting a single-session attendance record, a new one was set Friday: the Patriots announced 13,654 fans were at Gillette. To clarify, the team counts not just those in the bleachers and sitting/standing on the grass, it also counts those at the Patriots Experience in the attendance figure. At any rate, an impressive number.

Yesterday was the Day of Gronk, who didn't want to say much about the Summer of Gronk - especially how he was told enough was enough. The Education of Gronk continues, writes columnist Christopher L. Gasper.

Rob Gronkowski isn't the only talented tight end the Patriots have - though the argument can be made if Aaron Hernandez truly is a tight end, or whether he's becoming a receiver. He even fielded a couple of punts on Friday.

Bill Belichick praised Dont'a Hightower's smarts yesterday, and the first-round pick has one thing figured out - he's looking to Jerod Mayo, and has designs on making the kind of impact during his rookie season that Mayo had during his, a season in which Mayo was chosen as Defensive Rookie of the Year.

QUOTE/TWEET OF THE DAY
"I didn’t take that great of a look at it, but I wouldn’t mind being swole."
- TE Aaron Hernandez, showing a little muscle envy when asked for his thoughts on Rob Gronkowski's ESPN the Magazine "Body Issue" photos

AROUND THE DIVISION

Rex Ryan, who has held off on Super Bowl pronouncements but still called himself the best defensive coach in football yesterday, wants to have the Jets partying, ahem, playing, like it's 2009.

The Jets have discussed having cornerback Antonio Cromartie play receiver on occasion. Ryan has been moving players around in an effort to create "hidden depth". There's a joke in here about Cromartie doing whatever he's asked to keep a job and keep up with child support payments, but we won't make it.

Remember yesterday, when we talked about the Dolphins having three quarterbacks and perhaps, according to the old adage, really not having any? Well for now they're at two anyway, since they still can't come to a contract agreement with first-rounder Ryan Tannehill.

The Bills' success likely rests on the shoulders of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (hey, have you heard he went to Harvard and got a perfect score on the Wonderlic? No? Where ya been the last few years?), who struggled late last season and is focused on his mechanics as one way to up the level of his play.

Training Camp Today: Tight end not so loose now that football is back

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff July 27, 2012 07:15 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- In this episode of Training Camp Today, the Globe's Greg Bedard has the news of the day from Gillette Stadium, we hear from tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and receiver Donte Stallworth, and Patriots beat writer Shalise Manza Young joins Bedard to discuss The Summer of Gronk and Stallworth's return to New England.

Gronkowski, who is coming back from ankle surgery, was asked if he was back to being 100 percent physically.

"I’m out there every day," Gronkowski said. "What does it look like? I’m going pretty hard. I’m going hard. ... Mentally I’m out there. What I’m mentally preparing is my plays every single day, getting out there, trying to get better. Getting out there, making sure I do the right things. I’m not trying to think of anything else besides getting right, getting my play down, getting my route down, getting my blocking assignment down and just getting better."

The record-breaking tight end was also asked if any Patriots coaches have asked him to tone it down regarding his offseason antics.

"You can ask the coaches that. It is football time now," Gronkowski said. "That’s all I’m worried about is football, football, football and getting better on the field every day. All I focus on is football. I love the game – that’s my number one passion."

We'll be back with another episode of Training Camp Today on Monday, but stay locked on Boston.com and Extra Points for all the latest Patriots news this weekend as the team takes the field with full pads for the first time at practice Saturday.

Practice rundown #2

Posted by Greg A. Bedard July 27, 2012 06:46 PM

FOXBOROUGH – Here’s a rundown on what went on at Patriots’ practice this afternoon:

ATTENDANCE PLEASE
Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.
Physically unable to perform: LG Logan Mankins (knee), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), C Nick McDonald (unknowns), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder), WR Jeremy Ebert (hamstring).
Red jerseys: WR Matthew Slater (shoulder), S James Ihedigbo (shoulder).
Not participating: S Nate Ebner (unknown), LB Brandon Spikes (knee).

INJURIES
First real injury of camp occurred midway through when seventh-round CB Alfonzo Dennard collided with FB Spencer Larsen and walked off with a hamstring injury. Dennard did not return.

DRESS CODE
Shells (soft pads) and shorts. Practice was at a much slower pace, with half being a walkthrough.

TOP PLAYS
- Before he went off with an injury, Dennard produced one of the top plays by a member of the secondary when he tipped away a deep pass from Tom Brady to Jabar Gaffney at the last second down the right sideline.
- On the first play of 11-on-11, the crowd was jazzed when Brady hooked up with Brandon Lloyd for a long touchdown over CB Kyle Arrington. In real football, however, Jerod Mayo would have had a sack.
- TE Aaron Hernandez again had two sensational catches on passes thrown behind him by Brady.
- Will Allen, after sliding down from safety to slot corner, read a screen pass perfectly and touched Julian Edelman for a loss.

THUMBS UP
Real training camp starts Saturday, when the Patriots are allowed to put pads on for the first time. This is when jobs start to be won and lost and we get a better sense for the physicality of players, especially those on the lines. Buckle your chinstraps.

THUMBS DOWN
The wacky football adventures of safety Sergio Brown continue. The last memory most have of Brown from last season is when he tackled Giants WR Victor Cruz at the goal line for a pass interference penalty during the regular-season matchup. New York scored three plays later to win the game. Brown was in good position today against WR Brandon Lloyd, but lost the ball in the air and ended up colliding with Lloyd in what would have been a penalty in a regular-season game.

SUPERLATIVES
- Dropped passes: FB Spencer Larsen, RB Brandon Bolden.
- Nice catch: Edelman, Hernandez (2), RB Shane Vereen
- Fumbled: Hoyer.
- Interceptions: LB Bobby Carpenter (of Brady).

ODDS AND ENDS


  • Only two notable personnel swaps: Robert Gallery was the full-time right guard, and Dan Connolly moved from right to left guard; third-round pick Jake Bequette took over for first-round selection Chandler Jones at DE in subpackages. It’s early. It doesn’t mean anything.

  • Jones wasn’t seen much in the second practice while LB Dont’a Hightower continues to be used in a variety of spots.

  • For the first time we saw Brady and Lloyd not be on the same page on a few plays. Brady threw to one spot and Lloyd was in another. We call that an “Ocho” around here.

  • Interesting that bubble players like linebackers Niko Koutouvides, Jeff Tarpinian, and Tracy White, and CB Malcolm Williams continue to see time on the top special teams units. If that keeps up, a lot of projected rosters will need to be reworked.

  • CB Ras-I Dowling did a very nice job standing up TE Rob Gronkowski when he lined up at wide receiver.

  • Quarterbacks are not supposed to be touched during drills but Brian Hoyer wound up on his back when his line – the first-string unit, even – backpedaled into him as DE Justin Francise and Tarpinian provided pressure. Hoyer may have been at fault because Ryan Mallett took the next snap.

  • The quarterbacks continued to be sharp as the secondary has its issues. Brady was 28 of 33 with an interception. Mallett (10 of 12) had better statistics than Hoyer (5 of 10) in competitive situations, but Hoyer is still clearly better overall. Mallett continues to take too much time to make a decision and deliver the ball.

  • Allen spends most of his time with the safeties, but he often slides into the slot corner role for the second team.

  • The more I see of undrafted RB Brandon Bolden, the more I like him. He did have a dropped pass, but he has nice body control and burst. Vereen showed himself with a nice over-the-shoulder grab that is difficult for a RB.

  • We had our first sighting of Fells, who has been not been seen while rehabbing his shoulder, in Patriots garb. He rode the bike at one point.

KICKING CORNER
- Punter Zoltan Mesko had his first kicking day of camp and took a little while to get loose. On his first session, Mesko averaged 4.08 seconds on eight kicks, which is below average for him. But to finish practice, Mesko averaged 4.51 on his final eight kicks. That was terrific.
- Not a big fan of Hernandez joining Edelman, Wes Welker, and Deion Branch in fielding punts, but the Patriots had him out there. Hernandez had a tough time judging one fair catch. Edelman muffed one near the sideline.

SCHEDULE
- Saturday’s practice: 1:30-4 p.m.
- Sunday’s practice: 1:30-4 p.m.

Hightower wants to make big impact

Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff July 27, 2012 06:20 PM
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Getty Imgaes

First-round pick Dont'a Hightower wants to make a big impact.

FOXBOROUGH – Dont'a Hightower is only four years younger than Jerod Mayo, so when Mayo was in college, Hightower watched him piled up awards and tackles.

He paid attention to Mayo's rookie season in New England, when he started the first week of the season and played every single snap the rest of the year, racking up 128 tackles, winning defensive rookie of the year almost unanimously and ultimately being named captain of the defense going into his sophomore year.

That's the kind of impact Hightower, the Patriots first round pick out of Alabama, wants to make. So he's picking Mayo's brain during training camp.

“As a linebacker, I feel like most linebackers have the mentality that they want to come in and they want to make a big impact,” Hightower said. “Me talking to him and asking him how he did things as a rookie and how he did things like that, that's going to help me out the best. I just want to do what I can whether it's on special teams or defense to contribute to this team.”

Coach Bill Belichick has praised Hightower's football IQ, and Mayo has said how committed the rookie has been in the film room. But Hightower said there's always work to be done.

“It's everywhere,” Hightower said. “On the field, off the field, in the weight room, how to study for a different level, how to understand difference terminology. Again, Mayo's done well here. Spikes has, too. A lot of guys. I'm just trying to learn as much from those guys while I'm still young and while we're still going through training camp and the process is a little bit slower than what it will be in a couple of days.”

Visanthe Shiancoe just trying to get a handle on playbook

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 27, 2012 06:01 PM

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FOXBOROUGH -- New Patriots tight end Visanthe Shiancoe spoke briefly with the media following today's training camp practice and expressed his thoughts on his role with the team.

For one, he's glad to be in New England. But he also knows there is a daunting task ahead of him in preparing to be part of an offense directed by Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels.

"It's just a well-organized team," Shiancoe said. "I can see I have to work hard here. It's time to work, that's how I'm going to take it.

"Bill and all them, they're going to find a way to just do whatever they have to do," he said. "I don't know what they're going to do, you're going to have to ask Bill about that. But I'm pretty much just chilling right now. I have to really go and get this playbook down, right now."

Shiancoe praised fellow tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

"[They're] hard workers," he said. "It's always good to learn from every guy in the league [and] they definitely put some good stuff on film."

Stallworth: 'I know I've matured'

Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff July 27, 2012 05:59 PM
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Globe Staff

Donte Stallworth has returned to the Patriots more mature.

FOXBOROUGH – Donte Stallworth paid special attention to the few words Troy Brown said to the team after the first day of training camp Thursday about how short an NFL career truly is.

“If you're done playing after your first year, it's too short,” Brown said. “And if you've played 15 years, it's too short.”

Stallworth, a receiver, is 10 years into his career, having played for six teams. He left New England in 2007 then made stops with the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, and Washington Redskins before returning to the Patriots, a veteran molded by a range of experiences on and off the field that he's been open to sharing with younger players on the roster.

“I can't believe I've been in the league already 10 years,” Stallworth said. “It's definitely gone by fast, so I tell them to take advantage of the opportunities you're given because you're never sure when it's going to be over.

“Personally, I know I've matured as a player, matured as a person. A lot smarter now than I was then. I think more so when I was back here at the age of 26, playing off of talent and now I've kind of developed into a smarter player, better route runner and things like that.”

FULL ENTRY

Patriots safety James Ihedigbo glad to be back

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 27, 2012 05:00 PM

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FOXBOROUGH -- At training camp, James Ihedigbo is one of the few Patriots wearing a red jersey.

The bright signifier doesn't mean he's special. It just means he shouldn't be touched. The four-year pro had shoulder surgery in the offseason after sustaining several stingers.

As he was recovering, he waited for word whether the Patriots would take him back.

Ihedigbo had paired up with Patrick Chung and sometimes Devin McCourty in the defensive outfield last season, marking a year in which the decimated secondary was at or near the bottom of the barrel for yards surrendered.

So as the team drafted two defensive backs, and signed three more in the offseason, he waited. He waited all the way through minicamp and through mid-June until he got the call, re-signing with the team June 22.

"It's all a part of the business," Ihedigbo said. "You know I'm glad to be back here, I'm glad to be back with the team. I'm glad to, you know, really get to work so we can get this thing going."

As for the shoulder, Ihedigbo's play suggest he's ready to take off the red jersey. On the first day of training camp, he found himself making the first tackle of camp on running back Stevan Ridley, something he said was accidental.

"We tried to hold each other up," he said.

Asked if he was healthy enough to shed the red jersey, he said he was doing what he was told.

"They asked me to wear a red jersey, [so] I'm doing exactly what I'm told," Ihedigbo said. "And just moving forward in that direction."

As the Patriots restructure last season's 31st ranked defense, Ihedigbo is still primed to contribute. Through training camp he has worked with or next to the first-team unit. Newly signed safety Steve Gregory is getting the repetitions in the first unit next to Chung.

"You know we have a great group of guys that I like to be around," Ihedigbo said. "We're just going to continue working. It's so early on in camp to see where we're at. We just got to put our heads down and keep working. When the lights shine at the end of the tunnel, we'll know where we'll be."

Roll call: practice #2

Posted by Greg A. Bedard July 27, 2012 03:23 PM

FOXBOROUGH - Here is a quick rundown of practice attendance and headlines after the second practice.

We'll be back later with a full rundown of what transpired. Today was slighter lower key

Dress code
Shells (soft pads) and shorts. None of the players wore their usual knee braces.

Attendance
Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

Physically unable to perform: LG Logan Mankins (knee), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), C Nick McDonald (unknows), OT Markus Zusevics, TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder), WR Jeremy Ebert (hamstring).

Red jerseys: WR Matthew Slater, S James Ihedigbo, 

Not participating: S Nate Ebner (unknown)

Injured during practice: CB Alfonzo Dennard (right hamstring).

Headines

  • Rookie CB Alfonzo Dennard, a seventh-round pick, pulled up with a hamstring injury after colliding with FB Spencer Larsen. Dennard received ice treatment and did not return.
  • Biggest personnel change was Dan Connolly and Robert Gallery switching guard spots to left and right, respectively, with the starting unit.
  • QB Tom Brady was again sharp although he was intercepted by LB Bobby Carpenter on an underthrown pass to TE Aaron Hernandez.
  • Hernandez was among those to field punts.
  • LB Brandon Spikes again didn't take part in team drills, or really any drills.
  • Jake Bequette took Chandler Jones' DE spot in subpackages.
  • Punt team work today after kickoffs on Thursday.
  • Will Allen saw more time at CB today but still goes with the safeties group in drills.

Belichick mum on Brady pictures

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 27, 2012 01:05 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- When Tom Brady jumped off a rock this summer in Costa Rica, the Patriots quarterback probably didn't think it was going to come up outside of the usual celebrity magazine or on the "Names" page.

But pictures have surfaced of Brady's activity.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about Brady's activities, and the coach was not too happy.

"We have rules. There are NFL rules and then there are club rules," Belichick said. "And those are handled between the club and the league and players.

"I don't want to comment on any of our club rules or any discipline we have. It's all handled internally ... Wherever anything falls, it's between the club and the player."

He said he hadn't seen the pictures.

"I mean, do we have any football questions?" asked the coach before the press conference moved on.

Rain or shine, Patriots practicing outdoors

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 27, 2012 12:40 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots have announced that even with the threat of rain today the team will hold its practice outdoors on the lower practice fields as usual.

With a 35 percent chance of rain by 3 p.m., the team tweeted via its official Twitter account that it would practice outdoors "rain or shine."

Coming to #PatsCamp? Today's practice is outside, rain or shine. #bringyourponcho

— New England Patriots (@Patriots) July 27, 2012

The practice will be from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. and is open to the public. On Thursday, more than 12,000 fans showed up for the team's first public practice.

Patriots sign offensive tackle Darrion Weems

Posted by Leonard Neslin July 27, 2012 11:56 AM

Boston Globe NFL writer Greg Bedard is reporting the Patriots have signed offensive tackle Darrion Weems, who was recently waived by the Vikings to make room for Kevin Murphy.

Weems, an undrafted free agent from the University of Oregon, was signed by the Vikings May 1. With the 6-5, 318-pound Weems at left tackle, Oregon's rushing unit ranked fifth in the nation, third in scoring and sixth in total offense during his senior year.

The Patriots' offensive line didn't have the same look yesterday as it usual has on recent first practices at minicamp. Notable absences included guard Brian Waters, who hasn't reported to camp yet, and left guard Logan Mankins (knee) and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back) being on the physically unable to perform list.

Instead, the line saw Nate Solder (left tackle), Ryan Wendell and Robert Gallery (left guard), Dan Koppen (center), Dan Connolly (right guard) and Marcus Cannon (right tackle).

Patriots Daily Briefing, 7.27.12

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff July 27, 2012 08:00 AM

Good morning. Here is your PDB for Thursday, July 27, 2012. It contains all the links, info, analysis and occasional humor that you'll need to start your day.

WHAT'S ON TAP

Today
Approx. 1 p.m. - Bill Belichick press conference
1:30-4 p.m. - Patriots training camp session No. 2
With rain in today's forecast, make sure to follow our Twitter feed @GlobePatriots or mine @shalisemyoung for up-to-the-minute updates on practice access. You can also call the Patriots' camp hotline at 508-549-0001.

UPDATE: The Patriots have announced that today's practice will be held outside rain or shine - so if you're planning on attending, pack accordingly!

Tomorrow
Approx. 1 p.m. - Bill Belichick press conference
1:30-4 p.m. - Patriots training camp session No. 3

TO RECAP
Over 12,000 fans packed the bleachers and the small hillside adjacent to the Patriots' practice fields for Day 1 of training camp on Thursday, which the team said was a single-session record.

Tom Brady came out firing, completing 26 of 29 pass attempts, according to colleague Greg Bedard.

Bedard also names six players who he believes have to step up in camp in order for the Patriots to raise the Lombardi Trophy come February.

Julian Benbow has a look at coordinators Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia. While Patricia is tight-lipped with reporters, McDaniels has loosened up in his years away from New England, and wasn't afraid to say that his job really is as fun as it looks.

Wes Welker was in a good mood yesterday, and said something interesting: if the Patriots were to franchise him again next year, he'd be OK with it. Of course, a cynic might say he may have hurt himself again in terms of leverage...

And we put together some odds and ends from the day in the notebook, starting with Brian Waters' absence. There wasn't really any more light shed on the situation on Thursday, though Bill Belichick said he wasn't surprised by the development.

AROUND THE DIVISION
At Camp Circus, aka Jets camp, players reported to SUNY-Cortland on Thursday - including CB Darrelle Revis, who decided not to hold out for the second time in three years.

Then there's this little gem: as if Mark Sanchez isn't going to tire of the questions about Tim Tebow (if he hasn't already), a reporter accidentally called him "Tim" in his press conference. Mistakes happen, of course, but with all of the stories about Sanchez being a bit sensitive, that had to sting a bit.

At Bills camp, while the Bills handed Mario Williams a contract large enough to make him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, they apparently didn't hand him information on how to stay comfortable in the dorm rooms during training camp.

Isn't the old saying something like, "if you have two quarterbacks, you really have none"? What if you have three, like the Dolphins? It seems like depending on who you read, first-round pick Ryan Tannehill, former Jaguars starter David Garrard and Matt Moore, who started 12 games for the Fins last year, all have the inside track at being named the number one QB for the regular season. And Moore doesn't understand why some think he's behind Tannehill and Garrard.

Training Camp Today: Puzzling O-line

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff July 26, 2012 08:38 PM

In the first episode of Training Camp Today for the 2012-13 season, the Globe's Greg A. Bedard is joined by Shalise Manza Young to discuss the Patriots' first practice and what turns out to be a very puzzling offensive line.

Practice rundown #1

Posted by Greg A. Bedard July 26, 2012 07:17 PM
FOXBOROUGH – Here’s a rundown on what went on at Patriots’ practice this afternoon:

ATTENDANCE PLEASE

Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.
Physically unable to perform: LG Logan Mankins (knee), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), C Nick McDonald (unknown), OT Markus Zusevics, TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder), WR Jeremy Ebert (hamstring).
Red jerseys: WR Matthew Slater, S James Ihedigbo,
Not participating: S Nate Ebner (unknown)

INJURIES
LB Tracy White and DL Justin Francis both seemed to be dealing with something as they walked off the field with a trainer after practice.

DRESS CODE
Shells.

TOP PLAYS
- QB Tom Brady and WR Jabar Gaffney hooked up on the play of the day – a bomb of some 55 yards down the right sideline – over CB Alfonzo Dennard and ahead of late-charging S Josh Barrett.
- Brady went deep middle to Donte’ Stallworth, who had gotten behind CB Devin McCourty with no safety help.
- WR Matthew Slater made a very difficult catch of a deep pass from QB Brian Hoyer as CB/S Will Allen hit Slater in the air.
- LB Dane Fletcher had an interception when QB Brian Hoyer underthrew TE Aaron Hernandez.
- First-round pick Dont’a Hightower showed off his terrific instincts when he read a screen pass perfectly, made a beeline to FB Tony Fiammetta and promptly dropped him for a 2-yard loss.
- DT Ron Brace had a strip sack of Hoyer. Yes, you read that right.

THUMBS UP
Brady came ready to play by completing 26 of 29 passes (with a sack) in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 situations, including his first 15 passes and 21 of his first 22. There wasn’t a lot of high degree of difficulty, but it was still impressive. And it was even more impressive when you consider …

THUMBS DOWN
The offensive line was a disaster for all three quarterbacks. With three starters down (Logan Mankins, Brian Waters and Sebastian Vollmer), there is a ton of instability and the defense was feeding off it. Saw Jerod Mayo get back-to-back sacks, Dont’a Hightower got into the mix….basically when the defense blitzed, the quarterbacks were moving all over the place. They only completed a lot of passes because the quarterbacks couldn’t be hit.

SUPERLATIVES
Dropped it like it’s hot: FB Tony Fiammetta, WR Britt Davis, WR Jesse Holley.
Nice catch: Deion Branch, Jabar Gaffney, Matthew Slater, Aaron Hernandez,
Fumbling men: None.
Interceptions: LB Dane Fletcher (of Brian Hoyer)

ODDS AND ENDS


  • Of the other quarterbacks, Hoyer was sharper than Mallett, who continues to play on the slow side and is throwing late. He also seemed to be aiming the ball. Still, he showed off the arm when he went up top for a touchdown to Julian Edelman over Sterling Moore. Overall, most of Mallett’s completions came on checkdowns. He was 12 of 17 and should have been picked off by Moore on an underthrown ball.

  • Hoyer (8 of 12) was decent, nothing spectacular. His line was really bad.

  • You should hope and pray the defensive line stays intact and deep because that would give Jerod Mayo a true shot at showing his stuff at weakside linebacker. He was all over the field today, including a couple sacks. He was robbed of the opportunity last year with injuries and the failed Albert Haynesworth experiment.

  • All three tight ends – Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Visanthe Shiancoe – looked ready for the season. Gronkowski’s conditioning didn’t appear to be perfect, but his ankle looks really good. No problem in the open field.

  • Hernandez looked terrific. His moves in the open field are something else. Would nice to see him be healthy for all 16 games.

  • Nothing stood out about the running backs to me. I keep waiting for Shane Vereen to show the explosion and speed he was known for in college. Haven’t seen it yet.

  • The buzzword on defense is work in progress. The Patriots are playing a ton of different players at different position it’s impossible to figure out exactly who will be where.

  • It was nice to see Chandler Jones, after being on the sidelines for much of 11-on-11s, to get in the mix as first LDE in subpackages. He’ll be one we’ll be watching closely once the pads are put on and the one-on-ones start. Jones didn’t stand out. His length is the first thing you notice. He’s certainly more powerful than quick. Kind of like a young Andre Carter.

  • CB Ras-I Dowling, apparently, made it through the practice unscathed, which is better than he did last season. Dowling was unimpressive. He got beat over the top three times. It doesn’t appear he has learned how to use his size. At times he’s in the right position, but he’ll come toward the quarterback (making himself shorter) rather than positioning himself on the receiver.

  • The offense had its way with the cornerbacks as an entire group. Being able to hit the quarterback would have helped, but this was not a great start by the secondary.

  • Looks like they want to pair Tavon Wilson and Josh Barrett as the backup safeties for now, although Wilson did get a few looks with Patrick Chung on the first team.

  • Really like what I see out of Hightower. They’re taking their time with him, but you get the sense that he’ll ascend quickly.

SCHEDULE

- Friday’s practice: 1:30-4 p.m.
- Saturday’s practice: 1:30-4 p.m.
- Sunday’s practice: 1:30-4 p.m.

The rest is TBD.

Wes Welker not disappointed about failed negotiations

Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff July 26, 2012 05:50 PM

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Wes Welker reported to training camp and said he's put failed negotiations on a long-term deal behind him.

FOXBOROUGH – When he signed the franchise tender from the Patriots in May, Wes Welker said he was taking a leap of faith, hoping that the team could eventually work out a long-term agreement. That deal never came to fruition, but after taking the field for the first day of training camp, Welker said he wasn't disappointed.

“Everyone tried,” Welker said. “I tried. They tried, and it just didn't work out. It's in the past, and we've moved on to this season, which we expect to be a good one. We're working towards it, and working hard to have a great season this year.”

Welker will earn $9.5 million this year and if the Patriots don't tag him at the end of the season, he will become an unrestricted free agent. He said he wasn't concerned about the possibility of being tagged again.

There were points during the negotiations, Welker said, when it looked like a deal could have been reached.

“You always kind of think it's going to happen, and I don't know, you just get excited,” he said. “But at the same time you're very fortunate the position you're in. I look forward to really playing out this year and playing some of the best ball I can play.”

He said that he didn't take the process personally, even though it followed arguably the best season of his career (122 catches, 1,569 yards).

“I understand the business side of it,” Welker said. “I'm not worried about it really. I'm excited about this year. I'm excited about what we can do as a team, and helping them go out there and win games, going out there and doing what I can to help them do it.”

Josh McDaniels: 'This is home for me'

Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff July 26, 2012 05:14 PM
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Globe Staff

Josh McDaniels is excited to return as Patriots offensive coordinator.

FOXBOROUGH – Looking for the first time at the arsenal he'll have at his disposal now that he's returned to the New England Patriots – from the Aaron Hernandez-Rob Gronkowski one-two punch at tight end to Tom Brady and the army of wide receivers he'll have to throw to – offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels couldn't help but be giddy about the possibilities.

He was asked if his new job is as fun as it looks.

“Yes.” he said, emphatically. “Yes it is.”

After leaving the Patriots in 2009, McDaniels spent two years as head coach of the Denver Broncos before spending last season as the St. Louis Rams's offensive coordinator. Now, he's returned to New England, where he will head a fully loaded offense that accounted for 6,848 total yards last season.

It's more potent than the one he left behind after the 2008-09 season (fifth in the NFL that year) and dramatically better than last year's Rams (the second worst offense in the league), and those differences gave him reasons to be excited about the upcoming season as the Patriots opened camp.

“The tight ends are different,” McDaniels said. “The backs are a little younger. Things have changed. There's a few different coaches on our staff, but I think that happens at every team every year in the NFL and we just adapt. We're so used to doing it by now that it just comes with the territory. But it's exciting. You start to formulate what you're going to actually be in training camp. There's always some things that change in training camp as well, so it will be exciting to see how it kind of unfolds.”

Coming back to the organization that molded him as a coach, McDaniels said, “This is home for me. It feels great to be back.”

Asked if the time had flown by since he left, though, the 36-year-old said by no means did it feel that way.

“My body doesn't feel like that, no,” he said, grinning. “I feel older. But again, there's so many great people here that it's wonderful to see all of them.”

Knocking the first day of camp out of the way gave him some ideas about what he'd like to see going forward.

“You come out and you make some exciting plays and you make some mistakes that you have to correct, but that's the fun part,” he said. “We get to go in now and watch the film with the players and correct some of the things we didn't do well today and hopefully we'll do well tomorrow. But it was good to be out here.”

Roll call: Practice #1

Posted by Greg A. Bedard July 26, 2012 03:55 PM

FOXBOROUGH - Here is a quick rundown of practice attendance and headlines after the first practice.

We'll be back later with a full rundown of what transpired, though it will be limited because the first three days are no in pads.

Dress code
Shells (soft pads)

Attendance
Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

Physically unable to perform: LG Logan Mankins (knee), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), C Nick McDonald (unknows), OT Markus Zusevics, TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder), WR Jeremy Ebert (hamstring).

Red jerseys: WR Matthew Slater, S James Ihedigbo, 

Not participating: S Nate Ebner (unknown)

Headines


  • TE Rob Gronkowski was not in a red jersey, which identifies players who are limited, so he was full go.

  • With numbers limited, the starting offensive line was LT Nate Solder, LG Ryan Wendell/Robert Gallery, C Dan Koppen, RG Dan Connolly, RT Marcus Cannon.

  • The defense was largely unchanged from the off-season practices.

  • Brandon Spikes was very limited and Dane Fletcher continued to take the middle linebacker reps.

  • Ras-I Dowling was the first corner off the bench in sub packages.

  • First-round picks Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower continued in reserve roles.

  • Jones looks much more impressive physically in pads than he did in a t-shirt during off-season practices. Surprisingly, Jones was not in the mix during 11-on-11 for a while, but then emerged as the first-round RDE in subpackages.

  • Overall, the operative word on the defensive line is tinkering. Players were moved all over the line.

  • Kyle Arrington was among those to take kickoff returns.

  • Will Allen played a lot of safety.

  • New TE Visanthe Shiancoe was in the mix immediately. Looked pretty good but had trouble with his footing at times.

Bill Belichick says the Patriots will continue to make moves

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 26, 2012 01:14 PM

In his first time addressing the media in more than a month, Patriots coach Bill Belichick talked briefly about the team's transactions in the last few days and said the team would continue to make roster moves in the days ahead.

"We've had a little roster movement here over the last few days," Belichick said. "I'm sure there will be a little bit more in the days to come. We don't have a full roster right now. But if an opportunity comes up that we can find the right guy to finish out, that can add to our roster then we'll try and do that ... We're a couple of players under the limit."

Belichick called newly signed defensive lineman Tim Bulman an active, smart player. He said newly signed tight end Visanthe Shiancoe is a good football player who has contributed well at each stop in his career.

The coach also confirmed that guard Brian Waters is missing from camp. He said that Waters was missing for the same reason he was missing from minicamp. At the time, Belichick said it was a personal reason.

And the coach also addressed the players that are likely not to participate in today's opening practice of training camp, including Nick McDonald who was placed on the PUP list yesterday.

"We have a few players that are in different stages of rehabilitation so we'll take those guys day to day," Belichick said. "But most everybody is out there."

Quick comments from Bill Belichick

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff July 26, 2012 01:00 PM

Bill Belichick just wrapped up his first press conference of training camp 2012, before heading out to the fields behind Gillette Stadium for his team's first practice.

Here are some excerpts from his chat:

-- Opening statement:

"Welcome to training camp. We're excited to get started. We've had some guys here for as much as a week, other guys since Monday...We have a long way to go, (we'll take it) one meeting, one day at a time. We have a few players who are in various stages of rehabilitation, so we'll take those day by day. We've had a little bit of roster movement; we don't have a full roster, if we can find right guy to add to roster we'll do that, but right now we're a couple players under the limit. We'll get out there and get started today, and see where we're at.

-- Update on Brian Waters:

"He's not here. Basically the same as it was in mini-camp. [In mini-camp Waters was excused for personal reasons.]"

-- Do you expect him here before start of regular season?

"We'll take it day to day."

-- Is it a surprise he's not here?

"No."

-- Were you disappointed you were not able to reach a deal with Wes Welker?

"Well, we go through that situation with every player. Some we reach agreement with, some we don't."

-- Why sign Visanthe Shiancoe?

"We'll have to see how it all plays out. I think Shanks is a good football player, he's been a productive football player in two other spots...We'll see how it all plays out."

-- On cutting Joseph Addai:

"Didn't work out."

-- Are you OK with numbers at running back for now?

"We have seven backs on our roster. If we add one, then we add one. If we don't, we'll go with what we've got."

-- Will you reach out to Kevin Faulk?

"Can't comment on any player that's not on our roster right now."

-- On Rob Gronkowski's physical status after offseason ankle surgery:

"I think he's alright."

-- Did you have an issue with all the things he did this offseason?

"I talk to players individually and collectively about a lot of things all the time. Those conversations I'll keep between myself and the player."

--What do you have planned for today?

"Try to get off to a good start. Its training camp so it's all about fundamentals, the little things...We've got a lot of challenges ahead of us, a lot of things we need to cover and we'll take them on as hopefully we're ready for them."

Training camp: Updated Patriots roster

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff July 26, 2012 12:42 PM

With the Patriots scheduled to be on the fields behind Gillette Stadium in about 45 minutes for the first practice of training camp 2012, here is the current team roster:

2 K Chris Koepplin
3 K Stephen Gostkowski
8 QB Brian Hoyer
10 WR Jabar Gaffney
11 WR Julian Edelman
12 QB Tom Brady
14 P Zoltan Mesko
15 QB Ryan Mallett
16 WR Jesse Holley
17 WR Britt Davis
18 WR Matthew Slater
19 WR Donte' Stallworth
21 CB Ras-I Dowling
22 RB Stevan Ridley
23 CB Marquice Cole
24 CB Kyle Arrington
25 S Patrick Chung
26 CB Will Allen
27 DB Tavon Wilson
28 S Steve Gregory
29 DB Sterling Moore
30 S Josh Barrett
31 S Sergio Brown
32 CB Devin McCourty
34 RB Shane Vereen
35 DB Ross Ventrone
36 RB Eric Kettani
37 CB Alfonzo Dennard
38 RB Brandon Bolden
39 RB Danny Woodhead
41 DB Malcolm Williams
42 FB Tony Fiammetta
43 DB Nate Ebner
44 S James Ihedigbo
45 LB Dont'a Hightower
46 FB Spencer Larsen
47b LB Mike Rivera
47w TE Tyler Urban
48 LS Danny Aiken
50 LB Rob Ninkovich
51 LB Jerod Mayo
52 LB Dane Fletcher
53 LB Jeff Tarpinian
54 G Brian Waters
55 LB Brandon Spikes
58 LB Tracy White
59 LB Bobby Carpenter
60b DL Aaron Lavarias
60w OL Jeremiah Warren
61 OL Marcus Cannon
62 C Ryan Wendell
63 OL Dan Connolly
64 OL Donald Thomas
65w OL Nick McDonald
65b DL Marcus Forston
66b DE Jake Bequette
66w T Markus Zusevics
67 C Dan Koppen
68w OL Matt Kopa
68b DE Justin Francis
69b DE Alen Silvestro
69w OL Kyle Hix
70 G Logan Mankins
71b DL Brandon Deaderick
71w OL Jamey Richard
72 OL Robert Gallery
74 DL Kyle Love
75 DL Vince Wilfork
76 T Sebastian Vollmer
77 T Nate Solder
80 WR Jeremy Ebert
81 TE Aaron Hernandez
82 TE Visanthe Shiancoe
83 WR Wes Welker
84 WR Deion Branch
85 WR Brandon Lloyd
86 TE Daniel Fells
87 TE Rob Gronkowski
88 TE Jake Ballard
90 LB Niko Koutouvides
91 DL Myron Pryor
92 DL Gerard Warren
93 DL Tim Bulman
94 DL Marcus Harrison
95 DE Chandler Jones
96 LB Jermaine Cunningham
97 DL Ron Brace
98 DE Jonathan Fanene
99 LB Trevor Scott

Patriots open training camp today

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 26, 2012 09:00 AM
The Patriots open training camp today at Gillette Stadium, the team's first on-field activities in a month.

The team's practice is slated for 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. and will be open to the public. Coach Bill Belichick will address the media at 1 p.m. and players will be made available for interviews after practice.

If the Patriots hold to custom, the players will sign autographs for fans immediately after practice at the lower fields.

For a fan's guide to Patriots training camp, visit our training camp guide here.

We'll have a number of staffers at camp today to provide reports, photos and video. You can follow reporters on Twitter to stay along with the updates, although there is a strict no tweeting policy during practice. Here are our Twitter accounts:

- Greg A. Bedard, NFL writer - @GregABedard
- Shalise Manza Young, Patriots beat writer - @shalisemyoung
- Mike Whitmer, Patriots writer - @GlobeWhitmer
- Zuri Berry, Boston.com writer and producer - @zuriberry

Camp starts today with 89 players on the Patriots roster, with one more spot to fill. The Patriots will have to reduce the roster to 75 players on Aug. 27 and then 53 players on Aug. 31.

In the last month, the team has re-signed safety James Ihedigbo and DT Kyle Love, cut WR Matt Roark and RB Joseph Addai, and signed free agent DL Tim Bulman and free agent TE Visanthe Shiancoe.

All Patriots rookies are under contract following LB Dont'a Hightower signing July 18.

Keep an eye on Boston.com this evening for our first Training Camp Today video report, sometime around 7 or 8 p.m.

Training camp preview: Wide receiver

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff July 26, 2012 08:56 AM

Shalise Manza Young provides a status report on the Patriots' offensive position groups heading into the start of training camp on Thursday.
Position: Wide receiver
Current number of players: 10
Four-year average at cut to 53: 6.25
Last season at 53: 6

Locks (3): Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Matthew Slater
Near-locks (2): Jabar Gaffney, Julian Edelman
Battling (5): Deion Branch, Donte’ Stallworth, Britt Davis, Jeremy Ebert, Jesse Holley
Long shots: None

53-man prediction
On the team:
Welker, Lloyd, Slater, Gaffney, Edelman, Stallworth, Davis
Cut: Branch, Holley, Ebert

Parting thought: As successful as Branch’s second stint with the Pats has been, this could be the end – he has struggled to gain separation over defenders since the second half of last year, and while his savvy got him through, Gaffney can fill a similar role on better legs. Welker and Lloyd should be a powerful 1-2 punch, with Lloyd the downfield threat the Pats haven’t had since Randy Moss left. Slater is a receiver in name alone, as his status as one of the league’s best special-teamers makes him needed; similarly, Edelman’s versatility – he’s likely the team’s best returner, and played some defensive back last year – get him a spot. Davis impressed in spring camps, and Stallworth’s ability to contribute on special teams also helps when compared to Branch.

Brandon Spikes cleared to practice, McDonald put on PUP

Posted by Greg A. Bedard July 25, 2012 04:55 PM

In addition to the Patriots placing Brian Waters on the reserve/did not report list -- meaning he doesn't presently count against the 90-man roster limit -- linebacker Brandon Spikes came off the physically unable to perform list after passing his physical, and reserve center/guard Nick McDonald was placed on the PUP list, according to a league source.

Wouldn't read too much into the Waters transaction. It's procedural and if he didn't report, I don't think the team has a choice.

Patriots cut Addai

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff July 25, 2012 04:45 PM

The Patriots have announced that veteran running back Joseph Addai has been released.

Signed on May 10 after spending the first six years of his career with the Colts, Addai was not impressive in spring camps, so his release is not much of a surprise.

The Pats now have four running backs on the roster: Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead and undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden.

New England also made it official with the additions of TE Visanthe Shiancoe and DL Tim Bulman, meaning it still has 89 players on the roster.

Training camp preview: Guard/center

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff July 25, 2012 04:01 PM
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Logan Mankins (left) will start training camp on the unable to perform list while Dan Connolly (right) will be on the field but his position is uncertain. (Associated Press)

Shalise Manza Young provides a status report on the Patriots' offensive position groups heading into the start of training camp on Thursday.

Position: Guard/center
Current number of players: 10
Four-year average at cut to 53: 5.5
Last season at 53: 5

Locks (4): Logan Mankins, Brian Waters, Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen
Near-locks: None
Battling (5): Donald Thomas, Robert Gallery, Ryan Wendell, Nick McDonald, Jeremiah Warren
Long shots (1): Jamey Richard

53-man prediction
On the team:
Mankins, Waters, Connolly, Koppen, Gallery, Warren
Cut: Thomas, Wendell, McDonald, Richard

Parting thoughts: The Patriots started the season with just eight offensive linemen last year, but went with 10 in 2010 and ’09; this year, nine seems like a possibility. Waters was the signing of the season last year, and a healthy Mankins (he’s rehabbing a torn ACL) is always a force. It is believed center is Connolly’s job to lose, though if Mankins isn’t ready to go for the season opener, Connolly could slide to left guard with Koppen at center until he’s back. Gallery’s ability to play guard and tackle helps him. New England thinks highly of Warren, an undrafted rookie, which is why he makes the cut. He’s a close call over McDonald and Thomas, who both saw game time last year.

Brian Waters doesn't report to Patriots camp

Posted by Greg A. Bedard July 25, 2012 03:59 PM

Whether guard Brian Waters will ever suit up again for the Patriots became even murkier on Wednesday when he did not report to training camp, according to two league sources.

What that means isn't exactly clear, and not even Waters himself would clear it up.

Reached by phone this afternoon, Waters would not confirm or deny that he failed to report to the team.

"I’m not really talking about it, you’ll have to talk to the Patriots about it," Waters said. "At this moment, I’m not really discussing the situation. Right now I’m just handling things between me and the team. If they want to talk to you, that’s fine but I’m not really talking about it.

"You’re just going to have to talk to the team. I’m allowing them to handle all the media stuff right now. We’re going to do it this way, because it’s the best way to do it."

Andrew Kessler, Waters' agent, also refused to comment on the situation and referred all questions to the Patriots.

Waters, who stayed away from all off-season activities, could just have a personal issue, and has been granted time to deal with it.

That Waters didn't say he is retiring could signal that the veteran just didn't want to go through all of training camp, something that many veterans wrestle with. Some, like Brett Favre and Michael Strahan, went out of their way not to go through entire training camps later in their careers.

Waters didn't sign with the Patriots until the eve of the 2011 season (Sept. 4) and delivered a Pro Bowl performance.

The Patriots may have granted Waters, who has one more year left on his contract at $1.4 million, permission to report late to camp. And they may have instructed him not to disclose that.

The team is due on the practice field on Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

Waters, 35, raised eyebrows after the Super Bowl loss when he talked about needing time to decide whether he wants to continue playing.

However, league and team sources insisted that was just a heat-of-the-moment comment and that he was expected back.

Still, veterans can change their mind and decide they don't want to keep playing.

Report: Patriots sign DL Tim Bulman

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff July 25, 2012 02:23 PM
The Patriots have filled their final open roster spot with free agent defensive lineman Tim Bulman, ProFootballTalk.com is reporting.

A graduate of BC High who went on to play at Boston College, Bulman spent the last six seasons with the Texans, with 41 games played (one start). He played in 10 games last year.

He was signed as an undrafted rookie by the Cardinals in 2005, and spent that season with Arizona, playing in eight games.

Bulman is 6-foot-4, 281 pounds.

Visanthe Shiancoe may be sticking around

Posted by Greg A. Bedard July 25, 2012 11:27 AM

The details on the one-year contract signed by tight end Visanthe Shiancoe are in, and they're a little bit surprising in that they make it more likely that he'll make the final roster.

According to a league source with access to the contract, Shiancoe's deal is for $1.2 million in base salary, of which $400,000 is guaranteed. There is another $800,000 available in play-time bonuses, starting with 45 percent of the snaps.

The $400,000 guaranteed is the key figure. That doesn't necessarily lock him into a spot -- the Patriots, who had precisely $10,873,988 left in cap room before this deal, certainly have room to absorb that minuscule hit -- but it certainly increases Shiancoe's chances.

You can also understand now why the Eagles dropped out. They probably balked at the guarantee and much above the veteran minimum of $825,000.

Shiancoe's contract is an indication that Daniel Fells, who is on active PUP with what is believed to be a shoulder injury, may not be ready to go when the season starts. Or it at least gives the Patriots some security in case Fells needs more time.

Top position battles we'll be watching

Posted by Greg A. Bedard July 25, 2012 10:22 AM

Competition will be the buzz word of this year's training camp for the Patriots. From 1 to 89 (right now), the team is much stronger than it was at this point last season.

So there will be a lot of jockeying for roster spots and starting spots.

The most competition will come along the defensive line, but between injuries, possible new arrivals (Andre Carter?) and going back to the 4-3, we find it impossible to even identify which players are competing for what spot. There's so much versatility up front that it could go a million different directions, so we're going to hold off going there at this point.

Here are the other top competitions:

Deion Branch vs. Donte' Stallworth for 5th WR

The Patriots are just about locked in with four receivers: Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and Matthew Slater. The past four years, they've never kept fewer than six WRs (seven in 2009). Branch, 33, is one of Tom Brady's favorite targets and still effective in a 10-yard box, but he is no threat to stretch the field. Stallworth showed much more explosion and looked good returning kickoffs. Branch does nothing on special teams, so if Stallworth can show he's as reliable catching the ball as Branch, he could have an edge.

Julian Edelman vs. Jeremy Ebert vs. Britt Davis for 6th WR

Some think Edelman is a shoo-in to make this team, but I don't see it. Yes, he's the only real punt returner on this team, but we don't yet know what Ebert, a seventh-round pick, or Davis are capable of contributing on special teams. Liked what I saw out of Ebert in his college tape. I think he's a more polished receiver than Edelman. Ebert's on active PUP right now with a hamstring issue and he can't afford to miss much, if any, of camp to win a spot. If his injury lingers, don't be surprised if the Patriots keep him under wraps to slip him to the practice squad. Really liked what I saw out of Davis in the offseason. He's a candidate for "stud player late in preseason games." Can he do enough on special teams to take a spot from Edelman? Doubt it, but we'll see.

James Ihedigbo vs. Josh Barrett vs. Nate Ebner vs. Sergio Brown for 4th (and maybe 5th safety)

Like receiver, most of the safety spots are locked down with Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory and Tavon Wilson. The Patriots only keep four safeties, but that could change this season if more players (Sterling Moore, Alfonzo Dennard, etc.) show the ability to play both safety and cornerback. Patriots could keep less or more. If it's down to one spot, it's a four-way race. Ihedigbo is the Branch of this group, but Barrett has the most upside and was a starter to begin last season. This position usually comes down to special teams, and Brown, despite his limitations on defense, ascended there last season. By the end of the season, he was one of the team's best gunners. Ebner, the former rugby player, will have to make his mark on special teams as well. This spot could come down to the player who can contribute in the most ways.

Stevan Ridley vs. Shane Vereen for starting RB

This will all come down to production in practice and games, and availability. Can Vereen prove he's durable after a run of bad luck last season? He should be the more explosive player, but Ridley was not bad in that department last season. He seems to be built more to be an every-down back, but the Patriots don't usually concern themselves with that considering the variety of packages they use. Pass protection will be a big key, as will ball security after Ridley's struggles at the end of last season.

Football chat with Greg A. Bedard

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff July 25, 2012 07:00 AM

With the Patriots opening training camp this week, Globe NFL reporter Greg A. Bedard will host a football chat session on Wednesday at noon to talk some football.

Set a reminder in the chat window below.

Football chat with Greg A. Bedard

Visanthe Shiancoe settles on Patriots

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff July 24, 2012 06:55 PM
Veteran tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who visited the Patriots last week and visited with the Eagles today, has signed a one-year deal with New England, reports Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports.

Shiancoe is a 10-year veteran who had 36 catches for 409 yards and three touchdowns last season with Minnesota. He spent the last five seasons with the Vikings; Shiancoe began his career as a third-round pick of the Giants.

Listed at 6-4, 240 pounds, Shiancoe is the fourth experienced tight end on the Patriots roster, joining Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Aaron Fells. However, Fells is beginning training camp on the active/PUP list, and Hernandez is used more as a receiver than a traditional tight end.

Setting the depth chart: Defense

Posted by Greg A. Bedard July 24, 2012 01:18 PM

Following up on the offensive depth chart, here's how we see the defensive side of the ball entering camp.

Red indicates PUP/active list, rookies are in all caps, and cornerbacks with slot/nickel ability are noted.

Screen Shot 2012-07-24 at 1.02.19 PM.png


Setting the depth chart: Offense

Posted by Greg A. Bedard July 24, 2012 01:07 PM

Can you smell the fresh-cut grass? Can you see the newly drawn lines around the football field? Can you hear Bill Belichick saying, "We have a long ways to go"?

Then it must be time for the Patriots to start training camp on Thursday.

Let's get it going.

To prepare you for camp, here is my take on the Patriots' offensive depth chart as it stands presently, not how I think it will end up (we'll get to that after a week or so). Players in red are on the PUP/active list. Rookies are in caps.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Screen Shot 2012-07-24 at 1.02.08 PM.png

Globe's Greg A. Bedard wins writing award

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 24, 2012 09:38 AM

The Boston Globe's NFL writer, Greg A. Bedard, came in first place in the the Pro Football Writers Association's annual Dick Connor Writing Awards.

Bedard won the award for his story on Patriots owner Robert Kraft's influence on helping end the NFL lockout last year while caring for his wife Myra Kraft, who died July 20, 2011.

Kevin Armstrong, of the New York Daily News, came in second while Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com and Greg Bishop of the New York Times tied for third.

Training camp preview: Offensive tackle

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff July 24, 2012 08:31 AM
300solder.jpg

Nate Solder (left) is expected to take over the left tackle position and protect Tom Brady's blind side following the retirement of Matt Light. (Winslow Townson/For the Globe)

Shalise Manza Young provides a status report on the Patriots' offensive position groups heading into the start of training camp on Thursday.

Position: Offensive tackle
Current number of players: 6
Four-year average at cut to 53: 3.5
Last season at 53: 3

Locks (3): Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon
Near-locks: None
Battling (3): Matt Kopa, Kyle Hix, Markus Zusevics
Long shots: None

53-man prediction
On the team:
Solder, Vollmer, Cannon, Kopa
Cut: Hix, Zusevics

Parting thoughts: The Patriots had just three tackles on the roster last season, but Vollmer’s history of back problems give pause. Free-agent pickup Robert Gallery does have experience playing tackle, so New England could go with just three again this year. Solder will be the first player not named Matt Light to start the season at left tackle in a decade, and Vollmer, when healthy, is capable of playing at an All-Pro level. Cannon played well last year even as he was recovering from cancer treatment; he’s likely even stronger now.

Training camp preview: Running back

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff July 23, 2012 08:00 PM
300kettani.jpg

Eric Kettani was is back with the Patriots after serving in the US Navy, but he remains a long shot to make the 53-man roster. (Associated Press)

Shalise Manza Young provides a status report on the Patriots' offensive position groups heading into the start of training camp on July 26.

Position: Running back/fullback
Current number of players: 8
Four-year average at cut to 53: 4.75
Last season at 53: 4 (plus Kevin Faulk on PUP)

Locks (2): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen
Near-locks: None
Battling (5): Joseph Addai, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Bolden, Spencer Larsen, Tony Fiammetta
Long shots (1): Eric Kettani

53-man prediction
On the team:
Ridley, Vereen, Woodhead, Fiammetta
Cut: Addai, Bolden, Larsen, Kettani

Parting thought: Vereen is still a largely-unknown quantity at this point after missing nearly all of his rookie season, but the Pats liked him enough to make him a second-round pick in 2011. Ridley showed explosiveness in his chances last year, recording the Pats’ only runs of 20-plus yards. Woodhead saw a decline in touches, but with Josh McDaniels favoring the screen game, his ability to catch out of the backfield helps his cause. Word is Addai was not impressive in spring camps. The thinking here is one fullback makes it, and Fiammetta gets the nod; he was a help to Dallas’ young backs last year before battling illness.

Patriots place six on active/PUP to start camp

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff July 23, 2012 06:19 PM

A league source confirms that the Patriots have placed six veteran players on their active/physically unable to perform list to start training camp:

TE Jake Ballard
TE Daniel Fells
G Logan Mankins
DL Myron Pryor
LB Brandon Spikes
OT Sebastian Vollmer

Each was dealing with an injury/surgical recovery during the offseason - Mankins and Ballard (then as a member of the Giants) each tore an ACL in Super Bowl XLVI; Spikes underwent knee surgery after the Super Bowl; Vollmer underwent a small back procedure; Pryor had shoulder surgery last year, and Fells is reportedly nursing a leg injury.

They join rookie Jeremy Ebert, who was placed on active/PUP by the team last week.

Players on active/PUP can be removed at any time, though they do count against the 90-man roster.

Rob Gronkowski, who underwent ankle surgery after the Super Bowl, is not on the current list, which can only be taken as a positive - the Patriots must believe that he is good to go.

Bill O'Brien comments on Penn State sanctions

Posted by Leonard Neslin July 23, 2012 10:20 AM

Former Patriots offensive coordinator and Penn State's current head coach released a statement on the NCAA's imposed sanctions on the school's football program.

"Today we receive a very harsh penalty from the NCAA and as Head Coach of the Nittany Lions football program, I will do everything in my power to not only comply, but help guide the University forward to become a national leader in ethics, compliance and operational excellence. I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead. But I am committed for the long term to Penn State and our student athletes.

"I was then and I remain convinced that our student athletes are the best in the country. I could not be more proud to lead this team and these courageous and humble young men into the upcoming 2012 season. Together we are committed to building a better athletic program and university."

Training camp preview: Tight end

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff July 22, 2012 09:02 AM
300hernandez.jpg

Aaron Hernandez doesn't get as many headlines as teammate Rob Gronkowski, but he's been nearly as productive. He had 79 receptions for 910 yards and seven touchdowns. (Bill Greene/Globe Staff)

Shalise Manza Young provides a status report on the Patriots' offensive position groups heading into the start of training camp on July 26.

Position: Tight end
Current number of players: Five
Four-year average at cut to 53: 2.75
Last season at 53: 2

Locks (3): Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells
Near-locks: None
Battling (1): Tyler Urban
Injured reserve/physically unable to perform (1): Jake Ballard

53-man prediction
On the team:
Gronkowski, Hernandez, Fells
Cut: Urban

Parting thought: This might be the easiest position on the team to predict. Gronkowski and Hernandez are arguably the best tight end duo in the league, and while Fells’ three-year contract didn’t exactly break the bank, it shows the team wants to have him around. Claimed off waivers from the Giants, Ballard may not play this season – he’s coming back from a torn ACL suffered in the Super Bowl. Urban, an undrafted rookie, is a project and could land on practice squad.

53 burning questions for the Patriots headed into training camp

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 22, 2012 08:08 AM

072212tombrady607.jpg

Charles Krupa / AP photo

1. Should Patriots fans start to worry about Tom Brady? He’s going to be 35 years old Aug. 4. Are there any realistic expectations of his production dropping off?

2. Can Brandon Spikes stay healthy? He’s an extraordinary linebacker that brings added toughness – when he’s playing.

3. Is Brandon Lloyd the deep threat the Patriots have been hoping for? He doesn’t look fast. But he’s not the first player with deceptive speed.

4. Who is better, Stevan Ridley or Shane Vereen? The running backs will most likely split carries this season. The friendly competition will finally enlighten the rest of us as to who is the more talented individual.

5. Has Stevan Ridley gotten over the fumbles?

6. How much can Joseph Addai really contribute? He’s only 29, but he’s been injury plagued. With plenty of options at running back, it will be interesting to see how he figures into game-day planning.

7. Who will be the third down running back? So far, it looks like Danny Woodhead has competition from a healthy Shane Vereen. But Joseph Addai is also known to be good catching the ball out of the backfield.

8. How many wide receivers will the Patriots keep? The competition is fierce.

9. What does Donte’ Stallworth have left? He’s been trying to restart his career ever since he went to jail for hitting and killing a man in Miami. He’s had 24 catches in the last two seasons.

10. Will Wes Welker be happy? And, with or without doing so, will he be productive?

11. What will Jabar Gaffney’s role be? He’s a good receiver who’s coming off the best season of his career. Are there enough balls to go around to fit him in?

12. What else can Matthew Slater give? He caught one ball last year and had a Pro Bowl season for his special teams play. He played some spot duty at safety last season, too.

13. How will Nate Solder handle the pressure of protecting Tom Brady full-time? He’s the man now on the blind side and there are no excuses for the small mistakes he made as a rookie.

14. Will Rob Gronkowski stay focused? There’s no doubt he’s a talented player. But is he a distracted one? He’s definitely had a headline-grabbing summer.

15. Will the Patriots hold onto or trade backup quarterback Brian Hoyer? If the right deal pops up, anything can happen. But has a deal for Hoyer moved from a matter of why to a matter of when?

FULL ENTRY

Training camp preview: Quarterback

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff July 21, 2012 09:19 AM
300qb.jpg

Quarterback is one of the most stable positions on the team, but 2012 could be the final season Brian Hoyer (center) is Tom Brady's backup (Robert E. Klein/For the Globe)

Shalise Manza Young provides a status report on the Patriots' offensive position groups heading into the start of training camp on July 26.

Position: Quarterback
Current number of players: 3
Four-year average at cut to 53: 2.5
Last season at 53: 3

Locks (3): Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
Near-locks: None
Battling: None
Long shots: None

53-man prediction
On the team:
Brady, Hoyer, Mallett
Cut: None

Parting thought: Brady certainly isn’t going anywhere, and the Patriots like Hoyer as his backup. They believe he has what it takes to be a solid starter. This could be Hoyer’s final year with the Pats – he will be a free agent after the season, and if he really has grown as much as the team believes he has, Hoyer will want to test the waters and get a shot at taking over a team. While he did not take a snap in his rookie season, word is Mallett showed growth on the practice field last year. He still has some work to do, judging by his mechanics during spring camps, but if Hoyer does depart, he’ll likely be the top backup next season, so he needs to fine-tune.

Rookie WR Roark released

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff July 20, 2012 04:39 PM

The Patriots have announced that rookie WR Matt Roark has been released.

The 6-5, 214 pound undrafted free agent from Kentucky was one of five players who reportedly failed the team physical on Thursday, when rookies reported for training camp.

He was considered a longshot to make the roster.

New England now has 88 players on its roster, two under the NFL limit.

Training camp preview: Safety

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff July 20, 2012 07:00 AM
300chung.jpg

Patrick Chung had 62 tackles and a sack in eight games last season. (Associated Press)

Greg A. Bedard provides a status report on the Patriots' defensive position groups heading into the start of training camp on July 26.

Position: Safety
Current number of players: 8
Four-year average at cut to 53 players: 4.0
Last season at 53: 4

Locks (3): Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson

Near locks (0)

Battling (4): Josh Barrett, James Ihedigbo, Nate Ebner, Sergio Brown

Longshots (1): Ross Ventrone

53-man prediction
On the team (5):
Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, Josh Barrett, James Ihedigbo
Cut (3): Nate Ebner, Sergio Brown, Ross Ventrone

Parting thought
I think this is where the Patriots will use the extra roster spot when all is said and done. If they keep fewer linebackers, the Patriots will need to make up for the special teams bodies at safety where they can run and tackle. I think Barrett will open some eyes, but if he struggles in space again he’s gone. Not crazy about Ihedigbo – he’s serviceable but I’d rather get younger and more athletic. The Patriots drafted Ebner for special teams, and they still really like Brown on coverage units – he really improved there last year. Can either of those two guys grab a spot from Barrett or Ihedigbo? I doubt it, but that’s a big question that will need to be answered.

Report: Five Patriots rookies fail physical

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff July 19, 2012 06:20 PM
The Patriots' rookies reported to Gillette Stadium at 8 a.m. today to get training camp underway, and reportedly five players failed their physicals.

Howard Balzer of SiriusXM NFL radio, among other outlets, tweeted a short while ago that seventh-round draft pick WR Jeremy Ebert, plus undrafted players DL Justin Francis, WR Matt Roark, OL Jeremiah Warren and OL Markus Zusevics failed their physicals.

The team could have designated them as such because they failed the team conditioning test, which is pretty tough: 20 timed sprints of either 60 (skill players), 50 (TE, FB, LB) or 40 yards (linemen).

Balzer reported Ebert, who was limited in spring camps, was placed on the active/physically unable to perform list; the other four players were placed on the non-football injury list.

Being placed on the active list means players can be removed at any time.

Veterans report Wednesday for their physicals, with the first training camp practice next Thursday.

Report: Patriots to meet with TE Visanthe Shiancoe

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 19, 2012 09:27 AM

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The New England Patriots are expected to meet with free agent tight end Visanthe Shiancoe today, according to report by NFL Network's Steve Wyche.

The Patriots already have five tight ends on their roster, including an injured Jake Ballard and Brad Herman, who is listed on injured reserve.

Shiancoe, who is best known for his time with the Minnesota Vikings, is a 10-year pro with 243 career receptions and 27 touchdowns. He's a free agent after five seasons with the Vikings.

Training camp preview: Cornerback

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff July 19, 2012 07:00 AM
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Devin McCourty had 87 tackles and two interceptions in 2011, his second season in the NFL. In his rookie season, he had seven interceptions. (Robert E. Klein/For the Globe)

Greg A. Bedard provides a status report on the Patriots' defensive position groups heading into the start of training camp on July 26.

Position: Cornerback
Current number of players: 8
Four-year average at cut to 53 players: 5.5
Last season at 53: 6

With the passing game out of control in the NFL, look for this position to continue to take up more spots. Those extra spots will go to players with cornerback/safety versatility.

Locks (3): Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling

Near locks (0)

Battling (4): Sterling Moore, Alfonzo Dennard, Will Allen, Marquice Cole

Longshots (1): Malcolm Williams

53-man prediction
On the team (6):
Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, Sterling Moore, Alfonzo Dennard, Will Allen
Cut (2): Marquice Cole, Malcolm Williams

Parting thought: This is going to be really interesting. I would not be surprised if the Patriots kept seven players here. The biggest question is what can these guys do on special teams in relationship to their cornerback play. Moore and Allen would seem to have a leg up, but neither is a special teams standout at this point. Dennard, when all is said and done, may be a CB/S tweener and could man both spots. Cole is a special teams star, but is he good enough at corner to merit a spot? Wouldn’t mind keeping all seven myself considering all the problems the Patriots had last season.

Patriots, Hightower finalize contract

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff July 18, 2012 02:20 PM

With the Patriots' rookies set to start training camp next Thursday, the team today came to terms with its final remaining unsigned draft pick: Dont'a Hightower.

Via ProFootballTalk.com and ESPN, the linebacker from Alabama is now under contract.

Hightower was the second of the Pats' two first-round picks, taken 25th overall.

UPDATE: Hightower has essentially confirmed the signing, posting on his Twitter account, "Guess the cats out of the bag lol #PatriotsNation wants to [thank] everyone who has helped me reach my dream #hightowerclan"

With the new slotting system for rookie deals in place, with first-rounders getting four-year deals with a team option for a fifth year, it is unknown at this point why it took so long for Hightower's deal to get done.

Chandler Jones, New England's top pick, was signed on May 23.

Training camp preview: Outside linebacker

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff July 18, 2012 07:00 AM
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The Patriots chose Dont'a Hightower with the 25th pick in the draft out of Alabama. (Associated Press)

Greg A. Bedard provides a status report on the Patriots' defensive position groups heading into the start of training camp on July 26.

Position: Outside linebacker
Current number of players: 5
Four-year average at cut to 53 players: 3.8
Last season at 53: 4

Locks (2): Jerod Mayo, Bobby Carpenter

Near locks (0)

Battling (3): Niko Koutouvides, Jeff Tarpinian, Tracy White

Long shots (0)

53-man prediction
On the team (3):
Jerod Mayo, Bobby Carpenter, Jeff Tarpinian
Cut (2): Niko Koutouvides, Tracy White

Parting thought: Depending on the injury situation, look for this to be a spot where the Patriots try to steal a roster spot for either the line or the secondary. Hightower’s inside/outside versatility allows for that. If a starter goes down anywhere among the linebackers – provided he doesn’t win the strong-side job outright (we think he will) – Hightower will get the call. The third spot comes down to whoever is the better special teams player between White, Tarpinian and Koutouvides. That has been White in the past, but that has to come to an end at some point.

Training camp preview: Inside linebacker

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff July 17, 2012 07:00 AM
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Brandon Spikes had 47 tackles in eight games in 2011. (Associated Press)

Greg A. Bedard provides a status report on the Patriots' defensive position groups heading into the start of training camp on July 26.

Position: Inside linebacker
Current number of players: 4
Four-year average at cut to 53 players: 4.0
Last season at 53: 3

Another position where the scheme change has affected things. Really we should just group all the linebackers together – and separate the line – but that would leave a one-year sample size.

Locks (2): Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower

Near locks (1): Dane Fletcher

Battling (0)

Long shots (1)
Mike Rivera

53-man prediction
Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Dane Fletcher
Cut: Mike Rivera

Parting thought: This group is fairly straightforward. Hightower is likely going to move to strong-side outside linebacker, but that shouldn’t affect the number because he’s going to backup all linebacker spots in our estimation.

Patriots, Wes Welker fail to reach new deal

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff July 16, 2012 04:45 PM
The NFL-mandated 4 p.m. deadline for teams to come to a long-term extension with franchised players has come and gone, and the Patriots and receiver Wes Welker were unable to agree to a new deal, a league source confirmed with colleague Greg A. Bedard.

As the Globe reported last Monday, the sticking point between the two sides was the Patriots' reluctance to give Welker a third year on a deal and how to structure a potential third year.

This means Welker will play the 2012 season under his franchise tag, which this year for receivers is $9.515 million.

There are now three options for Welker, who will almost certainly set a franchise record for receptions this season, and New England. He and the team can re-open talks once the 2012 season is over, the Patriots can franchise him again for '13, at a cost of more than $11 million (120 percent of his 2012 salary), or Welker can become a free agent.

Welker signed his one-year franchise tender in May and said he hoped it would lead to the team extending him on a long-term deal. But NFL rules prohibit franchise players from negotiating for a long-term deal after Monday’s deadline.

Welker, 31, caught 122 passes last year and has caught an NFL-high 554 passes since joining the Patriots in 2007.

Training camp preview: Defensive line

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff July 16, 2012 03:39 PM
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Rookie ends Jake Bequette (left) and Chandler Jones appear to be in good position to make the cut for spots on the 53-man regular-season roster (Getty Images).

Greg A. Bedard provides a status report on the Patriots' defensive position groups heading into the start of training camp on July 26.

Position: Defensive line
Current number of players: 17.
Four-year average at cut to 53 players: 7.5.
Last season at 53: 10 (five tackles, five ends).

This is a position that you have to look solely at last year’s number. That’s when the Patriots went to a 4-3 alignment, and they look to be doing the same this year.

Locks
Tackle:
Vince Wilfork, Jonathan Fanene
End: Rob Ninkovich, Trevor Scott, Chandler Jones, Jake Bequette

Near locks
Tackle:
Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love
End: None
Note: Both Deaderick and Love have to come to play because if they slip, they’ll find themselves quickly on the bubble. Deaderick is the more talented of the two and has a higher ceiling, but he’s more inconsistent. Love has really improved, but he’s not going to get much better than he is at this point.

Battling
Tackle:
Myron Pryor, Justin Francis, Gerard Warren, Ron Brace
End: Jermaine Cunningham
Note: Pryor, provided he comes back to health (shoulder) from where he was last year at this time, should make this team and make an impact. Francis has been one of the standouts as an undrafted free agent and brings tackle/end versatility. If he keeps it up, he may make this team. Brace and Cunningham are on their final runs. The Patriots need Cunningham more. Don’t be surprised if the Patriots pull the same thing again with Warren this season and release him and bring him back later. He earned a spot with his play in training camp in 2011 but was released. I have the feeling both he and the team realize he can only last half a season at 33 years old and have an agreement.

Long shots
Tackle:
Marcus Harrison, Marcus Fortson
End: Alex Silvestro, Aaron Lavarias
Note: Don’t see any of them having much of a shot.

53-man prediction
Tackle (6):
Vince Wilfork, Jonathan Fanene, Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor, Justin Francis
End (4): Rob Ninkovich, Trevor Scott, Chandler Jones, Jake Bequette
Cut (6): Gerard Warren, Ron Brace, Marcus Harrison, Marcus Fortson, Alex Silvestro, Aaron Lavarias
Trade (1): Jermaine Cunningham

Parting thought: An x-factor in all of this is the possible (and we think probable) return of end Andre Carter. That left us with four ends. If that happens, then Love or Pryor could go. It will depend on their play. Of course, Francis could come back down to earth when the pads go on.

Forbes once again ranks Patriots as world's 6th-most valuable team

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff July 16, 2012 02:29 PM

Forbes magazine has published its annual list of the world's most valuable sports franchises, and the Patriots came in this year at the same spot at last year: sixth. This year, however, they are tied at six with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The franchise is valued at an estimated $1.4 billion, up from $1.37 billion last year. (Robert Kraft bought the team in 1994 for a then-NFL record $175 million.)

British soccer club Manchester United, the world's most popular soccer team, remained number one, valued at $2.23 billion, the only team to come in over $2 billion. Another soccer team, Real Madrid, was second at $1.88 billion.

The Yankees and Cowboys were tied at third ($1.85 billion) and the Redskins were fifth ($1.56 billion), meaning the Patriots are the third-most valuable franchise in the NFL.

Thanks to its lucrative broadcast contracts with four major networks, the profits of which are split equally among all of the league's teams, all 32 NFL clubs are in the Forbes 50 list. The average franchise value in the league is $1.04 billion, with 15 teams estimated to be worth $1 billion.

The other teams in the AFC East, the Jets ($1.23 billion), Dolphins ($1.01 billion) and Bills ($792 million), rank 12th, 22nd and 42nd, respectively.

The NFL's least-valuable franchise is the Jaguars, coming in at $725 million.

One other local team made the top 50: the Red Sox came in at 24th, valued at $1 billion.

A look at the opponents: Jacksonville Jaguars, Week 16

Posted by Staff July 12, 2012 07:00 AM

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Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert threw a pass during practice on June 13 in Jacksonville, Fla. (John Raoux / AP Photo)

Editor's note: This is part of a series on the Patriots scheduled opponents in the upcoming season. The following are questions that have been posed to the beat writers of each particular team. In this case, the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Five questions about the Jaguars heading into training camp with Tania Ganguli, the beat writer from the Florida Times-Union.

Link: jacksonville.com/jaguars
Twitter: @taniaganguli

Date: Dec. 23
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: EverBank Field

2011 record: 5-11.
Playoffs: None.

1. What is going to be the strength of this team?
Defense should be the team's strength as the league's sixth-ranked unit returns almost completely intact.

2. Where are they looking to get better?
The Jaguars hired an offensive-minded coach in Mike Mularkey to help turn around the league's worst passing offense last year. The talent in the receiving corps has grown dramatically and they say they're seeing improvement from quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

3. Players on the spot?
QB Blaine Gabbert, WR Justin Blackmon, WR Laurent Robinson, RB Maurice Jones-Drew (currently holding out)

4. What needs to happen for this team to win big?
Gabbert has to make a significant transformation.

5. Realistic expectations for this team at this point?
It's impossible to tell until we know if Gabbert really has improved. Improvement in shorts and T-shirts doesn't tell us much.

Robert Kraft issues statement on audition tape

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 11, 2012 01:37 PM

Patriots owner Robert Kraft issued a statement today after a video of him and Ricki Noel Lander went viral, highlighted by a few choice expletives.

The video was an audition tape with Kraft reading with Noel Lander.

ProFootballTalk.com received this statement:

"I tried to help Ricki prepare an audition tape for an upcoming Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson comedy by reading Wilson’s lines. I never intended that it would be made public and I regret that it has. I think we can all agree that Owen Wilson has nothing to worry about. I am going to stick to my day job."

See the tape here.

A look at the opponents: San Francisco 49ers, Week 15

Posted by Staff July 11, 2012 07:00 AM

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San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss missed a catch during NFL football practice at the team's training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., on June 5. (Paul Sakuma / AP Photo)

Editor's note: This is part of a series on the Patriots scheduled opponents in the upcoming season. The following are questions that have been posed to the beat writers of each particular team. In this case, the San Francisco 49ers.

Five questions about the 49ers heading into training camp with Kevin Lynch, the beat writer from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Link: blog.sfgate.com/49ers
Twitter: @klynch49

Date: Dec. 16
Time: 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Location: Gillette Stadium

2011 record: 13-3, won NFC West.
Playoffs: Beat Saints 36-32 in divisional round; lost 20-17 (OT) to Giants in NFC Championship.

1. What is going to be the strength of this team?
Undoubtedly, defense, particularly the front 7.

2. Where are they looking to get better?
The passing game, where they were awful in the red zone and converting third downs.

3. Players on the spot?
Alex Smith now has offensive weapons with Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Brandon Jacobs, A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James. But can he consistently get the ball to these players?

Moss will also be on the spot. He's been highly dedicated in the off-season but will that continue if the Smith can't get him the ball?

OLB Aldon Smith on defense. He's transitioning from a third-down pass rusher to an every down player. Can the slender Smith hold up against the run?

4. What needs to happen for this team to win big?
The 49ers need to convert kicker David Akers' record-setting field goals into touchdowns.

5. Realistic expectations for this team at this point?
Final four, may be even final two.

Patriots to hold joint practices with Saints, Bucs

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 10, 2012 04:22 PM

The Patriots and New Orleans Saints confirmed the two teams will hold joint practices before their preseason game Aug. 9.

The teams will practice together Aug. 7 and 8, with the latter date serving as a walk-through before the two teams' first preseason game. The Patriots and Saints held joint practices in 2010 as well.

The Globe's Shalise Manza Young also confirmed earlier reports that the Patriots will hold joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Patriots will play the Bucs in the third week of the preseason, on Aug. 24.

A look at opponents: Houston Texans, Week 14

Posted by Staff July 10, 2012 07:00 AM

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Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans is sacked by Dwight Freeney of the Indianapolis Colts during on Nov. 1, 2010. (Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

Editor's note: This is part of a series on the Patriots scheduled opponents in the upcoming season. The following are questions that have been posed to the beat writers of each particular team. In this case, the Houston Texans.

Five questions about the Texans heading into training camp with John McClain, the beat writer from the Houston Chronicle.

Link: blog.chron.com/ultimatetexans/
Twitter: @McClain_on_NFL

Date: Dec. 12
Time: 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Location: Gillette Stadium

2011 record: 10-6, first place in AFC South.
Playoffs: Beat Bengals 31-10 in wild card; lost to Ravens 20-13 in divisional round.

1. What is going to be the strength of this team?
They finished second in rushing with Arian Foster and Ben Tate helping
them rank first in time of possession. Matt Schaub (Lisfranc surgery on
right foot, missing six games and two playoff games) and Andre Johnson
(missed nine games because of hamstring injuries and sat out OTAs and
minicamp after scope on knee) are supposed to be 100 percent at the
start of camp. If they stay healthy, the Texans should be a Super Bowl
contender. Defense ranked second. Outstanding pass rush. Only one new
starter in ILB Bradie James.

2. Where are they looking to get better?
Special teams. They'll have a new kicker, punter, kickoff returner and
punt returner even though they were good last season.

3. Players on the spot?
Schaub must stay healthy. He started every game in 2009 and 2010. They
were 7-3 and averaging 27.2 points when he was injured last season.
Andre Johnson, who turns 31 in July, has to stay healthy. After Johnson
and Kevin Walter, the other starter, they have no backup wide receiver with an NFL
catch. RG Antoine Caldwell and RT Rashad Butler are new starters
replacing RG Mike Brisiel (Raiders) and RT Eric Winston (Chiefs), both
of whom were cap casualties. CB Kareem Jackson has started for two
seasons but hasn't lived up to being first-round pick. Rookie kicker Randy
Bullock was drafted in fifth round. He's the first kicker Texans have drafted.
They offered Neil Rackers the minimum after he scored a team-record 135
points.

4. What needs to happen for this team to win big?
They have five nationally televised games and only one (Packers) at
home. I don't think their record will be good enough to earn home-field
advantage, so I don't think they'll make the Super Bowl. They need for
Schaub to stay healthy.

5. Realistic expectations for this team at this point?
They won the AFC South, beat Cincinnati in the wild-card round and lost
20-13 at Baltimore in the divisional round without Schaub. They had cap
problems, but they've drafted well and have players to replace those who
were lost. They should win the division and finish like 10-6 or 11-5.

Reason for optimism with Patriots-Welker deal?

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff July 9, 2012 11:28 AM

The deadline for the Patriots and franchise player Wes Welker to get a longer-term deal done is next Monday at 4 p.m., and after a time when it looked like a longshot something might get done, now things are starting to look up.

While the two sides have been in different places as far as guaranteed money, it is believed that the main hurdle is a third year and how to structure it. The Patriots have been reluctant to go to a three-year deal with the 31-year old receiver, who in five seasons with New England has recorded 554 catches, just three shy of the franchise record set by Troy Brown over 15 years.

Via a league source, it is expected that the two sides will be working hard this week toward getting a deal done.

New England did offer Welker a two-year, fully guaranteed deal for $16 million late last season, but it was refused. If he were to play under the franchise tag in both '12 and '13, Welker would make nearly $21 million guaranteed.

The newlywed (he got married in late June) signed his franchise tag in May, making it possible for him to take part in OTAs and mini-camp with his teammates.

Since arriving in New England via trade with the Dolphins in 2007, Welker has become something of a security blanket for Tom Brady, the one consistent receiver he's had over the last five years. Welker fought his way back after suffering a torn ACL in the 2009 regular-season finale and was on the field when the Pats opened the 2010 season.

By league rule, if the two sides don't come to an agreement by July 15th (this year it's the 16th because the 15th is a Sunday), then Welker will play the 2012 season under only the franchise tag, and the two can't talk contract again until the season is over.

A look at opponents: Miami Dolphins, Weeks 13 and 17

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff July 9, 2012 07:00 AM

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New Dolphins coach Joe Philbin inherited a team with a strong defensive line, but questions in the defensive secondary. (Associated Press photo)


Editor's note: This is part of a series on the Patriots' scheduled opponents in the upcoming season. The following are questions that have been posed to the beat writers of each particular team. In this case, the Miami Dolphins.

Five questions about the Dolphins heading into training camp with Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Link: MiamiDolphins.com
Twitter: @omarkelly

Date: Dec. 2
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: Sun Life Stadium

Date: Dec. 30
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: Gillette Stadium

2011 record: 6-10
Playoffs: None

1. What is going to be the strength of this team?
The strength of the 2012 Dolphins will continue to be the defensive line. Miami has annually been one of the most forceful defensive lines when it comes to shutting down the run. The Dolphins have been top six against the run for the past two years, and top 10 for the last three. Adding Olivier Vernon and moved to a base 4-3 scheme should help strengthen Miami's pass rushing.

2. Where are they looking to get better?
The Dolphins should be .500 based on talent alone, but quarterback play is Miami's Achilles heel. The Dolphins could be in the playoff hunt if they find another Chad Pennington. The offense changing to a West Coast approach under Joe Philbin's leadership will help, but it's going to be a process.

3. Players on the spot?
Miami's defense will only be as good as the secondary allows. Vontae Davis, Sean Smith and safety Reshad Jones are all talented players, but their maturity level and weekly preparation has been a concern the past few years. The Dolphins need a safety who can keep the unit tougher, preventing communication breakdowns. Receiver Clyde Gates, offensive guard John Jerry and tight ends Will Yeatman and Jeron Mastrud are all young players being put on the hot seat in training camp.

4. What needs to happen for this team to win big?
The Dolphins need a quarterback who can settle the offense, convert first downs, score in the red zone, and limit turnovers. David Garrard might become that player considering he's digested the west coast offense the best. But it is possible Matt Moore could blossom in his second season as a starter.

5. Realistic expectations for this team at this point?
The Dolphins aren't much competition for the Tom Brady-led Patriots, but with solid quarterback play the team's strong defense should keep Miami hovering around .500. Last year's team won six games in the second-half of the season, and that doesn't include Miami's four fourth-quarter losses.

Changes to Pats' scouting staff; team adds nutritionist

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff July 6, 2012 03:11 PM

The Patriots today sent reporters an advance copy of their 2012 media guide, and a peek inside reveals a few news nuggets pertaining to the club which haven't previously been announced:

* It looks like the Pats haven't fully replaced director of pro personnel Jason Licht, who left earlier this year for Arizona, at least in terms of title. Norwood native Bob Quinn, who has been with the Pats for 12 years, has a change in title, from assistant director of pro personnel to director of pro scouting.

* Providence College graduate Brian Smith, who spent the previous two seasons as assistant director of college scouting, is now college scouting coordinator. Smith has been with the Pats since 2000.

* Monti Ossenfort is promoted to Smith's former position as assistant director of college scouting. Ossenfort is entering his eighth season with New England.

* Former NFL defensive back Steve Cargile and Ronnie McGill are promoted to pro scouts; both were scouting assistants last year with the Patriots.

* In a departure from their typical practice, the Patriots also included scouting assistants in the media guide. Perhaps the fact that three of the four men named are all the sons of Bill Belichick friends has something to do with that: Chris Simms, son of Giants' great Phil and himself a former NFL quarterback; Matt Groh, son of former Belichick assistant Al, and Mick Lombardi, son of NFL Network analyst and former league executive Michael. The fourth, Frank Ross, played at John Carroll University, alma mater of both Josh McDaniels and Nick Caserio.

Also, the Patriots have hired a new team nutritionist: Ted Harper. Harper has worked with U.S. Military Special Operations Command (SOCOM) as well as winter Olympics athletes.

A look at opponents: Indianapolis Colts, Week 11

Posted by Staff July 6, 2012 08:01 AM

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Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck throws during practice on June 13. (Darron Cummings / AP Photo)

Editor's note: This is part of a series on the Patriots' scheduled opponents in the upcoming season. The following are questions that have been posed to the beat writers of each particular team. In this case, the Indianapolis Colts.

Five questions about the Colts heading into training camp with Tom James, the beat writer from the Tribune Star.

Link: colts.com
Twitter: @TribStarTJames

Date: Nov. 18
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: Gillette Stadium

2011 record: 2-14.
Playoffs: None.

1. What is going to be the strength of this team?
Coming off a 2-14 season and with the loss of several key players -- Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Gary Brackett, Melvin Bullitt, Jeff Saturday, Ryan Diem -- the strength of the 2012 Indianapolis Colts figures to be its receiving corps (returning starters Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie plus the addition of veteran Donnie Avery).

2. Where are they looking to get better?
Everywhere. Offensive and defensive lines. Secondary, particularly at cornerback opposite returning starter Jerraud Powers. More production out of the running game. Special teams, specifically along the coverage and return units. And quick development of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.

3. Players on the spot?
Defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who have to become acclimated quickly to a hybrid 3-4 defensive system. The Colts haven't run any kind of a 3-4 defensive alignment since 1992. Freeney and Mathis will both be asked to help out in pass coverage. That should prove to be very interesting.

4. What needs to happen for this team to win big?
Learn a new offense and a new defense very, very quickly. And for the offensive and defensive lines to come together as units early on.

5. Realistic expectations for this team at this point?
If the Colts can win 5 to 6 games this year, that would be a good stepping off point for a franchise that reportedly has $43M in salary cap availability in 2013.

A look at opponents: New York Jets, Week 7 and 12

Posted by Staff July 5, 2012 07:30 AM

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New York Jets quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh, right, watched as Mark Sanchez, left, and Tim Tebow threw during NFL football practice in Florham Park, N.J., on June 12. (Mel Evans / AP Photo)

Editor's note: This is part of a series on the Patriots scheduled opponents in the upcoming season. The following are questions that have been posed to the beat writers of each particular team. In this case, the New York Jets.

Five questions about the Jets heading into training camp with Jenny Vrentas, the beat writer from The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.

Link: nj.com/jets
Twitter: @JennyVrentas

Date: Oct. 21
Time: 4:15 p.m.
Location: Gillette Stadium

Date: Nov. 22
Time: 8:20 p.m.
Location: MetLife Stadium

2011 record: 8-8
Playoffs: None.

1. What is going to be the strength of this team?
The defense. The Jets took steps to add depth and speed. They bolstered the safety position (LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell), added young players who could help cover the tight end (Demario Davis and Josh Bush) and used their first-round pick on a versatile defensive lineman (Quinton Coples) who can boost their pass rush and allow them to play more four-down fronts. Rex Ryan said this unit could be better than the first-in-the-league 2009 defense and, this time, that might not be just bluster.

2. Where are they looking to get better?
The Jets never had an offensive identity last year. Under Tony Sparano, they want to re-establish the ground-and-pound that complemented their defense so well in 2009 and 2010 -- albeit with new wrinkles. See: Tim Tebow, who will be a factor in the run game.

3. Players on the spot?
Quarterback Mark Sanchez. He's coming off a season in which he turned the ball over 26 times, and the general manager said publicly, "He didn't play well." And we all know his backup is the most popular backup quarterback in the NFL. By all accounts, Sanchez has responded well to the addition of Tebow so far, taking ownership of Sparano's new offense and becoming a stronger leader. He'll need to carry that over to the season: Make smart decisions, hang onto the football and stay in command of the offense. Otherwise, this delicate quarterback dynamic could get messy. Others on the spot: WR Santonio Holmes, RT Wayne Hunter, LB Bart Scott, CB Kyle Wilson.

4. What needs to happen for this team to win big?
Three things: 1) Dominant defense. 2) Efficient offense. 3) Unified locker room

5. Realistic expectations for this team at this point?
You don't want to read too much into anything that happens in May and June, but this team truly seems to have learned from its mistakes last year. That starts from the top, with coach Rex Ryan, who hasn't been afraid to admit his missteps in 2011. He's more involved as a coach -- what he does best -- which is the first key to turning around from last year's 8-8 season. The AFC East is shaping up to be a strong division this year, and the Patriots will be difficult to unseat, but I see the Jets returning to the playoffs in 2012.

A look at the opponents: Seattle Seahawks, Week 6

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 3, 2012 07:00 AM

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Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talks with players during a practice June 12. (Elaine Thompson / AP Photo)

Five questions about the Seahawks heading into training camp with Danny O’Neil, the beat writer from the Seattle Times.

Link: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/seahawks/?from=stnv2
Twitter: @dannyoneil

Date: Oct. 14
Time: 4:25 p.m.
Location: Qwest Field
2011 record: 7-9, third in NFC West
Playoffs: None.

1. What is going to be the strength of this team?
Run defense. The Seahawks are stout up front because while they may line up in a 4-3 formation, their personnel resembles more of a 3-4 with three big-bodied defensive linemen in tackles Brandon Mebane and Alan Branch with defensive end Red Bryant -- who drew some interest from New England in free agency before the Seahawks made him their highest-paid defensive players.

2. Where are they looking to get better?
Pass rush. The Seahawks were very mediocre a year ago, and while Chris Clemons has totaled 22 sacks in the previous two seasons, the team is looking to get him some help, which is why Bruce Irvin was chosen in the first round, No. 15 overall.

3. Players on the spot?
Sidney Rice was signed to be Seattle's No. 1 wide receiver in 2011, but it was an undrafted rookie -- Doug Baldwin -- who led the team in receptions last year. Rice is coming back after undergoing offseason surgery on both of his shoulders. When healthy, he's an elite talent, but he missed more regular-season games (17) than he's played (15) over the past two seasons.

4. What needs to happen for this team to win big?
Seattle needs to decide on its starting quarterback between Matt Flynn, Russell Wilson and incumbent Tarvaris Jackson, and then it has to get improvement at that position from what Seattle received a year ago from Jackson.

5. Realistic expectations for this team at this point?
After consecutive 7-9 seasons under coach Pete Carroll, anything short of a winning record would be considered a disappointment. That's a pretty high bar, though, considering this team enters training camp with a question mark at quarterback, which is only the most important position on the field.

Patriots tickets on sale July 17

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff July 2, 2012 10:47 AM

Tickets for individual Patriots games this season will go on sale July 17, the team announced on Monday.

There are a limited number of tickets available for each home game, although they generally sell out very soon after sales begin. Visa is the only form of payment accepted.

Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. on July 17 at ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000 (call 508-384-9191 for wheelchair-accessible seating). Tickets will not be sold at Gillette Stadium.

A look at the opponents: Denver Broncos, Week 5

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff July 2, 2012 07:00 AM

peytonmanning607.jpg

Peyton Manning will look to guide the Broncos offense to new heights. (David Zalubowski / AP photo)

Five questions about the Broncos heading into training camp with Mike Klis, the beat writer from the Denver Post.

Link: http://www.denverpost.com/broncos
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mikeklis

Date: Oct. 7
Time: 4:25 p.m.
Location: Gillette Stadium
2011 record: 8-8, first place in AFC West
Playoffs: Lost divisional playoff 45-10 at New England.

1. What is going to be the strength of this team?
Peyton Manning, quarterback. He’ll run the no-huddle in altitude. Pretty good offensive line that is young (Ryan Clady, Zane Beadles, JD Walton, Chris Kuper, Orlando Franklin). Real good kicker (Matt Prater) and punter (Britton Colquitt). Pass rushers Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. Improved secondary with additions of cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Drayton Florence and safety Mike Adams. The Josh-New England offense is still being used. And they even added two tight ends _ Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme. Lot of 2 tight end, pass-catching sets. I think John Fox is a pretty good head coach.

2. Where are they looking to get better?
They have to prove they can succeed with conventional running game. They were No. 1 in rushing last year but that was all Tebow. Linebackers are problem with DJ Williams starting with 6-game suspension. Joe Mays not an elite MLB, although the Saints and Colts both tried to sign him in free agency.

3. Players on the spot?
Manning of course. Defensive tackle Ty Warren. Former Patriot hasn’t played in two years. They want him to start alongside rookie Derek Wolfe, a second-round pick from Cincy. Second-year safety Rahim Moore had rough rookie year.

4. What needs to happen for this team to win big?
Manning and No. 1 receiver Demaryius Thomas have to stay healthy. Thomas a beast when healthy but he’s been oft-injured his first 2 years.

5. Realistic expectations for this team at this point?
Given it’s rough schedule, especially early (networks wanted Manning early so that meant tough opponents early _ 1. Steelers, 2. at Atlanta, 3. Houston; 4. Raiders; 5. at NE; 6. at San Diego; 7. bye; 8. New Orleans; 9. at Cincy; 10. At Cam and Carolina), and Manning needing to shake off a year of rust, I don’t see team doing better than 9-7. Most people around here think 10-6, 11-5 and 12-4. All optimism based on Manning. Something about 4 neck surgeries, 36 years old, missed season tells me Broncos won’t see Manning at his best, at least not this year.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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