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Some thoughts on the initial roster

Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 31, 2012 10:09 PM

Some thoughts looking over the roster:

  • Already made my thoughts known on the early veteran cuts.

  • This is by no means the roster for the opener against the Titans.

  • The season is over for RB Jeff Demps, who likely sustained a bruised knee (MCL or PCL) against the Giants. He'll get to redshirt and get ready for next season.

  • Demps is NOT eligible for the new in-season IR rule. To be eligible, the player has to be on the 53-man roster Friday night and then moved to IR after 4 p.m. on Tuesday. TE Visanthe Shiancoe would be a prime candidate. That would open up another roster spot.

  • The Patriots will be looking for a fullback and receiver, and anybody else they think can help them. Jacob Hester (Chargers) and Ovie Mughelli (Rams) are top veterans who were released Friday.

  • They are at 52 players (22 offense, 27 defense) right now.

  • That does not include guard Brian Waters, who apparently is still on reserve/did not report and does not count against the roster.

  • Patriots are really light on the offensive line with just eight on the active roster.

  • Conversely, they are very heavy on the defensive line (11), especially DE (six).

  • Could Jabar Gaffney and/or Deion Branch come back at some point? Yes, but that doesn't mean it will happen. Gaffney was telling teams he's a week or two away from coming back from his quad injury. He could be signed elsewhere. Branch will likely get less action and be almost the 54th guy on the roster, along with Gerard Warren (55th).

  • I wouldn't freak out about the Patriots having only four receivers (for now). Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and a running back are the base set. Plus, TE Daniels Fells will be on the field a lot, let alone a fullback if/when they get one. Oh, and Hernandez is a receiver.

  • Players with the most tenuous spots: 1. DT Marcus Forston; 2. LB Mike Rivera; 3. DE Justin Francis; 4. C/G Nick McDonald; 5. CB Sterling Moore.

  • One man's practice squad: A QB to be named later; RB to be named later; FB Eric Kettani; WR Jeremy Ebert; OT Matt Kopa; OG Jeremiah Warren; LB Jeff Tarpinian; TE Alex Silvestro or a safety to be named later.

  • The Patriots are back to having Danny Woodhead or whichever defensive starter they want to put at risk of injury (defensive backs) back to returning kickoffs.

  • Waivers have to be in by noon on Saturday.


  • After the cuts, who is left? Patriots roster takes shape

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 31, 2012 09:44 PM

    After cutting 22 players and placing another on injured reserve, the Patriots' remaining 53-man roster is defensive back heavy heading into the regular season.

    Here's the complete list:

    QBs
    Tom Brady
    Ryan Mallett

    RBs
    Stevan Ridley
    Shane Vereen
    Danny Woodhead
    Brandon Bolden

    FB
    (none)

    WRs
    Wes Welker
    Brandon Lloyd
    Julian Edelman
    Matthew Slater

    TEs
    Rob Gronkowski
    Aaron Hernandez
    Daniel Fells
    Visanthe Shiancoe

    OL
    Nate Solder
    Logan Mankins
    Dan Connolly
    Ryan Wendell
    Marcus Cannon
    Sebastian Vollmer
    Donald Thomas
    Nick McDonald

    DL
    Rob Ninkovich
    Kyle Love
    Vince Wilfork
    Chandler Jones
    Brandon Deaderick
    Ron Brace
    Justin Francis
    Jake Bequette
    Marcus Forston
    Trevor Scott
    Jermaine Cunningham

    LBs
    Jerod Mayo
    Brandon Spikes
    Dont'a Hightower
    Bobby Carpenter
    Mike Rivera
    Tracy White

    S
    Patrick Chung
    Steve Gregory
    Tavon Wilson
    Nate Ebner

    CBs
    Devin McCourty
    Kyle Arrington
    Sterling Moore
    Ras-I Dowling
    Marquice Cole
    Alfonzo Dennard

    Special Teams
    Stephen Gostkowski
    Zoltan Mesko
    Danny Aiken

    Patriots cuts as they get to 53 (updating)

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 31, 2012 06:50 PM

    As of right now, we know of four players who have been told of their release by the Patriots, and there are reports of two others also being cut.

    We have confirmed Deion Branch, Dan Koppen, Brian Hoyer and James Ihedigbo have been released.

    UPDATE (3:43 p.m.) - Confirmed that the Patriots have released DB Derrick Martin, signed Aug. 4.

    UPDATE (4:45 p.m.) - Greg Bedard reports the Patriots have released S Sergio Brown. Brown confirmed the move a few minutes later on his Twitter page.

    UPDATE (6:31 p.m.) - T Darrion Weems has been waived, reports Greg Bedard. Also, there are multiple reports that FB Eric Kettani has been waived. Both have practice squad eligibility.

    UPDATE (6:40 p.m.) - TE Visanthe Shiancoe, who has not practiced for several weeks, is expected to remain on the roster, as is injured C/G Nick McDonald.

    UPDATE (6:50 p.m.) - T Derek Dennis has apparently announced his release himself, posting this on Twitter: "Thank you to the organization and fans of New England it's been fun!!"

    Branch and Hoyer are the two most startling moves, in my opinion. Once the Patriots released Jabar Gaffney and Donte' Stallworth earlier this week, it seemed as though the 32-year old was safe. Branch can't do as much as he once could, but he still still effective in short space.

    The Pats could still bring Branch back after Week 1, when his contract would no longer be guaranteed (the contracts of vested veterans who are on the roster in Week 1 are fully guaranteed), though Branch's base salary this season was set to be $925,000, which is the minimum for a player with 10 or more accrued seasons.

    Greg Bedard's analysis on Branch: This was a surprise only after the Patriots released Jabar Gaffney and Donte' Stallworth. After that, you figured it would be worth it to keep Branch around just for leadership and experience, and the fact that he's still a reliable target in this system. Even then, I had him as a game-day inactive. Outside of New England, Branch has next to no value. He's fine in a 10-yard box, but is limited outside of that. That's why he didn't get any action on the free agent market. Right now the Patriots only have three legitimate receivers who can play right away: Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker and Julian Edelman. Expect them to looking for a trade or on waivers for another receiver, preferably one that knows the Josh McDaniels' system from Denver or St. Louis. It's not a huge need because the Patriots are probably going to play with two WRs most of the time with Lloyd, Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Gronkowski and a RB. Or one WR, three TEs and a RB. Also, Shalise Manza Young is hearing the Patriots are on the lookout for FBs. McDaniels wants one. Cutting Hoyer could be a gamble. While he didn't have a great showing in the preseason games, he still seems like a more reliable option should something happen to Brady. But it appears that second-year quarterback Ryan Mallett will be Brady's backup; Mallett also was not that impressive in the preseason, but as colleague Greg Bedard noted after the Giants' game Wednesday night, neither did Brady in the 2001 preseason. Bedard on Hoyer: This was a mild shock (releasing Hoyer was something I talked out loud about last year -- look out next year, Shane Vereen, because it looks like I'm a year early on speculation), just because with a team so close to the Super Bowl, wouldn't you want to have your bases covered in case Brady has to miss time? Make no mistake, Ryan Mallett did not outplay Hoyer in the preseason (a guy who knows more about QBs than I do agrees). They were close, but Hoyer played with much worse talent around him. This was purely about Hoyer making $1.9 million and the Patriots feeling that Mallett had improved to the point where the team feels they he can be Hoyer's equal or better in the next 2-3 months. Don't really have a problem with it; teams make these kinds of decisions all the time. But there are a few things puzzling. Why did the Patriots put a second-round tender on Hoyer in the offseason? Why not put right of first refusal and save the money (or get rid of him then, maybe by working out a trade)? How hard did they try on the trade market, especially considering they did not showcase him at all in the preseason. If you want to get something, let him work with the starters? And why not keep Hoyer around for one more season and receive draft-pick compensation when he signed elsewhere? That would maximize the value you have received after signing him as an undrafted free agent. People are going to make a big deal about being vulnerable behind Brady but, really, are they going very far without him? Expect the Patriots to add a QB to the practice squad.

    Koppen's release was not as much a surprise; it's likely the staff believes Ryan Wendell out-performed him in preseason.

    Bedard on Koppen: The writing was on the wall as Koppen's best days look to be behind him. You can argue that Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell and Nick McDonald outplayed Koppen, though I'm not buying it on McDonald. What's fairly disturbing is that the Patriots waited until the 53-man cutdown to release Koppen. It didn't look like he was going to be on the team, why not do the right thing and release him early? And I've been told that it's not a situation where Koppen either plays here or nowhere. He wants to keep playing, and doesn't want to go out like this. Ihedigbo is likely a victim of numbers; rookie Tavon Wilson has shown thus far to be smart and versatile, while fellow rookie Nate Ebner has shown promise as well. Bedard on Ihedigbo: Thought the Patriots might keep him around for special teams and depth, but I was surprised they even re-signed him in the first place. He's hurt all the time and limited in space. He could be back if injuries strike. Even if he latches on somewhere else, he might not stay long and could be back if injuries strike. By cutting Branch and Koppen, there are just two players on the roster who have won a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots: Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork. Nick McDonald also has one from his rookie season with the Packers in 2010.

    Additionally, WEEI.com reports that DB Derrick Martin and MassLive.com reports that DE Aaron Lavarias have both been released. Martin is a vested veteran, so he immediately becomes a free agent; Lavarias still has practice squad eligibility. Both were long-shots to make the roster.

    We will update this post as more cuts become known.

    As it stands, the Patriots are at 69 players. We'll be posting the rest as we get them.

    Safety Sergio Brown was released to bring the roster to 68 players. Expect a flurry of about a half dozen now, and then the rest very late.

    Patriots practice peek - Four return, several not spotted

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 31, 2012 04:27 PM

    The Patriots are holding a full-pads practice on the fields behind Gillette Stadium currently, and while on the plus side four players returned, 17 were missing.

    RB Stevan Ridley, LB Brandon Spikes, S Patrick Chung and LB/SpT Tracy White are the quartet who were back on the field for practice.

    We already know that six of the missing have been cut: Deion Branch, Brian Hoyer, Dan Koppen, James Ihedigbo, Derrick Martin and Aaron Lavarias.

    The other 11 not spotted were: Kyle Love, Sebastian Vollmer, Shane Vereen, Jesse Holley, Sergio Brown, Jeff Demps, Tyler Urban, Nick McDonald, Visanthe Shiancoe, Niko Koutouvides and Marcus Harrison.

    Of those players, it seems safe to speculate that Vereen, Demps, McDonald and Shiancoe were held out because of injury. Vollmer is coming off his first preseason appearance, playing a few snaps against the Giants; Koutouvides also left the game against the Giants with a wrist injury, but returned to the sideline (though not the game) later.

    By that count, there are 58 players on the field, at least five of whom will be released shortly after practice ends. Don't let anyone ever say this isn't a tough business.

    Road to 53: Final version

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 31, 2012 02:33 AM

    Welcome to Cutdown Day.

    Each team has to pare down its roster by 9 p.m. I would say about half the cuts will become known during the day, and then rest will be held in limbo until right before the deadline. Teams don't like to allow other teams to get a jump on research about some of their cuts, especially the players the team would like to re-sign to the practice squad.

    Watched every single public practice. I've looked at my notes. Broke down all the exhibition games. And I still don't have 98 percent of the information the Patriots are going on, especially injury reports and coaches film. This is all guess work. Let's take a swing.

    After serious deliberations, I have come up with the 53-man roster I think the Patriots the will select. It's not the 53 I would necessarily pick, but what I think they will do.

    You'll notice that I have removed right guard Brian Waters from this version of the 53-man roster and kept him on reserve/did not report. While I still believe he will report at some point, my optimism has dipped from about 75 percent previously to 50 percent based on some new, not completely verified, information. Waters could report today. It could be a few days. He could not report at all. I really don't have much clarity on the topic.

    With that being said, here's my cutdown day 53-man roster, which is sure to be wrong even before the Patriots start claiming guys, which they normally do.

    Key: Players in CAPS are rookies. Players in red lettering have known injury issues presently. Players in purple are my projected game-day inactives right now. (Click on the pictures for full versions)

    Screen Shot 2012-08-31 at 2.30.01 AM.png
    Screen Shot 2012-08-31 at 2.30.15 AM.png

    LAST FIVE IN

    1. Dan Koppen, C: I have a hard time believing that Bill Belichick would wait until cutdown day to release a universally respected veteran such as Koppen. That would not be right. If Koppen had designs on continuing to play, you release him around the 75-man cutdown. That's the one caveat. Belichick and Koppen might well have come to an agreement on this. If Koppen did not want to play anywhere else, then he could have told Belichick to do what he has to do and if the Patriots don't want him, then he'll retire. In lieu of that, he's Waters/Logan Mankins insurance. I personally don't think he has much left, even after an uptick about halfway through camp. He regressed a bit at the end and looks like he is at or nearing the line.
    2. Brandon Bolden, RB: Really like the undrafted Ole Miss product. Tough, decent quickness, reminds so much of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. I would prefer to get him through to the practice squad. I asked an NFL executive about whether Bolden would get claimed. "50-50. A few teams out there needs RBs. My threshold is you keep a guy as a player 51-53 if you're going to be real disappointed losing him," he said. If Bolden got claimed, would it be the end of the world? You wouldn't think so or else what are you doing with Shane Vereen? You have four running backs ahead of Bolden who should get the majority of the playing time this year and for the foreseeable future. But I don't know how the Patriots feel about Vereen's future and health. So Bolden sticks for now but could go with a claim.
    3. James Ihedigbo, S: It's not so much the injury to Chung that's keeping Ihedigbo around for me. It's that he still shows up on a lot of special teams and, quite frankly, I don't want to see Chung on anymore special teams because of his durability issues. Keep another safety if it helps keep Chung on the field. Another guy that could go if needed.
    4. Alfonzo Dennard, CB: After finally getting to see more of him the past two weeks, I'm intrigued enough to keep him around and declare him inactive every week with an eye on 2013.
    5. Trevor Scott, DE: Am I blown away by his skills? No. He's limited in the pass rush, although he's surprisingly good against the run (Don't ask me why he can disengage from blockers against the run, but not the pass rush. A lot of his pressures come from hustle and plays that are extended). But his production can't be denied. And, really, it came to this for me -- if injuries hit the DE position, are you going to be OK with Jake Bequette and/or Justin Francis playing a lot? Me neither. Where have you gone Andre Carter?

    LAST FIVE OUT

    1. Justin Francis, DE: I know the Patriots really like this guy, he has been very productive and how can you go wrong with another Rutgers guy? But his production has come against backups and retreads. He has no special teams ability. And I don't see a big line for him on the waiver wire, although I wouldn't discount it. Can't you find other guys like this? If he were a little taller, I would be more interested. Release him now, and pay him a lot to come back to the practice squad if you like him that much. And if you like him more than that and think he has legit pass-rush ability, then why keep both Cunningham and Scott around?
    2. Nick McDonald, C/G/T: Another guy the Patriots like, or at least they did at the end of last year. And his positional versatility would be great to have around -- if he could really play any of those positions. The Packers kept McDonald inactive his entire rookie season because they liked his potential. And then they released him last year when they knew veteran Scott Wells could leave in free agency after the season, which he did. McDonald tantalizes with his talent and nasty edge, but when you get past that, he's just not good enough to keep around and his pad level is not good. Not one time has he stood out.
    3. Visanthe Shiancoe, TE: Definitely tempting to keep him on the 53-man roster and then move him to the new in-season injured reserve. But a) you're going to have to cut someone now, b) we don't know how bad his knee is, and c) since he's missed so much time, we don't even know if he can comprehend the Patriots' playbook (that's been a little bit of an issue in the past). It's either Shiancoe or Daniel Fells. I'd rather go with the guy we know can perform in this system.
    4. Sergio Brown/Malcolm Williams, DBs: Surprise, surprise. Look, neither of these guys can play a lick on defense but they are really good on special teams. Is that enough to keep one over CB Sterling Moore, who after being really good for about six weeks, looks like he took a step back the past two? Not in my opinion.
    5. Jeremy Ebert, WR: Always tough to cut draft picks, even a seventh-rounder, and while I like what he brings and his potential, are you going to keep him over Deion Branch or Julian Edelman right now? I think the answer is a firm no. Should be able to get him to the practice squad and take another look next year.

    Bill Belichick wraps up preseason with roster cuts looming

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 30, 2012 11:52 AM
    Patriots coach Bill Belichick just wrapped his day-after conference call with local reporters following New England's loss to the New York Giants in the preseason finale on Wednesday. Here are some quick hits from that conversation:

    Opening statement
    Well, it was a short night here last night; we're trying to work through the film this morning and make decisions in the next 24 hours. We'll probably talk about it today and finalize things tomorrow, after a full night’s sleep. Take stock of our team, probably the rest of the teams, and (see) if there’s anything else in play [i.e. other players who may become available].

    On the Patriots playing three preseason games in 10 days and how that condensed schedule affected the team
    We did the best we could, I think we made progress, we definitely made progress; we worked guys in different stages, some guys played more than others … tried to balance that out. We'll try to keep moving ahead.

    I think a lot of times when you're playing once a week you have a chance to practice everybody and play everybody in different increments during that game so the advantage of that is you get to see those players – [if you can] do it in all three games, you get to see them against three different schemes, different types of matchups…We played like a split-squad. The amount of plays was probably the same, close to the same, but more segmented.

    On how many quarterbacks the Pats might keep
    Let me answer it this way: when you get to certain point of your roster, look at the number 46 [the number of players that can be active on game days], those are the guys that are going to play. In that group you have a couple of players who may be injured…so call it 50 players - somewhere more than 46, but less than 53 - then you have depth and insurance for your team...Plus eight players on the practice squad, whoever they are - those players are also depth because they're practicing with you, they're in meetings with you (but) until those guys get to the game, they’re really depth…

    It’s a combination of all those things. They’re inter-related, it's not just about one position…who are the players, what are the needs on the team, circumstances. There’s no real set formula for that. I can’t imagine having four quarterbacks on the roster; 2000 was a unique situation, we had two third quarterbacks really, very different, (Tom) Brady and (Michael) Bishop, one could have been on practice squad, Bishop might not have been practice squad eligible. [It becomes] which players do you want to protect. You can protect guys on the 53, not as much for practice squad players…those are all the considerations. They apply to every position, every player, once you get past whatever the number is, guys you know are going to play for you, want not only on the roster but in the game. There’s players we’d like to keep working with (that we just can’t)…and the conversation will include players that aren’t on our team right now.

    On Brian Waters
    I have no comment on that. I will say, any personnel decisions, whatever they are, we’ll always do what we feel is best for the football team.

    On if Jermaine Cunningham's spring momentum carried through the preseason
    Sure. I sure would say that. Overall he’s been at a higher level. He came to camp in great condition, worked hard offseason ... he came to training camp and that work, those improvements showed up. They showed up in practice, from early in camp to all four preseason games. It wasn't just one thing ... He has more position flexibility than in the past.


    Giants 6, Patriots 3: Five quickie thoughts

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 29, 2012 11:11 PM

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Let's close the book on the Patriots' preseason and their 6-3 loss to the Giants Wednesday night. No, I'm not going to make a crack about the Giants pulling one out again against the Patriots.

    1. Who did and didn't play: It's either a very good thing or a very bad thing if a player doesn't play in the final exhibition game. Usually it's good: the team doesn't want a key player to get hurt. For the same reason, they will hold out a player who has no chance to make the team. That doesn't happen as much. Somebody has to play this game. I take it as good news for some guys who might have been on the bubble at some point: WR Julian Edelman, CB Marquice Cole, and WR Deion Branch. Those guys seem to be locked into spots. Cole was the most surprising guy to sit. He almost got starter's respect. He's looking at a key role on special teams, and possibly sub packages.

    2. DEs in focus: Both Jermaine Cunningham and Trevor Scott played a lot of snaps. I take that as the Patriots wanted to take a real hard look at both players. Both were again productive, but Cunningham definitely had the edge with (officially) three quarterback hits, including two sacks. It's good to see Cunningham be dominant, even against weaker competition. That's where you want him to be. Looks like he's headed for the roster. Justin Francis was also productive during his stint.

    3. Vollmer back: RT Sebastian Vollmer played about 10 snaps for the first time and looked really good. That's a great sign for a line that needs a player of his experience. His mood in the locker room indicated that he was happy with what transpired. Now, if Brian Waters will just walk in the door in the next few days...

    4. Mallett gets the start: The disparity in playing time between Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer this preseason has been, in my opinion, about the team wanting to see more of Mallett with Hoyer set to become a free agent after this season. Mallett continued to be mediocre in a system that doesn't accentuate his deep passing strength.

    5. Running backs: Thought Brandon Bolden (15 for 59 yards) did a lot in his opportunities when there wasn't great blocking at times. Was it enough to make the roster? I think so, but the Patriots might not agree. Jeff Demps played more and he's still getting acclimated to the game. His legs seem faster than his body at times. But, boy, is he fast. Would be shocked if Demps gets cut.

    Mallett feels he's making progress

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 29, 2012 10:53 PM

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Second-year quarterback Ryan Mallett got the start on Wednesday night in the Patriots' 6-3 loss to the Giants, and was up and down, just like the rest of his preseason.

    Mallett completed 8 of 15 passes for 40 yards and was sacked twice during the first half.

    In the four exhibitions, Mallett was 33 of 67 (49.2 percent) for 300 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

    Caught up with Mallett after the game.

    Where do you think you've improved from a year ago?

    Everywhere in general. I mean, there were a lot of things last year I didn’t know, I didn’t really understand because I got there late. I’m not making excuses, just something I might not have gotten. Going into this year, having the spring, having the camp, knowing a little bit about what’s going on made me feel more comfortable.

    Tough not getting many deep shots called?

    I just try to stay with what we’re trying to do as a team, not trying to do too much. Just try to play the game like it’s supposed to be played and do what we do within our offense.

    Are you happy with where you are in your progress?

    I don’t know if you say happy but I feel better than I did after the last preseason but I still know there’s a ton of work left to do.

    Where do you need to get better?

    Everything. You’ve never arrived when you’re playing quarterback in this league. You have to get better every day at every little thing.

    Do you feel you're building from the game experience?

    You learn from every play. You go to the sideline, make your adjustments, look at the pictures, see something you might not have saw and get the same play, same coverage. You can go back and maybe make a different throw.

    Feel like you're managing the game?

    As a quarterback, I don’t like the (term) game manager. You want to go out there and make plays when they present themselves, you don’t want to force anything. But I don’t know about managing the game. You have to stay within yourself when you’re playing.

    Final: Giants 6, Patriots 3

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 29, 2012 07:01 PM

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After 18 punts and three field goals, the Patriots preseason has come to an unremarkable end, with roster cuts looming over the team and the NFL later this week.

    The Patriots lost to the Giants Wednesday night, 6-3, at MetLife Stadium, finishing the preseason 1-3.

    Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes booted two field goals while the Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski had another as both teams struggled on offense.

    The Patriots elected to rest their star players, giving the start at quarterback to Ryan Mallett who finished 8 of 15 for 40 yards. The Patriots mustered only 12 first downs.

    Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko got plenty of practice. He had nine punts in the game, six of them pinned within the 20-yard line. His counterpart, the Giants' Steve Weatherford, also had nine punts The Giants offense managed 13 first downs.

    Running back Brandon Bolden, who is battling for a roster spot, led the Patriots with 15 carries for 59 yards. Rookie running back Jeff Demps had six carries for 15 yards and three catches for 31 yards.

    Defensively, linebacker Jermaine Cunningham accounted for two of the Patriots' four sacks on the night. Rookie free agent Justin Francis had one and Trevor Scott had the other.

    The Patriots will have to trim their roster to 53 players on Friday.

    1:03 4th quarter: Giants 6, Patriots 3 -- Lawrence Tynes kicked his second field goal of the night, a 32-yarder, as the Giants captured the lead following the game's first turnover.

    2:25 4th quarter: Patriots 3, Giants 3 -- A huge turnover here in the Patriots red zone. Giants defensive lineman Adewale Ojomo had a strip-sack fumble on Brian Hoyer and in the scramble to get the ball the Giants' Marcus Thomas recovered at the New England 17. This game seems a field goal away from ending the preseason.

    2:50 4th quarter: Patriots 3, Giants 3 -- The Patriots got a quarterback pressure and then a sack on David Carr, then broke up a screen to force the Giants into their ninth punt.

    6:05 4th quarter: Patriots 3, Giants 3 -- Bill Belichick challenged a Jesse Holley catch that was called out of bounds but it was upheld. The Patriots punted for the ninth time of the night. Zoltan Mesko is getting plenty of practice.

    6:48 4th quarter: Patriots 3, Giants 3 -- Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard forced a fumble by Giants running back Andre Brown as the Patriots got the Giants to punt for the eighth time tonight.

    8:30 4th quarter: Patriots 3, Giants 3 -- New Patriots receiver Kerry Taylor had a nice grab for 15 yards from Brian Hoyer that he had to go up and get. Hoyer was unfortunately taken down for a 7-yard sack later on in the drive as the offense stalled again.

    13:38 4th quarter: Patriots 3, Giants 3 -- After considering a 54-yard field goal, the Giants went ahead and decided to punt. Steve Weatherford has seven punts on the night for the Giants. Yeah, it's been one of those kind of games.

    End of the 3d quarter: Patriots 3, Giants 3 -- Giants backup QB David Carr escaped some pressure from defensive lineman Justin Francis and connected with Jerrel Jernigan for a 25-yard gain. It was one of the few moments that Patriots coach Bill Belichick became animated on the sideline, given the lack of plays by both teams. The game continues with the Giants driving toward the Patriots end zone.

    5:11 3d quarter: Patriots 3, Giants 3 -- Brian Hoyer and Jeff Demps have taken over for the Patriots offense in the second quarter. Hoyer connected with Demps out of the backfield and it's apparent that the Patriots want to get him in open space to utilize his speed. Hoyer took a 4-yard sack, though, and the team was forced to punt on the drive.

    7:30 3d quarter: Patriots 3, Giants 3 -- The Giants evened the score with a 34-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes following a 13-play, 64-yard drive. It was the Giants' lengthiest drive of the evening.

    On defense, Patriots linebacker Mike Rivera made a couple of nice tackles, shedding blockers to do so. Niko Koutouvides appeared to injure his wrist on the drive. He left for the locker room.

    15:00 3d quarter: Patriots 3, Giants 0 -- Third quarter is underway with the Giants receiving to start.

    End of the 2d quarter: Patriots 3, Giants 0 -- Trevor Scott got a shoe-string sack on Giants QB David Carr and the Patriots were able to get through the first half without giving up any points and only four first downs.

    Through the first half, the Patriots have fared only slightly better on offense with seven first downs.

    Ryan Mallett is 8 of 15 for 40 yards and running back Brandon Bolden has 15 carries for 59 yards. Bolden also has three catches for 16 yards.

    0:37 2d quarter: Patriots 3, Giants 0 -- Ryan Mallett was sacked for a 6-yard loss with the Giants' Matt Broha making the hit. Mallett had a chance to extend the drive before the end of the half, but he couldn't connect with Jesse Holley on a deep pass over the middle and again on a slant at the first down marker.

    3:19 2d quarter: Patriots 3, Giants 0 -- The Giants offense is miserable with David Carr at the helm. Saddle up folks. This is going to be a long game. Another three-and-out.

    4:44 2d quarter: Patriots 3, Giants 0 -- In quick fashion, the Patriots gave the Giants the ball right back, going three-and-out with Ryan Mallett failing to connect with receiver Jesse Holley twice in the series.

    6:08 2d quarter: Patriots 3, Giants 0 -- After a lengthy delay thanks to the referees trying to figure out a penalty against the Giants for a special teams violation (illegal shift and then a face mask), Brandon Bolden muffed the punt, only to be saved by Jeff Demps. The same guy he's battling with for a roster spot. Oh the irony.

    8:27 2d quarter: Patriots 3, Giants 0 -- Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 20-yard field goal after a 12-play, 51-yard drive.

    Brandon Bolden got three straight touches in the red zone, but was unable to punch in a touchdown. Former Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich stuffed Bolden on third-and-goal at the 2-yard line.

    13:20 2d quarter: Patriots 0, Giants 0 -- Patriots safety Nate Ebner got a hand on an Eli Manning pass -- almost picking it off -- as the Patriots held the Giants to yet another three-and-out.

    So far, the Patriots' backup defense looks pretty good.

    14:45 2d quarter: Patriots 0, Giants 0 -- Ryan Mallett was sacked on third down, forcing another three-and-out for the Patriots. It's getting repetitive for both offenses.

    End of the first quarter: Patriots 0, Giants 0 -- Only two first downs in the first quarter for the Patriots.

    1:07 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Giants 0 -- Eli Manning underthrew a pass to Victor Cruz on third down -- a possible touchdown play -- and the Giants went three-and-out again. The Patriots backups are battling right now with the Giants first team.

    2:47 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Giants 0 -- The Patriots managed their first two first downs before a false start on tackle Marcus Cannon stalled the offense.

    Running back Brandon Bolden put together a couple of nice runs, including a 15-yarder that tight end Daniel Fells helped spring. It's our first glimpse of Fells in game action after he was sidelined for most of training camp.

    6:15 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Giants 0 -- Jermaine Cunningham got leverage on Giants right guard Mitch Petrus and sacked Eli Manning for a 14-yard loss.

    It was an impressive play for Cunningham, who has normally worked exclusively on the edge for the Patriots (at least in game situations) but found himself going up against an interior lineman. The Giants were forced to punt afterward.

    9:29 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Giants 0 -- A couple of passes to nowhere by Ryan Mallett and the Patriots find themselves with another three-and-out.

    11:26 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Giants 0 -- Niko Koutouvides was in on a nice stop in the backfield to force a three-and-out for the Giants. He's fighting for a spot on this team and that was a definite positive.

    13:46 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Giants 0 -- The Patriots went three-and-out with Ryan Mallett almost throwing an interception to Giants LB Jacquain Williams.

    15:42 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Giants 0 -- The Patriots won the toss and elected to receive with Jeff Demps back to return. Ryan Mallett gets the start at QB with Brandon Bolden starting at RB.

    15:00 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Giants 0 -- The game is about to get started and it's almost assured that Tom Brady will not be playing. Instead, there will be heavy helpings of Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett at QB. The Globe's Greg Bedard is reporting that Hoyer will get the start. We'll find out soon enough.

    Stay tuned throughout the game right here. We'll keep you updated throughout.

    Ridley, Vereen, Welker not spotted

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 29, 2012 06:32 PM

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As the Patriots get ready to take on the New York Giants in their final preseason game, it appears they'll be without running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.

    Both players were not spotted during pregame warmups. Also not spotted were safety Patrick Chung, LB Brandon Spikes, LB Tracy White, OL Nick McDonald, OL, Matt Kopa, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, and WR Wes Welker.

    Vereen was hobbled after Friday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Shiancoe (unknown) and Chung (shoulder) are also nursing injuries.

    Preseason Game 4 preview: Patriots at Giants

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 29, 2012 03:31 PM

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    It's the last preseason game before the real action starts and it's undetermined how much playing time the Patriots will give Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and the team's other stars.

    But what we do know is that this is the last opportunity for about 20 players to make the 53-man roster. The Patriots have until Friday to trim 22 others from its rolls.

    That puts a larger focus on the players in tonight's game who are in the margin -- RB Branden Bolden, CB Marquice Cole, DL Justin Francis, OL Darrion Weems, etc. -- and not on a superficial rematch of Super Bowl XLVI.

    The Giants are coming off a 20-17 loss to the Chicago Bears Aug. 24. Eli Manning was a cool 17 of 21 for 148 yards and a touchdown in the game.

    Here's the details for tonight's game:

    Kickoff: 7 p.m.

    Preseason records: Patriots 1-2 (Finished last season 13-3, AFC champions); Giants 1-2 (Finished last season 9-7, Super Bowl champions).

    TV/Radio info: WBZ-TV Ch. 4 (Don Criqui, Randy Cross); 98.5-FM The Sports Hub (Gil Santos, Scott Zolak).

    Projected starting lineups:
    Based on information distributed to the media, practice observations, and injuries for each team.

    Patriots offense: WR Wes Welker, LT Nate Solder, LG Logan Mankins, C Dan Koppen, RG Dan Connolly, RT Marcus Cannon, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Deion Branch, QB Tom Brady, RB Stevan Ridley, TE Aaron Hernandez.

    Patriots defense: NT Vince Wilfork DT Kyle Love, RDE Chandler Jones, LB/DE Ron Ninkovich, LB Jerod Mayo, LB Dont'a Hightower, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Devin McCourty, CB Kyle Arrington, S Steve Gregory, S Tavon Wilson.

    Giants offense: WR Victor Cruz, LT Will Beatty, LG Kevin Boothe, C David Baas, RG Chris Snee, RT David Diehl, TE Bear Pascoe, WR Hakeem Nicks, QB Eli Manning, FB Henry Hynoski, RB Ahmad Bradshaw.

    Giants defense: LDE Justin Tuck, LDT Linval Joseph, RDT Rocky Bernard, RDE Jason Pierre-Paul, SLB Mathias Kiwanuka, MLB Chase Blackburn, WLB Michael Boley, LCB Corey Webster, RCB Michael Coe, SS Kenny Phillips, FS Antrel Rolle.

    Chat with Greg A. Bedard at 5 p.m.

    Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff August 29, 2012 08:28 AM

    Globe NFL reporter Greg A. Bedard will talk football at 5 p.m., live from MetLife Stadium where the Patriots will face the New York Giants in their final preseason game at 7 p.m.

    Chat with Greg A. Bedard

    Ending the Welker speculation

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 28, 2012 11:06 AM

    The reason why Wes Welker didn't take part in the Tampa practices and games was indeed because of the "personal" reasons he talked about on Tuesday.

    Welker was dealing with a death in the family and it required him to travel back to his native Oklahoma, according to two league sources.

    Hopefully this will end the silly conspiracy theories about Welker being unhappy with his contract and trying to force a trade.

    Mesko wins community service award

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 27, 2012 08:15 PM

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    FOXBOROUGH -- Every Tuesday, without fail, punter Zoltan Mesko is out visiting children. Even if it's the Patriots's only off day during the week.

    It could be at a Boys and Girls club or a hospital, in Worcester or Providence, he's there giving his time.

    He remembers hanging out with one kid who was playing a Spider-Man video game.

    "He got to the boss like 20 times," Mesko said. "I just hung out with him, he kept getting beat, kept getting beat."

    He wondered if putting up $20 would be enough of a push for the boy to beat the level.

    He didn't know what he was getting into.

    "He was absolutely sandbagging me," Mesko said. "He crushed the guy. So I had to pay up."

    It put as big a smile on Mesko's face as it did on the boy's.

    Earlier Monday, in the middle of the Patriots's practice, owner Robert Kraft walked up to Mesko and told him that for all his efforts in the community he would be honored with the team's Ron Burton Community Service Award at its annual Kickoff Gala at Gillette Stadium.

    “It's a humbling experience,” Mesko said. “I just feel like the stage we're put on, we have the social responsibility as athletes to give back.

    "The biggest thing I focus on is children," Mesko said. "Kids are where it's at. They have this kind of magic in their eyes, they still have a lot ahead of them and when you see them sick that's not where you want to see them. You want to put a smile on their face. You can't quantify the difference you make by showing up and giving them something to smile about for that day."

    He became the 10th player to win the award, joining a list that includes Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo.

    “It's special,” Wilfork said. “It speaks so much about the person who we are not as a football player.

    Explain why working with children is so important to him, he looked back at his roots in Romania and the opportunities he's had since coming to America when he was 11.

    When his father applied for the green card lottery, there were 20 million applicants and 55,000 winners. He considered himself lucky just to be in America and have the opportunity to kick footballs for a living.

    "Coming from a really low point in your life, growing up in the Communism and a very bad economic situation, coming over here I'm very grateful for where I am," he said.

    This will be Mesko's third year in New England, but Kraft said, "In the 18 years since we've established the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, perhaps no player has accomplished more in the community in such a short time."

    Hernandez: 'It's still kind of surreal'

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 27, 2012 07:04 PM

    An emotional Aaron Hernandez, who finalized a five-year, $40 million contract extension with the Patriots today, spoke with reporters before the team's annual Kickoff Gala, and called it one of the best days of his life.

    "It's an honor and it seems so surreal like, 'Is it really true?' It's just a dream and knowing I can help my family, they're the ones who I love, it's just an honor," Hernandez said.

    Hernandez seemed genuinely humbled and overwhelmed by the idea of his new contract as he spoke, admitting that he was very emotional about it, and cried with his family when he told them the news.

    The 23-year old Connecticut native was a fourth-round draft pick in 2010, when off-field concerns (the Globe reported multiple failed drug tests while he was at Florida) caused him to fall in the draft. He spoke of the Patriots taking a chance on him and essentially changing his life, and showed his appreciation to Robert Kraft by writing a $50,000 check to the Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund.

    "He changed my life. Now, I'm able to basically have a good chance to be set for life and have a good life and I have a daughter on the way, and I have a family that I love," Hernandez said. "It's just knowing that they're going to be OK, because I was happy playing for $250,000, $400,000 but knowing that my kids and my family will be able to have a good life, go to college, it's just an honor that he did that for me. He gave me this opportunity. So the $50,000 to help his foundation, obviously it's basically saying thank you."

    He revealed that he has a daughter on the way, due to arrive around Nov. 12.

    Now that he will be with New England for the long haul, Hernandez wants to live up to the deal that he's been given.

    "I couldn't be with a better franchise. I know Tom (Brady is) going to be around for a while. I love the coaches. I'm [geographically] close to my family. The whole organization is actually an organization. A lot of places are called organizations but are they really organized?

    "This is the place that not only did it change my future from them paying me, but it just changed me as a person because you can't come here and act reckless and do your own stuff. And I was one of the persons, I came here might have acted the way I wanted to act, but you get changed by Bill Belichick's way and you get changed by the Patriot way and now that I'm a Patriot, I have to start living like one and making the right decisions for them."

    Looking at the cuts

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 27, 2012 06:23 PM

    Some quick thoughts on the cuts/roster moves the Patriots announced:

    • First of all, don't read much into which guys made the first cut, and which ones didn't. The cut to 75 is usually about two things: paying respect to veterans by giving them a chance to find another job early, and filling out a roster for the final preseason game.
    • People on Twitter are trying to tell me it says something that Jeremy Ebert and/or Jesse Holley made the first cut instead of Jabar Gaffney and/or Donte' Stallworth. No, it doesn't. Gaffney, who has been out since Aug. 15 with a quad pull, wasn't going to play against the Giants. Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker and Deion Branch certainly weren't going to play much if at all. So who are you going to play for four quarters against the Giants? Holley, Ebert, former Viking Kerry Taylor and likely a little of Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater.
    • I don't expect Taylor to make the 53. He's likely here as a body for the Giants game and perhaps goes to the practice squad.
    • Don't know how anybody can be shocked about Gaffney's release considering we know nothing about the medical reports. Maybe he's going to be out a month. Maybe the Patriots didn't want to carry him and risk having to waive a guy like Danny Woodhead. Gaffney could be back at some point, you never know. He really wanted to come here after being released by the Redskins. He has already pocketed a $250,000 signing bonus. Maybe he'll be back when he's healthy or when his salary isn't guaranteed after Week 1.
    • Donte' Stallworth dropped too many passes. I didn't see him making this team. Bill Belichick had a great deal of respect personally for Stallworth, so he did him the service of an early release to find the best situation at his next team.
    • The releases of DTs Tim Bulman and Gerard Warren were expected, and was CB Ross Ventrone.
    • CB Will Allen, S Josh Barrett and FB Spencer Larsen -- placed on injured reserve -- all struggled with injury, and were long shots to make the roster.
    • The Patriots signed 19 free agents in the offseason. There are seven left: TE Visanthe Shiancoe, LB Bobby Carpenter, CB Marquice Cole, TE Daniel Fells, WR Brandon Lloyd, LB Trevor Scott and S Steve Gregory. I think all of them make the roster with Scott the possible lone exception.
    • Funny how the Patriots are back to their same WRs as last year plus Lloyd after all the talk about how many receivers there were.
    • These cuts reinforce that this will be a TE-heavy offense, with at least three playing a lot of snaps. The Patriots will usually use two WRs, and I see Aaron Hernandez as the defacto third WR, just like he was last year. Lloyd replaces Branch, who is the emergency backup.
    • That Dan Koppen was not released should be taken as a sign that he will be on the 53-man roster. If he wasn't going to be, Belichick would/should have released Koppen out of respect so he had the best chance of finding another job.

    Patriots trim roster to 75 - Gaffney among cuts

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 27, 2012 06:18 PM

    The Patriots have finally announced the roster moves they made to get to today's NFL-mandated limit of 75 players.

    Released were WRs Jabar Gaffney and Donte' Stallworth, DLs Gerard Warren and Tim Bulman, and DB Ross Ventrone.

    Also, S Josh Barrett, DB Will Allen and FB Spencer Larsen were placed on season-ending injured reserve.

    DL Myron Pryor (shoulder) and TE Jake Ballard (knee) were placed on reserve/physically unable to perform list, and rookie OL Markus Zusevics was placed on reserve/non-football injury list. Those three players will be unavailable for the first six weeks of the regular season.

    Finally, the Pats claimed WR Kerry Taylor off waivers from the Vikings.

    Patriots release Gaffney

    Posted by Robert Burgess August 27, 2012 06:09 PM

    Wide receiver Jabar Gaffney has been released by the Patriots, according to the team's media relations department.

    Here is what the press release had to say about him:

    Gaffney, 31, is a veteran of 10 NFL seasons with Houston (2002-05), the Patriots (2006-08), Denver (2009-10) and Washington (2011). The 6-foot-2-inch, 200-pound wide receiver re-signed with the Patriots on May 7, 2012. Gaffney spent three seasons with the Patriots (2006-08) and played in 43 games with 20 starts and caught 84 passes for 1,059 yards and 8 touchdowns. He has played in 155 career games with 103 starts and has caught 443 passes for 5,622 yards and 24 touchdowns. Gaffney was released by Washington on May 1, 2012. Gaffney originally entered the NFL as a second round draft choice by Houston (33rd overall) out of Florida in 2002.

    Welker sat out with 'personal issues'

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 27, 2012 03:22 PM

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    FOXBOROUGH -- After missing a last week's preseason game against the Buccaneers, Wes Welker returned to practice today, calling what kept him on the sidelines a "personal issue" but saying he expected to be on the field for the regular season opener Sept. 9 against the Tennessee Titans.

    “I feel good,” Welker said. “Just focusing on getting ready for the regular season and you want to get in there and help the team.”

    “A lot of it was personal issues, and I'll leave it at that, and let coach [Bill] Belichick take care of anything else.”

    “I look forward to being out there with the team and I'm looking forward to 2012.”

    Just a couple of lockers away from Aaron Hernandez's stall, Welker said he was happy to hear the 23-year-old tight end had signed a five-year, $40 million extension. Welker was looking for a long-term deal in the offseason after signing a $9.5 million franchise tag this spring.

    "It's good for him," Welker said. "I'm definitely happy for him. He's a great player, he's done a lot of great things for us, and I'm happy to have him here."

    When his situation drew comparisons to David Ortiz, who is playing on a one-year deal with the Red Sox although he too wanted a longer contract, he said the circumstances weren't the same.

    “I don't know," Welker said. "I think it's a little bit different with the sports and everything and how everything comes together. But at the same time, I'm under contract. I played out my last deal, and I'll play out this one and we'll see where we're at.

    "I'm just going out here trying to do my job to the best of my ability and let everything else take care of itself."

    Road to 53: Vol. 2

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 27, 2012 03:15 PM

    Took my first stab at the Patriots' "final" 53-man roster in the paper last week.

    I put that in parenthesis because the chances are high the Patriots will look at the waiver wire to see if they can improve in a spot or two (offensive tackle, special teams linebacker). The Patriots' roster, as with most teams, is a work in progress and not static.

    Here's my second go at the final 53, and you'll notice a couple surprising names. This is the roster I project the Patriots to pick, not what I would do. I'll explain my rationale below. Names in purple are game day inactives.

    Thumbnail image for Screen Shot 2012-08-27 at 3.14.06 PM.png
    Screen Shot 2012-08-27 at 3.14.17 PM.png

    Some notes:

    • The two big names are RB Danny Woodhead, and DE Jermaine Cunningham. They, along with OG Donald Thomas, WR Julian Edelman, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, LB Tracy White, LB Jeff Tarpinian and CB Alfonzo Dennard represent the true bubble boys.
    • I have Brian Waters on the team. Until he retires or he doesn't show up the week of the first game, I'm keeping him there. If Waters does not return, that frees up a spot on offense, and not necessarily the line. I'd keep Woodhead and have some linemen ready on practice squad.
    • Another big wild card is Shiancoe. I have no idea about his medicals, but the team did pay him a $400,000 bonus -- almost as much as Deion Branch and Jabar Gaffney combined ($500,000). How much more money can the Patriots eat after Jonathan Fanene?
    • If the Patriots cut their losses with Shiancoe, then Woodhead is back on the team.
    • My thinking on Woodhead: With Jeff Demps' arrival, Woodhead is the only running back not on special teams. Undrafted RB Brandon Bolden is all over them. Do I think Woodhead should be on the team? Absolutely. To me, it's either Woodhead or Bolden, and my gut tells me the team is leaning more towards Bolden. It's a long shot, but I wouldn't be totally shocked if the Patriots took a hard look at Shane Vereen's spot. He has underwhelmed since he got here. Vereen will likely get another year, but you never know.
    • What about Woodhead's role as third-down back? Sure seems like a good spot for one of the many tight ends, especially Hernandez. Demps is going to be thrown in there as well. So how many snaps is Woodhead going to get?
    • As for Cunningham, it comes down to him or Trevor Scott for me. And, again, Scott has the edge on special teams. These are the types of discussions the Patriots will be having at final cutdown. Personally, I'd keep Cunningham and Scott -- and cut LB Jeff Tarpinian, but he's on three of the four core special teams units. It seems like special teams coach Scotty O'Brien loves Tarpinian, who has assumed many of Dane Fletcher's roles.

    Belichick happy with Hernandez deal

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 27, 2012 02:56 PM

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    FOXBOROUGH -- By and large, Patriots coach Bill Belichick decided to let Aaron Hernandez's five-year, $40 million extension speak for itself this morning.

    "We wouldn’t do it if we weren’t in support of it, as an organization, me personally, all of the above," Belichick said.

    Along with a $12 million signing bonus, $16 million is guaranteed to the 23-year-old tight end, who caught 79 passes for 910 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

    "Aaron has improved a lot," Belichick said. "He’s worked hard, he’s improved a lot in all phases of the game: passing game, running game, protection and his overall versatility. He’s done a good job for us."

    Beyond that, Belichick was understated as the Patriots prepare for their last preseason game. He wouldn't say whether quarterback Tom Brady would be on the field Wednesday against the Giants. He categorized Wes Welker, who returned to practice after missing the last preseason game against the Buccaneers, as "day-to-day." He maintained that there was no update on guard Brian Waters, whose locker was in tact if empty.

    He acknowledged that the hits that Brady took in the Bucs game were unacceptable and that the offense as a whole has underperformed in its exhibitions.

    "You never want to see your quarterback get hit," Belichick said. "But it’s a function of a lot of things: not getting rid of the ball, protection, routes, so there’s a lot of things come into play. Needs to be better all the way around. I mean, we haven’t played very well offensively in any game, with anybody, for any length of time so we’ve got a lot of work to do."

    Patriots practice peek - Welker returns

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 27, 2012 01:51 PM

    The Patriots are back on their own fields, holding practice behind Gillette Stadium currently, as they prepare for Wednesday's preseason finale against the Giants.

    Colleague Julian Benbow reports that LB Brandon Spikes, RB Shane Vereen, OL Nick McDonald, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, DB Will Allen, LB Tracy White and OL Matt Kopa were not spotted.

    S Patrick Chung, WR Jabar Gaffney, RB Stevan Ridley, DL Myron Pryor (PUP list) and OL Markus Zusevics (PUP) were shorts-wearing observers.

    Wes Welker, who did not practice last Thursday and didn't play against the Buccaneers on Friday night, was participating.

    Players practicing were in shells.

    Aaron Hernandez deal worth up to $40 million

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 27, 2012 10:21 AM

    The Patriots are going to have the tight end of duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez at least through the 2018 season.

    The contract Hernandez signed today is a five-year extension worth a maximum value of $40 million and includes a $12.5-million signing bonus. Hernandez is guaranteed $16 million, with a practical guarantee of $16.4 million.

    The extension, which still includes his the $545,000 and $570,000 base salaries he was to make the next two season, averages $7.5 million. That's the second-highest extension in league history for a tight end in league.

    Brian Murphy, a Medfield native, negotiated the deal for Athletes First.

    The $12.5 million signing bonus is the highest ever for a tight end, and $9.5 million will be paid in the next seven months.

    Hernandez's deal averages more the first four years than Gronkowski's contract, and has more in true guaranteed money. Gronkowski was guaranteed $12 million, and another $5 million if he was on the roster in 2015.

    Hernandez's deal is also one year shorter than Gronkowski, and Hernandez will be 29 when it expires.

    There are five Pro Bowl incentives for Hernandez worth $500,000 each.

    Hernandez had it written into the contract that he will be making a $50,000 donation to the Myra Kraft Foundation to thank owner Robert Kraft for the faith he showed in him by drafting him, and to pay respect for renegotiating the contract with two years left on the deal.

    This is quite a deal for a fourth-round pick who has yet to make it through a season fully healthy.

    Could Hernandez have gotten more should he have waited for free agency? Sure. But no fourth-round picks, who received a $200,000 signing bonus, would turn down a deal like this.

    If Hernandez was to play out the deal and been franchised, he would have made $9.3 million the next three years. Now he's making double.

    We now know this for certain: the Patriots have joined the 21st century in cap management by extending valuable players early, which helps the player out short term and is cheaper for the team in the future.

    They have finally acknowledged that every contract doesn't need to be a contentious, head-butting exercise.

    Common sense has prevailed where if you do the right things early, the Patriots will scratch your back.

    This is a very good thing for the franchise. Both in the locker room, and on the cap.

    That's a lot of wins off the field for a franchise that piles them up on it.

    Patriots, Aaron Hernandez agree to extension

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 27, 2012 08:51 AM
    Earlier this year, the Patriots made sure tight end Rob Gronkowski would be sticking around for a while, and now they've locked up his fellow 2010 draft pick: via NFL.com and ESPN.com, the team and Aaron Hernandez have agreed to a multi-year extension that will keep him with New England through 2018.

    Hernandez is a versatile offensive weapon for the Pats: last year, he recorded 79 receptions for 910 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games, and also got five carries for 45 yards.

    The hybrid tight end, who won't turn 23 until November, is a Connecticut native who played at Florida. New England drafted him in the fourth round in 2010; although Hernandez was considered a highly talented prospect coming out of college, there were off-field concerns that caused him to drop in the draft.

    New England selected him, and there have been no known off-field for Hernandez since he came to the team.

    1-on-1s: Wilfork dominates again for defense

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 27, 2012 02:12 AM

    We've already gone over the offensive one-on-one numbers, and I explained some of the rationale behind the tabulations.

    Let's get on with the defense. (Again, here are last year's numbers for reference)

    Screen Shot 2012-08-27 at 2.28.14 AM.png

    The hardware:

    Taking home the Mr. Unblockable Award for the second-straight season is Vince Wilfork. He wasn't quite as awesome as he was in 2011, when he was never defeated, but he was pretty darn good (12-5-4).

    Some notes:

    • Gerard Warren actually had the highest percentage, but his reps were a little limited and he was released. The same thing happened last camp. I thought for sure he had earned a spot on the team because he really was tough to block, but the team released him before brining Warren back. The only thing I can think of is the Patriots don't think Warren can last through a whole season, so they prefer to bring him back fresh.
    • Chandler Jones had a very nice debut for a rookie. He's not as proficient as Mark Anderson and Andre Carter were last year coming out of camp, but Jones is a rookie.
    • The two biggest numbers that jumped out at me were Ron Brace going 9-0-2, and Jermaine Cunningham at 5-10-2. I knew Brace was impressive at times in camp, but I didn't know it was that consistent. Bodes well for him.
    • Cunningham had one, dominating 2-0 day and besides that, he really didn't do much. That seems to jive with what I remember in camp. He's very streaky, and mostly cold. Wonder what the coaches are thinking with him.
    • Rob Ninkovich was very good before having a little injury. He was 6-2-3 last year.
    • Trevor Scott was productive, but I remember it being against some of the lesser tackles.

    1-on-1s: Solder, Wendell stand out for offense

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 27, 2012 01:37 AM

    Trying to catch back up after the short week and travel to Tampa, and I've finished with the one-on-one totals from camp.

    These tend to provide a little more information and context as we head into cutdowns.

    First, let me explain these drills and my determinations.

    One-on-one drills are individual battles between the offensive and defensive lines.

    One-on-ones are merely one drill during which coaches evaluate pass blockers and pass rushers. The Patriots also do many “game” periods where two defensive linemen run stunts at three offensive linemen. Those are almost impossible to tabulate. Of course, everything falls way behind play in actual 11-on-11 periods. That’s what really counts. This is just merely a very blunt tool to get a sense of how players are doing.

    Secondly, I do not profess to be some sort of expert on the winners and losers in these drills. Just a guy who likes football and is trying to quantify what I'm watching. I try to stay conservative and only judge true wins and losses, and I try to stay consistent. It’s of no consequence to me if a player is a starter or not. Whatever number wins, I mark it down.

    Lastly, no one should make any indictments on any players. It’s just one tool to judge a player’s performance, and it’s one of the few drills in which you can actually quantify who is doing well, or who perhaps is struggling a little. This also doesn’t take into account which players may be working on certain techniques in a session, which might cause them to lose but will make them better in the long run.

    The numbers you see below are as follows: W for wins; L for loss; D for draw; Reps are the total number attempts, and then you have the percentages.

    For the defense, I calculated win percentage. Getting to the QB is the ultimate goal. Having a draw is almost as good as a loss when you’re rushing the passer, but at least you’re not getting beat.

    For the offense, I calculated loss percentage. For them, a tie is fine although you are allowing a little penetration. You just don’t want a loss, which means the quarterback is taking a pounding.

    On the bottom of each chart shows the dominating wins and losses for each unit.

    You can go back to my numbers from last year's camp, and you'll see that it was a fairly good indicator of what we would see during the regular season.

    So, with all that said, here are the numbers for the offense:

    Screen Shot 2012-08-27 at 2.05.18 AM.png

    Let's give out the hardware.

    The 2012 Brick Wall Award is shared between LT Nate Solder and C/G Ryan Wendell, who each went 7-9-7. Now, it needs to be pointed out that because of all the injured and missing players, that would have placed fifth last year in camp. But they were the best of the bunch.

    RT Sebastian Vollmer was the '11 winner, as he went 15-7-7 (21.7%).

    A couple of notes looking over the numbers:

    • I did not include any numbers from the Saints practice because that was really hard to make out. It's a shame because it took a full day's reps away and left us at totals less than last year.
    • When you step back and really look at the whole picture -- and that's why I keep these numbers -- Nate Solder showed the necessary improvement from a year ago. I wrote before camp that he needed to do better than his 55.6 loss percentage as a rookie after a full offseason. He did: 39.1 percent. Well done by Solder.
    • Darrion Weems did a really nice job after being picked up. I thought he was by far the best of the backup tackles. It will be interesting to see what they do with him. Likely try to get him to practice squad. But you never know.
    • Surprised that Nick McDonald struggled as much as he did, but he was coming back from injury. Still, combine this with some underwhelming performances in the games, and I'm not sure he's as close to the roster as I thought he was.
    • Dan Koppen started camp 3-11-1. He finished 5-2-1. That could have been him working to get back to full strength after the leg surgery last year. And it might give him a better chance at making the team.

    Game breakdown: Bucs 30, Patriots 28

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 26, 2012 11:28 PM

    Taking a look back at how the Patriots played in their 30-28 loss to the Buccaneers. Overall, I’d say it wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked, or at least what I heard from Patriots fans.

    The Patriots couldn’t have been more vanilla on either side of the ball. They showed nothing to upcoming opponents.

    QUARTERBACKS

    Tom Brady wasn’t very sharp, and that probably had something to do with Wes Welker not being in the lineup. And the Patriots were doing a lot of new things with personnel (fullbacks, three TEs) that looked a little uncomfortable. It also didn’t help that the Bucs blitzed on nine of Brady’s 20 dropbacks, which is high. Ryan Mallett didn’t get blitzed once. … The sack/fumble on the second possession was split between RT Marcus Cannon, who was just beaten at the snap, and Brady, who held the ball for 4.06 seconds and didn’t sense the rusher like he normally does. … The Bucs rushed three and dropped eight on the INT. Brady forced the ball into really good coverage. That’s a throw he probably doesn’t attempt in the regular season. …. The hit Brady took on the pentultimate play of the first quarter (12-yard completion to Brandon Lloyd) was on Brady because he decided to throw to Lloyd on a designed screen to Danny Woodhead. Brady has that option. … There were 11 total QB pressures allowed by the Patriots, which is about average. Of those, 1.5 were on Brady and another was on the team because no one was at fault on a well-called blitz against a screen … Deion Branch really bailed out Brady on the 13-yard pass in the second quarter when Brady had a clean pocket against the blitz and threw it behind Branch. Brady opened his front shoulder early, something he’s always mindful of in practice. … Dynamite pass from Mallett – a 15-yard out in the air from the other hashmark -- on 4th-and-1 to Donte’ Stallworth. And then he missed Stallworth high on the next throw. Looking for improvement in consistency. Have to string them together. …. On the touchdown to Jesse Holley, Mallett brought the pressure on himself (holding the ball for 4.08 seconds on the initial contact on the 8-yard line), but then did very well to keep the play alive and make a strong throw against his body for the touchdown. Mallett held the ball for 7.58 seconds total on the play.

    RUNNING BACKS

    Thought this group performed very well as a whole. …. Stevan Ridley, who had more standout plays than struggles, continued to show a young weakness when he cut a toss-sweep back inside on the third play instead of keeping it outside. Logan Mankins was slower than he was pre-injury, but Ridley should stay with the play. … Anybody else notice Brady’s body language when Shane Vereen limped off the field near the end of the second quarter. Basically it was, “Again?” … Going to split the sack of Brady with six minutes left in the second quarter between LT Nate Solder and Ridley. I initially thought it was Ridley’s fault, but Solder probably should have blocked inside out and left the cornerback for the Ridley. … Nice job by Ridley to pick up 5 yards after Aaron Hernandez completely whiffed on a block in the second quarter. … Demps might have had the biggest hole of the preseason on his 29-yard run. RG Nick McDonald and C Ryan Wendell each cut their men, Cannon sealed the right side, LG Donald Thomas got the middle linebacker turned around and Demps was off to the races with a ridiculous fake on the safety, who didn’t appear as the first defender until 8 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. … The more I see of Brandon Bolden, the more I think the Patriots are going to have to think long and hard about whether or not he’ll pass through waivers. He reminds so much of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and if Vereen can’t be counted on to stay healthy, I think the Patriots have to keep Bolden. … The fullbacks showed nothing. I now don’t expect the Patriots to keep any of them.

    RECEIVERS

    Medicore showing by this group. …Good job by Lloyd getting off press coverage from Leonard Johnson for a 12-yard completion. … Check out Aaron Hernandez getting a pancake on DE George Johnson on the final play of the first quarter. That was a tough block to make, and one that Hernandez has struggled with in the past. … That being said, Hernandez had three poorly executed run blocks in the game. … Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski each took turns having trouble with George Johnson at the point of attack on the back-to-back failed 1-yard conversions midway through the second quarter. … Alex Silvestro and Donte’ Stallworth each had drops.

    OFFENSIVE LINE

    This unit was far better than it appeared on television, especially when you consider they had to handle nine blitzes, including four with six rushers and one with seven. Only eight of the 11 total QB pressures (sacks, hurries and knockdowns combined) were on the line. … An average game from Dan Connolly, who had to juggle playing all three interior line spots. He should have been called for holding on Jeremy Ebert’s touchdown. Connolly yielded a stuffed run, a knockdown, was penalized for a cutblock, and a half hurry. … Solder had a team-high 2.5 TQBP, which is about what an NFL LT gives up in a game, maybe a little less. Solder is at his best on the move, as he had two really nice run blocks. … Logan Mankins allowed just a half run stuff in his 11 plays. He looked OK. Definitely isn’t moving as well as he did pre-surgery. … RT Marcus Cannon (1/2 sack, one stuffed run) played very well. Probably the most important thing was the fight we saw. He really got after it. Cannon wasn’t exactly facing Lawrence Taylor, but it was a job well done. …Cannon’s cut block injured Bucs DT Gerald McCoy, but it was a clean play. … It’s a difficult block to make, but Connolly needs to cut Roy Miller on the first play of the third possession, a 1-yard loss by Shane Vereen. … Thomas was lined up a good 2 yards behind the ball when he pulled on fourth play of the second quarter, and then he predictably pulled. Teams will pick up on that kind of play tipping. … Nice combo block by Solder on the first TD run by Ridley. … Solder has to be a little bit quicker with his feet picking up that blitz that nearly got Brady cut in half on third down with 3:18 left. … One of the reasons why the Packers gave up on Nate McDonald (hurry, poor run block) – after keeping him on the roster inactive all of his rookie season – was because he never improved his pad level. He still hasn’t. He plays way too high. … Cannon showed a lot of physicality sealing the end on Ridley’s 14-yard run near the end of the third quarter. Cannon had to execute a difficult reach block and then turned DL Wallace Gilberry (who is a reserve, but it's still a good play). … Poor screen block by Donald Thomas with 3:47 left in the first half. … C Dan Koppen (knockdown, half stuff) didn’t show well in limited duty. His hands aren’t as heavy on an opponent as they used to be.

    DEFENSIVE LINE

    The Patriots blitzed once, so it was up to the defensive line to get pressure and they did not. The Patriots had just five total QB pressures in the game, with RE Chandler Jones accounting for three of them (sack, knockdown, hurry). … That being said, the Patriots get pressure by certain techniques (like running a blitzer into a gap to free someone up) and they did absolutely none of that. Very basic stuff out there… This unit was awesome against the run. Outside of a few blown gaps because of lack of experience, they held their gaps very well. … Great job by both Vince Wilfork and LB Jerod Mayo fighting off blocks to get a stuffed run for no gain on first play of the game. … Jermaine Cunningham continues to get looks at DT in subpackages to rush the passer, and didn’t show much. … Ron Brace played solid again, but he showed his lack of experience when he went tearing up the field on Doug Martin’s 19-yard run before halftime. A veteran would have sensed draw, or at least something was up, and stayed in his gap. Brace left Hightower and Mayo out to dry. Same thing happened to Justin Francis with 8:40 left in the fourth quarter… Chandler Jones’ first two pressures came against a tight end, and when the chip from a running back pushed Jones away from LT Donald Penn. But his third, a sack, was a good display of speed and then second effort to stay after it when he beat Penn, who is a very good tackle but was a little rusty after injury. …. LDE Rob Ninkovich (one hurry) was basically invisible. Not a big concern at this point.

    LINEBACKERS

    On Brandon Spikes’ stuffed run on the third play of the game, DE Chandler Jones and Mayo each did an excellent job filling the proper gaps, which allowed Spikes to go unblocked. … Great job by Spikes on first play of the second series fighting off RG Davin Joseph for another stuffed run. … Spikes (two stuffed runs, 1.5 plus run tackles) was really good in this game, despite a missed tackle that cost 8 yards. … Really nice job by Hightower (knockdown) holding the point, shedding and then tackling Doug Martin early in second half. Yes, Dallas Clark is a weak opponent, but still good technique. …. Jeff Tarpinian got pancaked by a fullback, who had stopped, with 4:08 left in the fourth quarter. … The backup linebackers were not good. Niko Koutouvides missed two tackles, Bobby Carpenter was a little lost covering Sammie Stroughter on his TD, and Mike Rivera had issues.

    SECONDARY

    On the first pass play to Vincent Jackson, the Patriots were in Cover 2. Safety Steve Gregory had no other deep routes in his area, he should be able to recognize and get there quicker. … Good pass breakup by Marquice Cole (two total pass breakups, plus coverage play) before halftime. He’s getting a long look at the star slot corner spot. The Patriots need to have a viable backup to Kyle Arrington. … Nice work by Gregory coming up and blowing up a screen near halftime. … Dowling bit on a fake by Stroughter in the third, but the Patriots had him playing a few yards off instead of in press position. Tough spot for a corner. The Patriots do that all the time and I don’t know why. … Tavon Wilson started next to Gregory and had a penalty, one poor pass coverage and a missed tackle. … Nate Ebner got a lot of time and didn’t really show up, good or bad.

    SPECIAL TEAMS

    Poor team kickoff coverage on opening kick. … Shane Vereen needs to worry less about what the returner is going to decide on taking the ball out, like McCourty did on the first return, and more about blocking. … Danny Aiken’s snaps continue to be sloppy. Wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots start looking around elsewhere. … Sure looked like McCourty and Sterling Moore were expecting Hernandez to return the ball to the left on his punt return, and the tight end went right. … Zoltan Mesko had three really good punts with over 4.6 seconds of hangtime, and two really bad ones (3.71, 3.64). … Good special teams tackles by Cole and Hightower. … Nate Ebner missed a block on a kick return.

    Pats to release G. Warren, Barrett, Ventrone

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 26, 2012 07:17 PM

    All NFL teams have to meet the 75-man roster limit by Monday at 4 p.m.; several teams have already made their required cuts.

    Sunday, some of the Patriots cuts came out via a league source: veteran DL Gerard Warren, S Josh Barrett, and DB Ross Ventrone.

    Warren has been injured of late, making his odds of making the team even longer. His release likely bodes well for Ron Brace, who seemed to be among those fighting for a job.

    Barrett was claimed by the Patriots in 2010 when he was waived/injured by the Broncos with a shoulder injury. New England placed him on injured reserve as he underwent surgery and rehab. He started the first four games last year before another injury, to his calf, ended his season.

    The 27-year old was on the sideline again Friday night when New England played Tampa Bay.

    Ventrone has become something of a cult hero after being involved in 21 transactions last season; his story caught the attention of Sports Illustrated's Peter King. Ventrone, who does have practice-squad eligibility left, was considered by many players the funniest member of the team last year.

    With those three cuts, the Patriots' roster currently is at 82 players.

    Initial roster cuts coming with vets in focus

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 26, 2012 11:03 AM

    All NFL teams have to cut their rosters from the maximum 90 to 75 by 4 p.m. Monday. Some teams have already started the process. Wouldn't be surprised if the Patriots, who have to trim 10 players, start today and finish on Monday.

    Often times these initial cuts are about making sure you have enough healthy bodies to get through the final exhibition game, in the Patriots' case against the Giants on Wednesday night, when the starters will barely play.

    But one thing to watch out for is the early release of veterans.

    If you have a respected veteran on your roster that you know you're not going to keep on the final 53, then you usually do them the courtesy of an early release so they get a jump on finding another job before the mass dumping of players on Aug. 31 at 9 p.m.

    The Patriots did exactly that with safety James Sanders last year. He was quickly picked up by the Falcons.

    The players who we'll be watching the next 24 hours: center Dan Koppen, receiver Donte' Stallworth, and defensive tackle Tim Bulman.

    Bill Belichick has great respect for all three, but especially for a 10-year warrior like Koppen. That being said, Koppen has played much better of late. Nick McDonald, whose versatility could have led him to take Koppen's spot, suffered a right arm injury against the Buccaneers and that may put McDonald's spot in jeopardy. And if guard Brian Waters wasn't expected back, Koppen's chances for making the team would greatly increase with Dan Connolly likely moving full time to right guard.

    Other possibilities: Deion Branch, Gerard Warren, Will Allen, Tracy White and Donald Thomas.

    Branch, Warren, White and Thomas seem like long shots for the initial cuts. We feel Branch will make the 53.

    Buccaneers 30, Patriots 28: Parting thoughts

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 25, 2012 12:57 AM

    TAMPA – Five quickie thoughts on the Patriots’ 30-28 loss to the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium, which will be couched with the reminder that because of newspaper duties, I missed a large portion of the second half:


    1. Rough one overall: This game was nearly a carbon copy of the Patriots’ third preseason game last year when they went to Detroit and were terrible in all three phases during a 34-10 loss to the Lions. Some of the things I wrote then: “The Patriots’ trip to Detroit was pretty much an abject failure with a 34-10 loss.” … “Patriots LBs and DL combined for one sack, three hurries and five hits for nine total quarterback pressures. That’s it.” … “Definitely not Brady’s finest hour, but it wasn’t terrible.” … “[Offensive line] wasn’t a complete disaster, but it certainly wasn’t good. Your grand totals when Brady was in the game: two sacks, four hurries and three hits for a total of nine quarterback pressures in 24 dropbacks (37.5 percent). That obviously can’t happen during the season.” …. Sound familiar? It’s part of making the sausage. Don’t read too much into it, good or bad. The Patriots wound up doing OK when the games really counted.

    2. Ridley’s the running back: We got teased a little bit between Shane Vereen’s performance against the Saints and Stevan Ridley’s fumble in practice, but Ridley is the guy at running back after his 87 yards and Vereen going off, again, with an injury. However, Ridley has to get better on pass protection. He nearly got Brady killed.

    3. Good to get guys back: We saw a lot of guys make their preseason debuts, including Logan Mankins – whose presence alone gave the line more confidence. TE Daniel Fells is a true pro and very versatile. We instantly saw a lot of legit three-TE sets. CB Alfonzo Dennard got on the field and we saw a tough, physical little CB who could make this team. We just have no idea what the coaches think of him in areas we can’t see: offseason workouts, weight room, film room, study habits. Those things all count when it comes to filling out a roster. Tough to see FB Spencer Larsen go off as soon as he got back. Would be really surprised if he makes the team now.

    4. Demps is going to be fun: Jeff Demps was unleashed on the NFL and, I’ve got to admit, he was pretty darn impressive. I don’t care if it was in scrub time, 41 yards on three carries is eye opening. Demps doesn’t even know what the heck he’s doing yet, but to show off the natural running instincts that he did? That’s a real good place to start. He doesn’t appear to be a natural pass catcher, and durability and ball security will always be concerns, but if first impressions count, the Patriots have a bona fide weapon to sprinkle in.

    5. Few final thoughts: I think Marquice Cole is making this team. Showed good slot coverage ability, he’s a good special teams player. …. The Tom Brady-Brandon Lloyd connection looks like it’s not instant oatmeal. They need more game action together. Lloyd looked uncomfortable. And so did Brady without Welker. … Aaron Hernandez is and will be the No. 1 option in this offense with Welker No. 2, and then Rob Gronkowski. …. Patriots played very soft in the back end to cover up for all the inexperience (seems like last year) so it was hard to get a read on the secondary. … Not a ton of pressure up front but we’ll have to watch the tape. Don’t remember seeing Rob Ninkovich do much.


    Offensive line makes no excuses

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 25, 2012 12:30 AM

    According to the final stat sheet, Tom Brady was sacked twice, the Tampa Bay defense was credited with four quarterback hits, and running back Stevan Ridley had three carries where he was taken down behind the line of scrimmage.

    Were all of those on the offensive line? Probably not. But it was another tough night for the line, which saw the return of Logan Mankins (briefly) and also a heavy rotation of players on the interior of the line. Dan Connolly took game snaps at center for the first time in the preseason, and Donald Thomas was the starting right guard, but when Mankins came out of the game, Thomas was flipped to left guard, Connolly slid to right guard, and Ryan Wendell and Dan Koppen took snaps at center.

    "We didn’t play that well tonight, we had a lot of mistakes and bad plays so we have to be better," Mankins said, adding that it felt good to get back into game action. The veteran didn't know the exact plan for how long he'd play but knew he must have been on a snap count since he was pulled mid-series in the first quarter.

    "We didn’t play situational football that we needed to play, just didn’t get things done when they needed to happen," Connolly said.

    With the theme of the postgame locker room being "we need to get better", that work starts almost as soon as the Patriots get back to Foxborough.

    "It’s how the team responds from this," Mankins said. "Do we learn from it? Do we improve from it? Does it motivate us to work harder, study harder? I think anytime you have as many plays go the way that we had tonight that were disappointing, I think you just have to see how the team sees those plays and responds to those plays. If they continue to happen, we didn’t learn anything. If we get better from it, then we did."

    And one thing the line knows: it can't continue to let Brady get knocked down like he was.

    "[The Bucs] were giving us some extra stuff and we just weren’t getting the job done. It’s our job to block them whatever they give us," Connolly said. "They can run wherever they want, that’s what they’re allowed to do. Whenever he gets hit, we’re not doing our job. And we need to do a better job of that."

    Final: Buccaneers 30, Patriots 28

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 24, 2012 07:21 PM

    The Patriots finished strong against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after falling into a 14-point hole, spurred along by two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter by Ryan Mallett and some impressive running and returning by new tailback Jeff Demps in a 30-28 loss Friday night.

    Mallett finished 7 of 13 for 66 yards and two touchdowns as the Patriots fell to 1-2 in the preseason, but the team got an opportunity to see extended play from its starting lineup.

    Demps, who got an opportunity to run the ball and return kicks, had three carries for 41 yards in his debut.

    Not everything was good. Tom Brady found himself hurried and harassed behind a shaky offensive line that saw the return of guard Logan Mankins. Brady was sacked twice, fumbled once, and hit several times. But as the game wore on, the line settled. In the third quarter, Brady was able to ride Stevan Ridley (16 carries, 87 yards) before hitting tight end Rob Gronkowski for a 16-yard touchdown.

    "I don't think we did anything very well offensively," coach Bill Belichick said. "I was surprised that we could do anything."

    The Buccaneers came out and scored on the opening drive of the game, going 68 yards on eight plays before Doug Martin punched in a 1-yard touchdown. They followed that by scoring on a tip-pass interception by Brady, with rookie safety Mark Barron returning it 23 yards for the score.

    The Bucs got three field goals of 51 yards or more to help extend their lead. Kai Forbath had two.

    Ridley scored a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter and showed some solid burst out of the backfield.

    Bucs backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Sammie Stroughter in the fourth quarter before Mallett came in and hit rookie Jeremy Ebert for a 3-yard score and followed it up with a 4-yard strike to Jesse Holley in the back of the end zone.

    Running back Shane Vereen hobbled off the field with what appeared to be an ankle injury. Safety Steve Gregory also was shaken up with a right leg injury. He walked off the field under his own power.

    0:33 4th quarter: Bucs 30, Patriots 28 -- Ryan Mallett ran around, avoided a sack, and then found Jesse Holley for a 4-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to help the Patriots end this game on a strong note.

    Mallett had key passes on the 12-play, 65-yard drive to Donte' Stallworth of 10 and 18 yards before hitting Holley in the end zone.

    2:19 4th quarter: Bucs 30, Patriots 21 -- The Patriots held the Bucs to another three-and-out and Jeff Demps had an exciting looking punt return -- his first -- before the Pats were flagged for holding.

    4:21 4th quarter: Bucs 30, Patriots 21 -- Jeff Demps made one cut and broke away for a 29-yard run that set up 3-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Mallett to Jeremy Ebert for the Patriots.

    Demps definitely showed off his famous speed, hitting another gear after making a Tampa Bay defensive player miss before scooting along for those 29 yards. He did show some rookie tendencies though on his second series, taking a 3-yard run around the right end and hesitating -- instead of hitting the sideline -- before taking a huge hit. It'll be interesting to watch him develop after what he's shown.

    7:35 4th quarter: Bucs 30, Patriots 14 -- Ryan Mallett has replaced Tom Brady at quarterback.

    7:50 4th quarter: Bucs 30, Patriots 14 -- Dan Orlovsky threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Sammie Stroughter on a drag over the middle as the Bucs extended their lead. The drive was highlighted by running back Michael Smith, who touched the ball five times before giving way to Mossis Madu, who burst through the middle of the line for 19 yards.

    A couple of negatives here for the Patriots. LB Niko Koutouvides bounced off Smith on a couple of tackle attempts and the defensive line is failing to get any leverage on the Bucs' line.

    End of the 3d quarter: Bucs 23, Patriots 14 -- End of the third quarter and what sticks out is the solid play from running back Stevan Ridley. So far, 16 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown.

    0:54 3d quarter: Bucs 23, Patriots 14 -- Tom Brady found Rob Gronkowski for his second catch of the night, this one a 16-yard touchdown over the middle. The play finished an 8-play, 84-yard drive in 3:34.

    Also on the drive, Jeff Demps, the silver medal sprinter at this year's Olympics, was called for false start on his first play on offense.

    4:18 3d quarter: Bucs 23, Patriots 7 -- Jeff Demps made his debut, returning a kick for 23 yards.

    4:30 3d quarter: Bucs 23, Patriots 7 -- Marquice Cole almost picked off a pass and the Patriots held the Bucs to five plays before Kai Forbath converted on a 55-yard field goal. It was his second field goal of the game of 50 yards or more, and the Bucs' third.

    6:45 3d quarter: Bucs 20, Patriots 7 -- Patriots safety Steve Gregory went down with a right leg injury. He limped off under his own power.

    7:45 3d quarter: Bucs 20, Patriots 7 -- Offensive lineman Dan Connolly was called for a costly 15-yard penalty on an illegal chop block, putting the Patriots in a third-and-25 situation. After a 3-yard Danny Woodhead draw, the Patriots punted again.

    9:47 3d quarter: Bucs 20, Patriots 7 -- Chandler Jones has shown up to play in the third quarter. The rookie defensive end got a couple of hits on Bucs QB Josh Freeman, claiming a sack on the second while also drawing a holding penalty on the tackle facing him. After two more false start penalties, the Bucs were forced to punt.

    13:09 3d quarter: Bucs 20, Patriots 7 -- Aaron Hernandez got whacked by Bucs corner Eric Wright and the Patriots went three-and-out to start the third quarter.

    15:00 3d quarter: Bucs 20, Patriots 7 -- The second half is about to get underway and Tom Brady is warming up as if he's going to keep playing.

    Some halftime stats and notes:

    - Tom Brady is 9 of 14 for 80 yards and an interception.
    - Stevan Ridley has rushed 10 times for 52 yards and a touchdown.
    - Bucs QB Josh Freeman is 9 of 17 for 89 yards.
    - Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson has three catches for 49 yards, all on the opening series
    - Bucs running back Doug Martin has 10 carries, 42 yards, 1 touchdown.

    What's really been surprising is the hits Brady has taken this game. He was walloped pretty good by Adam Hayward for sack and was popped by Michael Bennett in the first quarter for a sack and fumble. There's been some miscommunication and some poor play overall by the offensive line. We'll see if that improves at all.

    End of the 2d quarter: Bucs 20, Patriots 7 -- Kai Forbath kicked a 51-yard field goal as time expired in the first half -- the Bucs' second 50-plus yard field goal tonight.

    1:52 2d quarter: Bucs 17, Patriots 7 -- The officials pick up a flag on a possible pass interference involving Brandon Lloyd. Instead, the Patriots punt after going three-and-out in their 2-minute drill.

    2:08 2d quarter: Bucs 17, Patriots 7 -- Aaron Hernandez went back to receive the punt after the Bucs went three-and-out. That's a first for the Patriot. It was a 5-yard return filled with indecisiveness.

    3:08 2d quarter: Bucs 17, Patriots 7 -- Tom Brady came back from an 11-yard sack and connected with Deion Branch for a 13-yard pass, but neither were able to help keep the drive going for long. A holding penalty on guard Donald Thomas took away a Stevan Ridley rush for a first down and several hurries had Brady throwing uncomfortably before the team was forced to punt.

    5:40 2d quarter: Bucs 17, Patriots 7 -- The Bucs challenged whether Aaron Hernandez was down before fumbling on an 8-yard pass from Tom Brady and were unsuccessful. Brady, a play earlier, had been sacked for a loss of 11 yards after a what appears to be a failure of communication by left guard Donald Thomas and left tackle Nate Solder on the play, which allowed for Bucs backup middle linebacker to get an easy hit on Brady.

    6:19 2d quarter: Bucs 17, Patriots 7 -- Connor Barth kicked a 56-yard field for the Tampa Bay Bucs after Josh Freeman misfired on a couple of passes. Patriots corner Kyle Arrington dropped a potential interception on one errant Freeman throw.

    6:49 2d quarter: Bucs 14, Patriots 7 -- Shane Vereen (foot) and Spencer Larsen (knee) have both left the game. Their return is questionable.

    7:43 2d quarter: Bucs 14, Patriots 7 -- The Patriots went for it on fourth down -- running the ball three straight times after getting a second-and-1 -- and failed to get a first down. Stevan Ridley was stopped before he could get across the marker.

    9:39 2d quarter: Bucs 14, Patriots 7 -- Despite a pass interference call on rookie safety Tavon Wilson (holding tight end Dallas Clark), the Patriots kept the wraps on the Bucs offense, forcing them to punt after Josh Freeman was unable to connect with Preston Parker.

    12:07 2d quarter: Bucs 14, Patriots 7 -- Stevan Ridley broke off a 29-yard run -- helped in part by great blocks from Rob Gronkowski and Donald Thomas -- and followed it up by punching it in the end zone after two strong runs. On the drive, Ridley rushed six times for 47 yards and caught a 4-yard pass. It was a 12-play, 81-yard drive for the Patriots that culminated with Ridley's 1-yard TD run.

    End of the 1st quarter: Bucs 14, Patriots -- Shane Vereen tweaked his ankle on a running play before the first quarter ended. It doesn't look too serious. He was getting it checked on the sideline. In the last drive, Tom Brady has connected with Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd and we've seen Stevan Ridley break loose on an 11-yard run.

    2:58 1st quarter: Bucs 14, Patriots 0 -- Marcus Cannon gave up his first sack of the night as Tom Brady got crushed, fumbling the ball. Luckily, Spencer Larsen recovered. A play later, a Brady pass to Rob Gronkowski was tipped and intercepted by Mark Barron and returned 22 yards for a touchdown. Not so lucky.

    4:36 1st quarter: Bucs 7, Patriots 0 -- Bucs QB Josh Freeman connected with Dallas Clark for 12 yards and another Tampa Bay first down, but the Patriots managed to hold the Bucs to five plays before forcing a punt. Rookie safety Nate Ebner had a nice tackle to wrap up Bucs receiver Mike Williams before he could shake loose for more yardage.

    7:30 1st quarter: Bucs 7, Patriots 0 -- The Patriots went three-and-out on their opening drive. Tom Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski for eight yards and then Stevan Ridley proceeded to get stuffed on consecutive plays.

    Starting on the offensive line for the team were LT Nate Solder, LG Logan Mankins, C Dan Connolly, RG Donald Thomas, and RT Marcus Cannon.

    9:36 1st quarter: Bucs 7, Patriots 0 -- The Bucs capitalized on a 39-yard kickoff return by Michael smith to drive 68 yards for an opening drive touchdown.

    Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman hooked up with new wide receiver Vincent Jackson for three passes for 49 yards before running back Doug Martin punched in a 1-yard TD.

    15:00 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Bucs 0 -- The Patriots are kicking off and we're away.

    --

    It's getting close to game time and we'll be providing updates throughout the night right. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments.

    Some things to immediately look out for:

    - The offensive line -- We keep coming back here. But this time things will be different. Left guard Logan Mankins and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer will be making their debuts. Their presence should help shore up any worries fans have had about this position group's stability. But we'll also get a chance to see if there's any rust there between them.

    - Tavon Wilson's extended look -- With Patrick Chung sidelined with what appears to be a shoulder injury, Wilson will get an opportunity to show what he can do for the Patriots in the starting lineup. As coach Bill Belichick has noted previously, the team will have plenty of time to play in its sub packages, allowing for more defensive backs. This game will be an opportunity for Wilson to show how much more he deserves to be on the field than, say, James Ihedigbo.

    Enjoy the game everyone.

    Welker not in uniform for tonight's game

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 24, 2012 07:00 PM

    Wes Welker was among 13 Patriots players not spotted in uniform for tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Also not spotted were WR Jabar Gaffney, S Patrick Chung, DB Will Allen, S Josh Barrett, DB Ross Ventrone, LB Tracy White, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, TE Jake Ballard, DL Myron Pryor, OL Jeremiah Warren, OL Markus Zusevics, and OL Matt Kopa.

    Preseason Game 3 preview: Patriots at Buccaneers

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 24, 2012 04:56 PM

    Tonight marks the Patriots' third exhibition game, a matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium following two days of joint practices in Tampa.

    The Patriots are coming off a 27-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles Monday in which the team sat 26 players, including Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Vince Wilfork. Many of those players (except Welker, who did not appear to practice Thursday) are expected to get extended work in tonight's game.

    Safety Patrick Chung, who left Monday's game with a shoulder injury, is expected to be replaced in tonight's starting lineup by rookie Tavon Wilson. Wilson will get an extended opportunity to show what he can do this season.

    The Bucs last played a week ago, losing, 30-7, to the Tennessee Titans. The Patriots played the Bucs last year in the preseason and won, 31-14, scoring 21 points in the first quarter.

    Here's the details on tonight's game:

    Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.

    Records: Patriots 1-1 (Finished last season 13-3, AFC champions); Bucs 1-1 (Finished last season 4-12, 4th in NFC South).

    TV/Radio info: WBZ-TV Ch. 4 (Don Criqui, Randy Cross); 98.5-FM The Sports Hub (Gil Santos, Scott Zolak).

    Projected starting lineups:
    Based on information distributed to the media, practice observations, and injuries for each team.

    Patriots offense: WR Julian Edelman, LT Nate Solder, LG Logan Mankins, C Dan Koppen, RG Dan Connolly, RT Marcus Cannon, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Brandon Lloyd, QB Tom Brady, RB Shane Vereen, TE Aaron Hernandez.

    Patriots defense: NT Vince Wilfork DT Kyle Love, RDE Chandler Jones, LB/DE Ron Ninkovich, LB Jerod Mayo, LB Dont'a Hightower, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Devin McCourty, CB Kyle Arrington, S Steve Gregory, S Tavon Wilson.

    Bucs offense: WR Vincent Jackson, LT Donald Penn, LG Carl Nicks, C Jeremy Zuttah, RG Davin Joseph, RT Jeremy Trueblood, TE Dallas Clark, WR Mike Williams, QB Josh Freeman, RB LeGarrette Blount, FB Erik Lorig.

    Bucs defense: LDE Michael Bennett, DT Gerald McCoy, DT Roy Miller, RDE Adrian Clayborn, SLB Quincy BLack, MLB Mason Foster, WLB Lavonte David, LCB Aqib Talib, RCB Eric Wright, SS Mark Barron, FS Ronde Barber.

    Video: Bedard on Patriots challengers in the AFC

    Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff August 23, 2012 05:11 PM
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    Which teams are the biggest threat to the Patriots in the AFC? CineSport's Noah Coslov and the Globe's Greg Bedard discuss this and which team will be a must watch in 2012.

    Start time moved up for Pats-Giants

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 23, 2012 01:12 PM

    The Giants have announced that the start time for Wednesday's preseason finale against the Patriots at MetLife Stadium is now 7 p.m.

    It was originally scheduled to kickoff at 7:30 p.m.

    Adjust your DVRs accordingly. Or not, since it is the preseason finale.

    Belichick pleased with first day in Tampa (Updated)

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 23, 2012 10:40 AM

    Bill Belichick held his pre-practice press conference a short time ago. Here are some highlights:

    Opening statement
    I thought it was a good day for us yesterday, improved our team, there were a lot of things out there that we haven't seen, to compete against another team is good for us, we spent a lot of time last night going over film with the players, as a staff, as far as critiquing ourselves as coaches, what we need to do better and the players and how they competed against each other as far as matchups. I've spoke with coach Schiano, we have some things planned for today we want to get accomplished and I'm sure we'll have another good day out there. 

    Today's practice plan
    It's the day before the game so we'll tempo it down a little bit, we have specific situations we want to get covered, offensively, defensively and in the kicking game, there's a little more emphasis on those today than yesterday. Yesterday was a little more of the core stuff - first, second, third down, today we'll work on some more stuff, specific situations, end of game things, kicking situations that might only come up once or twice a season. We work on those things against each other, but we know what we do, so if you work against a different team you see a different play or a different defense or a different punt rush or whatever it is, so it just makes you be better prepared for those situations whenever they come up.

    How Jeff Demps looked yesterday in his first practice
    Uh, like it was his first practice. He has a long way to go.

    On his criteria for choosing teams he'll conduct joint practices with:
    Well I’d say just the number one thing is it’s not really about beating somebody in practice, it’s about working with somebody and getting better. We’re not here to win a drill or, you know, trick Tampa on something – that’s not the point of it. The point of it is to work on what we want to work on and work on what they’re working on so we can become better, so when we walk off the field we’re a better team then when we walked on it. And that’s the way we practice against each other is we compete against each other in a way that we can improve each other, not get guys hurt, not have a bunch of piles, not fight and get all caught up in the ‘did he gain five yards, did he gain two yards, did we sack the quarterback, did we not sack the quarterback’ – you know, we pull off, we don’t hit the quarterback, we don’t hit guys, the same way we are with our guys in practice.

    We take care of each other, but we work hard, and we set up the drills so they are competitive drills, not tilted one way or the other, so that you can have an equal competition, equal evaluation, we made some plays out there and they made some plays out there and both teams can learn from those situations, but it’s not about going out there and ‘winning’ the practice – it’s about going out there and working on our team and making sure that when the players are on the field they’re at comparable levels too. We want to compete with both athletically and also schematically with players that are, you know, their experienced players and that are the best players, and at the same time some of our less-experienced guys aren’t ready to handle some of the things that…so they should compete against simpler plays, simpler formations, where they could do something formation-wise or blitz-wise that we just aren’t ready to handle with that group of players, so what good is that? We’re not ready for it and so, ok, they did it because we’re not ready for it. So we want to try to compete on an equal level and let the players play and then when they grow then obviously they’ll be able to move to that higher level, but you’ve to evaluate them on what they know how to do first; things like that go into it. Again, it’s working together, not just Greg (Schiano), but the entire staff has been great to work with – the assistant coaches, the coordinators, and so forth, that we’ve tried to create game-like situations but structured in a way that we can…we know what we’re doing we can get the right people on the field, being competitive with each other and not get into a situation where somebody’s overmatched or under-matched.

    Assessing the conditioning level of the Patriots:
    Even though it wasn't that warm yesterday it was still humid, it's probably a little bit warmer than what we've been used to, so it was good to experience that. I'd say we have a ways to go, not just in our cardiovascular conditioning, but just in our football conditioning. Honestly, we probably won't be there until somewhere in October, but we keep getting better at it all the time, work on it on a regular basis. You know, there's a fine line there - you don't want a team that's worn out so that you're not productive in practice, but at the same time, you want to push a little bit harder to keep getting your team into better condition and sometimes that's hard because you have more depth at one position than another, so it's not always equally distributed. But we do the best we can on that. I think it was a good day for us conditioning-wise and I think Friday night will be another good day for us conditioning-wise, where we'll improve our conditioning as well as improve some of the football things that we're working on.

    Is it typical to peak in October in terms of conditioning?
    I think we talk about people being in mid-season form and it's a cliché, but it's true. In a lot of ways, once you’ve played six, eight, 10 games including preseason, then you’re mentally in that quick–reactive mode for 60 minutes, you're physically in it, your timing is such that you've been doing it against a lot of different situations that it should be at a better level than it was the first couple weeks, that kind of thing, all those things. Yeah, I’d say somewhere in that neighborhood. There’s not one player in the league that’s going to have played 60 minutes of a preseason game – certainly won't be one on our team, let’s put it that way, I don’t know about anyone else’s [team]. So for them to be ready to play 60 minutes on opening day, some of them will do it, but three, four, five, six, eight games into the season, it will be a different story – for us and for basically everybody else. It's a process, and I don't really know how you can short cut that process. I don't know how you can walk into camp and say, ‘Okay, everybody is ready to play.’ I just don't think that’s – I mean, yeah, you can go out there but I don't know what that would look like. I think there are some definite concerns relative to the athletes, so it's a steady process.

    On what longtime defensive assistant Pepper Johnson brings to the team:
    Pepper has worked with the linebackers before, but I'd say the big thing with Pepper is, unlike really anyone else on the staff, he’s actually played in our system. I’ve coached the way I’ve coached at the Giants and at Cleveland and New York and so forth, but he’s actually played it and I think there’s something to be said for that. There’s certainly a perspective as a player who’s played in the system relative to a coach, even though I’ve coached it a long time, he has the perspective of playing in it that I just don't have or our other coaches don't have – (defensive coordinator) Matt Patricia or (defensive line coach) Pat [Graham] or (safeties coach) Brian Flores or any of those guys. Nothing against them, it's just different. Bryan Cox is kind of – I mean there’s something to be said for a player who's played the game – particularly played the system you're coaching and can coach it. He has a perspective on it that as a coach having never played it, I just can’t give. And they can talk about, ‘Hey, when you're out there in this situation, here’s what you're thinking about,’ or ‘Look, the coach is telling you to do A, B and C, but really what you have to worry about is C; A and B, yeah, but forget about those and let’s make sure we get this one right.’ Things like that, things that happen in a game. And they talk to our players, Pepper talks to our team, not just the defensive players or the linebackers, but our whole team about that from time to time about just what it’s like – especially the rookies – what it's like to play in a preseason game, what it's like to play in an NFL game, the difference between NFL and college football, what the adjustment was for him, what he’s seen from other players that he’s coached in that experience, what things to expect, what's different from a pro game and a college game, things like that that I think helps them make their transition. He brings a lot of that to us.

    Roll call: Patriots practice attendance

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 23, 2012 09:45 AM

    Since training camp is over, public access (and therefore media access) to Buccaneers practices have ended. Media were able to watch the first 30 minutes of this morning's Bucs-Patriots joint practice. Here is attendance and some quick notes:

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.

    Physically unable to perform: OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder).

    Continued to be out: LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), DT Gerard Warren (unknown), WR Jabar Gaffney (right quad), S Patrick Chung (shoulder).

    New absences: WR Wes Welker, DB Ross Ventrone

    Returned to practice: None.

    DRESS CODE
    Shells and shorts.

    Notes:
    * Welker and Ventrone were on the field in shorts and t-shirts. Ventrone had a sleeve on his left calf; we could not see anything with Welker. This does bring into question whether or not the receiver will be available for tomorrow night's game.
    * DB Will Allen, who we saw walking off the field yesterday, was back on the field today.

    Underwood grateful for time in New England

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 23, 2012 07:00 AM

    Tiquan.jpg-jpgBeing in Tampa means a chance to catch up with former Patriots receiver and best friend to Devin McCourty, Tiquan Underwood. Underwood gained national notoriety when he was cut on the eve of Super Bowl XLVI so the team could promote then-defensive lineman Alex Silvestro.

    The Rutgers product, who is still sporting his high-top fade, is using the tough break as motivation.

    "Coach [Bill Belichick] handles his depth chart decisions on Saturday, the day before the game, whether it’s Week 1, Week 5, the playoffs, and I just happened to be one of the latter guys on the depth chart and they brought up Alex and I got released," Underwood said. "It’s business, I understand that, and now I’m trying to put myself in a better position so when those decisions are made, I’m not one of the guys that can be released. I want to be one of the guys on the front part of the roster."

    According to Bucs beat writers, Underwood has been having an impressive training camp.

    To those who saw the move as heartless -- taking away his chance to at least be on the roster for the biggest NFL game of the year -- Underwood disagrees.

    "Not at all. The thing I love about coach Belichick, he does what’s best for the team every week for that game," he said. "The object in this league is to win the game, and he did that and he’s going to continue to do that day in and day out each week, and as a player you can’t be on the back half of the roster, because that’s where the tough decisions have to be made."

    He also has no hard feelings toward the team.

    "Man, a great organization. I’m just thankful to have played there for the time I did. I learned so much as a player and as a person, and it’s no secret why they’re so successful. Those guys work so hard, the attention to detail, and that’s really helped me as a player and I’ve brought it down here just trying to work on my craft," he said.

    The 25-year-old was signed by the Buccaneers in part because he played for new head coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers, and can tell his teammates what Schiano expects and some of the tenets of his system.

    Underwood said he isn't one to talk too much when it comes to leadership, and instead shows the way through his play and actions. He does share, however, that if players go hard every day on the field and stay out of trouble off it, they'll be OK with Schiano.

    Tampa Bay is installing a new offense, and to hear Underwood talk, it sounds as though it has some similarities to the Patriots' offense.

    "You have to be on point to play in New England, and that’s the way it is here. Have to be on the same page as the quarterback as a receiver here, and I like that. A smarter player is a better player. Everyone knows that’s what New England is known for, and that’s what we’re trying to do here," he said.

    "In this offense it’s all about timing and seeing the same thing. It’s going to take a little bit of time, but we’re working on it, day by day."


    Kyle Love signs extension through 2013

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 22, 2012 07:36 PM
    The Patriots and defensive tackle Kyle Love have agreed to a one-year contract extension through 2013, his agent Sean Stellato confirms.

    An exclusive-rights free agent this year, Love's new deal has a maximum value of $3.1 million, with a $500,000 signing bonus. He will still play this season for $540,000, the amount of the ERFA tender he signed earlier this year.

    "We appreciate the Patriots stepping up to make commitment to Kyle at a time when they didn't have to. We're very pleased with that and hopefully it will lead to him being here long term. Kyle's deserving. A very hard working kid who worked his way up from being undrafted," Stellato told colleague Greg A. Bedard.

    Love was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State in 2010, and showed great improvement last year alongside Vince Wilfork at tackle. Playing in all 16 games, Love started 13 and was credited with 33 tackles and three sacks.

    Jeff Demps makes practice debut

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 22, 2012 06:27 PM
    Rookie Jeff Demps made his much-anticipated debut at Patriots practice on today, as New England and the Buccaneers held the first of two joint practices before their preseason game on Friday night.

    The former Florida Gator, wearing No. 42, did not take part in the pre-draft process earlier this year, opting instead to focus solely on track and the chance to run in the London Olympics, where he won a silver medal in the 4x100 relay.

    Still winded from putting in extra time running routes and catching passes with Brian Hoyer and a member of the coaching staff, Demps told reporters that the practice was the first time he’d touched a football since Florida’s last game of the season, in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 2.

    If you’re keeping track, that’s a span of 232 days.

    Both Demps and running backs coach Ivan Fears said getting back into football shape will be one of the biggest challenges for the 22-year old as he transitions from the track back to the field.

    He reportedly lost 15 pounds during Olympics training; on Wednesday, Demps said he’s 183 pounds, five pounds under his usual playing weight; his biography on the Florida website for his senior year lists the 5-foot-7 Demps’ weight as 191.

    With training camps now closed to the public, media are also restricted on how long they can watch practice; on Wednesday, it was 30 minutes. In that time, reporters saw Demps work with the kickoff returners, receiver, backs and tight ends as he caught warm-up passes from the quarterbacks, and with the running backs and Fears on the sled.

    It wasn’t flawless, however: a bouncing kickoff went through his hands as he bent to retrieve it, and the first pass thrown his way in warm-ups also went through his hands.

    While Patriots fans are excited about Demps’ arrival and Fears’ first impression of him as a young man is positive, silver medal or not, he’ll have to earn everything with his new coach.

    “I’m not going to go overboard. What he’s done has been truly amazing and a great story, but out here, I ain’t giving him nothing!,” Fears said, mostly serious. “He’s going to earn everything he gets from us. No matter how I feel about him, unless he does it on the field, he’s not getting everything else.”

    Having already had his Olympics experience, Demps has at least a couple of lessons he brings with him to his new job:

    “To be a technician at everything you do. You’re a professional now, so you have to make sure everything’s perfect,” he said. “Can’t slack off.”

    Scarnecchia: 'That glass is half full and filling up'

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 22, 2012 01:07 PM

    TAMPA -- If the Patriots' offensive line has been an imploding disaster to this point in camp, coach Dante Scarnecchia isn't seeing it.

    "There’s no cliff I’m throwing myself off right now. I’m telling you the truth," he said. "Believe it or not, that glass is half full and filling up. That’s just how I see it. With every position, all I ask is the best. They’re giving it to us, and we’ll improve."

    Left tackle Nate Solder, who is trying to replace the retired Matt Light at left tackle, has had some issues in games, but Scarnecchia is pleased with Solder and right tackle Marcus Cannon.

    "I think Nate Solder is better today than he was all of last year," Scarnecchia said.

    "(Cannon's) doing a good. He never had a training camp with us last year, he went through the whole season, started actually playing football the sixth week so I think his development, I think he’s coming along good. He’s got some things to learn like all young tackles have to do. I’m pleased with the effort he’s putting forth and the way he’s developing and he just keeps chugging away. He has started for us, started against Miami, and if he starts this year, good, lets go. I think he’s a good player."

    Struggles for young players are the norm, Scarnecchia said.

    "I think all young tackles struggle on plays and protections in this league, OK?" he said. "Just do a little thinking. Who did Matt Light replace? Bruce Armstrong. Did anybody think that it was going to be (smooth)? OK. Did you think he had any problems with it to start with? Well hell yeah they all had problems. It is what it is.

    "Personally, I’m pleased with the way those kids are developing -- I’m really pleased with the way they’re developing. Is it the finished product? No and we have a couple weeks to get it to as good as it can be, and then we’re going to play, we’re going to play a game. He started for us at right tackle last year, Nate did, Marcus played some. It is what it is. So whoever goes out there, we’re going to put our best players out on the field and we expected nothing but their best."

    Scarnecchia talked about how Light played as a rookie in 2001 on his way to starting the Patriots' first Super Bowl victory.

    "Oh, it was as painful as it could ever be, you know?" Scarnecchia said. "Just like anything, he got better and became a really good player, quote 'one that you can’t replace.' No one can be replaced, but we’ve got some really good candidates. I love Matt. I wish he were here, but he’s not, and I love the guys that are here, and I look forward to them playing for us for a long time to come."

    Scarnecchia wouldn't comment on the status of guard Brian Waters, but he did talk about left guard Logan Mankins and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (who did not take part in team drills today) being back.

    "As much as we can, we’re able to get bodies working side by side that hopefully will be working side when it’s for real in September," Scarnecchia said. "So we tried to keep Logan with Nate and try to keep Sebastian over there with (Dan) Connolly and just give them some reps together. I think that’s always a good thing. The most important thing is, I think for their own self comfort, to be able to get out, test themselves, see how everything is working, how the mending process is going. So it’s only a good thing."

    Fanene terminated for 'failure to disclose physical condition'

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 22, 2012 11:00 AM

    The Patriots waived defensive tackle Jonathan Fanene with a "failure to disclose physical condition" designation that is likely the first step in the Patriots trying to recoup all or some of his $3.85-million signing bonus.

    The designation is new this year and was also used by the Colts on Tuesday for an unknown player.

    It is believed that Fanene had some sort of chronic injury, likely arthritis, that the team didn't know about until he started missing training camp practices.

    Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn't expand on his original comments on Fanene.

    "It just didn’t work out," Belichick said before practice this morning. "Nothing to add other than that. It just didn’t work out."

    Angelo Wright, Fanene's agent, has not returned calls seeking comment.

    Ross Tucker of Sirius NFL radio first reported the move.

    Roll call: Patriots practice attendance

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 22, 2012 10:24 AM

    Since training camp is over, public access (and therefore media access) to Buccaneers practices have ended. Media were able to watch the first 30 minutes of this morning's Bucs-Patriots joint practice. Here is attendance and some quick notes from the window of access:

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.

    Physically unable to perform: OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder).

    Continued to be out: LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), DT Gerard Warren (unknown), WR Jabar Gaffney (right quad), S Patrick Chung (shoulder).

    Returned to practice: DB Tavon Wilson, CB Alfonzo Dennard, S James Ihedigbo, FB Spencer Larsen, T Sebastian Vollmer, TE Daniel Fells.

    DRESS CODE
    Full pads.

    QUICK HITS
    * Newly-acquired rookie Jeff Demps was on the field in uniform, meaning that he is now ineligible for the physically unable to perform list - he'll either make the 53-man roster, be placed on injured reserve if he gets hurt, or be released. Demps worked with the kickoff returners, with the receivers, tight ends and running backs in pass warm-ups (the first ball thrown his way went off his hands), and with the running backs hitting the sled;
    * Sebastian Vollmer and Daniel Fells, removed from the PUP list over the weekend, were out there for their first practice;
    * Vollmer got in the mix a little bit at RT during walk-throughs, and Marcus Cannon was also still at RT;
    * DB Will Allen spent some time before practice with a member of the training staff, then walked gingerly off the field with a member of the medical staff about 20 minutes into practice;
    * With Patrick Chung out, Wilson got first-team reps at safety during walkthrough.

    Quick hits from Belichick as Patriots start joint practices with Bucs

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 22, 2012 08:52 AM

    Here are some quick highlights from Bill Belichick's pre-practice chat at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice facility:

    Opening statement:
    "It's great to be here in Tampa, working with coach (Greg) Schiano and the Bucs; I think it will be a productive couple days for us, where we can improve our football team. We'll run some things against different competition. It's a quick turnaround, but our guys are excited to be down here and we're going to get a lot out of it. I'm looking forward to it, and I have a good relationship with this organization. I think it will be mutually beneficial."

    How much preseason work does Tom Brady need at this point in his career?
    "We'd rather get everybody up to their potential -- everybody has to reestablish themselves this year, players, coaches. That's what training camp and preseason games are for, to work on our performance...We've all got a long way to go."

    His relationship with new Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano
    "I've known coach for a long time, and I've gotten to know him better since he was at Rutgers. We'd go down and scout their players and work them out, that type of thing, and we both have a defensive background so we have a lot in common there. He's coached some of our players, going back to Vince (Wilfork) at Miami and guys like that, so we have a long relationship. My son [Stephen] went to Rutgers, I spent a lot of time there watching him play lacrosse and also being around coach. He used to come to our practices, spoke to our team, observed us on the field and vice versa. We've had a good relationship, I have a lot of respect for him. I think it's a great opportunity for him here."

    Advantages to joint practices:
    "You run plays against your own team and that's great, but we're going to see different looks besides the ones that we have -- in all honesty, there are certain plays we can recognize. Our offense can recognize certain blitzes, our defense can recognize certain formations, motions, and you start anticipating play to play. I think we know who our go-to guys are. And playing against a different team, you don't recognize those things as quickly and you have to learn who the go-to players are on the other team. It changes the whole dynamic of the game, really -- matchups, recognition, anticipation, communication. It just puts more stress on those areas. That's what it is in game conditions. This is really good for us because we just played Monday night, we went through the film yesterday on our game with Philadelphia, so we don't have much of a scouting report. We haven't watched any film on Tampa, we just know some of the basics and we're going to have to figure it out as we go, but that's good. That's a realistic situation in games. ...This will be a real good learning experience for us, on the field in practice, like it is in a game. They're game experiences without all the game contact and all that -- mentally, technique-wise, communication, coaches. It's good for us too."

    Thoughts on Fanene

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 21, 2012 07:29 PM

    Obviously it's a huge shock that the Patriots just decided to throw away $3.85 million in a signing bonus and another $100,00 workout bonus by terminating Jonathan Fanene's contract.

    I mean, that's just stunning. When is the last time the Patriots just ate a mistake that large before even seeing the guy on the field?

    Even Albert Haynesworth didn't wash out that quickly (although the expense was in a draft pick, not contract). And we all know how much rope the Patriots gave Chad Johnson.

    By the way, can we officially cross former Bengals off any future free-agent lists? Yikes.

    Personnel-wise, this is a blow because you figured a player like Fanene, who was a tackle in this scheme but could play end, would be a pass-rushing force, at least, on passing downs. In a way, it reminds one of when the Patriots lost Myron Pryor in the opener. You just hope there aren't losses such as Mike Wright and Haynesworth upcoming or they'll be back to a 3-4.

    In my eyes, it puts more pressure on Brandon Deaderick and Ron Brace to not only make the team but be consistent. It opens the door more for Gerard Warren to make the team. And it really opens the door for end/tackle Justin Francis, and possibly Marcus Forston.

    Why did Fanene have to be released right now?

    As Shalise Manza Young has reported, Fanene was likely dealing with arthritis in one of his knees. That's what we were hearing. The prognosis had to be pretty bad for the Patriots to not even put him on injured reserve and see where he was a year from now.

    That leads to two obvious questions: did the Patriots miss something in the original medical exams when they signed Fanene, who has had his share of medical issues during his career? And is Patriots team doctor Thomas Gill, who was let go as medical director of the Red Sox in November, fielding a lot of questions from 1 Patriots Place?

    If it's not solely medical, then I couldn't help but think back to a chat I had with Bengals coach Marvin Lewis about Fanene at the owners' meetings in March. Basically, Lewis was skeptical Fanene would work out for the Patriots -- sort of like he was when the Johnson-Patriots story came up.

    Here's what I wrote in May:

    Bengals coach Marvin Lewis was curious about the decision of defensive end Jonathan Fanene to sign, considering Foxborough’s proximity to Boston.

    Fanene, said Lewis, is “very small-town. I don’t represent him. Sometimes those guys [agents] should think about that.

    “Jon is a very hard-working guy. Prior to his time at Utah, he hadn’t played a lot of football. So it was all new to him. So going to a new team, it’s going to be interesting.

    “He’s very hard on himself. He wants to do everything right. He’s very conscientious.

    “Last year, because of the lockout, he was an unsigned player, he didn’t hit camp quite ready to go. We had to get Jon in shape and get him going, and he did that.

    “He had a baby in late July. So he had a lot of things going on in his life last year, and once we got him signed, it took him a little bit of time.’’

    Lewis thinks Fanene will fit well in the Patriots’ two-gap system.

    “Jon’s been a good inside rusher because of his effort and energy,’’ Lewis said. “He’s strong. He’ll do well in the New England scheme of playing two-gap.

    “He has not done a lot of that. That will be a little different for him. I don’t know what they’re going to ask him to do, but he’ll have to learn to do that a little bit. But he’ll have the strength and ability to do it, yes.’’

    At the time, I just chalked up Lewis's comments to some sour grapes for Fanene not taking less to remain with the Bengals.

    Now, I'm not quite sure.

    But it's not the end of the world. The Patriots will take a $2.025 million cap hit this year, and another $1.925 million next. Last I heard, the Patriots were at about $10.8 million under the cap a few weeks ago.

    It's not a huge mistake, but you have to wonder why it happened. Very unlike the Patriots.

    Patriots release Fanene, Koepplin, Hill

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 21, 2012 04:07 PM

    The Patriots have announced three roster cuts: DL Jonathan Fanene, K Chris Koepplin and OL Kyle Hill.

    While Koepplin was always understood to be an extra leg during spring workouts and training camp and Hill was brought in this month when the offensive line depth took a hit because of injury, the release of Fanene was a bit of a surprise.

    Fanene was the first free agent the team signed in March, receiving a 3-year, $12 million deal from the Patriots, with a $3.85 million signing bonus. After beginning his career with the Bengals, the 30-year old was projected as a versatile lineman in New England's multiple defense, and someone who could help with the pass rush.

    But Fanene had not practiced in August. A league source said recently that Fanene was dealing with an inflammatory problem, possibly arthritis.

    In a conference call just moments after the Fanene move was announced, Bill Belichick said it simply "didn't work out" with the player.

    New England now has 85 players on its roster; by NFL rule, teams must be down to 75 players by Monday at 4 p.m.

    Eagles 27, Patriots 17: Quickie thoughts

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 21, 2012 01:17 AM

    FOXBOROUGH -- A few quick thoughts on the game before we call it a night:

    Line will be fine: Yes, the Patriots’ offensive line struggled mightily again but the opinion here hasn’t changed that long-term, they will be fine. The obvious concerns reside with LT Nate Solder and RT Marcus Cannon. Solder is having a lot of technique issues but those can be cleaned up. He’s letting rushers get into his chest, which negates his length advantage. Solder needs to strike the proper balance between extending his arms and not getting off balance. I don't understand why he's not getting back into a proper stance. Solder's trying to maul the rusher instead of directing him with his length. He can still get there, but if anybody was expecting to him to be a Pro Bowl LT this year, they were kidding themselves. There were bound to be growing pains. Solder wasn't exactly a complete stud last year -- and that was at the much easier RT. Getting Logan Mankins back next to him as well. And when the Patriots have a real RT in Sebastian Vollmer, that will allow them to help Solder more (Matt Light got a lot of help himself). And, oh, by the way, Brian Waters still has a locker in the Patriots' facilities.

    Cannon may need to move to guard: The larger concern – somewhat because Sebastian Vollmer is on his way back – is with Cannon. Bill Belichick said this week he believes tackle is Cannon’s best position. I have a feeling the coaches will be re-evaluating that this week and perhaps start trolling for right tackles. The Patriots are going to need a game-day swing tackle and Cannon doesn’t look like he’s going to fit that bill. Matt Kopa is decent – if he can ever stay on the field.

    Chung dinged: The shoulder injury suffered by Patrick Chung didn’t appear overly serious, but, considering he has missed 11 starts the past two seasons, everything matters when it comes to the leader of the secondary. The Patriots need him out there and he needs to show better durability.

    Mallett shows progress: Ryan Mallett kept hope alive that he can develop into a legitimate QB with a solid performance against the Eagles (10 of 20 for 105 yards, 1 TD, 82.3 rating). He did get let off the hook by two dumb Eagles penalties (one wiped out a bad INT), but he certainly looked the part more than previously. Brian Hoyer (5 of 17, 55 yards, 40.6 rating) sure seemed like he got the short end of the offensive line stick in this one. At one point early, Hoyer had to operate with Nick McDonald at C and Jeremiah Warren at RG.

    Defense solid: I was writing about the running backs for the paper so I didn’t get a great look at the defense, but it seemed like they were active again up front against an Eagles offensive line that is really average. Production is production, so it was good to see them continue the momentum. Seemed like Jermaine Cunningham was active, along with the DTs.

    A night of firsts for Alex Silvestro

    Posted by Leonard Neslin August 21, 2012 12:51 AM

    The Patriots signed Alex Silvestro as an undrafted free agent defensive end last year. Monday night against the Eagles, Silvestro caught his first pass in a Patriots uniform as a tight end and then made another in the next series. The latter was a touchdown, the lone Patriots TD in the 27-17 loss.

    "Yeah it was a little nerves on that," said Silvestro on catching the touchdown. "Actually the first [catch] was a little bit worse because it felt like the ball was slower."

    Quarterback Ryan Mallett credited Silvestro for getting open.

    "I was looking over there to begin with," Mallet said, "and he beat the linebacker and the corner left, so I gave him a ball and he made me look good."

    Silvestro hadn't played tight end since high school.

    "I feel like every day I'm getting a little bit better," he said. "I'm just trying to develop and listen to whatever the coaches tell me to do."

    His two catches Monday totaled 18 yards.

    NOTES:

    Bill Belichick's opening statement at the podium...
    "We got to look at a lot of players tonight, evaluate them against a good football team and we'll take a look at the film and correct our mistakes, build on it. We've got a quick turnaround this week with Tampa. These are the days that we can, as a team, really learn from a lot of these experiences, game situations, training camp practices and so forth, to make our team better, so that's what we're going to do. It was some good experience for us out there tonight. Some good situations came up. We played against a good team and I thought we competed hard. Obviously we didn't make enough plays to win, but there are some things to build on there and obviously a lot of things to correct."

    Defensive end Chandler Jones on the front seven...
    "We've become more of a brotherhood. Not that the whole defense isn't close, but we have a great bond. We can rely on each other, and that's what you need to have a great defense."

    Defensive back Nate Ebner on his interception to end the second half...
    "It was just instinct, and practice. The ball is in the air, gotta make a play on it, and I did. Just doing what I practice."

    Wide receiver Deion Branch on having a short week of preparation for a game on Friday...
    "We'll find out tomorrow how it feels. Guys are going to be bruised up pretty bad. But this is part of the game. It's football. This is the schedule that was given to us and we have to go out there and do it. It will be a quick turnaround. I think once we get on the field, that's when guys will feel more in their realm. All the traveling and stuff might throw us off a little bit but I think we'll go out and be OK."

    Eagles quarterback Nick Foles on the team's reaction following the Vick injury...
    "Michael Vick's the leader of this team. He's a tremendous quarterback and a tremendous leader. They were very confident when I stepped in because those guys have been together and they know I'm going to go out there and play as hard as I can for them. The line did a great job protecting and our receivers did a great job getting open so my job was really just to stay in rhythm and get the ball to our players."

    Cunningham: That's football

    Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff August 21, 2012 12:35 AM

    FOXBOROUGH -- Linebacker Jermaine Cunningham delivered the hit of the night, taking Eagles quarterback Michael Vick out of the game on the first play of Philadelphia's second offensive series after driving him into the turf, his helmet connecting with Vick's midsection. X-rays on Vick's ribs were negative, but he didn't return.

    It was one of three quarterback pressures in the game for Cunningham, who had a throng of reporters waiting at his locker eager to hear him talk about the hit. He stuck to a theme, then hit repeat. Again, and again, and again.

    How did it feel?

    Cunningham: "It’s always good to be out there playing football."

    How about the hit on Vick?

    Cunningham: "That’s football, hits like that happen all the time."

    Were you surprised he was hurt?

    Cunningham: "That’s football."

    Have you felt comfortable in camp?

    Cunningham: "It feels good to be out there playing football."

    How is it playing different end positions?

    Cunningham: "Just going out there playing football, whichever side you’re on, wherever you’re lined up at."

    How much was the hit on Vick instinctive, and how much was it reading the play?

    Cunningham: "Yeah, that’s just football, going out there and getting the person with the ball ... running back, quarterback, receiver, whoever it is."

    Could you tell Vick was going to be in trouble?

    Cunningham: "I mean, it’s just football, man."

    Do you like going up against an athletic player like Vick?

    Cunningham: "That’s the game of football, man."

    Is that your answer for the night?

    Cunningham: "It is."

    Ryan Mallett shows improvements against Eagles

    Posted by Leonard Neslin August 21, 2012 12:03 AM

    Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett made strides in his second preseason game, and he did it against a more fierce pass rush from the Eagles than the Saints generated in the first outing.

    With Tom Brady, along with 25 others, inactive, Mallett was the Patriots' leader Monday in a 27-17 loss to the Eagles.

    He completed 10 of his 20 attempts, including a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Alex Silvestro in the beginning of the second quarter. He also didn't lose any throws to the other team, as he did against the Saints.

    "It's been like 10 days, so it's good to get out there and play again," Mallett said.

    Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Mallett and backup quarterback Brian Hoyer played equally, and that starting Mallett was not just a chance to see him against a top defense.

    "I think they probably played against the same players and with the same players," he said.

    Hoyer, who completed 5 of 17 passes for 55 yards, was disappointed in the number of incomplete passes.

    "When you are starting a drive you want to hit a few more completions," Hoyer said. "I thought I gave my guys a chance to make a play. It's something we'll learn from; we haven't seen a lot of man coverage."

    Final: Eagles 27, Patriots 17

    Posted by Leonard Neslin August 20, 2012 07:47 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- Faced with playing three games in 10 days, the Patriots had to choose when they wanted to give their starters the most work. It wasn't Monday night, as Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and many other Patriots stars didn't dress in a 27-17 loss to the Eagles at Gillette Stadium in their second preseason tune-up.

    New England's defense sans Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo allowed 144 rushing yards. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy collected 30 yards and a touchdown on seven carries, but only five yards came from the legs of quarterback Michael Vick.

    The Eagles intended to use Vick for three quarters, but that plan backfired with a jolt from Jermaine Cunningham to Vick's ribs in his second series. Kyle Love's pressure gave Cunningham an opening to Vick, who was nearly intercepted.

    After the play, Vick walked to the locker room for X-rays on his ribs, which came back negative. Vick has missed three games because of rib injuries in each of the last two seasons.

    Nick Foles (18 for 28) replaced Vick, throwing for 217 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Tight end Clay Harbor caught both TDs.

    Rookie Ryan Mallett (10 for 20, 105 yards, TD) and 26-year-old Brian Hoyer (5 for 17, 55 yards) split time under center for the Patriots.

    Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch made his preseason debut with three catches for 51 yards after behind held out of the Saints game 11 days ago. Running back Stevan Ridley led with 10 carries for 25 yards. Tight end Alex Silvestro caught New England's only touchdown, while Stephen Kostkowski kicked three field goals, including a 55-yarder.

    The Patriots will likely give their starters some action Friday when they head to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers. Their preseason schedule concludes next Wednesday on the road against the New York Giants.

    ---
    4th QUARTER:
    2:00 -- Eagles 27, Patriots 17 -- Henery added another field goal -- this one from just 21 yards -- in a time-draining series. Drive summary: 10 plays, 50 yards, 5:36.

    11:00 -- Eagles 24, Patriots 17 -- No change in score through the first four minutes of the fourth. Eagles are threatening now.

    3d QUARTER:
    0:33 -- Eagles 24, Patriots 17 -- Henery answered with a 42-yard field goal. Drive summary: 7 plays, 56 yards, 3:39.

    4:12 -- Eagles 21, Patriots 17 -- Henery got schooled. Gostkowski drilled a 55-yard field goal within three minutes of Henery missing a 55-yarder. Drive summary: 6 plays, 18 yards, 2:03. Mallett completed a 14-yard pass to Branch for the key play of the series.

    3d QUARTER:
    6:15 -- Eagles 21, Patriots 14 -- Eagles kicker Alex Henery attempted a 55-yard field goal. Yes, of course, it came short. It didn't even make it through the end zone. Patriots take possession on their 45-yard line.

    11:02 -- Eagles 21, Patriots 14 -- Harbor caught his second touchdown from three yards out. Drive summary: 8 plays, 80 yards, 3:58. Key play was the 40-yarder to Jackson. Foles has racked up 162 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT in Vick's absence. Vick's X-rays on his ribs came up negative.

    11:35 -- Eagles 14, Patriots 14 -- Foles had plenty of time to complete a 40-yard pass to Jackson. Sterling Moore wrapped him up quickly, though, which isn't easy against Jacksonr. Eagles in the red zone on the first series of the second half.

    2d QUARTER:
    0:00 -- Eagles 14, Patriots 14 -- Despite a lack of pressure, Foles threw a pass to the hands of Patriots cornerback Nate Ebner instead of receiver Jeremy Maclin. Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson ended the return with an over-the-shoulder tackle. See you after halftime.

    1:55 -- Eagles 14, Patriots 14 -- Hoyer just raised some eyebrows with a Brady-like move to avoid the rush and make a good throw on the run to Donte' Stallworth on the sideline. He's still completed less than 50 percent of his passes, though.

    2:39 -- Eagles 14, Patriots 14 -- Bolden needs to learn this signal that prevents him from getting crushed on punt returns. He just got crushed again, but this time he was able to hold on to the ball after a hit by Stanley Havili. Bolden is a 22-year-old rookie out of Mississippi.

    3:09 -- Eagles 14, Patriots 14 -- Gostkowski nailed a 35-yarder to tie it up at 14. Drive summary: 14 plays, 63 yards, 5:57. Key play: Another nice look to Branch, a 17-yard completion on third-and-13. Branch leads all receivers with 37 yards on two catches.

    9:06 -- Eagles 14, Patriots 11 -- Foles hit a wide open Clay Harbor in the back corner of the end zone. Drive summary: 2 plays, 12 yards, 46 seconds. Could the Eagles go for an under-30-second TD next series? With another Patriots fumble, it could happen.

    9:59 -- Patriots 11, Eagles 7 -- Another Patriots fumble? With Brian Hoyer in at QB, Eagles defensive end Phillip Hunt sacked and forced another turnover. And the Eagles have possession again at the 1-yard line.

    10:07 -- Patriots 11, Eagles 7 -- LeSean McCoy pounded it in for the TD. Drive summary: 3 plays, 24 yards, 1:24. Never would have happened if Bolden called a fair catch.

    11:31 -- Patriots 11, Eagles 0 -- Patriots punt returner Brandon Bolden should have called a fair catch. Eagles corner Brandon Boykin forced a fumble as soon as Bolden touched the ball. Eagles recovered and are now on the 1-yard line.

    13:44 -- Patriots 11, Eagles 0 -- Patriots tight ends continue to get their way. It wasn't Rob Gronkowski. It wasn't Aaron Hernandez. It was Alex Silvestro, who caught a well-placed pass by Mallett on an out route. Running back Shane Vereen rushed off the left guard for the 2-point conversion.

    1st QUARTER:
    0:00 -- Patriots 3, Eagles 0 -- Mallett's 20-yard completion to Deion Branch on third down kept the Patriots' drive alive. It will continue on the other end at the start of the second quarter.

    3:11 -- Patriots 3, Eagles 0 -- Mallett caught a break. He threw an interception to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but a roughing the passer call on Fletcher Cox negated the pick. First down Patriots.

    Vick injury update: He went to the locker room for X-rays on his ribs -- right where Cunningham got him on the hit.

    6:09 -- Patriots 3, Eagles 0 -- Patriots linebacker Jermaine Cunningham leveled Michael Vick, nearly forcing an interception on a pass intended for DeSean Jackson. Vick not in for the next play, walking toward the locker room. He was replaced by Nick Foles.

    6:15 -- Patriots 3, Eagles 0 -- Stephen Gostkowski got the Patriots on the board first with a 51-yard field goal. The field goal capped an 11-play drive that lasted 4:45. Key play was Mallett's 16-yard pass to Edelman on 3rd-and-8.

    9:58 -- The Patriots got their first first down on a reception by Julian Edelman, who recovered his own fumble on the punt return.

    Confirming pregame reports, Tom Brady was not on the field for the first series. Led by rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett, the Patriots went three-and-out.

    PREGAME:
    Olympic gold medalist gymnast Aly Raisman was honored on the field. She made her way up to the press box soon after.

    Garrett Reid, the late son of Eagles coach Andy Reid, was also honored with a moment of silence.

    The Patriots chose to receive. Houston, we have received confirmation that this is in fact a preseason game.

    ---
    FOXBOROUGH -- Ladies and gents, welcome to Monday Night Football. Well, sort of. We're about to get underway here from Gillette Stadium for the Patriots' second preseason game.

    The Patriots defeated the Saints, 7-6, 11 days ago. Starting with the Eagles tonight, the Patriots play their final three preseason games in the next 10 days.

    We'll have in-game and postgame updates for you right here. Stay tuned, kickoff is set for 8 p.m.

    26 players not dressed for Patriots tonight

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 20, 2012 07:34 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots will go without many of their stars for tonight's preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Altogether 26 players have not dressed for the game including quarterback Tom Brady, LB Jerod Mayo, WR Wes Welker, and TE Aaron Hernandez.

    Here are the other players that are not dressed: WR Jabar Gaffney, CB Kyle Arrington, DB Tavon Wilson, DB Devin McCourty, DB Alfonzo Dennard, S James Ihedigbo, FB Spencer Larsen, LB Tracy White, OL Markus Zusevics, G Logan Mankins, T Sebastian Vollmer, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, WR Brandon Lloyd, TE Daniel Fells, TE Jake Ballard, DL Myron Pryor, DL Gerard Warren, DE Jonathan Fanene, and RB Jeff Demps.


    Rob Gronkowski, who reportedly was not going to play, was dressed and practicing on the field. Deion Branch, who had been held out of the first preseason game, was also dressed and practicing prior to kickoff.

    Report: Brady, Gronkowski, Welker, others won't play tonight

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 20, 2012 06:00 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- A report on NFL.com says the Patriots will rest a number of players for tonight's preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles including Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker and Jerod Mayo.

    Also reportedly resting for tonight's game are Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd.

    The Patriots are playing three games in 10 days starting tonight with the Eagles. After the game, the team will fly to Tampa Bay for joint practices with the Buccaneers before a game Friday at Raymond James Stadium, followed by a Wednesday night game against the New York Giants.

    Our desk at NFL Network reports that word from Foxboro is Brady, Mayo, Lloyd, Hernandez, Welker and Gronkowski won't play tonight.

    — Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 20, 2012

    Patriots cut OL Kyle Hix

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 20, 2012 05:18 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots announced they have cut 23-year-old offensive lineman Kyle Hix.

    Hix, who was with the team last season, had failed to make headway on the team's depth chart through training camp. He signed with the Patriots as a rookie free-agent out of Texas in 2011 but was on injured reserve during the entire season after suffering a shoulder injury last preseason.

    The Patriots now currently have 88 players on their roster, two under the 90-man maximum. NFL teams will have to cut their rosters to 80 players on Aug. 27 and then 53 players on Aug. 31.

    Today's replacement officials for Patriots-Eagles

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 20, 2012 05:12 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- For those of you keeping track of these things, here are tonight's replacement officials.

    Referee - Jerry Frump (37)
    Umpire - Brian Taylor (115)
    Head linesman - Bill Etzler (29)
    Line judge - Charles Derrick (23)
    Field judge - Henry Zaborniak (139)
    Side judge - Randal Beesley (8)
    Back judge - Bill Theodore (117)
    Alternate - Tim Morris (68)
    Replay official - Charles Stewart
    Replay assistant - Todd Oldham
    Officiating supervisor - Jim Duke
    Officiating observer - David Coleman

    Preseason Game 2 preview: Eagles at Patriots

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 20, 2012 04:56 PM

    082012gillette607.jpg

    The view of the Gillette Stadium field from the press box. On the field, replacement referees get prepared for tonight's game.

    FOXBOROUGH -- Good afternoon from Gillette Stadium as the Patriots get ready to host the Philadelphia Eagles in the both teams' second preseason matchup.

    Today's game will likely see the Patriots starters play more snaps with the stars playing sparsely in the next couple of games because the team is playing three games in a span of 10 days. Eagles coach Andy Reid has said his team will likely play its starters for three quarters, so the Patriots defense will get a good sense of how to defend against quarterback Michael Vick and explosive running back LeSean McCoy.

    The Eagles won their first preseason matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-23. Vick went a paltry 3 of 4 passing for six yards and the Eagles' offense was roundly criticized for their play despite netting 354 yards in the game.

    The Patriots, who last played 11 days ago, are coming off a 7-6 win over the New Orleans Saints. Britt Davis, who scored the Patriots' only touchdown on a 3-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, was cut last week.

    Here's the rundown on tonight's game.

    Kickoff: 8 p.m.

    Records: Patriots 1-0 (Finished last season 13-3, AFC champions); Eagles 1-0 (Finished last season 8-8, 2d in NFC East).

    TV/Radio info: ESPN / WCVB-TV Ch. 5 (Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters); 98.5-FM The Sports Hub (Gil Santos, Scott Zolak).

    Projected starting lineups:
    Based on information distributed to the media, practice observations, and injuries for each team.

    Patriots offense: WR Wes Welker, LT Nate Solder, LG Logan Mankins, C Dan Koppen, RG Dan Connolly, RT Marcus Cannon, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Brandon Lloyd, QB Tom Brady, RB Shane Vereen, TE Aaron Hernandez.

    Patriots defense: NT Vince Wilfork DT Kyle Love, RDE Chandler Jones, LB/DE Ron Ninkovich, LB Jerod Mayo, LB Dont'a Hightower, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Devin McCourty, CB Kyle Arrington, S Steve Gregory, S Patrick Chung.

    Eagles offense: WR Jeremy Maclin, LT King Dunlap, LG Evan Mathis, C Jason Kelce, RG Danny Watkins, RT Todd Herremans, TE Brent Celek, WR DeSean Jackson, FB Stanley Havili, RB LeSean McCoy, QB Michael Vick.

    Eagles defense: LDE Jason Babin, LDT Cullen Jenkins, RDT Derek Landri, RDE Trent Cole, WILL Brian Rolle, MLB DeMeco Ryans, SAM Mychal Kendricks, LCB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, RCB Nnamdi Asomugha, SS Nate Allen, FS Kurt Coleman,

    Patriots to honor local Olympians

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 19, 2012 10:07 PM

    Patriots owner Robert Kraft has invited five members of the US Olympic team to Monday night's game against the Eagles at Gillette Stadium.

    The team announced that gymnast Aly Raisman of Needham, Wakefield judoka medalist Kayla Harrison, Rhode Island swimmer Elizabeth Beisel, and basketball players Tina Charles and Asjha Jones, who play for the WNBA's Connecticut Sun, were invited and are expected to attend the game.

    Raisman, Harrison, Charles, and Jones all won gold medals in London; Beisel won a silver and bronze.

    Vollmer, Fells pass physicals, off PUP

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 19, 2012 07:16 PM

    The Patriots' offensive line will get another boost this week: tackle Sebastian Vollmer has passed his physical and is coming off the physically unable to perform list, reports colleague Greg A. Bedard.

    Tight end Daniel Fells has also passed his physical and will come off the PUP list.

    Vollmer did not take part in any of the spring workouts or camp to this point after a minor procedure on his back aimed at eliminating the problems he's had in the past. The feeling is that the Patriots were waiting until he was completely ready before letting him practice again.

    In his absence, second-year player Marcus Cannon has been playing at right tackle. Logan Mankins came off PUP last week, another veteran to bolster the line, which has struggled to this point in the preseason.

    Fells was signed as a free agent in March, and has not participated in camp to this point because of a leg injury.

    Neither player will be available Monday night against Philadelphia -- per the rules of the collective bargaining agreement, they must practice two days before they can wear full pads.

    Comcast SportsNet New England first reported that the pair were about to come off PUP.

    Stallworth: 'Nikko' plays on

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 19, 2012 09:34 AM

    When receiver Donte' Stallworth returned to the Patriots earlier this year, there was a question I got from a few folks on Twitter: is Nikko back too?

    In his first go-round in New England, Stallworth admitted to having an on-field alter ego, whom he calls Nikko. At the end of our conversation for this piece in today's Sunday Globe, I asked him if that alter ego is still with him.

    Stallworth laughed and said he is.

    "He only comes out on gamedays. I’m like real calm and chill outside of football but when I get into the games I’m a little different," he said. "It catches people off guard when I’m out there playing and I’m out there cursing and pushing linemen around, because I’m completely the opposite off the field and it catches people off guard, but that’s just the way I play, that’s the way I’ve always played, and that’s just who I am when I’m on the field."

    Lloyd gets extra work in with Brady

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 17, 2012 04:33 PM

    18lloyd.jpg

    FOXBOROUGH – Both Brandon Lloyd and Rob Gronkowski had sat out practices, and looking to get some extra work in with players who will ultimately be large pieces in the Patriots passing game, Tom Brady made up for the time lost by going over things with both of them on the sidelines during Friday's session.

    “It's something that we discussed that we wanted to do during the day today and we wanted to work on it,” Lloyd said.

    Part of it, Lloyd said was just making sure things stayed crisp in situations where fatigue and concentration could be an issue.

    “You get late in possessions and you get to that eighth, ninth, 10th play and you're still expected to function with the same brain capacity the first play of the series so it's good physical training and mental training,” he said.

    Since he's been here, Lloyd said seeing how much the entire organization buys into one philosophy -- "as opposed to four or five guys or 10 guys or 11," he said -- has been the most fulfilling part.

    “It's everything that it's built up to be,” Lloyd said. “It takes every ounce of concentration and physical preparation and mental preparation to be able to function in this offense. They have a championship pedigree and I'm just doing my best to get up to speed and be able to execute.”

    Roll call: Practice #18 -- end of camp

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 17, 2012 03:49 PM

    By Greg A. Bedard, Globe Staff

    FOXBOROUGH – A quickie look at the final training camp practice on Friday:

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.

    Physically unable to perform: RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder).

    Continued to be out: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder), FB Eric Kettani (unknown), DT Gerard Warren (unknown), S James Ihedigbo, WR Jabar Gaffney (right quad).

    New injuries: RB Stevan Ridley (right hamstring), S Tavon Wilson (left ankle).

    Limited in practice: LG Logan Mankins (right knee - some team drills).

    Returned to practice: CB Malcolm Williams.

    Injured during practice: WR Wes Welker left the field at some point. Might not have been injury-related.

    DRESS CODE
    Shells and shorts.

    HEADLINES

    • Not much significant went on during this practice. It was very light-hearted and much shorter than normal.
    • S Nate Ebner had another two interceptions.
    • S Sergio Brown punched a fumble from RB Brandon Bolden and picked it up.
    • Julian Edelman muffed a punt and quickly recovered it.
    • Tom Brady spent a lot of time on the other practice field throwing routes to only TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Brandon Lloyd. Those two had missed some practices so perhaps this was catching up.
    • RT Sebastian Vollmer ran with the rehab group and seemed to come out of it fine.
    • DE Chandler Jones caught the annual punt at the end of camp to give the team the night off.

    We will not be back with a practice report. Everybody have a good weekend.

    Track star Demps to sign with Patriots

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 17, 2012 01:14 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- Former Olympic track star Jeff Demps, who played running back at the University of Florida, will sign with the Patriots, sources confirmed.

    Fox 13 in Tampa first reported the agreement.

    Director of player personnel Nick Caserio wouldn't confirm Demps was headed to the Patriots.

    Demps bypassed the scouting combine to concentrate on the Olympics, where he helped the 4x100 relay team win a silver medal. Demps ran in qualifying.

    Demps, 22, averaged 5.8 yards per carry for the Gators as a senior. He returned 10 kickoffs for 250 yards, including a 99-yard touchdown.

    The kicking game is where Demps figures to make the biggest impact with the Patriots. Coach Bill Belichick has talked about getting better production on returns, and he put his money where his mouth is by adding a talent to do that.

    Demps is very small at about 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds -- somewhat similar to DeSean Jackson of the Eagles. It will be interesting to see how long it will take him to get into football shape.

    Any team could have spent a draft pick on Demps with the hopes of him deciding to play football after the Olympics. None chose to do so, but several teams had interest in Demps, including the Buccaneers and the Jets.

    "Jeff is a great guy and a great player and he is someone that I was proud to play with in college," Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, a college teammate with the Gators, said this week. "He did a great job for us, in college. … I talk to him as a friend, but the Jets [are] a great organization and a great place. Would we love to have him? Absolutely. I would as a teammate just because I know how hard he works and what he could bring to the table."

    If he declared for the draft, Demps likely would have been picked anywhere from the middle to late in the draft.

    Since other teams were interested, Demps likely got assurances from the Patriots that he'll be on the team.

    But Demps is going to have to prove himself just like any other rookie. He'll have to show that his college skills can translate to the NFL level. Depending on whether or not he is ready for NFL-caliber hitting, you'd figure he would factor into the final two preseason games. Demps can't suit up for Monday night's game against the Eagles.

    Patriots Daily Briefing, 8.17.12

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 17, 2012 08:07 AM

    Good morning. Here is your PDB for Wednesday, August 15, 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
    1:30-4 p.m.: Final camp practice open to the public
    - No press conference scheduled

    TO RECAP
    Safety Steve Gregory has been a little better than advertised since signing with New England; undrafted out of Syracuse, he credits the strong work ethic it took for him to become a starter with San Diego and now with the Patriots to his father, a retired police officer on his native Staten Island.

    Gronk says he's improving. Belichick says Ninkovich is an "end of the line" player. The kick return unit gets some criticism.

    The big news in practice yesterday was Bill Belchick booting Julian Edelman and Niko Koutouvides off the field about two-thirds of the way through after they scuffled. Belichick had told the team after fights earlier in camp that he'd had enough, and took a stand.

    QUOTE/TWEET OF THE DAY
    "I don't like heights."
    - A smiling Bill Belichick when asked if he could spend six months on a space station; Salem-born and York, Maine-raised NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy was on hand for Belichick's press conference yesterday.

    AROUND THE DIVISION
    With David Garrard out for a little while with a knee injury, Matt Moore and rookie Ryan Tannehill are battling for Miami's top quarterback spot. The Dolphins play Carolina tonight, but as of yesterday neither Moore nor Tannehill had been told who was starting the game.

    Running back C.J. Spiller has his Bills' teammates talking about his versatility.

    Mark Sanchez believes Mark Sanchez can be a top 10 quarterback. The rest of the NFL is dubious.

    Practice rundown #17

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 16, 2012 06:33 PM

    FOXBOROUGH – A look at Thursday’s practice:

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.

    Physically unable to perform: RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder).

    Continued to be out:
    CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder), FB Eric Kettani (unknown), DT Gerard Warren (unknown), S James Ihedigbo (unknown), CB Malcolm Williams (unknown).

    New absences: WR Jabar Gaffney (right quad).

    Limited in practice: LG Logan Mankins (right knee - some team drills).

    Returned to practice:
    RG Dan Connolly was full go.

    Injured during practice: RB Stevan Ridley (right hamstring) and S Tavon Wilson (left ankle) did not return. TE Aaron Hernandez had his knee looked at but kept going. OG Nick McDonald had his eye checked out before returning.

    DRESS CODE

    Full pads for fourth-straight day.

    TOP PLAYS

    Rob Gronkowski had a really nice one-handed touchdown grab going towards the back right pylon.
    Jesse Holley allow snagged pass with one paw during one-on-ones from Brian Hoyer.
    Ryan Mallett had a big-play touchdown pass to Donte’ Stallworth during 7-on-7s over CB Derrick Martin.

    THUMBS UP

    Nate Ebner was thought to be an afterthought when he was drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round. Even he was surprised to get drafted, especially given most of his play had been on a rugby field. But the Patriots apparently like what they see because he is all over the special teams units, and he’s in the mix at the backup safety spot. He also took over for Tavon Wilson at the “money” position (a linebacker/defensive back hybrid) in sub packages. It would be a surprise if Ebner doesn’t make this team.

    THUMBS DOWN

    There were again all sorts of blocking problems up front – both for the run and the pass – during team periods. At one point during a situational overtime period, there were three sacks in six plays by Dont’a Hightower, Jermaine Cunningham and Chandler Jones (split), and Trevor Scott. Counted another five tackles for a loss by the defense as the offense couldn’t get out of their own way. At one point, the offense was so bad that Jerod Mayo openly mocked them by asking for the punt team on third down. Later, Brady – who was 13 of 23 with five sacks in team periods -- just shrugged at offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

    SUPERLATIVES

    Dropped passes: Wes Welker, Donte’ Stallworth.
    Nice catch: Gronkowski, Holley.
    Fumbled: Bolden (punt).
    Interceptions: Mike Rivera (of Brady).

    ONE-ON-ONES

    One man’s 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: Ryan Wendell (1-0-0). Defense: None.
    Struggled -- Offense: None. Defense: Marcus Forston (1-2-0).
    Decided victories: Wendell (vs. Love).

    For the first time in forever, the starting offensive line came out like gangbusters with Cannon (vs. Bequette), Connolly (vs. Wilfork), Wendell (vs. Love) and Mankins (vs. Deaderick) all delivered victories to start the drill before Solder had a draw with Ninkovich.

    At one point the offense led 6-0-2 to start the drill. And then the defense feasted on the Patriots’ backups. The offense ended up winning just one of the final seven reps to squeak out a 7-6-2 edge.

    Wendell absolutely stuffed Love. Yielded no ground.

    Cannon got off his losing streak by riding Bequette outside, but then lost to Trevor Scott after failing to sustain his initial punch.

    Jones beat Darrion Weems but it took a strong second effort from Jones because Weems had an effective punch.


    ODDS AND ENDS

    -- In red zone 7-on-7, Brady was 5 of 7 with an interception.
    -- With no fullbacks healthy, Brandon Bolden got a lot of work there, along with Hernandez sprinkled in.
    -- Hernandez did a nice job sealing the end during a big run by Ridley, who was splitting time with Shane Vereen before Ridley’s injury.
    -- Obviously the players know Ridley’s ball security is being looked at because Patrick Chung popped him and then tried hard to rip the ball out.
    -- Jones had two tackles for a loss in the four-minute drill where the offense was trying to run out the clock. Brandon Spikes had a couple has he was back to flying through the line at the snap.
    -- Wilfork was able to knock down a Brady pass despite going half speed over the terribly overmatched Jeremiah Warren.
    -- The Patriots ran a reverse that was a complete trainwreck behind the backup offensive line.
    -- Marcus Forston absolutely teed off on Bolden in the backfield after blowing up Weems at the snap.
    -- Welker and Brady completed a Hail Mary in the end zone.
    -- Brady and Danny Woodhead hooked up on a nice touchdown when he lost Ras-I Dowling in coverage. Woodhead made a one-handed catch on a screen and then Hightower horse-collared him down.
    -- Kyle Arrington, Wilson and Nate Ebner had pass breakups.

    SCHEDULE
    Friday: 1:30-4 p.m. (final open practice)

    Michael Whitmer contributed to this report.

    Roll call: Practice #17

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 16, 2012 02:17 PM

    By Greg A. Bedard, Globe Staff

    FOXBOROUGH – A quickie look at the practice on Thursday afternoon:

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.

    Physically unable to perform: RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder).

    Continued to be out: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder), FB Eric Kettani (unknown), DT Gerard Warren (unknown), S James Ihedigbo, CB Malcolm Williams.

    New injuries: WR Jabar Gaffney (right quad).

    Limited in practice: LG Logan Mankins (right knee - some team drills).

    Returned to practice: RG Dan Connolly was full go after being limited

    Injured during practice: S Tavon Wilson (left ankle) did not return.
    RB Stevan Ridley (right hamstring) did not return.

    DRESS CODE
    Full pads for fourth-straight day.

    HEADLINES

    • A couple of new injuries to be concerned about with Wilson and Ridley going off and not returning. Didn't appear overly serious. Aaron Hernandez was checked out at one point but returned.
    • Nate Ebner took over Wilson's role as the "money" position -- a LB/S/CB combo.
    • A lot of "four minute" where the offense is trying to run out the clock at the end of the game. The offense was so bad that LB Jerod Mayo was openly mocking them to bring the punt team out of third down.
    • Both WR Julian Edelman and LB Niko Koutouvides were kicked out of practice by Bill Belichick following a light scuffle.
    • At one point the first- and second-team offenses allowed three sacks in six plays.
    • RG Logan Mankins took his first team reps of practice with a rep here and there sprinkled in.
    • Ryan Wendell's turn at center today.
    • Brandon Bolden played a lot of fullback.

    Belichick: Gaffney day-to-day, how team impacted by odd preseason schedule, and kickoffs needing work

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 16, 2012 01:32 PM

    Bill Belichick has wrapped his press conference for the day. Here are some highlights from the chat:

    On scaling down preparations for a preseason game vs. preparation for a regular season game:
    It's a third maybe? It's a lot less. They're going to be playing a lot of people like we are. It's really more about having a basic understanding of what they do, more of us going out and seeing if we can do what we've been practicing. 

    On the Pats playing their final three preseason games so close together and how it will affect the team:
    The unusual thing about this situation is just our ability to install anything, to actually put in plays or cover things, so this week is pretty much it. I think we'll have good practices next week against Tampa like we did last week against New Orleans, and the preseason game will be beneficial to us,. But in terms of actually being able to go out there and talk about something in the morning, walk through it, practice it in the afternoon, watch the film at night, correct it, go through some of the little things that didn't come up or that did come up that we need to go back over again or fine-tune, that's what we lose. So after this, this is it. We're out on the practice field against Tampa, turn around and play the Giants, and so there's no real time to install or work on anything,. It's just try to get ready for a game in a couple of days.

    Is there a danger it hurts player evaluation?
    Well this certainly isn't the ideal way to set it up, but we'll do the best we can with the opportunities we have.

    On former Florida running back Jeff Demps, who earned a silved medal with the U.S. 4x100 relay team in London and is expected to sign with an NFL team shortly:
    We scout all of the players that come out in the draft. He wasn't at the Combine, he didn't have a spring workout, so we didn't have that interaction with him. Other than that, not a lot of scouting except for watch practice, but we can't have the same kind of interaction when they're in-season that you can once they've declared for the draft.

    What's your scouting report on him?
    I think that's pretty well documented. (In the NFL?) I don't know...he's a running back that's returned kicks, is fast...

    On WR Jabar Gaffney, who appeared to injure his right quadriceps yesterday:
    He's day to day...we'll see how it goes today. I don't think this is life-threatening.

    On whether there were fewer kickoff returns league-wide last year with the spot moved up, and how Belichick views the Pats' kickoff returns:
    The number of returns was down, and there was a high percentage of those early in the year, and then later in the year when the weather wasn't as warm and conditions weren't quite as favorable, then percentage-wise there were more balls returned but still less than in the past. We didn't return very well in any conditions, at any time, and still haven't based on the New Orleans game. So that's obviously an area that we can improve in, have worked hard in, but based on the results still need to do a lot more work on. It's an important area of the game, it's a big momentum play, it's a way to answer to the opponents' score or start the half, whatever the situation is there. It's a big part of the game, an important part, we put a lot of stock in that.

    Patriots Daily Briefing, 8.16.12

    Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff August 16, 2012 08:39 AM

    Good morning. Here is your PDB for Thursday, August 16, 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. 1 p.m.: Bill Belichick press conference
    1:30-4 p.m.: Camp practice #17

    Friday
    Approx. 1 p.m.: Patriots team representative TBA press conference
    1:30-4 p.m.: Camp practice #18

    Note: Friday's practice is the final training camp session of the year that is open to the public.

    TO RECAP
    Quarterback Tom Brady says it's OK when practice isn't perfect for the Patriots.

    Coach Bill Belichick accepts the NFL's use of new technology when it comes to sideline headsets, but he has a backup plan in place in case of failure.

    Greg Bedard, in his complete daily practice rundown, says Logan Mankins back in action was a refreshing sight, and that Wednesday was among the most competitive practices yet for the team.

    QUOTE/TWEET OF THE DAY
    "The on/off switch, that's challenging for me."
    - Belichick, on how tech-savvvy he is.

    AROUND THE DIVISION
    In Buffalo, a surplus of quality linebackers means tough decisions for coach Chan Gailey. "Linebacker will be a very tough call," Gailey said. "A lot of those guys are playing maybe better than we thought they would this early. So they're making it tough on us, which is a good thing, by the way."

    In Miami, the effects of being featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks" are being felt and players are responding to being shown in a less-than-positive light. The Miami Herald also says undrafted defensive end Derrick Shelby, whose favorite player growing up was Julius Peppers, is on the verge of making the team.

    ESPN's favorite team, the New York Jets, has gotten as much publicity for its backup quarterback as its starter, but veterans say this is Mark Sanchez's year and they expect him to take "that next step.

    "Everybody has to do their job, but if we lose, it falls on Mark. If we win, it falls on Mark. The biggest thing is, we're very confident in Mark and we know he can lead us. He's done it in the past, and we're counting on him. We're counting on him," cornerback Darrelle Revis said.

    Practice rundown #16

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 15, 2012 07:07 PM

    FOXBOROUGH – A look at Wednesday's practice:

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.
    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.
    Physically unable to perform: RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder).
    Continued to be out: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder), FB Eric Kettani (unknown), DT Gerard Warren (unknown).
    New absences: S James Ihedigbo, CB Malcolm Williams..
    Limited in practice: LG Logan Mankins (right knee - no team drills), RG Dan Connolly (unknown).
    Returned to practice: TE Rob Gronkowski, TE Aaron Hernandez, WR Brandon Lloyd.
    Injured during practice: WR Jabar Gaffney (right quad); DL Marcus Harrison (left leg). Both did not return.

    DRESS CODE

    Full pads.

    TOP PLAYS

    1. On a third-and-10 situational play, Brandon Lloyd had a very nice snag of a Tom Brady pass that setup a field goal.
    2. During two-on-two line drills, RT Marcus Cannon and RG Donald Thomas perfectly handed off Vince Wilfork and Rob Ninkovich to stifle the rush. We’d consider that a fairly big upset.

    THUMBS UP

    Ah, the refreshing sight of blue jerseys being tossed with ease left and right and then seeing a white No. 70 jersey responsible. Yes, LG Logan Mankins was back in contact drills and he looked surprisingly good for a player who had right ACL surgery 6 months ago. Mankins obviously hasn’t missed many weight-room sessions because most of his effectiveness came from brute strength. He strong-armed Marcus Harrison in one-on-ones, and then was tossing reserve linemen in three two-on-two reps. Mankins is far from season-ready – his feet looked really heavy and he showed no alertness to stunts – but his return was a welcomed sight.

    THUMBS DOWN

    This was the third-straight practice where Patriots’ receivers dropped at least four passes. Enough of the sloppiness already. Clean it up or it could become a habit.

    SUPERLATIVES

    Dropped passes: Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker.
    Nice catch: Matthew Slater, Brandon Lloyd.
    Fumbled: Jeremy Ebert (punt).
    Interceptions: None.

    ONE-ON-ONES

    One man’s 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: Nate Solder (2-0-0). Defense: Marcus Forston (2-0-0), Jake Bequette (1-0-0).
    Struggled -- Offense: Kyle Hill (0-1-0). Defense: None.
    Decided victories: Bequette (vs. Hill).

  • He’s been really scuffling of late in drills and game situations, so it must have been nice for the Patriots to see Solder post his first two-win day since the first day of one-on-ones on July 28 (2-2-1). Solder got the best of Chandler Jones on first rep when Solder did a nice job staying balanced as he rode Jones well to the outside. Solder then bested Justin Francis and received some well-deserved kudos from line coach Dante Scarnecchia for keeping his feet even though Francis initially knocked him off balance.

  • Two of the offensive linemen the Patriots brought in late to camp, OT Kyle Hill and OG Dustin Waldron, have had a really tough time. Bequette and Forston, respectively, each used straight bull rushes to overpower their opponent.

  • Jermaine Cunningham hasn’t shown many moves since the first week.

  • Trevor Scott had little problem getting to the edge against Cannon, who looks really lost at this point. He’s had trouble against strength, and now he seems to be oversetting to prepare for that, and as a result is also susceptible to speed rushes.


  • ODDS AND ENDS

    • Probably the most competitive practice, in terms of drills, in a while.
    • Shane Vereen saw a dramatic uptick in overall reps and also those with the first team and seemed to capitalize on the opportunity with some nice runs. Stevan Ridley took a back seat to Vereen, likely because of Ridley’s fumble on Tuesday.
    • Speaking of errors cutting back on playing time, WR Donte’ Stallworth was basically in the witness protection program after his three drops from the previous practice.
    • With Gronkowski, Hernandez and Lloyd back, Brady seemed more comfortable – especially after a sloppy 7-on-7 period and he went 14-for-19 with two drops and two sacks during 11-on-11 periods. Brady capped his first drive with a touchdown to Hernandez against Dont’a Hightower. Later Brady hooked up with old reliable Deion Branch for a score.
    • Brady and Welker failed to complete a crossing pattern and we’re going to put it on Welker. The pass was a little high but his hands were flipped the wrong way so he dropped it.
    • Brandon Spikes, who looks much more active, had a sack after blowing up C Dan Koppen (who split reps with Ryan Wendell). The other was a coverage sack on Brady.
    • The coverage continues to be much-improved in the secondary, where Sterling Moore split time with Ras-I Dowling as the nickel cornerback. We thought Tavon Wilson might be headed for a tight end-killer role, and he’s delivering on that. He’s providing excellent coverage, including a pass breakup when Brady tried to find Gronkowski in the end zone.
    • The Patriots moved Donald Thomas to right guard, and Nick McDonald to left guard.
    • Saw Chandler Jones line up at left end a few times. That hasn’t happened in a while. We also saw him deep down the field in coverage in what was likely a zone exchange coverage where a lineman replaces a rushing linebacker or defensive back in coverage.
    • Jeremy Ebert muffed another punt. He’s never fielded them before, and he won’t be doing it in the future if he keeps it up.
    • One thing we noticed watching the Saints game was that Gronkowski didn’t seem to have the same explosion getting down the field. That was reinforced when Nate Ebner stuck to Gronkowski like glue in 7-on-7. Gronkowski is still working his way back from ankle surgery. Nothing to worry about for a while.
    • Brandon Bolden drew the ire of coaches for picking the wrong running lane.
    • Ryan Mallett threw a terrible pass to the feet of Hernandez at a distance of about 7 yards.
    • Hightower had a tackle for a loss as Solder was overwhelmed. That happened again later when Solder completely whiffed on blocking Jones at the point of attack. And again later against Bobby Carpenter.
    • During two-on-twos, Solder continued his habit of getting his pads out in front of his feet. That leaves him in trouble with balance. He hasn’t developed a good position after his kick slide. He should look like he’s sitting in a chair. Instead, Solder looks like he’s falling out of one.
    • Fairly sure we saw the Patriots work on some 3-4 stuff. They’re always ready to be a multiple defense.
    • Mike Rivera, Marquice Cole and Wilson each had pass breakups during team periods.
    • Scott had two sacks in team period against inferior competition.

    SCHEDULE

    Thursday: 1:30-4 p.m.
    Friday: 1:30-4 p.m. (final open practice)

    Shalise Manza Young contributed to this report.

    Tom Brady: Not scoring was frustrating

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 15, 2012 05:02 PM

    15brady.jpg

    FOXBOROUGH -- In the Patriots' first preseason game, Tom Brady played two possessions, threw seven passes, completed four of them for 36 yards.

    The offense never sniffed the red zone while he was on the field. His first drive ended when he was sacked at midfield. His last ended with a punt from the New England 39.

    It wasn't easy to swallow.

    "We're always trying to go out there and score, so when we don't it's frustrating for all of us," Brady said. "So hopefully we can learn from this stuff and we can move forward and we come out here this week of practice and try to eliminate mistakes. We're always going to make mistakes, but you've got to be mentally tough enough to move on from those mistakes as well.

    "We've got a lot of work today. We've put in about three weeks -- I don't know how long it's been but it feels like about three weeks -- and this week's really felt like training camp, stringing these practices together. But you can never get enough work. That's the thing about football. You can never get enough practice. The more practice, the better the practices are, the better your team's going to be.

    "That's part of the foundation. You've got to have a good spring so you can have a good training camp, and you've got to have a good start to your training camp so you can have a good start to regular season. So that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to put good practices together with good effort.

    It's hard to worry about the second-best offense in the league, but there are things Brady says that still need to be addressed.

    "It hasn't been all perfect and it's not going to be," Brady said. "But you've got to be mentally tough enough to push through the year and come out tomorrow and try not to make the same mistakes again."

    Welker looks back on big bounce-back year

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 15, 2012 04:38 PM

    15welker.jpg

    The widely held belief among athletes who've gone through ACL surgery is that it takes a full season to start feeling like themselves again.

    Wes Welker didn't argue. He tore his ACL in January 2010 and worked hard to return for the following season, but exploded last year for the most receiving yards of his career (1,569).

    "I went from 86 catches to 122, so I'd say there's quite a difference in being able to have that year under your belt and really try and come back from it. I definitely don't wish that injury on my worst enemy. That's a tough one.”

    On Monday, the Patriots start a stretch of three preseason games in 10 days, and even thought the stretch isn't as daunting as it would be in the regular season, the goals are still to fine-tune and stay healthy.

    “It's always a big task, but at the same time, it is preseason,” Welker said. “Obviously, we wouldn't be doing anything like that during the regular season, but at the same time we've got to get good work and go out there and make sure we're on top of it and going out and executing the way we need to and treat it like any other day."

    Belichick wants Mallett to push the limit in practice

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 15, 2012 02:14 PM

    15mallett.jpg

    FOXBOROUGH -- When Nate Ebner leaped to pick off Ryan Mallett in Tuesday's practice, it was the second time the rookie safety hawked one of the second-year quarterback's passes in as many days, and it would have been easy to look at the play and wonder how much Mallett has progressed.

    But to Patriots coach Bill Belichick a pick, taken by itself, isn't necessarily a sign of slow (or no) progress.

    “As some people like to do, every touchdown pass is a great play, every interception was the quarterback's fault and unfortunately that's just not really the way it works. Sometimes we score in spite of ourselves and sometimes the quarterbacks do the right thing and there are breakdowns somewhere else. Sometimes the quarterbacks throw interceptions like all of our quarterbacks have, like all of our receivers drop balls, like all of our coaches have made mistakes in some play calling or substitution. The fewer the better, the less costly the better, and that's part of it.”

    In truth, making if a pick in practice comes as a byproduct of pushing the limits, then Belichick not only understands it, he encourages it.

    “As I tell our players, that's part of what practice is for – to take risks, and to push it to see how far it can go, to see how much you can do,” Belichick said. “Sometimes it's going to come up a little bit short, but if it's done in the right context then you learn from that and you realize this is how far I can go and I can't gamble beyond this, but I can push it to this point. But if you never push it to this point, then I don't think you ever really know how far it can go.

    “Again that's what practice is for. Every interception in practice or every play that doesn't get made in practice isn't necessarily a bad play. I think we can all learn from those plays provided that we do learn from it and apply it in a similar situation next time, particularly at the quarterback position. There's some balls that you try to stick in there and you learn that you just can't do that. Then there's other times you learn that, 'Yeah, I can.'”

    Tom Brady threw a pair of picks himself Tuesday, one into triple-coverage. He and Mallett talked things over after practice. Belichick said he's had the same conversation about testing limits with Brady and all his quarterbacks.

    “Sometimes that's a part of it, and that's true of all quarterbacks, I'm not singling anybody out. I'd say every one that I've coached, particularly one that I've coached here for a long time,” Belichick said. “We talk about that all the time. If you always take the same throw, make the easy throw, that's Ok, but at some point, you're going to have to do more than that and you better know what you can do and what you can't do. Better to find out in practice than the middle of the fourth quarter that, 'I don't want to be doing that.' That's not the time for it.”

    Roll call: Practice #16

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 15, 2012 02:12 PM

    FOXBOROUGH – A quickie look at the practice on Wednesday afternoon:

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.

    Physically unable to perform: RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder).

    Continued to be out: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder), FB Eric Kettani (unknown), DT Gerard Warren (unknown).

    New injuries: S James Ihedigbo, CB Malcolm Williams.

    Limited in practice: LG Logan Mankins (right knee - no team drills), RG Dan Connolly (unknown).

    Returned to practice TE Rob Gronkowski, TE Aaron Hernandez, WR Brandon Lloyd.

    Injured during practice: WR Jabar Gaffney (right quad). Took off his pads and iced it.
    DL Marcus Harrison (left leg). Don't think he returned.

    DRESS CODE
    Full pads.

    HEADLINES

    • The offense was buoyed by the return of Gronkowski, Hernandez and Lloyd. They were much crisper.
    • There has to be concern with Gaffney going off with what looked to be a pretty good quad pull. But we'll have to see on that.
    • Logan Mankins was involved in contact for the first time with one one-on-one rep and three in two-on-twos. Mankins was back to shoving fools around. He wasn't perfect -- his feet look a little heavy -- but a very good start. Mankins did not take part in team drills.
    • Shane Vereen got his most work overall and with the first team all camp.
    • Dan Koppen and Ryan Wendell switched off at center. Ras-I Dowling and Sterling Moore did the same at nickel back.
    • This was the first competition-filled practice in some time.
    • Nate Solder won both his one-on-one reps for the first time in a while. Marcus Cannon continues to struggle.

    Bill Belichick hands-off on new headsets

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 15, 2012 01:46 PM

    15belichick.jpg

    By Julian Benbow, Globe Staff

    FOXBOROUGH – By his own admission, Patriots coach Bill Belichick couldn't get a job with the Geek Squad.

    “When it comes to technology, I'm really the worst,” he said. “The on/off switch, that's challenging for me.”

    Universal remotes, he said, are his kryptonite.

    “Like when you have the three remotes, one to turn it on, one to change the whatever, another for something else just to get the right one to turn it on," he said.

    So he looks at the NFL's upgrade from analog to digital headsets for coaches on the sideline the same way he'd look at everything at Best Buy.

    “Like most other things in technology, when it works it's great,” Belichick said. “When it doesn't work, it doesn't work. But when it works it's great.”

    The new equipment was put to the test last year during the preseason and in the Super Bowl. The communication is supposed to be crisper and clearer with less delay. The quarterbacks and one defensive player are allowed to wear the special helmets on the field.

    Of course, covering all their bases, the Patriots have already gone through emergency situations should the technology fail them at a crucial moment, be it a timeout or a play call.

    “It's a challenging situation,” Belichick said. “You've got a lot of communication, a lot of things going on in every stadium, both in-stadium and externally. If something breaks down for a few seconds, it's important.

    “It's not like, 'OK, we've got a while to get this fixed.' They're trying to go play. So a few seconds can be a big deal. Even though it's only a few seconds it could be at the wrong time. It could be a big deal.”

    Belichick, for what it's worth, knows his limitations when it comes to gadgets.

    “We have people in our organization that are very good technologically,” he said. “Thankfully.”

    Patriots Daily Briefing, 8.15.12

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 15, 2012 07:26 AM

    Good morning. Here is your PDB for Wednesday, August 15, 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. 1 p.m.: Bill Belichick press conference
    1:30-4 p.m.: Camp practice #16

    Thursday
    Approx. 1 p.m.: Bill Belichick press conference
    1:30-4 p.m.: Camp practice #17

    TO RECAP
    Alex Silvestro was a defensive end last year, but is in camp this year as a tight end - another example of a player who will do anything to increase his chances of sticking around. But he remains optimistic.

    It was a good day for the secondary players in practice Tuesday, as they grabbed four interceptions, and a bad day in general for the offensive line.

    In the notebook, Steve Gregory and Kyle Arrington talked about the practice giving the defensive backs confidence, and Brandon Spikes referred to "Shark Week" when talking about his aggressive style.

    QUOTE/TWEET OF THE DAY
    "Absolutely. Undrafted University, right?"
    - Gregory, when asked if he still carries a chip on his shoulder after not getting drafted

    AROUND THE DIVISION
    The Jets' safeties, LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, have a message for tight ends: we're going to beat you up a little bit. Rob Gronkowski too.

    In case you weren't watching ESPN Tuesday, which took its fawning over Tim Tebow to nauseating new heights for his 25th birthday, watch this (the video toward the bottom of the page). Let me know if you're left as speechless as I was.

    Buffalo rookie receiver T.J. Graham is plenty fast, but he has to show that he can play football at the NFL level too.

    Chad Johnson has never shied away from publicity, but over the last several days, all of the publicity he's gotten has been negative (though not necessarily unwarranted). Last night anyone who has HBO was able to see him get released by the Dolphins during the episode of "Hard Knocks." In something that won't come as a surprise to Pats' fans, Johnson was struggling to pick up the playbook in Miami.

    As for Dolphins who are still on the roster, signs are starting to point toward rookie first-round pick Ryan Tannehill being the starter on opening day.

    Training Camp Today: Offense still a work in progress

    Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff August 14, 2012 08:50 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- In this episode of Training Camp Today, the Globe's Greg Bedard has the news and notes from the Gillette Stadium practice fields where it's a big week of camp for the Patriots.

    Bedard talks about who was missing from Tuesday's practice and what it means for the offense as the team prepares to face the Eagles in preseason game No. 2 at home Monday night.

    We also hear from Patriots safety Steve Gregory, who has surprised many with a strong camp so far.

    Bedard is also joined by Shalise Manza Young to discuss what the Patriots hope to accomplish this week in practice and the status of injured linebacker Dane Fletcher.

    Practice rundown #15

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 14, 2012 06:24 PM

    FOXBOROUGH – A look at Tuesday's practice:

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.

    Physically unable to perform: RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder).

    Continued to be out: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder), TE Rob Gronkowski (unknown), FB Eric Kettani (unknown), DT Gerard Warren (unknown), TE Aaron Hernandez (unknown), WR Brandon Lloyd (unknown).

    New injuries: None.

    Limited in practice: LG Logan Mankins (right knee - no team drills), RG Dan Connolly (unknown).

    Returned to practice S James Ihedigbo, CB Malcolm Williams.

    Injured during practice: CB Ross Ventrone (left leg) returned to action; CB Marquice Cole (arm).

    DRESS CODE
    Full pads.

    TOP PLAYS

    1. It was a desperate situation with the clock winding down so Tom Brady had to throw it into the end zone, but Patrick Chung made a sweet one-handed interception when Brady threw into triple coverage to Julian Edelman.
    2. Chandler Jones looked like a veteran and made Nate Solder look like an undrafted rookie when, in one-on-ones, Jones slapped Solder’s hands down and then clubbed him out of the way for an easy would-be sack.
    3. Matthew Slater had a one-handed catch in the back right corner of the end zone up against CB Devin McCourty from Brady.

    THUMBS UP

    Great day for the defense, especially for the secondary. They had four interceptions for the second straight practice, and got their hands on another five passes and broke them up. The safeties, Steve Gregory and Patrick Chung, had a terrific practice. Gregory had an interception and two pass breakups. Chung had a pick and an breakup.

    THUMBS DOWN

    On the whole, the offensive line had a terrible practice. They got whipped (2-11-1) by the defense in one-on-ones, and they might have been just as bad in a two-on-two session. In team drills, we counted at least eight would-be sacks or tackles for a loss against the run. RT Marcus Cannon again had a very rough go, as did RG Nick McDonald, who was working in place of the injured Connolly.

    SUPERLATIVES
    Dropped passes: Wes Welker, Donte’ Stallworth (3), Jabar Gaffney,
    Nice catch: Welker, Julian Edelman.
    Fumbled: Stevan Ridley, Ryan Mallett.
    Interceptions: Chung (of Brady), Josh Barrett (of Brian Hoyer), Nate Ebner (of Mallett), Steve Gregory (of Brady).

    ONE-ON-ONES
    One man’s 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: None. Defense: Brandon Deaderick (2-0-0), Trevor Scott (1-0-0), Marcus Harrison (1-0-0).
    Struggled -- Offense: Donald Thomas (0-2-0), Nick McDonald (0-1-1), Solder (0-1-0), Dustin Waldron (0-1-0), Derek Dennis (0-1-0). Defense: Justin Francis (0-1-0).
    Decided victories: Jones (vs. Solder), Scott (vs. Deaderick), Harrison (vs. Waldron).

    • It was a shortened session, and it still wasn’t good for the offensive line, which went 2-11-1.
    • The two offensive linemen I like watching the most are Thomas and Ryan Wendell. Yes, Thomas went 0-2, but almost all of his battles are prolonged and he relishes the battles. Wendell just keep getting better and better. On the short side, Wendell does a great job with leverage and holds his own against powerful guys like Kyle Love.
    • Waldron offered no defense against Scott. He easily went around Waldron.
    • Harrison went through Dennis. The Patriots’ reserve linemen – outside of OT Darrion Weems – have not competed well.

    ODDS AND ENDS

    • Another situation- and preparation-heavy practice with cards for the opponents. The defense got about a half dozen reps against the wildcat. The Bills and Jets are each expected to use it during the season.
    • The Patriots need to find a way to get Julian Edelman the ball more in the open field during games. He can be electric. Edelman has had a great camp and he and Brady hooked up on a 50-yard bomb touchdown that torched S James Ihedigbo.
    • When the offense was going against cards, Dan Koppen and McDonald allowed Vince Wilfork to easily sack Brady, and then Cannon and Alex Silvestro watched Scott walk in. But on the next play, Brady had a real nice play-action touchdown to Welker deep down the middle.
    • Justin Francis batted down a pass and then kicked Nick McDonald while he was on the ground.
    • Ryan Mallett became the first QB to get it in the bucket. Looked like Tom Brady wasn't happy about that and may have disputed whether it was a make or not.
    • Dennis had a practice he’d like to forget. In two-on-ones, he was constantly getting beat and then Jones added insult to injury by knocking Dennis to the ground with a huge push.
    • Mallett should have been flagged for intentional grounding when he threw the ball away to no one while still in the tackle box and backpedaling.
    • On Ebner’s interception (second in as many days), Scott would have had a sack as he sped around Cannon with ease.

    SCHEDULE
    Wednesday: 1:30-4 p.m.
    Thursday: 1:30-4 p.m.

    Rest TBD.

    Shalise Manza Young contributed to this report.

    Brandon Spikes: 'It's Shark Week'

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 14, 2012 06:12 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- Clearly, Brandon Spikes will be watching the Discovery Channel tonight and not Hard Knocks.

    It's Shark Week. Can you blame him?

    Keeping his helmet on while talking to reporters (see: Ricky Williams), Spikes was asked about how comfortable he felt after offseason knee surgery and how aggressive he feels after being in the Patriots system the past two years, he sounded inspired by the special time of year that's dedicated to one of nature's most terrifying predators.

    "That's my nature," he said. "Be aggressive. Be a shark. It's shark week, so of course."

    He's been in and out of practice since he got hurt during one of the Patriots's training camp scuffles, so it's been hard to gauge how he's progressed so far, but he says he understands his role more now than he has in the past.

    "I feel like in time over the years, I feel like I'm getting better, learning the principles of the D and where I'm supposed to be and where the next guy is. Being a middle linebacker, I've got to kind of direct guys, and it's coming a lot easier this year. So Hopefully I can just keep getting better out there."

    Gregory and Chung feed off each other

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 14, 2012 05:21 PM

    14gregory.jpg

    FOXBOROUGH -- The chemistry in the defensive backfield between safeties Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory has been coming along throughout training camp. Chung picked off one of Tom Brady's passes in this afternoon's practice and Gregory broke up a pair of attempts.

    Going into his fourth season, Chung's been in the Patriots system his entire career. All Steve Gregory's known his seven years in the league is the way he's played with the San Diego Chargers. But since he's come to New England, Gregory and Chung have traded notes and they've both been better off for it, Gregory said.

    "He knows the system so he's been helping me out with that a little bit," Gregory said. "There's things we both can bring to each other. We talk a lot, talk football a lot and it's been helping out."

    Gregory had a pick in the Patriots's preseason opener against the Saints, juggling to snag a pass from New Orleans backup Chase Daniels in the second quarter.

    While Gregory may be undersized, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said, he's fast, aggressive, instinctive and versatile.

    "Steve has done a nice job," Caserio said. "He’s a versatile player; he was able to do a number of different things in San Diego’s defense. I think some of the things that we’re doing are a little bit different, just systematically, but he’s indoctrinated himself into our system well. He’s done a nice job to this point. He’s been here since day one of the offseason and so far so good."

    Some of the schemes and terminology in the Patriots defense are clearly different from what had been engrained in Gregory in San Diego, but he's growing more and more comfortable.

    "The more we get to know each other -- and that goes across the board with all the guys -- the more we get to know each other, get familiar with playing with each other, the better you can communicate," Gregory said. "So that's what camp's about. That's what what we've been working on."

    Dane Fletcher stays with Patriots

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 14, 2012 04:49 PM

    Linebacker Dane Fletcher cleared waivers and was placed on the Patriots' injured reserve.

    He can remain wih the team and won't count against the roster limit of 90 players.

    Roll call: Practice #15

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 14, 2012 02:39 PM

    By Greg A. Bedard, Globe Staff

    FOXBOROUGH – A quickie look at the practice on Tuesday afternoon:

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.

    Physically unable to perform: RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder).

    Continued to be out: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder), TE Rob Gronkowski (unknown), WR Britt Davis (shoulder), FB Eric Kettani (unknown), LB Dane Fletcher (left knee), DT Gerard Warren (unknown), TE Aaron Hernandez (unknown), WR Brandon Lloyd (unknown - was stretching his groin).

    New injuries: None.

    Limited in practice: LG Logan Mankins (right knee - no team drills), RG Dan Connolly (unknown).

    Returned to practice S James Ihedigbo, CB Malcolm Williams.

    Injured during practice: CB Ross Ventrone (left leg) returned to action.

    DRESS CODE
    Full pads.

    HEADLINES

    • Still no Gronkowski, Hernandez and Lloyd.
    • Connolly must be dealing with something because for the second-straight he didn't do much.
    • Ryan Mallett became the first QB to get it in the bucket. Looked like Tom Brady wasn't happy about that and may have disputed whether it was a make or not.
    • Chandler Jones abused Nate Solder during a shortened one-on-one period. Jones slapped Solder's hands down and then used a club move to take Solder out of the play.
    • There was some terrible pass blocking during team periods. Both Mallett and Brady were bumped even though QBs are not to be touched.
    • Another practice with heavy regular-season preparation involved. Today the Patriots' defense saw some Wildcat looks.
    • Stevan Ridley put the ball on the ground.
    • Steve Gregory picked off Brady in 7-on-7s.
    • Patrick Chung had a sweet one-handed INT in the end zone of Brady. Josh Barrett and Nate Ebner also had INTs.
    • That being said, the offense had some better moments today. But woefully inconsistent.

    Caserio moving on after waiving Fletcher

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 14, 2012 01:26 PM

    14danefletcher.jpg

    Asked about the surprising nature of the move considering Fletcher had become a valuable and versatile part of the defense and special teams unit, Caserio said, "We made the decision that we made, and we're moving forward."

    FOXBOROUGH -- After Dane Fletcher tore his ACL in the Patriots's preseason opener against the Saints, the team's decision to waive the linebacker with an injury designation left the door open -- should he clear waivers -- to place him on injured reserve without using a roster spot.

    There's an obvious risk, similar to one the Giants took after Jake Ballard tore his ACL in the Super Bowl (he was claimed by the Patriots), but when he addressed waiving Fletcher this morning, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio was matter-of-fact about the thinking behind the decision.

    "Any time that you remove a player from your roster, there's a certain number of ways that you can designate that player," Caserio said. "So we take all that information like we normally do and then we just move on."

    Asked about the surprising nature of the move considering Fletcher had become a valuable and versatile part of the defense and special teams unit, Caserio said, "We made the decision that we made, and we're moving forward."

    After waiving Fletcher and releasing receiver Britt Davis, the Patriots roster is at 88.

    While he said that there are still several quality players available, Caserio denied reports that free agent tackle Chad Clifton is expected to come to Gillette for a workout.

    "There's no truth to that," he said.

    Caserio said Logan Mankins, who has practiced in shorts and shells, is close to participating in pads.

    "Part of that is based on what the league rules are," Caserio said. "When the player becomes active off PUP, then he has X amount of days where he has to be in shells, then eventually he's able to put the pads on. So we might be a day or two away from that. But we'll make that determination each day to see where he is."

    Asked if he was staying in contact with agents for Andre Carter, Caserio said he's continually talking with multiple agents, but that nothing's changed.

    "I'd say with we're no different than we were a few months ago," he said.

    Patriots Daily Briefing, 8.14.12

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 14, 2012 08:00 AM

    Good morning. Here is your PDB for Tuesday, August 14, 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. 1 p.m.: Nick Caserio press conference
    1:30-4 p.m.: Camp practice #15

    Wednesday
    Approx. 1 p.m.: Bill Belichick press conference
    1:30-4 p.m.: Camp practice #16

    TO RECAP
    It was a relatively quiet day at Gillette. Players were in full pads, but it seemed to be more of a low-key day, with a bigger focus on preparation and a lot of work against cards, with the offense and defense each giving the other certain looks an upcoming opponent might show.

    Offensive linemen continued to be in focus: Dan Koppen had a strong day at camp, while Marcus Cannon did not. And Nick McDonald received praise from Bill Belichick for his ability to play all five spots on the line.

    There were a couple of roster moves Monday, as the Patriots waived two injured players: LB Dane Fletcher and WR Britt Davis, both with the injured designation. By waiving Fletcher now, New England runs the risk of having him claimed by another team - as it did when the Giants waived/injured tight end Jake Ballard and the Pats swooped in and claimed him. But if Fletcher, who tore his ACL in the preseason opener with the Saints last week, clears waivers, he'll be back and placed on the Pats' injured reserve. Davis was given an injury settlement and won't be back.

    QUOTE/TWEET OF THE DAY
    "If Corey Dillon of 2004 was on this roster, I’m sure he’d get it 300 times too. I haven’t seen Corey out there lately though, it’s too bad."
    - Bill Belichick, when asked about the Pats not having a workhorse-type of back since Dillon

    AROUND THE DIVISION
    Cornerback Antonio Cromartie is finally getting the chance he's dreamed of - to play receiver. On Monday, the Jets' self-proclaimed No. 2 receiver took instruction from No. 1 receiver Santonio Holmes and took part in receiver drills. Said Rex Ryan: "We'll see how excited he is when he gets smacked by a safety."

    The Bills think they have talent at cornerback, but it's also very young talent. Also, Vince Young had his best day in camp Monday.

    There sure has been a lot of talk about the "Chad Johnson Era" in Miami - don't eras usually involve a long period of time? Like, more than two months? At any rate, head coach Joe Philbin said Monday that his decision to cut the receiver was an easy one, and not based solely on his Saturday night arrest for domestic battery.

    And HBO got itself a ratings blessing - the network has confirmed that tonight's second episode of "Hard Knocks" will include the events of the last few days involving Johnson.

    Oh, and VH-1 cancelled the "Ev and Ocho" reality show it was set to begin airing next month, which followed Johnson and Evelyn Lozada as they planned for and held their July 4 wedding.

    Practice rundown #14

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 13, 2012 07:28 PM

    By Greg A. Bedard, Globe Staff

    FOXBOROUGH – A rundown on what happened during practice Tuesday afternoon.

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE
    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.

    Physically unable to perform: RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder).

    Continued to be out: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder), TE Rob Gronkowski (unknown), WR Britt Davis (shoulder), FB Eric Kettani (unknown), CB Malcolm Williams (unknown), S James Ihedigbo (unknown), LB Dane Fletcher (left knee), DT Gerard Warren (unknown).

    New injuries: TE Aaron Hernandez (unknown), WR Brandon Lloyd (unknown - was stretching his groin).

    Limited in practice: LG Logan Mankins (right knee - no team drills).

    INJURIES WR Julian Edelman (hand) was attended to but returned.
    G/C Dan Connolly took part in about half of practice and then stayed on the sidelines.

    DRESS CODE
    Full pads.

    TOP PLAYS
    On second-and-goal, QB Tom Brady held the ball a while and then threw a dart to Deion Branch in the right corner of the end zone. It’s familiar plays like that that could keep Branch around.
    TE Alex Silvestro channeled his inner Gronk with the starter on the sideline but catching a beautiful seam pass from Brady over S Nate Ebner.
    Brady and Jabar Gaffney had a textbook bomb down the right sideline that got the crowd excited.

    THUMBS UP
    Don’t call it a comeback . . . Veteran C Dan Koppen, who at times has had a very rough camp coming back from leg surgery, finally started to look more like his old self when he won all three of his one-on-one matchups. Koppen had won just one of his last 11 reps coming in. Koppen also looked better in team drills. His heavy hands are better, and he’s moving well. Don’t count him out yet.

    THUMBS DOWN
    The running backs were fairly pathetic trying to block linebackers in one-on-one drills. The only time they did anything was when the RBs faked blocking and went out on a pass route (Niko Koutouvides, Bobby Carpenter, and Mike Rivera each were made to look bad). Jerod Mayo, Rivera, and Koutouvides each used a push-pull technique that nearly left Danny Woodhead (twice) and Brandon Bolden flat on their faces. The running backs lost all their reps until the final one when Woodhead held his own against Dont’a Hightower.

    SUPERLATIVES
    Dropped passes: Edelman.
    Nice catch: Jeremy Ebert, Edelman.
    Fumbled: Ebert (punt).
    Interceptions: Ebner (of Mallett).

    ONE-ON-ONES
    One man’s 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: Dan Koppen (3-0-0), Jeremiah Warren (2-1-0), Darrion Weems (1-0-1). Defense: Trevor Scott (2-0-0), Vince Wilfork (2-0-0), Rob Ninkovich (2-0-0), Justin Francis (2-0-1).
    Struggled -- Offense: Marcus Cannon (0-3-0), Derek Dennis (0-2-0), Kyle Hill (0-2-0), Nick McDonald (0-2-0). Defense: Kyle Love (0-2-0), Jermaine Cunningham (0-2-1), Chandler Jones (0-1-1).
    Decided victories: Thomas (vs. Deaderick), Bulman (vs. Cannon), Wilfork (vs. McDonald), Scott 2 (vs. Hill twice).


    • Cannon is known for his very quick feet, but he hasn’t been able to show them very much. In practice and in the game against the Saints, Cannon just has a really tough time against strength. We saw that again when veteran DL Tim Bulman used a push-pull-rip move to easily get around Cannon.
    • Ninkovich, who usually prefers speed moves, used a power bull rush against Cannon the second time. Seems like the book on him is to just muscle Cannon.
    • Scott has started to show more activity in his rush. He slapped down the hands of Hill and easily got around him on the first matchup, and then just used speed on the second. Would like to see Scott show a little more shake in game.
    • McDonald got his first one-on-one reps of camp and he unfortunately drew Vince Wilfork both times and had no chance.
    • Donald Thomas (2-2-0) is probably the most enthusiastic of the linemen and he had several good battles, including a near-stalemate with Bulman, but Thomas won out.
    • Jones was mediocre. He and Solder had a draw, and then Jones was pushed outside by Weems.
    • Francis and Cunningham both got reps rushing from DT.

    ODDS AND ENDS

    • No Hernandez and Lloyd left the Patriots will just two TEs (converted DL Alex Silvestro and Tyler Urban), zero FBs and shorthanded at WR.
    • The practice was heavy on preparation -- a lot of work against cards for both units. Didn’t look like preseason prep. It was likely a regular-season opponent that runs a traditional 3-4.
    • In addition to a poor one-on-one period, Cannon was constantly hearing it from line coach Dante Scarnecchia in team drills.
    • There was also an extended deceptions period, which works on misdirection runs, screens, reverses, and trick plays. Even saw Brady try to block Wilfork at one point.
    • Saw the QB bucket drill for the first time. None of them put it in, and Ryan Mallett didn't come close to hitting the bucket. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels took two throws and his first attempt was so pathetic he got a little razzing from the media tent.
    • In addition to his 2-0 performance in one-on-ones, Scott had two would-be sacks during 11-on-11.
    • If Ridley wants to be an every-down back on this team, he is going to have to do a better job in pass protection. He whiffed on Hightower in 11-on-11, not to mention the one-on-ones.
    • The receivers were lucky there were no officials on the field because both Edelman and Jabar Gaffney used push-offs to have big catches.
    • Hightower showed some nice coverage skills against Stevan Ridley in one-on-ones.
    • Vereen is by far the best downfield receiver among the RBs. It’s not even close.
    • Brady was 7 of 10 in 7-on-7, and Mallet was 2 of 2. Brady threw a lofted touchdown to Welker over Arrington, and fit a ball to Vereen in a tight window with two or three defenders closing.
    • Marquice Cole keeps showing up in coverage drills. He finds a way to make plays. McCourty also had a pass breakup.

    SCHEDULE
    Tuesday: 1:30-4 p.m.
    Wednesday: 1:30-4 p.m.
    Thursday: 1:30-4 p.m.

    Rest TBD.

    Shalise Manza Young contributed to this report.

    Patriots waive Fletcher, Davis

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 13, 2012 05:54 PM
    FOXBOROUGH - The Patriots have waived linebacker Dane Fletcher and receiver Britt Davis.

    Both have the injury designation, so they could be put on injured reserve if they go unclaimed.

    The Patriots have already reached an injury settlement with Davis, a league source said. So he won't be returning after hurting his left shoulder against the Saints.

    Fletcher, who suffered a torn left ACL against the Saints, has been a contributor on special teams and as a backup linebacker. He is due to become an RFA after this season.

    It's similar to the Giants/Jake Ballard situation. The Giants wanted to save a roster spot and hoped to sneak him through waivers. But the Patriots jumped in.

    Will someone jump in on Fletcher? They would have to be willing to sacrifice a roster position until at least the 75-man cutdown to do that.

    The Patriots could have just put Fletcher on IR outright. Not sure why they didn't do that. Perhaps it's to save a roster spot. Players sent straight to injured reserve likely count toward the roster limit until the cutdown to 75.

    Roll call: Practice #14

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 13, 2012 02:14 PM

    FOXBOROUGH – Quick thoughts on this afternoon's practice:

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.

    Physically unable to perform: RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder).

    Continued to be out: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder), TE Rob Gronkowski (unknown), WR Britt Davis (shoulder), FB Eric Kettani (unknown), CB Malcolm Williams (unknown), S James Ihedigbo (unknown), LB Dane Fletcher (left knee), DT Gerard Warren (unknown).

    New injuries: TE Aaron Hernandez (unknown), WR Brandon Lloyd (unknown - was stretching his groin).

    Limited in practice: LG Logan Mankins (right knee - no team drills).

    INJURIES

    WR Julian Edelman (hand) was attended to but returned.

    DRESS CODE

    Full pads.

    HEADLINES

    • No Hernandez and Lloyd left the Patriots will just two TEs (converted DL Alex Silvestro and Tyler Urban), zero FBs and short-handed at WR.
    • The practice was heavy on preparation -- a lot of work against cards for both units. Did look look like preseason prep. It was likely a regular-season opponent that runs a tradtional 3-4.
    • Good practices for Julian Edelman and Deion Branch.
    • Nick McDonald got a lot of first-team reps at RG in place of Dan Connolly. Think they're trying to figure out McDonald's best position. He was signed during last season and missed the early part of camp.
    • Dan Koppen was back with the starting line and had a very nice one-on-one session.
    • RT Marcus Cannon was poor in one-on-ones and was really hearing it from Dante Scarnecchia in team drills.
    • There was also an extended deception period, which works on misdirection runs, screens, reverses and trick plays.
    • Saw the QB bucket drill for the first time. None of them put it in, and Ryan Mallett didn't come close to hitting the bucket.

    Will be back with more.

    Belichick lauds McDonald, says Cunningham's health is key to improvement

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 13, 2012 01:19 PM
    Bill Belichick just left the podium after today's press conference, and here are some quick hits. Apologies for the brevity - it was tough to hear Belichick and I can't type that fast while he's talking.

    On Jermaine Cunningham's progress: "He got a good start in the offseason program, had a good spring, he's working hard, out there every day. He's been out on the field every day, that's the most important thing, his durability has been good. He's worked on little things - reads, techniques ... he hasn't had that the last two years, the offseason program, spring camps, all of that."

    On Nick McDonald playing tackle in addition to center and guard: ""He played tackle in college. He has primarily played inside in the NFL ... We don't have a lot of depth at tackle. He did a great job [Thursday], with not much practice. He hadn't done it in a couple of years, went out there and really did a credible job. If he could do that, that would be very valuable to our football team."

    Belichick said he hasn't seen too many players who are able to play all five positions on the offensive line, but few are asked to try. He believes Logan Mankins could do it, though.

    On the Patriots not having a bellcow, 320-carry-per-year running back since the days of Corey Dillon:
    "I'm for whatever helps us win. If it's 500 quarterback sneaks, then I'm all for it."

    "Corey Dillon was good enough to do it. If we had '04 Corey Dillon, he'd get the ball ... If Corey Dillon of 2004 was on this roster, I'm sure he'd get it 300 times too. Haven't seen Corey out there though, have you? ... A lot of it has to do with the player. If he's productive, we'll give him a chance."

    Tom Brady on Josh McDaniels 'I love being coached by him'

    Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff August 13, 2012 10:46 AM

    Patriots quarterback Tom Brady checked in on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan show this morning and discussed his team's progress at this point in the preseason. Brady said it was too early to tell how his team was shaping up.

    "It's just a matter of how things really come together here in the next four weeks before the season starts," said Brady. "We have quite a bit of practices, we've got three preseason games. Based on last week's performance [against the Saints] and through training camp, we still have quite a bit of work to do. So, that's why we're going out there today to practice."

    One obvious change this year is the return of Josh McDaniels to the position of offensive coordinator. Brady said he has a good relationship with McDaniels and that McDaniels has the respect of the rest of the offense as well.

    "He and I are extremely comfortable with one another," said Brady. "He's a great coach. I love being coached by him. He comes prepared every single day. He's always got something new to add to us. He brings a lot of energy to our offense. He's a great coach."

    Brady cautioned against fans expecting some kind of revolutionary changes with McDaniels and said that change would come more from new personnel the team has added. Last year's offensive coordinator, Bill O'Brien, is now the head coach at Penn State.

    "Every coach has a different style," said Brady. "But [McDaniels and O'Brien] coached with each other. In terms of our offense and the style of our offense, it's the same playbook. Every coach has a different flavor to it."

    Brady also weighed in on one of the more overrated issues of early training camp, the team's offensive line.

    "Always in training camp there's a lot of players in there that are competing for jobs," said Brady. "Certainly, the offensive line that played the other night, they've been in there a lot throughout the course of training camp. Honestly, it's not my job to worry about those guys. I have a lot of confidence in that group in general, not just the individuals. The longer offensive lines play together, typically the better that they play, the more comfortable they are with one another ... I wouldn't expect us to peak here in early August."

    On a lighter note, Brady deflected a question on whether he and his wife are expecting another child.

    Patriots Daily Briefing, 8.13.12

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 13, 2012 08:59 AM

    Good morning. Here is your PDB for Monday, August 13, 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. 1 p.m.: Bill Belichick press conference
    1:30-4 p.m.: Camp practice #14

    Tomorrow
    Approx. 1 p.m.: Nick Caserio press conference
    1:30-4 p.m.: Camp practice #15

    TO RECAP
    There was a pleasant surprise for Pats fans when the team re-gathered on the practice field yesterday: the return of Logan Mankins. The left guard was removed from the physically unable to perform list and took part in individual drills, though once team drills began, he was a spectator. Coming back from an ACL tear, he will be eased back into things slowly, and it's all part of the process.

    After practice, Mankins talked about his injury, and we realized just how tough he is: Mankins played the postseason on two bad knees - his left was still recovering from the sprained MCL he suffered in Week 16 against Miami, and the torn ACL, which he says he isn't exactly sure when he tore. He just knew there was pain. But he could run, so in his eyes, he could play.

    Bill Belichick said it during his Friday day-after-game conference call, and he reiterated it yesterday: this is a big week for the Pats. Their final three preseason games are crammed into a 10-day span, so this full week is the last one the team will have to do installation, clean up some things, and also, as Belichick noted, for players who want to make a roster push to do so. The first cutdown, from 90 players to 75, is a couple of days after the Tampa Bay game next week.

    QUOTE/TWEET OF THE DAY
    "No, definitely not."
    - Mankins, when asked if he'll continue to make fun of injured teammates after his own ACL injury. In his interview, he said he was always one of the guys who made fun of injured players.

    AROUND THE DIVISION
    The Jets are currently practicing, and according to reporter tweets from the session, they're practicing the Wildcat in front of the media for the first time. The master of hype, Rex Ryan, is hyping the greatness of the Wildcat to make sure other teams have to prepare for it.

    Aussie-Aussie-Aussie! Oye-oye-oye! Bills punter Brian Moorman is practicing an "Aussie" method of punting in Buffalo's camp.

    By this point, we all know how Chad Johnson's Saturday night likely ended his NFL career. South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde says new Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin made a statement by releasing Johnson, and that the receiver wasn't worth the trouble.

    Practice rundown #13

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 12, 2012 08:33 PM

    FOXBOROUGH – A rundown of this evening's light practice on the lower practice fields.

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.

    Physically unable to perform: RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder).

    Continued to be out: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), DT Ron Brace (unknown), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder).

    New injuries: TE Rob Gronkowski (unknown), WR Britt Davis (shoulder), FB Eric Kettani (unknown), CB Malcolm Williams (unknown), S James Ihedigbo (unknown), LB Dane Fletcher (left knee), DT Gerard Warren (unknown).

    Returned to practice: LG Logan Mankins (right knee - no team drills), LB Brandon Spikes (left knee), DT Ron Brace (unknown), WR Deion Branch (right hip).

    INJURIES

    None.

    DRESS CODE

    Shells and shorts.

    TOP PLAYS

    1. WR Jabar Gaffney made a terrific leaping grab of a Ryan Mallett pass over DB Derrick Martin.
    2. On the goal line, Tom Brady rolled out right and somehow fit a pass in the right corner to Gaffney over Devin McCourty. A really nice touchdown.
    3. Dont’a Hightower’s second interception was a beauty where he read the eyes of Brian Hoyer and then went high to snare a pass that was intended for Gaffney in the seam.

    THUMBS UP

    The sight of No. 70 on the field was surely met with warm feelings by the Patriots’ faithful. Logan Mankins didn’t do much at all, but this was the start of the process to get the All-Pro left guard back in the lineup just six months removed from ACL surgery. Considering the state of the Patriots’ offense line, it can’t come soon enough.

    THUMBS DOWN

    The Patriots’ passing offense continued to not look sharp – even in a low-key practice with minimal rush. There were six drops and four interceptions total in practice, and both were practice highs. In 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 periods, Brady was 18 of 28 with an interception, and Hoyer was 5 of 10 with two interceptions. Normally the top two quarterbacks complete around 80 percent of their passes. Brady looked like he wanted to hurt someone.

    SUPERLATIVES

    Dropped passes: Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd, Stevan Ridley, Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Donte Stallworth.
    Nice catch: Hernandez, Welker, Gaffney.
    Interceptions: Hightower 2 (of Brady, Hoyer), McCourty (of Mallett), Marquice Cole (of Hoyer).

    ODDS AND ENDS

    • Good to see McCourty make a play on the ball in one-on-ones when he had tight coverage of Slater and picked off Mallett. Slater got his revenge later when his slugo (slant-and-go) route left McCourty in the dust during one-on-ones. McCourty did have a pass breakup in 11-on-11s.
    • Hernandez just about broke the ankles of CB Ras-I Dowling during one-on-ones with about five different moves. Near the end of practice, Dowling was either winded or was battling an injury because he wasn’t very competitive.
    • On the first play of 7-on-7s, Hernandez was wide open down the seam. Not sure why Patrick Chung, the safety to that side, wasn’t in better position.
    • Hightower’s first interception came when Ridley let an easy ball go right through his hands.
    • There were a few big offensive line breakdowns that left rushers right in the face of the quarterback. Wilfork and Brace each would have had sacks. In goal-line, it appeared that Wendell failed to pull and that let the end walk right in on Danny Woodhead.
    • Despite showing more against the Saints, RB Shane Vereen still trailed the other backs in reps.
    • Great read of Hoyer by Cole on his interception. Cole stepped in front of Jeremy Ebert, who likely didn’t run a crisp route.
    • Brady finished his practice 2 of 8 with two drops.
    • Ryan Wendell got all the first- and second-team reps at center.
    • Not many changes on defense, but with James Ihedigbo out, the Patriots gave all the other safeties – Nate Ebner, Will Allen, Josh Barrett, and Sergio Brown – reps next to Tavon Wilson.
    • Stallworth got a lot of work as the kick returner.

    SCHEDULE

    Monday: 1:30-4 p.m.

    Rest is TBD.

    Logan Mankins likely injured ACL during regular season

    Posted by Alex Prewitt August 12, 2012 07:52 PM

    After his first Patriots practice since undergoing offseason surgery to repair a torn ACL, guard Logan Mankins made one thing clear: If he can run, he will play.

    That apparently includes playing on that torn right ACL, an injury that was originally thought to have been suffered in February during the Super Bowl. Mankins told reporters after Sunday's practice that the injury "happened a long time ago. A lot longer than you would have thought it happened."

    Mankins sprained his left MCL in Week 16 against Miami, and missed New England's regular-season finale.

    Mankins told reporters Sunday that he most likely injured the right knee sometime during the season. He said the knee was not "100 percent, but it was still functionable," so he kept playing throughout the postseason and into the Super Bowl.

    "Yeah, well, Super Bowl was a tough one," Mankins said. "I was banged up a little, but everyone was at that point in the year. Everyone knew something wasn't quite right. That's why we had an MRI after the game to see what was wrong. If I can run, I'm not going to sit any game. I'm here to play football, not to watch and collect a check."

    Mankins was removed from New England's PUP list and practiced during Sunday's shells and shorts practice, but sat out team drills. Per the CBA, he must spend one more practice in shells before he can progress to full pads.

    "In years past I was always one of the guys that made fun of the guys that was hurt, now I got put in that position," Mankins said. "I always felt like we're here to do a job, so you should be out there practicing and playing. The first few weeks of camp was tough not to be out there, but it was something that had to be done."

    Roll call: Practice #13

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 12, 2012 05:50 PM

    FOXBOROUGH – A quick look at the highlights from this evening's light practice on the lower practice field.s

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.

    Physically unable to perform: RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder).

    Continued to be out: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), DT Ron Brace (unknown), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder).

    New injuries: TE Rob Gronkowski (unknown), WR Britt Davis (shoulder), FB Eric Kettani (unknown), CB Malcolm Williams (unknown), S James Ihedigbo (unknown), LB Dane Fletcher (left knee), DT Gerard Warren (unknown).

    Returned to practice: LG Logan Mankins (right knee - no team drills), LB Brandon Spikes (left knee), DT Ron Brace (unknown), WR Deion Branch (right hip).

    INJURIES

    None.

    DRESS CODE

    Shells and shorts.

    HEADLINES

    • Attendance was the big thing today, as it usually is after the first game.
    • Right guard Logan Mankins, just six months removed from surgery on his right ACL, was back in uniform. He can't practice in pads until the third practice, but I would expect them to bring him along very slowly.
    • TE Rob Gronkowski was in street clothes but worked out with the rehab group. That usually means it's minor. There were a bunch of new injuries following the game, which we noted above.
    • Not a very good practice for the passing offense. There were five drops and four interceptions (Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett and two by Brian Hoyer). Both are camp highs.
    • Ryan Wendell was the starting center the entire practice.
    • RB Shane Vereen still had far less reps than any of the other backs in practice, even after his good performance against the Saints.
    • Spikes was in the mix a little more but without pads, hard to tell if he's full go or not.

    Logan Mankins returns to Patriots practice

    Posted by Alex Prewitt August 12, 2012 05:13 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- Logan Mankins is in uniform for Patriots practice Sunday, an indication the starting left guard will come off New England's physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

    Mankins, a four-time Pro Bowler, underwent offseason surgery to repair a torn ACL, and was on the field for Sunday's shells and shorts practice six months after suffering the injury in the Super Bowl and subsequently finishing the game.

    More on this from Gillette Stadium as it becomes available.

    Patriots to work out Plaxico Burress

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 12, 2012 12:04 PM
    The Patriots will host veteran receiver Plaxico Burress for a workout, a league source confirmed.

    Burress, who spent last year with the Jets after a two-season hiatus because of his legal troubles (he shot himself in the leg in a nightclub in November 2008 and spent 22 months in prison on weapons charges stemming from the incident), celebrates his 35th birthday today.

    He has also played for the Steelers and Giants, where he is remembered not-so-fondly by New England fans as the player who caught the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLII.

    It is likely that the Patriots are simply doing their due diligence by working out Burress, and/or doing a favor for his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, in an effort to drum up interest in the receiver.

    The Patriots will also bring in former Packers tackle Chad Clifton for a visit.

    Saban sheds some light on Belichick's defensive packages

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 11, 2012 05:57 PM

    Alabama coach Nick Saban was Bill Belichick's defensive coordinator with the Browns in the early 1990s, and the two have maintained a relationship since then.

    On Thursday, during his press conference, Saban was asked about the origins of the "star" and "money" positions in his sub defensive positions, and said they come directly from Belichick.

    Later in the clip, Saban also says he's brought in former Fall River basketball star Chris Herren (a one-time Celtics player), who has overcome substance abuse, to speak with his team.

    The start of the star/money question is around the 5:30 mark.

    Game breakdown: Patriots 7, Saints 6

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 11, 2012 03:52 PM

    Ok, here’s a look back at some of what we saw while watching the TV copy of the game. No positional grades, like we do in the regular season. Just some observations, good and bad. Basically, I’m looking for plays where a player does more than just his job – a “plus” play in my amateur tracking – or less (minus play).

    QUARTERBACK

    On Tom Brady’s first pass, he wanted TE Rob Gronkowski to bend his seam route but the TE stayed up the line. Thought Gronkowski read that right. … Great pass by Brady on the botched snap with Dan Koppen. Brady put it right on the money to Brandon Lloyd should have had the back-shoulder throw, even if it was unexpected. … Brady should have led Lloyd more on the deep pass that was broken up by Johnny Patrick at the last second. It was a good pass, but just a little more air and it would have been a touchdown. Looked like that ball came out a little funny out of Brady’s hands. … Nothing stood out one way or the other about Brian Hoyer. The group he played with wasn’t very good. … Had Ryan Mallett for two plus plays, and five minus, including the interception. … Nice play by Mallett to step up against the rush and find the outlet in Tyler Urban. Did the same before end of the half. … Mallett should have eaten the ball on his interception. Saints were blitzing and he should have felt the pressure better. That’s where Mallett has shown little development over the past year: he has surprisingly little natural feel for the game at this point. He’s way too mechanical and you can see him thinking through just about every play. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has to find a way to get Mallet to cut it loose, which he did in one practice during camp. … Bad throw on a simple out to Gaffney. Have to complete it. McDaniels didn’t look happy.

    RUNNING BACKS

    FB Eric Kettani was dipping his head at the snap. Wasted movement and shows the lack of polish. Will be nice to get Spencer Larsen in there. Kettani, after extended military service, is really rusty. … Wasn’t crazy about Stevan Ridley’s decision to cutback for 3 yards on first play after the punt penalty on the Saints. … Ridley has to find a way to avoid DT Brodrick Bunkley on an aborted screen pass with 10:43 left in the first quarter. Brady got after Ridley. … Overall, Ridley had some terrible blocking in front of him…. Shane Vereen’s best run was his 14-yarder, made a nice cut outside and then faked out Jerico Nelson for another 5 yards. … Vereen’s 5-yard loss late in the third quarter was just terrible blocking, with Nick McDonald getting shoved into the backfield, and then it appeared WRs Jesse Holley and Britt Davis blocked the wrong guys.

    RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

    Great job by Gronkowski (vs. Cameron Jordan) and Aaron Hernandez (Will Herring) holding the point on Ridley’s 8-yard run on second play of the second series. … Talk about a bad start for DE-turned-TE Alex Silvestro. He missed blocks on his first two plays (the second of which picked off the pulling Dan Connolly) on runs of 1 and minus-2 yards. …Britt Davis, who made a very nice catch on the TD, has to get out of his breaks faster and cleaner if he wants to play in the NFL. That was a drop on opening possession of second half. … Thought Jeremy Ebert did some very nice things that the Patriots coaches will love, including blocking down field and breaking a tackle. He did have a drop.

    OFFENSIVE LINE

    Oh baby, what a mess (until the fourth quarter). Let’s go with our tabulations right off the bat.

    13 total quarterback pressures allowed: Marcus Cannon 6, Nate Solder 3, Dan Connolly 3, Donald Thomas 1.
    One sack allowed by Cannon.
    Nine total hurries: Cannon 3, Solder 3, Connolly 2, Thomas 1.
    Three knockdowns: Cannon 2, Connolly 1.
    Stuffed runs allowed (3.3 total): McDonald 2.3, Derek Dennis 1.

    Danny Woodhead should have had a big run on the 3rd-and-2 but Donald Thomas or Wes Welker failed to properly block CB Johnny Patrick. Sloppy. … Koppen snapped before Brady was ready on fourth play. Cannon didn’t react to the ball and got beaten for a hurry. … Koppen didn’t get out on Lofton on Ridley’s 2-yard run. That will only encourage questions about Koppen’s footspeed at age 32 coming off foot surgery, although Donald Thomas didn’t help either. … Ticky-tack hold on Nate Solder during Brady’s missed opportunity down field to Brandon Lloyd, but Solder was definitely beaten by Will Smith. And he was on the next play. Just minor technique stuff, like setting too hard to the outside. Nothing that can’t be fixed. … The sack/fumble on Brady was solely the fault of RT Marcus Cannon, who was beaten easily by DE Junior Galette. Solder did fine against Smith, as did Connolly against Cameron Jordan, it’s just neither expected Brady to wind up 7 yards deep and 5 yards wide of the designed throwing spot. … Ryan Wendell had a clean sheet. Continued to do what we’ve seen in practice. … Didn’t see the false start called on Cannon. If anybody moved, it was Welker. … Solder missed a run block against Curtis Lofton on a 4-yard run by Ridley. … Borderline holding call against Solder vs. Ellis. Have definitely seen worse go uncalled with regular officials. … Solder got pancaked by Turk McBride on second series of second quarter. … Connolly had a real tough time holding up third-round DT Akiem Hicks (6-5, 324), and allowed him to hit Mallett on his interception. … Cannon completely missed a chop block on first play of second half. … Thought Darrion Weems continued to look good.

    DEFENSIVE LINE

    • 16 total QB pressures: Chandler Jones 4, Trevor Scott 3.5, Rob Ninkovich 2.5, Jermaine Cunningham 2.5, Brandon Deaderick, Marcus Forston, Justin Francis, Tim Bulman 1/2.
    • Two sacks: Scott, Francis 1/2, Bulman 1/2.
    • 10 hurries: Jones 4, Ninkovich 2, Cunnigham 2, Deaderick, Forston.
    • Four knockdowns: Scott 2.5, 1/2 each for Ninkovich, Cunningham, Francis.
    • 5.133 stuffed runs: Forston 1.5, Kyle Love 0.833, Jones, Marcus Harrison, Scott 1/2, Wilfork 1/3.

    Amazing how strong Vince Wilfork is. Opening play of the game he stands up RG Jahri Evans and then pulls RB Pierre Thomas to the ground with one hand. … On the play where Chase Daniel took off and was tracked down by Jones from behind, Daniel had a pocket and he panicked for no reason. … Deaderick should have drawn a holding call against RG Fenuki Tupou with 12:48 left in the second. … Cunningham should have drawn a hold on Chung’s INT. … Further showing how ridiculous sack stats are, Jake Bequette (who looked solid with good technique) got credit for one in the fourth quarter but it really should have been split between Justin Francis and Tim Bulman. … I think we’ve covered Chandler Jones (though I need to go back and figure out whether Jones had 5 QBPs, which I tabulated at the game, or four from the game review). … Francis didn’t show as well as he has in practice.

    LINEBACKERS

    Dont’a Hightower (half knockdown) actually started as the WLB, which is usually Jerod Mayo’s spot. … On the first play in the middle after subbing for the injured Dane Fletcher, Hightower did a nice job avoiding the block of LG Ben Grubbs to take down Darren Sproles for a 2-yard gain with Jerod Mayo. … Outstanding play by Mayo to track down Sproles for a 4-yard gain on third-and-8. … Hightower didn’t fit the run properly on Pierre Thomas’ 13-yard run. Hightower drifted a little and got caught in the wash. He got caught on the next play as well leaning too far outside, and exhibited he doesn’t have the quickest feet. He’ll probably play faster when he feels better about what he’s doing. … Hightower cautious. Not playing very fast. He finally cut it loose with 5:15 left in the second quarter when he saw a lane toward Ivory and exploded to knock him back for 2 yards. That’s what Hightower’s expected to do. He was playing WLB at that time, but played all three spots. … Mayo and Arrington had a coverage mixup on the 16-yard pass from Daniel to Higgins early in the second quarter. Mayo didn’t look happy with Arrington. Could have been Chung out of position as well. Impossible to know. …. Hightower was probably a little too deep in his drop on Roby’s 12-yard catch across the middle early in the second. … Two terrific plays by Mayo back-to-back to end opening drive of the second quarter. He wrecked FB Korey Hall and then took down Chris Ivory, and then he read the eyes of Daniels before tipping the ball to Gregory for an INT. … Mike Rivera started slow but showed well with a knockdown and a pass breakup. ... Bobby Carpenter (half stuff, knockdown) was solid.

    SECONDARY

    Thought the secondary looked much better outside of some spotty play from Kyle Arrington (shared bad cover, holding penalty, 13-yard missed tackle opportunity), Sterling Moore (pass interference on a very strange coverage call. He had no help and wasn’t playing Cover 3. Curious), and Patrick Chung (two bad angles). … Chung took a bad angle on an incomplete pass on the Saints’ first series, and he likely should have been in position to clean up the third-and-22 pass from Daniel to Roby for 30 yards. The safety has to read that quicker and not allow the pass over the top of Cover 2. … Tavon Wilson played LB on first third down and wound up on RB Darren Sproles and did well. That’s a lot better athlete than the Saints are used to seeing in coverage against Sproles. Wilson was really active in a variety of roles. A good start. … Saints TE (and former Patriot) David Thomas isn’t a big test, but Wilson sure did cover him well on one play. … Ras-I Dowling (run tackle, two pass breakups) did a very good job but wasn’t overly challenged. … Same goes for CB Devin McCourty (1.5 stuffed runs). He was back to giving great run support, so he must be healthy.

    SPECIAL TEAMS

    Zoltan Mesko was unreal, as was his coverage unit. Kickoff coverage was great as well. … On the first kickoff return, Nate Ebner (who combined with Niko Koutouvides on a good punt tackle) had a tough time holding up FB Korey Hall, who made the tackle on Danny Woodhead. … Not a perfect snap (by backup Rob Ninkovch) or hold by Mesko on Gostkowski’s 53-yard miss before halftime. … Edelman must have thought he touched the second-half kickoff because if not, that was not smart to bring it out. Edelman made some curious decisions in this game. …. Matthew Slater continues to be unblockable in coverage. … Marquice Cole had a nice tackle but also committed a penalty.

    Five up and down from win over the Saints

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 10, 2012 11:45 PM

    Have been under the gun a little bit getting Sunday NFL Notes done while also re-watching the Patriots-Saints game. Will be back with more thoughts on the game Saturday morning, but wanted to give you this snippet, which will be a part of Sunday's notes.

    Five players who impressed the most

    1. Chandler Jones, DE: Yeah, we know, breaking news here. In just 26 snaps, Jones led the team with four of the Patriots’ 16 total quarterback pressures (sacks, hurries and knockdowns combined). More impressive was that he shared two stuffed runs (carries of 1-yard or less).
    2. Jerod Mayo, LB: Wasn’t totally flawless – he and Kyle Arrington covered the same player on one play – but Mayo was really good all-around. His takedown of RB Darren Sproles on third down for just 4 yards was a rare play. Mayo added a standout run tackle, and he caused Steve Gregory’s interception when Mayo read Chase Daniel’s eyes before tipping the pass.
    3. Zoltan Mesko, P: Nobody cares about the kickers in the preseason (or in the regular season until they screw up) but Mesko started off what could be a Pro Bowl season with a punting clinic. On eight punts, Mesko averaged 47.8 yards and 45.0 net (both coverage units were outstanding). The net average would have led the NFL last year. And Mesko averaged 4.64 seconds of hang time. That’s terrific.
    4. Trevor Scott, DE: Going to grade on a little bit of a curve because he did it in the second half against reserves, but production is production. Scott had a sack, led the team with 2½ knockdowns, forced a fumble and had a half stuffed run. But if Scott really wants to play, he’s going to have to show more variety in his pass-rush moves. Right now it’s just coming on effort.
    5. Ryan Wendell, C: Had a completely clean sheet during his competition with Dan Koppen (botched snap), who was solid in pass protection but was slow in the run game (two poor blocks). Wendell did a very nice job controlling the middle against a very stout and active Saints front.

    Just missing the cut: DE Rob Ninkovich (2.5 pressures), DE Jermaine Cunningham (2.5 pressures), DT Marcus Forston (pressure, 1.5 run stuffs), CB Ras-I Dowling (two pass breakups, tough tackle), RB Shane Vereen (broken tackle, great run), OG Donald Thomas (hurry).

    Five players who had their struggles

    1. Marcus Cannon, RT: His statistics are a bit skewed because he played most of the game, but Cannon was overpowered much of the game with six total quarterback pressures (sack, three hurries, two knockdowns). Cannon also didn’t execute a run and pass, and was (unfairly) flagged for a false start.
    2. Ryan Mallett, QB: Had a couple of nice throws sidestepping pressure and stepping up to deliver the ball, but had five poor tosses, including an interception. He just didn’t look comfortable and the game is not coming naturally to him. Mallett appears to be thinking way too much. He can’t play like that. Mallett had one practice where he just played, and he looked the part. Haven’t seen it since.
    3. Nate Solder, LT: Allowed three hurries (including penalties) so between Cannon and Solder, the Patriots’ tackles combined to allow nine of the 13 total pressures allowed (and the Saints hardly blitzed). Solder also had additional poor run and pass blocks. Still, he wasn’t quite as bad as people made out. Most of his problems had to do with minor technique stuff that can (and will) be cleaned up.
    4. Dan Connolly, RG: Not a very sharp performance from a player who is normally more steady. Connolly had all sorts of trouble containing Saints third-round pick Akiem Hicks, who is a load at 6-5 and 324 pounds out of Regina, Canada). Connolly gave up a hurry and knockdown to Hicks, and an additional hurry.
    5. Dont’a Hightower, LB: Nothing to be alarmed about, it was a typical debut for a player playing multiple positions – he played all three spots against the Saints – where he has to do a lot of reading and reacting. Hightower got caught leaning on a couple runs, appeared to take too deep a drop to allow an easy catch underneath, and seemed a step behind at times (likely from thinking too much). He did, however, have one play where he just cut it loose, and stood the running back up in the hole (didn’t wrap up, however).

    Just missing the cut: CB Kyle Arrington (coverage, penalty, missed tackle for 13 yards), TE Alex Silvestro (two stuffed runs), OL Nick McDonald (two stuffed runs), RB Stevan Ridley (wrong hole, failed to get out on screen pass), S Patrick Chung (two bad angles in coverage).

    A look at the opponents: Rams, Week 8

    Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff August 10, 2012 07:36 PM

    Editor's note: At long last, we're able to complete our 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 St. Louis Rams.

    Five questions about the Rams with Mike Sando, who covers the NFC West for ESPN.com.

    Link: NFC West blog
    Twitter: @espn_nfcwest

    Date: Oct. 28
    Time: 1 p.m.
    Location: Wembley Stadium, London

    1. What is going to be the strength of this team?
    The running game, both by design and personnel. Steven Jackson should have another strong year or two left. He's topped 1,000 yards rushing for seven consecutive seasons. New coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is installing a run-first offense designed to take pressure off quarterback Sam Bradford. The team also has a talented rookie back in Isaiah Pead, a second-round choice. One way or another, the Rams are going to run the ball. That is priority No. 1 for this team.

    2. Where are they looking to get better?
    They went 2-14 last season, so there are lots of areas. They need to get stronger against the run. Demarco Murray and Beanie Wells each topped 220 yards on the ground against St. Louis last season. That explains why the Rams drafted DT Michael Brockers in the first round and signed Kendall Langford in free agency. The offensive line, specifically the tackle positions in pass protection, need improvement. The situation at corner has already improved dramatically. The team ran out of them last season. Janoris Jenkins has looked great to this point.

    3. Players on the spot?
    Jason Smith, the second overall choice in 2009, heads the list. He has struggled at right tackle, particularly in pass protection. Free-agent pickup Barry Richardson has been getting some first-team reps. This is a make-or-break season for Smith. Bad luck with injuries have hurt him.

    4. What needs to happen for this team to win big?
    The Rams need to protect Sam Bradford. Realistically, they need to use the next couple drafts to restock their roster. The Rams have additional first-round choices in 2013 and 2014. They're in position to improve dramatically if they draft correctly.

    5. Realistic expectations for this team at this point?
    Finishing outside the NFC West cellar is a realistic goal. The Rams should be competitive enough to win a couple division games at home, perhaps. And if one of the other NFC West teams falls off -- it could happen given the state of quarterbacking in the division -- the Rams could move up in the standings.

    Belichick: News for Fletcher 'doesn't look good'

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 10, 2012 04:42 PM
    Patriots coach Bill Belichick just wrapped up his day-after press conference to talk about Thursday night's exhibition opener against the Saints, and offered this on injured linebacker Dane Fletcher:

    "On the injury front, the news on Dane doesn’t look very good, so he’ll probably be out for a while. It’s unfortunate because he’s worked hard – he has a really good offseason and training camp, we’ve had good competition at that position, it will be an opportunity for someone else to step in, but it’s unfortunate for Dane."

    Fletcher was helped off the field in the first quarter last night with what is believed to be a torn ACL.

    When asked specifically if Fletcher will be placed on injured reserve, Belichick said he didn't want to speculate, just that he will be out for a while.

    Patriots Daily Briefing, 8.10.12

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 10, 2012 08:30 AM

    Good morning. Here is your PDB for Friday, August 10, 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. 4 p.m.: Bill Belichick conference call

    Tomorrow
    No practice

    TO RECAP
    The Patriots had their first preseason game on Thursday night, and came out on top of a 7-6 nail-biter. Even though two of the NFL's elite quarterbacks, Drew Brees and Tom Brady, were on the field, it wasn't exactly an offensive explosion.

    One of the bright spots for the Patriots was the play of rookie Chandler Jones, who did well for himself against Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod, a 2011 Pro Bowler. Greg Bedard had Jones pressuring the quarterback five times in 14 dropbacks.

    Chris Gasper writes that even ugly exhibition football is better than watching the woeful Red Sox.

    There was one significant injury for the Pats last night: LB Dane Fletcher suffered what is believed to be a torn ACL. Fletcher was the top backup to Brandon Spikes at middle linebacker, and with Spikes still on the sidelines and Fletcher now out, rookie Dont'a Hightower will probably slide into the MLB spot, with Bobby Carpenter getting more chances at strongside, where Hightower has seen most of his snaps in camp.

    QUOTE/TWEET OF THE DAY
    "It’s kind of a like a relationship. Relationships can only get stronger so we’re going to see how that goes."
    -- Patrick Chung, talking about his new teammate at safety, Steve Gregory. Chung is a newlywed, so he must still have his rose-colored glasses on when it comes to relationships. We kid, we kid.

    AROUND THE DIVISION
    The Bills also had their preseason opener Thursday night, welcoming Robert Griffin III and the Redskins to Ralph Wilson Stadium. That game was about as thrilling as the Pats-Saints, and ended with the same 7-6 score.

    The Dolphins have their preseason opener against the Bucs tonight, which means rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill steps into the spotlight.

    In the Land of Tebow, Tim and the Jets are in Cincinnati for tonight's exhibition opener. Tebow's first-ever NFL game was also against the Bengals; this time he goes in not only as a quarterback but also a special-teamer.

    Video: Patriots-Saints analysis

    Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff August 10, 2012 08:23 AM
    Globe football reporters Greg A. Bedard and Shalise Manza Young analyze the Patriots's preseason opener vs. the Saints on Thursday night.

    Patriots 7, Saints 6: Five quickie thoughts

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 9, 2012 11:56 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- Some parting thoughts as we wrap things up from Gillette Stadium:

    • The real games don't start for a month. Whatever concerns you may have -- and judging from Twitter and elsewhere you have a few -- they can be corrected. This is largely a young team and there will be a lot of learning going on now that there's good film to go off of. And it's the preseason. It means nothing. One thing I've learned over the years: never get too high or low off a preseason. There is no correlation to the regular-season.
    • Terrific debut from Chandler Jones: I had Jones for five total quarterback pressures, including two holding penalties, in 14 dropbacks. He also factored into at least two stuffed runs (those of 1 yard or less). He really had Saints LT Jermon Bushrod on his heels from the first dropback (second snap). Jones's strength and leverage was terrific. Overheard from the Saints' locker room from the offensive line after the game: "Those guys are better than the Cardinals (Saints' Hall of Fame Game opponent and a pretty good defense)."
    • Real good coverage: Drew Brees had a really tough time finding open players when he dropped back to pass. Coverage seemed good from the linebackers back to the safeties, although they did give up a third-and-22 and I did see Patrick Chung take a bad angle. Tavon Wilson lined up all over the place. Seemed like Ras-I Dowling and Sterling Moore were splitting time as the nickel corner.
    • Vereen shows up: RB Shane Vereen has been the forgotten RB in camp behind Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead and even undrafted Brandon Bolden. And for good reason: Vereen hasn't done much in camp. But when the lights came on against the Saints, Vereen looked like the top back. Very decisive and quick to the hole. Maybe he's just a game player. Whatever it is, he's back in the RB picture and needs to show it on a more consistent basis.
    • Line woes: As expected, the Patriots' offensive line was a little ragged, and Marcus Cannon, Nate Solder and Dan Connolly got Tom Brady crunched for a fumble. Seems like a lot of people are worried about Solder, but the feeling here is he'll be fine with a month of practices. He's not going to be an All-Pro this season, but he should be solid for the most part. Give Dante Scarnecchia a chance to work his magic. He usually does.

    Hoyer emerges with mixed self-evaluation

    Posted by Alex Prewitt August 9, 2012 11:30 PM

    Brian Hoyer helped orchestrate a 93-yard touchdown drive that opened up the second half and ultimately gave the Patriots a 7-6 win in their exhibition debut Thursday night at Gillette Stadium, but New England's backup quarterback came away with a mixed self-evaluation.

    "Definitely did some things I wish I would have done better," Hoyer said. "Getting the ball batted, that's not something that usually happens, so you've to find a way to get it through. Some of the throws, got to get on the same page with some of those guys. But to go out in the second half with a 97-yard drive, that was definitely a positive, but you've got to do it more often."

    After Tom Brady exited for good following two series, Hoyer went 8 for 15 for 45 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown pass to Britt Davis. Running back Shane Vereen, seeing his first action of the evening, played every snap during the drive, and wound up contributing 73 of the 97 yards.

    "He had some great runs, some great cuts, and the line got off the ball really well," Hoyer said of Vereen. "We were trying to go fast, and they were doing really well with that.

    "You see him get out there, make a few cuts, break a few tackles, and that's really what got us going."

    Hoyer seems firmly entrenched as Brady's backup -- third-stringer Ryan Mallett was 8 of 19 for 89 yards with an interception -- but spoke at length to the competition among the Patriots' three signal-callers.

    "I'm always trying to compete with Tom," Hoyer said. "And obviously Ryan's a good player too, so we're competing at the same time, and I think the competition always brings out the best in everyone.

    "You never want to lag off. You're always trying to improve. Me trying to chase Tom and trying to be as good as he is, that obviously sets a pretty high standard, and I try to strive to get to his level every day."

    For Hoyer, who had just one pass attempt last season, these preseason games are a guaranteed opportunity for focused improvement.

    "That first one out you always have to get your feet underneath you, get a few throws in, get feeling comfortable," he said. "I didn't feel like I did a good job of that tonight, I've got to do a better job of taking a few easy throws in the beginning and getting in a good rhythm.

    "Instead of waiting on a deeper throw, take a check route, get a positive play, start it off, get you in a rhythm."

    Given the chance, Vereen steps up

    Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff August 9, 2012 11:28 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- It was a podium game for Shane Vereen.

    The second-year Patriots running back didn't see the field in the first half of Thursday's game as fellow second-year back Stevan Ridley took carries with the first team. Vereen wasn't even the second running back the Patriots called on, as rookie Brandon Bolden entered the game before him. But Vereen found himself on the podium after the game by virtue of his 64 yards on 11 carries in the third quarter. Vereen was in on every snap on a 14-play, 97-yard drive to start the third that ended in a touchdown from Brian Hoyer to Britt Davis.

    "It felt good to be out there running," said Vereen. "The O-line did a nice job. I can't hardly take the credit."

    Vereen hasn't had much of a chance to be out there running. He got just 15 carries last season with Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Ridley, and Danny Woodhead getting most of the carries. With Green-Ellis gone, there's a need for Vereen to step up. Woodhead fills a third-down role, but the identity of the team's true feature back (as much as the Patriots define one) is still up in the air.

    "I think offensively we need to produce," said Vereen. "Running the ball is a big part of the offense. We need to run the ball well to be successful."

    Vereen said he didn't view New England's other running backs as rivals. He said Woodhead is a veteran leader who has a positive influence on the group.

    "I think more than trying to one-up each other we try to learn from each other," said Vereen. "We learn not to make the same mistake and vice versa. As far as competitive, we go out there and try to do the best for the team to try to make the running game a lot better."

    It was only one drive against second and third string players, but Vereen knows the importance of these reps. He said he doesn't want to screw it up.

    "You're only given so many opportunities to get that confidence," he said. "I still have a ton to work on, but for that little drive, it feels good to be able to succeed."

    -- Patrick Chung and the Patriots defense held the Saints to six points, an accomplishment for a much-maligned unit. Chung had an interception but also contributed to bad coverage on a long third-down conversion for New Orleans. He said he wouldn't get too high off one game.

    "It's just practice for the regular season," said Chung. "You've still got to make plays. ... We can't get a chip off one preseason game. We have to build, to get better. We'll get that chip after a while."

    -- Davis, who scored the only touchdown of the game, left with an apparent arm injury in the fourth quarter.

    Belichick on Patriots-Saints: A good week

    Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff August 9, 2012 10:53 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- Patriots head coach Bill Belichick just went to the podium to discuss his team's first preseason game, a 7-6 win over the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots practiced with the Saints for two days as the teams became familiar with one another.

    "It was a good week," said Belichick. "There's a lot of things we can learn from all three of those days. There's a lot of things we can learn from tonight.

    "We competed. We competed for 60 minutes. I thought we worked hard."

    Belichick complimented his players, referring indirectly to first-round picks Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones, who both started the game. Hightower had one tackle and assisted on three others, while Jones had one and assisted on one.

    "I think all the players that I saw, especially the rookies, some of them did some good things," said Belichick. "But there's a long way to go."

    Belichick dodged a question about the impact the replacement officials had on the game.

    "I'm just trying to coach our team here," he said. "I'm not worried about the officials."

    On his first-team offense's inability to score, Belichick said, "I wouldn't say we lit it up offensively at any point, in any aspect of the game."

    Patriots defeat Saints, 7-6, in first preseason game at Gillette Stadium

    Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff August 9, 2012 10:33 PM

    bradypreseason1.jpg

    FOXBOROUGH -- For two days this week, the Patriots and New Orleans Saints practiced against each other on the fields next to Gillette Stadium. Both sessions drew large crowds seeking a glimpse of real football.

    The teams held something resembling a practice in the form of a preseason game inside Gillette Stadium Thursday night, with the Patriots edging the Saints, 7-6.

    "It was a good week," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. "There's a lot of things we can learn from all three of those days. There's a lot of things we can learn from tonight."

    The football wasn't pretty, and neither was a knee injury to Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher, who reportedly suffered a torn ACL. But glimpses, however fleeting, of how this Patriots team might shape up this season were on display.

    Without Fletcher, rookie first-round pick Dont'a Hightower slid over to middle linebacker for the Patriots. Fellow rookie Chandler Jones also started on defense. If the Patriots are going to improve their pass rush this season, it's possible the two rookies play a role. Other glimpses included a lackluster Patriots offense still sorting through injuries on the offensive line. Tom Brady failed to lead a scoring drive. Rob Gronkowski failed to make a big play.

    It was practice for everyone. At one point, a replacement official failed to turn off his microphone after announcing the result of a play, and noise from field level was audible throughout the arena until another official's pleas to turn off the mic were finally met.

    "I'm just trying to coach our team here," said Belichick. "I'm not worried about the officials."

    Brady took 19 snaps in the first quarter and was 4 for 7 for 30 yards on his passing attempts. There was one close call as the Patriots quarterback took a hard hit from Saints defensive end Will Smith with 10:02 remaining in the first. Brady fumbled and the ball was recovered by New Orleans. The Patriots quarterback was fine but unhappy, slamming his helmet down on the ground when he went to the bench. He came back out for one more series, but the New England offense once again failed to put points on the board.

    While the Patriots offense was discouraging before the break, there were both positive and negative signs from the defense. Safeties Steve Gregory and Patrick Chung both intercepted passes, but Chung was involved in coverage on a third-and-22 conversion for the Saints that reminded New England fans of the difficulties this team had defending on third down last season.

    After splitting time with Ryan Mallett in the first half, Patriots second-string quarterback Brian Hoyer led the Patriots on a 14-play, 97-yard scoring drive, finding wide receiver Britt Davis for a three-yard touchdown with 9:45 remaining in the third quarter.

    New Orleans put together a 10-play scoring drive that resulted in a field goal to start the fourth quarter. By that time, both teams had emptied their benches, with most players on the field competing for roster spots.

    Fans began leaving shortly after. Midway through the fourth quarter, the building was half-empty. The final result, which was very much in question, wasn't a major concern.

    The Patriots host the Philadelphia Eagles in their second preseason game on Mon., Aug. 20 at 8 p.m.

    2:23 4th quarter, Patriots 7-6: Patriots go four-and-out, give the ball back to New Orleans. The Saints start on their own 14-yard line.

    3:12 4th quarter, Patriots 7-6: John Kasay misses a 41-yard field goal that would have given New Orleans the lead. Ball back to the Patriots.

    7:52 4th quarter, Patriots 7-6: No new scoring to report. Fans filing out of here rather quickly.

    14:56 4th quarter, Patriots 7-6: Garrett Hartley kicks a 27-yard field goal to get the Saints within one. Matthew Slater and Jeremy Ebert back to return the kick for the Patriots.

    FULL ENTRY

    Report: Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher suffers torn ACL

    Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff August 9, 2012 09:39 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher tore his ACL covering a punt in the first quarter of Thursday night's preseason game between the Patriots and Saints, the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports.

    Fletcher pursued a punt and remained down after the play before being helped off the field. He was replaced at middle linebacker by Dont'a Hightower, who had originally started at strong side linebacker.

    Replacement officials overseeing tonight's game

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 9, 2012 07:19 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- Tonight will mark the first night replacement officials oversee NFL games across the league after making their debut on Sunday in the Hall of Fame game.

    Here are the officials who are handling tonight's Patriots-Saints game:

    Referee - David White
    Umpire - Mike Hannon
    Head linesman - Ed Schmid
    Line judge - Alvin Thomas
    Field judge - Keith Norman
    Side judge - Barry Wilson
    Back judge - Peter Shafer
    Alternate - Bob Shoulders
    Replay official - Carl Madsen
    Replay assistant - Eugene Cunningham
    Officiating supervisor - Johnny Grier
    Officiating observer - John Schleyer

    Deion Branch, Gerard Warren among those not dressed

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 9, 2012 07:03 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- A number of Patriots will not dress for tonight's game against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium, including veteran wide receiver Deion Branch.

    Branch, who has been limited in practice, was not seen on the field as the team went through its stretching routine.

    Veteran defensive lineman Gerard Warren, who has only missed one practice during training camp, was also not seen.

    Among the other players not dressed for game play include: LG Logan Mankins (knee), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), OT Markus Zusevics (unknown), TE Daniel Fells (shoulder), TE Jake Ballard (knee), DT Myron Pryor (shoulder), CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), DT Ron Brace (unknown), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder), LB Brandon Spikes (unknown), OL Dustin Waldron (unknown).

    Tom Brady will play vs. Saints tonight

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 9, 2012 11:38 AM

    Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will play tonight against the Saints.

    That was a little bit in question considering Brady did not play in last year's exhibition opener against the Jaguars. But that was after the lockout and the Patriots weren't really settled, especially along the offensive line.

    Brady played 17 snaps -- two series -- against the Saints in the 2010 opener.

    Patriots Daily Briefing, 8.9.12

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 9, 2012 08:26 AM

    Good morning. Here is your PDB for Thursday, August 9, 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
    7:30 p.m.: Preseason game No. 1 - vs. New Orleans Saints

    Tomorrow
    No practice
    Approx. 4 p.m.: Bill Belichick conference call

    TO RECAP
    Colleague Greg Bedard has a pre-emptive strike for those of you who are nervous about the status of the Patriots' offensive line: it may not look good now, but once September comes, it will be fine.

    Defensive tackle Kyle Love has always searched for motivation, writes Julian Benbow, but come December he'll have the biggest motivator of all: his wife is expecting their first child.

    The Patriots notebook has Drew Brees calling Tom Brady one of the best ever, and former Ravens offensive lineman Ben Grubbs, now with the Saints, remembering his last trip to Gillette, in the AFC title game.

    QUOTE/TWEET OF THE DAY
    So @WesWelker HAD the lowest body fat % on the team until I slightly dethroned him by .2% at 4.1... What was your excuse again Wesley??
    - Pats receiver Donte' Stallworth on Twitter; players had to take a body fat composition test this week. Stallworth later tweeted that some players hadn't yet taken the test, and he feared Kyle Arrington's would be even lower

    AROUND THE DIVISION
    At Jets camp yesterday, Rex Ryan has already made a decision in the competition at left guard, choosing Matt Slauson over former UMass player Vladimir Ducasse. Also big news yesterday in Cortland: Tim Tebow got a whole two snaps with the first-team offense, and it resulted in a long touchdown.

    The Bills are also having some competition on the offensive line, at left tackle. An injury to right tackle Erik Pears means Chris Hairston, who is supposed to be battling with rookie Cordy Glenn for the left tackle spot, is taking snaps on the opposite end of the line.

    Sticking with the offensive line theme, just moments into the opening episode of Hard Knocks with the Dolphins you see Derek Dennis get cut - the same Derek Dennis the Patriots signed just a few days later.

    Preseason Game 1 preview: Saints at Patriots

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 9, 2012 06:52 AM

    The lessons learned from tonight's preseason game between the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints will ultimately affect the jobs of 37 players for each team.

    Tonight's game will give the Patriots, as well as every other NFL team, the first bits of knowledge necessary to evaluate players's capabilities in live action. So while fans may be clamoring to see Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and Vince Wilfork, the reality is this is an audition for players in the margin, many of whom have a long shot of making the team. Those players will get the bulk of tonight's snaps. Those are the players whose jobs are on the line.

    Here's a look at tonight's game, with some story lines to watch for.

    Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.

    Records: Patriots 0-0 (Finished last season 13-3, AFC champions); Saints 0-0 (Finished last season 13-3, NFC South champions).

    TV/Radio info: WBZ-TV Ch. 4 (Don Criqui, Randy Cross); 98.5-FM The Sports Hub (Gil Santos, Scott Zolak).

    Projected starting lineups:
    Based on information distributed to the media, practice observations, and injuries for each team.

    Patriots offense: WR Wes Welker, LT Nate Solder, LG Ryan Wendell, C Dan Koppen, RG Dan Connolly, RT Marcus Cannon, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Brandon Lloyd, QB Tom Brady, RB Stevan Ridley, TE Aaron Hernandez.

    Patriots defense: NT Vince Wilfork DT Kyle Love, RDE Chandler Jones, LB/DE Ron Ninkovich, LB Jerod Mayo, LB Dont'a Hightower, LB Dane Fletcher, CB Devin McCourty, CB Kyle Arrington, S Steve Gregory, S Patrick Chung.

    Saints offense: WR Marques Colston, LT Jermon Bushrod, LG Ben Grubbs, C Brian de la Puente, RG Jahri Evans, RT Zach Strief, TE Jimmy Graham, WR Devery Henderson, QB Drew Brees, FB Jed Collins, RB Pierre Thomas

    Saints defense: LDE Cameron Jordan, NT Brodrick Bunkley, DT Sedrick Ellis, RDE Will Smith, SLB Scott Shanle, MLB Curtis Lofton, WLB David Hawthorne, LCB Jabari Greer, SS Roman Harper, FS Malcolm Jenkins, RCB Patrick Robinson.

    O-line worries? -- The Patriots offensive line is still without two of its penciled-in starters in Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer. Brian Waters also continues to be absent. Young tackles Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon will take the field with veterans Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, and Ryan Wendell. The team has shuffled -- and re-shuffled -- its lineup, but now is the time for the players to show what they can do. If joint practices are any indication of talent, it will be interesting to see who quickly falls into coach Bill Belichick's doghouse and who calms the team's worries up front.

    Rookie development -- Pay close attention to rookie safety Tavon Wilson. He's had an up-and-down training camp, and it'll be interesting to see how he has developed over time and how that translates to his first game action. Rookies Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones will also have intriguing debuts. Hightower will likely shift back and forth from the strongside linebacker spot to middle linebacker. It'll be interesting to see how he handles the different positions. It would be nice to see if Jones shows off that strength he's built up since minicamp in June. But moreso, it'll be interesting to see if the Patriots utilize him in the elephant role, standing up as much as playing in a three-point stance.

    Ryan Mallett's reps -- The Patriots have characterized backup quarterback Ryan Mallett as having a competition with Brian Hoyer. However, it's been clear in camp that Hoyer is firmly the team's No. 2 quarterback. On Tuesday, when the Patriots and Saints were holding joint practices for the first time and going full speed in 11-on-11s, Mallett didn't come off well in his one rep, underthrowing a receiver. He'll get plenty of opportunities to show the Saints what he can do tonight to make up for it. That'll give us all an opportunity to see if the hesitation he has shown throughout camp can be resolved or may become a larger issue in his development.

    How will the secondary look? -- This is still one of the most sensitive areas for the Patriots, being that last year the team's defense ranked 31st in the NFL, largely because of its decimated secondary. Now, the team gets a chance to see how Ras-I Dowling looks healthy, how the communication between free agent signee Steve Gregory and Patrick Chung works, and whether or not Devin McCourty can regain his Pro Bowl form. There's no better test than Drew Brees and the Saints, even if it's only for a couple of series.

    Who will surprise us? -- If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on rookie defensive end Justin Francis (No. 68 defense). He's been having a great camp and there's a strong expectation that he will do well and eventually make this team. Keep an eye out for him.

    What will you be looking for? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on tonight's game.

    Update (2:44 p.m.): 98.5-FM The Sports Hub has confirmed that Scott Zolak will be making his debut as the color commentator on tonight's broadcast. At the time of the Patriots-Saints preseason game release, his name was omitted.

    Q&A: Shalise Manza Young on Patriots

    Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff August 8, 2012 06:30 PM

    Globe reporter Shalise Manza Young held a chat on Thursday to answer questions about the Patriots and their preseason opener.

    Review the discussion in the chat window below.

    Patriots chat with Shalise Manza Young

    An inside look at Aaron Hernandez's training regimen

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 8, 2012 03:36 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- It's no secret that Aaron Hernandez's training camp has been exceptional. His play has been of the standout variety since camp started.

    In a new video below produced by UX Entertainment for Fingerprint Communications at a workout in Southern California, Hernandez talks about how he prepared for this season and how this is his first real training camp after going through his rookie and a lockout-shortened camp last year.

    Hernandez, who is on the third year of his four-year contract, is likely working on his image in preparation for the 2014 offseason in which the tight end/wide receiver hybrid will likely cash in on his exploits as a Patriot. In three seasons, he's totaled 124 catches, 1,479 yards and 13 touchdowns. His current salary is structured in a way in which he has to meet several incentives in order to receive the complete value of his deal, $3.798 million over four years. His base salary for this season is $479,000 with a workout bonus of $96,000 and a roster bonus of $104,000. So he basically has to earn everything he gets, and it's safe to say Hernandez will command much more money when he hits free agency in 2014.

    The reason his contract is structured in such a way largely has to do with the multiple failed drug tests he had at the University of Florida for marijuana use. Since arriving in New England, he hasn't had any off field incidents and no brushes with the league's substance abuse policy. And with all the incentives in place, Hernandez appears to be showing in this video he is fighting off that image that dropped him from a projected late first round or early second round pick to the fourth round, and working earnestly toward a big pay day in 2014 or earlier.

    Training Camp Today: Waiting on the real thing

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 8, 2012 03:10 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- The Globe's Greg A. Bedard and Shalise Manza Young break down the second day of joint practices with the New Orleans Saints and what to expect in Thursday night's game.

    Practice rundown #12 - Saints

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 8, 2012 02:41 PM

    FOXBOROUGH – A rundown of what went on between the Patriots and Saints in this afternoon’s light practice.

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.

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

    Out: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), DT Ron Brace (unknown), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder), LB Brandon Spikes (unknown).

    Not participating fully:: WR Deion Branch (no team drills).

    Returned to practice: OT Darrion Weems.

    INJURIES

    None.

    DRESS CODE

    Shells and shorts.

    TOP PLAYS

    1. Saints TE Jimmy Graham made a ridiculous leaping and twisting catch in the seam for a touchdown over LB Dont’a Hightower, who had great coverage. Graham spiked the ball, drew a penalty, and did not appear again. Graham may have dinged his back.
    2. Patriots WR Jesse Holley went high into the air to outfight Saints S Jerico Nelson for a deep pass from Brian Hoyer.

    THUMBS UP

    Running out ways to describe how good of a camp TE Aaron Hernandez is having. It sure seems like he has become Tom Brady’s favorite target, as Hernandez had six of Brady’s 10 completions in 11-on-11s. If Hernandez stays healthy, he’s going to have a monster season. Had the same feeling about Rob Gronkowski at this point last year.

    THUMBS DOWN

    Not much could really be done about it, but it’s just a shame that the Patriots are about to start games and they’ve only had one player, LT Nate Solder, in his projected starting spot along the offensive line. Dan Connolly hasn’t been seen at center since the first couple days, and the Patriots are without LG Logan Mankins, RG Brian Waters and RT Sebastian Vollmer. Not ideal, but manageable with a veteran grop.

    SUPERLATIVES

    Dropped passes: Jesse Holley.
    Nice catch: Holley, Graham, Hernandez.
    Fumbled: None.
    Interceptions: None.

    ODDS AND ENDS

    • Patrick Chung and James Ihedigbo looked at each other after Saints TE Michael Higgins was left wide open for a touchdown. Apparently a communication error.
    • Both teams got a lot of special teams work in. Rob Gronkowski took a bad angle leaping for an onsides kick and Saints WR Courtney Roby was able to tip the deflection back into play.
    • RB Brandon Bolden is getting time on special teams units. That’s pointing him to a roster sport down the line.
    • Amazing that Sergio Brown still shows up on top special teams. You’d figure the Patriots would only have so many spots for special teams-only players. Nate Ebner also getting looks.
    • QB Tom Brady was a perfect 9-of-9 in red zone 7-on-7s.
    • In 11-on-11s with half-speed pass rush, Brees had a miscommunication with Graham on the first snap, then hit his next eight passes. Chase Daniels was 2 of 3.
    • Brady, after an off day on Tuesday, didn’t yield any snaps to backups in his session. Brady was 10 of 12 and was in a much better rhythm.
    • Nick McDonald split his time between left tackle and center.
    • Hightower was back full-time at SLB with Dane Fletcher at MLB.
    • Just an observation, but RT Sebastian Vollmer didn’t exactly give off a fully healthy vibe as he walked off the field after a rehab workout. Guess we would describe it as a labored walked.

    SCHEDULE
    Thursday: 7:30 p.m. game vs. Saints
    Friday: No practice.
    Saturday: No practice.

    Rest is TBD.

    Aaron Hernandez approaches the game differently than Gronk and Graham

    Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff August 8, 2012 02:20 PM
    Aaron Hernandez may not be a headline grabber like Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham, but he's still considered one of the elite tight ends in the game.

    After today's joint practice against the Saints, Hernandez was asked to share his thoughts on the venerable Graham, the New Orleans tight end who sustained a minor back injury during today's session.

    "[He's a] good player," Hernandez said "Obviously the whole league knows about him, and that's about it... we're different players, and we do different things and he and Gronk are similar in their playing type and I have a different way I try to approach the defenders and approach the game. But I think we all have different qualities that are very good."

    When put on the spot to name the better tight end among the three star performers, Hernandez took a pass.

    "We're all good players," he said. "We're all different, we've all got different qualities, but I say, it is what it is."

    Hernandez also spoke about the differences between he and Gronkowski:

    "I approach it with speed and quickness and he approaches it with just being big and physical," the 22-year-old Hernandez said. "And that basically describes both of us."

    The speedy tight end also spoke about no longer having to participate in two-a-day contact practices during camp.

    "With all the new rules, I love it," Hernandez said. "It's saving me. Two practices beats up on your body. Bill [Belichick] regardless is going to find a way to beat up on us, regardless, we're going to be tired."

    Hernandez, now in his third season in New England, appreciates the opportunity to face another team during camp.

    "You get tired of practicing against the same players every day and they start learning your moves," he said. "So it's good to get some work against somebody that doesn't know much."

    Brees admires Brady from afar

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 8, 2012 01:30 PM

    08brady.jpg

    FOXBOROUGH -- In the two days that the Patriots and Saints have spent together, Tom Brady and Drew Brees have more or less been the center of the universe. They've taken turns shredding each other's secondary in passing drills. They've conferenced informally with their mutual friend and throwing coach Tom House. They've relaxed after practice, sprawling out in the grass playing with Brady's wife, kids, and dog.

    A surplus of mutual respect that's been passed back and forth between the two teams this week, and it's just as abundant between the two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, who've known each other since their college days.

    Brees said:

    08brees.jpg I've got a great relationship with Tom and really so much of it throughout our – I mean, we're similar in age, he's only a year older than me – a lot of it's just been for me watching from a far. Of course, there's those times we'll see each other in the offseason, we'll talk, we'll text message here and there. But really it's just kind of admiring from afar.

    For me, I know during the offseason, when I'm looking for things that I want to get better at, maybe trying to introduce new concepts in our offense or just thinking about that next season, I very often turn on the tape of other quarterbacks in the league to watch what they're doing, how they're doing it and Tom has certainly always been one of those guys that I've watched.

    Brees set an NFL record last year when he passed for 5,476 yards. Brady wasn't far behind him with 5,235. But Brees didn't hesitate to call Brady "one of the best if not the best of all time."

    Tough loss still fresh memory for Grubbs

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 8, 2012 01:18 PM

    FOXBOROUGH – The last time Ben Grubbs was in Gillette Stadium was in January when Sterling Moore's occult hand broke up what would have been the touchdown pass that sent the Baltimore Ravens to the Super Bowl. It was also the game in which Billy Cundiff pushed what would have been a game-tying field goal wide left, costing the Ravens a shot at overtime and subsequently leading to a wave of the most irrational of death threats on social media sites.

    The Ravens' 23-20 loss to the Patriots in the AFC championship game is a difficult one to forget, even if Grubbs signed a five-year, $36 million contract with the Saints in the offseason, which is why the memories were still fresh when Grubbs arrived for this week's joint practices ahead of Thursday night's preseason opener.

    Said Grubbs:

    Thumbnail image for 08grubbs.jpg

    "Oh yeah, it definitely brought back some memories. We lost a tough battle here against the Patriots. I wish I could have worked out differently, but it didn't. The Patriots, they represented for the AFC and unfortunately they came up short. But it definitely brought back some memories.

    That was a tough loss, probably one of the toughest losses just being that close to the Super Bowl and not getting there.

    With each loss you kind of have to put it behind you. Whether I was still with the Ravens or here now, I don't think it mattered. As professionals, we have to move on. As people we have to move on. So that was a great learning experience.”

    Grubbs, a first-round pick in 2007, was brought in to replace Carl Nicks because of his skill level, having played in three Pro Bowls, and experience, with five playoff games under his belt. Obviously, the last one still stings.

    Backup QB Brian Hoyer is ready to seize the moment

    Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff August 8, 2012 01:00 PM
    Tomorrow night is Brian Hoyer's time to shine.

    While superstar quarterback Tom Brady, entering his 13th season, will be the main man behind center when the Patriots open the year in Tennessee on Sept. 9, Hoyer is looking forward to his opportunity to drive the offense when the Patriots and Saints square off in the preseason opener at Gillette Stadium Thursday night.

    "I'm taking the same approach I had for the last three years," the 26-year-old Hoyer said after today's joint practice session with the Saints. "For me I know this is a guaranteed opportunity and I'm going to get a chance to play, so just trying to take what I've done from the meeting room to the practice field and out to the game when the live bullets are flying. You want to prepare for a perfect game but it doesn't always end up that way, so just go out there and try to do the best I can and get the team going when I'm in there and go from there."

    Hoyer had just one pass attempt last season, but it was a memorable one for him. In the closing moments of New England's 49-21 win over Buffalo in the final regular season game, the Patriots chose to run a first-down pass play for Rob Gronkowski. The 22-yard pass completion gave Gronkowski the record for receiving yards for a tight end.

    Gronkowski’s finished the season with 1,327 receiving yards while the Saints' Jimmy Graham ended the year with 1,310. Both players eclipsed the record of 1,290, set by San Diego’s Kellen Winslow in 1980.

    "The throw I threw to Gronk for his record, that was the only pass attempt I had [last season]," Hoyer said. "So for me, it's always fun to go back out there and play some extended amount of time."

    Hoyer was asked how he is able to judge his progression as a quarterback while seeing such limited action on game day.

    "Obviously they're filming practice every day so you can watch that and learn from that," Hoyer said. "There's always room to improve with a guy like Tom [Brady] and now Josh [McDaniels] coming in and having him give his input, there's been a lot things I've been trying to improve on, you just try to go out there everyday and practice and kind of attack those things and go and watch the film afterward and see how you did."

    Hoyer sees the benefits of the joint practices against the Saints compared to the usual intra-squad sessions.

    "It makes you stick to your rules," he said. "After you see the same thing over and over and over again, you kind of know where to go right away, so now when a new scheme comes in it really tests what you know and how you know the system. You gotta stick to your rules and take what the defense gives you."

    Roll call: Practice #12 - Saints

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 8, 2012 11:42 AM

    FOXBOROUGH – A quickie look at the top news from the Patriots' light joint practice with the Saints.

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.

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

    Out: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), DT Ron Brace (unknown), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder), LB Brandon Spikes (unknown).

    Not participating fully:: WR Deion Branch (no team drills).

    Returned to practice: OT Darrion Weems.

    INJURIES

    None.

    DRESS CODE

    Shells and shorts.

    HEADLINES

    • Extremely light practice. The only competitive drills were some 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s that were played at half speed with no pass rush.
    • WR Jesse Holley made a sensational catch of a deep ball from Brian Hoyer.
    • Saints TE Jimmy Graham had a terrific touchdown reception from Drew Brees despite good coverage from Dont'a Hightower. Graham spiked it and drew a flag.
    • Sergio Brown and Nate Ebner continue to get looks on the top special team units.

    Patriots sign OL Kyle Hill

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 8, 2012 09:21 AM

    FOXBOROUGH -- With one roster spot available after quickly signing and releasing a fullback earlier this week, the Patriots signed rookie offensive lineman Kyle Hill to bring the team's training camp roster to 90 players.

    Hill, 23, was a four-year starter at left tackle for Duke. He's 6-6, 306 pounds.

    Probably more importantly, he was a healthy player for the Blue Devils. He started all 46 games for Duke since 2008.

    The Patriots now have 17 offensive lineman on the roster, a number of which have been unable to practice, including guard Logan Mankins, tackle Sebastian Vollmer, and tackle Markus Zusevics. Patriots guard Brian Waters, who continues to be absent from camp, does not count toward the team's 90-man roster.

    Training Camp Today: Patriots offense struggles vs. Saints

    Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff August 7, 2012 08:05 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- In this episode of Training Camp Today, the Globe's Greg Bedard has the news and notes from a Patriots star-studded joint practice session with the New Orleans Saints.

    Bedard talks about the patchwork Patriots’ offensive line, which struggled against the Saints in the practice session along with quarterback Tom Brady, who only completed 7 of 16 passes.

    We also hear from Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, cornerback Devin McCourty, and Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who offered high praise for the Patriots organization.

    We'll be back with another episode of Training Camp Today after Wednesday morning's joint practice with the Saints.

    Practice rundown #11 - Saints

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 7, 2012 07:55 PM

    FOXBOROUGH – Here's a look at what transpired on the field between the Saints and the Patriots:

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.

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

    Out: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), DT Ron Brace (unknown), OT Darrion Weems (precautionary), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder), LB Brandon Spikes (unknown).

    Not participating fully:: WR Deion Branch (no team drills).

    Returned to practice: S Derrick Martin, WR Jeremy Ebert, LB Dane Fletcher, S James Ihedigbo.

    INJURIES

    C/G Ryan Wendell appeared to have something going on for a stretch but he did return to action.

    OT Dustin Waldron limped off at the end of practice.

    DRESS CODE

    Full pads

    TOP PLAYS

    1. Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez had a one-handed catch over Saints CB Johnny Patrick.
    2. Rob Gronkowski skyed into the air along the backline to grab a pass, and then deftly tapped his feet down for the score in 7-on-7s.
    3. Saints WR Joseph Morgan made a great leaping catch from Drew Brees over CB Kyle Arrington some 35 yards down the left sideline.
    4. Patriots CB Sterling Moore made a great play to win the ball in the air against Saints RB Pierre Thomas, but Moore’s deflection went right to Thomas while he was on the ground for a touchdown.

    THUMBS UP

    S Patrick Chung was by far the Patriots’ best defender on the field against the Saints. He was terrific in coverage (even against TE Jimmy Graham), provided strong run support and looked sure in his assignments. Chung has had a terrific camp to this point. The hope now is that he stays healthy and delivers during a contract year.

    THUMBS DOWN

    The Patriots had it taken to them by the Saints in 11-on-11 situations, and it started up front. The Patriots’ offensive line was one big sieve against the Saints’ active front and it threw off the entire offense, including QB Tom Brady, who only completed 7 of 16 passes (43.8 percent) and threw an interception. And because of injuries, the Saints were down to their 4-6 CBs for much of team drills. Conversely, the Saints’ terrific offensive line easily handled the Patriots up front as Drew Brees hit on 18 of his 26 passes (69.2 percent) with an interception.

    SUPERLATIVES

    Dropped passes: None.
    Nice catch: Jeremy Ebert, Hernandez, Welker, Britt Davis, Julian Edelman, Gronkowski.
    Fumbled: None.
    Interceptions: Dane Fletcher (of Chase Daniels); Saints S Malcolm Williams (of Brady), Curtis Lofton (of Brady), Marquice Cole (of Luke McCown).

    ONE-ON-ONES
    One man’s 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.

    This is just a look at the Patriots’ defense against the Saints’ offense. And take them with a grain of salt, there was a lot going on.

    Standouts -- Defense: Marcus Harrison (3-0-0), Marcus Fortson (2-0-0), Jake Bequette (1-0-1), Justin Francis (1-0-1).
    Struggled -- Defense: Trevor Scott (0-2-0), Chandler Jones (0-1-1).
    Decided victories: Fortson (vs. Fenuki Tupou); Francis (vs. Hutch Eckerson).

    • The Patriots defense concluded before the offense so we were only able to see five reps for the Patriots, and it wasn’t pretty. RT Marcus Cannon, LG Dan Connolly, Brayon and RG Donald Thomas all were handily defeated by Junior Galette, Cameron Jordan and Braylon Broughton, respectively. C Ryan Wendell completely shutdown DT Alex Daniels, while LT Nate Solder did a real nice job against DE Will Smith.
    • The Patriots’ defensive line did a nice job overall, going 14-6-3. The second- and third-teamers really did a nice job against the Saints’ reserves.
    • Jones did a solid job against Jermon Bushrod, who is a good LT in the NFL. Jones held his own strength-wide, and kept his feet moving in a stalemate. Charles Brown’s initial punch stunned Jones on his next rep, but he didn’t back down.
    • Scott’s slump continues. He hasn’t shown many moves and he hasn’t overpowered anyone since the early stages of camp.

    ODDS AND ENDS

    • Saints were without top CBs Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson, and then nickel corner Johnny Patrick left with an injury. Saints did not have starting WRs Devery Henderson and Nick Toon, WLB David Hawthorne and RB Mark Ingram.
    • In CB/WR one-on-ones, Saints quarterbacks started 21 of 24 before finishing with three incompletions. Ras-I Dowling lost all three matchups against Saints WR Andy Tanner, who was on the practice squad last year. Devin McCourty was beaten twice by Marques Clark. Kyle Arrington was the most competitive of the Patriots’ corners. Sterling Moore was made to look bad by Saints WR Lance Moore, who does that to a lot of people.
    • When the Patriots had their turn, Brady was 12 of 13 and Brian Hoyer was 13 of 18. Some nice back-shoulder catches from a host of Patriots.
    • In 7-on-7s, Brady was 11 for 13 with an interception. He did go deep to Jabar Gaffney for a touchdown. Hoyer was 2 of 2.
    • In 11-on-11 after Brady zipped a completion to TE Rob Gronkowski between two defenders, Connolly got blown up to allow RB Stevan Ridley to get tackled for a 4-yard loss, and then Brady had to throw a screen into the turf because the blocking was so bad by Cannon. Both Connolly and Cannon were yanked for a few plays as a result.
    • Later, Solder was smoked by DE Will Smith and was benched for a few plays.
    • Brandon Bolden was by far the Patriots’ best and most successful RB against the Saints. Good power and vision.
    • Rob Ninkovich continues to a very nice job rushing the quarterback and causing problems.
    • Arrington and Ras-I Dowling were beaten on back-to-back plays to start the third down session.
    • The Patriots really like bringing S Tavon Wilson on blitzes when he’s in as the dime package.
    • Justin Francis and Kyle Love took Darren Sproles down for a loss.
    • OG Jeremiah Warren had the kind of practice you’d like to forget. He allowed Ridley to get taken down for a loss at one point, and then on the final drill he was beaten twice for would-be sacks in the span of four plays.
    • On Ryan Mallett’s one rep, he took a three-step drop, locked onto Brandon Lloyd and threw it 5 feet short.
    • Jones had a pass breakup.
    • Dont’a Hightower, at MLB with Brandon Spikes out, had no chance against Sproles in the pass game. But one play after giving up a red-zone toucheown, Hightower did meet Sproles in the hole for no gain.
    • Saints LB Curtis Lofton had a very impressive practice. He carried Gronkowski in coverage and popped Ridley hard on back-to-back red-zone plays. Second-year LB Martez Wilson was also all over the field.
    • Brady’s struggles subsided when he hooked up with Lloyd for a red-zone touchdown on a quick slant, and then two plays later Brady hit Gronkowski for a score. Both were against the Saints’ backups.
    • Jermaine Cunningham played DT in some subpackages.
    • Patriots’ punter Zoltan Mesko (4.34 seconds hangtime) outkicked Thomas Morstead of the Saints (4.16). Morstead started with two really poor punts, but got off the best one (4.94). Mesko was more consistent. Ebert, in his first padded practice, got some return reps.
    • Some Patriots offensive players figured coach Bill Belichick would have plenty to say when the film is turned on. Plenty of teachable moments out there.

    SCHEDULE
    Wednesday: 10 a.m. with Saints
    Thursday: 7:30 p.m. game vs. Saints
    Friday: No practice.

    Belichick heavy-hearted after Reid funeral

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 7, 2012 07:42 PM

    andyreid.jpg

    FOXBOROUGH -- The fraternity of NFL coaches came out in full force to show support for Andy Reid at the funeral for his oldest son Garrett this morning in Pennsylvania. The Patriots and Saints reworked their scheduled joint practice so a group of coaches, including Saints acting head coach Joe Vitt and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo could attend along with Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

    Belichick, who is close friends with Reid, was solemn as he talked about the morning with the media.

    Belichick said:

    "I’s kind of a heavy heart today with going to Garrett Reid’s services and seeing Andy. The Saints, Mr. Benson, were generous enough to let me go down there with them on their plane this morning. I’m just glad I had an opportunity to be there and see Andy and his family and the Eagles organization. I have a lot of respect for them and what they do as well. They’re great friends and my heart goes out to him and our team does to the Eagles.

    At the end of practice the two teams huddled on the field to pray for the Reid family. Several of the coaches who worked with Reid came out, including John Harbaugh and Mike Holmgren. “That was special for us,” Spagnuolo said. “I know that and and his wife Tammy, they appreciated it. There was tremendous support down there. This family, I'm talking about this NFL football family, it's a family."

    Saints' tackle says Jones has 'promising future'

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 7, 2012 06:20 PM

    There's been a lot of talk lately about how Chandler Jones has been performing in Patriots camp, but Nate Solder, who goes against the rookie every day, wasn't going to talk about him when asked recently.

    Saints' left tackle Jermon Bushrod, however, was lined up against the Pats' first-round pick a few times this afternoon and spoke highly of Jones.

    "He definitely looks the part, man. When you see him, he’s a tall guy who’s got long arms, long legs," Bushrod said. "Going up against him he has good power, obviously he has the speed to get around the edge, just a very shifty player, I think he’s going to have a very promising future in this league."

    Bushrod is also happy for his former New Orleans teammate Rob Ninokovich, whom he also used to practice against when Ninkovich was with the Saints.

    "I know what Ninkovich brings to the table, he’s a hard-nosed, high-energy guy, and he’ll bring it play in and play out. He’s had a great career here in New England for the last three or four years, so he’s been doing a good job and I’m very proud of him," Bushrod said. "It’s good to see him a couple times in the offseason every now and then, and I’m glad he’s out here doing his thing."

    Roll call: Practice No. 11 vs. Saints

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 7, 2012 04:09 PM

    FOXBOROUGH – A quickie look at the top news from the Patriots' joint practice with the Saints. We'll be back with much more later.

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.

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

    Out: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), DT Ron Brace (unknown), OT Darrion Weems (precautionary), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder), LB Brandon Spikes (unknown).

    Not participating fully:: WR Deion Branch (no team drills).

    Returned to practice: S Derrick Martin, WR Jeremy Ebert, LB Dane Fletcher, S James Ihedigbo.

    INJURIES

    C/G Ryan Wendell appeared to have something going on for a stretch but he did return to action.

    OT Dustin Waldron limped off at the end of practice.

    Other than that, we didn't notice anything.

    DRESS CODE

    Full pads

    HEADLINES

    • It was not a good practice overall for the Patriots.
    • Both offenses were strong in WR/CB one-on-ones and in 7-on-7, but once the practice went to full team drills, the Saints really dominated.
    • The Patriots' offensive line got roughed up by the Saints in one-on-ones and team drills. As a result, QB Tom Brady's performance was not good to finish practice. He threw an interception to end a two-minute drills on the second play and was not happy.
    • Pretty much the same groupings for the Patriots. With Spikes out, Dont'a Hightower was at MLB and Bobby Carpenter at SLB.
    • This was probably a good reality check for the Patriots. I'm sure Bill Belichick will have plenty of teaching opportunities from this and will relish that.

    We'll be back with much, more later.

    Video: Jon Bon Jovi in the house at Gillette Stadium

    Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff August 7, 2012 03:19 PM
    FOXBOROUGH -- Drew Brees and the Saints were the headliners at Gillette Stadium today, but they may have been upstaged by a big time rocker.

    Jon Bon Jovi, the longtime friend of Bill Belichick, made his annual visit to Foxborough to see the Patriots practice. He stepped out onto the field just after 2 p.m. and was accompanied by Patriots owner Robert Kraft as they stopped by to chat with New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson during the afternoon practice session.

    The Bon Jovi 2005 hit "Have A Nice Day" blared over the speakers during the afternoon practice before a couple more of the band's hits were heard by the large crowd of fans taking in the Patriots practice with the Saints.

    Check out more photos of Bon Jovi's visit and scenes from the Patriots' training camp here.

    Patriots Daily Briefing, 8.7.12

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 7, 2012 08:19 AM

    Good morning. Here is your PDB for Tuesday, August 7, 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. 1 p.m.: Bill Belichick press conference
    1:30-4 p.m.: Training camp practice No. 11 - joint practice with New Orleans Saints

    Tomorrow
    10 a.m.: Training camp practice No. 12 - joint practice with New Orleans Saints

    TO RECAP
    The New Orleans Saints arrived Monday - after flying from Ohio (where they had played in the Hall of Fame game) to Massachusetts early Monday morning, the Saints were on the field at Gillette late Monday afternoon for a light workout. The teams will likely be in full pads today.

    Got to marry my two favorite sports in today's story on Brandon Lloyd: the receiver attributes his great body control to his background as a high jumper and hurdler.

    In the notebook: Tom Brady had his new passing coach, Tom House, on hand Monday to work with both he him and Brian Hoyer on some mechanical tweaks. House, a former MLB pitcher, has also worked with Drew Brees.

    Also, be sure to check out our training camp photo gallery, which features the work of our great photographers.

    QUOTE/TWEET OF THE DAY
    “I feel that football players are the best athletes on the planet because we do have backgrounds in multiple sports and we do have the ability to compete in multiple sports at a high level in my opinion. I think straight line speed doesn’t necessarily transfer to football speed.”
    - Lloyd when asked if world's fastest man Usain Bolt could simply walk onto a football field and succeed, as some have suggested

    AROUND THE DIVISION
    The big news at Jets camp Monday was a full-team brawl, which of course became big news on certain news outlets. On Twitter, some Jets fans grumbled about the fracas being blown out of proportion, but since this team seems to seek attention (Rex Ryan, Tim Tebow trade, Antonio Cromartie, etc, etc), should it really be a surprise?

    The Dolphins released their first official depth chart, and rookie Ryan Tannehill is currently listed third at quarterback, behind David Garrard and Matt Moore.

    Buffalo native Naaman Roosevelt is fighting for a spot in the Bills' receiver group, but when the starting quarterback calls you "The Man", it's always a good thing.

    Patriots to measure up against the Saints

    Posted by Leonard Neslin August 6, 2012 03:00 PM

    By Lenny Neslin, Boston.com Staff

    FOXBOROUGH – The buzz on the 10th practice day was looking ahead to the Saints. They’ll be practicing with the Patriots Tuesday and Wednesday before squaring off at Gillette Stadium Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

    Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio said there were no roster changes to report after the first morning practice of this training camp. The focus over the next couple of days will be reviewing tape from the joint sessions.

    Caserio anticipates Thursday’s game as a way to evaluate the team’s state against one of the best teams in the NFL.

    “Offensively they are very balanced,” he said. “They run the ball, running backs are involved in the passing game, they’re good in the screen game, they got a pretty good tight end, they got good receivers. Defensively, they have a lot of disruptive players on their front seven. It’s exciting for all of us. You get a barometer to where your team might be at this point.”

    Caserio will also be looking for differences from the Saints’ personnel compared to last year.

    “There may or may not be some new things schematically with new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo in there,” Caserio said.

    More from Caserio

    Monday marked the first day at practice with NFL referees, blowing their whistles at any violation just like a game.

    “It’s good for everybody. It encourages them to treat it as if it’s a game situation, whether it’s holding, hand placement, flinching, illegal contact, especially for rookie defensive backs to have an understanding of the 5-yard rule and how it’s different to what it was in college,” Caserio said.

    On the idea of center Dan Koppen playing guard: “Since Dan has been in the program, he’s basically played center since Day 1. He plays that position well. We work a lot of guys at different spots. That’s where Dan’s comfort level is, that’s what he has the most experience doing.”

    On wide receiver Deion Branch’s limited practice time: “Deion had a good offseason. He was here, worked hard. Everybody’s at different stages. Some guys are ready to play, some guys aren’t ready to play. The NFL is about adjustments, so you coach the players that you have on the field.”

    There’s a lot going on during practices with several groups focusing on their aspects of the game, making it hard to gather everything that’s going on. Caserio said he looks for execution but doesn’t take mistakes too seriously until they are reviewed on tape.

    “You try to watch both sides of the ball,” he said. “You might have an idea based on the script where the play is going to go, what the players are supposed to do on each side of the ball. You can see whether or not they are able to execute that. You’re evaluating scheme, execution, the personnel. You watch the same practice two or three times, and that’s just part of the process.”

    Training Camp Today: Patriots looking forward to joint practices

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 6, 2012 02:52 PM

    In the latest episode of Training Camp Today, the Globe's Greg A. Bedard and Shalise Manza Young discuss the absence of Brandon Spikes and Tom Brady's new throwing guru at camp.

    There are also interviews with cornerback Devin McCourty and backup quarterback Brian Hoyer on the upcoming joint practices with the New Orleans Saints, and Hoyer's potential audition for a new employer down the road.

    Practice rundown #10

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 6, 2012 02:28 PM

    FOXBOROUGH – Here’s a rundown on what went on at Patriots’ practice on Monday morning:

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.

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

    Out: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), DT Ron Brace (unknown), S James Ihedigbo (unknown), OT Darrion Weems (precautionary), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder), LB Brandon Spikes (unknown).

    Not participating fully:: WR Deion Branch (no team drills), S Derrick Martin (no pads per CBA), WR Jeremy Ebert (no pads per CBA), LB Dane Fletcher (no team drills).

    Returned to practice: DT Kyle Love, after getting poked in the eye. OG Derek Dennis and C/G Nick McDonald (after CBA waiting period).

    INJURIES

    None.

    DRESS CODE

    Full pads

    TOP PLAYS

    1. LB Jerod Mayo blew through a hole and whacked RB Danny Woodhead for a loss, and then did the same to Steven Ridley on 2d-and-goal from the 2 in goal line.
    2. On third-and-goal from the 1, Brady easily found TE Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown against Devin McCourty. Earlier, Brady praised Gronkowski for his nifty catch in the seam against S Nate Ebner.
    3. CB Malcolm Williams got the crowd going when he took TE Alex Silvestro to the turf with power during a tackling drill.

    THUMBS UP

    CB Ras-I Dowling continues to make progress. Physically, he has been much-improved from where he was in the off-season practices, and now he has started making plays on the ball. On Sunday he had an interception, and on Monday he made a terrific break on a pass in the flat from Brady to Brandon Lloyd. Dowling jumped it like he knew it was coming – that’s an advantage vets use during camp because they can identify the route combinations – but after practice he said he broke so fast because he was reading Brady. Next progress point for Dowling: performing against the Saints.

    THUMBS DOWN

    The ball was on the ground too many times today for the passing offense. And it wasn’t the QBs being off, as it has been previously. There were four drops of passes that were right on the money, into a deep pass from Brady to Lloyd that should have been a touchdown.

    SUPERLATIVES

    Dropped passes: Lloyd, Edelman, Eric Kettani, Hernandez.
    Nice catch: Gronkowski, Lloyd
    Fumbled: None.
    Interceptions: None.

    ODDS AND ENDS

    • Patriots prefer Dowling as a base cornerback in the red zone as opposed Kyle Arrington. Not a surprise given Dowling’s height advantage.
    • With Spikes out and Fletcher not a full-go, Dont’a Hightower split time between middle and strong-side linebacker. Mike Rivera was in the middle when Hightower went to his usual spot.
    • With four offensive tackles out – Sebastian Vollmer, Hix, Kopa and Weems – out of practice, center/guard Nick McDonald had to slide out to play backup left tackle. He hasn’t played there since his senior season at Grand Valley State in 2009. Don’t expect McDonald to be there long. He’s not a tackle at this level.
    • The practice started with the annual rookie soaking, and included newcomers to the staff like special teams assistant Joe Judge and coaching assistant Steve Belichick.
    • There was again a lot of prep work being done through the use of cards, which illustrate a play an opponent uses.
    • Sergio Brown got rare vocal praise from Bill Belichick for his work preparing the offense for an opponent.
    • Mayo and Hightower clamped down on a tight end to breakup a pass.
    • It was Ryan Wendell’s turn to be the first-team center, with Dan Koppen on the second team.
    • DE Jake Bequette batted a pass down.
    • S Tavon Wilson continues to play various roles in the dime package. He and Nate Ebner worked as the second-team safeties with Ihedigbo out.
    • DE Chandler Jones looked athletic carrying a running back into the flat.
    • Bit of a light and quick practice today, as you would expect with a hard-hitting practice with the Saints coming Tuesday.

    SCHEDULE
    Tuesday: 1:30 p.m. with Saints
    Wednesday: 10 a.m. with Saints
    Thursday: 7:30 p.m. game vs. Saints
    Friday: No practice.

    Devin McCourty to rookies: ‘Stay calm’

    Posted by Leonard Neslin August 6, 2012 02:11 PM

    By Lenny Neslin, Boston.com Staff

    FOXBOROUGH – With Thursday night’s first preseason game against the Saints on the horizon, Patriots veteran cornerback Devin McCourty offered the same words of wisdom to rookies over and over again.

    “Stay calm,” he said. “One thing with Coach [Bill] Belichick is that we’ll do a lot of different situations. Stay calm, you’re prepared for anything. If you feel like you haven’t gone over something just go back to fundamentals. That was the biggest thing guys told me my rookie year. Stay calm.”

    The Saints finished 13-3 last year and lost to the 49ers in the divisional round on a memorable last-second touchdown pass to tight end Vernon Davis. Sunday night’s 17-10 victory over the Cardinals was their first game since then. Thursday will be the first game for the Patriots, who will have practiced for two weeks.

    “It’s kind of cool after killing each other for a while to get some new guys in here, new competition, especially when you are going against a team like the Saints,” McCourty said. “We know they are a great team year in and year out. I think everybody is looking forward to competing.

    “Preseason is a time to get better each day in practice. But going out there in the game we got to still try and get better. … From the front all the way throughout the secondary, guys are trying to develop an attitude. Defense has a lot to do with attitude, how you approach the game.”

    Brian Hoyer compares pitching to quarterbacking

    Posted by Leonard Neslin August 6, 2012 01:52 PM

    By Lenny Neslin, Boston.com Staff

    FOXBOROUGH – Ten years ago, Brian Hoyer went 8-1 with a 1.99 ERA and won the state baseball championship game as a sophomore for Saint Ignatius High in Cleveland. On the 10th day of Patriots practice, the backup quarterback explained the similarities and differences between throwing a pitch and throwing a football.

    “In football you want to have a quicker release point,” Hoyer said. “In baseball you have no one rushing you. There are definitely things that I think have helped: stride, rotation, things like that.”

    Hoyer, now in his fourth training camp looking up to Tom Brady, says time has flown by. But every year there are new players in camp.

    “Maybe you want to throw it to the receiver’s outside shoulder instead of the inside,” the former Michigan State QB said. “It could be things as little as that or it could be a bit of progression on a new play.”

    For the next two days at practice, the Patriots will hold joint practices with the Saints, whom they face in their first preseason game Thursday night. Hoyer is excited for practices to intensify leading up to a game.

    “You’re not going to know the coverages they’re playing,” he said. “You’ve got to read them on the fly. For us to go out there and go through our reads and progressions and to react to what they give us is really good.”

    Other notes

    Hoyer on competing with Ryan Mallett: “With the group of quarterbacks we have here, I think the competition brings out the best of all of us. For Ryan and I to be chasing a guy like Tom, there’s not a better quarterback in the game. For us it’s a pretty high standard and high goal to get to. “

    Hoyer commented on the Patriots’ biggest offseason acquisition, wide receiver Brandon Lloyd.

    “Brandon has been great in the locker room, a great teammate,” Hoyer said. “Then obviously you see the plays that he’s able to make out here on the field. He catches balls that shouldn’t be caught. His catch radius is a little bit bigger than some people.”

    You’ll hear a lot more about Lloyd’s history with track from beat reporter Shalise Manza Young on Tuesday, but when addressed with questions about Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt’s NFL potential, he had an interesting remark.

    “Football players are best athletes on the planet,” Lloyd said. “We have backgrounds in multiple sports at a high level in my opinion. I think straight-line speed doesn’t really necessarily translate into football speed.”

    House call for Brady

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 6, 2012 12:15 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- Patriots quarterbacks Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer spent considerable time after practice working on mechanics with former Major League Baseball pitcher and coach Tom House.

    Brady began training with House, who has also worked with several other NFL quarterbacks, including Drew Brees, Alex Smith and Carson Palmer, this offseason after his longtime guru Tom Martinez passed away.

    Brady and the Patriots' passing offense have been a little off the past few practices. When Brady went through a similar lull during last year's camp, Martinez paid a visit and then Brady was stellar.

    Brady and House seemed to be working on keeping the torso from getting too far out in front of his feet.

    Roll call: Practice #10

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 6, 2012 10:22 AM

    FOXBOROUGH – Here’s a rundown on what went on at Patriots’ practice on Monday morning:

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Exempt/left team: FB Tony Fiammetta.

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

    Not participating: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), WR Deion Branch (no team drills), S Derrick Martin (no pads per CBA), DT Ron Brace (unknown), S James Ihedigbo (unknown), OT Darrion Weems (precautionary), OT Kyle Hix (right shoulder), WR Jeremy Ebert (no pads per CBA), LB Brandon Spikes (unknown), LB Dane Fletcher (no team drills).

    Returned to practice: DT Kyle Love, after getting poked in the eye.

    INJURIES

    None today.

    DRESS CODE

    Full pads

    HEADLINES

    • There were three NFL officials on the field for the first time.
    • Patriots did their annual soaking of the rookies with a firehose. Included were new staff members Joe Judge and Steve Belichick, among others.
    • Brandon Spikes was missing from practice. As a result, Dont'a Hightower moved to the middle and was backed up by Mike Rivera, with Dane Fletcher not participating in team drills.
    • Ryan Wendell was back with the first team at center. Because of injuries at tackle, Nick McDonald had to play left tackle with the second team. Don't think he's ever done that before, even when he was with the Packers.
    • CB Ras-I Dowling is starting to stack success. Had a nice break on the ball to break up a pass. That followed an interception on Sunday.

    Patriots Daily Briefing, 8.6.12

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 6, 2012 09:36 AM

    Good morning. Here is your PDB for Monday, August 6, 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
    9-11 a.m.: Practice #10
    Approx. 11:45 a.m.: Nick Caserio press conference

    Tomorrow
    Approx. 1 p.m.: Bill Belichick press conference
    1:30-4 p.m.: Practice #11 - joint practice with Saints

    TO RECAP
    Tom Brady turned 35 on Friday, and yesterday he faced a couple of questions about playing at a high level despite his "advanced" age. Considering he hasn't really shown any signs of falling off, he may not be far off when he talks about playing into his 40s.

    Elsewhere in Patriots quarterbacking, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett are friendly rivals, though it is clear that Hoyer is Brady's top backup.

    And the Patriots notes looks at the (somewhat oxymoronic) thin offensive line. New England saw two tackles walk off the practice field Sunday, giving the unit's depth another hit when combined with Robert Gallery's retirement.

    QUOTE/TWEET OF THE DAY
    "Can't wait."
    - A smiling Belichick, when asked if he was looking forward to the replacement refs arriving at camp today (we're pretty sure that was sarcasm.)

    Practice rundown #9

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 5, 2012 06:47 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- A rundown of what happened during Sunday's practice:

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Reserve/left squad: FB Tony Fiammetta.

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

    Red jerseys: WR Matthew Slater (shoulder), S James Ihedigbo (shoulder).

    Returned to practice: WR Jeremy Ebert (no pads per CBA), WR Brandon Lloyd (full go).

    Out: : CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), DT Ron Brace (unknown).

    Not participating: WR Deion Branch, OG Derek Dennis, C/G Nick McDonald, S Derrick Martin.

    INJURIES

    DT Kyle Love as poked in the eye during one-on-ones by Dan Koppen and did not return..

    OTs Darrion Weems and Kyle Hix (left arm) left with trainers and did not return.

    DRESS CODE

    Full pads

    TOP PLAYS

    1. RB Brandon Bolden made a spectacular leaping, back-shoulder grab of a Hoyer pass about 18 yards down the left sideline. Bolden had yet to show that type of receiving ability to date.
    2. CB Ras-I Dowling came up with his first interception of camp when QB Brian Hoyer was slow delivering the ball to TE Tyler Urban and also underthrew it.
    3. Tom Brady zipped in a touchdown pass to Hernandez while Dowling and Jerod Mayo failed to close down the hole quick enough.

    THUMBS UP

    The Patriots run a special teams drill where runners and tacklers go one-on-one. Pity the defenders who draw TE Aaron Hernandez or WR Julian Edelman, who are by far the most elusive Patriots in the drill. Hernandez made LBs Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower look bad, and Edelman nearly broke the ankles of S Josh Barrett.

    THUMBS DOWN

    The injury situation on the offensive line is starting to get ridiculous. The Patriots have been thin at guard for a while, but it was the tackle position that took a hit Sunday with Weems and Hix going down. That left just eight linemen to finish practice, and guys like Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon and Donald Thomas had to take double reps, which increases the chances of fatigue injuries exponentially.

    SUPERLATIVES
    Dropped passes: None.
    Nice catch: Bolden, Brandon Lloyd.
    Fumbled: None.
    Interceptions: Dowling (of Hoyer).

    ONE-ON-ONES
    One man’s 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 Donald Thomas (2-0-0), Dan Koppen (1-0-1), Kyle Hix (1-0-1). Defense: Vince Wilfork (1-0-1), Justin Francis (1-0-1), Jake Bequette (1-0-0), Rob Ninkovich (1-0-0)
    Struggled -- Offense: Dustin Waldron (2-2-0) Defense: Marcus Fortson (0-1-1), Marcus Harrison (0-1-1)
    Decided victories: Ninkovich (vs. Marcus Cannon), Bequette (vs. Solder), Francis (vs. Waldron).

    • First winning day for the offense (7-6-6).
    • Dan Koppen ended his nine-snap losing streak with a win over Love, who got poked in the eye at the end, and a draw with Fortson. Koppen moved much better and played with better strength.
    • Ninkovich really takes it to Cannon. This time Cannon just couldn’t handle the speed of Ninkovich’s inside spin move.
    • Bequette slapped Solder’s hands down, which got him off balance during an easy victory. Veteran move by the rookie end.
    • Francis continues to impress. He dusted Waldron with the push-pull-rip move. Francis, who has shown end/tackle versatility, is going to be hard to keep off the team if he stays healthy.

    ODDS AND ENDS

    • The passing game has not been sharp of late, and Brady’s frustration is palpable. He wasn’t happy with Thomas jumping off side, and Lloyd had a false start as well. They haven’t been terrible, just not crisp.
    • Brady was just 4 of 8 in his two-minute period. His final pass wasn’t really close to Hernandez, and both discussed the play for several minutes.
    • Hoyer was 4 of 8 as well. He just missed connecting on a touchdown to Edelman, who beaten both CB Marquice Cole and S Nate Ebner.
    • Ryan Mallett didn’t get a shot at the two-minute drill, and he did not have a good session. He still holds the ball too long on occasion.
    • You can tell the Patriots are trying to see what Ebner is made of in just his second practice. He was on the top kickoff return unit, and was inserted into the second-team defense with James Ihedigbo for a stretch.
    • Chandler Jones had a quarterback pressure during the two-minute drill.
    • Brandon Spikes ran over Koppen during a running play.
    • Games must be close because the Patriots are starting to spend more and more time on preparation, both with situations and also schematically. We saw for the first time the offense and defense both “working off cards” during team drills. That’s when one side of the ball is shown a play on a card and then performs that play to give the other side a look. The Patriots were likely getting a feel for what they’ll see from the Saints this week.
    • During the cards period, DE Rob Ninkovich got to play a little strong-side linebacker, something we have not seen him do in the Patriots’ scheme this camp.
    • RB Shane Vereen continues to look more comfortable, but it’s going to be hard for him to catch Stevan Ridley for the primary back role. Ridley had a terrific run where he juked a second-level defender. Bolden is really nifty with the ball in his hand.

    SCHEDULE

    Monday: 9-11 a.m.
    Tuesday: 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. (joint practice with New Orleans Saints)
    Wednesday: 10 a.m. with Saints
    Thursday: 7:30 p.m. game vs. Saints
    Friday: No practice.

    Donte Stallworth focused on fine-tuning

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 5, 2012 05:21 PM
    05stallworth.jpg

    Barry Chin/Globe Staff

    Donte Stallworth says the team is focused on fine tuning.

    By Julian Benbow, Globe staff

    FOXBOROUGH – The buzz words all day have been “situational football.” After taking Saturday off, the Patriots ran through hurry-up offense, down and distance, two-minute drill, and goal line situation, polishing up as they prepare for their first preseason game against the Saints this Thursday.

    Before he got into the particulars of the practice, wide receiver Dante Stallworth made sure to put air quotes around the “off” in “off day."

    “First thing about being here, there are no off days,” Stallworth said. “We had the day “off” but it was a day to get off your feet and just get a day of rest, maintenance from all the work we've been putting in. We've been working pretty hard. So yesterday was good for us, being able to rest our bodies and things like that.”

    But he said Belichick has a unique way of preparing his team for any possible situation.

    “Bill does a great job of putting us through situations,” said receiver Dante Stallworth. “It's interesting the way he does his training camps, that's why every situation, we're always prepared for it. Coach puts us through every single situation that can come up in a game.”

    That will be the focus in this meetings this evening and tomorrow, Stallworth said, fine tuning things as they prepare for the Saints to come in for joint practices on Tuesday.

    The quarterback-receiver dynamic is still a work in progress, Stallworth said, and it will look different in a preseason game than it has in training camp and minicamp.

    “From spring practice to training camp then preseason and regular season and playoffs, every level, it always seems like it's a different speed,” he said. “But [we're] really just trying to get things together with the tempo and getting on the same page with the quarterbacks. I think so far we're doing an OK job, but we have a long ways to go. Like Bill says, there's no light at the end of the tunnel.”

    For now, though, it's the little things.

    “By the time they get here, we'll hopefully have everything in and be able to go up against another team and see where we can measure ourselves against a really good team.”

    Brady says he's a long way from old

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 5, 2012 05:01 PM

    05brady.jpg

    Tom Brady turned 35 Friday, but quickly hushed all the talk becoming an older quarterback. (AP)

    FOXBOROUGH – Tom Brady turned 35 Friday and his gift from the media today were questions about how it feels to play quarterback in the NFL at an advanced age.

    Earlier in the week, director of player personal Nick Caserio was asked more or less to list some of the quarterbacks that stuck out to him who played at a high level at 35 years or older.

    The usual suspects came up: Marino, Elway, Aikman.

    05brady2.jpg

    AP

    Brady, 35, says there are advantages to being older.

    He also threw out Vinny Testaverde and Doug Flutie, two guys, he said, who just loved playing the game.

    Brady played with them both, and said it was fun to watch.

    “I certainly learned a lot from them in terms of how to play the position and how to prepare mentally and physically for the season,” he said. “Both were great athletes and I really enjoyed having them as guys I could play with.”

    Then, he made sure to stop the old-man talk.

    “I'm a long ways from 42,” he said. “Hopefully, I'm still talking to you guys when I'm 42.”

    He's coming off one of the best seasons of his career, throwing 39 touchdowns and a career-high 5,235 yards looking like he could teach a master's course in NFL offense. That, he said, was the one clear benefit of being experienced.

    “The advantage as an older player is it's not like I've got to study my playbook a ton,” he said. “I know what we're doing, I know why we're doing it. I know the calls. It's more mentally making sure you're bringing emotion and energy and making sure you have the enthusiasm and the execution is good. Everyone's working on something.

    “It's not like you can just go through the motions out here, or else you don't improve. I'm competing just like everybody else. I'm competing for my role, my spot and trying to be a good leader and trying to set a good example as a quarterback. I think that's my challenge to come out here every day and bring everything I have to try to make us a better team.”

    With the Saints set to come in Tuesday for joint practices, the Patriots worked on situational football – red zone, goal line, two-minute drills. Brady was visibly intense during the two-minute drills.

    “I want to play a long time,” he said. “But I think the reality is we're focused on this year and there's no season other than this season that I'm worried about.”

    Roll call: Practice #9

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 5, 2012 03:53 PM

    FOXBOROUGH – Here’s a rundown on what went on at Patriots’ practice on Sunday.

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Reserve/left squad: FB Tony Fiammetta.

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

    Red jerseys: WR Matthew Slater (shoulder), S James Ihedigbo (shoulder).

    Not participating: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg), WR Deion Branch (no team), OG Derek Dennis (no pads per CBA), Nick McDonald (no pads per CBA), S Derrick Martin (no pads per CBA), DT Ron Brace (unknown).

    Returned to practice: WR Jeremy Ebert (no pads per CBA), WR Brandon Lloyd (full go).

    INJURIES

    DT Kyle Love got poked in the eye during one-on-ones by Dan Koppen.

    LT Darrion Weems left with trainers and did not return.

    OT Kyle Hix suffered a left arm injury and did not return.

    DRESS CODE

    Full pads

    HEADLINES

    • Injuries on the offensive line are becoming a huge concern with Weems and Hix leaving. That forced guys like Marcus Cannon, Nate Solder and Donald Thomas to take double the amount of reps. That really exposes those guys to fatigue injuries.
    • Lloyd finally got back in the swing of things.
    • Not a real crisp practice for the passing offense again. The frustration from QB Tom Brady was palpable.
    • Ras-I Dowling had an interception.
    • Rookie Nate Ebner was on the top kickoff return unit after on his second practice day.
    • About half of practice was spent on prep work, likely for the Saints.
    • Matthew Slater and James Ihedigo shed their red jerseys so they're full go for contact.

    Belichick readies for preseason opener

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 5, 2012 01:51 PM

    05belichick.jpg

    FOXBOROUGH – In the few days before the preseason opener Thursday against the New Orleans Saints, Belichick said he'll work on putting situational things together like down and distance, field position and kicking game.

    “Not many of them may come up, who knows?” Belichick said. “But we need to start getting ready for them, and that will be part of the week's process, trying to evaluate how we're doing now that we've had an opportunity to pretty much get everything installed and pretty much get multiple reps on it. So hopefully we go out there and execute it to a decent level."

    The team got a much needed off day Saturday letting tempers cool off after two fights broke out in Friday's practice. Belichick, who made the entire team run laps for the brawls, said he hoped that was the last of the dustups.

    “That's all a couple days old now, so we're moving on,” Belichick said. “I'm sure we're ready as a team to start working with somebody else. We've seen plenty of each other, and that's been good, but that's not going to be the way it's going to be during the season.”

    The Patriots will have joint practices with the Saints Tuesday and Wednesday, and Belichick acknowledged that New Orleans is a clear measuring stick, especially for his defense

    “They're obviously an outstanding football team all the way around,” Belichick said. “So I think their proficiency is pretty well-documented. It will definitely be a challenge.”

    There were a handful of roster moves, including Robert Gallery retiring, and Tony Fiammetta being placed on the exempt/left squad for what Belichick succinctly described as “personal reasons.” The Patriots signed defensive back Derrick Martin (which almost seemed to slip Belichick's mind as he said, “Oh, right. Yeah.”) and fullback Kareem Huggins Saturday, then turned around and released Huggins this afternoon.

    “Obviously, it just never really got off the ground there,” Belichick said. “Before we could get him on the field we didn't feel like we could put him on the field.”

    Some other notables:

    Updated Patriots practice schedule

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 5, 2012 12:41 PM

    The Patriots have updated their practice schedule leading up to the team's first preseason game against the New Orleans Saints Thursday.

    The team, which practices Sunday 1:30 to 4 p.m., will practice on Monday at 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

    Both practices are open to the public.

    On Tuesday, the Patriots will hold a joint practice with the Saints at 1:30 p.m. that will be open to the public. The team will followup with a 10 a.m. joint practice with the Saints on Wednesday before Thursday evening's game.

    The team will not practice on Friday.

    A day after signing, Patriots release FB Kareem Huggins

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 5, 2012 12:30 PM

    The Patriots, apparently, do not need any more fullbacks. At least not those who have been out of football for a year.

    A day after signing Kareem Huggins, the Patriots released the 27-year old veteran of two NFL seasons.

    Huggins, who last played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was out of football in 2011.

    With Robert Gallery gone, how does the offensive line look?

    Posted by Staff August 4, 2012 08:09 PM

    0804patsoline607.jpg

    Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia gives instructions to his players during training camp. (Bill Greene / Globe Staff)

    It's the first week of August, but questions about the Patriots' offensive line have been swirling since the beginning of training camp.

    The look and feel of this position group may seem like pieces to a puzzle, but it's not that complicated. Even with Robert Gallery's retirement Saturday, the Patriots are stocked with players to take his place, and players who can step in upon their return.

    With the way things stand, there are now 16 players on the roster for the o-line, not including Brian Waters who has been absent from camp. If the Patriots hold true to last season's 53-man roster, they'll carry nine or 10 players on the team.

    Here are the all players they have now, listed by their primary position:

    Tackles
    Marcus Cannnon
    Nate Solder
    Matt Kopa
    Sebastian Vollmer*
    Dustin Waldron
    Darrion Weems

    Guards
    Dan Connolly
    Logan Mankins*
    Nick McDonald
    Donald Thomas
    Derek Dennis

    Centers
    Dan Koppen
    Ryan Wendell

    Other (can fit anywhere)
    Kyle Hix
    Jeremiah Warren
    Markus Zusevics*

    (* = Players who are physically unable to perform right now, or otherwise not practicing.)

    Last season, Connolly, McDonald and Wendell all spent time in the starting lineup. Through training camp, Thomas and Connolly had competed for time at guard with Gallery while Mankins has been out with an injury and Waters has been absent.

    If Mankins holds true to lore, he'll play despite any injury. And he'll play well. That's your left guard.

    The left tackle is set with Nate Solder. No one is taking his job away from him.

    At center, Koppen is facing competition from Connolly and Wendell. But the Patriots would do well with any of those three. Connolly started 11 games at center last season.

    At right guard, if Waters doesn't return, the team will turn to Connolly, Wendell or Thomas.

    And when Sebastian Vollmer is healthy, he'll play right tackle. But if he's not ready to go when the season starts, Cannon will fill in ably.

    This line, while seemingly unsettled, has parts to tinker with. But that doesn't mean the team doesn't have the pieces in place. The preseason will give the Patriots the appropriate opportunity to move around each player and evaluate who works best at center, right guard, and until Mankins returns, left guard.

    Sure, Sept. 9. can't come fast enough. But there's no worry here.

    More on new Patriots Martin, Huggins

    Posted by Staff August 4, 2012 07:03 PM

    New Patriot Derrick Martin has two Super Bowl rings to his name, winning one over the Patriots while with the New York Giants last season and winning another with the Green Bay Packers the year prior.

    Martin, a safety, is best known for his special teams play. He's played in 61 NFL games over six seasons, with four starts. He has totaled 30 tackles and three interceptions since coming into the league as a sixth round draft choice of the Baltimore Ravens in 2006. He went to college at Wyoming. He stands at 5-10, 198 pounds.

    Fullback Kareem Huggins, 27, was out of the NFL in 2011. He last played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2010. He was picked up as a rookie free-agent out of Hofstra in 2009. He has six games of NFL experience.

    Robert Gallery retires, Tony Fiammetta put on exempt/left squad list

    Posted by Staff August 4, 2012 05:52 PM
    Robert Gallery at Patriots training camp.
    (Steven Senne / AP photo)

    Robert Gallery was competing for a starting spot on the Patriots' offensive line, given the team's injuries and absence of guard Brian Waters.

    Turns out, Gallery will be absent himself.

    The 31-year old lineman who joined the Patriots in March retired, according to the team. In addition, the team announced fullback Tony Fiammetta had been put on the exempt/left squad list. Fiammetta had been missing from the past three practices.

    The Patriots also announced the signing of two more players, defensive back Derrick Martin and fullback Kareem Huggins.

    Through training camp, Gallery had been alternating between right and left guard on the line, but had struggled. His struggles had given way to Patriots holdover Donald Thomas, who has been practicing with the first team recently.

    Gallery is an eight-year veteran who was drafted No. 2 overall in 2004 by the Oakland Raiders. He signed with the Seattle Seahawks as an unrestricted free agent in 2011 before being released in March.

    The 6-7 Iowa product had signed a 1-year, $1.8 million contract with the Patriots, including a $400,000 signing bonus.

    Another Patriots Super Bowl ring shows up on eBay

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 4, 2012 01:00 PM
    Patriots 2001 staff Super Bowl ring. (eBay)

    It seems the market for memorabilia is in a better place than the market for mementos.

    Another Patriots Super Bowl ring, this one from Super Bowl XXXVI in 2001 after the Patriots beat the Rams for their first title, has popped up on eBay for sale, listed at a staggering $63,000 -- again.

    If you recall, a similar ring went up for sale at the same price back in April 2011 on the site. That ring eventually sold for $50,000.

    Being a staff ring, it's not the same as the adorned spectacles coaches and players receive, but it's still a jewel.

    If you're interested, make your bids.

    Practice rundown #8

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 3, 2012 07:17 PM

    FOXBOROUGH – Here’s a rundown on what went on at Patriots’ practice on Friday.

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Physically unable to perform: LG Logan Mankins (knee), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), 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: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), FB Tony Fiammetta (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg).

    Returned to practice: S Nate Ebner, C/G Nick McDonald (no team), WR Brandon Lloyd (no team), WR Deion Branch (no team), CB Will Allen, DE Jake Bequette.

    INJURIES

    Newly signed OG Derek Dennis couldn't be in pads so he wasn't participating in practice, but he still left via a cart for some reason.

    Dan Koppen and Dan Connolly both needed trainer assistance during post-fight laps. both returned.

    DRESS CODE

    Back in full pads.

    TOP PLAYS

    • Jabar Gaffney turned around twice before hauling in a deep pass from Brian Hoyer over S James Ihedigbo off a trick play. A great catch.
    • DE Rob Ninkovich always stands out after a little rest. He was back after missing some time with an undisclosed ailment and then absolutely took it to RT Marcus Cannon on the first play of team drills. Cannon couldn’t handle the mix of speed and power.
    • Undrafted DE Justin Francis steamrolled LT Nate Solder onto his back during a one-on-one rep thanks to an unbelievable speed rush. Don't think Solder knew what hit him.

    THUMBS UP

    It didn’t take Dont’a Hightower to assert himself as the team’s starting strong-side linebacker, and that was expected. Now it seems clear that fellow first-round pick Chandler Jones is in command at right DE – he’s filling both the first- and second-team roles to, apparently, accelerate his learning process. Jones has absolutely deserved that spot after demonstrating surprising strength at the point of attack, and very advanced pass-rush moves. At this point, Jones is far from being just a role player.

    THUMBS DOWN

    Devin McCourty is not off to a good start in camp. After enduring a rough sophomore campaign, McCourty has been average so far and then had a really rough time on Friday. He was consistently beaten during red-zone coverage drills, and it looked even worse because he wasn’t turning his head around to spot the ball. McCourty needs to start picking it up or else Sterling Moore – who has shown the best ball skills by far – could earn a shot at lining up with Kyle Arrington and Ras-I Dowling.

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

    ONE-ON-ONES
    One man’s 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 Ryan Wendell (1-0-1), Darrion Weems (1-0-1). Defense: Vince Wilfork (3-1-0), Rob Ninkovich (1-0-0), Justin Francis (1-0-0)
    Struggled -- Offense: Dan Koppen (0-2-0). Defense: Trevor Scott (0-1-0)
    Decided victories: Wilfork 2 (vs. Koppen, Robert Gallery), Ninkovich (vs. Marcus Cannon), Francis (vs. Nate Solder).

    • Wilfork must have been a little ticked that Dan Connolly handled him in Wilfork’s opening rep because not only did the nose tackle take more reps than anyone (four), he took his frustration out on Koppen, Thomas and Gallery. And Wilfork used three different techniques -- club, rip and then bull rush -- to dominate his opponent. Basically, when Wilfork doesn’t want to be blocked, he won’t be.
    • Koppen has now lost nine-straight reps, and wound up on the ground in two-on-twos.
    • Ninkovich made Cannon look bad blowing right by him with an inside move. It was Ninkovich’s first one-on-one rep since July 28.
    • Solder did a very nice job to stuff Chandler Jones on the first snap, but Solder got pancaked by Francis on the second.
    • Not sure what has happened to him, but Scott looked terrible against Kyle Hix. Scott has gone 1-3-1 in one-on-ones since starting 2-1-2 for a mediocre total of 3-4-3 so far.
    • Cunningham easily lost his one rep and has dropped three-straight since starting 4-3-1.

    ODDS AND ENDS

    • Once again, TE Aaron Hernandez and QB Tom Brady stayed after practice to work on handoffs. Hernandez got one during practice.
    • Brady was also working on his mechanics. He’s been slightly off the past two sessions. Looks like he’s just not staying closed long enough.
    • WR Wes Welker is unstoppable in the slot in one-on-one matchups. And CB Kyle Arrington wasn’t doing a bad job. Welker’s just that good.
    • Moore is the best perimeter corner in drills to this point.
    • Rookie S Tavon Wilson had his first rough practice of camp. He had a tough time in coverage, but did run over FB Eric Kettani while blitzing.
    • TE Rob Gronkowski is nearly back to his form from last season. His one weak area in camp to this point, blocking, was much better on Friday both in one-on-one drills against linebackers, and in team drills.
    • Alex Silvestro (against Niko Koutouvides), Tyler Urban (Aaron Lavarias) and Bobby Carpenter (Hernandez) delivered pancake blocks in TE/LB one-on-ones.
    • Edelman and Hernandez each muffed a punt.
    • DT Kyle Love is having a very good camp to this point. Scouts like Brandon Deaderick’s talent level more, but it’s not even close as to who’s the better player at this point.
    • Shane Vereen had his best running day of camp. Very nice vision and showed not hesitiation.
    • After getting run over by Francis in one-on-one, Solder was whipped by Jones and Marcus Harrison during the two-on-two “game” drill, where two linemen work in tandem against two offensive linemen.
    • Undrafted OG Jeremiah Warren has been on a steady decline since a strong start. He has talent, but he’s really struggling.
    • Gallery tossed Deaderick to the ground.
    • Saw Ninkovich line up at DT and Wilfork DE on one rep but Connolly had it figured out with Cannon.
    • Brady got a birthday present: his first two-minute drill touchdown of camp to Edelman along the back line.
    • It looked like Jerod Mayo, whistle in hand, was running the two-minute drill to end practice following the two fights.
    • Patriots were back to the offense line of Solder, Thomas, Wendell, Connolly and Cannon. It’s been their best line by far.
    • With Ninkovich back, Scott and Cunningham were dropped down the depth chart at LDE. Francis is the third-string RDE behind Jones, who is in both spots.

    SCHEDULE

    Saturday: No practice
    Sunday: 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
    Monday: Practice time TBD
    Tuesday: 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. (joint practice with New Orleans Saints)
    Wednesday: 10 a.m. with Saints
    Thursday: 7:30 p.m. game vs. Saints
    Friday: No practice.

    Training Camp Today: Another rough and tumble practice

    Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff August 3, 2012 06:32 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- In this episode of Training Camp Today, the Globe's Greg Bedard has the breakdown of a Patriots Friday practice that saw a couple more dustups break out among the players.

    We also hear from Patriots linebacker Bobby Carpenter, defensive lineman Kyle Love, and wide receiver Jabar Gaffney on the skirmishes.

    "You just gotta realize, we're all here on the same team, trying to go for the same goal," Gaffney said after practice. "If you get in a fight and somebody gets hurt, that's just going to hurt the team... we need everybody here, everybody that's on the field, we need 'em. We can't have foolishness out there like fighting [because] someone mess around and get hurt.”

    Bedard also shares his thoughts on a changing role for rookie defensive end Chandler Jones.

    We'll be back with another episode of Training Camp Today after Monday's practice.

    Belichick shows Hernandez some love, kisses his elbow

    Posted by Staff August 3, 2012 06:26 PM
    Bill Belichick kisses Aaron Hernandez's elbow.
    (Amanda Swinhart / For the Boston Globe)

    We've seen Bill Belichick's softer side on occasion -- embracing his late father, Steve, on the sideline as the seconds ticked down at Super Bowl XXXIX, and also when his three children are around.

    But we don't often see it when it comes to his players, and certainly not like this.

    During Wednesday night's in-stadium practice, Aaron Hernandez got tangled up with Jerod Mayo during 7-on-7 work and took a tumble. He got up favoring his elbow, and Belichick gave him a kiss on his boo-boo.

    "I had a little bruise on my elbow and I was whining about it, and he was just showing me the love of a father figure and he gave me a kiss on the elbow," Hernandez said today after practice.

    Did you ask for him to make it better?

    "No, I didn't ask him," he said, smiling. "I damn sure liked it though. Felt some love."

    That's sort of sweet.

    Time to adjust expectations for Chandler Jones

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 3, 2012 04:53 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- As the Patriots concluded their second stretch of practices on Friday before an off day, I had one unshakable thought: Chandler Jones is a starter, and I don't really foresee that changing.

    While other players (Rob Ninkovich, Jermaine Cunningham and Trevor Scott) come and go at left defensive end, Jones has been consistently on the right side the second week of camp to the point that he's now running with the first and second teams on that side.

    To me, that means they are trying to cram in as much as possible so Jones will be ready for the season.

    Entering training camp, the expectations for Jones -- even within the Patriots -- were for him to start as a situational player and possibly evolve from there.

    But two things happened: Jones entered camp much stronger than most anticipated, and his pass-rush moves are much more advanced that your typical early-entry, first-round pick.

    Put those things together, and you have a player capable of playing every down. I think his ability to hold the point of attack has even surprised the Patriots.

    Jones has absolutely shown that potential and his play has dictated that he get, not only a shot at the starting job, but the job for now.

    That being said, if Andre Carter returns, I don't know how that changes things. Perhaps Jones slides back to a situational role. That would have to play out and would be contingent on Carter's health.

    But you can only deal with the players you have, and right now Jones is the clear leader at the end/linebacker hybrid Elephant position on the right side of the Patriots' defense.

    More fights break out in Patriots camp

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 3, 2012 04:46 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- This was the second straight padded practice that saw its share of dog piles, and when the dust settled on the second one, linebacker Bobby Carpenter was at the bottom of it.

    What started as a two-man gang tackle by Carpenter and Patrick Chung on Shane Vereen, ended in another melee which had even coach Bill Belichick boiling, yelling at everyone on the field to stop and give him three laps.

    “That's the first time I've run three laps probably since high school,” Carpenter said. “So it was definitely a surprise for me.”

    Belichick and Tom Brady both talked to the team before winding down the day's session. There was a lesson in it all, however, with camp reaching its dog days and short tempers getting shorter.

    “Competition is good, fighting is not,” Carpenter said. “So there's a fine line between taking it to the whistle and taking it a little bit beyond. But as it goes every year, as it gets hotter, camp gets longer – we've been out here about nine, ten days now – guys start getting a little irritated, agitated. And things get a little hot some times, but fortunately that's what these laps are for, to cool us off.”

    Assistant coaches Dante Scharneccia and Pepper Johnsonran the laps with their players. Dan Koppen was taken off the field by a trainer and doused with water. For better or worse, Carpenter admitted some of it was temper, but some of it was also ego.

    “No one wants to be embarrassed out there,” Carpeneter said. “The offense wants to look good, the defense wants to look good, coaches for both sides want to look good. So we have some heated contests, and that's what it's all about. You want to be competitive and improve. But Like I said, there's a very fine line between competition and fighting.”

    Roll call: Practice #8

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 3, 2012 03:54 PM

    FOXBOROUGH – A quickie take on this afternoon's practice, which was held in very hot and humid conditions.

    ATTENDANCE PLEASE

    Reserve/did not report: RG Brian Waters.

    Physically unable to perform: LG Logan Mankins (knee), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), 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: CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), LB Tracy White (unknown), FB Tony Fiammetta (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg).

    Returned to practice: S Nate Ebner, C/G Nick McDonald (no team), WR Brandon Lloyd (no team), WR Deion Branch (no team), CB Will Allen, DE Jake Bequette.

    INJURIES

    Newly signed OG Derek Dennis couldn't be in pads so he wasn't participating in practice, but he still left via a cart for some reason.

    Dan Koppen and Dan Connolly both needed trainer assistance during post-fight laps. both returned.

    DRESS CODE

    Back in full pads.

    HEADLINES

    • Two more sizable fights, which ticked off Bill Belichick enough to make the team run three laps. Patrick Chung was in the middle of the first one again, and then the defense took offense to OT Darrion Weems taking LB Dane Fletcher to the ground on the second. After the laps, Brady kicked the coaches out and delivered a players-only talk.
    • Think it's time to adjust expectations for DE Chandler Jones. At this point, he's a full-time starter at LDE and we don't really see any reason why that should change anytime soon.
    • Rough practices for LT Nate Solder, RT Marcus Cannon and C Dan Koppen, who was back on the second team and seems likely to stay there.
    • TE Rob Gronkowski looks back to his old self. He had a terrific practice blocking for the first time all camp.
    • Vince Wilfork decided to bring it today in one-on-ones and absolutely dominated after his first rep.
    • Tom Brady, who was serenaded by fans a few times for his birthday, finally got into the end zone on two-minute to WR Julian Edelman.

    Video: Fans at Patriots practice sing Happy Birthday to Tom Brady

    Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff August 3, 2012 03:13 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- There was no way Tom Brady's 35th birthday was going to come and go quietly.

    Not with a packed house at the Gillette Stadium practice fields holding Brady signs and signing the traditional Happy Birthday song to the Patriots star quarterback.

    Brady acknowledged a few shout outs with a simple "thank you," as he came out onto the practice fields at 1:30 this afternoon.

    After a couple of Happy Birthday sing-a-longs, and a few well wishes shouted out from the stands, Brady gave a brief wave to the crowd, thanking them for the acknowledgment.

    Submit: Wish Tom Brady a happy birthday

    Caserio going down his checklist

    Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff August 3, 2012 01:46 PM

    03caserio.jpg

    FOXBOROUGH – In the coming weeks teams will have to make decision about how to trim their rosters and as a result the pool of potential picks-ups will only grow larger. As it does, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio acknowledged that he'll be reading some of the same training camp reports that every one else is. He'll just be reading them with a fair amount of skepticism.

    “Yeah, but who's telling the truth?” he said with a smile. “Everybody has a varying opinion, a different opinion about, 'This guy's having a great camp, this guy's an all-star.' Until they actually go out there in the preseason and play and you can see them perform, that's really the best thing that you have to go off of.”

    So in the first two weeks of the preseason, Caserio and his staff will track every roster, figuring out who has a fair chance of making a team and which players don't.

    “There's going to be a vast amount of players that at different points are going to be released and become available,” Caserio said. “So our pro personnel staff will spend a lot of time going through and evaluating those players, doing write-ups and putting them in our system so that when we get to the final cut down, if there's a player we like or we want to claim him or we want to sign him however we want to handle that we'll try to be as prepared for that as we can.”

    FULL ENTRY

    Patriots Daily Briefing, 8.3.12

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 3, 2012 08:00 AM

    Good morning. Here is your PDB for Friday, August 3, 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. 1 p.m.: Press conference (participant TBD)
    1:30-4 p.m.: Training camp practice No. 8

    Tomorrow
    DAY OFF - NO PRACTICE

    TO RECAP
    After four consecutive days of full-pads practices - and Wednesday night's much-talked-about practice skirmish - coach Bill Belichick had his players in shells Thursdayday. It wasn't the sharpest practice for Tom Brady, who was picked off by safety Steve Gregory.

    But Wes Welker thought it was good to see that Brady is human - and the receiver also knows that Brady is his biggest critic and will get better after the tough practice.

    Through the first few days of camp, we've seen a lot of different offensive line combinations, which isn't that unusual for the Patriots, who put such a premium on versatility and being prepared for any situation. But with injuries to Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer, the starting five could be different come opening day - and that doesn't happen too often in New England. Whether the changes are wholesale or just one here and there, the one constant is coach Dante Scarnecchia, whom Bill Belichick called "awesome" Thursday.

    And former Patriot and Jet running back Curtis Martin will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame tomorrow - colleague Amalie Benjamin writes that Martin never truly loved football, though it changed his life.

    QUOTE/TWEET OF THE DAY
    "No. I’ll be the last one to try to break that up – [they’ll] probably go after me."
    - Bill Belichick on in-practice fights and whether he might ever have a Jeff Van Gundy-type moment

    AROUND THE DIVISION
    In Buffalo, is Vince Young pushing Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback? Young's probably not a real threat, but if that pushes Fitzpatrick, Buffalo fans probably won't complain.

    Dolphins first-round pick Ryan Tannehill took snaps with the first-team offense for the first time Thursdayday.

    Oh, and in case you missed it, Chad Ochocinco Johnson said Wednesday he spent part of his offseason smoking pot with rocker Gene Simmons, and that he was "stifled" in New England last year. Funny that a year ago Foxborough was "heaven" and now he's trying to portray it as a personal hell for his flamboyant personality.

    Everyone seems to have an opinion on Tim Tebow and the Jets, including President Obama: talking to a sports radio station in Ohio, Obama said he doesn't "like the idea of a quarterback controversy at the start of a season" and would be nervous if he were a Jets fan.

    Training Camp Today: Patriots not concerned with offensive line

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 2, 2012 08:13 PM

    In our latest edition of Training Camp Today, Greg A. Bedard and Shalise Manza Young go over the Patriots' offensive line and how the team is not worried thanks to one veteran coach, Wednesday night's fight, and the rash of injuries on the team.

    Tavon Wilson impresses

    Posted by Amalie Benjamin August 2, 2012 05:53 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- Rookie Tavon Wilson has been getting a significant amount of reps in training camp so far, with the safety playing multiple positions in the defensive backfield, along with special teams.

    "I’ve just tried not to think about it too much," Wilson said, about the amount of time he's seeing on the field. "Tried not to get ahead of myself too much, just come in, work every day with the same attitude of getting better and that’s what I’ve been doing."

    Wilson, a surprise second-round pick by the Patriots, spent time at both cornerback and safety in college at Illinois. He said Thursday that he "definitely" feels like he can make a contribution on special teams for the Patriots, as well as in other positions.

    "I just try to do as much as they ask me to do because that kind of opens up some opportunities for you getting on the field," Wilson said. "I just try to go out there and do everything to the best of my ability."

    When asked about how Wilson was making the transition to the NFL in training camp, coach Bill Belichick lauded his abilities, especially in the difficult position of safety.

    "I think he’s been on a steady course since he got here," Belichick said. "Tavon works hard. He’s very attentive, he asks good questions, he really pays attention and he’s a hard working kid, both on and off the field.

    "Steady improvement, long way to go, tough position to play and a tough position to transition into because of all the different things in the passing game and formations and matchups, all those type of things that veteran safeties would recognize – where the advantage of the matchup is to the offense and what we can do about it schematically or what we can do about it in terms of anticipation by formation and so forth.

    "I think he’s coming along. As long as we can keep making progress and keep heading in the right direction, I think eventually it will come together for a lot of these young guys.''

    Patriots claim OT, place Richard on IR

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 2, 2012 04:56 PM

    Some housekeeping moves by the Patriots this afternoon:

    • The Patriots claimed offensive tackle Dustin Waldron from the Dolphins (the same day they signed guard Derek Dennis, who was also waived by Miami). Waldron (6-5, 305 pounds) was undrafted out of Portland State. Like Dennis, Waldron is viewed as a camp body, but Waldron was the better prospect coming out in the draft.
    • The Patriots played C/G Jamey Richard on injured reserve after he sustained a concussion. Expect an injury settlement at some point.
    • C/G Nick McDonald, who was not on the field today, passed his physical to come off of the PUP list.

    Patrick Chung talks about defensive continuity

    Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff August 2, 2012 04:48 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- Patriots safety Patrick Chung doesn't like his unit being called the team's weakest link.

    "I don't pay attention to it," said Chung. "We haven't even played a game yet. We'll play ball, play to the best of our abilities. We'll find out."

    The defense was questioned all last season, too. Criticism of it is nothing new. When that was pointed out to Chung, he reiterated his stance.

    "In one ear and out the other," said Chung. "People are going to say what they want to say, everybody is going to have their opinions. In one ear, out the other, play ball, get better."

    There's a school of thought that the Patriots defense will get better. Chung is now something of a seasoned player, while Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, and Sterling Moore are all gaining experience. Newcomer Tavon Wilson could play a role as the rest of the secondary hopefully gels into a unit that neither bends nor breaks.

    "Consistency is No. 1," said Chung. "You have to be able to make plays consistently. It can't be good play, bad play. Consistent is No. 1 on the back end, because if you mess up on the back end it's a touchdown. You have to be on the same page and everybody has to know what they're doing so those plays never happen."

    The secondary had some success against Tom Brady and the offense Wednesday.

    "Going against him is definitely going to make you better," said Chung. "You guys know that, everybody knows that. He's going to make us better, our offense is going to make us better."

    Practice rundown #7

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 2, 2012 04:45 PM

    FOXBOROUGH – Here’s a light rundown of what happened at Thursday afternoon’s practice to match the light practice the Patriots had:

    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), WR Deion Branch (unknown), FB Tony Fiammetta (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), CB Will Allen (unknown), WR Brandon Lloyd (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), DE Jake Bequette (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg).

    Returned to practice: C/G Dan Connolly, DE Rob Ninkovich.

    INJURIES

    WR Jabar Gaffney walked very slowly off the field to the locker room with a trainer and did not return. There was no visible injury.

    WR Deion Branch, who hasn't been participating in most drills, also left the field.

    DRESS CODE
    After full pads the previous four practices, the Patriots were in soft shells and shorts.

    TOP PLAYS

    • On the second play of Tom Brady’s two-minute drills, S Steve Gregory jumped in front of Julian Edelman and picked it off.
    • WR Donte’ Stallworth made nice leaping grab of a Brady pass over CB Ross Ventrone.
    • Brian Hoyer showed off his arm strength when he made a big-time NFL throw to Jesse Holley on about a 20-yard out along the sideline. S James Ihedigbo had no chance at defending it.

    THUMBS UP

    Score one for the secondary. The much-maligned part of the Patriots’ defense had its best day of camp. We’ll ignore that the offense was missing three top receivers (Lloyd, Gaffney and Branch) for much of practice, and that strong winds affected passes. We don’t want to steal all the secondary’s thunder.

    THUMBS DOWN

    Chris Koepplin is back for his second go-round as Stephen Gostkowski’s stand-in on kickoffs and most field goals during camp (we’re wondering exactly Gostkowski does around here). The UMass product has shown a good leg on kickoffs, but he’s been subpar on field goals. He was 3 of 6 on Thursday.

    SUPERLATIVES
    Dropped passes: Gaffney.
    Nice catch: Holley, Julian Edelman (2), Shane Vereen.
    Fumbled: None.
    Interceptions: Gregory (of Brady).

    ODDS AND ENDS

    • Second-round pick Tavon Wilson is starting to come on in practice. He’s giving the tight ends, even Rob Gronkowski, a very tough time in coverage and has shown a knack for the ball. Wilson has been used in a variety of roles – linebacker, safety and cornerback – and it doesn’t appear to be too big for him. If he doesn’t grab a starting spot as a rookie, expect him to be a jack-of-all-trades in the secondary with the No. 1 job being a TE killer.
    • Another strong pass breakup from CB Sterling Moore, who appears to lead cornerbacks in that category by a wide margin in this camp. Moore’s ball skills were apparent last season, and if he keeps it up, it may be tough to keep him on the sidelines. But neither Ras-I Dowling nor Devin McCourty has ceded a lot of room yet.
    • QB Ryan Mallett completed a nice back-shoulder pass to Edelman, but we’re not sure that was on purpose. Edelman made a nice adjustment around Moore, who was in perfect position.
    • Edelman continues to look terrific and added another tough catch in the two-minute drill.
    • Brady was not happy walking off the field. Just not a sharp day. For the second straight practice, Brady’s group didn’t pick up a first down in their two-minute drill.
    • Hoyer was 6 of 7 with his group before giving way to Mallett for the final two plays.
    • Gregory added a pass breakup to his interception.
    • With Ninkovich back in the lineup, Trevor Scott and Jermaine Cunningham went back to reserve roles.
    • Despite the offensive line having a good practice on Wednesday night, the starting unit was different again. Connolly returned after a practice off and went to right guard, and Dan Koppen replaced Ryan Wendell at center. Robert Gallery was at left guard, and the tackles were the same with Nate Solder on the left and Marcus Cannon on the right.

    SCHEDULE

    Friday (Aug. 3): 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
    Saturday: No practice
    Sunday: 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
    Monday: Practice time TBD
    Tuesday: 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. (joint practice with New Orleans Saints)
    Wednesday: 10 a.m. with Saints
    Thursday: 7:30 p.m. game vs. Saints
    Friday: No practice.

    Wes Welker on Tom Brady: 'It's good to see he's human'

    Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff August 2, 2012 04:21 PM

    bradypracticepic.jpg

    FOXBOROUGH -- With another large crowd watching the Patriots practice on the fields just outside Gillette Stadium, quarterback Tom Brady was, as always, the center of attention. So it was particularly glaring when Brady dropped back, read the defense, and threw a clean pick to safety Steve Gregory. Fans gasped, then cheered, as the defense celebrated the play with chest bumps. Brady was hopping mad, clapping his hands together and angrily ripping off his chin strap as he walked off the field.

    The defense won the day Wednesday at Patriots camp, and in some ways, there's nothing wrong with that.

    "He was pretty fired up," said Patriots wide receiver Welker, asked about Brady's interception. "He's his own biggest critic. As much as coach even stays on him and everyone else, he's his own worst enemy sometimes. It's great to see. He cares. He wants to do great, and he is great."

    Brady was fine during much of practice, hitting his intended targets, most notably Jabar Gaffney (who left practice early) and Donte Stallworth. But he did throw a couple of balls long, and it was clear he wasn't happy about it.

    "It's good to see he's human sometimes," said Welker. "Everybody has bad plays out there. It's how you bounce back from them, how you go out there and compete and keep fighting and how you get after it out there. He's always understanding that and knowing if he makes a bad play he's going to come back ten times better the next time. It really rubs off on all the other guys out there."

    Brady has been trying to get on the same page with his new receivers, but even with familiar faces like Welker, there's a readjustment.

    "I think it's something you constantly work on," said Welker. "You try and get on the same page, understand. I try to win all my routes and know that he's going to put the ball where he needs to put it. It's an ongoing deal to get that chemistry."

    One player Welker thinks is getting along just fine with Brady is fellow wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who was not on the practice field today.

    "He makes some of the crazier catches you see in the NFL, and he does it on a daily basis," said Welker. "Having that is a great element for us, having that option out there to make some great plays.

    "He's a rare type of athlete. He does such a great job of making plays. Hopefully he'll help us out a lot this season."

    -- Like Bill Belichick earlier in the day, Welker said last night's scuffle during a scrimmage was no big deal.

    "It's one of those things that happens I think in every camp," said Welker. "It's not that big a deal, you just kind of move on from it. There's no animosity between anybody. It almost makes it fun at times."

    Roll call: Practice #7

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 2, 2012 03:22 PM

    FOXBOROUGH – A quickie take on this afternoon's practice, which was very light. It was basically a walkthrough.

    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), WR Deion Branch (unknown), FB Tony Fiammetta (unknown), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (unknown), CB Will Allen (unknown), WR Brandon Lloyd (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown), FB Spencer Larsen (unknown), DE Jake Bequette (unknown), OT Matt Kopa (leg).
    Returned to practice: C/G Dan Connolly, DE Rob Ninkovich.

    INJURIES

    WR Jabar Gaffney walked very slowly off the field to the locker room with a trainer and did not return.

    WR Deion Branch, who hasn't been participating in most drills, also left the field.

    DRESS CODE

    After four-straight padded practices, the Patriots were in shells for this low-key practice.

    HEADLINES

    • Gaffney's injury is obviously a concern.
    • Also not great that three players -- Larsen, Bequette and Kopa -- were added to the recent uptick of players on the sidelines, like Lloyd, Fiammetta, Branch, Shiancoe, Allen and Fanene.
    • Rough practice for the passing offense all around. There was a strong wind.
    • Another day, another new offensive line: LT Nate Solder, LG Robert Gallery, C Dan Koppen, RG Dan Connolly, RT Marcus Cannon.
    • Tom Brady was intercepted by S Steve Gregory.
    • Real good practice for S Tavon Wilson in pass coverage against the tight ends.

    Bill Belichick on practice scuffle: 'Football's football'

    Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff August 2, 2012 02:01 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots held a showcase practice for season-ticket holders Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium, and the fans were treated to a few scuffles as part of the show.

    The first dust-up occurred when the usually mild-mannered Nate Solder shoved linebacker Brandon Spikes during an 11-on-11 drill. The shove set off a brief scuffle that involved most of the team.

    Today, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said it was no big deal.

    "Football,it's competitive,” said Belichick. “We're in a competitive camp. Some of those things are just part of football. “

    Was the coach happy with the intensity?

    “Football's football,” said Belichick. “We deal with a lot of things in football.”
    The Patriots are practicing this afternoon on the practice fields next to Gillette Stadium.
    “We'll probably slow things down here a little bit this afternoon,” said Belichick. “They're all working hard, taking the coaching that we've asked them to do and build on them. I see some improvement here. We've got a long way to go.”

    Patriots sign OL Derek Dennis

    Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff August 2, 2012 01:19 PM

    The Patriots have signed Derek Dennis, a 6-foot-5-inch, 316-pound offensive lineman out of Temple.

    Dennis is expected to join the team in a couple of days. Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked what he liked about Dennis and didn't say much.

    "We can give him an opportunity," said Belichick.

    The 24-year-old Dennis was originally was signed by the Miami Dolphins as a rookie free agent out of Temple on May 4. He was released by Miami on July 26. He started all 13 games last season at left guard for Temple.

    Patriots announce practice times

    Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff August 2, 2012 01:07 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots have announced practice times for the next few days. Here's the schedule:

    Friday (Aug. 3): 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
    Saturday: No practice
    Sunday: 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
    Monday: Practice time TBD
    Tuesday: 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. (joint practice with New Orleans Saints)
    Wednesday: 10 a.m. with Saints

    Training Camp Today: An eventful night at Gillette Stadium

    Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff August 2, 2012 09:49 AM

    FOXBOROUGH -- In this episode of Training Camp Today, the Globe's Greg Bedard has the breakdown on an eventful night practice from Gillette Stadium, where over 22,000 fans showed up for the Patriots annual in-stadium practice for season ticket holders and Foxborough residents.

    We'll also hear from Patriots rookie defensive end Chandler Jones and second year cornerback Ras-I Dowling.

    "My job right now is just to polish my craft," Jones said after practice. "And every day I’m trying to work on each and every move, so I can have two or three moves to perfect, and hopefully you’ll see them on Sundays.”

    We'll be back with another episode of Training Camp Today after this afternoon's practice.

    5 takeaways from the first week of Patriots training camp

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 2, 2012 09:39 AM
    Donte' Stallworth has had a good camp.
    (Stephan Savoia / AP photo)

    Last week at this time, we were gearing up for the Patriots to have their first practice in more than a month. After a week of seeing the team and watching its groupings (which I cannot stress enough will change), there are a number of things that have stood out. I boiled them down to five. Add your takeaways in the comments.

    1. The offensive line is muddled -- Brian Waters' absence has caused the team to scramble a bit, particularly because the team was already going to be without Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer in practice while the two rehab. Instead, the Patriots have cycled through Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, and Robert Gallery at left guard, center, and right guard in the first team. Donald Thomas has gotten his chances in that group, too. But it's nowhere near a settled situation and it will likely be of concern for the team heading into the preseason. However, this is the chance some of these players have been waiting for. Carpe diem to those guys. (Looking at you, Thomas.)

    2. The competition at wide receiver is fierce -- So far, there has been no greater standout than wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who has wowed the massive crowds at practice with his acrobatic catches. But if there is someone who is a close second, in terms of wow factor and just being all over the place, it has been veteran holdover Julian Edelman. We've always known Edelman to have the speed and the extra bit of juice needed to return kicks and punts, but he's showing a level of competitiveness that is making it really hard on his fellow receivers, and embarrassingly rough on his counterparts at defensive back. Meanwhile, Deion Branch has been limited in practice and Donte' Stallworth is showing he still has the ability to create separation and make big catches. If the Patriots carry only five receivers into the season again, it will be impossible to keep guys like Branch and Matthew Slater, who also serves as a special teams maven. This one may go down to the wire.

    3. At right corner, it's either Ras-I Dowling or Kyle Arrington -- One of the nice things about camp is you immediately get a sense of where things stand with certain players, even if they can't say where things stand themselves. For instance, Kyle Arrington and Ras-I Dowling are battling for the starting position at right corner opposite of Devin McCourty. Don't ask Dowling that, he's just working hard. Last season, Arrington pulled in seven interceptions, but only after filling in for the injured Dowling, who went down in Week 2 with a leg injury. Dowling has come into camp ready to go. At 6-1, he's been able to body up receivers in camp and win more matchups in 1-on-1 drills than any other defensive back. Arrington, for his part, is battling too. They're both shifting back and forth with the first team. Keep an eye on this one.

    4. Jermaine Cunningham is surging on the depth chart -- The third-year linebacker/defensive end out of Florida is finally seeing some meaningful snaps in practice that suggests he will make a leap this year, something that was expected of him before last season's M.I.A. posters went up. Cunningham finished the year on injured reserve after dressing for nine games. In camp, he's worked his way up to fiddling with the first team, more or less in sub packages. But he's still rough around the edges, jumping offsides twice Wednesday and having a tough time shedding blocks on the edge. He's one person you should watch closely in the weeks ahead.

    5. The first rounders are nothing to worry about -- It's those other guys the Patriots drafted that bring concern. Between Tavon Wilson (second round), Jake Bequette (third round), Nate Ebner (sixth round), Alfonzo Dennard (seventh round), and Jeremy Ebert (seventh round), the Patriots' draft class is having a tough time staying on the field, either due to injury or play. Wilson and Bequette are battling for attention while Ebner, Dennard, and Ebert all have some sort of ailment that's keeping them out of the fold. With the way things are shaping up in camp, it seems most are destined for the practice squad. The only one in position to stick around come the regular season is Wilson, if he can hold off veterans Josh Barrett and Sergio Brown at safety.

    Patriots Daily Briefing, 8.2.12

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 2, 2012 08:15 AM

    Good morning. Here is your PDB for Thursday, August 2, 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. 1 p.m. - Press conference with an undetermined Patriots representative
    1:30-4 p.m. - Training camp practice No. 7

    Tomorrow
    Approx. 1 p.m. - Press conference (TBA)
    1:30-4 p.m. - Training camp practice No. 8

    TO RECAP
    "For rookie defensive end Chandler Jones, doubts centered mostly around his strength. That weakness, it was thought, might keep him off the field, especially at the start of the season. Although he wasn’t quite a “project” pick, he was a pick who needed work, with an eye toward him filling the “elephant” role that requires strength, intelligence, and quickness."

    In the Patriots notebook, a look at the team getting scrappy last night in the team's in-stadium practice that drew more than 22,000 fans.

    Greg A. Bedard runs down how the Patriots have teed up offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to have a great season. He also has the practice rundown from Wednesday night.

    QUOTE/TWEET OF THE DAY
    Brandon Spikes (@BrandonSpikes55) writes on Twitter: "CAPS LOCK. BECAUSE IT'S TIME TO UNLEASH THE FURY! GRRRRRR !!!!" This comes after the linebacker got into a kerfuffle with teammate Nate Solder in Wednesday's practice.

    AROUND THE DIVISION
    The Jets have a way about them that one might call brash. We're sure that they'll just label it as confident. Defensive end Aaron Maybin is no different. The speedy Maybin told reporters he thinks he can put up 10 or more sacks this season. He had six last year.

    New Miami Dolphins wide receiver Chad Johnson (formerly known around here as Ochocinco) told reporters he's happy to be able "breathe again." Apparently, New England was suffocating his personality. He also dropped quite a few 'F' bombs.

    The Bills' Ryan Fitzpatrick struggled toward the end of last season. So for the Bills, it's imperative that they have a competent backup QB. Unfortunately for them, they're backups have all been struggling in camp, according to the Buffalo News.

    Chandler Jones impresses early

    Posted by Amalie Benjamin August 1, 2012 09:38 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- All rookies are looking to impress coaches in training camp, and that goes double for a rookie who entered the NFL with question marks such as defensive end Chandler Jones, the first-round pick out of Syracuse. So far, things have looked good for Jones, who has demonstrated an array of moves in one-on-one drills in the early days of Patriots' training camp.

    “No matter what I do, people are always going to question my ability,” Jones said. “No one can believe in you except for yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, then who will? For the people saying you’re not ready or you’re not strong enough, there’s always going to be critics. That’s what they do.”

    To counter those critics, Jones has been studying the playbook and showing off his pass-rushing moves.

    “I’ve known of the moves, I’ve seen them done before," Jones said. "But my job right now is just to polish my craft, and every day I’m trying to work on each and every move, so I can have two or three moves be perfect, and hopefully you’ll see them on Sundays.”

    That's the hope for both Jones and the Patriots, who are looking to improve a defense that was ranked No. 31 in yards allowed yards season.

    “What I’m doing, to be honest with you, I’m just treating every day like it’s game day,” Jones said. “I’m just taking a day at a time and letting those days stack, and stringing them together.

    “If I’m not walking off the field and I’m not exhausted, then I’m not doing my job.”

    Patriots get a little chippy in practice

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 1, 2012 09:06 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- More than 22,000 fans were on hand Wednesday night to watch the Patriots practice at Gillette Stadium. The large crowd of season-ticket holders and Foxborough residents got a chance to watch the team get a little chippy under the lights.

    Linebacker Brandon Spikes took a shot from tackle Nate Solder during 11-on-11 drills, starting a fight that had several players engaged before being broken up.

    After the fight, Solder took a penalty lap while Spikes went to the locker room briefly and returned with a knee brace. The linebacker was seen jawing at Solder upon his return.

    "A little chippy, a little chippy," said cornerback Kyle Arrington of the fight, one of three players made available to the media after the practice.

    "It's all in fun though, man," Arrington said. "When it happens, everybody's such a competitor, [they] can't help it. Sometimes emotions get involved. But I mean at the end of the day, it's all love.

    "On this team, I've seen a few now. I would say it happens often. When guys are trying to be physical, it's the time to beat up on each other. You go against each other every day. You grow tired of people this time of year. That's just the nature of it."

    Practice rundown #6

    Posted by Greg A. Bedard August 1, 2012 09:01 PM

    FOXBOROUGH – Here’s a rundown on what went on at Patriots’ practice Wednesday evening inside Gillette Stadium in front of season-ticket holders and Foxborough residents.

    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), CB Will Allen (unknown), C Dan Connolly (unknown), WR Brandon Lloyd (unknown), DT Jonathan Fanene (unknown).

    INJURIES

    LB Brandon Spikes went to the locker room after LT Nate Solder gave him a shot on the ground. Spikes returned to the field.

    RT Matt Kopa was slow to get up after a play, went to the locker room and did not return.

    DRESS CODE
    Full pads for the fourth-straight practice.

    TOP PLAYS

    • Really nice touch from QB Ryan Mallett to Britt Davis, who was covered tightly by Ross Ventrone. Tavon Wilson couldn’t provide safety help in time.
    • Wilson, in as a linebacker in a dime package in a two-minute drill to end practice, had a terrific breakup of a Brady pass intended for TE Rob Gronkowski.
    • Later in the same drill, TE Aaron Hernandez caught a pass from Brian Hoyer that looked impossible – with James Ihedigbo in Hernandez’s face and Josh Barrett over the top.

    THUMBS UP
    They haven’t been good to this point, but you have to give the first-team offensive line props for their performance on Wednesday. The unit of LT Nate Solder, LG Donald Thomas, C Ryan Wendell, RG Robert Gallery and RT Marcus Cannon was much-improved over anything we’ve seen to this point. They were very effective as the run game was featured in this practice. Dan Koppen, whose struggles continued on Wednesday, was working on the second team.

    THUMBS DOWN
    Mallett had his best public practice as a Patriot on Sunday and was solid on Tuesday. He wasn’t terrible on Wednesday but he did throw two interceptions and couldn't find anyone open on two plays and held the ball.

    SUPERLATIVES
    Dropped passes: Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, Julian Edelman, Spencer Larsen, Wes Welker.
    Nice catch: Hernandez (3), Davis.
    Fumbled: None.
    Interceptions: Kyle Arrington and Bobby Carpenter (both of Mallett).

    ONE-ON-ONES
    One man’s 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), Robert Gallery (1-0-1), Ryan Wendell (1-0-1). Defense: Gerard Warren (2-0-0), Trevor Scott (1-0-1), Chandler Jones (1-0-1)
    Struggled -- Offense: Dan Koppen (0-2-0), Matt Kopa (0-1-1). Defense: Jermaine Cunningham (0-2-0).
    Decided victories: Jones (vs. Weems), Scott (vs. Kopa), Gerard Warren (vs. Jeremiah Warren), Kyle Love (vs. Koppen).

    • A nice job by the offensive line to hold their own with a dead heat (7-7-4), the first time in camp the offense has been even.
    • Koppen’s losing streak now sits at seven straight reps, and he wasn’t really close in this practice. Koppen set too hard of an edge against Ron Brace, and the tackle easily moved him out out of the way. Love used a club move to completely knock Koppen off balance on his final rep.
    • Wendell has really started to come on. He’s playing with an excellent base and was tough for Love and Marcus Harrison to move.
    • Cannon’s quick feet have stood out as he has picked up his play. Both Cunningham and Jake Bequette couldn’t find room to get around Cannon.
    • Gerard Warren is really tough to block, which is what he showed in last year’s camp as well. Power and surprising quickness.
    • Jones showed speed to get into Weems before the tackle could set his arms. Weems got revenge against Cunningham when he completely stoned him.
    • Cunningham slowed down his torrid pace. He just didn’t get after it.

    ODDS AND ENDS

    • Huge crowd, around 22,000, on hand at the stadium. Another great turnout.
    • As is usual during training camp, tempers are starting to get short. Koppen got into twice with defensive players and then Solder took a cheap shot at LB Brandon Spikes, who was already on the ground. Patrick Chung took offense and nailed Solder, and a then a pretty good scrum broke out.
    • Dont’a Hightower looks like a natural at the strong-side linebacker position. He consistently holds his own against tight ends and tackles at the point of attack. Hightower has been the most physical player in camp. He absolutely stopped FB Spencer Larsen in his tracks on a running play. Completely stood Larsen up. He has also shown better instincts in coverage than previously thought.
    • With Lloyd out, the passing offense seemed choppy. The secondary had probably its best practice of camp. It didn’t allow many easy throws.
    • Brady and Brian Hoyer each got a chance to run the two-minute drill. Brady was just 1 of 3, including a Welker drop and likely a pass interference call against Arrington, who was muscling Welker all the way down the field. Brady’s group picked up just one first down.
    • Hoyer was 4 of 5 and led his group to three first downs and a field-goal attempt at the whistle.
    • Cunningham, who has been surging, was in the starting lineup on the left side for Trevor Scott. Ninkovich continued to be on the sideline.
    • With OT Darrion Weems immediately showing he’s an upgrade over anything the Patriots have in reserve, he was on the second team at LT, which kicked Kyle Hix inside to LG.
    • Sergio Brown’s odds of making the team seem to be diminishing. It looks like Josh Barrett is taking many of Brown’s spots on special teams. Brown’s play on those units were a bright spot last season.
    • On a running drill, Cannon blocked down instead of out and really heard it from line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
    • Outstanding punting period for Zoltan Mesko, who averaged 4.46 seconds of hang time on eight punts.
    • Mesko’s performance was even better considering three of Danny Aiken’s snaps were low.
    • CB Ras-I Dowling is starting to make strides on a consistent basis. Physically he looks better than he did in the off-season practices, and he’s doing a solid job in coverage.
    • Alex Silvestro has moved full time from end to tight end and is now wearing No. 49.
    • Gronkowski is a little bit up and down with his play and doesn’t look quite right physically, but he showed some of his blocking flare when he manhandled Scott on a running play.
    • Weems made such an impression that he took him all of one practice to be the backup left tackle, a move that kicked Kyle Hix to left guard. Weems has really opened some eyes in the early going. Weems and Hix opened up perhaps the biggest running hold of camp for Brandon Bolden.
    • Bolden continues to get more running attempts than Shane Vereen.

    SCHEDULE

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

    The rest is TBD.

    Belichick: Patriots need to grind through

    Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff August 1, 2012 05:38 PM

    FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots are about to start their sixth practice of training camp and first on the Gillette Stadium field. Head coach Bill Belichick says the team needs to grind through the preseason in preparation for the season.

    There's eight more days until the team's first preseason game with the New Orleans Saints and the Patriots are kicking it into high gear.

    "It's something all of us needs to go through, players, coaches," Belichick said. "Just to grind through it. Mentally just be ready to get up, go every day, start all over again. Ready to get a good night's rest and have a good day each day.

    "That's part of team building, working through it when you're tired, [when] you don't feel good. It's a long season. This is one of the many challenges we all face."

    Belichick addressed reporters before Wednesday night's practice, which is open to season ticket holders and residents of Foxborough.

    Patriots Daily Briefing, 8.1.12

    Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 1, 2012 07:45 AM

    Good morning. Here is your PDB for Wednesday, August 1, 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
    **In-stadium camp session for season ticket holders and Foxborough residents - not open to the public**
    Approx. 5 p.m. - Bill Belichick press conference
    6:30-8:30 p.m. - Training camp practice No. 6

    Tomorrow
    Approx. 1 p.m. - Bill Belichick press conference
    1:30-4 p.m. - Training camp practice No. 7

    TO RECAP
    For the first few days of training camp, Brandon Spikes was in uniform but his participation didn't really go beyond the early walk-through and warmup sessions. On Tuesday, the linebacker had his first full practice and jumped right in with the first-team defense. He also did his best Ricky Williams impression after.

    The Patriots have a crowded position at safety, and oft-injured Josh Barrett is trying to stay healthy and prove he should stick around, writes Globe intern Alex Prewitt.

    Today's notebook kicks off with Jonathan Fanene - whose buzz word yesterday was "learn" - and also includes Massachusetts native Ron Brace, who is quietly off to a good start at camp.

    And in case you missed it, Greg Bedard gave the rundown from yesterday's practice, with rookie OL Darrion Weems impressing and some spirited goal-line play.

    QUOTE/TWEET OF THE DAY
    "#4PATSSAKE why the outrage.. LMAO.. For those who don`t know Yes I am a LOYAL supporter of Bill B my best friend and coach Pepper Johnson.. So when they asked me to come to camp to assist with some areas in which I have a particular skill set that can help his players get better during camp I said absolutely. I grew up in his D both with @giants and #Browns and helping with the Nuances is a great honor. And BTW I am here with the approval of my Bosses @giants so please exhale.. Plus they`re AFC lol"
    -- An extended tweet from @CarlBanksGIII, the linebacking great. Banks, who played nine seasons with the Giants and won two Super Bowl rings there and is current the radio color analyst for the team, was on hand at Pats camp Tuesday - in a Pats t-shirt and shorts - which caught him a little heat from the New York fan base.

    AROUND THE DIVISION
    The gems keep coming from Jets camp: despite not having played receiver in four or five years, Antonio Cromartie is the second-best receiver on the team, according to Antonio Cromartie.

    In Miami, members of the 2011 draft class not named Mike Pouncey are looking to be more productive this season.

    The Bills' defense seems to be off to a good start in camp, but Tuesday Chan Gailey said he doesn't "even have an inkling" about who is going to be the starting left tackle and protect Ryan Fitzpatrick - rookie Cordy Glenn or Chris Hairston.

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

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