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Patriots release Brian Waters

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff April 30, 2013 06:10 PM

The Patriots have released offensive lineman Brian Waters, according to the NFL transaction wire Tuesday.

Signed to a two-year contract after the lockout in 2011, Waters played at a very high level that year, though he was at right guard for the first time in his career. He was chosen for the Pro Bowl.

Married with five children, Waters typically did not take part in the offseason program when he played for Kansas City, opting to spend as much time as possible with his family. It was the same in New England – when the Patriots began their OTAs and mandatory minicamp last offseason, coach Bill Belichick said that Waters was excused from participating.

But when training camp started, Waters still did not report to the team. The Patriots placed him on the reserve/did not report list, though they tried to entice him to return by offering to increase his salary from $2.5 million for 2012 to $4 million.

The first sign that the Patriots were fed up with Waters's behavior came on the eve of the regular season when the team gave then-rookie Dont'a Hightower jersey No. 54, which Waters had worn the season before. A few days later, Waters's nameplate was removed from his locker.

Without Waters, the Patriots had to change their plans for the offensive line last year. Dan Connolly, who was likely to have been the starting center, was moved to right guard and Ryan Wendell became the starting center.

Though Waters might have played for a team in Texas, close to his home and his family, the Patriots refused to release Waters from his contract. Since he spent the entire season on the reserve/did not report list, his contract tolled, and he remained under contract with the Patriots for 2013.

At the NFL Players Association's annual meeting at the Super Bowl in February, Waters was approached about giving his side of the story, but he declined to comment. He was not in game shape.

So his time with New England, which started off so well, has ended with a single line on the league transaction wire.

Bentley tackle Nick Halloran invited to rookie camp

Posted by Craig Larson, Globe Staff April 30, 2013 12:48 PM

By Craig Larson, Globe Staff

Nick Halloran noticed two missed calls on his phone early Tuesday morning. The 24-year-old is in the midst of finals for three graduate courses at Bentley this week, so he gets a pass for not picking up.

At 8:30, his agent, Sean Stellato, checked in again, with quite the wakeup call.

A three-year starter at tackle after his transfer from Boston College, Halloran has been invited to the Patriots' rookie minicamp that will kick off Friday in Foxborough.

"Just amazing news, not a better way to start the day," said the 6-foot-4-inch, 305-pound Somerville native, who prepped at Buckingham, Browne & Nichols.

A two-time Northeast-10 Conference first team pick for the the Falcons, Halloran started his first two seasons at right tackle, protecting the blind side for lefthanded quarterback Bryant Johnson, and then shifted over to the left side last fall with Danny Guadagnoli directing the Falcons' spread attack.

"We wanted him protecting the blindside, because in my opinion, he was the best offensive lineman in the league," said Bentley coach Thom Boerman.

"When he transferred from BC, it was a lucky day for us. And when he first came here, we told him that a pro career was still within his reach. He came to us with a pretty good skill set. His size alone stands out, and physically, he is a pretty strong kid. He was just dominant in our league."

Halloran undoubtedly made a favorable impressive at the Harvard Pro Day, March 14, where he worked out under the watchful eye of Patriots offensive line/assistant head coach Dante Scarnecchia. Only two other linemen were in attendance, guards John Collins (Roxbury Latin/Harvard) and Ryan Moores (Governor's Academy/Middlebury), who has been invited to the Falcons' rookie camp.

With Halloran the anchor up front, Bentley averaged 388 yards and 26.3 points per game in an 8-2 season in 2012, while controlling the ball for 33 minutes.

"When we needed an inch, or a yard, we went over Nick," said Bentley line coach Rob Velasquez, who believes Halloran's future is at guard, where he got his indoctrination to the college game at Boston College.

That would follow the path of former Bentley lineman Mackenzy Bernadeau, who started every game for the Cowboys in 2012, his fifth year in the league after originally being a seventh-round pick by the Panthers. Halloran also has touched base with a pair of his former teammates at BC now suiting up with the Colts, tackles Gosder Cherilus and Anthony Castonzo.

Halloran and Cherilus worked out together this winter at Mike Boyle's strength & conditioning training center in Woburn. "Gosder and I talked about technique, and just having a 'get after it attitude.' He was very helpful."

Velasquez said that Halloran nearly broke down and cried when they spoke Tuesday morning. "He said, 'This is my shot,' " said the coach.

The Patriots did not select an offensive lineman in the draft, but they reportedly have also agreed to deals with guard/tackle Josh Kline (Kent State) and center Matt Stankiewitch (Penn State).

The Patriots have not officially announced their rookie free agents, but reportedly
New Haven QB Ryan Osiecki, who owns nearly every Charger passing record, including TDs (91) and yards (9.572), has been invited to rookie camp on a tryout basis.



Patriots cut five players

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 29, 2013 05:23 PM

Two days after the NFL draft, the Patriots weren't done making roster decisions, as they released five players Monday afternoon.

Gone are wide receiver Jeremy Ebert, fullback Tony Fiammetta, tight end Brad Herman, defensive lineman Tracy Robertson, and defensive back Malcolm Williams.

Fiammetta was on the exempt/reserve list for the 2012 season after signing with the team as a free agent. Ebert and Williams were both seventh-round draft picks. Herman was a rookie free agent signing, while Robertson was on the practice squad.

None of the five was in serious contention for a roster spot.

On the third day of the draft, Belichick adds to competition

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 28, 2013 08:00 AM

If there was one underlying theme for the Patriots in this draft -- as for all teams that were not in dire need -- it was to boost the roster's weak spots and provide depth throughout the team in case of injury.

For the Patriots, that meant overhauling their receiving corps and addressing their coverage issues in the secondary and at linebacker.

In that goal, Bill Belichick achieved what he set out to do on Day 2, grabbing Marshall's Aaron Dobson as well as Rutgers defensive backs Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon.

On Day 3, he upped the competition.

The team added TCU wide receiver Josh Boyce and projected 3-4 defensive end Michael Buchanan from Illinois, along with Rutgers middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais.

Then he traded for LeGarrette Blount, giving him a big back who can be a change of pace should Brandon Bolden not work out.

Not one of these guys -- save for Blount -- should be expected to contribute to the team in 2013. But that's not the point, is it? The Patriots are building up the roster with multiple talented players to create the highest possible level of competition in camp. Players like Buchanan and Boyce, who have shown flashes of great talent in college, will get the opportunity to acclimate themselves to the NFL level and push the team's starters in practice. Beauharnais, a solid and productive player in college, will have an opportunity to play behind a talented but often injured force in Brandon Spikes.

The Patriots have addressed a number of what-if scenarios.

-- What if recent signees Michael Jenkins and Donald Jones don't work out? Dobson and Boyce can step in.

-- What if Bolden runs into more trouble? Blount can pick up the slack.

-- What if CFL signee Jason Vega doesn't work out? They have Michael Buchanan to turn to.

And the list goes on.

Depth is important in the NFL because of the vicious nature of the game. At times, it can appear that the team is stockpiling great players it has no intention of utilizing. The team signed rookie free agent T.J. Moe out of Missouri, who is from the Wes Welker mold. But the team already has Welker's clone in Danny Amendola, who also played at Texas Tech. And then there's Julian Edelman, who knows the position better than them all but has had trouble staying healthy.

Again, the more talented players, the more the team pushes and drives itself to do better and be better.

That's the takeaway from the Patriots' third day of the draft. They've cranked up the competition, hoping to sustain the high level of performance the Patriots nation fan base has come to expect.

@zuriberry

Thank you and goodbye

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 27, 2013 10:48 PM

The end of the 2013 draft means my official duties at the Boston Globe have ended. I start as a senior writer at Sports Illustrated next week.

Just wanted to say a few words, and then I’ll be off.

Thank you to everyone at the Globe, from partners Shalise Manza Young, Mike Whitmer and Monique Jones, to the unheralded editors on the desk, the top-notch Boston.com crew and my supervisors, Joe Sullivan and Scott Thurston. I couldn’t have done the job the way I wanted to unless my colleagues -- especially Shalise -- did theirs well. So thank you. And my editors were terrific. They believed in my vision for the job, and let me execute it. For a guy from Athol who graduated from Lincoln-Sudbury, it was a dream come true to come home and write for the Globe in Will McDonough’s space. And it was everything I hoped it would be.

Thanks to my compradres on the Patriots beat. A lot of good and talented people. Read everybody. And to the top-notch Patriots’ PR staff, and the coaches, personnel staff and players -- they all gave me a me a fair shake to earn their trust.

And thank you to the readers. I received so many great messages on Twitter and email that it left me, truly, speechless. As a journalist, you hope to be accurate, fair and provide some insight. It seems like I was able to accomplish my goals, which is very satisfying. Thank you for reading me with an open mind. I know some of my opinions weren’t popular and were against the tide at times, but I always put forth my honest opinion because I thought you deserved nothing less. You guys are tough, no doubt, but you made me better.

I never really thought about leaving the Globe, but the opportunity presented to me by Peter King and Sports Illustrated was really too good to pass up, both professionally and personally for me and my family. A lot of the details are still being formulated for the site within SI.com, but my role should expand some of the analysis that has been the meat of my Globe duties, and allow me to do more in-depth stories. The new site will launch July 22nd, and you likely won’t see much of my work until then. I will still be based in the Boston area, so I’m sure I’ll be keeping a close eye on the Patriots.

All the best. Don’t be a stranger.

And now his watch has ended....

One more for the road (for both of us): DEMPS SIREN.

Post-draft Patriots' depth chart

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 27, 2013 10:18 PM

In my opinion, this is where I see the Patriots' depth chart in the aftermath of the draft. I have not included any of the 15 undrafted free agents the Patriots can sign. Patriots currently have 75 players on the roster, including the seven draft picks.

Players in red are free agents or trades. Draft picks are highlighted in yellow.

Much of my reasoning is the subject of tomorrow's column. We'll follow with a few superlatives for kicks.

Screen Shot 2013-04-27 at 10.31.07 PM.png

Here are a few bonus superlatives:

Most likely to make an instant impact: Aaron Dobson, WR (second round)

The more I watched of him, the more I liked him, if not loved him. He's everything you want in an X vertical receiver. If he's as smart as the Patriots think he is, then he should have no trouble grabbing the starting spot where the Patriots have few other options and desperately need an impact player to make this offense a nightmare to defend.

Biggest bust potential: Jamie Collins, LB/DE (second round)

Sorry, I just don't see it on film. He's an OK player but I see way too much of Jermaine Cunningham in him. Can dazzle with athletic ability, but how good of a football player is he? Has two pass-rush moves: speed and power. That's it. No spin moves. No rips. Just straight ahead. Has some of the stiffest hips I've seen. Now, the x-factor is how the Patriots view him. If they think he's a standup linebacker, that makes a little more sense. But that would have to come from private workouts because he's played the same hybrid role the Patriots use for their ends.

Biggest upside: Michael Buchanan, DE/LB (seventh round)

The guy has a freak frame and athletic ability. If he can grow into his body and mature a little bit, the Patriots could have something big here. A lot of ifs, but definitely a huge upside to a player out of a good conference.

Longest career: Logan Ryan, CB (third round)

Just a rock, solid good football player. Not reliant on his speed so he'll still be able to play when that starts to go because he just knows how to play. Also has safety versatility to that may help extend his career.

Quotes from Bill Belichick after the conclusion of the draft

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 27, 2013 10:05 PM

Patriots coach Bill Belichick reflected on the NFL draft. Here are his comments in full.

Opening statement:

BB: It's been kind of a long day here. It started off with Josh [Boyce] in the fourth round. Josh had a good career at TCU. Really top kid, strong, tough, fast. He’s had good production down there. We had him as a receiver there at the top of the round then we had quite a bit of time on our hands. During that time, we ended up working out the deal with Tampa for LeGarrette [Blount] and we're excited to have him here. I think he’s a good football player. He’s had a lot of production. I think he got into a situation last year where they obviously went with [Doug] Martin, but I think this guy is a good football player, we’re happy to add him to our team. And then we took [Michael] Buchanan from Illinois. He’s had a good, productive career at Illinois. He’s played with a lot of good pass rushers up there. He’s had production every year in a good conference, a steady player. And finally of course, Steve Beauharnais, who’s been a middle linebacker at Rutgers – another real productive guy, a real smart, football guy. We’re battling away on the free agents – a lot of those guys out there. Of course it’s kind of fast and furious with the post-draft signings, with all 32 teams trying to go after a lot of the same guys. We’ll see how that plays out, but we’re slugging it out there. Hopefully by Monday we’ll be able to get back to normal, get them in here next weekend and start rolling in rookie minicamp and have a good month, month and a half of catching everybody up and start putting the team together on the field. Instead of just a bunch of names on the board, we’ll actually see how it looks out there on the football field doing football. [I’m ] looking forward to that too.

In the NFL Network interview, you talked about a re-do at the wide receiver position, with the two guys you drafted and Danny Amendola coming in. How rare is a potential wholesale change?

BB: I don’t know, but look at the guys who have caught balls at that position and we don’t have a lot of them on our team. [Julian] Edelman and then a couple balls here and there, so we’ll see how it all comes together. I don’t know.

FULL ENTRY

Quotes from Patriots pick Steve Beauharnais

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 27, 2013 09:32 PM

New Patriots linebacker Steve Beauharnais, who was drafted No. 235 overall in the seventh round fo the NFL draft, spoke to the media via conference call Saturday. These are his full comments.

Did you Rutgers guys all get together and have a huge party?

SB: No, but it is a great opportunity to be drafted by the Patriots.

What were you doing when you got the phone call?

SB: I’m actually doing class work, I’m still in school so I’m doing class work right now.

So you weren’t watching the draft?

SB: No, I wasn’t watching but I had it on the speaker in the other room. I was aware of everything that was going on.

FULL ENTRY

Quotes from Patriots pick Michael Buchanan

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 27, 2013 09:25 PM

New Patriots defensive lineman Michael Buchanan spoke to the media shortly after being drafted 226th overall on Saturday. Here are his comments in full.

How are you feeling?

MB: It's a great feeling. It's a great feeling. This was a childhood dream of mine with an organization I always wanted to be with, so it's definitely a great feeling. It's truly a blessing.

Where were you today? What did you spend the day doing?

MB: I was with my family. My whole family was with me. I’m still with them right now. They’re excited for me. I’m excited. I’m just at home with my family.

What do you think of coming to an organization that has some players you know?

MB: It's great. It’s great to be able to come in and kind of have some guys that I know and already feel like brothers to me. I’m at an advantage to have that, as far as me getting acclimated and everything and being in a new organization. It's definitely a great feeling.

FULL ENTRY

Looking at final 2 picks: DE Buchanan, LB Beauharnais

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 27, 2013 06:51 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- Some nuggets and thoughts on the Patriots' final two picks in the 2013 draft:

Michael Buchanan, DE/OLB, Illinois

6-5 3/8, 255 pounds, 4.78 in 40


  • 34-inch arms, 9 7/8-inch hands, 22 bench, 33 vertical, 6.91 three-cone (outstanding)

  • Obviously a very long frame with some versatility. Has played with his hand on the ground and standing up.

  • Has some pass rush skills that need some development. Tremendous foot speed for his size.

  • Needs to work on his strength to hold the point of attack against the run.

  • Weighed only 247 at his pro day after 255 at the combine. Some concern that he won't be able to gain weight.

  • Had some issues off the field, with a DUI arrest and an altercation that led to his jaw being broken.

What the "experts" are saying:

OurLads scouting: "Project to an outside 3-4 linebacker who can drop into coverage. ... An active player who can slip a block, burst to the quarterback, and get his hands up in the throwing lane. Moved around the defense to take advantage of matchups. Needs more core strength. Fifth/sixth round."

Pro Football Weekly: "Positives: Long-limbed, athletic body with a projectable frame and room for increased bulk. Highly athletic. Long first two steps. Nice bend, body control, flexibility. Can turn the corner and shows good closing burst to QB. Plays hard. Negatives: Underdeveloped frame -- lacks ideal bulk. Not a creative pass rusher with a plan. Can be run at. Flashes too infrequently. Bit immature. Third/fourth round pick."

Mel Kiper Jr.: "Despite having the skill set you look for, Buchanan was very average in 2012. He has added weight and strength, and he looks the part of a 4-3 DE, but his production doesn't equal his talent. If you can coach him up and handle him properly, Buchanan has potential. Maybe the light goes on for him at the pro level, but right now he's an underachiever. Grade slipped noticeably after underwhelming final season. Fifth/sixth round."

Steve Beauharnais, LB, Rutgers

  • 6-0 7/8, 240, 4.87
  • 32 3/4 arms, 9 1/8 hands, 19 bench, 4.20 short shuttle, 33 vertical, 6.99 three-cone
  • The undisputed leader of a Rutgers defense that was one of the best in the country;
  • Is a four-down linebacker, meaning that in addition to playing on first and second downs, he can cover and stand out on special teams;
  • Decent in coverage;
  • Despite being a small player, he takes on blocks well and takes good angles;
  • He is a lot smaller than the type of players the Patriots like to have on defense. He is almost the same size as former special teams standout Tracy White, who remains unsigned. Could be eyeing Beauharnais as White's replacement.


What the "experts" are saying:

OurLads Scouting: "Active and productive. Collected 268 career tackles and 16 sacks, which is rare for a MLB. Needs more core strength to take on the big linemen and backs. Quick to fit the hole. Normally takes good angles in pursuit. Tracks well moving downhill but will waste steps at times. Fifth/sixth round."

Pro Football Weekly: "A good, functional player with field smarts, toughness and competitiveness to fight his way into a starting lineup. Ability to play multiple positions will allow to minimally stick as a quality backup and contribute on special teams. Could prove to be a solid value selection. Fourth/fifth round."

Mel Kiper Jr.: "Generally an inside-the-box guy who understands the defense. Weight fluctuated so he needs to figure out at which weight he'll be most effective playing. He's a picture-perfect form tackler, but he'll also deliver bone-jarring hits. When this kids hits you, he hurts you. He's only average in coverage, otherwise his grade might be higher. Third-fourth round."

Quotes from Patriots pick Josh Boyce

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 27, 2013 01:59 PM

042713joshboyce607.jpgNew Patriots wide receiver Josh Boyce, selected as the 102nd overall pick out of TCU, spoke to the media via conference call shortly after being drafted Saturday.

Were you surprised to get the call from New England?

JB: Not too much. I was just happy they gave me a call and I get a chance to play for a great organization.

How many pre-draft connections did you have with New England?

JB: I have a couple of them because me and Tom [Brady] have the same agent so that worked out great.

FULL ENTRY

Looking at Patriots pick #5: TCU WR Josh Boyce

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 27, 2013 12:31 PM

boyce_josh.jpg

FOXBOROUGH -- A few nuggets and thoughts on the Patriots' fourth-round selection:

WR Josh Boyce, TCU


  • Junior entry

  • 5-11, 206 pounds, 4.38 in the 40 (tied for third highest at combine)

  • 31 1/4-inch arms, 9 1/4-inch hands, 34-inch vertical, 4.10 short shuttle (good), 6.68 three-cone (great), 22 bench (great);

  • Caught passes from Andy Dalton at TCU, and was a high school teammate of Robert Griffin III;

  • Tied for second-highest among receivers this year with a Wonderlic score of 23. That's the highest known Patriots score since Deion Branch (26) in 2002;

  • Led team with 66 receptions for 891 yards and seven touchdowns;

  • Has lined up in various spots, including running back.

What the "experts" are saying:

OurLads Scouting: "A good athlete with rare speed. Didn't always play to that timed speed. Instant acceleration but rather picks up speed as he races down field. Can keep secondary honest by driving them deep. Good body control when making a catch. Can separate better deep than short and medium. Has size and speed coaches like but needs to elevate his inconsistent receivers skills."

Pro Football Weekly: "Good zie and strength. Terrific timed speed. Can play outside or inside. Flashes playmaking. ... Average length and leaping ability. Concentration drops are too prevalent. Did not catch naturally at the combine. Poor, lazy blocker. ... Boyce's stopwatch speed has yet to translate on the field, and Boyce does not project as a core special-teams player, meaning he will have to establish himself as a short-to-intermediate No. 3 to have longevity."

Mel Kiper Jr.: "He is a solid all-around receiver with a powerful, sturdy frame and an impressive upper body. Boyce also has very good speed and smarts for the position. Has the talent to be a very solid, reliable No. 2 receiver in right pro offense.

Analysis

Like that the Patriots have double dipped at receiver, and with two guys who can help outside the numbers. The lack of viable threats there has really hampered the offense in the biggest games. Certainly like the speed and the smarts on Boyce. He won't see the field if he doesn't catch or block well, but those are things that, hopefully, can be refined. Hearing from a lot of scouts that Boyce's foot fracture likely caused his drop from about a third-round level. A good prospect with a lot of potential with the type of skills that are needed in this offense.


Day 3 of the NFL draft: What's left for the Patriots?

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 27, 2013 07:00 AM

FOXBOROUGH – With four more picks to make, the Patriots will have a busy Saturday as the NFL draft concludes with rounds four through seven.

The Patriots own the 102nd (fourth round), 226nd (seventh round), 229th (seventh round) and 235th (seventh round) picks.

The draft will start at noon and teams will have only five minutes to make a selection. We'll be providing live coverage of the whole event again.

So far, we haven't seen one of Bill Belichick's annual trades with Andy Reid, now head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Patriots have yet to pick up a Florida Gator, another almost-annual draft day selection.

But more importantly, we haven't seen the Patriots address the loss of key backup interior lineman Donald Thomas. After filling every other conceivable need, it's likely the team will look to address depth issues, both on the the offensive and defensive lines. And the team still has a move to make at quarterback with an option to trade Ryan Mallett.

Who, though, is available at guard or center? Arkansas's Alvin Bailey and Alabama's Barrett Jones just to name a few.

I'm sure there will be some surprising selections, as there were on Day 2. But there are still some huge names that need to come off of the board, including USC quarterback Matt Barkley, Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams and Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene. (Gotta throw in the Rutgers guy.)

Day 3 will be just as interesting. Follow along.

@zuriberry

5 takeaways from the Patriots' first four picks

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 27, 2013 02:05 AM

Here are my takeaways from the Patriots' second and third rounds of the NFL draft.

1. Aaron Dobson fits the bill – First of all, I like his intangibles. I think when folks look at his ability to catch the ball in the air, they'll be as enamored with him as the Patriots obviously are. At Marshall he caught 57 passes for 679 yards and three touchdowns his senior year and was second-team All-Conference USA. At 6-3 and 211 pounds, he has the frame. And then there is the speed. He ran a 4.35 40-yard dash and pumped out 16 reps on the bench press. But again, it comes back to making catches down field and over defenders. So I present to you Exhibit A:

Are you excited yet? You should be.

Also, I love his comment about getting a chance to work with Tom Brady:

"That right there, you can't beat that. The best quarterback in the league. It's amazing because I've been watching him for so long, now that I get a chance to go play with him, it's a blessing."

Is that intimidating?

"No, not intimidating at all. I'm excited just to get to know him and start catching balls and try to help the situation out. "

2. Duron Harmon is this year's mystery Patriot – Apparently Harmon had some increased interest over the past few weeks from the Patriots and others. But no one knew that the Rutgers defensive back was so coveted at the NFL Network. When his name was called in the third round, there were no highlights to show. It led to this funny exchange Harmon had with his mother, Dawn.

"My mother, she was very excited. She was like ‘Oh my baby. Where’s your clips at?’ I was like, ‘Mommy, I don't think they knew I was going today, so I don't think they had any clips ready for me.’ She was a little upset about me not having clips, but I think me getting drafted just overtook her sadness about my clips."

Harmon started all 13 games for the Scarlet Knights at safety in 2012, recording 50 tackles and seven pass breakups. His Rutgers teammate and fellow Patriots draft pick, Logan Ryan, said it wasn't surprising to see Harmon selected so high while being rated so low.

"It didn't surprise me one bit," Ryan said. "He is a great football player and I’m with him and he’s my workout partner. He works extremely hard and he believes in himself, and I believe in him. He has all of the measurables and the speed and anything that you look for. He was a two-time All Big East defender and I think if you were best in the conference two straight years then you’re worthy of being a third-round pick."

3. As suspected, a cover linebacker was taken – We were sure after evaluating the Patriots linebacker corps that the team needed someone other than Jerod Mayo who could cover tight ends and bigger receivers (think Anquan Boldin) in nickel situations. Linebacker Jamie Collins will fill that role nicely as a converted safety. He ran a 4.59 40-yard dash and has an amazing leaping ability (41 1/2 vertical jump). As long as he doesn't have to cover Rob Gronkowski, I think he can contribute right away. What was surprising, if anything, was that the Patriots reached for a linebacker first. The team is stocked with them, including: Mayo, Dont'a Hightower, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher, Niko Koutouvides, Mike Rivera, and Jeff Tarpinan.

4. For Rutgers players, a support system in place – Logan Ryan, the Patriots' third pick of the NFL draft, and Harmon, the team's fourth pick so far, join a growing contingent of former New Jerseyans. The Scarlet Knights can now boast three players in the Patriots secondary, including Devin McCourty. But there's also Justin Francis, who went undrafted last year before making the team. And before that there was Alex Silvestro and Tiquan Underwood, making a strong presence of Rutgers players in New England. Steve Belichick, Bill Belichick's son, went to the university. But with so many on the team now – and picked so close together – the benefits of the Jersey connection will be apparent for NFL grooming, providing a strong support system.

"The relationship that Devin and I have goes beyond words," said Ryan. "He’s a guy that helped me make the transition coming from being a talented high school player to becoming a college corner, and now for him to be there for this next step – I’ve grown up over the years – I’m not that 18-year-old boy anymore. To have the opportunity to compete alongside him in practice every day and the work ethic that he brings and the great leader that he is – I’m just honored to be able to play alongside him and [be in] the Patriots organization."

Neither Ryan or Harmon are expected to come in and start. But the support system in place will get them ready for when they're needed.

5. And why is it that Rutgers players are so highly valued? – Duron Harmon answers that question best:

"To tell you the truth, I think it all has to start with [former Rutgers] coach Greg Schiano. He’s instilled in his players a great football mindset. We know how to prepare for games. We prepare like professionals at Rutgers University – that’s something that he’s instilled in all of us. I think a lot of players when they get to the NFL, they don’t know how to watch film, they don’t know how to practice, they don’t know how to do the certain things that you have to do to be a great football player. I think coach Schiano instilled that in us and I think coach Belichick saw those characteristics from Rutgers football players. He knows what he’s going to get from the Rutgers football players. I think he has gotten that consistently over the years. I think that’s why he has seriously taken great looks at Rutgers football players."

@zuriberry

Quotes from Patriots pick Duron Harmon

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 27, 2013 12:36 AM

New Patriots defensive back Duron Harmon, selected No. 91 overall in the third round of the NFL draft, spoke to the media via conference call.

Did you expect to be on this call tonight? Did you expect to be drafted in the second or third round?

DH: Well, to be completely honest, me and my mother talked right before the draft and she told me to go into the draft with a clear mind, to expect anything because we serve a big God, a God that answers prayers and does anything that you ask if you're doing it in his name. And that’s what I did: I prayed before the draft. I said ‘God, put me in a position where I can be successful. Put me in a position where I can help a team and go to a team that’s going to win games and hopefully play for a long time.’

How would you describe what the past few hours have been like for you?

DH: To tell you the truth, they've been very exciting. I’ve had a great feeling about today. I just have been excited. I was there just sitting with my mother, my little sister and two of my closest friends and we're here just sitting there, watching this draft, not with any expectations and watching it somewhat as a fan and just enjoying the moment. This day has really been a great day.

FULL ENTRY

Quotes from Patriots pick Logan Ryan

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 27, 2013 12:29 AM

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New Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan, who was selected No. 83 overall in the third round of the NFL draft, spoke to reporters via conference call. Here are his comments in full.

Can you tell us your connections to the Patriots prior to the draft?

LR: The Patriots were one of the teams that worked me out and I knew they needed a corner and I felt like I was the guy for them all along. They have great Rutgers connections, but beyond that I felt like I’m a smart, versatile player and I can do well in that organization and I feel like that is a perfect fit.

You were a red shirt freshman when Devin McCourty was a senior...

LR: Yes.

Can you speak to your relationship with him?

LR: The relationship that Devin and I have goes beyond words. He’s a guy that helped me make the transition coming from being a talented high school player to becoming a college corner, and now for him to be there for this next step – I’ve grown up over the years – I’m not that 18-year-old boy anymore. To have the opportunity to compete alongside him in practice every day and the work ethic that he brings and the great leader that he is – I’m just honored to be able to play alongside him and [be in] the Patriots organization.

FULL ENTRY

Quotes from Bill Belichick on the first three rounds

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 27, 2013 12:15 AM

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Patriots coach Bill Belichick spoke to the media following the conclusion of the second day of the NFL draft. Here are his full comments.

BB: So we’re pretty much halfway through the drafting process here. I think we were able to improve our team here tonight with the four players we selected, so we're pleased with that. We’ll see how it all comes together. I felt like we got good value for our picks, good players, guys that have a lot of things going for them, so we’ll see how it all works out. Obviously we made the trade yesterday, which got us basically two extra picks: the 83rd pick, which was Logan Ryan, and the pick we have tomorrow which is 102. Those are two players that we didn't have prior to Thursday’s start and hopefully those will be two guys – whatever happens tomorrow – that we can add to what we originally came in with. Again, I felt like we got good value for the picks that we had: three defensive players and a receiver. Jamie [Collins] is an interesting guy that came into college as a safety, played inside linebacker, played outside linebacker in a 3-4 and then played defensive end last year. He’s been a very productive player in the kicking game. He’s got a lot of versatility, solid player, hard worker, great kid. Of course Aaron [Dobson] was a great high school basketball player and football player. Was a very productive player at Marshall. Had a real good Senior Bowl. Both players have real good size, good speed for their position, and have been productive at good levels. And of course the two Rutgers DBs – that was a very good defensive unit that they had last year, over the past few years actually, but especially last year. Of course Logan [Ryan] had a very productive year outside and Duron [Harmon] inside. I know that whole group, but especially those guys, are close. They communicated well, played well. Both were very productive, both defensively and in the kicking game, solid guys. We’ve had a number of our players here comment on their personal characteristics, so I think we're getting some high quality guys there as well as good football players. We'll see how things go tomorrow. Right now we’re scheduled to be in the fourth and seventh rounds. We’ll see how all that comes together. Like I said, I feel like we improved our team and hopefully we'll be able to do that tomorrow through the draft process and the subsequent free agent signings that will come post draft.

What are some of the things that stand out to you about Aaron Dobson?

BB: He’s big, he’s fast, he’s got good hands, he’s a strong player; smart, very smart. He has some position flexibility and versatility. Catches the ball very well. We’ll see how it goes.

FULL ENTRY

Looking at Patriots picks 3 and 4: Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 27, 2013 12:03 AM

Here's a look at the Patriots' two picks in the third round, Rutgers teammates Logan Ryan (CB) and Duron Harmon (S).

CB LOGAN RYAN

  • 5-11, 191 pounds, 4.53 in the 40.
  • 31 1/2-inch arms, 9 1/2-inch hands, 32.5-inch vertical jump, 4.06 short shuttle, 6.69 three-cone.
  • Came out after his junior season as a two-year starter.
  • Just a really good, solid football player who doesn't really standout in any area other than toughness. He's not afraid of anybody.
  • He's a lot like other Rutgers cornerbacks, including Devin McCourty. They're disciplined, play zone better than man, and tackle like demons. They're smart and don't take plays off.
  • Also like McCourty, he plays a little stiff. McCourty is definitely faster.
  • As far as his role with the Patriots, he's instantly the fourth corner ahead of Marquice Cole and should provide quality depth, which was needed.

S DURON HARMON

  • 6-0, 192 pounds, 4.51 in the 40.
  • 15 reps on bench, 36-inch vertical, 10-05 broad jump, 4.40 short shuttle, 7.02 three-cone.
  • Really smart player. Made a lot of the calls in the back end. Being a deep, free safety is not his strength.
  • Harmon is best closer to the line of scrimmage. He can cover tight ends and hits like a truck towards the sidelines.
  • As far as his role with the Patriots, besides special teams, I think he fits best as the "money" dime back that Tavon Wilson played last season. If Wilson grabs the three-way competition between Adrian Wilson and Steve Gregory, Harmon is another option at money along with Adrian Wilson, Gregory, and Jamie Collins.

Quotes from Patriots pick Aaron Dobson

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 27, 2013 12:00 AM

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New Patriots wide receiver Aaron Dobson, who was selected No. 59 overall in the second round of the NFL draft, spoke to the media via conference call. These are part of his comments.

Thoughts on being part of the Patriots.

It's an exciting time. Just to have the opportunity to play in the NFL and to play for a great team like the Patriots. It's just a blessing from the man above. I'm just excited to hit the ground running.

Any preconceived notions on the Patriots.

I just know that they're a great team. I know the head coach and stuff like that. I don't know too much of how they operate so I'm just ready to see.

On predraft connection with the Patriots.

Yeah I talked to them, I went up there for a visit. And they showed some interest. They were one of the teams that showed some interest.

On knowing Troy Brown or Randy Moss, both from Marhsall.

I've met them, I wouldn't say I have any type of relationship where I can call them or anything like that. But I've definitely met them. They've been around. Definitely Troy has been around the facility a lot.

On being similar to Moss a little bit.

Moss is a great player. He definitely did his thing in the NFL. He came in and went straight to work. I'm just trying to come in and make my own name.
Just do what I have to do to make my team win.

About the amazing one-handed catch against ECU.

Ha … I seen the ball in the air and I just went to go get it and that's how it turned out.

On dealing with the mental pressures of a complicated NFL offense.

I think I'm ready. It's definitely something that I've been getting prepared for just going through this whole process. People have just been telling me about the pressure and stuff of just going into the league. So I'm just trying to go in level-headed and go in and just focus and just ready to start my new life with the Patriots and my new life in the NFL.

On having no drops in his senior year.

I definitely take pride in that. Me being a receiver, that's what we do. That's how we make our money so I definitely take pride in that.

On his stats.

I feel like I had a great career at Marshall.

On working with Tom Brady.

That right there, you can't beat that. The best quarterback in the league. It's amazing because I've been watching him for so long, now that I get a chance to go play with him, it's a blessing.

Is that intimidating?

No, not intimidating at all. I'm excited just to get to know him and start catching balls and try to help the situation out.

Did you do post-snap adjustments at Marshall?

I'm definitely familiar with that.

Quotes from Patriots pick Jamie Collins

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 26, 2013 11:46 PM

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New Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins, who was selected No. 52 overall in the second round, spoke to the media via conference call.

Surprised to get picked by Pats?

Man, I’m just happy my name got called.

How happy to be on team that’s going to win a game?

Man, (chuckle) I feel like the NFL, no matter what team you’re on, you just…I’m just going to play my heart out.

Preconceived notions about Pats?

No, not really. From the things I’ve heard about New England there are a lot of pluses, very few minuses but I’m just ready to get in there, man, and get started.

FULL ENTRY

Looking at Patriots pick #2: WR Aaron Dobson

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 26, 2013 08:32 PM

Here are a few nuggets/thoughts on Dobson:

  • 6-2 3/4, 210 pounds, ran 4.42 at his pro day. 33-inch arms, 9-inch hands, 4.29 in the short shuttle, three-cone drill in 7.2 seconds.
  • Wonderlic score: 19. On lower end for receivers they've drafted, but David Givens (18) certainly worked out. Same score as Taylor Price, way better than Chad Jackson (15), who had the worst. Deion Branch (26) had the best.
  • Played in a spread offense where he usually played the X spot. Could go deep or take short passes from there. Very good hands.
  • Would fit exactly what the Patriots are looking for at the X position. Has the ability to get deep, make circus catches in the air with very good leaping ability. Question will be how quickly he contributes because most scouts think he's a bit raw and needs work. Will probably help going from a bad quarterback situation to one of the NFL's best.
  • OurLads Scouting had a third/fourth grade; Pro Football Weekly had second/third; Mel Kiper had second/third but said "2-3 years down the road people are going to wonder why he wasn't a top 15-20 pick."

Looking at Patriots pick #1: LB Jamie Collins

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 26, 2013 07:59 PM

A few nuggets/thoughts on linebacker Jamie Collins from Southern Mississippi, the Patriots' first pick in the draft.

Here is what Milwaukee Journal Sentinel draft guru Bob McGinn said about Collins:

5. JAMIE COLLINS, Southern Mississippi (6-3˝, 250, 4.62, 2) -- Prep QB moved to safety and finally to LB-DE in 2010. "He has major athletic ability," said one scout of Collins' LB-leading vertical jump (41˝) and broad jump (11-7). "Tested off the charts. He played walkaway outside backer and as a defensive end. He can be a 'will' in a 4-3, a 'will' in a 3-4 or a 3-4 rush backer. But he's not very smart (Wonderlic of 17)." Played far better as a junior than for a winless team in '12. "He dogged it this year," another scout said. "He hated the staff, and probably was right in doing so. Need to watch junior tape. He's very athletic but not physical. Hit or miss, feast or famine." Started 34 of 51 games, finishing with 314 tackles (46 for loss), 16 sacks and 15 "big" plays (eight forced fumbles). Had three defensive TDs. "I don't think he's a bad kid," a third scout said. "But sometimes it's like talking to a brick wall. It's not that he lacks toughness. Sometimes he just disappears." From McCall Creek, Miss. "They were an awful team, and he wasn't the solution," said a fourth scout. "He was the problem. Low motor. Has tremendous upside. I don't normally bet on guys like that, but people do. He'll be gone in the first three rounds."

  • Two scouts I heard from after the draft also mentioned Collins "dogging it" last season on an 0-12 team. Both talked about Collins being "extremely gifted" and added that his play was "uneven." One said, "He dogs it too much for me."
  • I'm sure the Patriots did their homework and feel that what Collins put on the field in '12 was more a product of his environment than his character.
  • OurLads Scouting service had Collins in the third round; Pro Football Weekly had him as fourth/fifth round; Mel Kiper had him second/third round range.
  • Sure seems that he has a ton of raw tools that can be used in a variety of ways. He'll definitely impact special teams -- something the Patriots were looking for -- and likely pass coverage. Can also come off the edge and rush the passer in sub packages.
  • Sure seems that Collins gives the Patriots some coverage at both linebacker and end Brandon Spikes and Rob Ninkovich head into contract years.

Day 2 of the draft: The best of the rest

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 26, 2013 07:00 AM

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Former Patriots offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi holds up the jersey that was meant for the Patriots' first rounder with league commissioner Roger Goodell. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

FOXBOROUGH – You probably were hoping the Patriots would cave to the closeness of a sexy selection and pick one of the fantastic wide receivers tumbling down the draft board in the first round.

Nope. Not now, not ever. Instead, history and precedence won out again with the Patriots trading down for the 16th time under Bill Belichick's tutelage, his 51st draft-day trade with the team.

The Patriots traded No. 29 to the Minnesota Vikings for four picks, Nos. 52 (second round), 83 (third), 102 (fourth, from Detroit), and 229 (seventh). The Vikings ended up picking Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson at that position.

But there's no reason to be disappointed. Luckily for the Patriots, this was a depressed draft board that was begging for some of Belichick's second-round magic. The options at wide receiver are still sexy enough to satisfy the fan base, and the Patriots have enough clout with eight picks remaining to move up and grab someone they may really want.

So who could that be? Well let's take a look at three receivers still available and worth the attention.

1. Robert Woods, USC – Great production in college and an amazing ability to turn it up the field and make plays. He's going to be a great receiver.

2. Terrance Williams, Baylor – Good speed and size, an NCAA-leading 1,832 yards in 2012 to go along with 92 catches and 12 touchdowns. Yeah, he can do the job.

3. Justin Hunter, Tennessee – Tall (6-4) and fast (4.44 40-yard dash), Hunter is arguably just as talented as Patterson, his teammate with the Volunteers. He caught 73 balls for 1,083 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2012.

Here are the three they missed out on:

– Tavon Austin, West Virginia (selected No. 8 by St. Louis)

– DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson (selected No. 27 by Houston)

– Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee (selected No. 29 by Minnesota)

There are also several other high-quality wideouts worth mentioning: Cal's Keenan Allen, West Virginia's Stedman Bailey, Oregon State's Marcus Wheaton, and Tennessee Tech's Da'Rick Rogers. I'm sure there's plenty more the Patriots have their eyes on.

However, with 20 picks on the board until the Patriots find themselves on the clock again, they could be spurred to make something happen if a player they covet is within reach. There are now eight picks to dangle, making Thursday's draft-day trade worthy of plaudits, not stones.

***

Zuri's Top 5 needs for the Patriots in the draft (revised)

1. Wide receiver
2. Cornerback
3. Defensive end
4. Guard/interior lineman
5. Nickel linebacker

***

Some interesting tidbits from the first round:

– The movement by the Raiders represents a shift by the Silver and Black. The Raiders traded out of the No. 3 spot with the Miami Dolphins. At No. 3, Miami picked Oregon DE/LB Dion Jordan. The Raiders picked up the Dolphins' Nos. 12 (cornerback D.J. Hayden) and 42 (second round). These aren't your turn-of-the-century Raiders, who under Al Davis' reign valued speed over all. This trade showed prudence. We'll see what Oakland does going forward.

– AFC East rival Buffalo traded its No. 8 pick to the St. Louis Rams, and the Rams proceeded to select West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin. In return, the Bills got picks 16 (quarterback EJ Manuel), 46, 78, and 222 while St. Louis also gave up No. 71. The Bills were obviously filling a need, but they also provided one of the few real draft-day surprises in picking Manuel. As the first quarterback off the board, Manuel upstaged the likes of Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib, and Geno Smith, whose names were tossed about endlessly in connection with the Bills for weeks. Manuel was, as the NFL Network's Mike Mayock put it, the dark horse.

– Three Alabama football players were taken in a row, Dee Milliner (Jets) at No. 9, Chance Warmack (Titans) at No. 10, and DJ Fluker (Chargers) at No. 11. Roll Tide, roll.

– A total of 11 players from the SEC were taken in the first round, as if the best conference in college football needed more to brag about.

***

Tweet of the week

This one comes from Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones, who was congratulating former Syracuse teammate Justin Pugh after he was drafted by the New York Giants 19th overall.

WOW I'm in legit tears! So happy for you @justinpugh67 !!! You did it bro!!!!

— Chandler Jones (@Chan95Jones) April 26, 2013

***

First round winner

Try the Minnesota Vikings. Despite giving up four picks to the Patriots, the Vikings came away with three first rounders, including defensive studs in Sharrif Floyd and Xavier Rhodes before picking up Patterson. Floyd was projected to be a top 10 pick and Rhodes could have been selected at least 13 spots ahead as the second corner. Talk about quality and quantity going hand-in-hand.


***

Input this

Reader "spaceray" writes:

It's refreshing to hear a "football analyst" admitting that he has no clue what BB will do because let's face it, historically speaking that's totally true! With that said we all know that BB is a defensive minded coach so if you were to bet on who he's going to pick that odds are in your favor if you go with a defensive player. I for one believe that the Pats need to shore up and develop defensive talent and the D-line needs to be addressed from a long-range perspective. Drafting college level WR is all about the sizzle and again, we all know that our favorite hoodie is not about the sizzle. Since the Pats revolutionized the concept of dual tight end receiving threats, other teams have followed. As a result, there now exists a REAL need for a LB with size, speed and experience to cover these mobile behemoths. Therefore, logically, that's where the Pats need to draft.

I suggest Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene. He's a converted defensive back and runs a 4.61 40-yard dash. But he's bulked up enough to handle the run at 241 pounds. We're on the same wavelengths, Spaceray.


***

What's next?

The Patriots have plenty to do Friday in the NFL draft, with four picks in the second and third rounds. The draft resumes at 6:30 p.m. and the Patriots have the Nos. 52 (from Minnesota), 59, 83, and 91 picks.

Zuri Berry can be reached at zberry@boston.com. Follow him on Twitter @zuriberry.

Quotes from Nick Caserio on first round

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 26, 2013 01:53 AM

Here are Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio's comments following the first round of the NFL draft:

NC: So you guys still have to write a story for tomorrow? What’s there to write about?

Q: Any leads you can give us?

NC: Well, you know, we had conversations with a few teams. It was an opportunity that we thought made sense for us. It's an opportunity to add more players to our team. We feel that there are a lot of good players that are still available. We picked up a pick in the second round, picked up another pick in the third round and the fourth round, which we didn't have, and then got a seventh-round pick which we acquired as part of it as well. In years past, those have been pretty valuable: we took [Alfonzo] Dennard, we’ve taken Julian Edelman, and we’ve taken guys like that. So, we thought it made sense for our football team to make the move and that’s why we did what we did. We feel pretty good going into tomorrow. We have, really, four picks, and we were kind of going into the day potentially having only two picks. We feel that there are football players out there that can help our team. And like we talked about the other day, our whole goal and job is to try to improve the team to help us win games, and we think this effort will hopefully aid in that pursuit.

Q: Is there a player that, once he went off the board, you said, ‘Ok, now let’s look at trade possibilities?’

NC: We had had conversations throughout, I would say, once we got to a certain point there in the middle of the draft. We had has some exchanges back and forth and as we got a little closer there were a few more calls. Minnesota had expressed and interest and we went back and forth and then we decided that this made sense, so we made the move.

Q: But was there one specific player?

NC: From our perspective?

Q: Yes.

NC: No, like we talked about the other day, we were ready to pick. We had a few players that we actually had in mind that we were going to talk about to consider picking, and then we decided to make the move that we did. So no question, we had players , a player, we would have taken.

Q: Does one of those players remain on the board?

NC: A few of them remain, I would say. A few of them remain. I think if you look at it right now, there’re a lot of good football players. I think there were 11 front-seven players that have gone and I want to say seven defensive backs. I think there were 18 defensive players and there were nine offensive linemen, which this definitely was a deep draft on the offensive line and that was the feeling – at least from our perspective – going in. Only one quarterback went, a couple skill guys went, the one tight end went, so it was, I would say, certainly a defensive-oriented draft and the front seven took precedence, which I would say it does on a yearly basis.

Q: Of the players who remain, is there a chance that you could move up closer to the front of the second round?

NC: Possibly. We’ll see how it goes. I think, based on the number of players that are there, if there are multiple players, then that’s one thing. If some of those players start o come off then we want to make a move up, we have maybe a little more flexibility to do that. I think we’re open to anything at this point, so we'll have to see how it unfolds tomorrow once we get started.

Q: Did anything surprise you?

NC: To tell you the truth, not really. A lot of the players that were drafted, we had sort of expected that they were going to go, not necessarily in the order in which they did but I wouldn't say there were too many surprises. I think things kind of fell in place – we knew, like I said, the offensive line was definitely going to be in and as it turned out, we had figured there would be seven or eight guys that were going to be picked – there ended up being nine. The front seven, we figured there would be a fair amount of players that would be picked and that’s the way it turned out, so I wouldn’t say there was too much that was all that surprising about what happened.

Q: Did the Miami move surprise you at all?

NC: You’d have to ask them about that.

Q: Did it surprise you seeing the Dolphins move up that high?

NC: They did what they thought was best for their situation. I think the unique thing was probably Minnesota doing what they did, picking three players in the first round. I don’t know what the stats are, how many times that’s happened in draft history, but probably not that much. If you want to put something that was different in relative terms, that would certainly be one thing.

Q: Do you think that Minnesota having three first round picks prompted them to give up as many picks as they did?

NC: We agreed to terms of the trade, so they were interested in doing it; we thought it made sense so there was a match.

Q: It seems like a big bounty for that pick.

NC: When you talk to [Vikings General Manager] Rick [Spielman], see what he has to say about that.

Q: In terms of the makeup of the draft, would you agree with the assessment that the sweet spot of this draft is the second and third rounds?

NC: I think that we feel that there are players littered throughout this draft. There are certainly a number of good football players that are still up on the board. I think there are some players that potentially could have very easily gone in this round; they haven’t so that’s second, third round. We thought there was some degree of value in the draft. We’re in a situation right now where hopefully we can capitalize on that. It just gives us the flexibility to do a few different things tomorrow.

Q: When did you start talking with Minnesota?

NC: I think it was a pick or two out. We got on the phone and went back and forth. I think it's very indicative I would say of how trades are consummated. Some teams have discussions before the draft – maybe at the top portion of the draft, like we talked about the other day in here. It’s very similar to what happened to last year’s situation when we made our move up. It was something that we had talked about – that we hadn’t necessarily planned for – we got on the phone. We got on the horn and ended up making the deal. Typically that’s how most trades sort of happen. I think it's very player specific and it's player-based, based on the team’s level of interest, the team’s perceived need. And then you come to some agreement and that’s why we ended up doing what we did.

Q: Did you see Joe Andruzzi’s moment up on stage?

NC: I did, yeah. It was neat. We were sitting in there and I think someone asked ‘Are they booing him?’ because we have the feed from our people there. That was a neat moment. I don't think something like that has happened in the history of the draft. Joe’s a great ambassador for this organization, for this city, in what he’s done. He’s made endless contributions, forget on the football field, but just in terms of his contributions to the organization. I think this was another example of that, with the jersey and the message. I think everybody is still wary and cognizant of what had happened even in light of some of the recent developments over the last few days about the potential impact on New York. It’s a very sensitive sort of subject. Joe’s a great human being. He’s a great ambassador for our program and it was really a cool moment.

Q: How was the tenor of the draft room today?

NC: We’ll go back and we have some time tomorrow, so we’ll kind of get organized here this evening. Just kind of jot down some last minute follow-up notes and then we’ll get ready for the morning, get back at it.

Q: Once Minnesota started talking to you, did you stop communicating with other teams?

NC: No, we were still communicating back and forth with a few teams and that’s just the way it worked out with the Vikings.

No surprise: Patriots trade out of 1st round

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff April 25, 2013 11:33 PM

There aren't many sure things when it comes to the Bill Belichick Patriots, but when the NFL Draft began and New England held the 29th overall pick and only four others - in the second, third, and seventh (two picks) rounds - it was a good bet that they would be making a trade or two to acquire more picks.

And after waiting more than three hours for the first 28 picks to be announced, the news came: New England traded the 29th pick to Minnesota for a whopping package of four picks. The Vikings gave up selections in the 2d (52nd overall), 3rd (83rd), 4th (102d) and, 7th (229th) rounds.

Minnesota used the pick to take Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson, who played just one season with the Volunteers after two season at a junior college.

The Patriots now have eight picks: 52, 59, 83, 91, 102, 226, 229, and 235.

The second and third rounds of the draft will be held on Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Patriots' deal even on trade chart

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 25, 2013 11:32 PM

According to the old Cowboys draft trade chart, the Patriots and Vikings were even.

Vikings received: No. 29 (640 points)

Patriots received a total of 648:

52 (380)
83 (175)
102 (92)
229 (1)

With two picks in both the second and third rounds, I would expect the Patriots to target one player at the top of the second round and trade up.

We'll see.

Patriots are getting closer to the clock

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 25, 2013 10:48 PM

We're at pick 26 right now in the first round, with the Patriots on the clock at 29.

Thanks to a few surprise picks, there are a lot of good players on the board -- some that weren't projected to be there.

By position group:

Defensive tackles
Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
Kawann Short, Purdue

Defensive ends
Datone Jones, UCLA
Tank Carradine, Florida State
Alex Okafor, Texas
Margus Hunt, SMU

Cornerbacks
Johnathan Banks, Miss. St.
Jamar Taylor, Boise St.

Safety
Matt Elam, Florida
Jonathan Cyprien, FIU
D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina

Wide receiver (all but Tavon Austin)
Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Keenan Allen, Cal
DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Marcus Wheaton, Oregon State
Jason Hunter, Tennessee
Robert Woods, USC

Who do you have?


QB Ryan Mallett in play for trade

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 25, 2013 10:52 AM

Multiple teams have called the Patriots this week about a potential trade for backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, according to three league sources.

Whether the Patriots will trade the 2011 third-round pick is the question. But all three sources said the odds are slightly stronger that Mallett is dealt than kept by the Patriots.

The Patriots have been heavily scouting quarterbacks in the leadup to the draft, and could very well select one during the draft.

The Patriots would like more than a third-round pick after developing Mallett for two years. It's likely a second this season or a first in '14 would close the deal.

The potential trading partners aren't yet known, but the Browns have long been favorites to land Mallett. Not only did Browns general manager Mike Lombardi gush about the trade on NFL Network, but behind the scenes, Lombardi pushed Bill Belichick to take Mallett.

And while most teams haven't seen much of anything from Mallett in his two mediocre (at best) preseasons, Lombardi's son, Mick, had a front row seat for every practice as a coaching/scouting assistant. Mick Lombardi is now Jim Harbaugh's assistant with the 49ers.

The Browns don't have a second-round choice at this time, but could trade down and pick one up.

Getting you ready for draft day

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 25, 2013 07:00 AM

When the NFL draft kicks off Thursday night, we'll be covering it every step of the way.

We'll have live coverage on Boston.com throughout the three-day event, starting at 7 p.m. Thursday night, bringing analysis and commentary from all of our writers and more.

In some eyes, the draft marks the turning of a page for a franchise. For New England, the Patriots can put 2012's disappointing finish in the rear-view mirror and look forward to the final assembly of the team's roster. Whom the team will pick is up in the air. But after the past 2 1/2 months of roster moves, we have a pretty good idea of what positions they'll be looking to pick up.

After overtures to Emmanuel Sanders ended, and considering the team dumped Brandon Lloyd, a wide receiver is definitely on the docket. Whether that happens in the first round is another matter entirely.

In coach Bill Belichick's reign, the Patriots have yet to value the receiver position enough to select one in the first round, instead selecting four defensive linemen, two offensive linemen, two linebackers, two tight ends, one running back and one defensive back. It just so happens that Belichick has gone on a shopping spree in free agency for defensive linemen this offseason, picking up Canadian Football League players Jason Vega and Armond Armstead as well as former Raider Tommy Kelly, fueling the notion the Patriots will finally look to this long-ignored skill position in the first round.

But history and precedence speak loudly against it. The Patriots are far more likely to trade down, something they've done 15 times under Belichick's tutelage. (The Patriots have made a whopping 50 draft-day trades since Belichick has been on board.)

There are other key positions for the Patriots to address: Cornerback (for the future), defensive end (depth), linebacker (sub package coverage situations), safety (depth), and guard (depth). Of course, the team doesn't need to make a selection at each of these positions, but addressing them can boost the team's long-term viability as a contender. And we're sure that's what is Belichick's interest foremost.

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Here are some quick details on the Patriots' first night of the draft:

- The draft starts at 8 p.m. and can be watched on ESPN. If you don't have ESPN, don't worry. Follow along in our live blog. If you have ESPN, don't worry, there will be Patriots-focused coverage in our live blog. (It's also friendly on mobile devices for those scurrying around in the evening hours.)

- The Patriots hold the No. 29 pick in the first round.

- The estimated time for the Patriots to make a selection is around 11 p.m.

- For the first round, each team gets 10 minutes to make a selection.

- Boston.com's Draft Tracker can be found here. Team-by-team reports are here.

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OK, before you join Greg Bedard in his draft-day chat, why don't you let us know in the comments what position you want the Patriots to focus on.

@zuriberry

NFL Draft Q&A

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff April 24, 2013 05:00 PM

Globe NFL reporter Greg A. Bedard held an NFL Draft discussion on Thursday. Review the questions and his answers in the chat window below.

NFL Draft chat with Greg Bedard

'Most of the work is done' on the draft, according to Patriots' Caserio

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff April 22, 2013 01:27 PM

The 2013 NFL draft begins Thursday night, and the Patriots hold just five picks -- in the first, second, third, and seventh rounds (two in the seventh).

Because they made it to the AFC title game, the Patriots will pick late in each round, beginning with 29th overall in the first.

But regardless of what happens -- whether they pick at 29, whether they trade down, whether they acquire more picks or just keep the five -- director of player personnel Nick Caserio said Monday the team is ready.

"I'd say most of the work is done. I think we're just at the stage where we're compiling all of the information that we do have, trying to get organized," Caserio said. "It's been a lot of hard work and a lot of efforts by a lot of people on a lot of different fronts, starting with the scouting staff, on the college scouting staff, specifically with Jon Robinson and his staff. He does a really great job. I'm certainly appreciative for his efforts, but there are a lot of people that have put a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of effort into this endeavor.

"Hopefully, we're prepared. We'll see how it unfolds Thursday night, and get ready for the next part of the offseason."

New England has had no fewer than seven picks available over the last decade, with 10 or more in each of the last four years. The Patriots had six selections in 2002.

They could stay at five this year, or they might not.

"I think that sort of materializes in and of itself," Caserio said of draft-weekend trades. "Like even going into the draft last year, we really hadn't had any substantive discussions about moving up or moving down. It just kind of happened and materialized once we're in the draft room and once we were on the phone.

"Could that happen when we get to the draft Thursday night? Possibly, but if we don't, if we have five picks, we have five picks. We'll take it as it comes. I don't think it changes our philosophy. We're going to know the board top to bottom like we do every year. If there's an opportunity that presents itself and makes sense, we'll consider it. If not, you always have to be prepared to pick regardless of how many picks that you have."

Would Caserio like more picks?

"We'll take whatever we can get," he said. "However we get them, we'll take them. If we end up with five, we end up with five. If we get more, we get more.

"I think when you go into the draft, you know going into it you have X amount of selections that you’re going to make and you have to be prepared every time your name comes up. That doesn’t change from one year to the next. However many picks you have, you make the pick, and if there’s an opportunity that’s out there that makes sense for you to move either way, then you consider if that’s the best thing for us at the time."

After a stretch of less-than-successful drafts, the Patriots seem to have righted the ship in recent years. Fixing those mistakes is part of New England's constant desire to get better.

"I think really as a team we look at everything that we do – on the field, off the field, strength and conditioning, draft, etc., so we’re always trying to find ways to improve our systems and make them better whatever it might be," Caserio said. "I would say it’s an organizational philosophy of always trying to improve, always trying to get better, in the name of trying to win games.

"Because the most important thing, it’s about winning games. So whether it’s the draft, whether it’s free agency, undrafted free agency, whatever it may be, the most important thing is about winning games. So however we can figure out a way to help us win more games, that’s what we’ll do."

There was one non-draft-related question for Caserio, regarding the trade of cornerback Darrelle Revis from the rival Jets to Tampa Bay.

"Darrelle is a great player," said Caserio. "There's no question about it. I think the Jets will do what they can. They'll put a good team out there, whoever we end up playing, whoever is on the field, they'll be good players, and we'll have to make sure that we're prepared for that. We're going to have to face him, it looks like, some time this season when we play Tampa Bay. He won't be too far from us."

The Patriots play the Buccaneers Sept. 22 at Gillette Stadium.

Patriots' Caserio reflects on events of the last week

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff April 22, 2013 01:11 PM

After two postponements because of the Boston Marathon bombings and the aftermath, the Patriots' director of player personnel, Nick Caserio, held his predraft press conference Monday.

It was the first time that a Patriots front office member or coach has been made available since the bombings, and Caserio began his session with a statement.

"In regard to last week, I think it's fair to say all of our minds were elsewhere and the last thing we were thinking about was the draft and football," Caserio said. "Before we get started on the football front, just a prayer and a thought to the families of the victims and those directly affected by the events of last week.

"I think all of us were impacted indirectly, but some more directly than others. Thoughts and prayers are still with everybody as we're recovering, and a debt of gratitude is certainly in order for the law enforcement officials of Boston, specifically Watertown for their swift efforts last week, their painstaking efforts, to reach a resolution, enable us to get back to some degree of normalcy. It's a slow process. I think we're all working through it, but without their efforts, we probably wouldn't even be standing here today having a press conference.

"Definitely a debt of gratitude and appreciation is in order for them. I think it's been pretty neat to see the city of Boston respond to the events. This is a strong city. It's a hard-nosed city. It's a tough city. The one thing about it, the people of Boston, we're going to fight. We're going to battle.

"Some of the efforts of the people last week, the first to respond, were pretty heroic on that front. Sitting down here at Gillette Stadium, probably can't really understand the true impact that it had on people there live, but I think it speaks to the city of Boston and what we're about. I think that's most appropriate for everybody here today."

Caserio went on to congratulate the three finalists for the Patriots Hall of Fame, Tedy Bruschi, Leon Gray, and Chuck Fairbanks.

Patriots show heart, connect with the city

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 20, 2013 02:30 PM

042013wilfork609.jpg

Patriots co-defensive captain Vince Wilfork and some of his teammates have stepped up for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. (Stephan Savoia / AP file photo)

Before the release of the Patriots and NFL schedule, which draws no shortage of hype, and before the NFL Draft, which draws no shortage of hoopla, we have this amazing opportunity in Boston to shower attention upon the elite endurance runners of the world.

As much as the Boston Marathon is an international contest, it's also very much a family event for those in the Greater Boston Area. It's a community gathering, one in which we can recognize the amazing perseverance of our family members and neighbors in the same field as world-class athletes.

The sanctity of this event that we all cherish and enjoy was scarred on Monday with bombs planted at the finish line, killing three and injuring more than 170 others. Brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev (killed) and Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev (captured), the suspected perpetrators, were tracked down in a massive manhunt Friday.

But in the aftermath of such a tragic event, one which played out breathlessly for five days, it was heartening to see so many of the Patriots players respond to the bombing with acts of kindness and charity. It started with new wide receiver Danny Amendola, who pledged to donate $100 for every pass he caught and $200 for every pass dropped to "whatever Boston Marathon Relief Fund there is."

He was quickly followed up by Vince Wilfork, who asked fans to text "VINCE" to 50555 for a $10 donation on their phone bill that would help benefit victims through his foundation. As of April 17, at least 1,700 people had donated to Wilfork's foundation.

Defensive back Devin McCourty offered a $100 donation for each tackle he makes in 2013 and $200 for each interception.

It's times like these that professional athletes realize their own potential to have a positive impact in their community and live up to it. These Patriots players should be applauded for their philanthropy. But what's more, their charitable works have endeared them to a region that is still emotionally raw from the past week. There will be plenty of time to dissect their play on the field and process the X's and O's of Patriots football, but right now let's shower them with a little more praise for being good people. They deserve as much.


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Tweet of the week

Visited #survivor #stud #hero Jeffrey Bauman Jr. today. He was looking great and is a true inspiration. #strong twitter.com/Edelman11/stat…

— Julian Edelman (@Edelman11) April 19, 2013


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5 takeaways from the schedule release

1. The Patriots' 2013 regular season schedule is much tougher than last year. They've got top-tier competition in the Falcons, Broncos, Steelers, and, to a certain degree, the Ravens. With arguably only three top-tier games last year (Ravens, 49ers, Broncos), it's no surprise the team's strength of schedule rating was boosted. But it went up rather dramatically this year to .509 after being dead last in the NFL at .453 in 2012. I think we'll all appreciate the level of competition ahead.

2. The good games are spread out. Falcons in Week 4. Saints in Week 6. Steelers in Week 9. Broncos in Week 12. Ravens in Week 16. Every other week, the competition is going to be mediocre so the Patriots are going to have to stay vigilant. And that's not even mentioning division opponents Miami or New York.

3. With five prime time games – an NFL maximum – the Patriots still represent one of the top draws in the NFL on television. The other teams with five games? 49ers, Broncos, Falcons, Giants, and Redskins.

4. The Patriots' Week 12 matchup with the Denver Broncos is already being pitched as one of the best games of the season. There's star quality across the board, of course, but all eyes will be on Wes Welker's return to Foxborough. While I expect fireworks, I think the Falcons will be more of a challenge in Week 4.

5. If I could pick a trap game for the Patriots, it would most certainly be the Buccaneers. After a 7-9 season, Greg Schiano will surely have had the opportunity to upgrade his roster with eight picks in the NFL draft. And the team is littered with weapons on offense. Add to the fact the Patriots face the Bucs early on in Week 3, and I like Tampa Bay's chances for an upset.


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Zuri's Top 5 needs for the Patriots in the draft

1. Wide receiver
2. Cornerback
3. Defensive end
4. Nickel linebacker
5. Safety

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Input this

Former Patriots offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi and linebacker Matt Chatham picked up a woman and escorted her away from danger after the Boston Marathon bombing on Monday. You may have read about it. Our readers certainly disagreed with Andruzzi's characterization of his role, calling him a bona fide hero despite his statement that he was not a hero.

Soxgirl15 wrote:

With all due respect Mr. Andruzzi...you and your family have pulled strangers from bombed buildings and you yourself carried a stranger to safety after your city was attacked.  You sir, are the definition of a hero.  A hero isn't an actor or an actress or a sports star...its men and women like yourself who put others ahead of themselves when tragedy strikes.  Men and women like yourself who carry injured out of battle zones.  You  Joe...are most definitely a Hero.  

I happen to agree with our readers.

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What's coming

- The Patriots pre-draft news conference is now scheduled for noon on Monday. It had been pushed back twice because of the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt. Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio will be made available to the media for the press conference.

- The NFL draft is now just 5 days away, April 25-27.

- Patriots will have on-field organized team activities (OTAs) May 20-21, 23, 28-30, and June 3-4 as well as June 6-7.

- The team's mandatory mini-camp will be June 11-13.

- While no date has been set, the Patriots will likely begin training camp in the final week of July.

- The NFL season opens Thursday Sept. 5 with the Broncos hosting the Super Bowl champion Ravens. The Patriots will open the season on Sunday Sept. 8 in Buffalo. Only 141 days away.

Zuri Berry can be reached at zberry@boston.com. Follow him on Twitter @zuriberry.

Patriots postpone pre-draft press conference

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 19, 2013 10:59 AM

The Patriots have postponed their pre-draft press conference with director of player personnel Nick Caserio Friday due to the widespread manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspect.

The pre-draft press conference was originally slated for Tuesday but was postponed till Friday at noon. It's now been pushed to noon on Monday while police hunt for the suspect in the bombing.

The NFL draft is April 25-27.

Some thoughts on the Patriots schedule

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 18, 2013 08:42 PM

Some initial thoughts on the schedule:

I


  • I’ll preface this by saying the following thoughts are all about teams on paper and before the draft. Things can and will change.

  • Overall, I think it really lays out really nicely for the Patriots.

  • They get the short Thursday night week early in the season (Week 2) when health shouldn’t be an issue.

  • Nine days off from final preseason game to opener, then two games in five days, then nine days off before Week 3 at home vs. Buccaneers. Two games against weak, rebuilding opponents in 23 days.

  • After Week 2, Patriots only play on short rest once, but that is heading into the Broncos at home in the Wes Welker Revenge game.

  • Opening and closing against the Bills is nice.

  • Patriots don’t face an elite quarterback until Week 4 at the Falcons (Matt Ryan).

  • Toughest stretch: Weeks 4-6 with at Atlanta, at Cincinnati, home to the Saints. Next is Denver and at Houston (Weeks 12-13).

  • Compare that to the Jets, who have a stretch of at Falcons, vs. Steelers, vs. Patriots, at Bengals, vs. Saints. Ouch.

  • Dolphins have a very tough stretch early – at Colts, Falcons, at Saints, Ravens – but rest of the schedule is favorable to a stretch run. If the Dolphins can hold their own early in the season, they could be in it until the end. Beginning will tell the tale for them – while they’re getting a lot of new players acclimated. Dolphins would probably prefer the harder games later with all the new faces.

  • If the Dolphins are still in it, Weeks 15 and 16 at Miami (Patriots) and at Baltimore could be interesting.

  • Patriots get their bye week in Week 10.

  • Outside of Cincinnati, Patriots don’t face any AFC heavyweights until Pittsburgh on Nov. 3. A lot of time for a guy like Rob Gronkowski (forearm) to get healthy for pivotal conference games.

  • Just for kicks: predicting 12-4 with losses at Falcons, Saints (new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan knows how to slow Tom Brady a bit; New Orleans offense a schematic mismatch vs. Patriots), Broncos (they win it for Welker and Jack Del Rio gets a clue) and at Dolphins.

Patriots schedule is released; five games in prime time

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff April 18, 2013 07:23 PM

Though the Patriots' opponents for the coming season have been known for weeks, the NFL has made the complete schedule release into an event, which happened Thursday night.

The Patriots open Sunday, Sept. 8, in Buffalo; the home opener is just four days later, on a Thursday night against the Jets.

All told, the Patriots have five prime-time games, starting with the Jets in Week 2.

The Return of Wes Welker -- a/k/a the Patriots hosting the Broncos -- will be on Sunday night, Nov. 24. The AFC Championship game rematch with the Ravens in Baltimore will be the Sunday night matchup Dec. 22.

Their bye week is Week 10.

The Patriots' 2013 schedule:

Sept. 8, 1 p.m. -- at Bills
Sept. 12, 8:25 p.m. -- vs. Jets (Thursday Night Football)
Sept. 22, 1 p.m. -- vs. Buccaneers
Sept. 29, 8:30 p.m. -- at Falcons (Sunday Night Football)
Oct. 6, 1 p.m. -- at Bengals
Oct. 13, 4:25 p.m. -- vs. Saints
Oct. 20, 1 p.m. -- at Jets
Oct. 27, 1 p.m. -- vs. Dolphins
Nov. 3, 4:25 p.m. -- vs. Steelers
Nov. 10 -- Bye week
Nov. 18, 8:40 p.m. -- at Panthers (Monday Night Football)
Nov. 24, 8:30 p.m. -- vs. Broncos (Sunday Night Football)
Dec. 1, 4:25 p.m. -- at Texans
Dec. 8, 1 p.m. -- vs. Browns
Dec. 15, 1 p.m. -- at Dolphins
Dec. 22, 8:30 p.m. -- at Ravens (Sunday Night Football)
Dec. 29, 1 p.m. -- vs. Bills

Patriots Slater, Ninkovich talk about Marathon bombings

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff April 18, 2013 12:36 PM


The Patriots began their offseason conditioning program Monday, and on Thursday two of the team's veteran players, Rob Ninkovich and Matthew Slater, took a few minutes to chat with reporters.

Some players, including Slater, were still at Gillette Stadium when news of the Boston Marathon bombings began to circulate. Before he was asked a question, Slater gave an eloquent statement about the tragedy.

"Before we get started, I want to acknowledge the events that happened on Monday," said Slater. "It really puts things in perspective. It really puts a value on life, and really lets you know there are bigger things than football. I just want to let those people out there know, the people that were affected by that event that were injured, or had somebody they knew that was injured or killed or are still battling for their lives or had to witness that traumatic event, that we're praying for them.

"I don't think there's ever been a time where I've ever been more proud to be a part of this city, this region, with the way people have responded to that tragedy, and I'm just proud to be associated with the people of New England and the people of Boston."

He echoed the thoughts of many over the last few days -- that nearly everyone who lives in or around Boston has been to that part of Boylston Street.

"It was so close to home," said Slater. "The area that was bombed, you've been there, we've all been there. Though I don't know anybody directly affected, I think we're all affected."

On Tuesday, coach Bill Belichick asked Slater to speak during a team meeting.

"It was a time for us to put life into perspective," said Slater. "We take so much for granted, especially us. We're very blessed to do what we do, and I don't say we live a life of privilege, but we do."

Ninkovich was at home watching television with his wife when tragedy struck.

"It was surreal," he said. "You don't think it could happen here in Boston, but unfortunately this is the world we live in.

"As football players, we're in a position where we can help lift spirits."

Ninkovich has been with the Patriots for five years, so he feels as though he is part of the area, and he called Boston "a tight community."

On football matters, Ninkovich said it's a plus that the Patriots defense is largely intact from last season, with young guys who got their first snaps having a little experience to fall back on. Experience and communication are key, he said.

Slater lauded the signing of kick returner Leon Washington.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for what Leon has done," said Slater. "He's been one of the elite returners the league has ever seen. He's a weapon in that department. That phase of the game was something we needed to improve upon."

Starting the conditioning program this week is just the first of many steps in preparation for the season, Slater said.

"It's day by day now," he said. "You're trying to improve physically and mentally. It's good to be back with my teammates. That camaraderie kicks in almost right away."

But it starts with conditioning, OTAs, mini-camp and then training camp.

"We're a long ways away from putting a team on the field that's going to compete," Slater said.

Joe Andruzzi: 'I am definitely not a hero'

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 16, 2013 05:48 PM

609andsruzzi.jpg

Bill Greene/Globe Staff

Former Patriots guard Joe Andruzzi has been called a hero by many after a widely circulated Globe photo showed him carrying an injured woman away from the site of Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon.

But the 37-year-old with three brothers who were first responders as New York City firefighters in the Sept. 11 attacks quickly dismissed that emotional response.

“I am definitely not a hero,” Andruzzi said Tuesday in his first interview after the bombings. “I am just a bystander, and that led to my help. Many heroes that I look upon are people like my three brothers that are running into burning buildings when others are running out. Explosions are going off and they are driving their cars down Boylston (Street) right into the heart of the scene. They are the people that don't care about their safety and are worried for other people's safety and survival.”

Monday started out as a banner day for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which raises funds to help families dealing with cancer. There were 21 runners in the race, who had raised $163,000 to that point. Friends (including former Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham), sponsors from East Commerce Solutions, Michelob Ultra and RadioBDC, were enjoying a fundraising watch party just a few blocks from the finish line, 755 Boylston St., at Forum restaurant.

“Everybody was having fun; we were having a grand old time,” said Andruzzi, himself a cancer survivor. “We had some patients there that were a part of the foundation, one of our patients' dad was running and their siblings and mom were having fun. We had a lot of people, from upstairs to downstairs and all over the place. It was starting out to be a great day, great event and unfortunately it did not end up that way."

Shortly after 3 p.m., the second of the two bombs detonated in front of the Forum restaurant. Amazingly, those affiliated with JAF only sustained minor injuries.

“A few went to the hospital with concussions and lacerations and things like that, but nothing severe,” Andruzzi said. “We were very lucky.”

Andruzzi had been behind the finish line with his wife, Jen, and a photographer from JAF when the first bomb went off. He didn’t find out until much later, after assisting the relief efforts, that the second bomb detonated in front of Forum.

“The employees said it was a crime scene and we couldn’t go in because the explosion happened right in front,” Andruzzi said. “My heart just dropped. Many things were going through my mind. I was sick to my stomach.

“But during this whole tragedy, I was amazed by all of the emergency workers there and how they sprung into action, it was truly amazing. It was a medical tent that turned into a triage center and from the yellow jackets to the white jackets to the police, firemen, EMTs, when I tell you that it was split seconds, I could not believe how fast they sprung into action. A lot of them are trained for that. But even the others who aren't trained, civilians sitting on the side that sprung into action, it was truly amazing. It's one of those sights that you'll probably never forget. To be able to turn around and know that there are many people out there that are looking to help and want to help, when you get into those moments, you don't think, you just do. That's what I did and that's what many other people did.”

Andruzzi said many restaurant workers, especially those at Forum, were instrumental in keeping people calm in a chaotic situation, and assisted many directly with medical attention.

Chatham and Andruzzi were part of a group that carried an injured woman from Forum through the back alley and to medical attention.

It was prior to this that Andruzzi carried the injured woman in the photograph. He doesn’t know her name, just that she was from Virginia and was with her three daughters and likely waiting for her husband to finish the race.

“I turned and saw three young women carrying somebody on their back,” he said. “I ran over and that's the picture you saw. I told them, ‘Let me help.’ Scooped her up and I remember them yelling at the cameraman, ‘Stop taking pictures of my mom.’ I know we were down by Newbury and walked her down the block and to an ambulance.”

Andruzzi also made a point to salute the runners.

“To all the runners out there, they all finished their marathon, whether they crossed that finish line or not,” he said. “A lot of them trained months for this, and I wanted to congratulate them for their hard work and dedication. Many are charity runners, like my 21 runners, who help pay things forward. Some even gave blood after crossing the finish line – just amazing stuff. Their hard work and dedication should not be forgotten. They all deserve a medal and completed that marathon, whether they crossed that line or not. “

Aaron Hernandez had minor shoulder surgery

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 16, 2013 10:44 AM

Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez had shoulder surgery about two weeks ago but will be ready for the start of training camp in July, a league source said.

The surgery, which a source said was a minor scope, will keep Hernandez out of off-season practices. He could be ready for the June mini-camp, but that's a ways off. Hernandez will stay in Calif. to rehab.

If this was the season, Hernandez would be ready on a much quicker time schedule. Since it's the offseason, there's absolutely no rush to get him back on the field. Hernandez is well versed in the offense and with quarterback Tom Brady so there's no fear that Hernandez will missing anything.

Hernandez was asked last week how he was feeling and if he had any post-season procedures.

"I feel pretty good at this point, just trying to get back and get healthy and get ready for next season," Hernandez said.

Hernandez's surgery was first reported by NFL Network.

Tedy Bruschi recounts hearing the explosions

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 16, 2013 10:31 AM

Former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi was at the Lenox Hotel on Exeter and Boylston Streets as the two explosions occurred near the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday.

He gave his account of the events as they unfolded on SportsCenter.

“I happened to have my head out of the window at the time because one of our runners had crossed and I was continuing to watch runners crossed the finish line,” said Bruschi. “When I did, looking out to my right seeing the first explosion, from my vantage point on the left side of the street. Looking at it, I was thinking to myself, ‘Did that just happen and is that what I think it is?’ And right when I was thinking that people started running toward me, and I realized what it was when I felt the second explosion to the rear of where I was looking out and sort of felt the whoosh from behind my head. I was in the middle of both explosions and looked to the left and saw the same thing happen there.”

See more of Bruschi's comments on ESPN Boston.

New Patriots player Danny Amendola makes a pledge to Boston

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 16, 2013 09:25 AM

New Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola took to Twitter to express his remorse for the Marathon bombings early Tuesday morning, saying simply "prayers out to Boston."

And then he followed up with a deeper pledge to the city.

I will DONATE $100 for EVERY pass I catch next season to whatever "Boston Marathon Relief Fund" there is. And $200 for any dropped pass.

— Danny Amendola (@DannyAmendola) April 16, 2013

Bruschi, Fairbanks, Gray named finalists for Patriots Hall of Fame

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff April 15, 2013 10:42 AM

The Patriots have announced the finalists for induction into the franchise's Hall of Fame later this year: linebacker Tedy Bruschi, coach Chuck Fairbanks, and offensive tackle Leon Gray.

Bruschi, a third-round draft pick out of Arizona in 1996, was a seven-time captain. In 189 career regular-season games (139 starts), he recorded 680 tackles, 30.5 sacks, 17 forced fumbles, and 12 interceptions, four of them returned for touchdowns. In his 13 seasons, the Patriots had 11 winning seasons and made five Super Bowl appearances. Bruschi suffered a stroke in February 2005 but returned to the field later that year and played through 2009.

Fairbanks became the sixth head coach in franchise history in 1973, and also served as general manager. He drafted some of the greatest players in team history, including OL John Hannah and CB Mike Haynes (both in the Pro Football Hall of Fame), RB Sam Cunningham, WR Darryl Stingley, LB Steve Nelson, WR Stanley Morgan, and QB Steve Grogan. In his six seasons as head coach, the Patriots went 46-39 and made two playoff appearances. Fairbanks also introduced the 3-4 defense, which remains part of New England's playbook.

Gray was a third-round draft pick of the Dolphins in 1973, but was cut by Miami before the start of the season and claimed off waivers by New England. He and John Hannah would become the best left tackle/guard combination in the NFL, protecting Grogan, who was sacked a franchise-low 14 times in 1977. Gray was also a key part of the offensive line that paved the way for the team to rush for 3,165 yards, a mark which remains an NFL record. He was named an All-Pro and Pro Bowler that season.

Rodney Harrison and Willie McGinest were both eligible for induction this year but were did not make the selection committee's cut.

Whichever man comes out on top in voting this year will join broadcaster Gil Santos as this year's induction class - Robert Kraft announced at the end of last season that Santos, who was the radio voice of the Patriots for 36 years before retiring at the end of the 2012 season, would be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Voting begins today at patriots.com and runs through May 15.

Steelers match Patriots' offer to Emmanuel Sanders

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff April 14, 2013 06:22 PM

Jordan Woy, the agent for restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders has tweeted that the Steelers have matched the offer sheet the Patriots signed the wide receiver to earlier this week.

That means Sanders will not be coming to New England.

Pittsburgh had until 11:59 p.m. Sunday night to match the one-year, $2.5 million contract the Patriots had offered. If the Steelers had not matched, they would have received New England's third-round draft pick this year, which is 91st overall.

There was some question as to whether Pittsburgh would elect to keep Sanders given its salary cap problems, but when the Patriots' offer came it at a reasonable figure, it seemed more likely that they would.

There were multiple reports in recent days that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had been campaigning for the Steelers to keep Sanders.

Sanders's restricted free agent tender was $1.3 million, so the Steelers effectively doubled his salary for the coming season.

If the Steelers and Sanders do not sign a long-term contract before free agency begins in 2014, Sanders would hit the open market.

With Dennard in the mix, Patriots draft board opens up

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 12, 2013 07:00 AM

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Alfonzo Dennard's delayed jail sentence will allow the Patriots to go into the NFL draft with some maneuverability. (Nati Harnik / AP photo)

The Patriots benefit greatly from cornerback Alfonzo Dennard's delayed jail time.

Convicted of felony assault on a police officer in Nebraska and misdemeanor resisting arrest, Dennard was facing up to 5 years in jail for his crimes. Instead, he's getting 30 days in jail and 2 years of probation, along with 100 hours of "law-enforcement related" community service.

But the kicker is he doesn't have to do any jail time in the near future, forced to report to jail March 1, 2014, allowing him to take part in the entire 2013 NFL season. Maybe even the Duck Boat parade if it comes to that.

FULL ENTRY

Alfonzo Dennard sentenced to 30 days in jail

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 11, 2013 11:13 AM

LINCOLN, Neb. — A Nebraska judge has sentenced Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard to 30 days in jail and 24 months of probation for assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest in April 2012.

His jail sentence will begin March 1, 2014, after the 2013 NFL season. As part of his sentencing, he will also have to do 100 hours of community service, which will have to be “law-enforcement related.” And he will need permission to travel for reasons outside of work.

When Dennard reports to jail in 2014, he will get credit for three days already served.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini wrote letters on Dennard’s behalf for judge Stephanie Stacy to consider.

When asked, Dennard agreed with the terms of his punishment. He apologized to his coaches, family, and fans. And he also apologized to the police officer he assaulted, Ben Kopsa. His defense attorney, Terry Dougherty, asked if he can file for Dennard’s jail term to be suspended or eliminated if he follows all the terms and conditions leading up to March 1, 2014.

The former University of Nebraska standout was arrested in the early-morning hours on April 21, 2012, just days before the NFL draft.

After celebrating with friends at some of Lincoln’s bars, Dennard found himself facing charges of assault against a police officer, a Class 3-A felony in Nebraska, misdemeanor resisting arrest, first offense, and misdemeanor assault.

When the weeklong trial ended in February, Dennard was found guilty on the felony assault and resisting arrest charges.

“Glad he got probation, that was the appropriate sentence,” said Dougherty. “Disappointed for [him to get] jail time.

“You’ve got a guy with a spotless criminal record and what I guess I’d have to characterize as not a serious injury to the police officer and is a very low risk for being a repeat offender,” Dougherty said. “That strikes me as a guy that you can give probation to without any jail time. That’s fine. What he has to do now is abide by the terms of the probation and the reason I asked the question about whether we can go back in March and ask her to consider an additional suspension of the sentence and perhaps not ever actually have him serve the 30 days was to let the judge know that I think he’s going to do fine and she ought to take that into consideration.”

Dennard politely declined to comment.

The felony conviction carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison or a $10,000 fine, though there is no minimum penalty; there was also no minimum punishment for the resisting arrest charge, which carried a maximum penalty of one year in prison or a $1,000 fine.

Dennard had an altercation with college student Ben Samani as the two crossed the street in opposite directions, an incident that officer Kopsa witnessed.

Kopsa approached Dennard, and Dennard was accused of hitting Kopsa during their interaction. A 17-second video taken by an onlooker was used as evidence during the trial; Lancaster County prosecutors told jurors that it was clear from the video that Dennard had been the aggressor and punched Kopsa.

Dougherty argued that it was impossible to tell from the video whether Dennard had hit the officer, in part because it was so dark and also because the video was partially obscured by onlookers. On Thursday, he told judge Stacy that Dennard had already paid a “fine” of at least $500,000 because his draft stock fell as a result of the arrest. Dougherty went on to say Dennard has never done anything to embarrass himself or his family except for the five minutes that incident took.

When Dennard took the stand in February, he admitted to resisting arrest and also to hitting Samani in the chest, but insisted that he did not intentionally hit Kopsa.

But the jury disagreed and the guilty verdict was handed down.

Projected as a mid-round pick, New England selected Dennard in the seventh round, and his total rookie contract as a seventh-rounder is about $1 million less than it would have been had he been chosen in the fourth round.

There is also the question of whether the NFL will punish Dennard under its personal conduct policy. Since he was not a league employee at the time of his arrest, it stands to reason that he should not be; should commissioner Roger Goodell try to suspend Dennard, the NFL Players Association would fight it on those grounds.

With any length of time, there will be questions about Dennard’s physical condition once he is released.

Dennard started seven of the Patriots’ final 10 regular-season games and both playoff games. He recorded three interceptions, including an 87-yard return for a touchdown against the Colts Nov. 18.

Patriots set exhibition dates and times

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 10, 2013 07:50 PM

The Patriots have announced the dates and times for their entire slate of exhibition games. The schedule is:

Friday, Aug. 9 at Eagles, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 16 vs. Buccaneers at Gillette Stadium, 8 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 22 at Lions, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 29 vs. Giants at Gillette Stadium, 7:30 p.m.

Players can report to their teams for training camp 15 days before the first exhibition, including one day for physical exams. That would put the Patriots on schedule to report to camp on July 25 with the first practices the next day.

Film study: DT Tommy Kelly, WR Emmanuel Sanders

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 10, 2013 06:05 PM

Have watched the better part of four games each from DT Tommy Kelly and WR Emmanuel Sanders (including the 2011 Steelers-Patriots game), and I have a few thoughts on the possible impact for both as Patriots (if the Steelers don't match Sanders' offer):

DT Tommy Kelly

  • Probably the best role for Kelly with the Patriots will be as a situational pass rusher from the inside. That's where his strength is at this point in his career, but that's limited. He really needs to be singled up, and against weaker opponents. Kelly is pretty much a one move and then he's done kind of guy. He gives his best shot and if there's an opening, he pursues aggressively. If not, Kelly plays read and react. He does play to the whistle but his want-to depends on if he thinks he has an opening.
  • Kelly will likely be this year's version of Gerard Warren -- the guy they had in 2010; he lost a bit of a step in '11.
  • Was surprised by his average play against the run. For such a big man (6-6, 325 pounds), Kelly is easily moved because he plays very high two steps into a play. Right now, pending any improvement from coaching, Kelly lags well behind Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick against the run. Kelly doesn't shed blocks as well as Love, though he's close with Deaderick.
  • The biggest challenge to Kelly getting more time on first and second downs will be his ability to sit in his gap. He didn't do that very well last season for the Raiders, although it was tough to tell if that was because of scheme or talent. On film, Kelly likes to freelance a bit against the run. He won't play much if he does that with the Patriots. They want their interior linemen to hog space and let the linebackers and edge players make plays.
  • Kelly's better than both Love and Deaderick in pass rush. The latter has more potential but hasn't realized it to this point.
  • Kelly has a lot of interior versatility. For the Raiders, he played everywhere from zero (head up against the center) to four-i technique (inside shoulder of the tackle). The Raiders preferred Kelly in the three technique (outside shoulder of the guard) in pass rushing situations.
  • Kelly seemed to get a lot more attention from opponents than Richard Seymour last season. It's either an indication of how good Kelly is, or a reflection that Seymour is far from the player he once was.

WR Emmanuel Sanders

  • Watched the better part of five games of Sanders, including the 2011 game against the Patriots (to see if he did something to catch their eye -- nothing stood out);
  • Puzzling why the Steelers, knowing they were going to lose Mike Wallace in free agency and had no other young receivers, didn't at least pony up the extra $700,000 that would have made Sanders a second-round draft pick tender;
  • Plays all the receiver positions in Steelers offense -- even lined up in the backfield on occasion -- which would indicate he has a high comprehension level. The less a team asks a player to do, the less they think he can retain.
  • Sanders' Wonderlic score of 18 is on the low end for the receivers they've drafted (David Givens at 19, Taylor Price at 18). This is important because the Patriots' scheme is so complicated after the snap. Physical attributes are almost useless for the Patriots because if the receiver can't gain the trust of Tom Brady, it doesn't matter. Deion Branch led at 26;
  • On film, Sanders' on-field intelligence is average. Sometimes he does well to recognize coverages, other times he and the quarterbacks are not on the same page. Sanders tends to stay vertical instead of crossing the field when presented high safety looks. This could be the reason why the quarterbacks don't show a ton of confidence in him -- he's well down the read list for all of the QBs (Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch) who threw to him last season, despite being the inside receiver. This will be something to watch if Sanders does join the Patriots.
  • New England doesn't have any inside knowledge on Sanders as far as his football IQ, like previous experience with a Patriots assistant coach. This is significant because after the failed 2011 acquisitions (Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco, Shaun Ellis), the Patriots vowed to have someone who could vouch for the player's mind and/or heart. It served them well last season.
  • The Patriots have their college evaluation of Sanders, pro tape and his free agency visit, where you would assume they put him on the whiteboard and quizzed him extensively to see if he was a fit for their system.
  • The facet of Sanders' game that stands out the most is his blocking. He's excellent in that regard and is often used as the lead blocker on receiver screens.
  • This is likely why Sanders basically took over Hines Ward's role in the Steelers' system -- including a lot of motion -- when he was injured/retired.
  • Does a good job of beating press man coverage with his feet and hands.
  • Has 4.4 speed. It shows up at times on the field, but it's inconsistent. He does not have the type of speed that will make defensive coordinators pay him extra attention, but you have to respect his ability down the field. He can get behind you if you're not paying attention.
  • Basically, Sanders is a good, solid all-around receiver who is above average in most categories. He runs decent routes, has decent hands (had some key drops, and an open-field fumble vs. Ravens last year). Best receiving attribute is his ability to find soft spots in the zones.
  • Tough player. Doesn't back down in rivalry games.
  • Last season, in multiple games, he showed issues with right shoulder and back injuries that removed him for some plays.
  • Overall, while Sanders was an inside player for the Steelers, his skill set would indicate an outside "x" receiver role for the Patriots. He can do a lot of things Brandon Lloyd did, but better and faster. With Wallace and Antonio Brown on the outside -- both are more explosive than Sanders -- there wasn't a need for him outside. But for the Patriots, he could fill that role. That being said, Sanders' immense versatility could allow him to play anywhere -- even Aaron Hernandez's role as a hybrid TE/WR in case of injury.

Tommy Kelly contract details

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 10, 2013 05:05 PM

Here are the particulars on the contract signed by defensive tackle Tommy Kelly with the Patriots:

Signing bonus: $1 million

2013 base salary: $950,000
2013 roster bonus: $500,000
2013 workout bonus: $50,000

2013 cap number: $2 million

2014 base salary: $1,950,000
2014 roster bonus: $500,000
2014 workout bonus: $50,000

2014 cap number: $3 million

Analysis: This deal is about on par with what Kelly is at this point: a solid rotational/role player for 2013. As for 2014, the Patriots can decide on that after they see his production this coming season. But unless Kelly totally falls on his face, he's going to be on the team for '13 and a contributor. Nothing else is promised.

Resetting the Patriots' needs-based depth chart

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 10, 2013 01:16 PM

Pending the Steelers' decision on the offer sheet for receiver Emmanuel Sanders, the Patriots have just about filled all their pre-free agency needs heading into the draft.

There are only two left: veteran edge defender, and right guard competition. The latter could easily come in the draft, if not both. But it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Patriots ink end Trevor Scott and a veteran guard before the draft just to cover themselves. The John Abraham deal could get done, but some of these veterans, if they don't get worthwhile money, might wait until the end of training camp to sign.

This is exactly the way the Patriots want it. The Patriots don't like to enter a draft with glaring needs because it tips their hand, and perhaps would cause them to reach. The Patriots would prefer the board come to them so they can maximize the value.

Here's the updated depth chart (click on each item for a larger version):

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And here's the updated offseason needs chart. Just about everything is filled:

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One note: Right guard may no longer be a need. With Sebastian Vollmer now signed to a long-term deal, and Will Svitek around as a swing tackle, that may free up Marcus Cannon to compete with Dan Connolly at right guard -- which is what I personally feel is Cannon's best position. That would only leave a veteran edge pass rusher (Abraham) as the last thing on the Patriots' checklist).

Julian Edelman returns to Patriots

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 10, 2013 12:08 PM

Receiver Julian Edelman has agreed to a one-year contract to return to the Patriots, a league source confirmed.

Edelman had visited the Giants but it's not known whether or not he was extended an offer.

Edelman will likely backup Danny Amendola at the Z receiver position in the Patriots' offense. Both have had issues with health, so doubling up is a smart move. Both are very similar athletically.

WR Sanders signs offer sheet from Patriots

Posted by Greg A. Bedard April 10, 2013 10:51 AM

Steelers restricted free agent receiver Emmanuel Sanders signed a one-year offer sheet from the Patriots today, league sources confirmed, and Pittsburgh has five days to match the offer.

If the Steelers decide not to match the offer, they will receive the Patriots' third-round pick in this year's draft.

It's unknown how much the offer is for. The Patriots have about $8.2 million in cap space. The Steelers have about $2 million, but that includes Sanders' $1.3 million tender. The Patriots offer was likely in the $4-5 million range to make the Steelers have to contemplate other roster moves to match the offer.

UPDATE: The offer sheet was for $2.5 million, according to Adam Schefter.

Sanders, 26, has been a bit of a disappointment to the Steelers since he was a third-round pick in the 2010 draft. He set a career high with 44 catches for 626 yards and added one touchdown last season. Sanders has lagged behind the other young receivers -- Mike Wallace (now with the Dolphins) and Antonio Brown.

Unlike the Patriots, the Steelers have a good track record for drafting receivers so they may take the $1.3 million in cap space and the third-round pick and reinvest in the team.

If the Steelers don't match, the Patriots would be left with four picks in the draft: first, second and two seventh rounders.

Scouting the draft: Tennessee WR Justin Hunter

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 9, 2013 01:36 PM

Name: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee

Overview: Unlike Cordarrelle Patterson, whom we scouted March 6, Hunter is a tad taller and has bested his fellow Volunteer in the vertical jump (39.5 inches) and broad jump (136 inches), making him a better candidate for the Patriots' X receiver. (During Tennessee's pro day, Hunter reportedly improved on those marks, which were already tied for the best at his position.) In high school, he was an All-American in the high jump (2010 USA Junior Championships), reminding us slightly of Brandon Lloyd. But that's where the comparisons stop. Hunter is a bona fide deep threat (4.44 speed). In three years for Tennessee, he compiled 106 receptions for 1,812 yards and 18 touchdowns, averaging 17.1 yards per grab. In 2012, he caught 73 balls for 1,083 yards and 9 TDs. It was a breakout performance, strengthening his draft stock tremendously. One of the great things about Hunter, as evidenced by his highlights above, is that he has moved around in the offense, working in the slot as well as on the boundaries. He has a smaller frame, so there is concern about his strength. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper projects the Patriots to select Hunter.

Attributes
Height: 6-4
Weight: 196

Workout results
40-yard dash: 4.44
Vertical jump: 39.5 inches
Broad jump: 136.0 inches
20-yard shuttle: 4.33

Patriots sign former Raiders defensive lineman Tommy Kelly

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 8, 2013 04:30 PM

The Patriots have agreed to a two-year contract with defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, the Globe's Shalise Manza Young has confirmed.

The deal was first reported by NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.

Kelly, 32, is a nine-year veteran who played his entire career with the Oakland Raiders before being released March 27. He started all 16 games last year, compiling 45 tackles and a sack. He has 289 career tackles and 34 sacks, along with 16 passes defensed.

McCourty offers offseason update after entertaining young students

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff April 8, 2013 10:47 AM

CRANSTON, R.I. - Defensive back Devin McCourty sounded excited to start working with Adrian Wilson, the veteran free agent safety the Patriots signed last month, and said his rehab from shoulder surgery is going well on Monday morning, after visiting with some young students.

McCourty read to students at Arlington Elementary School to help kick off Reading Week, and entertained the kids and teachers with his energetic approach.

He chatted with reporters after, and was asked about the status of his right shoulder, which required minor surgery.

"It's going pretty good. Just rehabbing day-by-day and taking it one step at a time. It's a process I'm learning and I'm just going through it and listening to the trainers," McCourty said, adding that he's been working with the staff in Foxborough.

McCourty is looking forward to working with Wilson, who spent 12 years with the Cardinals and was a five-time Pro Bowler there before being released for salary-cap reasons last month.

"I'm going to love having Adrian Wilson here just because since I've been here we haven't had that one 10-year vet (in the secondary) or that guy that's played a long time and been productive," McCourty said. "I think the closest thing we had like that was my rookie year when we had guys like (Brandon) Meriweather, James Sanders and Leigh Bodden.

"It will be cool just to have that veteran presence in our locker room and our defensive back room, so I'm looking forward to learning a lot from him."

He is also pleased to see cornerback Aqib Talib return for another season, and thrilled for close friend Kyle Arrington, who signed a four-year contract with New England.

"It was great, and the way it happened, with him signing a new deal and his son (Kyle Jr.) being born, I think that's why you love playing this game, hopefully that you can take care of your family and then to start your own family, I was very happy for him," McCourty said. "I went to visit him and the baby and he's doing well. It's a good time for him."

Of teammate Alfonzo Dennard, who will be sentenced on Thursday in Lincoln, Neb. after being found guilty of felony assault on a police officer, McCourty has tried to show support and offered to help with whatever Dennard might need, but said the cornerback seems ready for whatever will happen. [Dennard faces up to five years in jail for his conviction, though generally such cases in Nebraska draw a 90- to 180-day sentence.]

Though McCourty didn't know the most recent details on Rob Gronkowski's recovery, he jokingly said the tight end "isn't human. He'll be alright. Those things don't affect him."

McCourty has been outspoken about the events surrounding now former basketball coach Mike Rice and particularly athletic director Tim Pernetti at his alma mater, Rutgers. He feels school administrators had Pernetti take the fall for Rice keeping his job after video evidence of his behavior toward players, which included throwing basketballs at their head and admonishing them with homophobic slurs and other obscenities.

"It was just such a shock," McCourty said. "My initial reaction I think I was just kind of hurt when I saw a guy like Tim Pernetti, who I thought did an amazing job when he got to Rutgers. Especially I think athletic directors always did a great job with the students there. But he did a great job. He would reach out to all the former athletes and get us back to do different events, and not just in football, but you would meet women from women's soccer and lacrosse and they would be back as well.

"Just to see all that transpire, it really hurt, and to see what happened with him, but at the end of the day, I just wanted him to know that we fully supported him. So a lot of student-athletes believed in him and I respect him now. He took the fall by resigning and put it all on him and it was for the betterment for the university, so I have a great deal of respect for what he did."

McCourty appeared to truly enjoy his visit with the students at Arlington Elementary, and encouraged them to believe in themselves and their dreams.

"It's always a good time when you can be a kid again. I love doing these things and camps and stuff. Kids just have energy and if you show them a little energy they go through the roof. I just try to come in and be energetic and have fun with it," he said.

When he was in high school, McCourty was 5-foot-9 but 120 pounds he told the kids, and had some people saying he wouldn't get to the NFL.

"That's why I always try to tell them to believe in themselves because I can remember teachers' names, different times in my life where people, I felt like they were talking to the class and, specifically, they were talking to me. So I just always try to encourage them, no matter what you do, believing in yourself will always be the number one thing," McCourty said.

Scouting the draft: Clemson WR DeAndre Hopkins

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 8, 2013 07:00 AM

Name: DeAndre "Nuk" Hopkins, WR, Clemson

Overview: The junior made quite the impact in the ACC in 2012, as Boston College fans can attest, catching 82 passes for 1,405 yards and a conference record 18 touchdowns on the year. He lit up the Eagles for 197 yards on 11 grabs with a touchdown in their matchup. It all topped off a decorated career for Hopkins at Clemson (206 receptions, 3,020 yards, 27 touchdowns) who declared for the NFL draft as an underclassmen after he was lauded as the AP's third-team All-American, a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, and a first-team All-ACC selection. He's one of the few receivers that plays faster than their 40 time (4.57 at the combine, 4.55 at Clemson's pro day) and has shown good development as a route runner. While not overly big, he's considered an outside deep threat and a possible fit for the Patriots' open X-receiver position. He'll never be able to blow the top off defenses, but he'll certainly be a serviceable receiver to any franchise. He's projected to be selected anywhere from late in the first round to the second round.

Attributes
Height: 6-1
Weight: 214

Workout results (combine)
40-yard dash: 4.57
Bench: 15
Vertical jump: 36.0 inches
Broad jump: 115.0 inches
20-yard shuttle: 4.50 seconds


Gronkowski may have to undergo more surgery

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff April 7, 2013 02:11 PM

Rob Gronkowski's left arm continues to be a concern for the Patriots and their standout tight end.

The infection that led to Gronkowski undergoing a third surgery on the forearm has lingered, and according to league sources, he could be facing a fourth surgery if it does not clear up in the coming weeks.

If the infection continues, doctors could decide to remove the second plate he had placed in his arm because that could be the cause of the infection - but it is unknown at this point exactly what is causing the infection, one of the sources said.

Things could be further complicated if it is discovered that the infection has spread to other parts of the arm.

The situation is still up in the air, so it is too early to determine if Gronkowski's availabilty for the start of the 2013 season is in jeopardy. If Gronkowski requires further surgery, then that would obviously impact his rehab schedule.

Gronkowski has been at the Patriots facility nearly every day in the past two weeks, staying for up to four hours during his visits.

The trouble started for Gronkowski at the tail end of New England's big win over the Colts last Nov. 18. That is when he initially broke his left forearm and underwent his first surgery to install a plate over the bone.

After missing five games, Gronkowski returned to practice during the week leading up to the Patriots' Week 16 game in Jacksonville, then played a limited role in the regular-season finale against Miami.

When New England began the playoffs in the divisional round against Houston, Gronkowski was in the lineup but didn't play for long: trying to rein in a sideline pass early in the game, he braced his fall with that left arm and it broke again, this time just past the end of the initial metal plate.

A second surgery followed, and then the third to try to clean up the infection.

Gronkowski appeared on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" program on March 27, and gave a positive prognosis when asked about his progress.

"Right now I'm just rehabbing, getting muscles around it stronger, get everything re-activated because it shuts down a little bit when it's healing," he said. "Just rehabbing and when trainers give me 'good to go', hopefully in the next couple of weeks, hopefully as soon as possible so I can get rolling again, get back in the weight room, get back on the field and do what I love doing, running around catching some balls."

Scouting the draft: Mark Harrison, WR, Rutgers

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 6, 2013 07:00 AM

Name: Mark Harrison, WR, Rutgers

Overview: With the Patriots' wide receiver position currently being reshuffled, the team finds itself in need of a talented young player who can blaze up the sideline and pull down catches over pesky cornerbacks. Mark Harrison has the intangibles. At 6-3 and 231 pounds, he fits the mold of the Patriots' X receiver, which works the boundaries of the field, much like Brandon Lloyd did. But the idea is to be better, and Harrison has the potential to be much better in terms of stretching the field. His 40-yard dash (4.46 at the NFL Combine, but clocked as fast as 4.37) is promising but his competitiveness is questionable. Despite bursting onto the scene in 2010 with 44 catches for 829 yards and nine touchdowns, he followed up with a dud of a season in 2011 (14 receptions, 274 yards, 2 TDs) under former coach Greg Schiano. He revived a bit of his promise in 2012, catching six more touchdowns on 44 passes, but there's much ado about his hands, stiffness, and quickness off the line. He's projected to be selected in the seventh round or fall off the board. But with his attributes, he's certainly a player worth keeping an eye on, maybe even as a rookie free agent.

Attributes
Height: 6-3
Weight: 231

Workout results
40-yard dash: 4.37
Bench: 17
Vertical jump: 38.5 inches
Broad jump: 10'9"
Shuttle: 4.33
3-cone drill: 6.99

For Patriots, the pieces are falling in and out of place

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 5, 2013 08:30 AM

040513edelman609.jpg

Julian Edelman is exploring his options, visiting with the New York Giants. That could mess up the Patriots' plans going forward. (Bill Kostroun / AP file photo)

Editor's note: This is the first in a weekly installment of Patriots and NFL related notes; a potpourri of both buzz-worthy and overlooked topics.

The Patriots are all over the map with their wide receiver group, making the buildup to the NFL draft an interesting one.

On one end, they let Wes Welker go and picked up Danny Amendola to replace him. If you haven't heard, it was an arguable series of moves. But with the changes, it was clear that Amendola's addition has plenty to like on the upside (read: younger) – after considering the downsides (read: durability).

FULL ENTRY

Scouting the draft: South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 5, 2013 08:00 AM

Name: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina

Overview: One of the most talented running backs in the draft will likely not be able to suit up in pads for an NFL team until the 2013 season is already underway. Marcus Lattimore, who suffered a horrific knee injury in a game against Tennessee in October 2012, is rehabbing to make sure he's ready should his name be called. For two years in in a row Lattimore was unable to finish a season because of a knee injury. As a true freshman, he ran for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns to garner All-SEC honors while being named the SEC freshman of the year in 2010. He started 2011 as a Heisman candidate, but hurt his left knee in the seventh game of the season. He came back in 2012 and played nine games before suffering what many believed to be a career ending injury to his right knee. The fact he's attracting attention – particularly from the Patriots – is a testament to his athletic ability. In three years, he tallied 2,677 yards rushing on 555 caries and 38 touchdowns. He's a smooth runner. Selecting Lattimore would be risky, especially with the Patriots' running back situation. He is projected to be selected in the fourth or fifth round.

Attributes
Height: 5-11
Weight: 221

Workout results
40-yard dash: 4.62

Patriots preseason schedule is out

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 4, 2013 04:04 PM

The NFL announced the 2013 preseason schedule, with the Patriots playing one nationally televised game.

The Patriots will face the Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Detroit Lions, and New York Giants in exhibitions.

Here are the details:

Week 1 (Aug. 8-11)
Patriots at Eagles

Week 2 (Aug. 15-19)
Buccaneers at Patriots (FOX, Aug. 16, 8 p.m.)

Week 3 (Aug. 22-25)
Patriots at Lions

Week 4 (Aug. 29-30)
Giants at Patriots

Scouting the draft: Boise St. CB Jamar Taylor

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 4, 2013 11:37 AM

Name: Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State

Overview: Fast and strong with desirable credentials, Boise State's Jamar Taylor finds himself as the prospect of interest for a number of franchises including the Patriots, Giants, 49ers, Lions, and Vikings. He had a stellar combine, running a 4.39 40-yard dash and threw up 22 reps in the bench press (225 pounds), tied for best among all cornerbacks. But he also was a top performer in the 20-yard shuttle (4.06 seconds) which better measures a player's quickness. He was a three-year starter at Boise State and All-Mountain West first team in 2012. In 2012, he compiled 51 tackles, 2.5 sacks, four interceptions, 13 passes defensed, and three forced fumbles. Scouting reports note his good instincts and speed, but harp on his technique. Taylor is projected in either the first or second round, allowing for the possibility to fall to the Patriots at No. 29 overall.

Attributes
Height: 5-11
Weight: 192

Workout results (combine)
40-yard dash: 4.39
Bench: 22
Vertical jump: 35 inches
Broad jump: 127 inches
3-cone drill: 6.82
20-yard shuttle: 4.06

Donte' Stallworth recalls terrifying balloon crash

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff April 4, 2013 10:15 AM
Free agent receiver Donte' Stallworth, who played one game for the Patriots last season, was in a hot-air balloon accident on March 16, and initially it wasn't known just how badly the 32-year old was injured in the crash near Miami.

Stallworth discussed the accident for the first time with sports publicist and friend Rebekah Howard, and Howard's story with Stallworth was posted on FOXSports.com early Thursday morning.

Stallworth had planned the balloon trip as a birthday gift for a friend, Soleil Guerrero, who had an excursion in a hot air balloon on her "bucket list."

While it was clear and warm that morning, Stallworth recalled, it was windy and takeoff was delayed and he, Guerrero and the balloon pilot moved to another takeoff location.

Toward the tail end of the two-hour trip, the pilot radioed to his landing crew that he wouldn't be able to make it to the original landing spot and selected a different location, an open field in Homestead, and told his crew to gather there and get ready.

It wasn't long until the three saw power lines, and the pilot told Stallworth to throw the anchor over the basket on his command, which he intended to give after the balloon cleared the power lines.

But they didn't clear the power lines.

Stallworth told Howard that the next thing he remembered was feeling strong, jarring, painful currents of electricity coursing through his body.

He said he felt death approaching - "In that moment, I thought my eyes would close and I'd never wake up again," Stallworth said.

He "felt intense burning on his arm, lower back and buttocks." Both he and Guerrero were on fire; Stallworth said seeing his friend like that "was the most frightening part of the whole ordeal."

When Wes Welker and his wife Anna came to Miami to visit Stallworth a few days later, Stallworth told his friend to "imagine the hardest hit you've ever taken and multiply that by 1,000" when trying to explain the pain he'd felt.

When the basket hit the ground, the balloon was still entangled in the wires, and Stallworth became aware of what was going on. He tried to get Guerrero to her feet, but she couldn't feel her legs, though that was temporary. Stallworth held her up and kept her calm, not wanting her to look down at her injuries.

It took 10 to 12 minutes for paramedics to arrive; the two were airlifted to a hospital trauma center (the pilot was not injured). At one point Stallworth began laughing at the scene, telling paramedics that in 10 years playing in the NFL he'd never been carted off the field but "after a couple hours in a hot air balloon, I'm getting airlifted off a farm."

Both Stallworth and Guerrero suffered severe burns, though not life- or career-threatening for either. Stallworth's injuries were mostly on his backside.

Guerrero left the hospital only last week is undergoing physical therapy. Stallworth is expected to resume workouts within a month with the aim of playing again in the coming season.

Released out of training camp last year, Stallworth returned to the Patriots in December and played just one game, against Houston. He had a 63-yard touchdown catch but suffered an ankle injury at the end of the catch and had to be placed on injured reserve.

Brady has new workout partner; Edelman visiting Giants

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff April 3, 2013 05:17 PM

On Tuesday, Tom Brady was on the practice fields at the University of Southern California getting some work in with one of his newest receivers, Danny Amendola.

On Wednesday, Brady is back at USC -- and Terrell Owens is working with him.

Owens tweeted earlier Wednesday that he was going to work out with Brady and Matt Cassel at UCLA, which means he either wrote the wrong location or Brady played a late April Fool's Day joke on him.

Bout to get this work out in @ ucla w/T Brady, M Cassel ans the fellas...check it out on hangwith.me/terrellowens frm 1230-2p PST! #HangW/me

— Terrell Owens (@terrellowens) April 3, 2013

But the USC Athletics page, which on Tuesday let the cat out of the bag on Brady and Amendola spending some time together, tweeted that Owens was in fact with the Patriots' quarterback.

Today, New England @patriots QB Tom Brady was working out at USC with none other than @terrellowens.

— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) April 3, 2013

Also Wednesday, there were multiple reports that Patriots free agent receiver/returner Julian Edelman is visiting with the Giants on Wednesday and Thursday. Edelman was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 4 with a foot injury. He also missed time last season with a hand injury.

Brady & Amendola working together in California

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff April 2, 2013 06:12 PM

A few days ago Danny Amendola told a St. Louis radio station that he was "ready to get working" with Tom Brady, the two were on the field together on Tuesday.

At least that's according to a midday tweet from the University of Southern California athletics department:

New England @patriots QB Tom Brady and his newest WR Danny Amendola were working out together at USC today.

— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) April 2, 2013

Tee Martin, currently the Trojans' receivers coach but ironically one of the six quarterbacks drafted before Brady in 2000 - he was taken 163d overall by the Steelers - also tweeted about the quarterback and Amendola getting some reps:

View from the office watching Tom Brady work out. twitter.com/teemartin17/st…

— Tee Martin (@teemartin17) April 2, 2013

Tight end Aaron Hernandez is also supposed to be in Southern California to get some offseason work in with Brady.

Scouting the draft: SMU DE Margus Hunt

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 2, 2013 08:58 AM

Name: Margus Hunt, DE, Southern Methodist

Overview: Hunt is a raw talent, known for his outstanding athleticism and high upside. He's a native of Estonia who made his way to Southern Methodist University to compete on the school's track and field team throwing shot put and discus. He has gold medals from the 2006 World Junior Track and Field Championships for both events. But the program, which needed to be revived, never got going. He ended up on SMU's football team and began showing off his athletic ability ever since. In his freshman year, he blocked seven PATs. In 2012, Hunt had 31 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, 11 quarterback hits, an interception, two forced fumbles, and three passes defensed. He has the size and speed (4.6 40-yard dash) to handle larger tackles and chase mobile quarterbacks. And he's new enough to the sport (he's only played three years) that any detailed work on his technique, according to draft experts, will only make him a more well rounded pass rusher. He can certainly be coached up by the Patriots. Hunt is currently projected to be selected in the first or second rounds of the NFL draft, giving the Patriots an opportunity to pick him up and develop him.

Attributes
Height: 6-8
Weight: 277

Workout results (combine)
40-yard dash: 4.60
Bench: 38
Vertical: 34.5 inches
Broad jump: 121.0 inches
3-cone drill: 7.07
20-yard shuttle: 4.51

Scouting the draft: Arkansas State S Don Jones

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff April 1, 2013 07:00 AM

Name: Don Jones, S, Arkansas State

Overview: You can't teach speed. That's how Don Jones, a strong safety for the Arkansas State Red Wolves and junior college transfer, has drawn interest around the NFL, including from the Patriots. The Baltimore Sun reported that he conducted a private workout for the Patriots recently. At the Arkansas State pro day, he ran a 4.42 and 4.40 40-yard dash, according to NFLDraftScout.com. He also recorded a remarkable 42-inch vertical jump, which has skyrocketed his draft stock. While he was estimated as a third- or fourth-round pick originally, that has more than likely changed. For his senior season, he recorded an unofficial 72 tackles with one interception and two passes defensed.

Attributes
Height: 5-11
Weight: 191

Workout results
40-yard dash: 4.40
Bench: 17
Broad jump: 10'07"
20-yard shuttle: 4.48
3-cone drill: 7.19

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

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