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Ask Shalise: Should the Patriots replace Ochocinco with Moss?

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff October 3, 2011 04:00 PM
Have a
question? 90_shalise.jpg Submit your question here to be considered for the next edition of Ask Shalise. It was inevitable: once Chad Ochocinco let a sure touchdown slip through his fingers in the fourth quarter of the Patriots' loss in Buffalo last Sunday, one knew the calls to replace him or release him would be coming, and they did. On Twitter, on sports radio, here in the mailbag - some New England fans are ready to throw in the towel on the Ochocinco Experience. Now personally, I think the window to use the "I'm new here" excuse is just about closed, but I'm not ready to ship Ochocinco out of town. For one thing, Tom Brady continues to back him publicly, talking of his work ethic and the strides the two have made. And no one has spotted Brady cursing Ochocinco out on the sidelines like he did with Joey Galloway, so that's probably a plus.

After a decade in the NFL, Ochocinco knows drops happen; the timing of that one, however, wasn't the best. His team needed it, and for a fan base waiting to see when he's going to bust out, scoring in such highlight-reel fashion would have been his "Welcome to New England" moment.

And of course, there are some fans who want to push Ochocinco out to welcome a familiar face back to the team...

Will the organization bring Randy Moss back? This can be a positive thing because Moss knows the offense. I understand the negative effect Moss could bring to the team attitude but he loves the organization. I think he will help add a deep threat to the receiving core.
Donta, Benton Harbor, Mich.
Chad Ochocinco isn't working out. Should we bring back Randy Moss?
Chris, South Portland, Maine

I think one of these two questions came in before the game against the Bills, but after Ochocinco’s dropped pass and the play that led to an interception for Tom Brady, I’m not surprised to see them. The most recent update to this was Moss being tracked down in the parking lot of a Massachusetts golf course by someone at WEEI about two weeks ago, and he said “I’m done.” Now, as we’ve seen with athletes across all sports in recent years, retirement is, shall we say, a fluid idea. Could Moss be waiting for the Pats to approach him? Possibly. I’ve been a sports writer for half of my life and I haven’t met anyone – anyone – like Randy Gene Moss, so trying to guess what’s going on in his head would be folly.
As for Ochocinco, it hasn’t been an instant transition, but by all accounts he’s putting in the work, and that goes a long way.

What happened in the fourth quarter with the Bills at the one-yard line and the play under review to determine if in fact the Bills had scored? The Patriots took a time out, leaving them with only one left. Bill Belichick (appeared) angry with the official and it looked like he was penalized with a time out taken away.
Brian, Las Vegas

Both Belichick and game referee Carl Cheffers said Belichick took the timeout, though I can see why there was a question as to what happened. Pool reporter Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com, who is the reporter designated to speak to officials in cases such as these to get an explanation, talked to Cheffers and this is what he said about the situation:
“Coach Belichick wanted an explanation as to what was going to take place after the replay. Obviously, we had a reversal [initially the signal was that Fred Jackson had scored, but he was determined to have been tackled at the one-yard line by Devin McCourty]. We put the ball at the half-yard line. The clock was going to start. He wanted a confirmation of what was going to happen at that point. I went over there and explained to him that the ball was at the half. He asked me when the clock was going to start. I said as soon as I was done with the explanation with him that I was going to go out on the field and start the clock. He stayed down there. I didn’t understand exactly why he stayed down there. I went back over there and he said he wanted a timeout. So I have him his second charged timeout.”

Do you think the ineffectiveness of the Patriots defensive backs might be due to lack of preparation for a particular opponent? It seems like they don't know what receivers’ tendencies are when they are lined up in specific formations. Recognizing tendencies would put them in better position to anticipate routes and make plays. They seem lost most of the time. Or is that because they play a lot of zone coverage?
David, McHenry, Ill.

I’d be very surprised if it was lack of preparation. A hallmark of Bill Belichick’s teams is that they are always prepared, for nearly any situation. I think the biggest issue with the defensive backs right now is that the Pats opted to play more press-man coverage (as opposed to the zone they usually play), and man to man is much easier when the front seven is generating a pass rush. Without that, the corners in particular have to cover longer, and any corner is going to get beat if he has to cover for a long period of time. Another issue is technique – Devin McCourty in particular wasn’t jamming his man at the line consistently, giving him an easier path.

What are the chances of Nate Solder playing blocking tight end this season?
Dave, Needham

We saw Solder play as a blocking tight end/sixth offensive lineman when the Pats played the Chargers, but that was the only game we were able to see it thus far this season. With Sebastian Vollmer missing the opener in Miami and the Buffalo game, Solder was called upon to play right tackle. Vollmer missed practice again on Wednesday this week, so the rookie may be back in that spot in Oakland.

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Ask Shalise: Constructing the roster

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff August 3, 2011 11:46 PM

There were a couple of questions this week about Giants’ defensive end Osi Umeniyora and whether the Patriots would have been interested in adding him -- earlier in the week, New York allowed Umeniyora to seek a trade, but on Wednesday New York rescinded the opportunity.

Colleague Greg Bedard was told the Pats’ did “due diligence” on Umeniyora, but given that the Giants were looking for a high draft pick and the team acquiring the soon-to-be 30-year old would have to give him a significant pay raise over the $8 million total he’s currently owed for this season and next, New England likely decided that was too high a price to pay.

Onto the questions we might still be able to provide answers to…

Q: I like what the Pats have done so far this off season, as short as the signing period has been, but two questions: first, how many running backs do they need; and who is going to play defensive end/outside linebacker? Thanks.
Alex, Newton

Have a
question? 90_shalise.jpg Submit your question here to be considered for the next edition of Ask Shalise. SMY: Currently the Patriots have seven backs on the roster: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, and rookies Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley and Richard Medlin (an undrafted free agent signed Wednesday). Last year, they started the season with four, though I could see them going with five this year – Green-Ellis, Woodhead, Faulk, Vereen and Ridley. Ridley is more in the Green-Ellis mold, while Woodhead, Faulk and Vereen are each third-down threats.

As for DE/OLB, there’s not an easy answer to that right now. It appears that the Patriots are going to run quite a few four-man fronts this year, and when they have gone with four down linemen, it has been Jermaine Cunningham and Eric Moore at the end spots with Vince Wilfork and Albert Haynesworth/Mike Wright at the tackles. With the four-man line, Jerod Mayo has been playing weakside linebacker and Gary Guyton strongside (with Brandon Spikes the middle linebacker).

The Patriots have worked out former Colts and Seahawks defensive end Raheem Brock and former Browns and Dolphins DE/OLB Matt Roth in the last few days, and both could help, particularly Roth, who is coming from Eric Mangini’s system in Cleveland which is very similar to Belichick’s.

Q: How about this – the Pats sign Randy Moss with an expressed purpose? Specifically, to a nominal consideration value of $1 (with incentives) and place him on the 53 man roster throughout the season. That way teams, throughout their weekly preparations, still need to game plan for Randy and Tom reunited again. Preparation by the opposition, or distraction, throughout the week may impact the game even if Randy were inactive on game day. Yes, it is a roster spot, but can you imagine the guessing game teams would go through each week to find if he were active or not, and then if he were active, just when he checks in as a third or fourth receiver, kick off return man or some other way? Offer the man a final chance at a Ring, and let loose on this, in an unusual year to say the least.
Michael, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

SMY: You present quite the scenario, Michael, but it would be very hard to become reality, for several reasons. Moss reportedly filed his retirement papers, and while those can be undone, I find it very hard to see him coming back to the Pats, where he simply wore out his welcome. His relationship with Tom Brady had eroded – a source close to Moss told me that he criticized Brady in the 2010 offseason for not spending more time with teammates at the Pats’ facility – and ESPN’s Jeffri Chadiha wrote this week that Brady had grown so weary of Moss taking plays off that he told Bill Belichick he refused to throw to him anymore. Days later, Moss was traded. The receiver realized too late that he had fractured the best situation he’d been in in his career: a great coach, one of the best quarterbacks in history – only after he’d been shipped to Minnesota.

Plus, while Chad Ochocinco isn’t the same style of receiver as Moss, he is here now – can you imagine Brady having to keep both of those players happy plus Wes Welker and Deion Branch?

And as nice as it is to think of a contract that would start at $1, as a 10-plus year veteran, Moss is entitled to a minimum of $910,000 under the rules of the collective bargaining agreement.

Q: Will the Pats add an outside linebacker/pass rush specialist?
Billy, Somerville

SMY: They definitely seem to be on the lookout for one (almost typed “lockout” instead of “lookout” – thank goodness that’s over!), bringing in Raheem Brock and Matt Roth, but it remains to be seen whether or not they’ll sign either one. Roth’s asking price may be steep, but with former 49er Manny Lawson only getting one year at $3 million from the Bengals this week, Roth would be wise to lower his asking price.

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Ask Shalise: Will there be an NFL Draft?

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff February 16, 2011 10:08 AM
Have a
question? 90_shalise.jpg Submit your question here to be considered for the next edition of Ask Shalise. As a few of you noted, the mailbag has been missing in action for a few weeks - once the Patriots were knocked out of the playoffs, I went on the road, and the mailbag was neglected as I went from Florham Park to Pittsburgh to Mobile and then to Dallas.

But here it is again, and here it will be every week or every other week depending on the volume of questions that come in during the offseason. Right now, it promises to be quite a strange offseason thanks to the lack of a collective bargaining agreement. But there will be a draft on April 28-30, and colleague Greg Bedard and I will be in Indianapolis next week for the NFL Scouting Combine.

What happens after that is anyone's guess - right now, the chances seem incredibly slim that there will be a CBA by the March 4 date (the start of the new league year), but that could change when that date gets closer. My gut feeling, however, is we won't see a deal by then.

On to your questions:

If there is no CBA in place by the draft, will there still be a draft? If there is a draft but no CBA, what will the impact be on signing the kids and on the monies being offered?
Robert Sharples, Dartmouth

There will be a draft regardless, Robert, but that’s about the only clear answer I can give you at this point. Teams claim the rights to a player when he is drafted, but without a CBA, no new contracts can be signed – and that includes for the dozens of college players who are undrafted free agents. The frenzy that typically begins the minute after the final pick is announced in the draft, with teams scrambling to call undrafted players they’re interested in, won’t happen.

It seems clear that there will be some kind of rookie salary scale in the new CBA, but if the CBA isn’t in place before the draft begins on April 28, will it impact the way teams draft? Right now, teams don’t want to trade up into the top three or four picks because of the way contracts have skyrocketed for players chosen in those spots over the last few years. But if there is a rookie cap in place – and logically, having a sliding scale like the NBA has makes the most sense – will teams move up to get the best player?

This could come into play in particular with a team like New England, which has two first-round picks: if the Patriots have their eyes on a player like Texas A&M’s Von Miller, but they don’t think he will be there with the 17th pick (their first, from the Richard Seymour trade), would they move up into the top 10 to get him if the economic commitment is greatly reduced? After all, the Patriots moved down in the 2008 draft from seventh to 10th and still got the player they wanted, Jerod Mayo, but saved a pretty big chunk of money by getting him three slots later.

With all the draft picks that the Pats have, do you feel that it's time to get younger on offense? We obviously have needs on defense, but we have so many young players on that side of the ball, I was thinking that they need to be developed. I think the most glaring need was developing another cornerback, but still believe that Darius Butler can be a solid NFL cornerback/nickelback. Our offensive line and wide receiver corps are a bit long in the tooth; do you think we could use a youth injection in those spots?
Matt Keough, Sierra Vista, Ariz.

In a word, Matt: Yes. New England needs to get younger, particularly on the offensive line – the team will be looking for a tackle and needs guards and a center as well, and the consensus is that this is a strong draft for linemen. Matt Light may or may not be re-signed, but even if he is, the Patriots need someone besides Sebastian Vollmer who can play tackle at a high level. There has been no word yet on whether Stephen Neal will return, but he has averaged just 10.4 games a year over the last five seasons. And if there is no intention to sign Logan Mankins to a long-term deal, he needs to be replaced as well.

At receiver, Deion Branch isn’t the speed threat he once was, and the Patriots can use a deep threat, though not necessarily someone they would look to downfield as often as they did when Randy Moss was here. Keep in mind that the Patriots do have Brandon Tate and Taylor Price. Both were disappointments last year, but they have something a rookie won’t: experience in the system and playing with Tom Brady.

After the rush to get Tom Terrific to the surgeon after his foot fracture, there has been no information on the success of the procedure or the healing afterward. Can you give us an update?
Dick, Middletown, Delaware

We reported that Brady’s surgery was a success, Dick. He had a screw inserted into the injured bone, which will stabilize it and promote healing. His recovery is expected to take three to six months, and Brady will do his rehab, in part, with Alex Guerrero, who saw both he and Wes Welker through their respective recoveries from ACL surgery.

There seems to be a lot of pass-rush help options in free agency and the draft this offseason. (Pittsburgh’s) Lamarr Woodley and (Kansas City’s) Tamba Hali are free agents and there seems to be plenty of 3-4 defensive ends in the draft. My dream offseason for the Pats would be to sign Hali or (the Browns’) Matt Roth and draft J.J. Watt (Wisconsin), Marcell Dareus (Alabama) or Cameron Heyward (Ohio State). Do you think the Pats will be active this offseason (once the CBA nonsense is ironed out of course) or will I be disappointed again?
Keith, Medford

You’ve definitely done your homework, Keith. Unfortunately, Woodley and Hali are both fully expected to be franchised by their respective teams, so they won’t be hitting the open market. With Cleveland moving to a 4-3 defense, it doesn’t look like it will re-sign Roth, so if/when free agency begins, he is definitely an intriguing prospect for New England: he is 28, 6 feet 4 inches and 275 pounds and had 86 tackles and 3.5 sacks for the Browns last year. He also played under Eric Mangini in a defensive system that is very similar to Bill Belichick’s.

As for the draft, it seems like fans and media alike have been saying for a couple of years that the Patriots need pass rushing help, and other than drafting Jermaine Cunningham last year, that perceived need hasn’t really been addressed. I’ve heard that Cameron Jordan from Cal is a Patriots-type player, but with so few college teams playing a 3-4 alignment, there’s a great deal of projection that has to be done to determine players who would fit in New England’s defense.

Why do opposing players dislike Tom Brady?
David Gorelik, Passaic, N.J.

I don’t know that a lot of opposing players dislike Brady, David, but there are a couple of very vocal players who have made it clear that they don’t like him, namely the Ravens’ Terrell Suggs and the Jets’ Antonio Cromartie, and to a lesser extent, Rex Ryan.

Neither of those players has had a great deal of success against Brady. As Brady himself noted after the Patriots’ regular-season win over Baltimore this year, the Ravens talk a lot for beating New England just once (granted, the one win was a playoff game). While Cromartie is now a member of the Jets and they did beat New England two out of three games this year, he was a rookie with the Chargers when they suffered their second-half collapse to the Patriots in the 2006 postseason. Plus, good judgment doesn’t seem to be a Cromartie strong suit, as evidenced by his off-field activities, his calling out of NFL Players’ Association head DeMaurice Smith, and his calling Brady an expletive before the playoff game last month. As for Ryan, I really don’t know why he decided to take some swipes at Brady in January.

Brady is known as a winner, and football players being the competitive people that they are, some might not like Brady just because he has tasted Super Bowl success when they haven’t. Some say he’s too demonstrative and talks too much on the field – while I can’t think of a time when I think his celebration of a big play was out of place or over the top, I can’t speak to how much or how extensive he is with trash talk since I’m not on the field.

Ask Shalise: How much do players make in playoff bonuses?

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff January 13, 2011 09:40 AM
Have a
question? 90_shalise.jpg Submit your question here to be considered for the next edition of Ask Shalise. Everything gets ramped up in the postseason, and that includes mailbags: from here on out, we'll be posting one weekly. This was supposed to go up yesterday, but thanks to Mother Nature, my Tuesday night plans were significantly altered. For the next couple of weeks they will be up on Wednesday mornings. Hopefully.

This week's topics were quite interesting, ranging from how much players will pocket in the playoffs to women in Boston professional sports front offices.

We're also scheduled to chat at lunchtime today - stop by if you get a chance.

I was wondering: is there is an expanded roster for the football playoffs like there is in baseball?
Dave Baker, New Vineyard, Maine

There is not, Dave. Just as it is in the regular season, teams get a 53-man active roster and eight-man practice squad during the postseason. On game days they must declare eight players from the 53-man inactive, meaning only 45 players are in uniform for the game (or 46 if a team has a designated third/emergency) quarterback; practice squad members cannot play in games unless they are promoted to the 53-man roster.

Quick question - how much do the players receive for each stage of the playoffs.
Fred Tobin, Darien, Conn.

Thanks for writing in, Fred. This year’s NFL postseason media guide has playoff shares breaking down like so (figures are per player):
Wild-card game: $21,000 division winning-teams/$19,000 wild card teams
Divisional round: $21,000
Conference championship: $38,000
Super Bowl XLV: $83,000 winning team/$42,000 losing team

So if the Pats win the Super Bowl this year, each player will have made $142,000. If the Seahawks, as a division-winning team that played in the wild card round, were to win, those players would receive a total of $163,000 each. If you’re interested, players who go to the Pro Bowl receive $45,000 if they’re on the winning team and $22,500 if they’re on the losing side.

Who is the highest ranking woman in the Patriots' organization? What about the Celtics, Bruins and Red Sox too?
Frank Bemis, Presque Isle, Maine

I turned to my Globe colleagues on the Celts (Gary Washburn), Sox (Pete Abraham) and Bruins (Fluto Shinzawa) beats for help on this one, Frank.

For the Patriots, the highest-ranking woman is Jennifer Ferron, vice president of marketing operations. With the Red Sox, Jennifer Flynn is a senior vice president and assistant general counsel; in terms of baseball operations, Raquel Ferreira is the director of minor league operations. Heather Walker is the senior manager of public relations for the Celtics, and for the Bruins, Amy Latimer is senior VP of sales and marketing.

Interestingly, for all of the criticism levied in Al Davis’ direction in recent years, he has a woman, Amy Trask, as the CEO of the Raiders. Other than Ferreira, there aren't any women in Boston working in personnel or the significant business aspects of these teams.

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Ask Shalise: Why are Patriots labeled good, but Jets are lucky?

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 30, 2010 09:25 AM
Have a
question? 90_shalise.jpg Submit your question here to be considered for the next edition of Ask Shalise. My internal, in-season clock is still way out of whack thanks to last week's game being on a Thursday and this week's coming on Monday -- which leads to all kinds of scheduling changes -- but the mailbag was still filling up. So even though this isn't a "normal" Tuesday with players having the day off, there are questions to address.

The first question deals with the week-to-week changes in opinions as to which team is the best in the NFL, Julian Edelman and Aaron Hernandez are hot topics, and there's even a question in here from a Jets fan (he makes a good point, which some of you may find hard to believe, I know).

Patriots players returned to Gillette Stadium today after a long weekend to being preparations for their showdown with the Jets - a game that really is deserving of all of the hype it will receive in the coming weeks.

Keep those questions coming, and we'll have a chat on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. as well.

It seems like the media wants to crown a Super Bowl favorite every week. The Pats are the favorite after they beat the Ravens, but after they lose to the Browns, they are not even favored to beat the Steelers. Now that they've beaten the Steelers, I'll bet they're again the favorites to win it all. Does anyone in the media actually have a handle on who the best teams are? How do you see it ending for the Pats this year?
Steve, Marietta, Ga.

This is certainly a fair question, Steve, and I think a lot of things are at play here. First, given the immediacy of the journalism business now, things seem to change hour-by-hour, let alone day-by-day or week-to-week. Second, power rankings are popular – most people will disagree with the author and it generates interest (interest = clicks, which for better or worse is the currency of online outlets). Third, in this season, more than most NFL seasons, there really is no clear-cut answer as to which one or two teams are the best in the league. Sure, the Patriots, Jets and Falcons are tied for the best record in the league at 9-2, but are they truly the best teams? All three teams have been winning of late, so right now the answer to that would seem to be yes, but with San Diego once again looking to make its late-season push, will they enter the argument? Does Pittsburgh belong in the debate? Does Green Bay or Chicago? The bottom line is rankings and Vegas odds don’t matter: in theory, the best team in the league will be crowned at Cowboys Stadium on Feb. 6.

I’m a Jets fan from Brooklyn, and you can imagine how much I dislike the Patriots. But over the last month or so, with the Jets winning nail-biters in the final seconds or overtime, I’ve been hearing Pats fans calling the Jets lucky, and saying Sanchez isn’t that good. Why? If it was Brady leading the Pats to come-from-behind 4th quarter wins, they would be citing it as evidence of Brady’s greatness, and how it shows the Pats are a resilient team. But it’s the Jets and Sanchez, so they’re just lucky? Were the Pats lucky in beating the Colts due to Manning’s interception in the final minutes? Maybe they don’t want to accept there is a new power in the AFC East? Can you explain it to me?
Kevin, Brooklyn, N.Y.

It’s all about perspective, Kevin. Patriots fans look at things through blue-tinted glasses, and Jets fans are using green-tinted lenses. You make a great point, though: one of the statistics often cited to illustrate Brady’s greatness is the number of fourth-quarter comebacks he’s led. Isn’t that just what Sanchez is doing right now? The NFL isn’t like college football's BCS: there are no style points given. Wins and losses are all that matters, and regardless of how New York is getting them right now, the bottom line is it’s getting wins.

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Ask Shalise: Mangini, McCourty and Mankins ... oh my

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 9, 2010 09:13 AM
Have a
question? 90_shalise.jpg Submit your question here to be considered for the next edition of Ask Shalise. Thanks to a cold in the early part of the week and a Nyquil hangover, I wasn't able to post a mailbag last week. But here it is making its return. As always, there are a variety of questions in the inbox this week, ranging from the relationship between Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini to the 2011 Draft.

So without further ado...

Last season Tully Banta-Cain seemed by far the Patriots' most effective pass rusher, and this season he's been invisible. What's up?
Brian Kiley, Studio City, Calif.

I think the simple answer is a lack of opportunities. At the start of the preseason, it was assumed that rookie Jermaine Cunningham, who made a quick adjustment from college defensive end to 3-4 OLB, would be starting opposite Banta-Cain, who was credited with a career-high 10 sacks last season. But while Cunningham has ascended to a starter's role after missing all of the preseason games, it is Rob Ninkovich, not TBC, who has gotten the most snaps opposite Cunningham. Ninkovich has been effective at times, and his second interception in Miami was a heads-up play. But New England is still struggling to find a consistent pass rush, and you do have to wonder if TBC could help in that area. I haven't heard of him having an injury that would affect his performance, and to his credit Banta-Cain hasn't said anything about being unhappy with his reduced role, though you have to believe that he is. Bill Belichick touted Banta-Cain as a leader of the linebacker group in the preseason, and he is the most tenured member of the unit, but that apparently hasn't bought him snaps on the field.

Hey Shalise, With the Pats having two first round picks in next year's draft, what is your opinion on what Belichick is going to do with them? He is so unpredictable with his wheeling and dealing with his picks and with the Raiders unfortunately playing better do you think he will keep both and if so who and what players and positions will he covet?
Gary Smith, Boynton Beach, Fla.

Do you have any leads as to whom the Pats may now be interested in for the 2011 draft? Is it too early to speculate on their developing weaknesses or strengths?
Robert Sharples, Dartmouth

Some of you are looking ahead to the draft already? Speculating on the draft -- particularly which players Belichick might choose -- is typically a futile exercise, and with the draft over five months away, it is that much more difficult now. That said, I've heard the name of Alabama RB Mark Ingram tied frequently to the Pats, both for his talent as a hard-running back and the Belichick-Nick Saban connection. If it's me, I do believe the Patriots need a top running back (though I'm not a big fan of using a high first-round pick for that position), and definitely an edge rusher. I also think it's a good time to start looking at finding successors to Matt Light, Dan Koppen and Stephen Neal (assuming they aren't already on the roster). As for Belichick's wheeling and dealing, if I was able to predict what he did, I'd play the lottery a lot more often!

FULL ENTRY

Ask Shalise: Why single out Meriweather?

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff October 20, 2010 10:30 AM
Have a
question? Shalise Manza Young Submit your question here to be considered for the next edition of Ask Shalise.

Brandon Meriweather made himself a hot topic not just in New England, but league-wide this week after his helmet-to-helmet hit on Baltimore's Todd Heap on Sunday. Meriweather's hit was one of several around the NFL last weekend, and rather than waiting for a devastating hit (Jack Tatum on Darryl Stingley) to react, it moved swiftly this week, imposing huge fines on Meriweather, the Steelers' James Harrison and Atlanta's Dunta Robinson. Beginning this week, players can also be suspended for such flagrant hits.

Inquiries about Logan Mankins, and of course Randy Moss, make appearances this week as well.

I am sure you are flooded with questions about helmet-to-helmet hits -- I am wondering why everyone seems so intent on singling out Brandon Meriweather when there were several other players doing the same thing; specifically James Harrison from the Steelers, who even said he is trying to hurt someone (differentiating between hurting and injuring). So what is your take on this?
Bagoon, Los Osos, Calif.
In the case of Meriweather, he very clearly launched himself at Todd Heap, leaving his feet and leading with his helmet, and he made no move to try and tackle him (i.e. raise his arms to try and wrap Heap). Harrison's hit on Josh Cribbs, though it did result in an injury to Cribbs, is legal under the rules because Cribbs in that case was a ball carrier; his hit on Mohamed Massaquoi is likely the one that drew him the fine because Massaquoi was defenseless. Going forward, this will be an incredibly interesting topic to monitor, as defensive players in particular are unhappy that it appears to them the league is trying to legislate hitting right out of the game (on Tuesday night, Patriots cornerback Leigh Bodden tweeted "NFL NoFunLeague. Cmon maaan").

To me, the league is, in a way, saving these players from themselves, as they either don't understand or don't want to acknowledge the long-term damage they are doing to themselves with these hits. No amount of money they make now can save them from dementia or Alzheimer's or depression or any of the other serious issues that can come up over time.

I have always been a fan of Kevin Faulk's work. Is he at risk of losing his job due to injury? Watching Danny Woodhead in the limited sample size of three games, I can't help wondering if he stays this productive and stays healthy, that Kevin may be on the outside looking in next year.
Scott, Harrisburg Penn.
This is an interesting question. While Faulk said in the days after his injury that he would "rehab my butt off and see what happens," it will be very interesting to see whether the Patriots offer him a contract after this season. Faulk was signed to a one-year, $2 million deal in March, and will be approaching his 35th birthday when free agency begins early in 2011. Because of his specialized role, Faulk's legs don't have nearly the same amount of mileage on them that another running back his age would.

However, as you noted, Woodhead has gotten off to a great start. There was actually one point during Sunday's game when I looked at one of my colleagues after Woodhead caught a screen pass and said, "That looked a lot like Kevin." And Woodhead's numbers after the Baltimore game -- 11 carries for 63 yards, 5 receptions for 52 yards -- are pretty Faulk-like, plus he's making $395,000 in base salary this season.

That said, there's no accounting for the leadership of Faulk and the respect he receives. This team is known for taking sentimentality out of nearly all decisions, but I do think Faulk is one of the few players who might get the chance to come back and hopefully go out on his own terms. But I think if New England doesn't re-sign him, Faulk would elect to retire rather than sign with another team and potentially uproot his family. For his children, Massachusetts is home.

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Ask Shalise to debut next week

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff September 29, 2010 02:24 PM

Shalise Manza YoungEvery Tuesday during football season, Patriots reporter Shalise Manza Young will post an installment of Ask Shalise right here in Extra Points.

The first installment will appear next Tuesday.

This is your chance to send her your questions about anything and everything concerning the Patriots and the NFL. Each week she'll supply answers to the best ones she receives.

Use the link supplied here to go to the question submission form, or look for the permanent link to the feature on our Patriots team page.

She'll still do online chats -- in fact, we're planning one for tomorrow at 12:30 -- but this is a way to get your inquiries to her when they are fresh on your mind.

Have a question? Submit your question here to be considered for the next edition of Ask Shalise.
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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