| December 9, 2007 »
December 7, 2007
Four Ravens fined for MNF comments
From the league release:
Four Baltimore Ravens players have been fined for violating league rules prohibiting the abuse of game officials, the NFL announced today.
Bart Scott was fined $25,000 for verbally abusing game officials and throwing an official’s flag into the stands during last Monday night’s Baltimore-New England game.
Samari Rolle, Chris McAlister, and Derrick Mason were fined $15,000 each for publicly questioning the integrity of the officiating in last Monday night’s game.
“This is about the importance of sportsmanship and respecting the integrity of our game,” said NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson. “We do not tolerate inappropriate conduct between teams and game officials. This includes reminding game officials that they are to conduct themselves at all times as professionals in their dealings with players, coaches, and other club personnel.”
Anderson went to Baltimore this week to speak directly with Scott and Rolle before issuing the fines today.
“Last Monday night’s game was well officiated,” Anderson said, “and it is the obligation of both players and coaches to maintain proper respect for game officials at all times.”
In addition to prohibiting physical contact with game officials, league rules also bar team personnel from verbal or other non-physical abuse of officials and from public criticism of their integrity.
Posted by Shalise Manza Young at 9:46 PM | Permalink
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Friday injury/participation report: Polamalu doubtful
For the Patriots:
S Rashad Baker - ankle (dnp)
G Stephen Neal - shoulder (lp)
QB Tom Brady - right shoulder (fp)
For the Steelers:
S Troy Polamalu - knee (dnp)
LB Andre Frazier - groin (dnp)
LB LaMarr Woodley - hamstring (lp)
RB Najeh Davenport - foot (fp)
LB James Harrison - personal reasons (dnp)
fp - full participation; lp - limited participation; dnp - did not practice
Posted by Shalise Manza Young at 5:18 PM | Permalink
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Transcript: Bill Belichick's Friday press conference
Can you talk about what the addition of Wes Welker has meant to your team this season?
Wes has done a real good job for us. He’s come in and worked really hard. [He] was one of our off-season award winners. [He] primarily plays in the slot, although I think there are other things that he can do, but just the way that our team is, the way it fits together with our other receivers and our offense and so forth. He’s in there a lot. We had a lot of trouble with him in Miami, defending him, and we’ve tried to put him in some of those situations that we had trouble with in our offense. That’s sort of some of the things we’ve done in the past anyway, so it’s not like we redesigned the offense or anything. [We’ve] put him in the spot where we feel he can be productive and compliments our other players. He’s done a good job.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was just talking about your goal line package with Mike Vrabel and Junior Seau coming in. What are the advantages to that as opposed to Laurence Maroney behind Heath Evans?
I think there’s a lot of different players that could do different things for us. It’s just a question of really how you want to utilize your personnel and how to distribute everything, how you want to put it together. I think that’s something that we talk about on a regular basis and it’s an overall team thing - It doesn’t just come down to one guy, “Could one guy do this or one guy do that?” Certainly, but it’s just a question of how you want to put the entire team - put everything together and…There’s a lot of things that go into the decision, is what I’m trying to say. [There’s a] lot of things that go into the decision and we do what we think is best for our football team.
Is short-yardage something that Maroney needs to work on?
I didn’t say that.
I think everybody can work on everything. I think that every player can work on every phase of his game. I wouldn’t - If Tiger Woods can go out and practice 14 hours on the driving range, I think there’s things that we could do, all of us, can do to be better. I’m not saying that. But yeah, I think Laurence can run in any situation. I think our backs have a lot of versatility.
In particular with Heath Evans, what has allowed him to succeed so much here? It wasn’t that long ago that he was released. What has allowed him to do so well here?
He’s a smart kid, [he’s] versatile, he’s got some size, he’s got some running skill, [he has] good hands, [he’s] intelligent, [he can] handle a lot of different assignments. [He’s] pretty athletic, for a big kid. I think he’s got a lot of things going for him physically, athletically. He’s tough and he’s smart. Those things all work in his favor.
You talk about Welker, Randy Moss, Corey Dillon - What are you looking for, other than talent, obviously, when you bring these guys in? What makes them fit into your system? They seem to have a lot of success when they come here.
Every time you bring a player onto your team, I think you want to have an idea of what you’re going to do with them, what you’re going to ask them to do and whether or not you feel like he can do it. Whether you draft them or sign them as a free agent or a veteran free agent or whatever the situation is, here’s what you envision this guy’s responsibilities being and what he needs to do, and then whether or not you think he has the skill, the make-up and maybe in some cases experience, depending on what that role is, to do it. There’s no magic formula for anything. It’s a very inexact science, for sure, but you try to identify what you’re looking for and then find people that fit that particular niche or role or criteria, however you want to look at it. If you feel like it will be productive, then you do it. If you don’t, then you keep looking. Sometimes you find guys that you think will and for whatever reason they’re not available or you can’t acquire them on your team for one reason or another. And then sometimes you get another shot at them at a later point in time. You say, “Hey, this guy would be a good fit here.” For whatever reason, you don’t get him - somebody else drafts him or you’re not able to sign him or whatever. And then maybe that opportunity comes up later on. Or maybe it doesn’t. It’s a regular process. We go through it on a - It’s very cyclical. We go through it many times during the year and then the next year we go through it again. Some of the same names come up; some of them don’t. There’s some new names.
How helpful is it to have a veteran reserve offensive lineman like Russ Hochstein to step in in the middle of a game?
I think all of our offensive linemen that play for us have done a good job. Ryan [O’Callaghan]’s played a lot for us. Wes [Wesley Britt] last year in the Cincinnati game did a real good job for us. Billy [Yates]’s played, Russ has played. It’s a good group. They work hard. They work well together. Dante [Scarnecchia] mixes them in in practice so they all get a lot of reps. They work together. When you’re just kind of watching the offense and you’re not really focusing all of your attention on the offensive line, you kind of don’t realize who’s in there. You might go back and look and say, “Oh, that was Wes at tackle,” or “t]That was Russ at guard.” “That was Billy at guard,” or Steve [Neal] or Logan [Mankins] or - I’m not saying they all look the same. I don’t mean it that way. I’m just saying in terms of execution that it’s not real noticeable when one player’s in there or one isn’t. They all seem to function and operate well together, and certainly Russ is a part of that unit. He’s played center and guard for us, even at times briefly tackle and tight end, in some multiple tight end packages, so he’s a versatile guy, a smart, tough kid and has played well for us when he’s had the opportunity to - As has Billy, as has Wes, Ryan and the other five guys. I think we’re very fortunate there. They all work well together. They’re unselfish, they work hard. Dante does a great job of preparing each of them individually and as a group and it’s a good group to coach.
Do you think that’s the goal with the offensive line, that they reach a point where they’re all interchangeable parts but there’s still execution?
As much as possible, yeah. You’d like to have that at every position on your team, where you have several guys and they can all go in there and play well, and if one player’s in there instead of another one, you’re still able to go in there and operate and execute the plays the way you want them to. Everybody knows what to do and you can be productive. I’m not saying there’s no difference between the players, but I’m just saying, you’ve seen all the games. There’s times when there’ve been different combinations in there through the years, back to when Dan [Koppen] got hurt a couple of years ago and the tackle situation. There have been different players there. It’s been pretty functional.
What do you attribute that to? Is it the level of the players that you bring in or the system that allows them to do well?
I think it’s a combination of things, but really it’s the players. I don’t think it’s the system, I think it’s the players. They work hard, they’re well-prepared, they have the physical skill to play and when they get an opportunity to play they play at a good level. Not perfect, but good and [they] work hard to get better. They’re well-coached, they take the coaching. When they make a mistake, they correct it, they go out there and get it right the next time. We usually don’t have the same mistakes repeat over and over again. That’s not good to have in any position, but there’s usually not too much of that on the offensive line. I think all of those things are important.
What kind of challenges is Pittsburgh’s front going to present to them?
Pittsburgh’s good on defense. They lead the league in pretty much every category on defense, starting with the most important one, which is points, so they’ll be a big challenge for us. It’s not just the linemen, it’s the linebackers, the DB’s blitz, they stunt a lot, there’s a lot of different combinations, you’re not always blocking the same guy. [Casey] Hampton [is] one of the best noses in the league. [Aaron] Smith, he does a great job. [The] linebackers are active. [Troy] Polamalu shows up there on the line of scrimmage and he’s a tough guy to block, so they give you a lot of combinations. It’s not always just a straight, one-on-one match-up. It’s guard or center or a tackle could end up blocking one of three, four or five different guys from play to play.
Do you find watching film that they blitz as much as they have in the past?
Yeah, they blitz. It depends on which game you watch, but I mean, yeah, they blitz.
Has their defense changed much under Mike Tomlin?
Tom Brady said yesterday that there’s a lot of pride in the December record of this team, especially in the last three or four years. What is it about December that brings out the best in this team?
I don’t know. I’d like to think there’s a lot of pride taken around here in every game, including December. I definitely agree with what Tom said, but at the same time, we try to take pride in our performance every week, from game one to game whatever. That’s the way we do it - come in, prepare for the team, get ready to go, try to play our best on Sunday and try to win. That’s what we do every week. I don’t have any real formula for why, but the most important thing is that we maintain consistency there and we try to get to the highest level we can. I’m not saying we always do it -- we’re far from perfect, we make a lot of mistakes - but that’s what we try to do. We try to do it on a regular week. It’s not like we go along in October and November and say, “OK, we’re going to really change things here in December and try to start playing good football.” [We] try to play good football all year long. [We] try to coach well. We don’t always do it, but we’re trying.
You’ve often said if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. When did you first learn that? Was that something from your dad?
I don’t really remember putting it quite that way, but I think probably the first guy I remember saying that - I think probably one of the first people I remember really talking about that was Chuck Noll, saying you’re not going to stay the same. You’re either going to get better or you’re going to get worse. And at that time, they were pretty good, so it wasn’t something that you as a competitor wanted to hear, because the Steelers were pretty good as it was. You didn’t really - The thought of them getting a whole lot better than they already were was not a particularly pleasant thought if you had to play against them. But I think that’s probably the first time I remember hearing it, or words to that effect.
Posted by Art Martone at 2:43 PM | Permalink
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Transcript: Josh McDaniel's Friday press conference
What do you see in the Pittsburgh defense?
I think they’re really good. They’re very consistent and very good at all phases of their defense. They don’t give up big plays, which to me means you’re going to have to establish long drives to get the ball moved on them. They play real physical up front [and] make it difficult in the running game, it’s a big challenge for us this week. I think they do a great job on third down. [They] get off the field well. They play tight coverage and get after the quarterback, and they’re really good in the red zone. They’ve allowed the fewest, or one of the fewest number of red zone possessions of any team in the league and that speaks to not allowing teams to put together long drives and not giving up the big plays to get down there. I think every phase that you look at-the running game, pass protection, being able to get open and convert on third down and then, ultimately, trying to get down into the red zone and put points on the board. They’re very consistent. They play hard. They’re physical and their scheme-they’ve done it for a number of years and they know exactly how to play it. They’ve got good players and they’re really well coached.
Have you seen anything different from them under Mike Tomlin?
There are probably some new wrinkles, I would say, but I think that the base of the system is what it is and what we’ve played against in the past - there may be a few little wrinkles here and there in some things that have changed since he’s been there, but I think overall the system, the basis of it, is very consistent with what we’ve played against in the past.
Is there any factor to explain Randy Moss’s decline in production the last couple of games? Is it just the defenses trying to take him out of the game?
I think there are a number of factors, whether that be play design to get them the ball against certain coverages… certainly teams have tried to do things to force us to go other places with the football and that’s always a part of it. We’re going to be willing to do that if they try to take somebody away. Then, we’ve got to be able to go somewhere else with the ball and then there’s been some poor throws, a drop here and there so I think there are a number of reasons for it and I think we’re looking to try to improve in all of those areas to try to make sure that all of our players are productive. But I would say that it’s not one factor. There have certainly been weeks when he’s had a limited number of catches, or production and we’ve done very well and, like I said, we’re going to continue to try to do what’s best for the team.
How was it that Baltimore was able to take away Moss and Wes Welker last week? How much did that hamstring you as an offense?
I mean, obviously, we want to get them involved and try to get them the ball. I think that comes back to performance. We could’ve done quite a few things better. We had opportunities to get them the ball and didn’t, like I said, for a number of reasons. They dropped a lot of guys a lot of the time and they didn’t blitz us a lot, but I think that’s something that teams are going to do to try to do to take away both the outside guy and drop guys back inside to take away some of the inside players and we have to do a better job when we have the opportunity to try to get them the ball when we can.
Are you seeing new ways that teams are bringing pressure each week?
I would that each team that we play has a style of the way they pressure. Certainly in the NFL they’ll look at games previous and if there’s something that worked they may kind of incorporate that, but, like I said, Baltimore didn’t hardly pressure us at all. I think it was 12 blitzes or 13 blitzes as opposed to other weeks when there has been a number of pressures. Pittsburgh’s got their style. They’ve got the types of blitzes they like to use, that they run very well and execute to a high degree, a high level. I would expect their blitz package to be what it is and not really take over somebody else’s identity as far as what they did to pressure us.
What has Wes Welker’s addition meant to this offense this season?
I think Wes is having a very productive season. He obviously gives an element when he’s there in the slot. He’s been able to catch and run. He’s done a decent job for us in punt returns. But what I think I’m proudest of him for is that he’s one of the finest blockers that we’ve had in the slot that we’ve ever had here. Troy [Brown] was good when he was in the slot, too. But Wes [Welker] does a great job. He really gets in there and tries to fit up whomever he needs to in the running game. He’s done a great job for us in that aspect. He’s been a very productive player for us. He’s given us an element of catch-and-run yards that don’t always get measured in practice. You throw a 5-yard completion in practice; it looks like a 5-yard completion. You throw him to him in the game and it turns into a 25-yard gain. Wes has been that type of player for us. He’s made a lot of plays for us and, hopefully, he can do that going forward.
When you said that you feel that teams are pretty set in their defense, do you at all think that they try to play more physical against this offense outside of what they normally do?
I wouldn’t say that they’re trying to be more physical than they normally have been. If a team is a split-safety coverage team, then chances are we’re going to see a lot of split-safety coverage. Philadelphia chose to do something different. Baltimore was a little bit of a different variation and I’m sure this week will be more of what Pittsburgh does. Their identity is to mix it up and bring pressure and play coverage and play split-safety and roll the corners and flip to post-safety so they do a lot of things and I wouldn’t expect that would change drastically for us because they are very good at what they do and I don’t think you go into a game and say, “Let’s abandon what’s been good for us because of the way that somebody else plays.” I think that would carry over. They have no reason to change. They’ve been very successful doing it.
What’s been the decision-making process behind consistently using Heath Evans, Mike Vrabel and Junior Seau in goal line situations?
It’s a decision that we had made going into the season and we’ve really carried it through basically every game this year. That’s been the grouping that we’ve worked with down there. I don’t think it’s any secret. That’s what ends up going into the game. Those are the guys that we feel… That package of players is going to give us the best chance to get it in down there, for a number of reasons. We feel like we’ve been able to do that off and on. We’ve been stopped a little bit more than what we would like down there, but we’re working hard to improve that area just like the other ones. Again, it comes back to what we feel like gives us the best chance to be successful when we get into that goal-line situation.
Those guys give you an option to both pass and run?
Yeah, both. Every time we get into a goal line situation, I think you want to definitely have the best threat to run or throw it that you can have. Again, it comes back to trying to make them defend everything and those guys, that’s what we feel they can do for us down there.
Did you tell Russ Hochstein to take that false start penalty on Monday?
I wish I could claim that. I did not. I did not.
This team has done so well over the last five or six years in December. How important is it that you’re playing your best football around this time?
I think you always want to play your best football this time of year. I think that gets back to preparation during the week and then going out there and putting together consistent… We’ve had too much inconsistency the last couple of weeks here, I’d say, and we’ve got to start playing on a consistent basis [and] eliminate the mistakes. That’s how you want to really play your best football in December, is not to hurt yourself and really put your best performance out there. I think it’s very important this time of year that you continue to improve, even though we’re 16, 18 weeks into the year, including training camp, and we’re still trying to improve all the little things that we can to try to carry that through the rest of the season and then, hopefully, into the playoffs. I think it’s very important to be playing well at this time of year. I also think it’s very important to try to get better on a daily basis. You can’t just say that what you’ve done in the past really matters because it doesn’t. We’re looking forward to the next week and the next practice and trying to improve.
What prompted the decision to call the pass to Jabar Gaffney against Baltimore?
There are certain things, certain packages that Jabar has been in that Donte’ [Stallworth] hasn’t or vice versa. Donte’ has certain things down there that Jabar doesn’t do and that kind of goes… There are some things that Kyle [Brady] does that Benjamin [Watson] doesn’t do and there are things with [Laurence] Maroney and [Kevin] Faulk and so on and so forth. I think there's plays that guys run and feel comfortable with and we feel comfortable with them and, at the time the selection that we were going to go with, was more of a Jabar-type of plays and he ended up in there and, thankfully, he made a big play for us.
Posted by Art Martone at 2:43 PM | Permalink
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Friday practice peek
The Patriots are on the practice field, and are inside for the second straight day, wearing shells and pants/shorts.
The only absence is reserve safety Rashad Baker, who showed up on the participation/injury report yesterday with an ankle injury.
Posted by Shalise Manza Young at 12:28 PM to Rashad Baker
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Snow and sleet in the Sunday forecast
The day is supposed to start clear, but things could get interesting by the afternoon. Click here to see the weather forecast for Foxboro.
Posted by Mike McDermott at 11:32 AM | Permalink
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Download today's sports cover
Today's sports cover looks at some of the famous guarantees in sports history. Shalise Manza Young asks the question: Will Anthony Smith join the likes of Joe Namath, or the likes of Fred "the Hammer" Williamson? Also, Kevin McNamara reports on PC's loss to South Carolina in Philadelphia, and Sean McAdam writes on the restocked Detroit Tigers.
Download a copy of the page in PDF format
Posted by Mike McDermott at 10:33 AM | Permalink
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