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January 9, 2008
Wednesday practice report
For the Patriots:
Did Not Participate
TE Stephen Spach - knee
DB Antwain Spann - hamstring
DB Willie Andrews - elbow
TE Kyle Brady - team decision
RB Kyle Eckel - stomach
S Rodney Harrison - thigh
T Nick Kaczur - foot
T Stephen Neal - shoulder
WR Wes Welker - team decision
QB Tom Brady - right shoulder
For the Jaguars:
LB Mike Peterson - hand
Did Not Participate
DT John Henderson - hamstring
DT Grady Jackson - knee
Posted by Shalise Manza Young at 3:57 PM | Permalink
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Five Pats named to AP All-Pro team
Another day, more honors for members of the Patriots, as today five players were named to the Associated Press All-Pro first team, and four more were named to the second team.
Randy Moss was a unanimous choice at receiver, and Tom Brady was named on all 50 ballots as well -- however, one member split their vote between Brady and Brett Favre (what are the chances it's not Frank Cooney?). LT Matt Light, LB Mike Vrabel and CB Asante Samuel were also on the first team.
WR Wes Welker, LG Logan Mankins, C Dan Koppen and DT Vince Wilfork were all second team honorees.
The full rosters:
QB Tom Brady, New England
WR Randy Moss, New England
WR Terrell Owens, Dallas
RB LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego
RB Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia
FB Lorenzo Neal, San Diego
TE Jason Witten, Dallas
OT Matt Light, New England
OT Walter Jones, Seattle
OG Alan Faneca, Pittsburgh
OG Steve Hutchinson, Minnestoa
C Jeff Saturday, Indianapolis
K Rob Bironas, Tennessee
KR Devin Hester, Chicago
DE Jared Allen, Kansas City
DE Patrick Kerney, Seattle
DT Kevin Williams, Minnesota
DT Albert Haynesworth, Tennessee
OLB DeMarcus Ware, Dallas
OLB Mike Vrabel, New England
ILB Patrick Willis, San Francisco
ILB Lofa Tatupu, Seattle
CB Asante Samuel, New England
CB Antonio Cromartie, San Diego
S Ed Reed, Baltimore
S Bob Sanders, Indianapolis
P Andy Lee, San Francosco
QB Brett Favre, Green Bay
WR Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis
WR Wes Welker, New England
WR Braylon Edwards, Cleveland
RB Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
RB Fred Taylor, Jacksonville
FB Tony Richardson, Minnesota
TE Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City
OT Flozell Adams, Dallas
OT Jason Peters, Buffalo
OG Logan Mankins, New England
OG Leonard Davis, Dallas
C Dan Koppen, New England
K Phil Dawson, Cleveland
KR Joshua Cribbs, Cleveland
DE Aaron Kampman, Green Bay
DE Mario Williams, Houston
DT Pat Williams, Minnesota
DT Vince Wilfork, New England
OLB Shawne Merriman, San Diego
OLB James Harrison, Pittsburgh
ILB DeMeco Ryans, Houston
ILB Nick Barnett, Green Bay
CB Champ Bailey, Denver
CB Al Harris, Green Bay
S Darren Sharper, Minnesota
S Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh
S Sean Taylor, Washington
P Shane Lechler, Oakland
Posted by Shalise Manza Young at 3:08 PM | Permalink
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Brady, 4 other Patriots voted to AP NFL All-Pro team
LaDainian Tomlinson and Randy Moss were unanimous selections to The Associated Press 2007 NFL All-Pro team on Wednesday. So was Tom Brady - sort of.
The league's Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year was chosen on each of the ballots from 50 media members who regularly cover the NFL. One voter, however, split the vote at quarterback between Brady and Green Bay's Brett Favre.
Still, Brady was a runaway choice at the position, and was joined by four other unbeaten Patriots on the squad: Moss, tackle Matt Light, cornerback Asante Samuel and outside linebacker Mike Vrabel.
All but Moss made the All-Pro team for the first time; Moss was chosen as a Minnesota Viking in 1998, 2000 and 2003.
"Every week, we come in here on Monday and you win and everybody's excited, the plane flights home are great," Brady said, referring to what has been a historic season so far for the 16-0 Patriots. "It's been a lot of fun. To see what we've accomplished thus far is great. At the same time we realize that, as coach put it, there's another mountain to climb."
Easily scaling the All-Pro mountain were Tomlinson for the third time, and Moss. Joining Tomlinson, the league's leading rusher, were fellow Chargers Lorenzo Neal, who clears many of L.T.'s paths from his fullback spot, and cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
Cromartie's breakthrough season saw him lead the NFL with 10 interceptions.
"I should have had 13," he said. "This year, I think I proved a lot of people wrong, with everybody saying how my knee injury was going to affect me. I mean, I'm two years off of it. My biggest thing was proving everybody wrong."
Also with three players on the team were Dallas and Seattle. The Cowboys had linebacker DeMarcus Ware, tight end Jason Witten and wide receiver Terrell Owens; Ware and Witten were first-timers, Owens also was selected in 2000, '01 and '02 with San Francisco, and 2004 with Philadelphia.
"Any time you can be the best in the entire league, that's always a special moment," said Witten, who had 96 receptions and seven touchdowns this season. "There's a lot of great tight ends out there, so to be on the top of that list is nice."
The Seahawks had tackle Walter Jones, defensive end Patrick Kerney and linebacker Lofa Tatupu. Jones previously made All-Pro in 2001, '04 and '05; the others Seahawks were first-timers.
Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren called Tatupu's three-interception day in a win at Philadelphia on Dec. 2 "one of the great games I've ever seen a linebacker have."
"Everybody has been instrumental in everything that I've been able to do," Tatupu said. "The D-line has been enabling me to get sacks, DBs staying on their guys so we can get back there and get sacks, or getting interceptions."
Joining Brady, Tomlinson and Neal in the backfield was Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook, who led the league in total yards from scrimmage with 2,104.
The rest of the offense had Minnesota guard Steve Hutchinson, Pittsburgh guard Alan Faneca, and Indianapolis center Jeff Saturday.
The other All-Pros on defense were Kansas City end Jared Allen, the league sacks leader with 15 1/2; Minnesota tackle Kevin Williams and Tennessee tackle Albert Haynesworth; San Francisco inside linebacker Patrick Willis, the only rookie on the squad; Indianapolis safety Bob Sanders, the Defensive Player of the Year; and Baltimore safety Ed Reed, making it for the third time.
The special teams players were Titans kicker Rob Bironas and 49ers punter Andy Lee, both newcomers to the squad, and record-setting kick returner Devin Hester of Chicago, who also made it as a rookie in 2006.
"It's been an incredible journey," said Bironas, who also played in the Arena Football League and arenafootball2 before making good with the Titans. "I didn't have any doubt in myself when I got started on this journey in high school. That was my dream to play in the pros, and I just kept pursuing it. I wanted to be one of the better kickers in the NFL, and this year I was able to do that."
In all, 15 AFC players and 12 from the NFC were chosen as All-Pros.
By the Associated Press
Posted by Pam Cotter at 3:03 PM to Tom Brady
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FOXBORO -- Once again, the Patriots are holding their practice inside the Dana-Farber Field House. They are in their shorts and shells.
Defensive back Antwain Spann and tight end Stephen Spach were not present for the media-access portion of the practice, which included stretching and warmup drills.
Running back Kyle Eckel (stomach), who was not present for the media-access portion of Tuesday's practice, is back on the field today.
Posted by Rob Lee at 1:48 PM | Permalink
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Transcript: Bill Belichick's Wednesday press conference
[There’s] not too much new at this end. We’re plugging along at situation stuff, getting ready for a team that does a lot of things well. Fire away.
The four wide receivers in the rotation were acquired at different times and have different talents, but is there something in common with the four of them that made you want to have them on this team?
Something in common on the four of them… I mean, a receiver’s job is to get open and catch the ball, so if they fall into that category, then I think any quarterback or any offense - They could help any offensive team in that way, no matter what their skills are, whether they’re tall, short, fast, quick. That’s the bottom line. Then how they fit in - They’re different.
Did you have to work to refocus your players at all after the 16-0 regular season or does that seem like a distant memory?
We’ve treated it one week at a time all year, so this week it’s Jacksonville. [We’ve] tried to approach every week the same. Each week has it’s own unique challenges and that’s definitely true this week. I don’t think any of those other games really have a whole lot of bearing on this one.
How do Randy Moss and Wes Welker stack up as blockers compared to some of the others?
Good. All the way through the year. I think that’s probably better than what it’s been, for the most part. I mean, I’m not talking about a specific play, but just in general, yeah, they’ve done a good job.
What kind of challenge does their running game present to you?
What kind of challenge? It’s the best running game in the league. They have two great backs and they can hit the home run, they’ve got long runs. I think they’ve got probably the most long runs in the league. They can up a tough yard on third down or short-yardage, goal line situations. They’re very good on blitz pick up. I know you’re asking about the running game, but as it relates to the backs they do a good job there. They have a big, physical offensive line [and] use a lot of different personnel combinations - two tight ends, three tight ends. They have a big fullback in [Greg] Jones. They do it a lot of different ways and they’re good at it. They run the ball on all three downs, they have good balance and they stay out of long-yardage situations, which, when you pick up those third downs then you can come back and run it again and that’s what they do. The quarterback runs, so they do it a lot of different ways.
Is it rare to have all of their backfield be big, physical people?
Well, their whole team is like that. They draft them that way. That’s what their team is - they’re a big, physical team. I think their big at every position. Receivers, they’re big. The quarterback is big. [The] backs are big, [the] line’s big, corners are big, defensive line is big - they’re all big. [John] Henderson, [Marcus] Stroud, Grady Jackson - you’re not going to find them much bigger than them, either, so you can go that way right across the board. They’re big at every spot and even the players that - Like [Byron] Leftwich. He was big [and they] replaced him with another big guy. I think that’s - Kyle Brady was big. They’ve had big players there and those players have moved on or whatever, whatever their circumstances were, and the next wave that comes in, they’re big, too.
You mentioned the size of their receivers. Does that present any kind of a bigger challenge in covering them?
Sure, yeah, every receiver has his own unique talents and his own unique way of getting open. Some guys do it with size, some with speed, some with quickness, some with technique, some with hands. They make a lot of their catches that way. Each guy has his own - You know, they’re a big receiving group. [Dennis] Northcutt, he’s not the biggest guy but he’s fast, he’s quick and he has his set of skills, and he’s very good too in the slot and as a returner and as a deep ball player, a deep ball threat. They have a nice combination of players, of skills. They have - [Ernest] Wilford, Reggie Williams - those guys have really good hands. They catch everything, they’re big targets. Same thing with [Marcedes] Lewis. He’s a tight end, but he’s kind of like a big receiver. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s real athletic, so they have a good group to throw to.
How has the linebacker position evolved from when you were coaching in New York to what you ask of those guys now?
I don’t think it’s dramatically different. In fact, to some of our linebackers’ chagrin, I bring out some of those Giants tapes and show them what we were doing back then and how we did it and let them take a look at that. There’s a lot of carry-over, technique wise, the plays, the skill-sets. I don’t think it’s changed dramatically. I think there’s subtle changes, but I think basically there’s a lot of similarities.
How often do you bring the tapes out?
More often than they would like. Whenever it’s appropriate or whenever we go over something that you could maybe show a good example of from somebody else doing it, that for whatever reason we just haven’t had the situation come up or maybe we go back and remind them about something that we’re not doing well. I go back and look at it and it kind of refreshes me as to how we maybe coached it or maybe techniqued it a little bit differently, certain things. Every once in awhile.
Did you feel your club was making strides against the run as the regular season progressed?
I think every game is its own unique entity. Whether you can play well against one team, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can play well against another team. I don’t think that’s - You have to do it every week, start all over again, break down how the new team’s doing it, how the new opponent’s doing it, how you’re going to defend it, how you have to play it, what threats they have, how they do it, how to handle the different blocking schemes, the different personnel guys that are blocking you. To me, it’s different every week and it doesn’t really make any difference what happened last week. We’re not playing them. We have a new team, a new challenge and they’re good. It’s a big challenge.
It seemed like you put a lot of emphasis this year on playing 60 minutes even when you were way ahead.
Believe it or not, we always try to play 60 minutes.
Do you think the Indianapolis game last year had an impact on that?
I mean, honestly, do you think we would ever tell our team, ‘Just 50 this week, fellas. That’s all we need. Just 45 and then we’ll take a quarter off.’ We always try to play 60 minutes. I know it doesn’t look like it out there, but we always try to play 60 minutes - Or more. Whatever it takes, but it’s every play, every situation, being prepared for everything, being ready to go all the way, however long it takes to do whatever it takes. There’s been no change in that emphasis since I can’t remember when. We talked about that in 2000 and every year since then in every game. Believe me, we’ve never said, ‘Let’s just give them a good half this week, fellas.’ We don’t do that. I don’t think anybody else does, either.
When you play a big, physical team with a powerful running game, is it a matter of meeting force with force to stop that?
Well, it’s being able to do your job. Look, there’s somebody everybody’s going to get blocked. It’s not like they or any other team runs plays where they say, ‘Oh, we’re not going to block [Vince] Wilfork or we’re not going to block [Junior] Seau or we’re not going to block [Mike] Vrabel.’ Everybody get blocked by somebody. It’s just a question of how they scheme it, how they set it up and so you’re going to have to defeat a block and then you’re to have to tackle the guy with the ball, whoever that happens to be. It comes down to playing with good technique, playing with good leverage, doing a good job of tackling, everybody fitting in the right spot in their gaps and playing good team run defense. That’s what the running game is, that’s what it always will be. Six guys could do a good job. [If] one guy doesn’t, that’s the gap the runner hits, they have a play, so it doesn’t really make any difference what the over five or six guys, or seven, however many it is that are involved in the play [do]. It’s team defense - That’s how you stop the running game. We can’t stop it with one guy, so in the end you have to defeat a block [and] you have to tackle the runner. There’s no other way around it. You might scheme it up every once in awhile to get somebody free on a stunt or something, but that’s not going to do it for you in the long run.
For what you ask him to do, is Chris Hanson performing up to what you expect of him?
I think Chris has had a good year. Yeah, I think he’s done a good job for us. He’s done what we’ve asked him to do and, like everybody else, it’s not perfect, but it’s been good. It’s probably been a little better than what we’ve had here recently. He’s a good athlete, he’s consistent, he has good hands, he’s done a good job holding with Steve and I think he’s done a good job in situational punting. He’s given us some good plays and he’s been overall consistent over the course of the year.
When you talk about Junior Seau’s enthusiasm for the game, can you give a specific example?
Every day, every practice. He’s here early, stays late, has a lot of energy out on the field, very vocal, communicating guy. Every time we go in the huddle he has an energy and a presence about him that’s pretty much non-stop. I think he’s obviously one of the most respected players in the league, certainly on this team. He has a good message and people listen to him, as they should. He has a lot of experience and comes from the heart.
A second ago you were saying that you view every game as a single entity and clearly everyone here has been very successful at doing that. Did that develop in you? Did you have to learn that?
To me, that’s always the way it’s been. That’s the way I was brought up, that’s the way I tried to play and approach it and that’s the way I tried to coach it. It’s hard enough for me to think about one thing at a time. You start trying to put two or three together, I can’t handle it. I don’t know if anybody else can or not, but I can’t, so I don’t even try.
You mentioned that Jacksonville has built their team according to the philosophy that they draft for size. How important is it to stay with a philosophy through all of your drafting and acquisitions?
I think it’s very important to stay with a philosophy. I think that’s where you can get consistency on your team and you know what you’re looking for. You try to look until you find something that works. I’m not saying you’re not always trying to upgrade or improve, but it helps develop your consistency so when one player goes out and another player comes in, you basically can continue to function - And also your scheme. It’s hard when you have one kind of player playing… It doesn’t matter what position it is, and then the opposite player, the other tackle, the other corner, the other outside linebacker, the other defensive tackle, he has a totally different style of play and then you’re trying to play the same defense. One guy’s playing it one way, another guy’s playing it another way according to his skill-set and his size and his athleticism. No two players are the same. I understand that, too. You get one guy who plays it one way and another guy who plays it another way. It’s hard to develop consistency within your unit when you have that situation. I think Jacksonville has done a real good job. I think their record reflects it over the years of building consistency on their roster. They have the same coach now and the same - even though they’ve changed coordinators, we’ve gone through that here, too. We’ve changed coordinators -- but I think there’s still a lot of elements of their system that carry over and again, I think that’s reflected in their record and their play, so I think it has a lot to do with it.
When you watched Nick Saban coach, he used to spend a lot of time with the defensive backs.
Not a lot of time, he was the defensive backs coach.
No, but even when he was the head coach at Miami.
That’s what I’m talking about. You don’t have to tell me - He was the DB coach.
With you, do you spend a lot more time with the linebackers, and if so, why?
It depends. I have the last couple of years, but that’s been circumstantial. There’s been years when I’ve spent time with the quarterbacks and the offensive side of the ball, [the] secondary, so it varies. It’s not necessarily the same every year.
I know every team is different, but Pittsburgh plays a 3-4. Was it good to see Jacksonville match up with Pittsburgh instead of another team?
Oh, yeah, definitely. For us, we could see a lot more from the Pittsburgh game than some other teams they play. Pittsburgh plays it a little bit differently than we do, but still, that being said, there’s certainly some things that we can learn from that game. The 4-3 over and under teams, they attack a little bit differently, I think, than the 3-4 teams. I mean, you have to. It’s not anything that - You have to. The players are placed differently. So we get a lot better look at somebody who kind of plays a defensive front or style that’s similar to ours, even though it’s different, but at least you can - part of the play looks they way we’d see it, part of it doesn’t, but at least you can kind of picture that. Plus, especially offensively, we’ve played this defense a couple of times before. We played the offensive players, but the scheme’s a little bit different with the change at coordinators. But yeah, that definitely helps.
Posted by Art Martone at 1:36 PM | Permalink
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Wednesday at Gillette
Hey all --
Thankfully -- mercifully -- we're only three days from New England's Divisional round game with Jacksonville. Some Patriots players have said there's a sharpened focus and longer meetings as the team goes over its preparations for the Jaguars.
Bill Belichick had the line of the day today when he was asked at his morning press conference if the team's emphasis on playing 60 minutes is a product of the result in last season's AFC title game.
"Do you honestly think we'd tell the guys, 'just 50 minutes this week'? 'Just 45 minutes and we'll take a quarter off'?," Belichick said, adding that it may not always look like it, but the players are always told to play 60 minutes -- or more, if that's necessary.
Belichick also touched on Junior Seau's unending enthusiasm, the performance of punter Chris Hanson ("He's done what we've asked him to do") and the overall over-sized Jags' roster, which features big players at nearly every position.
Ty Warren, Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison all were at the podium in the media workroom, and in the locker room, Mike Vrabel and Kyle Brady all drew large crowds.
New England will practice inside the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse today; Rob Lee will update you on who is and isn't out there.
Posted by Shalise Manza Young at 12:03 PM | Permalink
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