Dan Connolly scheduled to visit Buccaneers

March, 30, 2015
Mar 30

Free-agent offensive lineman Dan Connolly, who served as a captain for the New England Patriots in 2014, is scheduled to visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday.

Should Connolly land in Tampa, he would be reunited with one of his close friends, former Patriots guard Logan Mankins. The Buccaneers also have ties to the Patriots in the front office, with general manager Jason Licht and his assistant Jon Robinson.

Connolly, who turns 33 on Sept. 2, has played in 89 career regular-season games (71 starts). Entering his 10th NFL season in 2015, he has been with the Patriots since 2007 when he landed on their practice squad and ultimately elevated to key contributor with the ability to play both guard spots and center.

Last season, his move to Mankins' long time left guard spot was part of the spark that helped the Patriots' offensive line recover from a slow start.

And, of course, he's shown a knack for the dynamic kickoff return at times.

What it's like to hoop and golf with Michael Jordan and Tom Brady

March, 30, 2015
Mar 30

There's no way you had a better weekend than Keegan Bradley. It's just not possible. In case you missed it, the PGA Tour pro spent his Saturday hooping and golfing with Michael Jordan and Tom Brady in the Bahamas. Today, Bradley joined SVP & Russillo to describe what it's like to compete alongside two of the greatest to ever play their respective sports. 

Catch the entire conversation here. A few highlights:

On how MJ responds to trash talk: "There was an employee at Baker's Bay where we were that had some game. He was pretty good. He kept kinda like pushing MJ. The more he pushed, the more trash MJ talked, and the more buckets that he made. And of course, here comes the huge crowd. MJ's on the court. Once the crowd shows up, he gets even more chatty. He said he hadn't played a game like that in 10 years. It was really, really cool."

On the shape of MJ's hoops game: "He kept doing that fake shot with one hand palm move that he always did. I kept saying 'This isn't '97, dude. That ain't working on me.' The thing about MJ is, no matter what I did or what anybody did he would somehow get the shot off. Whether he would pick up his dribble ... and I would just be on him. Like fouling him ... and he would get it off. And he'd make it. He's not going around people and slamming. He was amazing at how many shots he would hit. And we're playing outside in the wind. It was blowing, you know, 20 miles an hour, [you could] barely get a shot off and they were just going in every time. It was amazing."

(Read full post)

The New England Patriots are hosting free-agent linebacker Rolando McClain on a visit at Gillette Stadium on Monday, as reported by Field Yates of ESPN.com Insider and Dallas Cowboys ESPN.com NFL Nation reporter Todd Archer.

Let's look at why McClain might appeal to the Patriots.

[+] EnlargeRolando McClain
AP Photo/Scott BoehmFree agent Rolando McClain could help with depth at the linebacker position should the Patriots sign him.

It starts with the makeup of the current roster and the idea the team is a bit thin at the off-the-line linebacker spots (No. 4 need area). The top three of Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins is strong, although part of the consideration with McClain might be that Hightower is coming off February shoulder surgery (labrum), which according to the Boston Herald is expected to sideline him 6-7 months from the time of the surgery.

There's a drop-off on the depth chart after Mayo, Hightower and Collins and if the Patriots signed McClain, the five-year veteran would have the most playing time experience on defense (54 games played, 50 starts) among the rest of the group. Thus, he falls into the category of a quality depth option over the course of a season.

McClain has the type of size (6-foot-4, 259 pounds) the Patriots generally like at the position. He's considered a smart player who has value on all four downs (606 defensive snaps played in 2014, 119 coming on third down), although speed is not viewed as one of his best assets.

He had 81 tackles, 1 sack and 2 interceptions last season in Dallas after sitting out a year following the first three years of his career in Oakland (2010-12). With McClain walking away from the game in 2013, then returning, any interested club will have to assess how much it is willing to rely on a player who those close to him describe as being wired a bit differently.

Furthermore, if the Patriots do make a move to sign McClain, they'd be doing so knowing he faces a four-game fine for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy and if he has one more failed test, it would lead to a four-game suspension.

The club has shown a willingness to take a similar risk in the past (e.g. Brandon Browner in 2014) and that paid off. Maybe this one would, too.

Rolando McClain visiting Patriots

March, 30, 2015
Mar 30

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys might have some competition in keeping Rolando McClain.

McClain, who was second on the Cowboys in tackles last year according to the coaches’ breakdown, is visiting with the New England Patriots on Monday, according to multiple sources and ESPN Insider Field Yates.

The Cowboys have been in contact with McClain’s agent, Pat Dye, in the offseason about having him return but have not been able to close a deal. McClain faces a four-game fine for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy and one more failed test would lead to a four-game suspension.

The Cowboys signed Jasper Brinkley to a two-year, $6 million deal as a free agent earlier in the month as insurance if McClain does not return and that could allow them to move Sean Lee to weakside linebacker.

The Cowboys acquired McClain in a trade last July from the Baltimore Ravens for what turned out to be a sixth-round pick after he met certain conditions of the trade. The Cowboys received the Ravens’ seventh-rounder in return.

McClain missed three games with groin and knee injuries as well as an illness. He was knocked out of the Cowboys’ two playoff games with a concussion.

When he was on the field, however, McClain was the Cowboys’ best playmaker, finishing with 108 tackles, one sack, nine tackles for loss, five quarterback pressures, two interceptions, five pass breakups and a forced fumble.

The Patriots have a need with Dont'a Hightower needing 6-7 months to recover from shoulder surgery.

Like Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, Patriots coach Bill Belichick has a close relationship with Alabama coach Nick Saban, who was on Belichick’s staff with the Cleveland Browns. Saban remains one of McClain’s trusted mentors after a failed run with the Oakland Raiders, who made him the eighth pick of the 2010 draft.

New England Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears visited Georgia Tech's campus last week and spent time getting to know running back Zach Laskey, which included a private on-field workout. This is yet another example of the thoroughness of the scouting process and how the Patriots get their coaches involved at this point in the process, marrying up their reports with those of hard-working scouts.

The Patriots work out hundreds of prospects, which is important context.

At this point, the general idea is to gather as much information as possible on prospects and sometimes that information leads to genuine interest, while other times it does not. So from a media perspective, whenever there is credible information that the team is privately working out a player, it is used as a springboard to attempt to learn more about the prospect.

So who is Laskey?

A non-combine invitee, he played the "B-back" position in Georgia Tech's offense. He is 6-foot-2 1/4 and 225 pounds, has 10 1/8-inch hand size and posted a 35-inch vertical jump, 10-4 broad jump and was hand-timed between 4.50 and 4.58 in the 40 at Georgia Tech's pro day. He also had a 4.17 short shuttle and 6.94 time in the 3-cone drill, which is competitive with some of the top prospects in the draft.

One of Laskey's best performances last season came against Georgia, and one statistic of note was that in his first 150 carries of the season he only lost a total of 2 yards.

He is viewed by analysts as more of a later-round projection.

Photo gallery: Patriots free agency

March, 30, 2015
Mar 30

What grade would you give the Patriots on their free-agency activity so far?






Discuss (Total votes: 4,219)

While NFL free agency activity isn't over, the New England Patriots have had a busy few weeks and there's a lot to digest. After parting with key pieces of their Super Bowl-winning team, and adding some new faces, it's tough to be optimistic if you're a Patriots fan. But belief in Bill Belichick is as strong as ever.

We've created a free-agency gallery to help you keep track of all the Patriots comings and goings. To check it out, click HERE.

Meanwhile, ESPN Insider Mike Sando has graded all 32 teams on how they've fared during free agency. Not surprisingly, the Jets received an 'A-minus' for their efforts, as did the Seahawks and the Redskins.

The Patriots' grade? Well, you may be surprised with their mark. Check out Sando's piece HERE (Insider access needed).

Also, take our poll at right and give your own grade.

Hernandez's fiancee: I removed box

March, 30, 2015
Mar 30

FALL RIVER, Mass. -- The fiancee of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez testified in his murder trial Monday that she removed a box from their basement at his request the day after the slaying but never looked inside before she dumped it in a random trash bin.

But Shayanna Jenkins also said for the first time that the box smelled skunky and she thought it contained marijuana, undercutting prosecutors' attempts to suggest the box contained crucial evidence -- or even the weapon used to kill Odin Lloyd.

 Jenkins, 25, is Hernandez's high school sweetheart and the mother of his 2-year-old daughter. She was compelled to testify under a grant of immunity and was called to the stand for a second day Monday by prosecutors. She completed her testimony that afternoon.

Hernandez, 25, is charged with killing Odin Lloyd on June 17, 2013. Lloyd, 27, was dating Jenkins' younger sister. He was found shot to death in an industrial park less than a mile from the home Hernandez and Jenkins share.

Jenkins, wearing her large diamond engagement ring, said on questioning from Assistant District Attorney William McCauley that Hernandez called her the day after Lloyd was killed and told her it was important to toss the box.

"He told me to go downstairs in our storage room and remove a box from our home," Jenkins said. "I believe he said it was important."

Downstairs, she found a cardboard box of 35 to 40 pounds, open on top, that had smaller boxes and cardboard inside, obscuring what was underneath, she said. Jenkins said she didn't look inside the box or ask Hernandez what was inside. Instead, she said, she put it inside a trash bag and covered it with baby clothing, then borrowed her sister's car and drove around the area.

She said she threw it in a trash bin but could not remember where.

(Read full post)

Steve Belichick hits scouting trail for Pats

March, 30, 2015
Mar 30

Bill Belichick's annual scouting trips are well documented, but he's far from the only New England Patriots coach on the road gathering information on this year's draft prospects. Everyone from Belichick to his son Steve are hard at work.

As Tom Pelissero of USA Today chronicles in a first-person account with Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney, Steve Belichick was recently on Kansas' campus to get to know Heeney.

"I just had a private workout Friday morning with the New England Patriots. They sent Bill Belichick's son, Steve Belichick, who's on staff there. It was just a quick, 20-minute workout on the field and then we went inside and watched film," Heeney says, via Pelissero.

The Patriots privately work out hundreds of prospects, so it's dangerous to read much into this type of thing. It's part of the information-gathering process and when we hear about the team privately meeting with a player, it is used as a springboard to learn more about the player ourselves.

Henney (6-foot-0 1/4, 231 pounds) has a few marks on his résumé off the field (per ESPN.com Insider, he was arrested and charged with DUI racing on highway in July of 2011; also cited for misdemeanor battery related to an incident at a Lawrence, Kansas, bar in January of 2013), but was also a team captain as a junior and senior. He's an undersized linebacker relative to the Patriots' scheme, but while he lacks some ideal physical traits for the position, he showed a knack for producing tackles for a loss last season.

ESPN.com's Insider ranks Heeney as the 13th-best linebacker prospect in this year's draft.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. held a conference call on Thursday. Here are a few draft notes with a Patriots twist:

1. Kiper's top three guards -- South Carolina’s A.J. Cann, Duke’s Laken Tomlinson and Florida State’s Tre Jackson -- are jockeying to be the first player selected at the position. Kiper has them all as second-rounders, and if it unfolds that way, the Patriots would have a crack at the top-rated guard at No. 32, the final pick of the first round. Guard currently ranks as one of the team's top need positions. At tackle, a player like Texas A&M's Cedric Ogbuehi could be good value, as he was viewed by Kiper as a mid-first rounder before battling some injuries last season.

[+] EnlargeTodd Gurley
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesGeorgia running back Todd Gurley could be available at No. 32, which might be tempting for the Patriots.

2. Kiper compared versatile Florida State offensive lineman Cameron Erving (17th on "Big Board") to another former Seminole, Walter Jones. Given the Patriots' success selecting Florida State center Bryan Stork last year, it makes sense to pay some extra attention to Florida State blockers. Erving has the type of positional versatility the Patriots generally value, with the possibility to play all five spots, but Kiper seems to doubt he'll be available at No. 32.

3. UConn's Byron Jones was pinpointed as a cornerback/safety with high football character who falls into the late first-round/early second-round area, while Kiper also noted Utah's Eric Rowe as another versatile defensive back who falls into the "interesting" category because he tested well and has lined up at corner and both safety spots. Washington's Marcus Peters and LSU's Jalen Collins are viewed as press corners who will draw first-round consideration, along with Michigan State's Trae Waynes (possibly as high as No. 11 to Minnesota). Meanwhile, Kiper views Wake Forest's Kevin Johnson as more of an "off" corner and Quinten Rollins of Miami (Ohio) as a potential surprise "wild card" as a late first-rounder/early second-rounder.

4. At running back, Kiper sees Georgia’s Todd Gurley falling into the late first-round, early second-round range. If that’s the way it unfolds, and he’s available at No. 32 to the Patriots, that could be an intriguing storyline. As for two of the better pass-catching backs, Miami’s Duke Johnson and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, Kiper sees them as third-round projections.

5. Kiper called it a “very poor safety group.” The Patriots shouldn’t be affected too much by this, as they have Devin McCourty (signed through 2019), Patrick Chung (2017), Duron Harmon (2016), Tavon Wilson (2015) and Nate Ebner (2015).

6. For what it’s worth, Kiper views Tom Brady as having “another five years in him.” The topic came up when asked about the Jets possibly going for quarterback Marcus Mariota if he’s available at No. 6, and how there’s an aspect of trying to close the gap with New England.

NFL to research adding fixed cameras

March, 29, 2015
Mar 29

Hot on the heels of Bill Belichick's latest plea to add extra end-zone cameras, NFL researchers are on Monday set to begin studying ways to add fixed cameras on all boundary lines for replay.

NFL.com reported Sunday that the league is set to begin research and development of the Patriots' proposal to place fixed cameras on goal lines, end lines and sidelines to ensure reliable angles for replay.

The website said that the league specifically wants to gather more information on the technology required to best incorporate the fixed cameras into the replay systems that makes it consistent in all 31 stadiums.

Belichick strongly voiced his displeasure at last week's owners' meetings that the league didn't want to spend the money to put four cameras in the end zone to give referees better angles on replay reviews, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

The source -- who was in the meeting with NFL head of officials Dean Blandino, among others -- said Belichick expressed concern that the league is willing to spend top dollar to send the Pro Bowl to Brazil and play regular-season games in London every season but doesn't appear willing to spend the money to pay for the extra cameras it would take to cover all end zone angles to assist instant replay.

New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin and Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio followed Belichick's comments with similar points about adding fixed goal-line cameras, league sources told Schefter.

(Read full post)

Quick-hit thoughts around Patriots, NFL

March, 29, 2015
Mar 29

Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Running back Stevan Ridley is scheduled to make his first visits in free agency this week as he explores potential opportunities for 2015 that would have him playing elsewhere from New England. Ridley tore his right ACL on Oct. 12, had surgery Nov. 18, and is on target to receive full medical clearance in about six weeks. Ridley is probably looking at a prove-it type one-year deal because of the injury and thus one consideration he’s weighing is landing with a team where there is a great chance to break through. Look for the needle to move a little with Ridley this week as he takes a couple visits.

[+] EnlargeRyan Tannehill
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyChandler Jones is looking to get healthy after post-Super Bowl surgery.

2. Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones has spent the majority of the offseason rehabilitating at Gillette Stadium, as I’m told he’s among a group of players recovering from post-Super Bowl surgery. Jones, who missed six games in 2014 with a hip injury, has recently been walking with the aid of crutches. I don’t get the sense from those close to Jones that there is any significant long-range concern about his health and availability, but when a player’s offseason puts him on more of the rehabilitation track than the standard offseason workouts, it’s deemed worthy of note.

3. Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork’s two-year, $9 million contract ($5 million guaranteed) with the Texans didn’t seem unreasonable for the Patriots to match, which initially sparked a question in my mind of whether Wilfork simply preferred to finish his career somewhere other than New England. But I now feel confident that wasn’t the case. My strong sense is that the Texans’ contract offer was at a higher level than where the Patriots wanted to be, and that’s mostly what led to the end result.

4. The Patriots might be viewed as hardline negotiators by many, but I had one player agent at the NFL’s annual meeting tell me the club is one of the favorites to deal with because of Bill Belichick’s decision-making authority. It was explained to me that when the agent negotiates with other clubs, often times the team official doing the negotiating has to run all information up the flagpole to the appropriate people in the organization and that can bog down the process. In New England, with Belichick intimately involved in the process at times, it’s more of a one-stop shop and can expedite deals getting done.

5a. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady accounts 10.2 percent of the team’s salary-cap space in 2015, which is the highest mark on the team, followed by linebacker Jerod Mayo (7.5), tight end Rob Gronkowski (6.3), left tackle Nate Solder (5.4), right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (5.1) and safety Devin McCourty (4.3). For a comparison, cornerback Darrelle Revis accounts for a team-high 10.7 percent of the Jets’ cap space, followed by left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson (7.8), center Nick Mangold (6.9), receiver Brandon Marshall (5.1), linebacker David Harris (5.0), cornerback Antonio Cromartie (4.6) and defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson (4.6). Revis, in essence, is the Jets’ big quarterback contract.

5b. Brady played golf Friday with Michael Jordan in the Bahamas, the day before pictures surfaced on Barstool Sports of him playing basketball with MJ. Given the competitive nature of the two, we wonder how much small talk there actually was between them on the course, but that's one we surely would have volunteered to carry the bag to find out. Two of the greatest of all time in their respective sports. Brady's former teammates Larry Izzo, Wes Welker and Mike Vrabel, among other friends, were also together with him on the links.

6. As we start to get a better feel for the 2015 draft, it’s always good to see if the opinions of coaches and scouts align with those of media analysts. With that in mind, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said one thing that has stood out to him is that “if you’re in the edge-rusher market, whether you define them as defensive ends or outside linebackers, this draft is rich in that area.” As for the Patriots, they are already deep at that spot with Chandler Jones (2016), Rob Ninkovich (2016), Jabaal Sheard (2016), Michael Buchanan (2016), Zach Moore (2017) and Jake Bequette (2016), so for them it’s a case where demand doesn’t seem to align with the supply.

7. From the things that probably interest me more than others department: If the last two years at the NFL’s owners meetings are any indication, the Philadelphia media market is the most intense of any in the league. This year at the meeting, owner Jeffrey Lurie and head coach Chip Kelly faced a barrage of aggressive questions, and it had me thinking that coaching the Eagles probably has some similarities to how Terry Francona once described managing the Red Sox. You’re under fire every day, and it takes a coach or executive to be wired a certain way, as well as players to have a certain mentality, to succeed there.

8. My sense on where things stand with the Patriots and free-agent guard Dan Connolly is that it’s a situation where the Patriots basically have had Connolly test the market while keeping an open dialogue with him, and then they’ll see if they can ultimately find something that works. At this point, it doesn’t seem like many other clubs have stepped up to spark the process along, which puts it in a holding pattern of sorts. With Connolly still on the market, the Patriots look a bit light at the guard spot.

9. The Patriots host the Jaguars in 2015, which will provide us an up-close look at quarterback Blake Bortles (No. 3 overall pick, 2014) to assess his standing among some of the NFL’s up-and-coming prospects. Part of the Jaguars’ thinking this offseason has been to surround Bortles with more weapons (e.g. signing tight end Julius Thomas), as well as improving the pass protection in front of him (e.g. signing right tackle Jermey Parnell), and they might not be done yet. Free-agent receiver Greg Jennings is drawing some consideration from Jacksonville, as his savvy in the slot and veteran presence might be a nice complement to second-year pass-catchers Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.

10. For the fourth time in his 15 years as Patriots coach, Bill Belichick was honored as AFC coach of the year at the Kansas City-based “101 Awards” in late February. The “101 Awards” is a long-running tradition (since 1969) and while Belichick didn’t attend the event to receive the award due to a scheduling conflict, his taped remarks expressed appreciation for the honor and also for what late Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt meant to the game of football and the AFC. One of the event’s organizers, Gary Heise, relayed that Belichick told the story of how Hunt came over to him before one of the team’s Super Bowl victories, shook his hand, and told him he hoped the Patriots would win because they were representing the AFC.

Tom Brady opens it up with dive

March, 28, 2015
Mar 28

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks like he's having an enjoyable offseason.

In a post on his personal Facebook page Saturday morning, Brady showed video of himself taking a big jump into the water during a recent trip to Costa Rica. He added the following comment: "Never doing that again! #AirBrady

The jump is estimated at about 40 feet.

Rodney Harrison's thoughts on AFC East

March, 28, 2015
Mar 28

NBC studio football analyst Rodney Harrison co-hosted the “Under Center” program on NBC sports radio on Friday and here were a few sound bites of note on New England and the AFC East:

Patriots and pass-catchers. “The only thing I was a little disappointed in is that they really didn’t upgrade at the wide receiver position. I knew they wouldn’t pay Darrelle Revis, and that’s just part of Bill Belichick’s DNA; he’s not paying a cornerback $16 million per year. He had an opportunity to sign Asante Samuel [in the past] and didn’t. He just doesn’t believe in paying those type of guys that kind of money.”

Patriots made right call on Revis. “Darrelle Revis is a special cornerback. There are only 2-3 Darrelle Revises -- Richard Sherman [and] maybe [Joe] Haden. [Bill] Belichick has had a lot of success, but I think the way you offset that shutdown corner is you have to be able to bring in pass-rushers and you have to be able to put pressure on the quarterback. But also offensively, you know you’re going to score points, you’re going to probably score 25 to 30 points a game. It’s kind of that bend-but-don’t break mentality, when you get down in the red zone, you toughen things up, hold teams to a field goal. That’s the thinking. Bill, he’s not going to sell the farm for Darrelle Revis, because as good as Darrelle is, you know in a year or two maybe Darrelle is not going to be quite the same player he was this past season for the New England Patriots. So I believe that was the right move to make.”

Patriots also parted ways with Brandon Browner. “Browner is not getting any faster. For a guy like that to lead the league in pass interferences and all the grabbing and holding, Belichick looked at him and said, ‘There’s no way I’m paying a guy $6 million when I can go and fill in a guy like Malcolm Butler.’ When I was up there, Belichick told me in training camp, ‘Malcolm Butler is a guy I really like, a guy who is going to be a really good player.’ That’s what you have to do as a coach, you have to bring these guys along and you don’t have to necessarily pay cornerbacks $19 or $20 million a year.”

[+] EnlargeDarrelle Revis, Brandon Browner
Damian Strohmeyer/AP ImagesThe Patriots showed this offseason that they aren't going to spend mega millions on star cornerbacks.

Jets might be a five-win team. “You can say whatever you want about Darrelle Revis, and I do believe he’s the best cornerback in the league. But Darrelle Revis has not thrown a touchdown pass. He’s not your quarterback. Yes, he can shut down a No. 1 receiver, but they need a quarterback. The Jets are, all of a sudden, on a high thinking they’re going to win a championship. You’re not going to win a championship, you’re not even going to make the playoffs, because you don’t have a quarterback. If you go into the season and you’re expecting Geno Smith to improve, it’s not going to happen. He might get a little better, but when times get tough, when adversity hits, guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to fold just like the last couple years. I don’t believe in Geno Smith. I think this is a huge mistake. Hopefully in this draft, they try to address this quarterback situation, because if they go into the season with Geno Smith they might win five or six games.”

Suh not enough for Dolphins. “I know they wanted to make a splash. They did the same thing [as the Jets]. At the end of the day Ndamukong Suh is the most dominant defensive lineman in this game, outside of J.J. Watt. But guess what? He’s a defensive lineman. As great as he is, I would have never paid him that type of money. I’m looking at this as an opportunity to get three or four or five players to come in and really make a difference on this team. The Miami Dolphins didn’t just need one guy to plug that middle. I understand you’re trying to make a splash, get people around Miami excited, but I think it’s a huge mistake. At the end of the day, you’re not going to win a Super Bowl with Ndamukong Suh. You need a host of guys. I played on a 1-15 team, I played on a 16-0 team and trust me, it doesn’t come down to one defensive lineman.”

Bills on the rise. “I really like the Matt Cassel move, because EJ Manuel, he struggled with the confidence. To get a veteran quarterback that understands the division and understands Bills Belichick. He’s been productive when he’s been a starter. LeSean McCoy that gives them a different dimension. Charles Clay was one of my favorite players the last couple years. I’m really surprised the Dolphins didn’t sign this guy; I think this is a huge mistake. At the end of the day, I think the Buffalo Bills made tremendous progress and really closed the gap with the New England Patriots.”



TEMPE, Ariz. -- A safety rule instituted earlier this week by NFL owners, which gives trainers at every game the authority to stop a contest if they think a player needs to be evaluated for a head injury, is being celebrated by some in the sports-medicine world.

Dr. Javier Cardenas, a neurologist in Phoenix who is the independent neurological consultant on the sideline for the Arizona Cardinals' home games, said the new rule is a major advancement for sports medicine.

"In my opinion, this is the biggest thing for sports medicine that has come out," said Cardenas, a Barrow Neurological Institute doctor who is on the NFL head, neck and spine committee. "Where else do you have a medical provider that actually is calling a timeout in any other sport? None. None. Huge for sports medicine."

Under the new rule, if the certified athletic trainer, who'll be sitting in a booth above the field as a spotter, sees a player who needs medical attention, he or she can use the official-to-official communication system to notify the side judge, who will then stop the game.

The purpose of the new rule is to allow Cardenas and other independent consultants at games throughout the league to evaluate players almost immediately after a big hit.

Here are details of the rule when the game is stopped for a medical timeout:

• The game and play clock will stop (if running) and remain frozen until the player is removed from the game.

• Both clocks will start again from the same point unless the play clock was inside 10 seconds, in which case it will be reset to 10.

• The team of the player being removed will have an opportunity to replace him with a substitute, and the opponent will have an opportunity to match up as necessary.

(Read full post)

Closer look at Jonathan Freeny's contract

March, 27, 2015
Mar 27

A closer look at linebacker Jonathan Freeny's contract with the New England Patriots, in addition to some thoughts on what he might bring the team from a brief film review:

Term: 1 year

Base salary: $850,000

Signing bonus: $150,000

Salary cap charge: $1 million

The 6-foot-2 Freeny projects as a possible core special teams player, and this deal is reflective of that. As a restricted free agent, the Dolphins could have tendered him at the lowest level at around $1.5 million but elected not to do so and made him an unrestricted free agent. The Patriots were active in targeting players who fell into this category, signing Freeny, cornerback Chimdi Chekwa and running back Travaris Cadet after they weren't tendered.

Specific to Freeny's skill set, some of his special teams snaps were watched from the 2014 season-opener against the Patriots. He showed up on kickoff coverage, kickoff return, punt coverage and punt return units. His size stands out (254 pounds). He usually isn't the first player down the field in coverage (speed isn't his game), but he's physical. Freeny's tackle on kickoff returner Patrick Chung (second quarter, 2:00 remaining) was a good example of what he might bring; he wasn't part of the first wave of pursuit but fought off an initial double-team block by James Develin and Tavon Wilson, used his hands and arm length to shed and ultimately make the tackle.

A player like former Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham comes to mind as a possible comparison.