Weekly Patriots chat recap

March, 26, 2015
Mar 26

Every Thursday on ESPNBoston.com, there is a Patriots chat. Today's chat kicked off at 11 a.m. ET, can be recapped here, and included some of the following topics:

1. Revisiting the NFL's annual meeting and the vibe around Bill Belichick and the Patriots.

2. Patriots, Jets and tampering.

3. Draft thoughts and why a defensive tackle like Florida State's Eddie Goldman could fit the bill.

4. Revisiting cornerback Darrelle Revis' remarks about the Patriots not being in the ballpark of what he was looking for financially.

5. Vince Wilfork and his departure to become a Houston Texan.

6. Wells report on underinflated footballs.

7. Is there room for four tight ends on the final roster?

One view of Patriots' free-agent approach

March, 26, 2015
Mar 26

Mike Sando of ESPN.com's Insider puts together his initial thoughts/grades on each NFL team's free-agency moves, tapping the analysis of scouts and front-office personnel. It's always an enjoyable read.

As they were last year, these grades will be revisited in the coming months and adjusted so corrections can be made. For example, the Buccaneers were widely lauded as having the best free-agent approach at this time in 2014. Fast-forward to 2015 and they are picking No. 1 in the NFL draft, so we see what that initial grade from multiple outlets got them.

It is with that context that we pass along this year's piece, with Sando initially putting the Patriots closer to the middle of the pack. On cornerback Darrelle Revis, Sando writes, "Paying what the Jets paid wasn't going to make sense for them."

There's also the thought that defensive end Jabaal Sheard may be a "steal."

Trial resumes after bomb threat

March, 26, 2015
Mar 26

FALL RIVER, Mass. -- The murder trial of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez was delayed briefly Thursday by a bomb threat called in to the courthouse, and the former tight end's fiancée reportedly will be called to testify Friday.

Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh cut off testimony at about noon ET after a court officer alerted her to the threat. She told jurors there would be a brief delay and they were led from the courtroom. Then she announced that the building was being evacuated.

The Fall River Justice Center was swept by Massachusetts State Police. No explosives were found, and employees were let back in about an hour later. Court resumed at 2 p.m., with Garsh telling jurors that there was no reason to believe the interruption was related to the Hernandez case.

Jurors were held in a building across the street during the closure. Security officers said Hernandez was taken out of the building but did not say where he was held.

Meanwhile, two people with knowledge of the matter told The Associated Press that Shayanna Jenkins, Hernandez's fiancée, will be called to testify Friday.

Jenkins was granted immunity by the court in February, which means she can be compelled to testify or else face time behind bars. There had been a question over whether prosecutors would call Jenkins, who has been in a relationship with Hernandez since high school and is the mother of his 2-year-old daughter.

Jenkins has pleaded not guilty to perjury. Prosecutors say she lied to a grand jury investigating the June 17, 2013, killing of Odin Lloyd, who was dating her sister. Lloyd was found shot to death at an industrial park less than a mile from the home that Jenkins and Hernandez share.

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Weekly Patriots chat at 11 a.m. ET

March, 26, 2015
Mar 26

Every Thursday on ESPNBoston.com, there is a Patriots chat. Today's chat kicks off at 11 a.m. ET and questions can be asked in advance.

Catch up then.

Closing Patriots' notebook on NFL meeting

March, 26, 2015
Mar 26

PHOENIX -- Closing the book on the NFL’s annual meeting with a few leftover thoughts and notes:

1. The league’s rule change to restrict the usage of eligible receivers as ineligible was obviously a direct result of Bill Belichick’s strategy from the playoffs. I look forward to seeing what Belichick has up his hoodie sleeve in the 2015 season that forces the NFL to make another change. Arguably no one knows the too-big-for-its-own-good rule book better than Belichick, who it sometimes seems is operating on a higher level than his coaching peers. He’ll come up with something else, there’s little doubt.

[+] EnlargeBill Belichick
AP Images/Mark HumphreyWhile Bill Belichick's eligible/ineligible strategy has been made illegal, the Patriots coach figures to have something new up his sleeve.

2. One thing that's easy to forget: While the eligible/ineligible strategy worked well against the Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs, the Colts stopped it decisively in the AFC title game. So when I see words like "trick" used to describe the strategy, it strikes me as a bit over the top.

3. A sign of the increasing media interest in the NFL: The league issued 305 media credentials for the meeting, according to a spokesman.

4. Belichick left the owners meetings on Tuesday, one day before they officially ended, and was spotted on campus Wednesday for Central Florida’s pro day. That was a quick get-away.

5. When commissioner Roger Goodell was asked the status of the Wells report on underinflated footballs, and if he'd like it finished before the draft in late April, he said: "We have not put a timeframe on Ted Wells. We’ve asked him to be thorough, complete and when he’s finished then he’ll give it to us and to the public in general." Goodell was asked a follow-up question on if he felt the league handled the matter appropriately and said, "I made it very clear at the Super Bowl that we were not making any judgments and that we were obligated, as part of our role, to make sure we understand the facts whenever there is a charge, potentially, of a violation of our rules. We take it very seriously and that’s our obligation. It’s our obligation to the other 31 clubs. Ted Wells will be going through the report, and if there was anything that we as a league did incorrectly, we’ll know about it in that report."

6. The league didn't announce any of its opening-week prime-time games, leaving us in suspense a bit longer on who the Patriots might face to open the 2015 season.

Belichick exhorts NFL to add cameras

March, 25, 2015
Mar 25

Patriots coach Bill Belichick strongly voiced his displeasure Tuesday 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 -- told Schefter that Belichick made his point with choice language.

The source 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.

Adding replay cameras is a topic that Belichick has lobbied for at length in recent years. The Patriots repeatedly have proposed that fixed cameras be positioned on all boundary lines (sideline, end line, goal line) to supplement camera angles provided by broadcast networks.

Belichick vented similar frustration to reporters about the league's reluctance to fund new end zone replay cameras.

"It's disappointing every year we can't afford that, as a league," Belichick told reporters Tuesday. "They brought that up as a concern. It was kind of surprising to hear that."

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, meanwhile, was asked directly about Belichick's message in Tuesday's meeting and confirmed the gist of what the Patriots coach was saying.

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PHOENIX -- Cornerback Darrelle Revis was a guest on the “Michael Kay Show” on ESPN New York 98.7 FM on Wednesday and here were a few of the notable sound bites from a New England Patriots perspective:

How competitive the Patriots’ contract offer was in free agency. “I’m obviously not going speak the numbers. But I had the option, the $20 million option they could have exercised and they didn’t. Then we tried to work on a deal, and the deal, we felt that it wasn’t in the ballpark of what we were looking for. We just moved on. They moved on too. I had a great conversation with Bill [Belichick]. And we moved forward, just like they did. That’s how I look at it.”

The early stages of free agency and Jets’ interest. “There was a lot of stuff going on at that time. In free agency, they were one of the teams who called. It was a [number] of teams. It was the Steelers, it was Cleveland, it was the Chiefs, it was the Packers, Baltimore. There were other teams as well. Guys were willing to fly down and meet with me. The whole situation with New York, like I said, it always goes back to that’s where that’s where I got drafted, that’s where I feel most comfortable, that’s where I feel familiar with. I know a lot of people in the building and I just felt like, for me, it was time to come home.”

On money as a factor. “Contracts are contracts, we all know that. Both sides have to agree on the deal and the numbers are the numbers. It’s not just one sided. It’s going to get done by both sides agreeing to the terms.”

Playing for Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan. “I love them both. I learned a lot from Rex, I definitely learned a lot from Bill. They have two different coaching styles. Having either one of them to be your head coach, I don’t think you can go wrong either way. I’m just happy to play under those guys and learn a lot of football from both sides.”

Belichick’s sense of humor compared to Ryan. “Bill is funny. It’s a dry sense of humor. If you’re around him long enough, you’ll get it, his dry sense of humor, his jokes. He’ll crack a smile, and you’ll crack a smile with him. He gets guys laughing and things, but Rex is a little more loud. Bill is a little more conservative and kind of more of a laid-back guy.”

Seahawks’ final play of the Super Bowl. “That was a crazy play call. It was. But at the same time, I guess, Pete Carroll felt comfortable, the coaching staff, throwing the ball at that time. After everything died down, you think ‘Why not run the ball with the best running back in the game?’ I guess they tried to make it, I call it the Tom Brady versus Russell Wilson game. They tried to make it a passing game. We made them pay at the end.”


Dan Graziano and Mike Reiss discuss the Jets' filing a tampering charge against the Patriots based on Robert Kraft's comments about Darrelle Revis.

Browns, Falcons penalties 'severe'

March, 25, 2015
Mar 25

Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons officials were informed at this week's NFL owners meetings in Phoenix of the discipline they face for violating league policies, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

The discipline is expected to be announced next week, with one source saying it is expected to be "severe."

Browns general manager Ray Farmer admitted to texting during games in violation of the league's electronic device policy. Farmer has not revealed who he texted, but sources and reports have said the texts went to an assistant coach and an unnamed team representative on the sideline and that the texts dealt with in-game strategy and use of personnel.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank acknowledged in February that the team broke NFL rules by piping artificial crowd noise into the Georgia Dome over the past two seasons. He said what was done was "wrong," and affected the competitive balance and fairness on the field.

"Severe" discipline in these cases could be a hefty fine, a loss of a draft pick or picks, or other penalties. But, as one source said Wednesday and others verified, "it's coming soon."

While the Browns and Falcons issues are expected to be resolved by next week, there is more uncertainty surrounding the New England Patriots' Deflategate controversy. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that there is no timeline for a verdict, as the league is focused on getting it right. He said the investigation doesn't have to be wrapped up and discipline announced before next month's draft.

Goodell also said Wednesday that competitive advantage would not be a vital factor in the league's rulings.

"The violation of the rule and the integrity of the rule is not necessarily whether you got an advantage or not," he said. "It's the fact that you broke the rule. That's a more general comment. We don't want people breaking the rules.

"There are 32 clubs who are going to be operating under the same rules."

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has said Farmer owns his mistake and that the Browns will accept the consequences. He stands firmly behind his general manager. He had said Tuesday night that the team was not yet aware of any sanctions.

"Even though it's not a positive, it's not something I'm proud of, it's not a badge or something I'm wearing, but I'm definitely trying to take the positive out of it," Farmer said Monday. "What did I learn? How am I better? And then how does this help me moving forward?"

Coach Mike Pettine admitted he was not pleased when the texts began, but he said at the league meetings that he and Farmer had talked it through.

"We both feel like we're very much on the same page and we're moving forward to make this team better," Pettine said.

In the Falcons' case, at least one employee was put on administrative leave. The front office and previous coaching staff said they were unaware of any wrongdoing. Blank said the Falcons cooperated fully with the NFL's investigation.

"Of course it bothers me," Blank told ESPN.com. "Absolutely it bothers me. We have great respect for the shield and the integrity of the game, the integrity of competition. So that bothers me a great deal. We will deal with it."

Some around the league have argued that silent counts have rendered crowd noise more irrelevant, and it's difficult to discern how much of an advantage the artificial noise gave the Falcons.

They went 3-4 at the Georgia Dome during the 2014 season and were blown out there 34-3 by the Carolina Panthers

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Adam Schefter recounts a story from the NFL owners meetings about Patriots coach Bill Belichick going on a tirade about expanding review.

Chip Kelly's intel on Bradley Fletcher

March, 25, 2015
Mar 25

PHOENIX -- What type of player are the New England Patriots getting in seven-year veteran cornerback Bradley Fletcher?

Fletcher seemed to lose confidence last season with the Eagles, who decided that a fresh start would be best for both sides. But Eagles coach Chip Kelly had complimentary things to say about the 6-foot-0, 200-pound Fletcher.

"I love Fletch," he said Wednesday at the NFC coaches breakfast. "[He's] the ultimate competitor. Works his tail off every single day in practice. He’s a physical player. He played really well for us also on special teams. They’ll get a guy who’s a great teammate, will buy into Bill’s system."

Phil Sheridan, who covers the Eagles for ESPN.com's NFL Nation, previously provided more context on Fletcher's two-year tenure in Philadelphia.

We currently slotted Fletcher into the No. 2 spot on the Patriots' projected cornerback depth chart.


Michele Steele details the key moments from the Aaron Hernandez murder trial, which began two months ago and is reaching the final stages.

ESPN NFL Insiders Dan Graziano and Kevin Seifert discuss the league's new rule that makes it illegal for an offensive player with an eligible number to report as ineligible and line up outside the tackle box.