New England Patriots: Niko Koutouvides

Sharing thoughts on roster moves

August, 26, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A few thoughts on today's roster moves by the Patriots:

1. The team now has 77 players on the roster. Two more moves must be made by Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.

2. Tim Tebow survives ... for now. This is one of the notable storylines of the week, as it appears that Tebow is fighting for a job. Bill Belichick told 98.5 The Sports Hub before last Thursday's preseason game that he had about 80 percent of the 53-man roster set. Tebow, based on his performance in the preseason, would seemingly be part of the other 20 percent, which means Thursday night's preseason finale against the Giants could be big for him.

3. None of the moves are a surprise. A player like veteran linebacker Niko Koutouvides, whose primary contributions come as a core special teamer, could always return during the season if the need arises (similar to last year).

4. With defensive tackle Armond Armstead landing on the reserve/non-football illness list, he isn't eligible to start practicing until after the sixth week of the season. So this adds a little more context as to where things stand with his health after he had surgery for an infection at some point before training camp. He remains under contract to the Patriots but won't count against the roster by landing on the reserve/NFI list. The Patriots had been counting on Armstead to be a big part of their plans and depth remains thin behind starters Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly.

5. Rookie defensive tackle Cory Grissom (South Florida) was a strong practice squad candidate, but with him landing on injured reserve, it opens the door for another rookie tackle to stick on the practice squad (Joe Vellano, Anthony Rashad White the top candidates). It also led to the re-signing of defensive tackle Scott Vallone to the roster to address a depth shorage.

6. At receiver, third-year player Kamar Aiken was competitive early in camp but an injury derailed him. Also, rookies Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce seemed to generate more momentum and were a bit more consistent over the course of camp.

7. We didn't have offensive tackle/guard Markus Zusevics making the final roster, but others did, which reflected his standing as a bubble blocker around No. 8 on the depth chart. There seems to be a pretty big dropoff after the top 6 or 7 offensive linemen so this remains an area the Patriots figure to explore on the waiver wire and free agency.

Bubble watch: Niko Koutouvides

July, 21, 2013
(Continuing a month-long series analyzing players who are on the roster bubble and where they may potentially fit in 2013.)

NAME: Niko Koutouvides

[+] EnlargeNiko Koutouvides
Tom Croke/Icon SMINiko Koutouvides has provided a steady presence on special teams.
POSITION: Linebacker

AGE: 32

2012 STATS: 14 games, 4 tackles

INJURY STATUS: No known injuries.


WHY HE SHOULD MAKE IT: Koutouvides is the Patriots' most experienced special teams player, and even at 32, would provide a steady presence in that phase of the game. Even after Koutouvides was released during final cuts last season, he returned to the team in Week 3, and remained on the 53-man roster through the balance of the season. It would hardly be a shock if Koutouvides, who seems to fit well within the locker room and the overall program, finds a way back into the mix this fall.

WHY HE SHOULD NOT MAKE IT: With the Patriots spending second-round (Jamie Collins) and seventh-round (Steve Beauharnais) draft picks this April on linebackers, it puts a squeeze on players already within the system to hold onto their jobs. It's unlikely that Beauharnais, whose draft status puts him on the roster bubble, would make as great an impact on special teams as Koutouvides, who has been in the NFL since 2004. But if the Patriots want to hold onto their younger pieces, it could come at the expense of players such as Koutouvides.

CLOSEST COMPETITION: LB Steve Beauharnais, LB Jeff Tarpinian, LB Mike Rivera

Koutouvides back in the fold

March, 16, 2013
The Patriots have come to terms on a one-year deal with free-agent linebacker Niko Koutouvides, a key special teams contributor for the club in 2012, a league source confirmed.

Koutouvides, 31, joined the team in 2011 and has played in 22 regular-season games since that time. He appeared in 14 games during the 2012 season, totaling four tackles.

His role has primarily been as a special teams coverage player on the core four special teams units.

Originally a 2004 fourth-round pick of the Seahawks, Koutouvides has 164 career tackles in nine pro seasons.

Albert Breer of NFL Network and originally reported the agreement.

Patriots bring back LB Koutouvides

September, 19, 2012
After multiple special teams breakdowns in Sunday's home-opening loss to the Cardinals, the Patriots announced Wednesday that they have re-signed veteran linebacker Niko Koutouvides.

The 31-year-old Koutouvides was with the team in training camp and appeared in the final 11 regular-season games last season for the club, in addition to three playoff contests. He played on all four of the core special teams units -- kickoff coverage, kickoff return, punt coverage and punt return.

The Patriots had a punt blocked in Sunday's game against the Cardinals that was a key play in the game. Two other punts were nearly blocked before that.

Koutouvides replaces first-year linebacker Mike Rivera on the roster, as Rivera had been playing on all four core special teams units over the first two weeks of the 2012 season.

The team also confirmed the signings of Deion Branch and Kellen Winslow and the release of Rivera, Greg Salas and Lex Hilliard.

Something special: Koutouvides at LB

December, 5, 2011
Tom Croke/Icon SMINiko Koutouvides made an impact at linebacker Sunday vs. the Colts.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It's been more than two years since Niko Koutouvides played a defensive snap. He spent the first nine weeks of the 2011 season without a team. Yet there he was starting at middle linebacker for the Patriots on Sunday against the Colts, pairing up with Jerod Mayo to make a tackle on the first offensive play of the game.

It'd be more of a surprise if it wasn't becoming the norm around here. Players often arrive with a reputation for playing only in the kicking game and soon get thrust into important defensive roles. Heck, New England's starting lineup Sunday featured two other "special teams standouts" in safeties James Ihedigbo and Matthew Slater.

Koutouvides registered six tackles against the Colts, including one on special teams. He knows his reputation suggests a player that might only be on the field for emergency defensive snaps, but he was ready to contribute at his assigned position on Sunday.

"I take pride in what the coaches ask me to do. Yes, I made my bones in this league by playing special teams, but if you’re here on the 53-man roster, you gotta be prepared to play the position you were brought in to play," said Koutouvides. "You never know when someone goes down. Obviously, what coaches ask me to do, if it’s special teams, it is. Or if it’s defense -- or if it’s both -- I’m here to play my role."

A former fourth-round pick (116th overall) of the Seahawks in the 2004 draft, Koutouvides -- a native of Plainville, Conn. -- has spent his first six years in the league with three teams (Seattle, Denver, Tampa). Earlier this week, the coaching staff hinted to him to be ready for potential defensive snaps.

"During the week we all rotate in there, I just focus on what I’m supposed to do. Whatever the coaches ask of me, obviously, I gotta be prepared," he said. "That’s how I did it -- just like every week -- you never know who’s going to go down. If someone gets hurt early, or someone gets hurt late, you always have to be ready to play your position."

Or any position. On the final play of the Colts' first offensive series, a running back split out wide, forcing Koutouvides to line up at what amounted to outside corner. He stuck close and provided solid coverage, allowing Vince Wilfork to register a sack.

Koutouvides admitted he was excited to be out there with the starting unit.

"It was exciting," Koutouvides. "I was just focused on doing my job, my responsibilities. Pretty much the whole time, I was focused on what I had to do. I just wanted to perform at a high level to help the team win the game."