By: Steve Balestrieri
This morning we were privileged to get Patriots team Hall of Famer Steve Nelson to spend some time with us.
Nellie played stellar ILB for the Patriots for 14 seasons from 1974-1987 and was named to three Pro-Bowls. He was elected to the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1993. He still holds the Patriots record for tackles in one season with 207 and had the very Patriots-like number of 1776 tackles for his career. That averages out to 10.2 tackles per game for 14 seasons.
I was fortunate enough two seasons ago to have Steve do a pre-game and post-game analysis with me for my Patriots blog on isportsweb.com. Needless to say, that was quite the learning experience as his knowledge of the game especially the defensive side is pretty vast.
With that, he’s a very busy man these days, so I had to fire my questions quickly as he had places to go. So here is his take on some of the Patriots and NFL issues.
Asked about the four man fronts the defense is running: He laughed, “How did I know you were going to ask that one first?” He added “everybody is going crazy over that but in reality it’s a defense that the Patriots have run before.”
“I believe that Bill Belichick will never go away from a 3-4 base defense.” He went to say, “All of these guys they picked up are really good solid players and what it does is give them the versatility to play whatever they want. Bill Belichick loves versatile players and with these guys, he can switch things back and forth as he chooses.”
What about the players themselves they picked up on defense: “All of the talk about fronts really boils down to how healthy Haynesworth and Ellis are and how much they bring to the table” he said. “If Haynesworth can play like he’s capable, he’s a top 3 or 4 defensive lineman, line him up next to Wilfork and they will be dominant.”
“Same goes with Ellis who is a really good veteran player that they know well. The good part is that they don’t need either of them to be on the field for every snap. They have Warren…Gerard Warren who is another really good veteran player and some of those younger guys who bring the versatility to the defense.”
On Andre Carter and Mark Anderson: “We all know the problems that have been facing them rushing the QB” he said. “Anderson is a kind of one-dimensional pass rusher but he can be effective” Nelson said.
“And Carter is a bit under-sized for a DE in the Patriots normal scheme of things, he may struggle a bit setting the edge in the running game. But he is another proven solid veteran, he’s had some really good seasons in Washington and if they put him in the position to be at his most effective, then I think he’ll do really well.” “I like that Bill Belichick has addressed what he saw but not with one guy but with several” he added.
Asked about Brandon Meriweather and the Safety position: “I think we’ve all heard about how the Patriots are not happy with his play, can he play better?…..Sure I think so, I think anyone can always play better, but let me tell you, bad players don’t make two Pro-Bowls.” He also said, “Belichick is always trying to better his football team, and if that means bringing a safety for a look then he’ll do it.”
“That goes for anybody at any position, he’s not sending messages, and he’s building a team that is the best that he can field. I personally think that Meriweather is a very talented player, and think that if they bring in another guy, that it will make him even better. The competition for your position will always bring out the best in players.”
“But I got to tell you bad players don’t make two Pro-Bowls, period.”
I asked him about the play of the back-up QBs with Hoyer and Mallett: “I’m not really surprised at all with Hoyer as he’s pretty much proved himself to be a really capable back-up. I really like the Mallett draft pick, no way….no way that kid should have lasted into the third round. That was a really solid pick for the Patriots. He is such a big kid with a big arm, I think he’s going to do just fine learning at Brady’s side.”
I asked him about the CBA issues regarding retires: “You know I was just reading about that this morning, we all got e-mails regarding the retirees benefits ( supposed to be between $900 million and $ 1 Billion dollars over the course of the new CBA) the numbers still aren’t written in stone.”
“To be honest, the Players Association isn’t the right platform to be taking care of retiree players, it’s something that the retired players are going to have to work out with the league and the owners. I believe that the owners will do the right thing in regard to this. We’ll see how it all plays out.”
With time running short, I asked him about the Mosi Tatupu Comedy Benefit at Gillette next week: “This next Tuesday, we’ll have our second comedy show with some really great entertainment with Steve Sweeney and Lenny Clark and all of the proceeds will go to the scholarship in Mosi’s name.”
He added “They’ll be making two scholarships for kids in the Hockomock League where Mosi coached and one to a kid at Curry College where we both coached at. Tickets are $55 dollars and the event will be held at Gillette (Putnam Club West Clubhouse) besides myself, Tip (Andre Tippett) and John Hannah will be there as well some other celebrities and athletes.” Tickets and further information can be found here:
Stay tuned to Pats Fans for further Pats news as we’ll bring you the latest from Foxboro as well as updates from the Pats – Bucs game.
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