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Speros: White House visit stirring up Patriot haters
Buckley: Telling roll call for Patriots’ trip to Trump’s White House
Patriots notebook: NFL will consider proposal outlawing players from leaping over line of scrimmage to block kicks
Tom Brady's stolen Super Bowl jerseys returned to Foxboro
NFL considering ban of field goal leapers like Shea McClellin

Patriots Add Depth At CB with Tarell Brown, Not Likely A Starter

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted July 24, 2015 at 8:38 am

Patriots Sign CB Tarell Brown roster now at 90

In an attempt to bolster secondary depth the Patriots signed CB Tarell Brown on Thursday to a one-year contract according to ESPN’s NFL Insider Adam Schefter and the network’s Dianna Marie Russini. Terms were not released.

Brown had met with the Patriots twice during the spring and finally signed just prior to the team beginning training camp on July 30. Brown is an eight-year veteran, having spent seven seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and last season with Oakland. He appeared in 14 games with the Raiders before landing on IR with a foot injury.

Since he was still on the market, the question of whether or not Brown is 100 percent healthy must be asked. Once the players take the field next week, we’ll get to see exactly how healthy that foot is.

Brown, the 5’11,190 corner does offer experience with 56 career starts in 114 career games and has 11 career interceptions. However none of those have come in the last two seasons.

After leaving the Niners, Brown signed a one-year, $3.5 million prove-it deal with the Raiders. But he didn’t distinguish himself with particularly strong play before landing on IR. Brown allowed 42 receptions on 67 targets for 571 yards and a touchdown last year according to Pro Football Focus. Baltimore was also reportedly interested in Brown but didn’t offer him a contract.

After playing out his string with the Niners and a so-so year with Oakland, one has to consider whether his drop in play and production is a sign that wear and tear on his body is beginning to take a toll. Brown will turn 31 in January.

Brown will likely compete for a backup position with the Patriots and have the ability to spot start if the need would arise. But will he be competing for a starting position? I don’t see that happening. He could fulfill a veteran role, since the elder statesman on the Patriots roster for cornerbacks, Logan Ryan is only beginning his third season with the team.

One thing that is in his favor, if healthy Brown has played on special teams and that could vault him over some of the other corners that are vying for a slot on the 53-man roster. The Patriots currently have Ryan, Malcolm Butler, Bradley Fletcher, Derek Cox, Robert McClain, Justin Green, Daxton Swanson and this season’s 7th round draft choice Darryl Roberts as well as UDFA Jimmy Jean competing for slots at the position.

Brown’s signing brings the number of cornerbacks to 10 on the roster and adds to the total roster number to 89. The team filled out its 90 man pre-season roster by also signing WR Zach D’Orazio on Thursday. The team had signed him as an UDFA from Akron earlier this spring in May, but released him on June 11. The 6’2, 212 WR converted from QB and caught 119 passes for 1422 yards and five touchdowns during his college career. He joins the log-jam of 11 wide receivers vying for the roster.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

League Doesn’t Respond to NFLPA Olive Branch Offer In Brady Appeal

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted at 6:00 am

In a not-so-surprising move the NFL has responded in silence at the NFLPA’s offer of a settlement in the Tom Brady appeal.

ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported from a source that the Players Association last week made an offer to the NFL regarding Tom Brady’s suspension in the Deflate-gate fiasco. The offer was an attempt to exonerate Brady from any wrongdoing in the supposed deflation of the Patriots footballs during the AFC Championship Game in January.

Brady would admit to no wrongdoing but would accept a fine for non-compliance, for not turning over his phone to Ted Wells during the league’s investigation. According to the Graziano’s sources, any settlement offer by Brady to them is an admission of guilt.

Not so, this latest turn in the events of the Deflate-gate/Delay-gate league generated mess was a last ditch by the NFLPA is an attempt to keep this entire case out of the federal courts. And it is a case that won’t look good for the the league.

Instead, the league leaked out sources of its own to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio that a “loud but vocal minority” of team owners asked Commissioner Roger Goodell to uphold the original four-game suspension. Florio stated that NFL attorney Greg Levy has advised Goodell that any suspension will be difficult to stand up in court.

Brady’s appeal which was heard in the Park Avenue NFL offices over a month ago by Goodell but no decision has been announced. Goodell told the media a few weeks ago that a decision was coming soon but then flip-flopped this week stating that no time-table was set.

“There is no timeline. We want to make sure we have a fair and open process,” Goodell said.

The NFL knows that any suspension of Brady will ultimately result in a court case and is poring over the testimony of the appeal in an attempt to not come to a decision but to stand up in court.

Some possible arguments in the court case that Brady’s team could argue are that the entire case was preventable and was arbitrary. Given the NFL’s email trail prior to the AFCCG and then their comments immediately after lend credence to that.

The entire football deflation issue was never proved by the Wells Report and in later reports was debunked by other more reputable scientific labs than the Exponent hired guns hired by Wells and the league.

And did the league follow its own protocols in the handing down of punishment? In the NFL’s rule book it is treated as an equipment violation, punished by a fine of $25,000. The NFL fined San Diego for a similar infraction but only issued a warning to the Vikings and Panthers during a warming towel incident this season.

So both sides are preparing for a court case; with no settlement looming and the NFL seemingly very likely to uphold a suspension, the delay of a decision will not stop where this one is heading…to federal court.

Brady faces the scenarios of winning his case and being exonerated from any nefarious wrong-doing in this or losing in court and possibly having to face his suspension nearer the end of the season when the Patriots have traditionally been vying for playoff top seeding.

In another weird twist of the entire story, the NFLPA announced that Brady was the leader of all NFL players in jersey sales during the first fiscal quarter of 2015. Is that just regularly disclosed news or an attempt to show the league that support for their suspension isn’t very high? Either way, the league won’t be influenced by that.

The Patriots begin training camp on July 30 with their first practice scheduled for 9:15 a.m. Brady will be there on the field and it remains to be seen if he’ll know Goodell’s decision by then…

Don’t be shocked if the NFL releases its decision on a Friday afternoon (this week?), at 4:59 p.m. just prior to the weekend. Tick tock…

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Jamie Collins Poised To Be One of the NFL’s Most Exciting Players in 2015

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted July 23, 2015 at 6:00 am

2015 Patriots Player Preview Series – LB Jamie Collins

As we begin the final stretch before training camp, here’s a daily look at some Patriots on the roster where we’ll individually preview them heading into the 2015 season.  In this edition, we highlight Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins.

Collins is one of the most important if still a bit underrated members of the Patriots defense. His superb athleticism, versatility and performance marks him as one of the most exciting players to watch on the field.

Collins was drafted by the Patriots in the 2nd round of the 2013 NFL Draft with the 52nd overall selection. Collins was an uber-athletic player from Southern Mississippi who set a record at the time for the Broad Jump at the NFL Combine (11’7”) that has since been broken but is still a record for linebackers.

He was a slow starter during his rookie season before getting used more down the stretch. His performance in the AFC Divisional Round against the Colts set the stage for his future when he made six tackles, a sack and an interception in a very impressive performance.

2014 RECAP:

Bill Belichick likes to say players make a big jump between Year 1 and Year 2 in the NFL. Collins was no exception. Much was expected of him after his playoff performance and he was frequently mentioned as a 2nd year player to watch. He didn’t disappoint.

He and fellow linebacker Dont’a Hightower were outstanding for the Patriots in 2014. Once Jerod Mayo went down with a season-ending injury in Week 6, the Patriots went to primarily a nickel defense, sub-package look and the two young linebackers came into their own.

Collins tallied 115 tackles, four sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions and he and Hightower were simply overwhelming at times in timing their A-gap blitzing. He was so effective at blitzing, that at times during the season, the Patriots would drop defensive ends, Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones or Akeem Ayers into coverage. The results were usually very favorable for New England and they intercepted or broke up passes as a result.

DID YOU KNOW?

Collins was a quarterback in high school and started as safety in college before moving to inside linebacker, then outside linebacker and finally to defensive end at Southern Miss. Not many people had the Patriots drafting him, only CBS’ Pete Prisco saw an obvious fit with New England.

Collins recently showed his athleticism

2015 OUTLOOK:

Collins is poised to make a bigger splash in 2015 as he’s just beginning to reach his true potential. With a player who is as versatile as he is, he can play inside, line up outside as a traditional edge pass rusher, cover in the secondary, stuff the run and blitz up the A-gap; he gives Belichick so many different ways to use his talents. And this season, with plenty of options in the linebacker corps, Belichick has plenty of ways to use him effectively.

We published a primer on the Patriots linebacker position which can be read here:

Belichick last season in December compared Collins to HOF LB Lawrence Taylor. “Jamie Collins, it’s not like there’s like two or three dozen of them in the draft every year. We’re lucky to have one,” Belichick said.

“There’s Lawrence Taylor, the prototype for an outside linebacker, where’s the next Lawrence Taylor? These guys don’t grow on trees.” Collins is the quintessential Belichick player. He says little, preferring to do his speaking on the field, has a tremendous football IQ and comes prepared each and every day.

Speaking to Prisco from CBS, Colts QB Andrew Luck prior to the Super Bowl said, “I think he’s the most underrated player in the NFL,” Luck said. “He can do so many things in that defense.”

With Collins and Hightower the Patriots have under their control two young outstanding linebackers for the next several seasons. But it is Collins who’s so versatile and athletic that he gives Bill Belichick plenty of options in how he chooses to use him. That scenario will undoubtedly play itself out more and more in 2015.

Jamie Collins will be one of the most exciting players to watch in the NFL this season.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

2015 Patriots Player Preview Series – DE Rob Ninkovich

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted July 22, 2015 at 6:00 am

As we begin the final stretch before training camp, here’s a daily look at some Patriots on the roster where we’ll individually preview them heading into the 2015 season.  In this edition, Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich.

Ninkovich has risen from a guy on the bubble who was a long-snapper to make the roster to one of the most productive, dependable players on a defense that won the Super Bowl in 2014.

Ninkovich and QB Tom Brady are the only respective members of the defense and offense with 10 years or more of NFL experience. Ninkovich at 31, isn’t slowing down but rather is hitting his stride. Of course his first three seasons with the Saints, he barely saw the field, so there is not a lot of wear of his treads.

2014 RECAP:

Ninkovich had another stellar campaign in 2014, the 6’2, 260 veteran appeared in all 16 games and led the Patriots in sacks with eight and notched 62 tackles and one interception. Perhaps his biggest sack of the season came in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.

With the Patriots down by 10, Ninkovich’s third down sack of Seahawks QB Russell Wilson stalled a Seattle drive and forced them to punt. That set the stage for the epic comeback by Tom Brady resulting in two late touchdowns that won the Super Bowl for New England.

Ninkovich played in a remarkable 93 percent of the defensive snaps in 2014 which is down from 94 percent of the snaps in 2013. He and Chandler Jones have been two of the hardest working defensive ends that have logged the most snaps the past few seasons.

When rookie Zach Moore forced a fumble against the Bears in October, Ninkovich scooped up the ball and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown, his second career touchdown as a member of the Patriots.

DID YOU KNOW?

Ninkovich in 2013 became the first Patriots player since Willie McGinest (1995-96), to produce back-to-back seasons with at least eight sacks. Ninkovich made it three seasons in a row with eight more in 2014.

Ninkovich has missed only one game since 2009, he leads all NFL DEs with consecutive games played at 86 and started at 65. He also leads all active NFL DEs with fumble recoveries with 13.

2015 OUTLOOK:

It is interesting that Ninkovich’s record of consecutive season of eight sacks or more was the first since McGinest. Both of these players are known as “money” players who perform best when the game is on the line.

Tom E. Curran from CSNNE in his countdown for the Best 50 Players of the Belichick era had this to say about the comparisons between McGinest and Ninkovich:

“Willie McGinest had 38.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 6 fumble recoveries, 3 interceptions and 317 tackles from 2000 through 2005. From 2009 through 2014, Ninkovich had 35.5 sacks, 9 forced fumbles, 13 fumble recoveries, 5 interceptions and 385 tackles.”

Ninkovich was being overworked the past two seasons and playing far too many snaps, so the Patriots signed the talented Jabaal Sheard to help in the rotation with both Ninkovich and Jones. And in during the 2015 NFL Draft, they drafted edge rushers Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers.

Rather than watching his production go down with less playing time, look for it to go up. Playing with fresher legs will benefit everyone involved and the Patriots can afford to be more aggressive in getting after the quarterback.

Ninkovich isn’t the most talented, or the most athletically gifted player on the Patriots roster. But he’s arguably the most productive and with some help in the wings for 2015, the Patriots edge rushers are in very good shape as they will try to become the first team since the 2003-2004 Patriots to repeat as Super Bowl champions. And the best of the bunch is Ninkovich, he’s the team’s money defensive player.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

53 Man Roster Projection 2.0 OTA, Pre-Training Camp Edition

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted July 21, 2015 at 6:00 am

The summer is in full swing and the Patriots are due to start training camp in less than 10 days. We’ve put out our primers for the team’s positional breakdown in the last two weeks. They can be referenced here:

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Line

Quarterbacks

Defensive Ends

Defensive Tackles

Linebackers

Safeties

Cornerbacks

We are taking our second look at a 53 Man Roster projection prior to Training Camp beginning. Just prior to Mini-camp we did our first roster projection and we’ll do more as the pre-season plays out.

It should be noted that many of these positions are wide open and camp competition is likely to swing back and forth between different players. That’s what training camp is for.

Bill Belichick will have a lot of decisions to make with the roster and rest assured, the 53 Man roster at the end of training camp will not be the same roster we see at the end of the season. Changes will be made and the inevitable injuries will occur.

So the 88-man roster as it now stands will have to be pared down to 53 and that means some players with talent will be let go. Breaking into a Super Bowl winning team’s roster is never an easy thing and some tough selections await the coaches.

Here is our 53-Man Roster Projection 2.0

First up the Offense…

Patriots Training Camp Primer – Cornerbacks

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted July 20, 2015 at 8:17 am

The Patriots head into training camp in just a few weeks and there should be plenty of competition at a number of spots. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53 man roster and who is on the bubble.
Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring is a learning exercise and that the competition begins in training camp. While that is true to an extent, with 88 players on board, 35 of these current members of the roster now, at a minimum will be cut.

We’ve already looked at the Patriots offense and have now moved over to the defense. You can check out the links below:

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Line

Quarterbacks

Defensive Ends

Defensive Tackles

Linebackers

Safeties

Next up for is the final section of the Patriots defense, the cornerbacks. No position on the Patriots roster will be under more scrutiny than the corners in 2015. After getting stellar play from corners Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington last season, all three have moved on and now the big question is who will step up in their place.

Another thing on fan’s minds this spring and early summer is how does Bill Belichick replace Revis? The simplest answer is you don’t… A talent like his doesn’t grow on trees and you just can’t plug another player into his slot and expect him to do the same.

So if all hope lost for a Super Bowl repeat in Santa Clara next season? No, Belichick knows that he can’t replicate Revis’ talent at corner but with an improved pass rush from the front seven coupled with solid play from the corners that are here now, the defense should be in good shape.

So who is locked in and who is on the bubble?

New England Patriots News 7-19 and Notes Around the AFC East

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted July 19, 2015 at 6:00 am

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news notes and what’s happening around the division:

Brady “Ticked Off, Motivated For 2015: One of the prevailing themes for the entire Tom Brady Deflate-gate fiasco coming out of New England this week is that Brady is using this suspension on the heels of a Super Bowl victory for added “Us against the World” fodder for 2015.

Interviews with former teammate Rodney Harrison and wide receiver Julian Edelman both state that Brady is mad, motivated and looking to prove doubters wrong this season. Brady has long used his QB battles at Michigan and his 199th overall selection in the 2000 NFL Draft as ammunition to motivate himself to reach new heights.

Anyone who has ever watched Brady at practice, even at training camp or mini-camps can attest that the QB is driven, competitive and meticulous in his preparation and won’t tolerate anything less in his teammates.

So instead of being satisfied with a fourth Super Bowl victory and a Hall of Fame career, he finds himself playing the role of the underdog again and is anxious to prove those who say the Patriots cheated wrong.

Edelman at a football camp in Reading, MA recently told ESPN, “He’s fired up — we’ll say that. You don’t want a mad Tom Brady, and he’s a little ticked off,” Edelman said.

Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison had even more pointed comments, telling MMQB’s Jenny Vrentas, “You’ve got way over $100 million in the bank. You’ve got a beautiful wife. You’ve got a beautiful family. The natural tendency would be to say, ‘I can lie in my silk sheets and just enjoy life now. I don’t need football.’ But I’m telling you: This is the best thing that could have happened to Tom Brady. This will rejuvenate him. The rest of the league better look out. This year, he’s going to make everybody pay for what’s happened.”

The last time Brady played with this kind of anger was 2007 and he ended up passing for 50 touchdowns enroute to a 16-0 regular season. Of course that season ended up as a 18-1 “disappointment” after the SB loss to the Giants. But the prevailing point is, there will be no satisfaction with a championship and he’ll be driven to make it two in a row. That’s a very good thing if you’re a Patriots fan.

Dan Connolly Retires a Champion: Citing family reasons and concussion worries, former Patriots offensive lineman Dan Connolly has retired from the NFL. Connolly played ten seasons in the NFL, the past seven with the Patriots and was an offensive captain in 2014.

Connolly and his wife have three young daughters, all under the age of six; and spending time with them was one of his primary reasons to call it a career.Connolly got some offers to keep playing, but uprooting his family for one, possibly two seasons or living away from them was not in the cards for the 10 year veteran.

But perhaps the biggest reason to retire was a medical one; Connolly has suffered four diagnosed concussions in the NFL and had a fifth back in high school. “It’s important to me to leave the game healthy,” Connolly said to ESPN.

“I’m able to be here for my kids and walk away on my own terms. I feel like I got everything I could out of football in playing 10 years, winning a Super Bowl, and playing alongside some truly great players.”

Connolly played in 89 regular season games with 71 starts and played in two Super Bowls for New England. But perhaps his greatest moment came in a Sunday Night Football game against the Green Bay Packers.  Connolly fielded a bouncing kickoff and rumbled down the left sideline for a 71-yard return, a record for a kickoff return by an offensive lineman.

He was renowned for his athleticism and dependability and played left guard, center and right guard for the Patriots. He took over a leadership role when Logan Mankins was traded to the Bucs.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick released the following statement on Connolly’s retirement Friday on Patriots.com.

Dan Connolly exemplified everything our program requires of players. He was tough and dependable, smart and team oriented and his work ethic ensured he improved on an annual basis to reach his potential. From where his career began as a developmental player to where it finished as a team leader and champion, Dan Connolly was a player I was proud to coach.”

Gostkowski Signs Four-Year Extension: Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski signed a new four-year deal that will pay the veteran $17 million according to Patriots.com.

The Pats placed the franchise tag on Gostkowski in March which will pay him $4.1 million in 2015. They had until July 15 to reach a long-term deal and his new contract was announced earlier that day.

Gostkowski has played his entire nine-year career with New England and has a very good 86.8 percentage on his field goals for his career. His 2014 season was perhaps his best, connecting on 35 of 37 field goals for a 94.6 percentage.

The Patriots are now set at the position for the foreseeable future as Gostkowski, 31, shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Deflate-Gate Football Auctioned Off: In more Deflate-gate news, the football handed by Patriots WR Brandon LaFell to a fan during the AFC Championship Game has been auctioned off by Lelands.com for $43,740.

The owner of the football, Laura Anthony was handed the ball by LaFell after a LaGarrette Blount touchdown. She had put up the football for auction with a starting bid of $25,00 and originally it was said that the ball would fetch over six figures. But while the winning bid fell far short of that, it was far more than other footballs have fetched on the auction block.

It wasn’t reported if Anthony ever measured the PSI of the football after bringing it home…

Eastbound and Down…..News from around the AFC East:

Rex Ryan Tandem Jumps With Army Golden Knights: Bills coach Rex Ryan left the ground behind and joined the fraternity of those of us who have hurtled from an airplane while in flight.

Ryan donning a custom Army Golden Knights jumpsuit, jumped tandem with an Army paratrooper from 12,500 feet and landed safely at the “Thunder of Niagara” Airshow in Buffalo, New York.

Upon landing Ryan remarked that “it was awesome, I’m ready to do it again.”
Here is the video courtesy of SN Canada

Good for Rex…but beware…jumping out of aircraft is very addictive and you just might get hooked on it…

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Training Camp Primer – Safeties

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted July 18, 2015 at 8:23 am

The Patriots head into training camp in just a few weeks and there should be plenty of competition at a number of spots. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53 man roster and who is on the bubble.

Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring is a learning exercise and that the competition begins in training camp. While that is true to an extent, with 88 players on board, 35 of these current members of the roster now, at a minimum will be cut.

We’ve already looked at the Patriots offense and have now moved over to the defense. You can check out the links below:

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Line

Quarterbacks

Defensive Ends

Defensive Tackles

Linebackers

Next up for the Patriots defense are the safeties. The core group from last season returns for 2015 with starters Devin McCourty and Pat Chung who both inked extensions with the team. One change that could take place would depend upon a systematic change. Where the team played a lot of man coverage in 2014 with a single high safety (McCourty), it allowed Chung to play closer to the line, in the box which is a strength of his.

If the team switches to playing more zone coverage with two deep safeties in 2015, it may open the door for Harmon to start. But the position overall is stable with no turnover but a couple of additions with the drafting of Richards in the 2nd round and the UDFA King from Auburn.

So who is locked in and who is on the bubble?

Patriots Training Camp Primer – Linebackers

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted July 17, 2015 at 6:17 am

The Patriots head into training camp in just a few weeks and there should be plenty of competition at a number of spots. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53 man roster and who is on the bubble.

Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring is a learning exercise and that the competition begins in training camp. While that is true to an extent, with 88 players on board, 35 of these current members of the roster now, at a minimum will be cut.

We’ve already looked at the Patriots offense and have now moved over to the defense. You can check out the links below:

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Line

Quarterbacks

Defensive Ends

Defensive Tackles

Next up for the Patriots defense are the linebackers. There are currently 14 players on the roster competing for probably six slots. With the three starters basically locked into slots providing they’re healthy to start the season, the numbers game is making life difficult for these remaining players.

The one good thing about the situation is that with a renewed emphasis on the front seven and many of the players known strictly for their special teams acumen, there are plenty of opportunities for everyone to carve out a role for themselves.

It isn’t known if the injuries/off-season surgeries to Hightower and Mayo will have them ready for training camp. If they aren’t ready to go on July 30, it just gives more reps to be divided up amongst the rest of the crew.

So who is locked in and who is on the bubble?

Patriots OL Dan Connolly Retires On His Terms

Written by: Steve Balestrieri
Posted July 16, 2015 at 12:24 pm

Not many players get the privilege or opportunity to leave the game on their own terms. Dan Connolly former Patriots offensive lineman has taken stock of his situation and decided that this is the time to retire.

Connolly spent the last seven seasons with the Patriots and was quoted by Mike Reiss from ESPN the desire to spend more time with his wife and three daughters all under the age of six and walk away without worrying about his numerous concussions of which he suffered four with New England and another back in high school.

“It’s important to me to leave the game healthy,” Connolly said. “I’m able to be here for my kids and walk away on my own terms. I feel like I got everything I could out of football in playing 10 years, winning a Super Bowl, and playing alongside some truly great players.”

Connolly wasn’t a great offensive lineman but what he was very versatile, steady and dependable. He played right guard, center and left guard. But perhaps his biggest contribution was as a kick returner. His athleticism was something that former offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia marked as one of his biggest strengths.

On a Sunday night in December of 2010 against the Packers, Connolly picked up a kickoff and ran left, seeing an opportunity, he raced 71 yards down inside the 10 yard line. It was a play that sparked the Patriots who at the time trailed 17-7 and they rallied to beat Green Bay that evening.

His move to left guard last season after the trade of Logan Mankins not only filled a big hole on the offensive line but he also played a big leadership role, becoming a team captain in his final NFL season.

Connolly will retire as a captain and a Super Bowl champion and although he probably could have continued to play, and a high level, Connolly decided the time was right to step away from the game. He did receive some offers notably from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but leaves with no regrets.

The Patriots will miss his dedication, toughness and versatility, something Bill Belichick has long valued in all of his players.

“With my football career coming to a close I am grateful for the opportunity given to me by the Kraft family and Coach Belichick. It is an honor to have been part of such a great organization for the past eight seasons.”

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

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