Joe Judge

Joe Judge

FOXBORO — It takes a lot for Bill Belichick to feel comfortable handing over his special teams unit after it’s been coached by one of the best assistants he’s ever had.

But in Joe Judge, Belichick feels as though he has someone who can begin to fill the shoes of Scotty O’Brien, who walked away from his special teams job after the Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale.

What has the transition been like so far in OTAs and minicamp?

“Smooth,” Belichick said. “Scott was a great coach, as good a coach as anybody I’€™ve ever been with and around, did a tremendous job. I learned a ton from Scott. I know Joe did, too, or has. But Joe is a great coach in his own right. Each of us have our own style.

“Joe has his own style, but very well prepared, very thorough, has great experience in the kicking game and all of the situations and techniques, both with the specialists and all the other positions on the field. Joe and I spend a lot of time together. I think he’€™s a great young coach.”

To Belichick, what makes Judge so good at such a young age (33) is his willingness to spent the extra time to bring new players up to speed so that they can hit the ground running when they’re thrown into the mix right away. Judge has the right Belichick pedigree, having served as a “football analyst” for three years under Nick Saban at Alabama, with two seasons ending in national titles.

“A lot of the guys that have come in over the years, the last couple of years that came in maybe late, midseason or late in training camp or weren’€™t with us all the way through, a lot of times he would spend extra time with those players to get them caught up while Scott was working on other aspects of the preparation,” Belichick said. “I think he’€™s good at all those things.”

O’Brien, who is thought of so highly that he was kept in the organization to scout and offer his opinion when needed, could often be heard yelling at his players to get in the right positions. But he also brought a lot of positive energy and teaching. Belichick can see some of the same in Judge, who joined the Patriots in May 2012.

“It’€™s his personality. His personality comes out in his coaching style,” Belichick said of Judge. “He’€™s a great communicator, well prepared, aggressive, competitive. All of us have different personalities. His personality is different, but it’€™s good. It’€™s very positive.

“He was with Scott for so long and so many meetings and so much time spent together that I think he can adapt to the differences, understand what the differences are that he’€™s coaching players and how those need to be explained, but also carry through on the things that are the same or very close to the same as what they’€™ve been in the past. He’€™s great at developing relationships with new players, specialists or other players.”

Judge won’t be alone in his first seasons as special teams coordinator. Captain Matthew Slater has been on the scene since 2009, just five years after Judge’s career at Mississippi State. Slater knows the drill.

“I think that both of these guys love the game of football,” Slater said. “Scotty did this thing for almost half of his life, and Joe has the same passion. We know that we’€™ve been fortunate around here to have great minds in the kicking game that have really schooled us and taught us to play the game the right way. So we’€™re excited to play for Joe, and as I’€™ve stated several times, it was an honor for me to play for Scott O’€™Brien.

“He did a lot of things for me personally in my career, and [I’€™m] obviously excited for [assistant special teams coach] Ray Ventrone. Being a former teammate of his, I know that he’€™s going to bring a lot to the table, so we’€™ve got some young guys in there with a lot of energy, a lot of passion and we’€™re excited about the challenges of the year.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — LeGarrette Blount isn’t taking anything for granted.

The sixth-year veteran running back coming off a Super Bowl title knows he’s in good position to be the Patriots’ feature running back this season.

FOXBORO — LeGarrette Blount isn’t taking anything for granted.

The sixth-year veteran running back coming off a Super Bowl title knows he’s in good position to be the Patriots’ feature running back this season.

Questions were raised this week about Blount’s status on the team after he reportedly failed a conditioning run on Wednesday and was kept on the sidelines to watch his team for the first two days of training camp Thursday and Friday.

But Blount has since passed his conditioning exam and was cleared to return to the team on Saturday, just in time for the first full pads practice of training camp.

“You want to be there,” Blount said. “You want to be there, for sure. It’s just a process of getting better. You have to do everything you have to do to get there. Get on the field and be out there and go through the grind with your teammates.”

What kept him out and on the sidelines the first two days? Blount only smiled and replied, “I don’t know.

Blount added that while he wasn’t cleared for team activities, “I was out here. First day of camp, I was out here.”

As for the conditioning test, what did it entail? “Conditioning. It’s just a conditioning test.”

With the formalities of a conditioning test in the past, Blount can now focus on fending off Jonas Gray, Brandon Bolden, James White, Travaris Cadet and Dion Lewis for running back snaps.

“The job is open. There’s a bunch of good running backs here. All of our running backs are pretty good and at some point have played really good in their career. It’s an open job. Everybody has to fight for that position,” he said. “We can’t jump too far into the future. You don’t know what the future holds. I’m going to continue to come out here and get better and do everything I can to make sure I maximize my opportunities.”

Those opportunities will come in the preseason and then he will be required to sit out the first game against his old Steelers teammates after being involved in a marijuana vehicle stop with Pittsburgh teammate Le’Veon Bell in training camp last year.

Blount assured everyone Saturday that he is highly motivated this season.

“Winning motivates me,” Blount said. “I want to go out there and get better for me and my team. I want to go out there and do everything I can to make sure I’m productive and make sure I’m doing whatever they need me to do to be good here.

“I’m going to continue to go out there and get better. It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is. That’s the plan, to always get better and make sure I can do everything I can do and do it to the best of my capabilities when they ask me to do it.”

Blount said that, conditioning test aside, he has been working hard to stay in shape and be ready when his No. 29 is called again this season. His moves on the field Saturday, when he was juking left and right suggest he’s been true to his words.

“The football season is basically year round. We train when we’re off. We practice and play when we’re here. You just have to stay with it and get better as much as you can.”

“Always. It’s always feels good to get out here with my teammates. The brotherhood out here is amazing. I’m just doing whatever I need to do to make sure that I can maximize my capabilities. You guys have been watching me run for a while. Everything you have seen, that’s what I can do. I try to add as much as I can when I have a chance to. I’m going to get better at the things I’m weak at and contribute when I can.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — While much of the offseason focus is on how the Patriots’ defense will survive the offseason departure of cornerback Darrelle Revis, from an off-field perspective, the loss of defensive lineman Vince Wilfork looms just as large.

The veteran, who was an absolutely essential part of the Patriots success since he arrived as a first-round pick in 2004, left for the Texans in the offseason. And while it’s one thing to talk about his departure from a purely statistical standpoint, his leadership skills were just as valuable. Now, it will fall to a new generation of defensive players to guide younger players in the same fashion that Wilfork did for the last decade.

Two of the likely candidates to assume more of a leadership role on the defensive side of the ball in 2015 are safety Devin McCourty and defensive end/outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich. McCourty arrived in 2010, while Ninkovich was picked up as a street free agent in 2009, making them two of the senior members of the New England defense. (Linebacker Jerod Mayo is the only one with more service time with the Patriots. having first shown up in 2008.) Both talked this week about facing an increased level of expectations with Wilfork no longer in the locker room.

“The key to being a leader is just being yourself,” McCourty said. “I continue to just do that — be myself. I think obviously, there’s a big hole with Vince being gone, but I think we have good leaders on this team. Obviously there’s myself and Mayo. Guys like (Dont’a) Hightower, Jamie (Collins), Chandler (Jones), Rob (Ninkovich). Those guys have been playing for awhile, along with (Patrick) Chung. So we just have to keep trucking and keep going forward.”

“Vince was obviously a great figure in the organization, and I have tons of respect for him. But the way that the business works, there will always be turnover — you’ll always lose guys. That just happens across the league,” Ninkovich said.

He added: “For us, it’s continuing to do what we’ve done in the past, and that’s coming to work hard every day and setting a good example for the young guys of how to prepare and how to practice and get ready for the football season. For me, it’s not going to be rah-rah, speeches here and there. It’s going to be coming to work every day and doing my job at a high level and leading by example.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
LeGarrette Blount was back on the field Saturday morning. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

LeGarrette Blount was back on the field Saturday morning. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — The Patriots just completed their first full padded training camp workout of the summer, a session that ran for just over two hours on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. Here are a few quick notes:

Running back LeGarrette Blount and defensive lineman Dominique Easley were back in the field. Blount hadn’t practiced the first two days of camp because he was placed on NFI (reportedly, he had failed the conditioning test), while Easley was on the physically unable to perform list.

Meanwhile, defensive lineman Xzavier Dickson and linebacker Dont’a Hightower were wearing red non-contact jerseys. For what it’s worth, Blount looked like he hadn’t missed a beat, making all the right cuts and running well. Jerod Mayo was in full uniform and not in a non-contact red jersey, a good sign that he has nearly fully recovered from his right knee patellar injury.

The following players were not in pads or not spotted on the field: quarterback Matt Flynn (NFI), special teamer Matthew Slater (PUP), wide receiver Brandon LaFell (PUP), cornerback Justin Green, defensive back Derek Cox, linebacker D.J. Lynch (who limped off the field midway through Friday’s practice), linebacker Dane Fletcher (PUP), linebacker Chris White (PUP), offensive lineman Ryan Wendell (PUP), defensive lineman Vince Taylor (PUP), offensive lineman Caylin Hauptmann (PUP), tight end A.J. Derby, defensive end Chris Jones (PUP) and defensive lineman Alan Branch (NFI).

In one-on-ones between the offensive linemen and defensive linemen, Jabaal Sheard provided a highlight with an impressive spin move on tackle Marcus Cannon. Sheard also tossed Cameron Fleming aside on another head-to-head drill. (Cannon later rebounded with a nice job on youngster Dekoda Watson.)

In addition, rookie guard Shaq Mason tossed defensive lineman Zach Moore to the ground (Mason was later beaten by fellow rookie Geneo Grissom), while tackle Nate Solder and defensive lineman Trey Flowers locked up in a great battle. Young defensive lineman Eric Martin also looked really impressive later in the same drill, sneaking past Solder and using his quickness to get into the backfield. (Defensive lineman Antonio Johnson jumped and had to run a lap.

Later, Mason had to run a lap as well.) Meanwhile, Bryan Stork handily beat all comers, including a sequence where he stoned Easley, who tried to come after him with a bull rush. If Stork stays healthy, he appears to be in line for a terrific season. In that same vein, if Sheard stays healthy and pointed in the right direction, he could also be posted for a good year.

Another highlight for the defense came in passing drills when rookie strong safety Jordan Richards broke up a pass intended for the much taller tight end Scott Chander in the red zone.

Quarterback Tom Brady completed a pass to Aaron Dobson in 11-on-11s, but the receiver fumbled the ball after Jamie Collins poked it away. Dobson made amends later with a leaping grab on a Brady pass near the sideline. He beat fellow Marshall product and rookie corner Darryl Roberts. Shortly after that, the whole offense was forced to run a lap. Dobson had a nice catch later in practice in 11-on-11s, and also had an impressive connection with Brady over Jimmy Jean in a passing drill.

Sealver Siliga put a real hurt on someone in the first series of running drills — from this viewpoint, it looked like it was running back Tyler Gaffney. In that sequence, it appeared the Patriots were utilizing a reasonable facsimile of the starting offensive line, one that included rookies Shaq Mason and Tre’ Jackson at the guard positions, and Marcus Cannon at a tackle spot.

In passing drills midway through practice, Jimmy Garoppolo and Julian Edelman connected on the nice through and catch of camp against Malcolm Butler, a play that caused Butler to clap his hands together in frustration. Butler rebounded shortly after that with an excellent pass breakup on a ball for Brandon Gibson. (Later in that same session, Brian Tyms came off a route limping, but didn’t leave the field.) From this viewpoint, Butler has been very chatty throughout camp, moreso than he was at this point last year. It’s unclear how much of that might be related to being adrenalized over being in pads or just the excitement of camp. But he’€™s been pretty talkative to this point on the calendar.

Defensive end Rob Ninkovich, Siliga and Blount all had to run laps early in practice for unknown infractions. And defensive tackle Malcom Brown was seen running on the back hill for a stretch early on in the practice session.

Converted defensive end Jake Bequette spent more time with the tight ends, getting some reps with what appeared to be the No. 2 offense. He later caught an impressive pass from Brady in 7-on-7 work.

Shoutout to young linebacker Dekoda Watson, who has been wearing a full sweatshirt under his gear for the first three days of training camp.

Defensive lineman Joe Vellano limped off late in the session with an unknown injury. He returned shortly afterward.

Josh Boyce and Dion Lewis got work as kick returners.

Robert Kraft appeared roughly midway through practice, and received a big cheer from fans. One fan yelled “Keep up the fight,” and the owner gave big thumbs up.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO — On Friday, the Patriots announced their offseason award winners. The honors are doled out on the combination of attendance at offseason workout programs, physical testing and overall improvement, and usually come with a prime parking space closest to the players’ entrance at Gillette Stadium.

This year’s winners are: safety Nate Ebner, linebacker Jonathan Freeny, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, defensive lineman Antonio Johnson, linebacker Eric Martin, safety Devin McCourty, left tackle Nate Solder and center Bryan Stork.

By way of comparison, here’s a look at the offseason award winners the last three years:

2014
Defensive end Chandler Jones, wide receiver Julian Edelman, linebacker Jamie Collins, safety Devin McCourty, cornerback Logan Ryan, fullback James Develin, safety Nate Ebner, linebacker Jerod Mayo, offensive lineman Dan Connolly and linebacker Dont’a Hightower.

2013
Wide receiver Danny Amendola, quarterback Tom Brady, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, linebacker Dane Fletcher, linebacker Jerod Mayo, defensive end Rob Ninkovich, special teams captain Matthew Slater, left tackle Nate Solder, cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork.

2012
Linebacker Bobby Carpenter, safety Patrick Chung, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, wide receiver Julian Edelman, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, linebacker Jerod Mayo, linebacker Trevor Scott, left tackle Nate Solder, linebacker Jeff Tarpinian and running back Danny Woodhead.

 

 

 

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

There will be no hiding from the media or spinning of the truth needed when Tom Brady and Roger Goodell sit down on Aug. 12 in New York.

According to Raffi Melkonian, an appellate lawyer with a Fifth Circuit appellate practice, the hearing will be open to reporters.

Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld Tom Brady's four-game suspension. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld Tom Brady‘s four-game suspension. (Elsa/Getty Images)

There will be no hiding from the media or spinning of the truth needed when Tom Brady and Roger Goodell sit down on Aug. 12 in New York.

According to Raffi Melkonian, an appellate lawyer with a Fifth Circuit appellate practice, the hearing will be open to reporters.

While a court stenographer was on hand for the Brady appeal hearing with Goodell on June 23 at NFL offices in New York, reporters were not allowed inside the room with the parties and their attorneys.

That led to leaks from presumably both sides as to how the hearing went, with Adam Schefter initially reporting that Brady came off looking “A-plus” kind of guy.

That was countered the next day with a report that Brady was “not entirely credible” and that not much had changed in the eyes of the NFL.

So who will win? You can be the judge.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

It seems things are getting closer and closer to getting resolved in the Tom Brady Deflategate case.

Roger Goodell and Tom Brady will meet again Aug. 12 at a court conference. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Roger Goodell and Tom Brady will meet again Aug. 12 at a settlement conference. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

It seems things are getting closer and closer to getting resolved in the Tom Brady Deflategate case.

According to several reports, Judge Richard Berman has scheduled a settlement conference for Wednesday, August 12 in which he’s requested both Tom Brady and Roger Goodell be present.

“Let’s see what we can accomplish at that conference,” Berman wrote in the order.

He also requests the two sides keep talking before the conference.

“Lastly, I request that you all engage in comprehensive, good-faith settlement discussions prior to the conference on August 12, 2015,” he wrote.

It now seems more and more likely this will be resolved by the opening night, Sept. 10., especially given that was what both sides requested Friday.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable