Raymond Clayborn was a Pro Bowl cornerback for the Patriots. (Photo courtesy New England Patriots)

Raymond Clayborn was a Pro Bowl cornerback for the Patriots. (Photo courtesy New England Patriots)

Raymond Clayborn isn’t much for small talk.

Asked on Wednesday for his reaction to the news that he had been nominated as a finalist for the Patriots Hall of Fame, the former New England cornerback didn’t mince words.

“Why did it take so long?” he replied.

Clayborn could very well have a point. The three-time Pro Bowler played with the Patriots from 1977 through 1989. The first-round pick out of Texas finished his career with a franchise-leading 36 interceptions (tied with Ty Law) for 555 yards for a 15.4 yard per interception average. Clayborn also returned 57 kickoffs for 1,538 yards and three touchdowns — as a rookie in 1977, Clayborn returned 28 kickoffs for 869 yards and led the NFL with a 31.0-yard return average and returned three kicks for touchdowns, both of which remain franchise records.

Clayborn, Law and Bill Parcells are this year’s three finalists for the Hall of Fame. (Fans can vote on the finalists for the next month at Patriots.com.)

“I’€™m really honored with the people that I’€™m a finalist with, the two other gentlemen — Bill Parcells and Ty Law,” Clayborn said. “Bill’€™s already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and I believe Ty will definitely get there one day himself.”

Clayborn and Law are often linked as the two best corners in franchise history, and are tied atop the franchise list for most career interceptions. While he remains competitive, Clayborn acknowledges Law would likely sit in first place alone if he hadn’t missed the bulk of the 2004 season because of injury.

“Realistically looking at it, Ty got hurt and he did it. I think it was the (fifth) game of the season or something and the next year, he wasn’€™t with the team,” Clayborn said. “So quite frankly speaking, Ty would have broken the record if he hadn’€™t been injured and to hold the record with him is an honor. I really truly believe he’€™s one of the better cornerbacks to play during his time.”

Here are some highlights from the rest of his Q&A with the media:

Can you take us back to the 1985 AFC Championship Game against the Dolphins and what that game meant to you guys in the locker room?

Well, having done it in Miami, a place that I believe most of us, I believe all of us on the team had never won there before, a regular season game, let alone a playoff game. So having to go down there and we won the AFC Championship down there, it was really special. I think we enjoyed it so much, we forgot about the next game, the Super Bowl. We had a great, great team that season.

For those who didn’€™t get a chance to watch you play, how would you describe your style of play?

I definitely preferred man-to-man (coverage). I wanted to challenge them on every play whether it be a run or pass, because most of the time when it was a run play and you’€™re right up on them, they’€™re going to block you, so I had to get aggressive with them and I tried to do the same in pass coverage, try to force them off what they wanted to do and try to guide them into what I wanted them to do, speaking of wide receivers.

Do you see similarities between the way you played the game and the way Ty played it?

Yeah, a lot of them. Ty was aggressive at times, but just being able to lock down a particular guy and cover your side of the field, I think Ty was very capable of doing that.

You played on some really good teams and some inconsistent teams. When you look at the franchise with its consistency now and the new stadium, can you believe these are the same Patriots you played for?

Yeah, we had good teams, we just couldn’€™t get in that category of perennial playoff teams, but it was always something that happened and I think one of the major things was when Daryl Stingley was injured in 1978. We were coming off missing the playoffs by one game in ‘€™77 and we came back and we were just loaded. Everybody was just focused and to have Daryl get hurt that second preseason game out there at Alameda County [Stadium] in Oakland back there in ‘€™78 was really something that just hit us really hard. I think that kind of lingered on for a couple years because we had the talent to go and win a Super Bowl at that particular time ‘€“ the ‘€™77, ‘€™78, ‘€™79 teams. But I think that was something that really kind of hit us right in our heart, to see him like that. He was such a leader of our team, someone you looked up to that worked hard every day. He was even a coach on the field, like he was beating me on a pass pattern and he was telling me, ‘€˜Hey, that’€™s the second time I beat you on that. You can’€™t let that happen again.’€™ That’€™s the type of person Daryl Stingley was and it really hurt us tremendously and I think everyone on the team still feels like this.

Going back to 1976 and ‘€™77. First Mike Haynes and Tim Fox come into the league in ‘€™76 as first-round picks. The following year you come into the league for the Patriots. Can you share your thoughts about that secondary nucleus coming into the league at the same time and how talented the group was and how special was that?

You have to remember that when I came out of Texas I really wasn’€™t versed in playing man-to man, even zone for that matter. We played an old, traditional Cover 3. It was a running-type conference, the style for this conference. They didn’€™t have the intricate passing games that they had in the pros. So, I actually didn’€™t start my first year. I played behind Bobby Howard, who was an 11-year veteran in 1977 when I came up here with the Patriots. He was a technician. He was a guy that was a teacher and they told me to follow him, to watch him and the things that he did. I think Mike would feel the same way too. Bobby Howard was a guy that you could look back on and say he helped us out tremendously with confidence, technique and fundamentals of the game.

For those who followed you closely as a player, what would you tell them you’€™re up to now? Where are you living? What are you up to?

Well, I lived the last 13 years or so in a suburb outside of Houston, Texas, then Katy, Texas. Right now, I am recovering from prostate surgery. I had prostate cancer that I had surgery on November 24. So right now being retired, I’€™m basically recovering from this surgery. At this particular time, I have a daughter who is a freshman at Howard University up in Washington, D.C. I have a 15-year-old freshman at Cinco Ranch High School in Katy, Texas. And I have an older daughter, 28, and a 3-year-old grandson. Plus my wife [laughs].

I hope everything is going well with your recovery.

Yeah, it’€™s a process. It will be six months in on May 24. It will be a milestone and I hope things start to get better, but I’€™m hanging in there.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Ty Law was a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots. (AP)

Ty Law was a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots. (AP)

For Ty Law, it’€™s the chance to bring a legendary career full circle.

The cornerback, who is one of three finalists for the Patriots Hall of Fame, admitted Wednesday that when it came to how things ended with the franchise, it was a less than ideal scenario.

After playing 10 years with New England, he left as a free agent following the 2004 season. He ended his career with brief stints with the Jets, Chiefs and Broncos (and retired following the 2009 season), but it was a bittersweet final act for one of the best defensive backs of his era.

“€œI’€™d be the first one to admit now, I’€™m older, wiser, more mature, that if I could have done something all over again, I would have tried my damnedest to stay in New England and finish my career,” he said on a conference call with New England media.

“€œNot that I have any regrets about the teams that took me in as far as the New York Jets, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs — I’€™m thankful for the opportunity. I think I said this early in my career; I would have loved to start and finish my career with the Patriots. Unfortunately that didn’€™t happen, but if I had to do it all over again, I would have made more effort to stay a Patriot.”

Now, Law has the opportunity for a final farewell. It was revealed Wednesday that he’€™s one of three finalists for the Hall of Fame, a class that includes cornerback Raymond Clayborn and former coach Bill Parcells. (Fans can vote on the finalists for the next month at Patriots.com.)

Law was a three-time Super Bowl Champion (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX), a four-time Pro Bowl player (1998, 2001, 2002, 2003) and a two-time All-Pro (1998, 2003) during his tenure with the Patriots. Law tied Clayborn’€™s career franchise-record with 36 interceptions and finished with the most interception-return yards in team history with 583

Law, who said he was “€œspeechless”€ when he was informed that he was a finalist, said, ‘€œit would mean a lot’€ if he gets the nod.

“€œIt will put the icing on the cake, as far as my playing career with the Patriots, and give some validation to me that I’€™m appreciated by the fans, they still care for me and they show me that with my business on and off the field and it just puts a stamp of approval [from] Patriot Nation,”€ he said. “€œI’€™m really humbled by that to even be considered with the great Bill Parcells and Raymond Clayborn, who was such a great player and spent so much time in New England. I’€™m honored just to be considered and on the list with those two guys.”

Law is in terrific company — Clayborn and Parcells are worthy finalists, and the fact that the fans can only choose one will lead to some difficult decisions for New England fans. Law has plenty of good things to say about his fellow finalists on Wednesday.

“Coach Parcells, he drafted me. He believed in me, he pushed me in the beginning of my career so I was able to get to this point today. I owe a lot to Coach Parcells for being the guy that took a chance on a young cornerback from Michigan,”€ Law said. “He used to ride me so much to bring out the best in me. I give him so much credit, especially in the beginning because he rode me like no other. He saw something that I didn’€™t see. He had the ability to do that with a lot of players but there was something about the way he helped mold me even if I thought he was wrong, he was right.

“€œI’€™m always indebted to him for believing in me. I know it was a combination of both but on the field, every day interaction with Coach Parcells, he was the one who helped me in the beginning and he helped me last this long because some of his words that he told me as rookie stick with me to this day. If I see Bill Parcells, I’€™m still sucking in my gut because he’€™s liable to say something about it. There’€™s always that insecurity that makes you step your game up and I think that was his goal.”€

As for Clayborn, Law said he speculated that if Clayborn wasn’€™t in the Patriots Hall of Fame, “€œHow the Hell am I going to get in?”

“€œYou can’€™t help but look at a guy like that and say it’€™s his time, he deserves it, he’€™s waited long enough,”€ Law said of Clayborn, who has been nominated in the past, but will be a finalist for the first time this year.

“€œWe heard about how he might have been overshadowed by Mike Haynes but I think it’€™s long overdue,” added Law. “€œHe’€™s definitely worthy and deserving of being in the Patriots Hall of Fame as far as I’€™m concerned. Numbers don’€™t lie and he has them. When people talk about Raymond Clayborn, you don’€™t hear anything but positive. You never heard anything negative about Raymond Clayborn. I think that’€™s the mark of a true Patriot, at least from my era when I was there, how the Patriots conducted themselves, how Mr. Kraft ran his program, put the right people in place. He would have been able to fit in in my generation, my era and would have been a standout All-Pro as well.”

Law has always maintained close ties to the franchise, and is excited to see how the acquisition of Darrelle Revis will impact the New England secondary. The two played a single season together with the Jets in 2008, but according to Law, the relationship between the two started long before they reached the NFL. The two have deep roots in Aliquippa, Pa.

“€œI knew Darrelle when he was in Pop Warner. I was close with his uncle, Sean and his family overall,”€ Law said. “€œWe’€™re a tight-knit community around Aliquippa. Sports kind of led us to the same path, like it has a lot of other kids in Aliquippa. Being that I was so close to Sean growing up, it was natural to establish a relationship with Darrelle. I’€™d say it goes years beyond us playing in the NFL.

“To watch him grow and become one of the best defensive players in the game, the best defensive back in the game, is amazing because I’€™ve seen this kid playing Pop Warner. He was special then but to see what he’€™s been able to accomplish right now, it feels like I’€™m still out there playing. I know his roots and I know his soul, I know his effort and I know what he brings to the table. I’€™m living through Darrelle vicariously while he’€™s out there playing.”

For Law, Revis has grown into the best cornerback in the game. Law believes that the Patriots are getting at upgrade.

“With no disrespect to Aqib Talib — who is a great corner himself — but Darrelle is a special talent,”€ Law said. “€œNot only are you getting experience, you’€™re getting extreme confidence. You’€™re getting a person who is not afraid to put it on the line at the end of the game. Darrelle, he wants to be in that position of covering the top guy week-in and week-out, down-in and down-out. He goes to the inside if need be. He’€™s the type, if he wasn’€™t on the guy he would let the coach know it. I think that’€™s the mark of a true competitor, someone who is striving to be a champion. The way he practices, by playing with him for the year that I did, to be so talented, but to practice so hard, you don’€™t see a lot of young guys that have so much talent take the job that seriously because they’€™re so talented.

“That’€™s what I think separates Darrelle — he’€™s not taking his talent and his abilities for granted,”€ Law added. “He still wants to go out there and prove that he’€™s the absolute best week-in and week-out. He’€™s not taking that for granted. He wants to be the best for a long time. I have never seen anyone as competitive as Darrelle Revis. That’€™s the honest to God truth. He made me, as a veteran, pick my game up in practice. If I slacked off, I’€™d look at this kid right here, he doesn’€™t even know pro football yet and he’€™s outworking everybody. He motivated me at the end of my career.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Trent Murphy (AP)

Trent Murphy led the FBS with 15 sacks in 2013. (AP)

TRENT MURPHY

Position: Defensive end

School: Stanford

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 250 pounds

Achievements: 2013 consensus All-American, first-team All-American (Walter Camp, AFCA, FWAA, Sporting News, SI.com, ESPN.com), first-team All-Pac 12, 2012 Butkus Award semifinalist

What he brings: Murphy is known as an above-average athlete with strong instincts. While he has a solid frame, though, analysts note that he does not have as much muscle as an average professional football player.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 2

Notes: Murphy played in just two games during the 2010 season after he suffered a leg injury. … During the 2013 season, Murphy led the FBS with 15 sacks and had at least one sack in 10 of 14 games. … Murphy was one of the top performers at the 3-cone drill during the combine.

Related articles:

FOXSports.com: Draft Diary: Stanford LB Trent Murphy tracks path to the NFL (Part 1)

FOXSports.com: Draft Diary: Stanford LB Trent Murphy tracks path to NFL (Part 2)

CBSSports.com: 2014 NFL draft: Winners, losers, surprises in combine 3-cone

Video: Here is a video highlighting Murphy’s career at Stanford.

Blog Author: 
Meredith Perri
Tackle Nate Solder had a pre-draft visit to Foxboro scrubbed at the last minute, but the Patriots still made him a first-round pick. (AP)

Tackle Nate Solder had a pre-draft visit to Foxboro scrubbed at the last minute, but the Patriots still made him a first-round pick. (AP)

With the pre-draft process longer now than it’s been in year’s past, there’s more time for speculation, and official visits, workouts and attendance at Pro Days are all ways fans and the media try and gauge a team’s interest in a prospect. Some of the pre-draft work can be a smokescreen, some of it can be done for intel down the road and some of can be for practical scouting purposes. With that in mind, here’s a look at the pre-draft connections the Patriots have made with some of their top draft picks over the last few years.

Linebacker Jamie Collins (taken with New England’s first pick in 2013, a second-round selection at No. 52 overall): Bill Belichick flew South to work out Collins before the draft, but the linebacker later indicated that he did not have much pre-draft contact with New England when compared to other teams.

Defensive end Chandler Jones (first-round pick 2012, 21st overall): Jones recalled a conversation with the Patriots at the combine in Indy the year he was drafted. “I talked to the Patriots — I talked with them at the combine,” he said. “That was the most formal thing we did. That’s basically it — we talked at the combine.”

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower (first-round pick 2012, 25th overall): He didn’t work out for Patriots, but he said he “had a small (idea)” the Patriots were interested. “I met with those guys at the combine and I met them at one of the Pro Days,” Hightower recalled, “so I knew that they were kind of interested in some of the defensive players that we had at Alabama.”

Tackle Nate Solder (first-round pick 2011, 17th overall): Solder had what he called “fairly limited contact” with the Patriots throughout the pre-draft process. He met with offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia the Monday before the draft in Colorado, but also had a scheduled visit to Foxboro cancelled at the last minute. “I don’t know exactly what happened,” Solder later explained. “I was scheduled to visit (but) the minute before I left it was cancelled. That’s all I know.”

Defensive back Devin McCourty (first-round pick 2010, 27th overall): McCourty met with Belichick prior to the draft, where the two had a film session on campus at Rutgers. “Bill Belichick had come to my school for a coaches’ clinic, and he was going to fly right out after the clinic to see his son play in a lacrosse game,” McCourty recalled. “But we had an hour, we watched some film and we spoke for a little while. We had a real generic conversation, but he showed me some things on film, just watching and helping me out as far as being a player.”

Linebacker Jerod Mayo (first-round pick, 2008, 10th overall): Mayo had 11 visits with teams during the pre-draft process, and remembers his visit to Foxboro fondly. “I had a great visit when I came down there,” he said. “The coaches and I sat down and talked football for a long time. Like I said, I just had a great visit and I felt like we clicked.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The Patriots announced Wednesday that former defensive backs Raymond Clayborn and Ty Law and ex-coach Bill Parcells were named finalists for the team’s Hall of Fame.

Fans can vote on which individual deserves to be the 2014 inductee starting Wednesday and continuing through May 15. The winner will be announced in early June.

Ty Law believes in the 2012 Patriots. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Ty Law is one of three finalists for the Patriots Hall of Fame. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

The Patriots announced Wednesday that former defensive backs Raymond Clayborn and Ty Law and ex-coach Bill Parcells were named finalists for the team’s Hall of Fame.

Fans can vote on which individual deserves to be the 2014 inductee starting Wednesday and continuing through May 15. The winner will be announced in early June.

Clayborn played for New England from 1977-89 before finishing up with two seasons with the Browns and was named to the Pro Bowl three times (’83, ’85, ’86). A first-round draft pick (16th overall) out of Texas, Clayborn finished his career with 36 interceptions (tied with Law for the team record) and 555 interception return yards (second to Law’s 583). He also returned 57 kickoffs for 1,538 yards and three touchdowns. As a rookie in 1977, he set single-season team records with three kickoff returns for touchdowns and a 31.0-yard return average.

Law played 10 seasons for the Patriots (1995-2004) as part of a 15-year NFL career after being drafted 23rd overall out of Michigan. A four-time Pro Bowler (;98, ’01, ’02, ’03), Law won three Super Bowls in New England. He returned a Kurt Warner pass 47 yards for a touchdown in the Patriots’ first Super Bowl win over the Rams in 2002. He holds franchise records for interceptions (36, tied with Clayborn), interception return yards (583) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (6). He became the first Patriot to lead the league in interceptions when he had nine in 1998.

Parcells coached New England for four seasons and led the team to the playoffs twice, including a run to the Super Bowl in 1997. He was named Coach of the Year for his performance in 1994, when the Patriots won their final second regular-season games to clinch their first playoff berth in eight years. In 1996 the Patriots won a then-franchise-record 11 games and their first division title in a decade. They eat the Steelers and Jaguars to advance to the Super Bowl for the second time in team history before losing to the Packers. Parcells, who is the only coach to lead four franchises (Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys) to the playoffs and three different teams (Giants, Patriots, Jets) to a conference championship game, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Devonta Freeman (AP)

Florida State’s Devonta Freeman surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in 2013, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. (AP)

DEVONTA FREEMAN

Position: Running back

School: Florida State

Height: 5-foot-8

Weight: 206 pounds

Achievements: 2013 first-team All-ACC

What he brings: Freeman is a solid back who doesn’t possess blazing speed or size, but has good balance, solid hands and quick feet that make him dangerous and allow him to change directions quickly. He’s more of an outside runner as he lacks elite strength to run up the middle. Analysts see pass protection and a tendency to run laterally while looking for the big run as his two biggest weaknesses.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 3-4

Notes: In 2013 Freeman ran for 1,016 yards, becoming the first Florida State running back to go over the 1,000 yard mark since 1996, on 173 carries for a 5.9 average, with 14 rushing touchdowns. He added 22 catches for 278 yards and one touchdown. The 22-year-old led the team in rushing attempts all three of his years at Florida State.

Related articles:

Tallahassee Democrat: Freeman’s draft stock on the rise

Tampa Bay Times: FSU’s Freeman displays toughness of top back

Video: Here are Freeman’€™s 2013 highlights with Florida State.

Blog Author: 
Arjuna Ramgopal
Deone Bucannon (AP)

Deone Bucannon (AP)

The Patriots have pre-draft meetings set up with Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz and University of Washington safety Deone Bucannon on Wednesday, according to reports.

Fiedorowicz is a 6-foot-5, 265 pounder who is considered to be a second-round pick. He has a couple of New England connections already: one, Iowa’€™€™s offensive line coach the past two seasons was Brian Ferentz, who spent the previous season as the Patriots tight end coach, working with both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. And two, D.J. Hernandez ‘€“€” the brother of ex-Patriots tight end Aaron — was a graduate assistant with the Hawkeyes last year.

Fiedorowicz had 75 catches the last two seasons at Iowa, including 30 catches for 299 yards and six touchdowns in 2013. He said he spent plenty of time watching Gronkowski while in college.

‘€œ€œI was watching him on film. I always used to watch him in games, but when you see it break down as film it’€™€™s even more impressive,’€€ Fiedorowicz said at the combine. ‘€œHe plays hard every down, every play. He finishes guys. He uses his body in the passing game. He’€™€™s just an impressive guy. It’€™€™s the way he plays the game.’€

News of his visit was first reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

As for Bucannon, he’s a relatively oversized safety in the mold of the Seahawks‘ secondary. Considered a Day 2 pick, the 6-foot-1, 211-pounder is a three-time captain who led the Pac-12 with 109 tackles during the 2013 season, to go along with six interceptions.

For more on Bucannon, our pre-draft capsule on him can be read here. Aaron Wilson of National Football Post first reported the Bucannon news.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The Patriots are one of six teams that have shown the most interest in linebacker Michael Sam throughout the pre-draft process, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.

Sam, the SEC’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year, announced he was gay in February. As a senior at Mizzou in 2013, Sam had 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss while being named a first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC selection. He is expected to be a mid- to late-round selection in next month’s draft.

Michael Sam has reportedly drawn the interest of the Patriots. AP)

Michael Sam has reportedly drawn the interest of the Patriots. AP)

The Patriots are one of six teams that have shown the most interest in linebacker Michael Sam throughout the pre-draft process, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.

Sam, the SEC’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year, announced he was gay in February. As a senior at Mizzou in 2013, Sam had 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss while being named a first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC selection. He is expected to be a mid- to late-round selection in next month’s draft.

Sam has apparently also drawn the interest of the Ravens, Falcons, Colts, Browns and Jets, according to Wilson, quoting a league source.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick issued a statement when Sam made his announcement in February, saying that Sam will be evaluated like any other potential draft prospect.

“We evaluate all the players, including Michael Sam, based on the totality of who they are and who can best contribute to our team and organization, regardless of the matters being discussed today. They all have strengths, they all have weaknesses and no two human beings are identical. Our scouting staff has performed extensive work on Michael, both this season and going back throughout his career. That work will continue through the draft process this spring.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price