The official release of the 2015 NFL schedule is Tuesday night at 8 p.m., but the first game of the year has gotten out early.

The official release of the 2015 NFL schedule is Tuesday night at 8 p.m., but the first game of the year has gotten out early.

The defending Super Bowl champion Patriots will host the Pittsburgh Steelers in the opening game of the season, Thursday, Sept. 10 at Gillette Stadium. As has been the case for many years, the defending champions open the year on a Thursday night at home and raise the banner from its Super Bowl winning year.

There was much debate as to who the opponent would be with the Eagles, Bills and Jets all being talked about, but ultimately it was Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers coming to Foxboro. Roethlisberger will face Tom Brady for the 16th time, with Brady holding a slight 33-32 touchdown pass lead.

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

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

FOXBORO — The general population learned Tuesday morning of Nate Solder being diagnosed and treated for testicular cancer prior to last season. But, for some of his teammates they knew last year, and were blown away with how he handled it, especially during a Super Bowl winning season.

“I was aware of it, and you know, I have so much respect for Nate Solder and the type of man that he is, the faith in God that he has and the way he carries himself and I can’€™t think of anyone who’€™s handled a situation like that better than he did,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “I don’€™t want to get too much in detail, I’€™ll let him speak on that, but Nate Solder is a great man and the way he handled that last year was really admirable, with so much courage and a positive attitude, a sense of peace, it was really something to behold.”

Devin McCourty, another veteran and team captain, said he knew, but said there were some players on the team who didn’t.

“I don’t know if everyone knew,” he said. “I think some guys knew, but I think that was more for him a personal process. It wasn’t something as a team that everyone talked about, it was more for him. I think as a teammate you’re just blown away by everything he was able to do — getting over that, playing at a high level.

“To me it was highly impressive. Nate is a great guy and he does so many things — on the field, off the field and I think that is another battle that he passed and now he’s going to do great things with it spreading awareness.”

The report Tuesday morning said Solder goes to Mass General every three months for check ups and everything is going according to plan.

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

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

FOXBORO — It was just two years ago that Aaron Hernandez shared the same locker room and was a teammate of many of the current players on the Patriots roster.

They too had emotions when the former tight end was convicted of murder last week.

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was convicted of murder last week. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was convicted of murder last week. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — It was just two years ago that Aaron Hernandez shared the same locker room and was a teammate of many of the current players on the Patriots roster.

They too had emotions when the former tight end was convicted of murder last week.

Special teams captain Matthew Slater said he’s praying for everyone involved, including Hernandez.

“I’€™ll say this: that’€™s a very tragic, sad situation, for so many different people, for so many different reasons,” Slater said. “You know, I just feel like we all should keep everybody involved and affected by that situation in our prayers and our thoughts, that’€™s really all I’€™ll say on that. My heart is broken on so many different levels for that, and I just pray for everyone that’€™s been affected by it.”

Like Slater, McCourty is thinking of both sides — Hernandez’s family, as well as Odin Lloyd’s.

“It was just saddening,” he said. “I think you’re talking about two lives that are gone. I think it’s like everyone else, you look at that whole thing it’s just a saddening event and everything that went on.”

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

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2015 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.

NATE ORCHARD

Position: Defensive end

School: Utah

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 255 pounds

Achievements: 2014 All-American, 2014 All-Pac-12 first team, 2014 Ted Hendricks Award for best defensive end, 2013 All-Pac-12 honorable mention

What he brings: Orchard is considered a quick defensive end who is able to use good footwork to avoid blockers. Scouts believe he is stronger as a pass rusher than against the run, and they would like to see improvement in run defense. Orchard only had one season of strong, consistent production, which concerns some experts, but others believe that he will continue to grow as a player. There are concerns that he lacks the physicality to shed tight ends and bigger backs who come across the line to block him. Many scouts think that if Orchard is able to develop more physically and continue to improve in the run game, he will be very productive in the NFL.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 2-4

Notes: Orchard was selected as a team captain in 2014. He participated in the Senior Bowl and recorded five tackles and two quarterback hits. His 18.5 sacks in 2014 set a school record and tied for the season lead in the FBS. He also tied a Utah record for most sacks in a game with four in October 2014. The 22-year-old did not miss a game through his four years with the Utes.

Related articles:

 ESPN.com: Catching up with Utah DE Nate Orchard

NFL.com: Nate Orchard excelling at Senior Bowl in unfamiliar position

Video: Here’s Orchard recording three tackles and one sack against Colorado State in Utah’s 2014 bowl game.

Blog Author: 
Nik Beimler
Ryan Wendell, Bryan Stork and Dan Connolly were all smiles at several points this season. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Ryan Wendell, Bryan Stork and Dan Connolly were all smiles at several points during the 2014 season. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the majority of free agency completed and the draft looming, we’re going to take a look at the Patriots depth chart by position, and try and assess the level of need going forward. We started with special teams, tight end, wide receiver, running back and quarterback. Now, it’s offensive line:

Current depth chart: Tackle Nate Solder, tackle Sebastian Vollmer, guard/center Ryan Wendell, center Bryan Stork, guard/tackle Marcus Cannon, guard/tackle Jordan Devey, guard Josh Kline, tackle Cameron Fleming, Chris Barker, Caylin Hauptmann.

Lost in free agency: Connolly hasn’t technically been lost in free agency, but he has yet to sign, and remains on the market.

Gained in free agency: None.

Other changes: Other than Connolly’s uncertain status, there’s not much to report as it relates to the state of the Patriots personnel along the offensive line. (Although the fact that Solder’s announcement this week that he was undergoing treatment for testicular cancer in 2014 certainly provides some context for some of his struggles last season.)

Is this an area of need going into the draft? This is a discussion that’s open to some debate. From this viewpoint, if the Patriots end up sticking at No. 32, they’ll take an interior offensive lineman, either FSU’s Cameron Erving or Duke’s Laken Tomlinson for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that New England needs a replacement for Connolly at left guard. However, if the Patriots do decide to let Connolly walk, there’s the possibility they feel secure with either Fleming or Cannon at the vacant guard spot, which might allow them to turn their attention to another position of need early in the draft. Regardless, with ex-offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia such an active presence on the pro day circuit, it would be surprising if New England doesn’t use at least one of its five picks in the top 101 on an offensive lineman.

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 2015 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.

GABE WRIGHT

Position: Defensive tackle

School: Auburn

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 300 pounds

Achievements: 2014 AP All-SEC honorable mention, 2013 AP All-SEC honorable mention

What he brings: Wright has great initial quickness, exploding into his first step and playing “with leverage at contact,” according to NFL.com. He is capable of staying square and battling double-team blocks. Wright also has the ability to “get into gaps and disrupt the run game.” Rob Rang of CBS Sports added that Wright’s quickness can “penetrate gaps and wreak havoc in the backfield.” However, he doesn’t necessarily play with consistent power and “displays inconsistent secondary motor when asked to pursue plays beyond the line of scrimmage,” NFL.com noted, even running himself out of plays sometimes. Wright might not be an individual star at the NFL level, but he could succeed if used in a rotation.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 2-4

Notes: Wright played in all 52 games of his four-year career. In 2014, he had 24 tackles, 4.5 of which were for a loss of 15 total yards, and recorded one sack and 10 quarterback hurries. During Auburn’s 2013 run to the FBS title game, Wright recorded 35 tackles, 8.5 for loss. At the combine Wright ran a 5.07-second 40-yard dash, recorded 34 reps on the bench press (which earned him top-performer status) and ran a 4.56-second 20-yard shuttle.

Related articles:

Press-Register: Gabe Wright transforms body to become Auburn’s most versatile defensive lineman

AL.com: Gabe Wright might be Auburn’s best defensive lineman, but he still has unfinished business

Video: Here’s a video of some of Wright’s snaps against Louisiana Tech in September 2014.

Blog Author: 
Judy Cohen

In an interview with ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, Patriots left tackle Nate Solder revealed he was diagnosed and treated for testicul

In an interview with ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, Patriots left tackle Nate Solder revealed he was diagnosed and treated for testicular cancer prior to the 2014 season. He said he first became suspicious right before his season physical. After the physical he received an ultrasound and three days later he had surgery.

“I knew nothing about it. It was a complete surprise,” Solder said to Reiss. “You Google something like that and it kind of scares you, so I was like, ‘I’m not going to freak out about this.’ Had I not had a routine physical, I probably wouldn’t have checked it, saying, ‘Oh, it’s just in my head, I’m going to be fine.'”

Solder is now out to raise awareness, urging people to get checkups regularly to raise early detection. Solder still goes to Mass General for checkups every three months, and everything has gone as expected so far and there is optimism it will continue to moving forward.

“I was completely healthy, I’m a professional athlete. It can happen to anybody,” Solder said. “Make sure you get yourself checked out, especially young men, because that’s who it’s really targeted toward.”

The left tackle credited his Christian faith and his wife Lexi along with his family with helping him deal with the process.

“The biggest thing is letting people know and giving them the information. And maybe giving people some courage that if they are in a situation like I was, maybe they would go and say something, and that could make a difference,” he said.

“It’s more common than people realize. A lot of people are either afraid to do it, or they don’t think it’s important enough to get it checked. It’s a simple check. Six months, a year, and then it starts spreading and then you start to feel symptoms and it’s a more serious situation. So that’s a big thing; you can save lives with early detection.”

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

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable