Tom Brady and the Patriots have apparently gotten over any sort of early-season issues they've had with playing the Dolphins in Miami. (Getty Images)

Tom Brady and the Patriots have apparently gotten over any sort of early-season issues they’ve had with playing the Dolphins in Miami. (Getty Images)

In the spring, veteran safety Devin McCourty joked about building a “big sauna” at Gillette Stadium to try and replicate the sweaty conditions they’ll face when they head south for the regular season opener Sunday against the Dolphins.

But in truth, the early-season Florida weather doesn’t vex the Patriots like it once did — New England has won its last four early-season meetings in Miami, coming away with victories in September/October games in 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2011.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday on a conference call with the media that he actually prefers playing in South Florida early in the season because it’s easy to prepare, especially coming off some of the occasionally steamy August days in training camp.

“Personally, I would rather play in a warm climate at the beginning of the year than at the end of the year, because at least we’€™ve been practicing in it,” he said.

“We’€™ve had some hot days here at the beginning of the season,” Belichick added. “I think you can get a hot day pretty much anywhere. It really comes back to the conditioning of your team. Whether it’€™s hot or not, it’€™s the same for both teams and the player’€™s conditioning level and his ability to perform at a high level is going to be reflected later in the game based on his physical conditioning.”

It’€™€™s easy to forget now, but not so long ago, the Patriots had serious early-season struggles when faced with the prospect of playing in Miami in August and September. The Dolphins used to be without peer when it came to playing in the South Florida heat early in the season ‘€” from 1994 to 2002 Miami won 16 consecutive home games in August and September.

In that same stretch, several former Patriots confessed to being befuddled about how to beat the warm temps, and admitted that the whole thing got in their heads. (On one occasion, the Patriots tried to tape garbage bags over the air conditioning systems in the locker room for fear of getting too comfortable at halftime.)

It’s never easy in Miami ‘€” the Patriots stumbled late in the 2009 and 2013 seasons against the Dolphins in South Florida ‘€” but it appears as though the Patriots are over any early-season phobias with the Miami heat.

“I don’€™t think this game is going to be decided on the heat or the weather, just like I don’€™t think the ones at the end of the year are decided by the cold,” Belichick said. “It’€™s a little bit of a factor in the game, but we’€™re playing a good football team. If we play well, we’€™ll be competitive and we’€™ll have a chance. If we don’€™t play well, it won’€™t make a difference what the conditions are, we’€™ll be in a lot of trouble. That’€™s where most of the emphasis is going to be this week, and where it should be.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
On this Patriots Monday (on a Tuesday) Chandler Jones talks about getting ready for the Miami Dolphins and his upcoming battle with Brandon Albert. The guys also asked about J.J. Watt's 100 million dollar contract.

The Patriots will be facing a new offensive coordinator on Sunday, as Bill Lazor is in his first season as OC with the Dolphins. Lazor, who served as the quarterbacks coach in Philly last season, figures to bring a slice of the uptempo style that Chip Kelly and the Eagles delivered last season.

So how do you prepare for a new OC when there’s little meaningful film of his schemes as a coordinator at the NFL level? Bill Belichick said Tuesday that the Patriots have already tried to get a sense of the new-look Miami offense by taking a look back at the uptempo Philly offense last year.

“I would say that they look very similar to the way the Eagles look offensively; different than what Miami looked like last year,” Belichick said of the Dolphins. “I’€™d say it’€™s quite substantial.”

Substantial might be an understatement. Measured situation-neutral offensive pace –€” a formula from the site Football Outsiders that eliminates things like two-minute drills and late-game clock-killing situations to get a truer idea of the offense’€™€™s intentions when it comes to offensive pace –€” the 2012 Dolphins were ninth overall at one play every 29.23 seconds, and last year, on average, they ran one play every 30.08 seconds, 14th quickest in the NFL.

That contrasts with the speed of Philly’s offense: under Kelly last year, the Eagles were the fastest team in the league, getting off a play once every 23.88 seconds.

According to defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, when it comes to pregame study, it’s not just going back and look at last year’s film. Lazor has a long history as an assistant, one that includes stints in Washington and Seattle (both as the quarterbacks coach), as well as OC at the University of Virginia. You have to take all of that into account when you are trying to scout the tendencies of a play-caller you’re facing for the first time.

But when it comes to the comparisons between Philadelphia and Miami, there are a few wrinkles, including the fact that Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill — a former wide receiver in college — is “a lot faster” than Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles, according to Belichick. In addition, there are some subtle changes when it comes to scheme and personnel, including a heavier reliance on things like the read-option.

“Instead of running with the quarterback, there’€™s some built-in screens and slip screens to wide receivers and things like that. So, that sort of replaces the quarterback keeping the ball on an option to a degree,” Belichick said of the differences. “I think that anytime you go up against an option offense, you can say, ‘€˜Well, they don’€™t do this or they do that,’€™ but we all know that it’€™s based on the read of the defense. So, if the defense is taking away one thing, it doesn’€™t necessarily mean they won’€™t do it, it just means that the defense is lighter on another part of the play and that’€™s the play that offense has chosen to emphasize or feature based on the look.

“If you get a look that’€™s fairly consistent then a lot of times you see the same play over and over again and say, ‘€˜OK, we’€™re going to stop that play,’€™ but as soon as you go to stop that one, then there are other parts of the option play that they see you have that stopped, they’€™re not even trying to go there.”

In the end, despite the fact that the defensive game plan will change because of Lazor’s influence, the primary goal remains the same — stop the quarterback. When it comes to Tannehill, that means contain him as a runner and maintain gap discipline, regardless of he’s dropping back into the pocket or taking off as a runner.

“He’€™s a dangerous scrambling quarterback if the receivers are covered and the pass rush doesn’€™t have him contained,” Belichick said. “We’€™re very aware of him. He has excellent speed. He can run away from most defensive linemen and linebackers. So keeping leverage and containing him is going to be a big part of us being successful against the Dolphins. We’€™re going to have to do a good job with that. I’€™m sure if he has a chance to keep it, he’€™ll keep it. If we take that away, then he’€™ll do something else. You have to defend everything in option football.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

One player who certainly opened some eyes in the preseason finale was newly-acquired tight end Tim Wright. Acquired two days before the fourth preseason game against the Giants as part of the Logan Mankins trade, he was thrown out there without much seasoning and didn’t look overwhelmed while playing more than 40 snaps with his new team.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday that he was “really impressed” with the work of Wright in his preseason debut with New England, which ended with Wright registering four catches for 43 yards.

“We just got him, and he was able to come in here and learn enough to be able to go out there and play for us in a preseason game for fortysomething some snaps or whatever it was,” McDaniels said of Wright, a Rutgers product who caught 54 passes last season with the Bucs.

“He’€™s working hard [and] certainly a bright kid, and has some talent that hopefully we can utilize,” McDaniels added. “He just seems to fit in good and has a good attitude and work ethic. I’€™m just excited about seeing what we can do going forward. It’€™s very early, and we’€™ve only really had one practice. Hopefully we can build on his start and try to add a little here and there to what he knows of our offensive system and get our guys comfortable working together.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

NBC Sports analyst Rodney Harrison joined Middays with MFB on Tuesday and said he believes Tom Brady can indeed play another 10 years due in part to the more stringent NFL rules.

NBC Sports analyst Rodney Harrison joined Middays with MFB on Tuesday and said he believes Tom Brady can indeed play another 10 years due in part to the more stringent NFL rules. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Brady has stated in the past that he wants to play as long as possible — well into his 40s — and he maintained that approach during his appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning. Harrison, Brady’s former teammate, doesn’t doubt the quarterback.

“Tom Brady is probably talking about him playing until he’s 45, 50 years old because of the rule changes,” Harrison said. “The cornerbacks and the safeties, they can’t hit you when you come across the middle, they can’t jam you at the line of scrimmage. So he should be able to play for another 10 or 15 years because of the rule changes.”

Continued Harrison: “If you watch the preseason, you saw how these officials, if you’re breathing on a guy heavy, they’re throwing a flag. They don’t even give you the benefit of the doubt. They don’t even give you consideration. If you’re close to a guy, if you just stare at him too long, they’re throwing flags all over the place.

“Now, this league was changing because of all the additions of Russell Wilson and [Robert Griffin III] and all these mobile quarterbacks like Andrew Luck. Statues that are in the pocket like Brady and [Peyton] Manning and Joe Flacco, why wouldn’t they play — if they have a good offensive line to protect them, why wouldn’t they play another 10 years? Because once you grab a guy it’s a penalty. So I don’t see why they can’t be productive for another 8-10 years, especially the way Tom takes care of his body.”

After three weeks of frequent flags, the Patriots’ final preseason game was not a foul-fest. However, Harrison said he doesn’t believe that’s a sign that the officials will let up once the regular season gets underway.

“The officials came out and the point of emphasis was the illegal contact and the grabbing and holding of the players. I think they’re going to enforce it,” Harrison said. “I think the first half of the season, I think that’s going to be a point of emphasis. I think they’re going to stick with it. The NFL has already come out and said, ‘Hey, we’re not going to back down. We expect the officials, we’re going to hold them accountable to do the same thing. If it’s a grab, we don’t care how many penalties it is in the first quarter, in the first half, call it.’ So I expect a renewed focus on this and I think it’s something that’s going to continue.”

The stricter rules are being enforced following the Broncos offense’s inability to overcome a physical Sehawks defense in last season’s Super Bowl. A similar thing happened when the Patriots manhandled the Colts last decade. Both times, the losing team’s quarterback was Peyton Manning.

“It can’t be coincidental,” Harrison said. “All of a sudden he’s in Indy and they change it. Then he goes to Denver now and all of a sudden they change it. It’s just one of those things. He’s been a marquee quarterback for a lot of years, and the NFL does not want to see blowouts in the Super Bowl. They want the Super Bowl to be a lot more competitive. And they saw how that defense completely annihilated the Denver Broncos.

“Now, you have to look at tape and [determine] whether that was because they were grabbing, because they were holding, or because of great defense beating great offense. I don’t know what it is, but it was one of those things where I don’t think the Seattle Seahawks should have been punished, or any other team for playing good physical defense.”

Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at

On Rob Gronkowski departing from normal Patriots protocol and revealing to the media Monday from the locker room that he’s ready to go for Sunday’s game: “It’s one of those things, when you enable a player, you give him the type of money they paid him after two or three years of playing, then you give him the power. He’s been able to kind of do whatever he wants to do, and there hasn’t been a lot of backlash or ramifications. So he feels like, hey, he can pretty much get away with anything. But at the same time, I think he’s probably tired of everywhere he goes to the store, everywhere he goes to the mall, people asking him, ‘Hey, are you going to play? What the status?’ Maybe he just called them up and said, ‘Hey, this is my last and final statement about my injury. I want to just make this statement and move past it.’

“But in that situation, being in that locker room, that’s one of the things you just can’t do. It’s really not up to the media. Your job as a player is to get healthy, and when you’re called upon and you have to get on that field and perform, that’s what you’re supposed to do. And that’s one of the things that guys in our locker room have never done. Christian Fauria, he knows about that. We didn’t call attention to ourselves. It wasn’t about us, it was always about the team. So it will be pretty interesting what happens.

“I’ll you this: Coming off an ACL injury before, I know guys will physically go at his knees. He needs to be very careful, because he’s a big, big target coming across that middle. And those smaller safeties and defensive backs, they’re not going to hit him up in the chest, they’re going to be aiming at that knee.”

On which positions on the Patriots are most concerning: “When you look at the offensive line, it’s got to be some questions [about] the depth of the offensive line. Anytime you get rid of a guy like Logan Mankins — and maybe he’s not the same pass protector that he once was, but obviously the best offensive lineman. The inconsistency of Nate Solder and those guys — you have one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and I just don’t understand how you can make yourself a better offensive line by getting rid of the guy that’s been the staple of the offensive line for so many years. But that’s not my decision. That’s part of it, they have to move forward.

“When I look at it, I look at the depth at the wide receiver position. Still a lot of unproven guys. Danny Amendola, he has to prove that he can stay healthy. Some of those young guys, they have to step up. Brandon LaFell, he was brought in here to make a difference, let’s see if he shows up.

“I also think the depth at the linebacker position.”

On the Patriots’ outlook: “It’s one of those things, you look at the quarterback position, and Tom, he’s been absolutely fantastic throughout his career. I think when you surround that with some guys coming back off injuries on the defense, you add a couple of pieces here and there, and I think you would have to put them along with the Denver Broncos as the two favorites in the AFC.

“[Bill] Belichick — we haven’t even talked about Belichick and his ability to coach and get those guys playing. Every year there’s always a couple of guys that kind of stand out and that you don’t really expect great performances from. I think every year you’ll find a guy like that. I look for Devin McCourty to step up and become more a leader. But the addition of Darrelle Revis and [Brandon] Browner when he comes back off his suspension, that’s going to be huge.”

On which team should provide the biggest challenge in the AFC East: “The one team is the Jets. The Jets, with Rex Ryan, he’s not afraid of Bill and Tom. He’s always going to put a good defensive game plan. It comes down, for them, the play of Geno Smith. He has to play well. He has to perform on a consistent basis. He either plays great or he plays terrible. They need to find some type of in between, not so extreme, with Geno. If they can get good, consistent quarterback play — I know they have Michael Vick backing him up, and who knows what happens with that situation. But they’re always going to have a good defense and they’re always going to compete. So if I had to pick one team, it would be the Jets.”

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

Rob Gronkowski pronounced himself ready to play on Monday, but in a conference call with the media Tuesday afternoon, Patriots coach Bill Belichick sounded hesitant when it came to giving a thumbs up on the playing status of the tight en

Rob Gronkowski pronounced himself ready to play on Monday, but in a conference call with the media Tuesday afternoon, Patriots coach Bill Belichick sounded hesitant when it came to giving a thumbs up on the playing status of the tight end.

“I’m glad that Rob’s optimistic about his situation,” Belichick said. “We’ll go through the week of practice and take a look at everything, everybody, and see where everybody’s at and try to do what we feel like is best for the team.

“With all due respect to Rob — I’m glad he feels the way he does — but, in the end, we’ll have to make the decision we feel like is best for the team and we’ll do that as we go through the week.”

Gronkowski said he was “super excited” Monday, and proclaimed himself “good to go.”

“€œJust seeing my teammates grind all week,” he added. “Go back out there with them, get in the huddle, break the huddle with them. It’€™s going to be an honor to be out there with my teammates. Super pumped, super excited and just preparing for the game.

“€œI feel mentally and physically ready, for sure. No doubt about it.”

For more Patriots news, check out

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Julian Edelman joined the show to talk about the departure of Logan Mankins, whether he would be ready to go at QB if necessary (he's not), the Miami Dolphins, and ... fanny packs.

Defensive end Chandler Jones checked in with the Middays with MFB show on Tuesday, as the Patriots start planning for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.