Chris Mortensen continues to make headlines when it comes to Deflategate.

Chris Mortensen

Chris Mortensen

Chris Mortensen continues to make headlines when it comes to Deflategate.

The ESPN reporter, who backed out of a planned interview with WEEI earlier this month where he was invited to come on “Dennis & Callahan” to discuss his Deflategate coverage, appeared on 98.7 FM in Arizona on Thursday. Mortensen didn’t back down from his initial report, but said that it was Patriots coach Bill Belichick who implicated Tom Brady. He also said Robert and Jonathan Kraft had reached out to him to apologize “for just the way this thing has gone down.”

Mortensen was asked about his initial Tweet, which seemed to fan the flames back in January.

“Where I get into trouble is the fact that I tweet the two pounds under,” Mortensen said. “We clarified and simply went to significantly under inflated. By the way, it was 11 of 12 footballs. The Princeton professor who was hired to disprove the Ted Wells report agreed on which gauge was used, so even then we’re talking about five balls in the 10 [PSI] range, another five that were in the low 11 range. And not only that, we also know the league itself didn’t even get it right when they sent the notification letter to the Patriots and said that one ball was as low as 10 PSI.

“I will add this, and I’ll let it be,” he added. “[I] never implicated Tom Brady. Never had a source implicate Tom Brady in the original report. And also, didn’t even suggest that the balls were tampered with ….The first person who ever implicated Tom Brady — it was a non-media type and it wasn’t me. It was Bill Belichick.”

Mortensen acknowledged he could have been clearer, ultimately said he will “stand by [his] story” when it comes to the disputed Tweet.

“Two pounds under PSI — listen, if I could have changed the tweet, and I should have changed the tweet, simply to the dialogue I used [in the story], which was 11 footballs — that was my focus — not the PSI, 11 footballs were in fact confirmed to be under inflated. And you can argue whether they were significantly under inflated or not. But I stand by that story.”

He added: “In the meantime, I understand the passion of the fanatical nation that is in New England, and certainly anybody who’s going through this. I’ve had both Krafts — Robert Kraft and Jonathan Kraft — call me and apologize for just the way this thing has gone down.”

However, that last point seems to be in dispute.

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

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Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The tight end experiment of Jake Bequette is over, for now.

Jake Bequette

Jake Bequette

The tight end experiment of Jake Bequette is over, for now.

The 6-foot-5 255-pound defensive end-turned-tight end was placed on injury waivers Thursday by the Patriots. The move, combined with the release of Antonio Johnson, Cameron Gordon and Mark Asper, brings the roster down to 84 players, with the 75-man limit set for Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.

As was the case with Brian Tyms on Tuesday, if no one claims Bequette off waivers by 4 p.m. ET Friday, Bequette can be reclaimed and placed on the team’s injured reserve.

The 26-year-old University of Arkansas product started 42 of 48 games in college from 2007 to 2011, recording 140 tackles and 23.5 sacks. As a senior he was a first team All-SEC selection. Bequette was named the Defensive MVP of the 2012 Cotton Bowl, helping Arkansas defeat Kansas State, 29-16. Bequette finished the game with five tackles and three sacks.

Bequette was selected in the 3rd round by the Patriots in the 2012 NFL Draft. He was released by the team on Aug. 30, 2014 as part of final roster cuts. He re-signed with the team’s practice squad shortly after the 2014 cuts. Bequette earned a Super Bowl ring for the Patriots in 2014, though he spent the entire season on the practice squad.

Before the 2015 season, the Patriots switched Bequette from defensive end to tight end, switching from No. 92 to No. 85. Bequette worked with the tight ends starting in spring OTAs before getting work in during minicamp. His career took a bad turn early in training camp with an undisclosed injury and he was unable to get on the field for the first two preseason games.

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Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — The Patriots made several moves Thursday before leaving for Charlotte and Friday’s preseason game against the Panthers.

Antonio Johnson, seen here recovering a fumble for the Colts in 2010, was cut by the Patriots on Thursday. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Antonio Johnson, seen here recovering a fumble for the Colts in 2010, was cut by the Patriots on Thursday. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — The Patriots made several moves Thursday before leaving for Charlotte and Friday’s preseason game against the Panthers.

The team waived offensive tackle Mark Asper and linebacker Cameron Gordon, a move Gordon’s agent announced earlier in the day. Additionally, the team released veteran defensive tackle Antonio Johnson.

The first roster cut down comes next Tuesday, when NFL rosters must be pared to 75. Final cutdown comes on Sept. 5, when rosters must be trimmed to 53.

Asper, 29, originally entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick (178th overall) by the Buffalo Bills in the 2012 NFL Draft out of Oregon. The 6-foot-6, 321-pounder, was released by Buffalo following training camp in 2012 and was claimed off waivers by Minnesota.

Asper was inactive for the first 14 games of the 2012 season with the Vikings before being released and claimed off waivers by Jacksonville. He played in one game for the Jaguars, mainly on special teams. After being released by Jacksonville on Aug. 25, 2013, he was signed by Buffalo to the practice squad. Buffalo signed him to the 53-man roster on Oct. 13, 2013, and he played in six games for the Bills that season. Asper was released by Buffalo at the end of training camp in 2014 and spent time on the practice squad of the New York Giants, Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins in 2014. He signed with the Patriots on Aug. 6, and appeared in both preseason games as a reserve.

Gordon, 24, originally signed with New England on May 12, 2014, as a rookie free agent out of Michigan. The 6-foot-3, 237-pounder suffered an injury during training camp and spent his entire rookie campaign on injured reserve. He was released by New England on May 18, 2015, and re-signed on Aug. 4. He appeared in both preseason games as a reserve and posted four tackles on defense.

Johnson, 30, is a veteran of six NFL seasons with Indianapolis (2008-2012) and Tennessee (2013). The 6-foot-3, 328-pounder originally entered the NFL as a fifth-round draft pick (152nd overall) by Tennessee out of Mississippi State in the 2007 NFL Draft. Johnson began his rookie season on the Tennessee practice squad before being signed to the Indianapolis 53-man roster.

He re-signed with Tennessee as an unrestricted free agent in the 2014 offseason but was released by the Titans prior to the start of the regular season. Johnson spent last season out of football before signing a future contract with the Patriots on Feb. 6, 2015. He has played in 83 NFL games with 52 starts and has accumulated 143 total tackles, 4½ sacks and three passes defensed.

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Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — As the season opener is now two weeks away, players who have missed portions of training camp and recent practices are starting to return.

Julian Edelman returned to practice on Tuesday and so did tight end Scott Chandler, who has missed significant time with a lower body injury.

“Just trying to get through this training camp grind, taking it a day at a time — get back out there and try to get back in the swing of things,” Chandler said.

Chandler, 30, was signed by the Patriots this offseason after he spent the last five seasons in Buffalo with the Bills. Last year he finished with 47 catches for 497 yards and three touchdowns after catching six touchdowns in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Entering his eighth season in the league, Chandler knows what it takes to get his body ready, so he didn’t label the time missed as a setback.

“I don’t know. We’ll see,” he said. “There are a lot of days ahead of us, and we have to go out there and take it one rep at a time and one day at a time.”

With the addition of Chandler, the Patriots will now have one of the better tight end tandems in the league with Rob Gronkowski and Chandler, especially in the red zone when teams focus on Gronkowski. This will free up the 6-foot-7 Chandler to make a few plays against smaller defenders.

Chandler has seen a different side of Gronkowski since joining the Patriots this spring.

“You don’t get to see the kind of work that guys put in day-in and day-out,” he said. “That’s kind of the whole scheme here, guys come to work every day and Rob’s no exception.”

With the Patriots’ third preseason game Friday and final preseason game a week from Thursday, Chandler was asked if he expects to play in any of those games in preparation for the Sept. 10 opener against the Steelers.

“I think something that you’€™ve learned is that you’€™ve got to control what you can control,”€ Chandler said. “Don’€™t let something that you can’€™t do affect what you can do.”

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Ryan Hannable
Tom Brady and the Patriots have played some eventful preseason games the last dozen years or so.  (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and the Patriots have played some eventful preseason games the last dozen years or so. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

In addition to the fact that the regulars usually play deep into the contest, as of late, the third preseason game of the year for the Patriots has almost always been … interesting. Here are a few stories involving New England and its third preseason game of the summer over the last dozen or so years.

2004: The Patriots faced the Panthers in a rematch of a bitterly contested Super Bowl XXXVIII. New England is looking at it like, well, a third preseason game. Meanwhile, Carolina is viewing the matchup a little differently — namely, a chance for revenge for its loss to the Patriots the previous February.

“It’s going to be Super Bowl 2, Round 2,” said Carolina safety Mike Minter. “We’re going to be jacked. I can tell you that right now.”

“If you think this is just a preseason game, you’re mistaken,” added Carolina defensive lineman Brentson Buckner. “It’s going to be a war.”

In the end, the Panthers eked out a 20-17 win over the Patriots. The finale produced very different reactions.

“As much as you want to downgrade it, and say that it was preseason, they were still the guys who beat us in the Super Bowl,” said Carolina quarterback Rodney Peete, “So it feels pretty good to beat them.”

“That meant nothing to us,” Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest said of the Super Bowl rematch. “We don’t really care. We won the Super Bowl. That’s over. There’s nothing to talk about.”

The Patriots would go on to win Super Bowl XXXIX. The Panthers would finish 7-9.

2007: Another third preseason contest against the Panthers, but this one was precluded by far less trash talk. Tom Brady missed a couple of days of practice leading up to the contest because he was in Los Angeles for the birth of his son, but the quarterback stepped off the plane and was impressive against Carolina, leading New England to a touchdown on an 80-yard, 18-play first quarter drive that consumed 9:43. He finished 17-of-22 for 167 yards and two touchdowns.

2009: Another Brady story. This time, the Patriots were in Washington for their third preseason game of the summer against the Redskins, and Albert Haynesworth drove Brady to the turf on the final play of the first half. While Brady wasn’t technically removed from the game, he didn’t play at all after the hit. He ended up playing 29 snaps and going 12-for-19 for 150 yards with two touchdowns, no picks, one sack and a QB rating of 122.7. Coming off a knee injury that forced him to spend almost all of 2008 on the shelf, the fact that Haynesworth collapsed on him like a ton of bricks that night surely didn’t help him physically for the rest of the season.

2010: Two reasons this third preseason game stands out. One, it was probably Brady’s best preseason performance of his career. Against a young and occasionally overwhelmed St. Louis defense, he took 30 snaps and finished 18-for-22 for 273 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He was lifted with 12:30 left in the fourth quarter — the deepest he’s gone as of late — but that game plan was likely altered by the fact that the Rams went on a 15-play, 76-yard drive that consumed a whopping 9:19 at the start of the second half. And two, it was the preseason coming out party for then-rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had three catches for 66 yards, two of which went for touchdowns. (One of his scores produced this memorable sequence where he dragged St. Louis linebacker James Laurinaitis into the end zone.)

2013: The Patriots have always struggled with the Lions in the preseason — Brady’s worst third preseason game of his career came in 2011 when he was hit seven times and sacked twice in a loss to Detroit — and 2013 was no different. Brady performed better that night against the Lions (16-for-24, 185 yards) than he had in the past, but was still knocked around by a Detroit defense that was feeling pretty good during the game, so much so that Lions defensive lineman Willie Young took the chance to wag a finger in the face of the two-time MVP. For the record, the Patriots finished 12-4 and reached the AFC title game. The Lions ended up 7-9 and out of the playoffs.

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Christopher Price

According to his agent Brett Tessler, the Patriots have released linebacker Cameron Gordon.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder signed with the Patriots in May 2014 after going undrafted, but was placed on injured reserve prior to the start of the season. He was released this past May and then re-signed earlier this month. The 24-year-old played his college football and Michigan, and played linebacker and defensive end for the Wolverines. He had five sacks and 40 tackles as a senior.

The Patriots’ current roster stands at 87 players.

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

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Bill Belichick speaks Wednesday at Gillette Stadium before practice. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Bill Belichick speaks Wednesday at Gillette Stadium before practice. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — There isn’t a lot of free time in NFL front offices at this time of year.

NFL coaches are busy evaluating players they have on the roster. NFL general managers and player personnel executives are busy evaluating players not on their roster.

Between getting his team ready and staying in touch with Nick Caserio, Director of Player Personnel, Bill Belichick doesn’t have a lot of time to socialize. But as he is fond of saying, he’s been doing this for 41 years, so he pretty much knows what to expect in the two weeks leading up to the season-opener.

“I think Nick and our personnel department, that goes on a lot at this time of year, more than any other time of year as we head into the 75 cut and then next week into the 53 cut,” Belichick said of the Sept. 1 and Sept. 5 cutdowns. “I’€™d say probably these two weeks are the highest volume of those. I personally don’€™t sit in on all those calls, but Nick and I talk about that on a regular basis of what kind of opportunities there are, what’€™s going on, getting a general sense of where things are on different teams that might affect us one way or another.”

Just in the last two weeks, the Patriots have added (via trades) an offensive lineman from the Bears (Ryan Groy), a tight end from the 49ers (Asante Cleveland) and a tight end/offensive tackle from the Lions (Michael Williams). This doesn’t include the long list of additions and subtractions through player signings and releases.

“Transactions, they’€™re every day,” Belichick said. “They’€™ll be here today, they’€™ll be here tomorrow, they’€™ll be here for the next two weeks.”

This is timeline Belichick and Caserio must work under in the next two weeks:

  • Sept. 1: Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must reduce their rosters to a maximum of 75 players on the active list. Sept. 3: Final preseason games.
  • Sept. 5: Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must reduce rosters to a maximum of 53 players on the Active/Inactive List.
  • Sept. 5: Simultaneously with the cut-down to 53, clubs that have players in the categories of Active/Physically Unable to Perform or Active/Non-Football Injury or Illness must select one of the following options: place player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness, whichever is applicable; request waivers; terminate contract; trade contract; or continue to count the player on the Active List.
  • Sept. 6: Claiming period for players placed on waivers at the final roster reduction will expire at 12 p.m. ET.Upon receipt of the personnel notice at approximately 1 p.m. ET, clubs may establish a practice squad of 10 players. No club, including the player’s prior club, will be permitted to sign a player to a practice player contract until all clubs have received simultaneous notification via the above personnel notice that such player’s prior NFL player contract has been terminated via the waiver system. After 4 p.m. ET, a club is permitted to place a player on Reserve/Injured as “Designated for Return.”

How different is the offseason and preseason now compared to 1975 or 1985?

“When I was with the Giants, we’€™d probably have over 50 practices prior to the first regular season game. Now we have probably less than half of that,” Belichick said. “The other teams have the same number we have. The other teams had 50-some back then. There were 52, 53, 54, 55 ‘€“ whatever it was ‘€“ 50-some practices prior to the first regular season game. That’€™s different than having 20.

“Everything has changed. It’€™s a totally different format. Just do the best you can with whatever [it is]. [There were] six preseason games my first couple years in the league. It’€™s evolved into what it is now, so whatever it is it is. This is the hand we’€™re dealt, so we’€™ll play it, just like everybody else.”

Something else Belichick would like to see change in the next two weeks: a fast start from his team against Carolina and the Giants.

“We weren’€™t very good on either side of the ball or in the kicking game,” Belichick said of the Saints’ game. “Bad coaching, bad playing ‘€“ put it all down. It wasn’€™t very good.”

DraftKings Kick off this football season with the biggest fantasy football contest ever on DraftKings! Prizes worth $10 million are up for grabs, including $2 million for first AND $1 million for second! PLAY IN THE WEEK 1 MILLIONAIRE MAKER, CLICK HERE.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia