The Patriots are among the NFL teams showing interest in undrafted offensive lineman La’el Collins, according to Nick Underhill and Ross Dellenger of The New Orleans Advocate.

The Patriots are among the NFL teams showing interest in undrafted offensive lineman La’el Collins, according to Nick Underhill and Ross Dellenger of The New Orleans Advocate.

Considered to be a first-round talent, Collins went undrafted after he was questioned in the wake of the death of a pregnant woman who might have been involved in a relationship with the LSU offensive tackle. Collins is reportedly not a suspect in the death at this time.

According to the report, the Bills and Dolphins also have contacted Collins.

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Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The Patriots announced Tuesday the have released cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, long snapper Tyler Ott and linebacker Deontae Skinner. Here’s a portion of the statement from the team on the moves.

Jabaal Sheard speaks Tuesday with reporters at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Jabaal Sheard speaks Tuesday with reporters at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Rookies aren’t the only new players who notice a big change when they come to Foxboro.

After playing the last four seasons in Cleveland, hybrid defensive end Jabaal Sheard learned that right away after signing as a free agent with the Patriots in March.

Belichick wrapped up Saturday’s press conference by telling reporters that each rookie better be ready to jump on board right away or risk getting left in the dust when the train picks up steam. Same goes for free agent newbies.

“You get that feeling as soon as you walk in the building,” Sheard said Tuesday at Gillette Stadium. “You’re here to work. It’s definitely work first, hard hat on, and I learned that the first day, from the first team meeting on, you kind of get that feel of being in the weight room. You’ve got to lift on your own. They give you a card, go follow it, what you choose to do, what you choose not to do is on you. You’re responsible. You become what you put in. They showed me that early, as soon as I got here the first week.”

Sheard, who will wear No. 93 with the Patriots, said he has nothing but respect for the Belichick system.

“Just come here and just work. Every coach is different. Just give him respect and let’s get to work,” Sheard said.

Sheard said that may be intimidating to some in the NFL but not him.

“I guess because he’ll call you out on what you do wrong but that’s part of wearing a hard had and hard shell,” Sheard said of his new head coach. “That’s part of football. If you can’t take any criticism, I don’t know how you can get any better.”

Sheard played college ball at Pittsburgh and was selected with the 37th overall pick in the second round of the 2011 draft by the Browns. The Patriots could’ve taken Sheard in that draft but instead chose cornerback Ras-I Dowling. Sheard went to the Browns four picks after Dowling at No. 37 overall.

“I actually did visit here coming out of the draft,” Sheard recalled. “I thought I was going to end up here at first. I think I came and visited a week before the draft. Coach Belichick and met with a couple of the coaches and here I am.

“I think I developed a lot. I learned a lot of different systems. Being in Cleveland [four] years, we went through three different defensive coordinators, three different systems, three different head coaches. I got to grow a lot and understand more what the league is about and what they expect out of you and how to be a professional in this league.”

The Patriots are getting a prototype Belichick front seven player in Sheard, someone who can play up or down and inside or outside.

“Obviously, I came into the league playing a 4-3, which is [playing with] my hand in the dirt,” Sheard said. “Through the course of the years, I learned a lot. I learned three different defenses, I learned how to drop back. It made me diverse and [made me] able to do a lot of different things. So, I think three different coordinators definitely helped me. I mean it prepared me to be a coach maybe one day. We’ll see how that goes.

“I’m just excited to be here. Coach Belichick is a smart guy. Obviously, they’re going to put us in the right situation to get the job done. He’s been there before. I’m just here to get the job done and do what I can to help the team, basically.”

Part of his acclimation in New England has been hanging out with new teammates and other teammates new to New England, like linebacker Jonathan Freeny. Sheard and Freeny both attended a Celtics playoff game against the Cavaliers recently and had a blast.

“Honestly, you may hate me a little bit. I’m a Heat fan,” Sheard admitted. “But I was there for the support of the game, support Boston. Obviously, being here. Everyone is a fan of LeBron and watching him play. So, I was just there to enjoy the game and get out and see the city and support Boston a little bit.”

“Freeny was there. Everybody else was still at the White House. I didn’t get to go there.”

Sheard is now joining a front seven that already features Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich.

“We just started installing the playbook so we’re just getting a little bit into the plays. Just what they want from you on the field as far as technique, as far as certain [techniques] on how to get off blocks, other small techniques that can help you later on throughout football, throughout camp,” Sheard said.

“Those little things that kick in right now, obviously when we’re allowed to get more physical and everything else kicks in, everything else will come in. Honestly, I’m excited, watching those guys on film for years. Chan was in the Big East. A younger guy but could always rush. I’ve been watching him play throughout the years. I’ve been a fan of his, just watching him rush. Same for Ninkovich. Chan, I’ve been watching him for a while. I just think we’re all going to work together, all three of us are going to work together to get the job done. It’s going to be exciting.”

In his rookie season, he started all 16 games for the Browns and led the team in sacks (8.5) and forced fumbles (5). Sheard and teammate Phil Taylor were chosen to the Pro Football Weekly 2011 All-Rookie Team.

In Week 2, Sheard recorded his first career sack and forced fumble against the Colts and recorded a career-high two sacks against the Cardinals in Week 15.

In 2012, Sheard started all 16 games for the Browns, recording seven sacks and 36 tackles. In 2013, Sheard was limited by injury but still started 13 games, recording 5.5 sacks and 19 tackles.

Sheard improved in 2014 under a new coaching staff led by head coach Mike Pettine. Last season, he started all 16 games and ended the year with 44 combined tackles (25 solo, 19 assisted) and two sacks.

Sheard hit the free agent market and the Patriots didn’t miss again. They remembered interviewing him in 2011 before the draft and looked at his film and his production, and decided to sign him to a two-year, $11 million contract on March, 11.

“It’s been fun. It’s been exciting,” Sheard said. “It’s been hard learning my way around the building but other than that, the city’s been great. I got go out and see the city a little bit, experience a [Celtics] playoff game against Cleveland and my teammates have been showing me around, showing me a good time.

“You kind of got your individual standards. Coaches, I think they relay more information to you of what they expect. Guys are just working hard, pushing one another.”

Here’s more from Sheard Tuesday:

On joining Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich:

“Outside linebacker group, Rob, Chan, and Eric Martin, who was with me in Cleveland. A couple of guys you see around the league that have bounced around. Familiar faces always make you feel a little bit more comfortable.”

On stability:

“It’s definitely good. You get to see familiar faces. You get to [develop] more of a family atmosphere. All the guys are kind of familiar with each other, coaches. It’s kind of like a family thing. Guys are pretty close and I think that helps out a lot.”

On Super Bowl and thinking about Patriots:

“Nah. I just watched it and enjoyed it as a fan, a fan of football. It was just exciting to watch. A very good game and came down to the very last second and that made it even better.”

On knowing if he was signing with Patriots:

“I had no idea. I was just coming into free agency, not knowing what was going to happen.”

On other teammates:

“It’s been cool, man. Everybody is like a family around here. They accept you in right away. It’s just been cool, showing you the city. It’s definitely a different city compared to Cleveland. There wasn’t a lot going on until LeBron came back. It was what it was. But here, there’s definitely a lot of life going on, people downtown enjoying the city.

“Just here in Foxboro alone, come out here by the strip mall, get some good weather [Monday], it’s been OK. Just get better as a player. Get close with my teammates and figure out the system and learn as much as I can throughout this offseason.”

Depth here with rookie draft picks:

“Huge. Coming into the season, you have injuries, you have guys fatigue. A lot of different things happen where guys have to step up and play. It’s important to have those guys there ready to play and ready to step up and make plays.”

On Matt Patricia:

“Definitely a great coach. I met him when I came here my rookie year. Great coach, very down to earth and speak to him anytime. He’s ready to work. He’s like another guy bring your hard hat. I think he’s very personable, though.”

On different coordinators in Cleveland:

“It gives me a lot of confidence. It’s kind of what we did a little bit last year, game planning week by week. That forces you to learn the whole defense and makes you a lot smarter and I think that’s part of the reason they brought me here.”

On wearing No. 93:

“That’s cool. A number is a number. Change it up. Different system. It’ll be exciting to start with a new number and a whole new lifestyle. I’ve been No. 97 since college and in high school I was [No.] 90.”

On pressure of winning:

“Every city you go to, even though I was in Ohio, we lost but the pressure was on us to win. Honestly, we went into every year thinking this could be our year. I think in football in general, I wouldn’t be on that team, playing for that team, if I didn’t think we had a chance to win. I want to win. Every player competes to win. Obviously, there’s going to be pressure to win every year. But that’s what we build for. That’s why we work so hard in the offseason.”

On the hope of actually going to White House as champion:

“Hopefully. That’s the big dream. That’s a big step so hopefully.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Alfonzo Dennard

Alfonzo Dennard

The Patriots announced Tuesday the have released cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, long snapper Tyler Ott and linebacker Deontae Skinner. Here’s a portion of the statement from the team on the moves.

Dennard, 25, joined the Patriots as a seventh-round draft pick (224th overall) out of Nebraska in 2012. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder, has played in 29 games with 20 starts over his three seasons with the Patriots and accumulated 92 total tackles, five interceptions for 95 yards with one pick returned for a touchdown and 17 passes defensed. He also started in four postseason games, posting 10 total tackles, two interceptions and one forced fumble. Last season, Dennard was limited to six games with four starts and finished with 15 total tackles and one interception. He was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 27 and missed the postseason. 

Ott, 23, originally signed with the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Harvard on May 16, 2014, and was released on Aug. 18. The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder, re-signed with the Patriots on March 6, 2015. Ott handled long snapping duties and saw action at tight end during his college career, finishing with 16 receptions for 194 yards and four touchdowns.

Skinner, 24, was originally signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Mississippi State on May 12, 2014. The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder, was released by the Patriots on Aug. 26 and signed to the practice squad on Sept. 1. He was signed to the 53-man roster from the practice squad on Sept. 13 and played in seven games with one start, accumulating 10 total tackles and three special teams tackles. He was released on Oct. 29 and signed back to the practice squad on Oct. 31. Skinner was released from the practice squad again on Nov. 26 before being re-signed to the practice squad on Dec. 3. 

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

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO — Nate Solder has a fresh look on football, and life.

The Patriots 2015 preseason schedule was finalized Tuesday. Here are the dates and times for the games this summer:

Aug. 13 vs. Green Bay 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 22 at New Orleans, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 28 at Carolina, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 3 vs. New York Giants, 7:30 p.m.

The Patriots 2015 preseason schedule was finalized Tuesday. Here are the dates and times for the games this summer:

Aug. 13 vs. Green Bay 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 22 at New Orleans, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 28 at Carolina, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 3 vs. New York Giants, 7:30 p.m.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Nate Solder smiles Tuesday after talking about his win over testicular cancer. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Nate Solder smiles Tuesday after talking about his win over testicular cancer. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Nate Solder has a fresh look on football, and life.

The Patriots starting left tackle has had a couple of life-changing victories over the past 12 months. But truth be told his Super Bowl win over the Seahawks in Glendale pales to his defeat of testicular cancer. On Tuesday, taking a break from offseason workouts, the 27-year-old Solder spoke about both in detail and what he’s learned from both.

In the spring of 2014, Solder was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Just months later, it was gone after surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, a treatment that didn’t require chemo.

“Those guys were fantastic, and they’€™re not the kind of guys that I even need to name ‘€“ they know who they are and they’€™ve done a wonderful job,” Solder said. “All the staff at Mass General has been fantastic and wonderful. Highly professional.”

He was able to return to the team and play a full season with the Patriots, protecting Tom Brady‘s blind side.

The lesson?

“I think it’€™s just early detection,” Solder said. “The sooner you detect it, the sooner you get to a doctor, the less of a problem it can be, the quicker you’€™re going to be healed.

With the great care of the doctors and everybody that took care of me it was a couple of weeks, I was cured, I was healed and just moving forward. Be vigilant. Check yourself. If you’€™re feeling anything, the best solution is to go tell a doctor.”

Solder acknowledged that he had the benefit of having an annual thorough physical with the Patriots played a key role.

“I think the fact that I had the physical here, the fact that I had a lot of people looking after my health is probably something that a lot of men don’€™t have at my age, so I think that made a difference,” Solder said. “The comments you see on the articles, it’€™s changed some people’€™s minds on the issue and I think a lot of people have come out and said they’€™ve gone through similar things.

“Tons of support from all my teammates, which I’€™d expect nothing less ‘€“ those guys are awesome.”

Solder also said his faith has been strengthened after the experience.

“I think it definitely grew my faith with God,” he said. “I had this great transformation, great hope, great peace about the whole deal, and it really was my relationship with Jesus Christ. I don’€™t know if I can deal with anything, but you do the best you can. The great thing too is you can spend more time with the ones you love, focus more on the people that matter the most. I think that was the message I really came away with.

“It changes your perspective a little bit.”

Now his wife is expecting, with a due date sometime in the summer before the regular season begins.

“I guess it wasn’€™t a surprise because we didn’€™t know when it was going to happen, but we were trying to make it happen,” Solder said.

Solder emphasized Tuesday that his focus is back totally on football as he plays his fifth season in New England, the final year of his contract, paying him $7.4 million.

“I would love to stay, and God will provide other than that,” Solder said. “Who knows what will happen. My approach with that too is just to do the best that I can while I’€™m here. You have to [live in the present] there’€™s too many unknowns.

What’s on Solder’s mind is the focus needed to repeat. What will that be like?

“I don’€™t know what I don’€™t know, but I do know we’€™re going to take it one game at a time, and we’€™re going to do the best that we can just to give ourselves a chance to win another game,” Solder said. “I do the best that I can to do everything I need to do to be the best player that I can, and I think everyone is watching everyone else, and when you’€™re doing that, you do take on a leadership role.

“We’€™ve got a lot more to go. I’€™m the one that’€™s always looking forward, because there’€™s big things to come.

Other takeaways from Solder on Tuesday:

Did cancer impact your season at all?:

Who knows? Probably, but I don’€™t know.

Looking back on his performance from last year:

Well, I always feel like I need to improve, and I think I do need to improve. There’€™s a lot of areas ‘€“ pass protection, run protection, things that I’€™d like to be a lot better at.

On all the D-line moves in AFC East:

Oh, it’€™s exciting. And that’€™s why we play; that’€™s the fun of it. You play against some great defensive lines, some great players, and it’€™s a big challenge every week.

Pats moves to bolster OL:

Well, and you also want to be on the best team you can be on, so the more good players they can bring in, the better. We’€™re always competing for a job, we’€™re always trying to get better and be part of that.

Advice for OL rookies?:

Well’€¦you know what, I’€™ll save the advice. They have a lot to learn, that’€™s for sure.

When you first got diagnosis did you think season was at risk

That was a thought, that’€™s a natural thought, I think. The doctors quickly assured me with this treatment that they were doing, I would be just fine.

On White house visit:

That was really neat.

On the rookies and what they don’€™t know:

I knew some things, I didn’€™t know a lot of things though. You don’€™t know what you’€™re going to learn, that’€™s for sure.

On keeping up with the playbook:

Well they put new stuff in there, so you’€™re always learning. And we’€™re all really on the same page because we’€™re all held to the same standard of how we need to know this information. I’€™ve done it a little bit more, so sometimes that can help me, but it an also hurt if they’€™re changing some things, so I just study as best I can and know the best I can.

Workouts any different?

Well we’€™re working hard. My approach to the offseason is to get as strong and as fast as I can, and that’€™s always the same.

What’€™s it like to walk around as SB champ

I genuinely don’€™t think I’€™m a person that lives in the past, and I think there’€™s so many more tremendous things to come that that’€™s just one of them.

Have a sense that there’€™s a deepened resolve to repeat SB

You’€™ve got a lot of guys that have a lot of resolve, you’€™ve got a lot of guys that have a lot of drive, and that’€™s the team that I’€™m a part of, and I’€™m really proud to be part of that group.

On offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo:

I think we’€™re ahead in some areas, I think knowing the way he thinks, knowing the way he’€™s going to coach things gives us a little bit of an advantage to last year at this time. But I don’€™t take anything for granted, we learn everything from the base up, we take it back from the beginning. That’€™s kind of where we’€™re at.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Logan Ryan is one member of the secondary who will be asked to step up in 2015. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Logan Ryan is one member of the secondary who will be asked to step up in 2015. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

This offseason for the Patriots, no position has undergone more upheaval than cornerback. New England has seen Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner depart as free agents, and it has added veteran free agents like Bradley Fletcher, Robert McClain and Chimdi Chekwa.

More change took place on Tuesday, as the Patriots are expected to cut loose Alfonzo Dennard. A seventh-round pick out of Nebraska because of character issues — he was reportedly involved in a fight with a police officer shortly before the 2012 draft. The 5-foot-10, 204-pounder had plenty of positive moments over his first year-plus in New England, starting 16 games in his first two seasons with the club and coming away with four picks and 19 passed defensed in that time.

But he fell off the radar screen toward the end of the 2013 season. Part of it was due to injury issues, as a nagging shoulder problem continued to persist. In addition, he was pushed down the depth chart prior to the 2014 season when the Patriots picked up Revis and Browner in free agency. After a year where he barely saw the field — Pro Football Focus had him for just 241 snaps in 2014 — he was reportedly cut loose on Tuesday.

So where does that leave the New England cornerback situation? Here’s a quick look at the position at this point in the offseason:

Malcolm Butler: While he doesn’t figure to be a starter right out of the gate, the Super Bowl hero will likely play a greater role in 2015 than he did as a rookie last year.

Logan Ryan: Like Butler, it figures to be a big year for the Rutgers product, who will likely be asked to step into a full-time starters’ role for the first time in his professional career. He’s already spent a sizable amount of the offseason working with Will Sullivan, who thinks Ryan could be on the verge of a breakout year.

Kyle Arrington: The slot corner figures to be back in that capacity as the 2015 starter in New England’s base defense.

Bradley Fletcher: Fletcher and Robert McClain are the two newcomers who the Patriots are looking toward for contributions this season. The 6-foot, 200-pound Fletcher, who was a lightning rod in Philly last season, was released by the Eagles and picked up by New England this offseason. The 28-year-old has spent six years in the NFL, and has eight picks and 58 passes defensed.

Robert McClain: The 5-foot-9, 195-pounder is going into his sixth season in the NFL, and has three picks and 21 passes defensed. The former seventh-round pick of the Panthers has had an up-and-down career — he was a key part of an Atlanta secondary that helped the Falcons get all the way to the 2012 NFC title game. But has been relatively uneven since then, although that could have been a part of some overall roster dysfunction in Atlanta.

Chimdi Chekwa: The former Raider inked a new deal with the Patriots this offseason. The 6-foot, 190-pounder out of Ohio State was likely added as a depth signing at corner — his real strength appears to be special teams.

Darryl Roberts, Jimmy Jean: We’ll lump the two rookies in together, at least for now. Roberts was a seventh-round pick who put up eye-popping numbers at Marshall’s pro day, including an impressive 3-cone time. Meanwhile, Jean is a bigger corner who might end up making the switch to safety at the NFL level.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price