Gregg Doyel

Gregg Doyel

CBSSports.com national columnist Gregg Doyel checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning to discuss the NFL concussion issue, specifically related to Broncos receiver Wes Welker. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Welker suffered his third diagnosed concussion in 10 months when he was drilled in the head during his team’s preseason game against the Texans on Saturday.

“I’m not a big believer in telling adults what they can and can’t do, ideally — ideally — so I don’t think the NFL ought to be telling Welker, so I don’t think that should happen,” Doyel said. “But I do think two things about this. One is, I’m disturbed when coaches talk about, ‘We’ll follow protocol and see what happens next.’ ‘€¦ That’s a human being you’re talking about. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter what the damn protocol says. How about you not play that guy?”

Added Doyel: “The NFL shouldn’t be telling anybody who can and can’t play, but if 32 individual teams, starting with the Broncos, all made the same compassionate choice that, ‘Wes Welker, you can play in the league if you want, but I can’t be the reason you’re playing. I’m not going to pay you a paycheck to go out and get hit in the head again.’ And if all 32 teams — don’t call it collusion, but just if all of them come to the same conclusion that, ‘We like you too much to see you die under our watch,’ and he never plays again, I think that would be fabulous.”

Doyel said he does not have faith in the teams’ medical staffs.

“Historically, there have been issues with team doctors. Historically. Not every one of them, obviously. But enough of them,” he said. “All it takes is a couple. Look, if one cockroach walks across your plate of food, you don’t want to eat that food. It didn’t take a lot of cockroaches, it just took one. Well, there’s been a handful of doctors over the years — and a big handful — that have played players because their team needed them, and cleared them because their team needed them. There’s only so much faith I can put in a guy when he’s talking about an asset. And Wes Welker is an asset.

“And Wes Welker thinks he can play and wants to play — this is hypothetical — but Wes Welker thinks he can play and wants to play, is convinced he ought to play, the guy makes X number of dollars in the salary cap, it’s too late to get a replacement, ‘OK, looks like the protocol’s been followed, go back and get back on the field.’

“At some point — again, we’re talking pie in the sky here, I am, but so are you to assume that, well, if they clear him, then obviously he’s OK. Says who?”

Current NFL protocol calls for a doctor not affiliated with the team and approved by the league and the players association to clear the player after the team doctor gives his OK.

“I like that. I do like that,” Doyel said. “Still, people are people. People are weak. We know what we know about concussions. We know what we know about Wes Welker specifically and just in general about any player that’s going through this. We know what we know, and we know that you can’t afford another one. Maybe you can. It’s a lottery, but it’s a weighted — very, very weighted lottery against you. Every one you suffer increases the odds of when you’re 50 you’re eating oatmeal with a straw. We know that.

“Look, it’s one of those things, it’s just a matter of what do you want to believe, and what do you want to go to sleep at night feeling good about. Do you want to go to sleep at night feeling good that, well, someone said Wes Welker could play. Just like someone said Austin Collie could play. Then OK, I’m going to go to bed feeling good about that. And when the game comes on tomorrow and Welker’s on, going over the middle, I’m not going to cringe at all. No, I’m going to cringe. I’m going to cringe. And I don’t want to cringe.

“I cringe when anybody gets hit now, but there’s certain guys, and Austin Collie’s at that level for me, and Welker is now there, too, where I really, if you’re playing on TV, I kind of am not sure I can watch when your team’s on offense. And I’m not trying to be overreactionary or a softie or whatever. But I just mean that. If the Broncos are playing, as much as I like Peyton Manning, I’m not sure I want to watch.”

Doyel said he’s not sure how football can fix this problem.

“There is no solution,” Doyel said. “These guys are too big, fast, strong. And more to the point — the game is hopefully getting away from that a little bit — but the game for the last 15 years has idealized kill shots. You’ve got guys going in high because they want to look all tough to their boys back home.”

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

There’€™s no need to debate who the most important member of the Patriots is — quarterback Tom Brady has been the single most integral part of New England’€™s football success on a week-in, week-out basis for the last decade-plus. But who makes up the rest of the nucleus? With the 2014 regular season looming, here are the five most important Patriots not named Brady — in no particular order:

Wide receiver Julian Edelman — Edelman has emerged as Brady’€™s go-to target of choice over the last year-plus. The former college quarterback topped the 100-catch mark last season, becoming just the third pass-catcher of the Brady Era to come away with at least 100 catches in a season (Troy Brown and Wes Welker were the other two.) Over the course of the summer, he displayed an almost creepy level of chemistry with the quarterback — the two were in sync over the course of the summer. In two preseason games, Edelman has showed that regardless of what happens with Rob Gronkowski‘€™s health in 2014, he will be one of the fundamental elements of the New England passing game — in two preseason games this summer, Brady has targeted Edelman 10 times, and the receiver has caught all 10 passes.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski — Gronkowski is the difference-maker, the sort of offensive option who can help New England get to its ultimately goal. The only question is his health — the big tight end played in his first 46 straight games in the NFL, but since his forearm snapped blocking on an extra point against the Colts in 2012, he’€™s only played in nine of a possible 26 games. It’€™s important to note that the Patriots looked like they learned to survive without him down the stretch and into the postseason last year: according to Football Outsiders, the Patriots averaged 32 points per game and 5.94 yards per play with him from Weeks 7 through 14 with him. Without Gronkowski (from Week 15 through the end of their postseason run), New England averaged 30.8 points per game and 5.82 yards per play. It was a dropoff, but not the dramatic dip that some may have anticipated. At the same time, the real struggles in other areas (red zone presence, blocking) have created an environment where it’€™s simply not sustainable to think the Patriots could hope to win a Super Bowl without him.

Cornerback Darrelle Revis — Revis has only been a part of the New England roster for a few months, but he already figures to be a vital part of any success the Patriots have in 2014. Even for a future Hall of Famer, it can be an occasionally dicey proposition joining a new team, but he’€™s managed to fit in seamlessly. As a new face, he has managed to walk a fine line between being deferential to the established veterans who were already on the roster, but at the same time, he’€™s managed to carve out a leadership position of his own. He was the guy who led a group of defensive backs out to Arizona for offseason workouts with his trainer, and the younger defensive backs (including Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon) have confessed to picking his brain on more than one occasion. He hasn’€™t played a ton in the preseason (we had him at 36 snaps — with penalties — through the first three games of the preseason, and has one pass completed in his direction in that time), but it certainly appears he’€™s not hampered by any of the knee woes that managed to keep him sidelined for almost the entire duration of the 2012 season.

Safety Devin McCourty — It’€™s difficult to quantify the reasons behind McCourty’€™s overall importance — there are no gaudy numbers to point to. In fact, with the arrival of Revis, he’€™s not even the best defensive back on the roster. But he’€™s one of the most well respected players in the locker room. His ball skills, versatility and leadership (he’€™s been a three-time captain) make him a vital part of New England’€™s success. And his resume should be more than enough — he earned Associated Press All-Pro Second Team honors at safety in 2013 and Second Team All-Pro honors as a rookie in 2010 when he played cornerback, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Rod Woodson and Ronnie Lott as the only NFL players to earn All-Pro honors at both safety and corner. Heading into the final year of his rookie contract, a new deal for the Rutgers product figures to be a high priority for the Patriots’€™ front office.

Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork — Wilfork is not the overwhelming defensive presence that he used to be — there were times from 2010 through 2012 he could singlehandedly control the line of scrimmage. But Wilfork at 75 percent of his old self is still a nasty, imposing presence who can still clog up the middle and make life miserable for most of the running games across the league. As for his current physical state, the 32-year-old veteran made it clear Monday with Dale & Holley when he said he’€™s the “strongest”€ he’€™s ever been in his career. Maybe the most important thing Wilfork brings at this stage of his career is his intangibles. He’€™s not a rah-rah guy, but there’€™s no doubt that he’€™s the emotional center of the New England defense. Most of the time on an NFL team, the offensive guys listen to the offensive guys and the defensive guys listen to the defensive guys. There are very few players who have the gravitas needed to cut across any positional cliques that develop in a locker room, but Wilfork is one of those guys. When he speaks, he has a resume that demands attention, whether it’€™s offense, defense or special teams. While there will be one day in the not-too-distant future where Wilfork will give way to linebacker Jerod Mayo and McCourty as the heart of the New England defense, that time is still a few years down the road.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Devin McCourty was named the winner New England Patriots Ron Burton Community Service Award in a ceremony Monday night at Gillette Stadium.

The three-time defensive captain was the 12th winner of the award, which is named in honor of the late Ron Burton, the first player drafted by the team and a community leader whose widespread charitable work was a model for how a Patriots player can make an impact off the field.

McCourty is entering his fifth NFL season after joining the Patriots in 2010 as a first-round draft pick out of Rutgers. McCourty earned Pro Bowl honors as a rookie to become the fourth Patriots player to be selected as a rookie. McCourty has played both cornerback and safety during his time with the Patriots. He earned Associated Press All-Pro Second Team honors at safety in 2013 and Second Team All-Pro honors as a rookie in 2010 when he played cornerback, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Rod Woodson and Ronnie Lott as the only NFL players to earn All-Pro honors at both safety and cornerback.

Patriots owner and CEO Robert Kraft presented McCourty with the award. The defensive back has been one of the team’€™s most active community participants. In four years as a Patriot, he has regularly participated in the team’€™s community Tuesday events (the players’€™ only scheduled off day each week). In addition, McCourty also has teamed with his twin brother, Jason, who plays for Tennessee to start his own foundation to help fight Sickle Cell, a disease that has affected members of his own family.

McCourty joins a select group of Patriots players to receive the award: Past recipients are Joe Andruzzi (2003), Troy Brown (2004), Matt Light (2005), Jarvis Green (2006), Ty Warren (2007), Larry Izzo (2008), Kevin Faulk (2009), Vince Wilfork (2010), Jerod Mayo (2011), Zoltan Mesko (2012) and Matthew Slater (2013).

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick joins Dale and Steve DeOssie to talk about cutting the roster down to 53 players. Jimmy Garoppolo is set to start and play most, if not all of the preseason contest against the Giants. Bill also expressed his thoughts about the kicking game and how some of the new rules have affected the importance of it.

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Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork checked in with Dale & Holley on Monday to discuss how he feels physically coming off his season-ending Achillies injury last season and what it’€™s like to see some of his fellow defensive linemen get cut. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Wilfork was placed on season-ending injured reserve after Week 4 of last season with an Achilles injury. Making his rehab even harder was his weight and age, as being 32 years old and 325 pounds doesn’€™t make it easy recovering from any injury — yet alone a foot injury.

The 10-year veteran said it was all hard work as he was determined to come back better than ever.

“€œPlaying football at any level, I think this is the strongest I have been,”€ Wilfork said. “€œI worked my tail off with the training staff — strength and conditioning, you name it, we worked. There were times where I was on vacation, it wasn’€™t vacation because I was getting up at five in the morning taking advantage of three days of running on the beach, walking in the water to get the healing, going in the pool, swimming, walking four miles a day and then walking again at night.

“I was hitting it — all day it was something me and my wife were constantly doing just to make sure this thing had the strength to be able to move around. There were some things that we changed around and we said, ‘€˜You know what, I want to make this one of my best year’€™s that I played football and I don’€™t know what the future my hold with that, but so far so good.’€™ I’€™m happy and I’€™m healthy and I hope I can stay that way.”

Being in the league as long as he has, Wilfork knows cuts are bound to happen, but it is especially tough to see players he became so close with lose their jobs — which was what happened with veteran defensive linemen Tommy Kelly and Will Smith on Monday as the Patriots let them both go.

“It is tough. We all worked together this offseason — rehabbing our injuries and getting back — the amount of time that we put in together at the facility, with the staff, the rehab and all that stuff,” Wilfork said. “€œYou kind of build a whole different bond and it’€™s always sad to see people get cut, especially people that have been around for awhile — guys you’€™ve been playing with forever. But, times do come and changes always happen at this level. Nothing surprises me. It’€™s always something going on.

“Everyone has different ways of dealing with it. Me personally it’€™s just sad because you know the majority of these guys won’t have a job, at least not here. And you’€™ve been through OTAs, offseason programs with these guys, you’€™ve been through mini-camp, you’€™ve been through training camp with these guys. It’€™s sad to see some guys go, but that’€™s the nature of the business and we have to deal with it. I respect everybody, but at the same time it is a business.”

Wilfork is looking forward to the upcoming season and practicing in the warm weather Monday helps them for their Week 1 game in Miami.

‘€œThe hardest part is practicing. I’€™m a firm believer and I have believed all my life that whenever game day is here you’€™ll deal with it whatever it is,” said Wilfork. “It’€™s your job and you’€™re trained to do that, but the hardest time is going out on practice days and saying, ‘€˜Oh, my God, it’€™s 80 or 90 degrees,’€™ and just fighting through it. Two, two and a half hour practices going from one drill to the next drill, so it’€™s a little different, but days like today prepare us for the first game of the season in Miami. So I think as a team, I think it was really good for our team. We were out there a little longer, getting a little bit more different stuff today — it’€™s going to help us in the future.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Giants coach Tom Coughlin is going to play his starters “a little bit” in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Patriots.

“[The starters are] going to play. They’re going to play a little bit,” Coughlin told reporters Monday. “It’s a long way to the Monday night game.”

There are a few reasons for the Giants’ regulars to get some work in against the Patriots, including the fact that New York is working in a few new faces along the offensive line, as well as a new offensive system that’s being put in place by first-year offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.

In addition, Coughlin also wants to get his starters some work in the 18 days between their preseason game last Thursday against the Jets and their Monday night opener against the Lions in Detroit.

“Sounds right,” said quarterback Eli Manning when told the starters were going to play in the preseason finale. “We expect to go out there and move the ball and see if we can do something. … See if we can get into a good rhythm early in the game instead of having to wait until later.”

For what it’s worth, the Patriots are not expected to play their starters on Thursday night.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Tommy Kelly is set to meet with the Cardinals, according to Azcentral.com.

Tommy Kelly is set to meet with the Cardinals, according to Azcentral.com. Kelly, who was cut loose by the Patriots over the weekend, could fill the void created by the season-ending injury to Darnell Dockett, who tore his ACL earlier this month.

The 33-year-old Kelly started five games for the Patriots last season before his season ended because of a torn ACL. The 6-foot-6, 300-pounder had 2 1/2 sacks for New England in 2013.

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

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined the Dale & Holley show on Monday with Steve DeOssie filling in for Michael Holley for his weekly interview touching on a number of subjects, including the quarterback situation in Thursday’€™s final preseason game, the releasing of a few veteran player

Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined the Dale & Holley show on Monday with Steve DeOssie filling in for Michael Holley for his weekly interview touching on a number of subjects, including the quarterback situation in Thursday’€™s final preseason game, the releasing of a few veteran players on Monday and some of the league’€™s rule changes put in place during the preseason. To hear the full interview, go to the Dale & Holley Audio on Demand page.

Belichick confirmed rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will start in Thursday’€™s preseason finale against the Giants and play a fair chunk of the game. He’€™s played in all three preseason games thus far, but will get his first extended work.

“I think in this case it is just an experience that he needs to go through to feel like he is going to start the game –€“ he is going to be in the game for every situation — second down, third down, goal line, red area, two-minute, whatever it is, he needs to be prepared for everything and handle whatever comes up,”€ Belichick said. “€œThis is also a week that he will have to deal with the media, deal with the production meeting before the game — I’€™m sure the fans will have a lot of insults for him when he walks on the field, it’€™s an away game — it’€™s all the things that a quarterback eventually will do as a starting quarterback.

“Whenever that happens, I have no idea, but whenever it does at least he will have done it once before. I think there is something to be learned here. Ryan [Mallett] has been here 3 ½ years and Tom [Brady] has done it a couple hundred times, so this is an opportunity for Jimmy to get that experience and I am sure he will learn from it.”

The Patriots released veteran defensive linemen Will Smith and Tommy Kelly, linebacker James Anderson along with rookie tight end Justin Jones on Monday. Releasing players ahead of Tuesday’€™s deadline to get the roster down to 75 players could give them a better chance of hitching on with another team in the league.

“€œI think that does help them a little bit from that standpoint,” said Belichick. “I think some of those players probably wouldn’€™t have had a big role in this week’€™s game anyway. We wanted to make sure we got a good look at some of the younger players that we do want to see that maybe have played a little bit less. In any case, we did what we felt like we needed to do and what is best for the team. The guys that are here will get their opportunity and some of them didn’€™t play much last week and they will play more this week. We’€™ll see how it goes.”

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

On the new league rule changes (extra-points in the first two week of the preseason and height of the field goal posts): ‘€œI did like what we did in the preseason, at least the first two games — it made it more of a competitive play and more of a 94-95 percent play instead of a 99.9 percent play or whatever it was. I thought that was better and I thought the play where [Stephen] Gostskowski hit the upright in the Philadelphia game also showed the extension of the uprights. That was very similar to the kick we had last year in the Miami game, in Miami, where it looked like it went right over the goal post and was ruled no good — this one went over the goalpost and bounced in so at least we had a definition of whether the kick was good or not. I think that was an improvement because the kickers are getting a lot of height on the ball, so that was good.’€

On the linebackers playing with the green-dot in last Friday’€™s game: ‘€œOverall not bad because first of all we didn’€™t practice against Carolina like we did Washington and Philadelphia so what we got in the game we had a different type of preparation than we did the previous week so I thought that Steve Beauharnais and James Morris both did a good job as far as making the calls, making some adjustments, communication on the field ‘€“ but, of course there were a few things that needed to be fixed and we didn’€™t do perfectly. Overall, I thought they did a solid job — it was a good opportunity — of course [Dont'€™a Hightower] didn’€™t play and I thought Jamie Collins did a really good job of taking over part of that role too in terms of handling the defense from the inside linebacker position and not only playing well, but helping the players around him play aggressively and make sure they were in the right position.”

On Monday’€™s practice being held outside in warm weather and how it helps them for Week 1 in Miami: “€œWe’€™ll take it. It’€™s hot and it’€™s tough, but we need it. I thought the guys responded and worked hard today. I thought it was one of our better practices of the whole camp. Give them a lot of credit, they knew what it was going to be and pushed through it. It was good.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable