Despite the fact that the NFL is throwing the ball now more than ever -- one of the reasons behind the fact that the 300-carry “bell cow” appears to be dying out -- the market for fullbacks appears to be pretty robust.


Patrick Chung is looking to bounce back for a second tour in New England in 2014. (AP)

Patrick Chung is looking to bounce back for a second tour in New England in 2014. (AP)

OXBORO — No one is happier to be camping with the Patriots this summer than Patrick Chung.

The 26-year-old safety was allowed to walk after the 2012 season, his fourth in New England, and took a three-year, $10 million deal with Philadelphia in March 2013.

But after a disappointing first year, a season in which he never connected with new coach Chip Kelly, he was released in March. There were those who wondered who would want a safety who seemed on the outs, or at least out of chances in the NFL.

Enter the Patriots. Bill Belichick, who made the decision to let Steve Gregory walk, knew something about Chung that in his mind earned him another chance. Belichick offered Chung a one-year, $1.1 million deal based on his work ethic alone. Chung has been quietly making a good impression all over agin, working mainly with the second and third teams during the first four practices, with an occasional rep with the first unit and old friend Devin McCourty.

“I love it,” Chung told after Sunday’s rain-shortened practice. “Love it here. Culture is good here. Fans are good here. Coaches are good here. Locker room is good here. Food is good here. I like it here, man. It’s home.”

To McCourty, it’s just good to have a football brother next to him again on the field.

“It’s good because Pat is a true pro,” McCourty told “He’s a guy that comes in every day ready to work. He understands the defense. I think he’s another model citizen for the younger guys, someone they can look at and model their game, model what he does to get ready for practice and get ready to know what he’s doing. It’s been great. He’s a friend mine who was here the whole time I was here. He experienced something different for a year and now he’s back.”

What specifically does Chung bring back to the Patriots and the secondary?

“Just his work ethic, whether it’s in the weight room and being one of the stronger guys or getting ready for practice, doing different things,” McCourty added. “A younger guy can come see him get in the hot tub, or I’ll do this before practice, just to make sure I’m ready. Not just stretch before practice and go. As you get in this league, you have different aches and pains you that you need to take care of on your own.”

While McCourty has passed Chung on the safety depth chart since his departure in 2012, Chung says not much else has changed since his first four-year tour in Foxboro.

“Absolutely nothing, absolutely nothing,” Chung said. “Just work hard, stay out of trouble and take it day-by-day. Bill knows what he’s doing so pay attention.”

Chung is in a fierce competition for playing time in the secondary among safeties. In addition to McCourty, there’s Tavon Wilson, Duron Harmon, Kanorris Davis and Shamiel Gary.

“We’re all competing,” Chung said. “With a good secondary back there, we’re all competing. Everybody is working hard, learning the defense to try and get better day by day. Whoever plays is whoever plays, whether it be starting, second string, special teams, it doesn’t really matter. It’d be great if we could all get on the field at some point. We just have to work hard to get better.”

There will be those surprised if Chung makes the roster out of camp. After five seasons in the NFL, does Chung feel he has to prove he still belongs on an NFL roster?

“Everybody has a lot to prove,” Chung said, deflecting the question somewhat. “Ten-year guys, 15-year guys, first-year guys [all] have a lot to prove. You just have to stay consistent and get better on a consistent basis. Yeah, I am young and I was blessed to start [NFL] early but I’m just like anybody else, just trying to get better.

“I’m just here trying to get better and make this team so we can win these games.”

Asked if he sees his role as a mentor for younger players like Harmon, Gary and Davis, Chung provided some perspective.

“I just got back and we have some changes so I’m just trying to mentor myself a little bit,” he said. “Just stay in the playbook and get right. We’re all learning the same things, all in same meeting rooms just learning. It should be good.

“You make it as tough as you want to. You go home, you study, you make sure you know what you’re doing then things are easy. If you don’t, then things are going to be real tough for you.”

Since leaving after the ’12 season, it was old friend McCourty who stepped in and became a leader in the secondary.

“He’s good. We’re getting better,” Chung said. “He’s gotten good and he’s been good. But we’re still working hard and have a long way to go,” Chung said. “Everybody is learning. It’s actually a really good group, it’s a really good group. Everybody is funny and everybody is smart and learning. We’re just trying to get better. Everybody is competing with each other, pushing everybody else so it’s good. I’m really glad to be back. It’s a good group of people.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — When Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner were brought into the fold by the Patriots in the offseason, there was a presumption that the Patriots were about to alter their defensive approach somewhat, perhaps going with a more physical attack at the line of scrimmage and playing more pure bump-and-run.

Darrelle Revis will be in the spotlight during his first training camp with the Patriots. (AP)

Darrelle Revis will be in the spotlight during his first training camp with the Patriots. (AP)

FOXBORO — When Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner were brought into the fold by the Patriots in the offseason, there was a presumption that the Patriots were about to alter their defensive approach somewhat, perhaps going with a more physical attack at the line of scrimmage and playing more pure bump-and-run.

But on Sunday, Patriots director of personnel Nick Caserio clarified that thinking. He said Revis and Browner help the Patriots do more defensively but won’t change their overall approach.

“I think our philosophy is the same every year,” Caserio said. “We try to look at our team, try to improve our team and do what we think is in our best interest. Both guys have been successful in their systems that they’€™ve played in. They’€™re in a new system with a new team. No real change in terms of what we look for. Their measurables may be a little bit different but there’€™s really no change in terms of how we approach it.

So watching Browner help the Seahawks shut down Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl didn’t factor specifically into his signing?

“No, I think we just look at our team and we try to find players that we think are going to help our football team, regardless of who they played for, regardless of where they come from,” Caserio insisted. “I mean, really it has no bearing on it.”

But Caserio did admit that when you have a special player like Revis, a defense can perform at a different level because it can do different things.

“When we go into a game, really each week, the game plan changes week to week,” Caserio said. “So, you figure out who you’€™re playing against, what are we trying to stop, what are we trying to take away? Then the game plan is implemented based on those types of things. You try to deploy your players and deploy your assets the best you can. Certain weeks it may be one thing, other weeks it may be another thing.

“So, you really just ‘€“ whatever their skills, whatever they do well, you try to put them at the position where they can be successful to utilize those. Then look at, ‘€˜OK, who are we playing? OK, how does that particular skill, how does that player match up relative to some other players?’€™ So, it’€™s really week to week and it’€™s really based on the opponent, which those get into some more of the game plan type specific things once we get into the season.”

Caserio maintained Sunday they are not do anything to accommodate Revis in their defense but rather the other way around.

“I think the approach is, ‘€˜What do we need to do to help us win the football game?’€™ That’€™s what we’€™ll try to do ‘€“ whether it’€™s offensively, defensively or in the kicking game.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — Nick Caserio can see what everybody else sees in rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on the practice field.

On Friday and Saturday, the quarterback threw several interceptions and fumbled a snap from center as he struggled. On Sunday, he looked more comfortable, completing passes over the middle, in between the linebackers and secondary. He even looked strong as the music blared from loudspeakers onto the two practice fields, as the quarterbacks worked on their silent counts.

What does Caserio think of the ups and downs so far of the quarterback the Patriots felt was worth a second-round pick?

“If you look at really any player on the field, regardless of the position ‘€“ quarterback, receiver, running back ‘€“ everybody is going to have their share of good plays and then they’€™re going to have their plays that maybe aren’€™t as good,” Caserio said. “That’€™s part of the process. Some players have done those plays a little bit more than others. Some players, this is the first time executing a particular play, a particular skill. The most important thing is for the player, when they take ‘€“ it’€™s kind of a multi-tiered process.

“You meet in the morning, you install, you go through the process, you go on the field, you execute the play, hopefully you execute it at a high level. If you don’€™t execute it at a good level, then you go back, you watch the film, you make the correction. Then you look to see, ‘€˜OK, is there improvement? Did we learn from what we did previously?’€™ Really, that’€™s what you’€™re looking for with any player. It’€™s not specific to a position or to a player. That’€™s just the approach to the team, I would say.”

As for the early stage of the development process, Caserio said Garoppolo is neither ahead nor behind.

“I think everybody is at the same stage right now,” he said. “We’€™ve been out there [two days] in pads. You want to talk just about the quarterback position. That position gets magnified because they touch the ball on every play. The ball is in their hand, they’€™re making a decision, they’€™re making a read. There are a lot of other people that are involved in the play. You have the tight ends, you have the receivers, you have the running back. So, part of it is are they doing their job as well? It all has to fit together.

“There are a lot of moving parts in every play. It’€™s a step by step process. Like I said going back to my earlier point, you’€™re really just trying to build. You establish a foundation, build on that, go out there execute it. Hopefully if you make a mistake, [you] eliminate the mistake or figure out why you made the mistake and then move forward to the next play.”

Garoppolo lit up the record books at Eastern Illinois but is just another rookie trying to learn the playbook now.

“At certain positions they are going to have a little bit more volume and there are a few more things as it relates to the position,” Caserio said. “Really the most important thing, you want to talk about any player that comes into a new program or new system is kind of learning the way we do things, learning the operation, learn your skill, refine your skill, go out there perform the task, your skill, execute and then move on.

“Really the most important thing is to try to see the players that are consistent on a day to day basis that make the improvements. Look, there are going to be some good plays, there are going to be some bad plays. That’€™s football. That’€™s just the nature of what we’€™re doing. The idea is to hopefully minimize those and eliminate them the best you can and then continue to move forward.”

Here are some more tidbits from Caserio on Sunday:

Q: What are your thoughts on the team’€™s depth right now at tight end?

NC: We’€™ve had a lot of players ‘€“ Hooman [Michael Hoomanawanui] played a lot of snaps for us last year. Rob [Gronkowski], when he’€™s on the field he’€™s given us a lot of good production. We have a number of young guys that we’€™re working with. Look, we’€™re all in the same boat. Everybody is going out there to try to improve at their position. The guys we’€™ve brought in here, we brought them in here because we felt that they had something that was appealing and they had a particular skill and we’€™ll keep working with them and we’€™ll see how it goes.

Q: James Develin has been working with the tight ends a lot recently. What are some of the skills that he has that allows him to do that?

NC: The unique thing about James is he’€™s a very versatile player. We saw that going back to last season. He was able to line up in the backfield, at tight end, detach from the formation. James is very smart, works very, very hard. He had a great offseason ‘€“ there are a lot of guys, but just specific to James, had a great offseason. Really as a player, from day one that he entered the program to where he is now, he’€™s really improved. A lot of that, he’€™s put in a lot of time. It’€™s a credit to him but he’€™s smart, he’€™s versatile so he gives you a little bit of flexibility because he can do a number of different things. He can block the force in the running game, he can put his hand on the line of scrimmage and block the force on the line of scrimmage. Like in the Baltimore game, we lined him up out there out kind of detached from the formation, we ran a route with he and [Shane] Vereen and because he was able to execute his assignment, we had a play there. James has done a lot of good things since he’€™s been here. He’€™s earned all of his opportunities with his performance and his work ethic.

Q: What’€™s your read on Roy Finch? He’€™s obviously a smaller guy.

NC: Roy was a player that is good with the ball in his hands. He’€™s got pretty good quickness. When you have, I would say, not necessarily the running back positions, but even some of the other positions, when you have players that maybe are a little bit undersized relative to some other players at their position, you look for some qualities that stand out. They may separate themselves from somebody else. Even going back to Tyrone Poole, just talking about corners. Tyrone was 5-8, wasn’€™t the biggest guy, 180 pounds but he had exceptional lateral agility and quickness and he was able to compensate maybe for his size because of his quickness and he had good vertical speed and then he could play the ball. When a guy is maybe a little bit smaller at one position relative to the other, you look for maybe a skill that separates themselves. In Roy, his ability to move laterally. He was good with the ball in his hands. They played a lot of running backs at Oklahoma and when he got touches he was able to make some plays in space. So, I would say those are some of the things relative to Roy.

Q: Bill Belichick mentioned that early in camp is a time in camp. I know you’€™re evaluating all the time but is there a line or point in time where you say ‘€˜OK, these guys have learned a certain amount at this point and need to get into the nitty gritty evaluation now’€™?

NC: It’€™s really a fluid process. It’€™s really ongoing. You take players, even if it’€™s veteran players or really going back to May when you start with the team and you start to go out there and practice, so you go through the spring, you see how players develop, how they evolve, what they can retain and then you go into training camp and really, you’€™re still trying to build that foundation. Like Bill mentioned, there’€™s a lot of teaching and really there’€™s a lot of focus on the fundamental techniques as it relates to their particular positions. Once you get into pads then you start to see some of those things, especially in the running game because all spring you can work on a passing game. There’€™s no contact, the offensive and defensive linemen they really can’€™t do much. It’€™s really still you’€™re evaluating their techniques and they’€™re working on their fundamentals. The evaluation process is very fluid. It’€™s really ongoing. Once we get to a point where we have to make a decision about a player or about the team in September in preparation for the season, that’€™s not the end of it because then there’€™s a whole set of other players that you evaluate. You get into the season. There are a lot of different factors. Really, it’€™s a very fluid process and it’€™s very continuous.

Q: What drew you to Bryan Stork in the scouting process?

NC: Bryan was a pretty durable player. He started, I want to say, 50-some odd games. He played a lot of football. He played against good people. It’€™s a good team they have down there at Florida State. Obviously they won the national championship last year. Smart guy, tough, good playing strength, had a good playing style, good demeanor. He did a lot of good things and there was a lot to like about him.

Q: When you draft a center, what’€™s been your experience scouting that position? Is it sort of like quarterback in that there aren’€™t that many that fit for you each year?

NC: I’€™d say, just generally speaking at that position, we’€™ve gone through the years and if you look at a lot of the guys that have played on the interior of the offensive line, a lot of them have the same sort of traits and sort of makeup in terms of their intelligence, their toughness, their playing style, their work ethic, their competitiveness. Guys like Joe Andruzzi, Russ Hochstein, those guys. They weren’€™t drafted ‘€“ or Russ may have been a late round draft pick [fifth round] but anyway Joe wasn’€™t drafted. But those guys had a certain demeanor and a certain mentality and we try to, once we get them in the program, through the years [former offensive line coach] Dante [Scarnecchia] spent a lot of time with those players. You’€™re trying to look at some of those traits and some of those things and then you look at their physical skills and what they actually do on the field. Some maybe do certain things a little better than others. But I’€™d say just generally speaking, that position, there are certain things that have kind of carried it over through the years with the guys that we’€™ve brought in here that have had some success and the guys that maybe haven’€™t worked out.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — Mother Nature brought a premature end to Day 4 of Patriots training camp Sunday outside Gillette Stadium. The Patriots will not practice Monday before returning to the practice field on Tuesday.

Coaches and players jogged off the field as the first of several thunderclaps and heavy rains pelted the field, drawing practice to a close at about 11:15 a.m. Here are some of the highlights before the rains came:

FOXBORO — Mother Nature brought a premature end to Day 4 of Patriots training camp Sunday outside Gillette Stadium.

Coaches and players jogged off the field as the first of several thunderclaps and heavy rains pelted the field, drawing practice to a close at about 11:15 a.m. Here are some of the highlights before the rains came:

  • The Patriots worked out in pads for a second straight day.
  • New wide receivers Cole Stanford (14) and Brian Tyms (84) were both in uniform and caught passes on consecutive routes early in drills. They were there as the 89th and 90th players on the roster after injured wide receiver Greg Orton was released on Sunday.
  • The Patriots continued to work on running drills, taking advantage of working in full pads. Jerod Mayo made a big hit on Brandon Bolden, sporting neon green cleats, early in the practice. Bolden was running to the end and Mayo came up and made the stop. But the biggest hit by far came later in 11-on-11 drills when Brandon Browner laid out rookie running back James White as he ran to the edge before getting hammered by the corner.
  • Rob Gronkowski again just observed full contact work, limiting his work again to individual drills. Tom Brady and Gronkowski again spent time working alone on red zone and passing drills while the special teams worked on punt coverages and returns.
  • Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola were back deep returning kicks again with Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty and Brandon Browner all seeing work on the punt return team, defending the gunner off the line of scrimmage.
  • Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo saw the majority of snaps in both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills early on. Brady did find Kenbrell Thompkins on a well-executed pass, beating Browner. Brady then hit Brandon LaFell on his next pass. In 11-on-11s, Mallett got picked by Malcolm Butler. Garoppolo completed a nice pass over the middle to Tyms. Garoppolo, who struggled Saturday, continued to look better Sunday, executing a nice swing pass to rookie Roy Finch.
  • Sunday also featured loud music as the Patriots worked on silent counts at the line of scrimmage. “Crazy Train” blared an hour into practice at the start of 11-on-11s. Mallett, again with first unit, found Edelman on a nice in-cut with music blaring, clapping his hands together after the completion.
  • Josh Boyce caught a long pass from Mallett deep left sideline for those about to rock blaring.
  • The only significant scuffle of practice came during drills that had QB working on check downs under duress. Michael Hoomanawanui caught a pass and was brought down by rookie linebacker Taylor McCuller. The two exchanged pushes and shoves but were quickly separated.
  • Linebackers Steve Beauharnais and McCuller did a lap for offsides while Garoppolo (to cheers) and OL Bryan Stork joined them for a transgression five minutes later.
  • Blog Author: 
    Mike Petraglia

    FOXBORO — The Patriots made a pair of signings for the back end of their roster, adjusting for the loss of receiver Greg Orton on Friday.

    Director of player personnel Nick Caserio announced Sunday morning during his press conference that the team signed receivers Cole Stanford and Brian Tyms. Both were in attendance Sunday morning as the team held its second straight practice in pads. Stanford was wearing No. 14 while Tyms was assigned No. 84.

    FOXBORO — The Patriots made a pair of signings for the back end of their roster, adjusting for the loss of second-year receiver Greg Orton on Friday.

    Director of player personnel Nick Caserio announced Sunday morning during his press conference that the team signed receivers Cole Stanford and Brian Tyms. Both were in attendance Sunday morning as the team held its second straight practice in pads. Stanford was wearing No. 14 while Tyms was assigned No. 84.

    Tyms was undrafted out of Florida A&M in 2012. He has spent time with the San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins. Last year, he played for the Cleveland Browns, where currently Patriots executive Mike Lombardi watched him when Lombardi served in Cleveland’s front office.

    As for Stanford, he played collegiately at Cal Poly, catching 43 passes for 891 yards and four touchdowns during his four years. As a hybrid weapon, he also rushed 54 times for 314 yards with a touchdown.

    The Patriots also waived (injured designation) Orton, who will go back to the Patriots on injured reserve if he clears waivers. Orton suffered a lower body injury during practice late in practice Friday and had to be carted off the field.

    Blog Author: 
    Mike Petraglia
    Bill Belichick could end up passing Marty Schottenheimer and Paul Brown this season on the all-time wins list. (AP)

    Bill Belichick could end up passing Marty Schottenheimer and Paul Brown this season on the all-time wins list. (AP)

    1. Bill Belichick kicked off his 40th season in the NFL this week, and his 20th as a head coach. With 199 career victories, he’s seventh overall when it comes to head coaching wins, and while it’s unlikely he’ll ever reach Don Shula‘s mark of 328 career wins, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for him to reach as high as third place on the list. (It would take 51 more wins as a head coach.) Currently, Shula sits at No. 1, with George Halas behind him at No. 2 with 318 wins. Tom Landry is third with 250 victories. This season, Belichick could reach as high as fifth on the list, as he could pass Marty Schottenheimer (sixth with 200 wins) and Paul Brown (fifth with 213 victories) in 2014. Curly Lambeau sits fourth overall with 226. (For what it’s worth, Belichick is just starting his 20th year as a head coach, but he’s the only head coach with 19 or fewer years of head coaching experience to land in the Top 10 when it comes to all-time victories. The closest is Bill Parcells, who was a head coach for 19 seasons and ended up with 172 career wins, good for 11th on the all-time list.)

    2. It was revealed this past week that in 2014, NFL officials will place a renewed emphasis on how officials call illegal contact and defensive holding penalties. For the Patriots — a team that revamped its secondary by adding two of the more physical corners in the league in Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner — it could be an interesting issue. Revis said Friday he doesn’t anticipate it being a problem.

    “The rules are the rules — you’€™ve got to adjust to the rules,” he said with a shrug. “There are always new rules changing, and as long as we know the rules, we’€™re going to try to play great football — clean and great football — within the rules.”

    The last time the league went hard after that sort of bumping between the corners and receivers was back in 2004 when former Colts GM Bill Polian complained about the job the New England defensive backs and linebackers did on the Indy pass catchers. (According to former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira, illegal contact fouls went up from 79 to 191 the following season.) The team who could ultimately bear the brunt of the changes are the Seahawks — the Seattle secondary pushed the boundaries all 2013, and became was just the third team in NFL history to league the league in penalties and still win the Super Bowl. Many of those flags against the Seahawks came against the secondary — cornerback Richard Sherman led the team with 11 penalties against.

    For what it’s worth, Revis has actually pretty skilled at avoiding penalties the last few years. According to, Revis didn’€™€™t take one in 2012 (mainly because he only played two games before going down with a season-ending knee injury.) He had three (one declined) in 2011, and just one (with one declined) in 2010. In all, he’€™€™s played nearly 100 percent of the snaps in 2013, 2011 and 2010, and has just five penalties to show for it in that time. For some added perspective, Aqib Talib led the 2013 Patriots in penalties with six and penalty yards against with 73. (As a group, the cornerbacks were the second most penalized positional grouping on the team by yardage with 128 yards, trailing only the offensive line at 166. Overall, the Patriots took the second-fewest penalties in the league last season.

    3. We’ve already written about what sort of impact Browner’s four-game suspension at the start of the season will have on the New England pass defense. Turns out, it’s something the Patriots have started taking into account when it comes to doling out practice reps and preseason action. Browner won’t be around for the first four games, as well as the practices. As a result, you have to walk a fine line between making sure that Browner is up to speed in the system, but at the same time, also making sure you have some possible fill-ins ready to go when the season kicks off.

    “Well … we’re going to have to balance that out,” Belichick said when asked about Browner’s summer workload. “We’re going to have to balance it between getting him a lot of reps, getting him ready, but also knowing that we’re going to have to play four games without him. So we’re going to have to try to find that fine line. Right now, I don’t think we’re doing anything other than just getting everybody going. But at some point here as we move into preseason, we’re going to have to juggle that a little bit in anticipation of the four game’s he’ll miss.”

    4. It was interesting to hear more this week from safety Adrian Wilson, who was signed by New England in the spring of 2013, but spent the entire year on injured reserve with what was later reported to be an Achilles’ injury. It turns out that it wasn’t your average heel issue — instead, according to this story, Wilson missed the season with a condition known as Haglund’€™s deformity, in which an enlarged heel bone or bone spur causes bursitis in the heel. It required surgery on his Achilles tendon and 10 weeks in a hard cast. That was in addition to what was described as a “pretty severe hamstring tear,” one that took two months to recover from.

    But now, the 34-year-old Wilson has pronounced himself ready to roll as a member of the Chicago defense. Wilson told reporters this week that despite his age and the fact that he’d been out of the game for a year, there was never any doubt he’d return.

    “€œThere’€™s no challenge, man,”€ Wilson said. “€œFootball is football. I’€™m a guy who’€™s very prideful. I’€™m a little bit disappointed from last year. I don’€™t have any goals. I’€™m just going out there and competing with myself. I’€™m not competing with anybody. I’€™m just here to play football. I take a lot of the critics that said I can’€™t play, that it was a terrible signing by the Bears, and all the other stuff that’€™s being said. I use that as motivation for me.”€

    5. Across the league, the Patriots have always been a team that’s moved the needle, but in what might be a first this week, an opposing team used New England and quarterback Tom Brady as part of a preseason promotion to get fans to come see the Patriots practice. The Redskins were aggressive in their use of the image of Brady — when you opened the home page at, you were greeted with a sizable image of Brady (as well as one of RGIII) and a message telling fans they could enter to win a contest to get guaranteed access to the joint practices between New England and Washington next month. (At this point, attendance is limited by a lottery.)

    6. To this point in camp, the Patriots have appeared suffer just one injury, coming Friday when wide receiver Greg Orton was carted off with a lower-body issue. The extent of the injury is unknown, but when you start to see reports of camp injuries around the league, you start to realize just how lucky New England has been to this point, especially when stacked against two other playoff teams:

    On Friday, the Colts lost Vick Ballard to what was reported to be a torn Achilles. Coming off a lost 2013 (he played just one game last year because of a torn ACL), it’s a blow to the Indy running game. Trent Richardson is still seen as the No. 1 back for the Colts, but his ineffectiveness last season was the impetus behind Indy’s decision to go get Ballard, who had 814 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 2012. Chris Rainey and Daniel Herron are the leading candidates to replace Ballard in the backup role, but neither has much experience carrying the ball at the NFL level. notable — Rainey has 26 career carries, Herron nine.

    Another backup back went down on Friday, when San Francisco’s Kendall Hunter appeared to go down awkwardly in a non-contact session. On Saturday, it was reported that he also suffered a torn ACL. Unlike Indy, however, the Niners do have a couple of intriguing backs behind Hunter in Marcus Lattimore and Carlos Hyde, two running backs who were taken in the last two drafts. Lattimore, who suffered a devastating knee injury as a collegian in 2012, spent all of 2013 on the sidelines, and was on the PUP list as camp opened. If he can’t go, that means Hyde will likely get a shot at extra carries as the backup to Frank Gore.

    7. Patriots owner Robert Kraft has always been an advocate of expanding the NFL brand to new markets, but he’s been particularly aggressive in getting that message out over the last couple of weeks. First, he indicated that there should be an NFL team in London sometime before the end of the decade. Then, on Friday, he told ESPN that seeing an NFL team return to Los Angeles “within the next two to three years … would be in everybody’€™s best interest.”€ It’s not known what sort of particulars would go into the deal — for instance, where a team would play (the Coliseum is likely no longer a suitable venue) or if it would involve expanding the league (which would also involve finding a suitable owner) or relocating another franchise. But it’s clear that the league is starting to get the itch again when it comes to putting a team in Los Angeles.

    “œWe’€™ve gone a generation –€” almost 20 years –€” without a team in LA,” Kraft said of the Southern California market, which hasn’t had a team since the Raiders and Rams left in 1995. “We have a generation of young people growing up not really branded and tied to a team. I think that kind of passion only comes when you have a team you can root for, and I think it’€™s very important.”

    8. When it comes to self-promotion, I’m just as shameless as the next guy, and I’d like to note that I’m part of the staff that put together the 2014 Football Outsiders Almanac — I wrote the chapters on the Patriots and Bills. The PDF is available here, and you can by it in stores soon. I was lucky enough to be a part of an incredible group of writers, a collection that included our pal Aaron Schatz, as well as Doug Farrar of, Mike Tanier of Sports on Earth, Jason Lisk of The Big Lead, Scott Kacsmar or Football Outsiders and Brian McIntyre of Mac’s Football Blog. It’s an honor to be a part of the group, and can recommend the latest edition heartily.

    Blog Author: 
    Christopher Price