Adam Schefter joins the program to talk about the future of Roger Goodell and the NFL's new drug testing policy.
Bud Grant (jacket) coached one of the best defensive fronts in NFL history. (Getty Images)

Bud Grant (jacket) coached one of the best defensive fronts in NFL history. (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Back in the day, Bill Belichick remembers when the Minnesota Vikings would line up and dare you to beat their defense.

That’s pretty easy to do, Belichick recalled Friday, when you have Jim Marshall and Carl Eller as defensive ends and Alan Page and Gary Larsen as defensive tackles, otherwise known as the “Purple People Eaters” of the Bud Grant Minnesota Vikings.

While Mike Zimmer‘s Vikings might be bringing all different types of pressures from different areas on the field, Belichick says Grant’s Vikings were different.

“When I was at Detroit [1976-77], Bud was the coach there,” Belichick reminisced. “They probably played as basic a defense as anybody had every played two coverages€“ but they had a great front four and some very instinctive players on defense. They played the same thing, pretty much the same defensively, pretty much the same thing all the time. But again, they had really good recognition and anticipation.

“They knew how to, because they were always in the same thing, they knew what to look for and how to react to it. They were very good and they had a great pass rush so their defensive backs played aggressively and they would jump routes and get interceptions. [Paul] Krause had 50-some interception but a lot of that was due to the pass rush and how little time the quarterback had to hold onto the ball. he’€™d recognize routes and anticipate them and jump on them. They had some really good linebackers there ‘€“ [Matt] Blair and [Wally] Hilgenburg, those guys. You knew they were mentally and physically tough. You were definitely going to get that from them. That was a trademark of [Bud] and those teams.”

Consider:

  • Though they were 0-4 in Super Bowls, the “Purple People Eaters” were considered among the best and certainly most famous front fours in NFL history, right up there with the “Fearsome Foursome” of the Rams, the “Steel Curtain” of Pittsburgh and the Jets’ “New York Sack Exchange.”
  • Eller and Page are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame while many experts think Marshall should be right there with them.
  • Defensive tackle Alan Page, 9 Pro Bowl Selections (1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976), NFL MVP (1971).
  • Defensive end Carl Eller, 6 Pro Bowl Selections (1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974).
  • Defensive end Jim Marshall, 2 Pro Bowl Selections (1968, 1969).
  • Defensive tackle Gary Larsen, 2 Pro Bowl Selections (1969, 1970).
  • Here are some other Friday highlights from Belichick:”Well, we’€™re doing the same; it’€™s rolling along here. We have a lot to get ready for with Minnesota ‘€“ new team, new staff, players we’€™re not familiar with. [We] need to spend a lot of extra time to get familiar with them. Of course we know [Offensive Coordinator] Norv [Turner] and [Head Coach] Mike [Zimmer] and [Special Teams Consultant] Joe Marciano and those guys but they’€™re doing a lot of new things. You see them add new things every week; certainly added a lot of wrinkles last week against St. Louis. A lot of things for us to prepare for and get ready for. I think our team has done a good job of trying to get on it all but they do a good job. They’€™re well coached and they have a good team.”

    Q: In terms of Anthony Barr, is it tougher to get a good read on him since he’€™s less known?

    BB: No, he’€™s played in every game. He’€™s out there. He’€™s playing a new position. I think he’€™s learning a lot too. It’€™s not like going to ‘€“ I think a lot of the experienced players, the [Adrian] Petersons, the [Matt] Cassels, the [Kyle] Rudolphs, the [Linval] Josephs, [Chad] Greenway, Harrison Smith, guys like that, those guys are some pretty good and crafty players; know a lot of tricks. Real good at disguise, setting up things, doing complementary things to offset it. I’€™d say for the most part, I’€™m not specifically talking about anybody, but for the most part, most rookies are just trying to do their job. They’€™re not trying to think of all the creative things and all the things that go beyond it. They’€™re just trying to get their job right. That’€™s been my experience.

    Q: From what you’€™ve seen from Matt Cassel since he’€™s left, what aspect of his game do you think he’€™s improved the most?

    BB: Since he was here it’€™s obviously experience. He hadn’€™t started a game since high school when we had him until he started in that ‘€™08 season. He’€™s got a lot of playing time under his belt now. You could just see his experience and confidence and decision making; all a lot higher level than they were in ‘€™08 and they were good in ‘€™08, I’€™m not saying that. I thought he did a great job for us in that season. He played really well and helped us win 11 games. But I think it’€™s definitely improved with more time and more opportunity.

    Q: You mentioned Harrison Smith. It seems like they used him in a few different ways last week. What kind of challenges does he present?

    BB: I’€™d say they do that with all their players. [Captain] Munnerlyn, Smith ‘€“ they’€™re safeties, they’€™re inside guys, they blitz, they cover, they play man, they play zone. They disguise well; including the linebackers, whether that’€™s Barr and Greenway or when they put Barr down, Greenway and [Gerald] Hodges and all those guys do a good job of blitzing and covering and faking and man, zone. That’€™s really the scheme that Coach Zimmer runs. They do a good job with it. They’€™re all part of it.

    Q: How concerned are you about your offensive line after they struggled last week and Minnesota had such success putting pressure on the St. Louis quarterbacks?

    BB: I said after the game in Miami, I think we all have to do a better job on offense, defense and special teams ‘€“ players, coaches, all of us. We all have to do a better job. I put everybody in that category. We’€™re all working to get better and we all need to do better.

    Q: Do you think some of those line problems have been fixed and they’€™ll be much better moving forward?

    BB: I think we’€™ve worked hard this week to try to correct problems in all the areas that I just spoke about. We’€™ll see on Sunday.

    Q: Have you settled on a more permanent offensive line or will we see more of the rotation?

    BB: Each week we’€™ll do what we feel is best for the football team in every area at every position.

    Q: For a college center coming to the NFL, in your experience, is there one thing that is the biggest adjustment for that position?

    BB: I’€™d say probably the biggest adjustment for any player from college to NFL is the passing game. So, whatever part of the passing game that player is involved in, that’€™s probably the biggest adjustment. For a center, pass protection, the number of protections relative to probably what he ran in college, the number of different defensive looks and fronts and potential adjustments would all be multiplied, probably exponentially. I’€™m not saying the running game is the same but it’€™s more the same than the passing game ‘€“ the type of players that they’€™re blocking and the schemes that they’€™re facing and the amount of variables in an offensive system plus the amount of systems in a defensive system, that adds up in a hurry. If you’€™re only doing one or two things, even if they do five things, it’€™s 10. If you’€™re doing 10 things and they’€™re doing 10 things, now it’€™s 100 but it’€™s really a lot more than that. It adds up pretty quickly. I think that’€™s ‘€“ the center has to control some of that. He has to make decisions, calls, to some degree, adjustments, and there’€™s a lot of gray area. Is the linebacker up in the line? Is he not in the line? Did he start in the line and move out? Did he start back and move up? What is the line of demarcation in some adjustments or designations? That’€™s a lot of experience and recognition and communication so it’€™s hard.

    Q: How do you feel like Bryan Stork has handled it so far?

    BB: Good. Unfortunately the time he missed in camp is time he could have used, like any young player. But he had a lot of time in the spring to do that so certainly there’€™s some recall. He’€™s a smart kid and he’€™s worked hard at that. But I’€™d say those are still challenging and he didn’€™t do it there for a period of three or four weeks, whatever it was. He makes progress. He gets better every day but there’€™s still some catching up to do.

    Q: Is Cordarrelle Patterson a big enough threat you’€™d consider putting a spy on him?

    BB: What’€™s a spy?

    Q: Someone who is focused on him.

    BB: You have to cover every receiver on every play. I don’€™t know how you could not cover a receiver. Somebody has to cover him.

    Q: Would you assign a specific person to him for the majority of the game?

    BB: It depends on what you’€™re playing. You could. That would be an option. You could do that; you could not do that. Again, there’€™s always, like we’€™ve talked about, there’€™s pluses and minuses to doing that.

    Q: What’€™s changed with Adrian Peterson since the last time you guys faced him back in 2010?

    BB: I would say not a whole lot. For his size, he can really make sharp cuts. He’€™s obviously got a lot of power, a lot of speed. He’€™s got good vision. He sees the holes. You don’€™t see him running into the back of blockers or running into piles or that kind of thing. He’€™s got really good vision. For his size and power, he’€™s got good quickness and very explosive change of direction. He can stop and cut quickly and be moving fast in a hurry. He’€™s got great skills. Hard to tackle, he’€™s got really good lower body strength. Pulls through with his legs, just pulls through a lot of tackles. He’€™s got good bend, can dip his shoulder and get his pads down. [He] doesn’€™t run erect. You have to do a good job of tackling him. He gets a lot of yards on his own. He’€™s a good player.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

ESPN’s Adam Schefter made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB to discuss NFL news and the Patriots’ Week 2 game against the Vikings. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Adam Schefter

Adam Schefter

ESPN’s Adam Schefter made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB to discuss NFL news and the Patriots’ Week 2 game against the Vikings. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Schefter reported Friday that the league and the players association are close on finalizing a new drug policy, and it could have a major affect on players currently under suspension, including standout wide receivers Josh Gordon and Wes Welker.

“Here’s the deal, basically: They’re going to vote this afternoon at some point, by early evening, on a new drug policy,” Schefter said. “The feeling is it’s going to pass. I think there’s a basic, tentative agreement. But each of the player reps will have to vote on it. And once that happens, they can coordinate the vote later today, they get the results, assuming it passes, there’ll be a new drug policy. And part of that agreement will be to have many of the suspensions under the performance-enhancing device policy, the PED policy and the substance-abuse policy, they will wind up being reduced or going away.

“So, everyone will be different, but a case like Wes Welker, I think he’ll be allowed to play. Now, it’s Friday, not in the game plan, tough to imagine he’s going to play this week, but maybe he does. A case like Josh Gordon, facing a yearlong suspension, my understanding is it’s going to be an eight-game suspension. So, there’ll be different circumstances in each player. We’ll have to find out how it affects each one.”

Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner is sitting out the first four games of the season, and Schefter isn’t sure how he’ll be affected.

“I think the violation may have occurred prior to the agreement, so I don’t know how he’s impacted,” Schefter said. “My guess — just a guess, and I haven’t asked anybody this — is that he won’t be impacted by it. But I don’t know it.”

The Ray Rice saga continues, with most of the attention now focused on commissioner Roger Goodell and if he saw or had knowledge of the videotape that shows Rice knocking out his now-wife before suspending him for just two games. A recent report indicated a law enforcement official sent the tape to the NFL offices and an unidentified woman there indicated she viewed it.

Schefter said he has a pretty good idea of who the woman is, but he was hesitant to draw conclusions about a possible link to Goodell because he could not say for sure.

Said Schefter: “I think the point here is the people that I’ve spoken to and people I trust, I’m talking about enemies of Roger Goodell, people that work with Roger Goodell — I don’t want to make it like we’re being spoon-fed this, but I don’t believe he saw that videotape. I do not believe he saw that videotape. … If I’m proven wrong, I’m proven wrong and he’s going to be fired as the commissioner. But how could anybody who saw that video think it was enough to suspend Ray Rice two games?”

Schefter said Goodell still has the support of those who matter most: the team owners.

“I believe there’s a ton of noise on the outside, a ton of criticism,” Schefter said. “The public doesn’t believe Roger Goodell. His credibility has taken a hit. It’s been a PR nightmare. And the men that hire Roger Goodell, who he works for right now, prior to the investigation, are behind him.”

Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was allowed to play in his team’s game Sunday despite his conviction for domestic abuse. Because Hardy is appealing, the league is letting the legal process continue before punishing him.

“The NFL can’t do anything, there’s due process,” Schefter said. “And ESPN ‘Outside the Lines’ ran a piece this morning that if anybody saw it would be tremendously disturbed and sickened. It’s highly disturbing, it’s highly sickening. Now again, in this country, with this CBA, you’re entitled to your due process whether you like it or not.

“Now, the Carolina Panthers can go and deactivate him if they want. They can deactivate him, that is their right. They didn’t do that last week. I haven’t heard anything about them doing it this week.”

Added Schefter: “I think it’s going to go on and on until the case goes to trial. I think he’s going to be allowed to play and collect his $13.1 million. I also think that the events of the last few weeks, the last few months, whatever timeline you want to say, I think it’s opened up everybody’s eyes, and I think everybody — now we’re having a discussion about domestic violence.

“It didn’t sound as mean and nasty and brutal as it did when we saw a picture of it in the elevator in Atlantic City. It’s just like, so this is what domestic violence looks like. Wow. Wow. I mean, you know it and you hear it, but to see it I think changes everything.”

The Patriots, coming off an upset loss to the Dolphins last weekend, head to Minnesota to play the Vikings this Sunday. Schefter is predicting a Patriots win, but he said he wouldn’t be shocked if they lose this “tough matchup.”

“I thought the Vikings were one of the biggest surprises of the first weekend — the biggest, the way that they came in and decimated the [Cardinals] was to me very surprising and eye-opening and very impressive, and they did a great job. … It’s hard for me to imagine New England going 0-2. [But] there’s a chance. The Vikings are a pretty good team.”

For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

FOXBORO — A day after popping up on Thursday’s injury report with a thigh issue, Jamie Collins was not spotted during the media availability portion of practice Friday morning.

Jamie Collins

Jamie Collins

FOXBORO — A day after popping up on Thursday’s injury report with a thigh issue, Jamie Collins was not spotted during the media availability portion of practice Friday morning.

Collins was the only player on the 53-man roster not accounted for as the Patriots held practice in shorts and shells on the upper grass fields outside Gillette Stadium.

The only other player not present for the start of the session was defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles of the practice squad.

The Patriots continue preparations for Sunday’€™s contest in Minnesota against the Vikings and will leave on Saturday for the game.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick knows he could complain until he’s blue in the face about the NFL’s flag-happy approach to hitting the quarterback.

Most watching the Ravens-Steelers game Thursday night couldn’t believe that the Steelers were penalized for a first-half hit on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. But they were.

And part of the reason Belichick might not be as vocal as one would expect is the obvious – the rule is there to protect quarterbacks like Flacco and Tom Brady from taking any undue hits over the course of a game. But it’s when his own defensive players appear to have a clean hit and a flag is thrown for driving a quarterback into the ground that Belichick has to bit his lip.

Last Sunday Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones combined for three roughing the passer penalties, two from Jones. While Jones appeared to get his hands too high, Hightower was called for driving the quarterback into the ground after tackling Ryan Tannehill just as Tannehill was releasing the ball.

“We talk about it a lot. We work on it,” Belichick said. “Obviously, speaking for us, we’ve got to work on it more. We’ve just got to do a better job of coaching it and being disciplined and doing it. The rule is what it is. There’s a strike zone to hit and you’ve got to hit in that strike zone. That’s the rule.”

Belichick wasn’t complaining, rather reminding his team that the Patriots will only hurt themselves in the long run if they continue to hit the quarterback illegally.

“You can’t lead with your head,” he said, before adding what he and his staff teach in practice. “Below the shoulders, above the knees, you can’t lead with the head. You’ve got to find a way to hit the quarterback without doing those things. So that’s what we have. Every team in the league has to do it. That’s what we have to do. We have to do a better job. We have to coach it better. We’ve got to do it better.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to discuss news from around the NFL, mainly the fallout from the Ray Rice/Roger Goodell situation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Carroll said earlier in the week that he was deeply affected by the Rice saga.

“I’m just speaking toward just coming to the point of understanding,” he said. “I’ve done some reading, I’ve done some research on it, the whole thing about domestic issues and stuff. My awareness is totally heightened to it, and sensitivity, and I just expressed that. A lot of people kind of seem like they keep saying they have all this opinion about it. Well, I didn’t know enough about it to understand it the way I do now. So I’m different about it. I’m looking at it differently. I’m more aware of the whole scene that follows and the relationship that follows so that you can understand how this happens and how you can be so surprised by individuals that are involved in those kinds of relationships.

“I’m hoping that my own direction of it and making my team aware of it we can all handle this thing better, and we will. Everybody’s going to look at it differently. It’s just become so apparent, and I just said it, that’s all.”

The Seahawks signed cornerback A.J. Jefferson in the offseason (he’s now on injured reserve) despite him having an arrest on his record for domestic assault.

“We did investigate his whole situation and his background and all that, and did what we thought was thoroughly,” Carroll said. “But maybe we would look differently, we would respond differently to understanding the depths of the issue so that we can anticipate how that was going to work out.

“One thing that we’ve got to [understand]: People have a chance to get better. And they have the opportunity to rehabilitate or turn their world around. I would like to think that we’re going to give people an opportunity if they’ve done the hard work and have come through and demonstrated that they can see things differently and they’re going to act differently.

“But I will never see it the same. That was my point.”

Asked if he would considering signing Rice a year from now, Carroll was noncommittal.

“It’s too hard of a question to answer,” he said. “I can’t answer that to you. Right now, no. We wouldn’t know how to find a place for him right now. But everybody gets a chance to get better. We’ll see what happens. I don’t even know what this all means in terms of the courts and all that kind of stuff. I don’t have that background to understand that kind of stuff. But we would be very, very slow to make a decision to take a guy [like that].”

Following are more highlights from the interview. For Patriots news as well as more on the Rice/Goodell situation, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

On the Seahawks avoiding a letdown after winning the Super Bowl last season: “They’ve handled it really well. We’ve been preparing to be really good. When the time came in the last couple of years — we had a good year the year before, too, you know. We screwed up the Atlanta game [in the NFC playoffs], and had we not blown that one we might have had a chance to go on and finish that year, too. It’s been a couple of years of feeling like we’ve got a pretty good team. So we’ve been dealing with the expectations and the standards and what comes with that kind of success in an attempt to make it feel normal, so that you don’t get out of whack because you’re doing well, you don’t get out of whack because people are talking about you, you don’t get out of whack because there’s this expectation out there.

“Hopefully we’re managing it. We’ll find out. We’ll see what happens. It’s a long haul, and our guys have a good discipline about it. Just in the way they talk and how they’re directed, they seem like they’re doing OK so far.”

On being favored to win the NFC again: “We want to be there. You can’t be good for a long time if you don’t have those kinds of expectations around you. The Patriots have lived with that years and have done an extraordinary job of staying on top and maintaining the consistency of a tremendous winner. You’ve got to get comfortable with that. You’ve got to get used to  it. Otherwise you get knocked around with the ups and downs and all the highs and lows of it.

“So, would I love it? Of course we do. We want that.”

On Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner, who played for the Seahawks last season: “He’s a terrific football player. We loved the way that he competed. He has real savvy for the game, he’s got savvy for the position. He’s a very well experienced corner. He’s been playing press, bump-and-run defense for a long time, all the way back to his college days back at Oregon State where they were really good at it. He went up to the Canada league and played up there for four years and was an All-Star up there. … And the fact that he’s 6-4, it’s a ridiculous factor that he presents for the receivers. I think they’re going to love what he brings.”

On if the stricter rules will hurt Browner: “If he doesn’t adapt, yeah. Everybody that was playing under the other expectations by the officials, you have to adjust. I’m sure Brandon and his coaches and all that, they’ll figure it out. But we’ve totally had to approach this thing differently, and we have and we’re doing OK with it. I’m sure Brandon will do the same thing.”

On the new rules being put in allegedly because of the way the physical Seahawks defense played last season: “Well, I don’t know about that, but if that is, then it’s what I would think is somewhat of a sign of respect.”

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick remembers last October in Cincinnati very well.

He’d like to forget it, of course, but when Bengals shut down the Patriots offense, holding them to just one first down conversion in 13 tries on third down and holding Tom Brady without a touchdown pass for the first time in three seasons, it’s hard not to learn a lesson or two from what then-Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer was trying to do.

“A lot of carryover,” Belichick said, anticipating what the Vikings would try to do this Sunday in Minnesota. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they xeroxed the same game plan. We couldn’t do much. One-for-13 on third down, six points, whatever it was, they did a good job. Yeah, we’re certainly prepared for that. If they did the same thing they did last year, it wouldn’t shock me at all, until we can show we can do something about it. We didn’t do much last year.”

Indeed, the Patriots gained just 15 first downs all game, passed for 197 yards, no touchdowns, and gained just 279 yards, all season lows. Zimmer’s Vikings certainly look capable of doing more of the same, using the same 4-3 front to steamroll the undermanned Rams, 34-6, in their season opener last week.

“They can [bring pressure],” Belichick said. “Strong side, weak side, up the middle, bring secondary pressure, linebacker pressure. They do a good job keeping you off balance. I’d say that’s one of the real strengths, they give you not so much different looks but different combinations of similar looks. You have to be ready for everybody. You can’t just say it’s going to be this or it’s going to be that.

“Sometimes it’s strong side, sometimes it weak side, sometimes it’s up the middle, sometimes it’s man, sometimes it’s zone, sometimes it’s blitz-zone. Sometimes it’s all-out blitz, sometimes all max coverage and drop everybody off but off that same look. They do a good job. [Safety] Harrison Smith, [Linebacker Chad] Greenway, [Cornerback Captain] Munnerlyn, those inside guys do a good job disguise, not really letting you know or giving you a great read on what’s going to happen and you have to figure it out after the snap. Your receivers and your quarterback and your line has to make post-snap adjustments. They do a good job of that.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — Cordarrelle Patterson may not feel the love from Bill Belichick but the Patriots coach gave him his props on Friday as one of the elite kick returners in the game, comparing him to Baltimore’s breakaway threat Jacoby Jones.

“Probably the kid from Baltimore,” Belichick said when asked if Patterson reminds him of anyone he’s prepared for in the past in the kick game. “[Patterson is] big, strong, aggressive, hard to tackle. He’s got good vision, hits seams but even when there’s a lot of times guys get shots at him, they just can’t tackle him or he runs through tackles. And he’s got breakaway speed. So, he’s that type of player, can hit the home run, can go the distance.

“Sometimes it’s there but sometimes it’s really not there and he still makes a lot out of it and that’s a mark of a real good returner, a guy that can take something that doesn’t look like it’s great and turn it into a big play.”

Last year, Patterson returned 43 kicks for an NFL-leading 32.4 yard average. Those numbers also included an NFL-best two touchdowns, including the longest of the season at 109 yards. In other words, no kick-off is safe if it’s in the field of play.

But Belichick reminded everyone Friday that Minnesota’s punt return game can be just as dangerous. Marcus Sherels returned one punt for a touchdown in 2013 as part of his best season yet as a punt returner. He returned 22 punts for a 15.2 yard-per-return average. In his first two full-time seasons with the Vikings in 2011 and ’12, he split duties between the punt return game and the kick return side. Last year, with Patterson on board, Sherels was made into an exclusive punt returner.

“I think Sherels is probably as dangerous on punt returns, different type of guy, different style of guy but equally explosive and dangerous so their return game is the best in the league last year, the combination of the two so that will be a big challenge for our special teams units,” Belichick said.

After what happened with the Patriots special teams last week in Miami and the big returns they allowed throughout the preseason, this will be a big challenge indeed for Scott O’Brien and the special teams coverage unit.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia