After the 20-person nomination committee met a few weeks back, they have decided on three finalists for the 2017 Patriots Hall of Fame — Raymond Clayborn, Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel.

Mike Vrabel is a finalist for the Patriots Hall of Fame. (Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

Mike Vrabel is a finalist for the Patriots Hall of Fame. (Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

After the 20-person nomination committee met a few weeks back, they have decided on three finalists for the 2017 Patriots Hall of Fame — Raymond Clayborn, Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel.

Clayborn is a finalist for the fourth straight year, Vrabel is a finalist for the second straight year, while Seymour is a first-year eligible finalist. Fans have until May 15 to vote on Patriots.com for the former Patriot most deserving of Hall of Fame enshrinement. The winner will be announced that week.

Seymour spent the first eight seasons of his 12-year NFL career with the Patriots and played an important part in delivering six division championships, four conference titles and three Super Bowl championships to New England. He was named to five straight Pro Bowls with the Patriots (2002-06) and earned four straight first team All-Pro honors (2003-06). His five Pro Bowl berths are the most by any Patriots defensive lineman since the 1970 NFL merger.

During his eight-year tenure in New England, Vrabel played a major role in the Patriots’ run of three Super Bowls in four years (2001, 2003 and 2004). He started at both inside and outside linebacker positions during his Patriots tenure, regularly lining up on offense in short-yardage and goal-line situations and continuing to make valuable contributions on various special teams units throughout his career.

Clayborn was a three-time Pro Bowl player (1983, 1985, 1986) for the Patriots during a career that extended from 1977 through 1989.

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

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will open the 2017 year at home against the Chiefs. (Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will open the 2017 year at home against the Chiefs. (Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

Get your fall and winter calendars ready, the 2017 Patriots schedule is out.

Key games are the season opener on Thursday, Sept. 7 at home against Chiefs in the annual NFL Kickoff Game, and then a Super Bowl LI rematch on Sunday Night Football Oct. 22, also at Gillette Stadium.

At first glance, this is a much tougher slate than they had last season, as there are no layup games against the Browns, 49ers, etc. They have nine games against teams that finished with above .500 records last year.

Here are five initial thoughts on the schedule.

1. Late division games. The biggest thing that stands out is how many division games the Patriots will play so late in the year. Five out of the last six games will be against AFC East opponents. The only exception is Week 15 when they play at Pittsburgh, which will be far from easy. The first division game the Patriots will play is Week 6 against the Jets. In recent years teams have played the final two games within the division, but five out of the last six is very unusual. New England will be home the last two weeks of the season meaning it won’t need to travel on Christmas Eve or New Years Eve. Fortunately for the Patriots, historically they play their best football after Thanksgiving and should be ready for this stretch.

2. Back-to-back altitude games. Following the bye, the Patriots will play at Denver in Week 10 on Sunday Night Football and then in Mexico City the following Sunday, Nov. 19 against the Raiders. This seems like a perfect opportunity for the Patriots to spend a week out west to avoid a lot of cross-country flights. The team did this in 2014 when they stayed in San Diego and went very well. Another factor is both games will be played in higher altitudes, so maybe a week in Denver could be in store in between the two games. This will help the Patriots get used to the altitude, as well as avoid multiple long trips.

3. Tough stretch after bye. The Patriots have one of the best byes in the league coming in Week 9 right in the middle of the season, but their schedule really gets tough in the second half. After Denver and Oakland on the road begins the five out of six division games stretch. Also, following the bye the Patriots will play five out their final eight games on the road. It is also strange to see the Patriots play Miami twice in a three-week span.

4. Don’t sleep on start of the season. Some may look at the beginning of the year and say it’s a piece of cake, but there are some sneaky tough games in there. While New Orleans struggled last year, they are typically tough at home and historically the Patriots haven’t played well there. This Week 2 game will be exciting to watch with Brandin Cooks facing his former team, and maybe even Malcolm Butler on the other side. Back-to-back home games with the Texans and Panthers may not seem like a challenge, but the Texans will certainly have revenge on their minds and if healthy, they have one of the best defenses in football. The Patriots will be the team seeking revenge against Carolina, as the last time they played featured a very controversial ending with the Panthers coming out on top. Also, playing Tampa Bay on the road on a Thursday Night could be a sneaky tough game.

5. Not a great home schedule. There just aren’t many intriguing matchups on the home schedule. Besides Atlanta in Week 7, what other big games are there? All home games after Oct. 29 are division games as well, which usually aren’t very good with how much better the Patriots are than the rest of the AFC East. Just like last season, three out of the first four games are at home, which will be key in getting off to a fast start. From a fans perspective, having the majority of the home games early means good weather games, as opposed to late in the year when cold and snow games enter the equation.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

The 2017 NFL schedule has officially been released.

The biggest game on the schedule for the Patriots is the season opener hosting the Chiefs, which had been rumored over the last several weeks. A Super Bowl rematch will be Oct. 22 on Sunday Night Football at Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots' 2017 schedule is out. (WEEI.com)

The Patriots’ 2017 schedule is out. (WEEI.com)

The 2017 NFL schedule has officially been released.

The biggest game on the schedule for the Patriots is the season opener hosting the Chiefs, which had been rumored over the last several weeks. A Super Bowl rematch will be Oct. 22 on Sunday Night Football at Gillette Stadium.

The biggest thing that stands out is five out of the last six games will be division games.

Here is the complete schedule.

Week 1: Thursday, Sept. 7 vs. Chiefs, 8:30
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 17 at Saints, 1:00
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 24 vs. Texans, 1:00
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 1 vs. Panthers, 1:00
Week 5: Thursday, Oct. 5 at Buccaneers, 8:25
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 15 at Jets, 1:00
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 22 vs. Falcons, 8:30
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 29 vs. Chargers, 1:00
Week 9: Bye
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 12 at Broncos, 8:30
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 19 at Raiders in Mexico City, 4:15
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 26 vs. Dolphins, 1:00
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 3 at Bills, 1:00
Week 14: Monday, Dec. 11 at Dolphins, 8:30
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 17 at Steelers, 4:25
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 24 vs. Bills, 1:00
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 31 vs. Jets, 1:00

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

According to the Worcester DA, Aaron Hernandez’s death officially is a suicide.

Aaron Hernandez's death officially has been ruled a suicide. (Pool photo by Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe)

Aaron Hernandez’s death officially has been ruled a suicide. (Pool photo by Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe)

According to the Worcester DA, Aaron Hernandez’s death officially is a suicide.

Per a release Thursday afternoon, Hernandez was locked in his cell at 8 p.m. Tuesday night and no one entered the cell until a correctional officer observed him at 3:03 a.m. and forced his way into cell as the door was blocked with cardboard jammed into the track.

Upon entry investigators found three hand-written notes next to a bible. There was no sign of a struggle and Hernandez was the only person in the cell.

Hernandez’s brain will now be released to BU’s CTE center for investigation, per a family request.

According to Chris Villani of the Boston Herald, the notes were letters to his daughter and fiancée, saying he loved them and would see them in heaven.

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

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Tom Brady played with Aaron Hernandez for three seasons. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady played with Aaron Hernandez for three seasons. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

While it’s apparent the Patriots were largely ignorant of Aaron Hernandez’s turbulent off-field life, Tom Brady expressed concern about the deceased NFL star years ago.

In an NFL SoundFX video from 2011, which the New York Post recently unearthed, Brady is seen talking with Tim Tebow at the conclusion of a Broncos-Patriots matchup that year. At one point, Brady brings up Hernandez and linebacker Brandon Spikes, both of whom played with Tebow at the University of Florida.

“I’m trying to watch over Aaron and Brandon,” Brady said to the Heisman Trophy winner.

“I appreciate that, too, man,” Tebow replied. “They’re good guys.”

Before they separated, Brady said the two troubled players were “a lot to handle.”

While he was playing in college, Hernandez was questioned in connection to a shooting in Gainesville, Fla. He also allegedly punched a bouncer, despite Tebow’s reported efforts to stop him.

After falling to the fourth-round in the 2010 NFL Draft, Hernandez enjoyed three successful seasons in New England, landing a $40 million contract extension. But then it all went south.

In June 2013, Hernandez was taken into custody for the Odin Lloyd shooting. He was convicted of first-degree murder in the case and sentenced to life in prison. On Wednesday, five days after Hernandez was acquitted of a separate double murder charge, he was found dead in his prison cell due to an apparent suicide. In a statement, the Massachusetts Department of Correction said Hernandez hanged himself with a bed sheet attached to his window.

An investigation into Hernandez’s death is ongoing.

Blog Author: 
Alex Reimer
The Patriots appear to be be very interested in UConn DB Obi Melifonwu. (Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports)

The Patriots appear to be be very interested in UConn DB Obi Melifonwu. (Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports)

The Patriots are continuing their trend of meeting with some of the top players in the 2017 draft despite currently not having a selection until the third round.

According multiple reports, defensive back Obi Melifonwu met privately on Thursday with the Patriots at UConn. The Patriots are also said to have met with him around his pro day last month.

Melifonwu started all 12 games at safety for the Huskies last season. Standing 6-foot-4, 224 pounds he may be too big to play cornerback, but could be a versatile safety. He finished this past season with a team-high 128 tackles and four interceptions.

The South Grafton, Massachusetts native will surely be off the board by the time the Patriots pick at No. 72 overall, so this adds to the narrative the Patriots plan on moving up into the first or second round, which likely would be because of a Malcolm Butler trade.

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

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Tom Brady is on the receiving end of another accolade.