FOXBORO — If you expected Bill Belichick to offer up more details on why Tom Brady reportedly missed Sunday and Monday practices with an excused absence, you thought wrong.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady

FOXBORO — If you expected Bill Belichick to offer up more details on why Tom Brady reportedly missed Sunday and Monday practices with an excused absence, you thought wrong.

“I don’t comment on any personal situations,” Belichick said when asked directly if he could confirm the report.

Brady didn’t play in the second preseason game last Thursday night against the Bears after reportedly cutting his thumb with scissors prior to the game. He was seen leaving the stadium about 30 minutes before the game, which is customary for players not playing in preseason games.

After the game Belichick said he made the decision Brady wouldn’t play.

With Brady not playing in any of the first two preseason games, it appears there’s a chance he doesn’t play in the preseason at all. The coach doesn’t appear to be concerned.

“We’ll just take it day-by-day, week-by-week,” he said.

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

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower checked in with Ordway, Merloni & Fauria on Monday talking about taking on more of a leadership role this season.

Dont'a Hightower

Dont’a Hightower

Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower checked in with Ordway, Merloni & Fauria on Monday talking about taking on more of a leadership role this season. To hear the interview, go to the OM&F audio on demand page.

With Jerod Mayo retiring, Hightower is now the oldest player in the Patriots’ linebacker room and he acknowledged he’s taken on more of a leadership role with getting some of the younger players ready for the season.

“I’m always looking for that new wrinkle, just being here,” Hightower said. “I am blessed and definitely glad to be here. Sometimes I am starting [get to know] what is coming around. It feels good being one of the older guys and help mentor some of the younger guys in getting the guys ready and ready for the season.”

One of the other leaders on defense is Rob Ninkovich, who is currently sidelined with a triceps injury. Despite the injury he’s been on the field almost every day to keep up on his conditioning. It’s something the other players have noticed and is just what type of player he us.

“Absolutely. I think that is more Rob being Rob,” Hightower said. “It isn’t necessarily for anyone to say, ‘Look at him.’ Rob has always carried himself that way — just knowing his background and his career and what he’s went through and overcame to be is a great football player. The guys out there miss him out there and what he brings to the field.”

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

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
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Marcus Cannon speaks to reporters Monday at Gillette Stadium.

FOXBORO — These are interesting times for Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon.

The pair of offensive tackles are now front and center on the offensive line with the news over the weekend that Sebastian Vollmer could miss significant time or even the season with a bad hip.

“I love Sebastian,” Solder said. “Whatever he needs or whatever it is, I’ll always be there for him. Sebastian is an awesome guy. He’s one of my best friends. There’s so many things but as a group, we just have to move forward.”

What the Patriots need from Solder and Cannon will be consistency. With Solder slotted at left tackle, Cannon steps into right tackle, a position has had held down since the start of camp since Vollmer has not been able to actively practice at all.

“Wherever they want you to go, they have trust in you and you trust them,” Cannon said. “That’s what it is. If they want you play, that must mean they have trust for you to play in that position, wherever they put me.”

That consistency started to show last Thursday against the Bears with a good effort that produced a solid run game to complement Jimmy Garoppolo, especially in the second quarter.

“I think we definitely made an emphasis of it that week and going forward, there’s a lot of things we need to emphasize and improve on. I think that’s one of the steps where we improved and hopefully, we can continue to improve going forward,” Solder said. “We’ve had some pretty exciting games, I think. I know I’ve been excited to be back in some games. It’s been fun the whole preseason. We’ve taken it pretty seriously.

“There may have been but we’re never satisfied because we have a long ways to go. The way we practice, the way we play, whoever is out there, we’re ready to go. That’s kind of our philosophy on that.”

That philosophy will be tested this Friday as they face the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers in their first road preseason game of the year.

“Their front seven, they’re great,” Cannon said of the Luke Kuechly-led group. “They’re probably the best in the NFL, and we’ve got to do our due diligence this week of studying them and understanding them and working hard to continue to do good. It’s going to be a challenge.”

“We have to build off that,” Solder said Monday of the solid effort against the Bears. “One brick at a time, we kind of build the foundation of what we’re trying to do here. So, this is another brick we have to put on there. It takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of preparation. We have to play well.”

The Patriots also played Carolina on the road in Week 3 last preseason and came away with a 17-16 win.

“We’ve played them a few times,” Solder said. “There’s some new things here and there we have to be ready for. It’s just a matter of refreshing ourselves, getting ready physically to play well when the time comes.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — The Patriots have released veteran tight end Bear Pacoe, per a league source.

The 30-year-old Pascoe was signed last month as a free agent. The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder has spent seven seasons in the league, having suited up for the Giants, Falcons and Lions. He has 40 career catches for 336 yards and two touchdowns.

FOXBORO — The Patriots have released veteran tight end Bear Pacoe, per a league source.

The 30-year-old Pascoe was signed last month as a free agent. The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder has spent seven seasons in the league, having suited up for the Giants, Falcons and Lions. He has 40 career catches for 336 yards and two touchdowns.

The move also likely clears the way for youngster AJ Derby and veteran Clay Harbor to continue their battle for the role of third tight end on the roster.

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

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO — The Patriots have released veteran tight end Bear Pacoe, per a league source.

The 30-year-old Pascoe was signed last month as a free agent. The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder has spent seven seasons in the league, having suited up for the Giants, Falcons and Lions. He has 40 career catches for 336 yards and two touchdowns.

The move also likely clears the way for youngster AJ Derby and veteran Clay Harbor to continue their battle for the role of third tight end on the roster.

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

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
With Dion Lewis on the shelf, james White is going to get more work this season. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

With Dion Lewis on the shelf, james White is going to get more work this season. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — James White is ready for another chance at the spotlight.

With the news that Dion Lewis is expected to miss the start of the regular season with more knee issues, the third-year back out of Wisconsin is expected to see an increase in reps as the primary third-down option out of the backfield for the Patriots.

The 5-foot-9, 204-pounder, who stepped in down the stretch and into the playoffs last year following Lewis’ initial knee injury, said before practice on Monday that he anticipates leaning on his on-field work last season as a guidepost for this season.

“I had some experience last year, getting an opportunity to play — just play with more confidence,” said the 24-year-old White, who has three catches for 73 yards in two games this preseason. “Go out there and practice and take it one day at a time and do whatever I can to help this team.”

He added: “Just doing that during practice and repping with those guys. Like I said, when you can do it in practice, it makes it easier in the game. You build trust with the offense as a whole. That’s what you try and do.”

Last season, White had 40 catches for 410 yards and four touchdowns, to go along with 22 carries for 56 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Aside from the numbers, two areas where White aims to improve on last year’s performance is in blitz pickup and running the ball between the tackles.

The Patriots have had a long-established tradition of third-down backs excelling when it comes to working in pass protection, and while White was overwhelmed at times last year, it’s one of his primary points of emphasis this offseason.

“It’s a constant work in progress,” he said when asked about the art of blitz pickup. “You have different guys, different types of guys that blitz, so you just try and work at it in practice every day. We have some great linebackers here, so you go up against them in practice, it makes you a better blocker.”

As for an ability to run between the tackles, White is aiming to replicate the sort of production he had while at Wisconsin, when he managed 4,015 rushing yards and a 6.2 yards per carry average in four seasons with the Badgers.

“Just working hard during practice at it. That’s how when you’re going to get the most work in pads. Trusting the run reads, knowing what you have to read. And just running hard,” he said. “You’re not going to be great at everything at the start. You have to be patient sometimes and keep working at it.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
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Rob Ninkovich speaks to reporters in Foxboro. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Rob Ninkovich is in a tough spot.

But as the pass rushing specialist indicated Sunday, he’s at least got the chance to fight through adversity and get back on the playing field. With Chandler Jones off to Arizona, Ninkovich is the most accomplished best pass-rushing specialist on the roster, totaling 30.5 sacks, including 6.5 last season.

Speaking to reporters for the first time since tearing his triceps on Aug. 9 in a joint practice with the Saints, Ninkovich said he’s getting his practice in as much as the injury would allow.

As a rookie with the Saints in 2006, his season ended after just three regular season games with a knee injury. The next summer, another knee injury wiped out his preseason and he was waived.

He went back and forth between the Saints and Dolphins before the Patriots signed him in 2009. His injury luck has changed with the Patriots. In that first season, he played 15 games. He’s played in every game since 2010 and hasn’t missed a start since 2011.

“It’s really hard,” he said. “I haven’t had to deal with anything like this for a long time. Just trying to work as hard as I can, and just trying to work and do the only thing I know how to do. That’s try to work hard to get back.”

Now, Ninkovich’s job is to get the mental reps in so that when he returns, he’s ready as possible.

“You watch the tape, you watch practice, you watch game film. You do the best you can to try and absorb what’s going on and put yourself out there [mentally]. Again, it’s just something you have to do when you’re in the position I’m in,” Ninkovich said. “When you can’t be on the field, you have to take as many mental reps and situational awareness to put yourself in that position of playing, even though I’m not on the field.

“It’s something, for me, as a football player, you’ve got to run around, you’ve got to use your legs. Keep running around and keep my wind, that’s the most important part.”

Ninkovich, 32, is the leader of a talented group, including Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long and a host of younger players like Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom and Shea McClellin.

“Definitely, we’ve got a lot of great football players,” Ninkovich said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys. Chris [Long] obviously doing a great job coming in and being that sponge. Again, we’ve got a lot of knowledgeable football players.”

Ninkovich didn’t want to address any timetable for return, which initial reports had pegged at mid-October.

“I don’t want to talk about that,” Ninkovich said. “Just want to try and take it day-by-day.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia