FOXBORO — As Patriots president Jonathan Kraft was doing his pregame radio interview on the team’s network, a big ovation broke out in the middle.

Jonathan Kraft

Jonathan Kraft

FOXBORO — As Patriots president Jonathan Kraft was doing his pregame radio interview on the team’s network, a big ovation broke out in the middle.

The crowd was paying tribute to Vince Wilfork, who was being shown on the video board in his Texans uniform, getting ready for the game. It will be the second time Wilfork has faced Belichick’s Patriots but the first time Wilfork has returned to Foxboro since leaving after the 2014 season and signing a two-year, $9 million deal.

“They should [applaud] and if we weren’t all talking, I would’ve been applauding, too,” Kraft said. “I love the guy. To me, he’ll always be a Patriot. I can’t wait till we induct him into the [Patriots] Hall because I think that’s probably a foregone conclusion. He was the heart and soul of not just the defense but that locker room for a number of years. He and Bianca were both [great]. They were everything you could want in a football player and his family, on and off the field. It’s amazing to watch what he does at his age. He’s still playing really good football.”

The tribute continued during the game, as with 12:16 left in the first quarter, Wilfork took the field for the first time with the Texans defense. A highlight video was shown and at the end of the 30-second video, Wilfork waved his hand to the crowd in appreciation.

As for when he knew about Jimmy Garoppolo not dressing for the game or when he might be ready to return, Kraft played it coy.

“I don’t know exactly. I guess earlier [Thursday],” Kraft said. “It wasn’t two days ago but to be fair, I wasn’t asking the question two days ago. Earlier today, I asked the question.”

How long might Garoppolo be out?

“We’re going to let you ask Bill that question,” Kraft said. “I might or I might now but I’m going to let you ask Bill that question.”

Kraft expressed his support for Jacoby Brissett.

“I think Jacoby has been at every practice since training camp started,” Kraft said. “All of our practices are for getting a player geared up to getting on the field. He’s taking the reps. He knows the system. He’s a great athlete but he’s a great athlete that understands using his intellect and how to use it. He’s been soaking it up since Day 1. He’s not along for the ride.”

Kraft on the color rush uniforms: “We don’t want to become college football in the NFL but the league decided in partnership with Nike to go with solid colors. Seeing these out here and in person, the Pro Shop, we bought a year’s worth, and we’re two-thirds of way though. My daughter said, ‘Ugh.’ My sons texted me and they like it.”

Kraft on the quality of Thursday night games: “On a week when you’re playing on Thursday night, you don’t even practice, have a couple of walkthrough. It’s all about the classroom. If you were to sign another quarterback, you have to cut a player on your 53-man roster that you like. We like the 53 men on this team, the 46 that are dressing. It’s football and we feel this gives the best chance to win to win the football game. This is about being mentally tough. Short-week games are the way to go out and prove that.”

Kraft on the return of Rob Gronkowski: “Anytime you can see Rob on the field, you’ve got to get excited. He was ready for 8:25. It’s going to be great to see him out on the field tonight. It’s great there’s that much attention paid to it because people really care. We get it but there’s not a science to it. Ultimately, the bottom line is a guy’s going to come back when it’s right for him to come back. Tonight is the right time for Rob to come back.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — The following Patriots players are inactive against the Texans Thursday night: quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, tight end A.J.

Dont'a Hightower

Dont’a Hightower

FOXBORO — The following Patriots players are inactive against the Texans Thursday night: quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, tight end A.J. Derby, cornerback Eric Rowe, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, running back D.J Foster and offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper.

Gronkowski will make his season debut after missing the first two games with a hamstring injury, while Hightower will miss his second straight game with a knee injury.

With Garoppolo inactive, Julian Edelman will be the backup quarterback.

Foster and Derby will miss their second game of the season, while Rowe and Cooper haven’t played in a game yet this season.

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

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

FOXBORO — It appears Rob Gronkowski will make his 2016 debut Thursday night.

Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski

FOXBORO — It appears Rob Gronkowski will make his 2016 debut Thursday night.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the tight end will be active against the Texans. He missed the previous two games with a hamstring injury suffered on Aug. 15 in a joint practice against the Bears.

“I’m feeling better every single day that goes on, every single week,” Gronkowski said Tuesday. “That’s all I can ask for. Obviously, you just don’t wake up 100 percent. I’m improving every day. I am satisfied with the improvements and every day I’m getting better.”

It would seem likely having not played yet this season that he will be on a snap count, but nonetheless he’ll be a good target for rookie Jacoby Brissett, who will likely get the start.

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

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

FOXBORO  –  At least the weather is expected to be crystal clear as the Patriots host the Texans at Gillette Stadium to open Week 3 of the NFL season.

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The scene is set for Patriots and Texans at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO  –  At least the weather is expected to be crystal clear as the Patriots host the Texans at Gillette Stadium to open Week 3 of the NFL season.

Clear skies and a game-time temperature around 70 is expected for the 8:25 p.m. kickoff. It could be chilly by the end of the game as the forecast is calling for temperatures to fall into the low 60s by the fourth quarter.

It will be somewhat humid as the forecast is calling for a relative humidity of 60 percent. But there is no precipitation in the forecast and just a slight breeze out of the south at 5 MPH.

While the weather will be clear the forecast as to who will be the starting quarterback and who will be the backup has been downright cloudy ever since Jimmy Garoppolo’s right shoulder was driven into the Gillette Stadium turf by Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso with five minutes left in the first half Sunday.

Making things murkier is the fact the Patriots could be starting a rookie quarterback in Jacoby Brissett, who was 6-for-9 for 92 yards in his relief effort, marking his NFL debut out of North Carolina State.

There have been conflicting reports as to whether Jimmy Garoppolo could be on the sideline. Ian Rapoport and Courtney Fallon of NFL Network report that Garoppolo is expected to dress and serve as the backup. ESPN’s Mike Reiss reports it’s more likely and expected that Garoppolo won’t suit up at all and Julian Edelman will serve as the emergency backup if something happens with Brissett. Garoppolo was officially listed as doubtful on Wednesday’s final injury report.

Either way, as it appears now, Brissett will indeed make his first NFL start.

Another big storyline is expected to be Rob Gronkowski. Rapoport also reports that “there’s a real chance” Gronkowski makes his 2016 season debut after missing the first two games with a strained hamstring. Gronkowski was officially listed as one of six Patriots as questionable heading into tonight’s game.

Ryan Hannable has 10 fun facts about tonight’s Thursday night game which features the “Color Rush” uniforms both teams will be wearing. Chris Price has the scouting report.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Friday is the 15-year anniversary of the day the Patriots franchise changed forever.

Tom Brady might not be where he is today without Mo Lewis' hit on Drew Bledsoe. (Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady might not be where he is today without Mo Lewis’ hit on Drew Bledsoe. (Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports)

Friday is the 15-year anniversary of the day the Patriots franchise changed forever.

After missing a week of games because of the events that happened on Sept 11., the Patriots hosted the Jets at Foxboro Stadium and the Jets led 10-3 with just 5:10 remaining and it was third-and-10 at the New England 19-yard line.

Drew Bledsoe scrambled to his right out of the pocket and picked up eight yards before heading out of bounds and linebacker Mo Lewis drilled him in the left side knocking him out of bounds and out of the game.

“I didn’t really see Lewis, because all I saw was the first down marker,” Bledsoe recalled to NFL.com’s (formerly of Sports Illustrated) Don Banks this week. “It was third down and while I was running toward the sideline, I couldn’t just go out of bounds short of the first down marker, not in that situation late in the game. So I tried to cut back inside and see if I could get the first down, and when I did that, I gave up my body to take the hit.

“People forget that after I got hit, I went back in the game the next series. And the reason why I came out of the game after that series was because I had a concussion as well, and I didn’t know which way was right and which way was left, and didn’t know my two-minute plays, which we had run for two years. I didn’t know I was seriously hurt until after the game.”

Backup quarterback Tom Brady entered the game after Bledsoe played the next possession and tried to tie the game, but after getting three first downs the drive fell short and the Jets won the game.

“Everything happened so fast and I think I was just reacting to the moment,” Brady said. “I felt prepared, and really it felt like football. Like something I had done many times before. I was bummed we lost, because we had some chances at the end. But it wasn’t until mid-week when we knew the extent of what Drew was dealing with. Again, I was just taking things as they came, and I tried to make the best of the situation, as it was tough for everybody, with somebody I respected so much like I did Drew.”

The seriousness of the hit didn’t come right away for Bledsoe — it was once he got back into the locker room.

“After the game, I was headed into the locker room with Ron O’Neil, our trainer, and he said “Why don’t you come with me, Bub.” He called everybody Bub,” Bledsoe recalled. “And I said, no I’m going to go in for team prayer, and then I’ll come see you. And he goes, “Nah, I think you need to come with me, now.” So we went in and Bert Zarins, our team doctor is there. He said the thing that really tipped him off that something was really wrong is that normally when you have a concussion, your heart rate starts to slow down pretty quickly. And instead of my heart rate slowing down, mine started to climb pretty dramatically. So that’s when he knew we were dealing with something that was more serious.

“So they put me in the ambulance and I really don’t remember much of that drive in. But my brother, Adam, got in the ambulance with me, and they couldn’t give me anything for pain because I’m allergic to morphine.

“I don’t remember this, but my brother said as we were driving and were just approaching the outskirts of Boston, I just went lights out. I just passed out, just from lack of blood. And he thinks I’m dying and he’s screaming at the ambulance drivers to get there, get there, and the next thing I know I wake up in the hospital, with a tube in my chest that was pumping blood out of my chest, and another tube putting it back in.

“I don’t think I really knew how serious everything was for a couple days afterward, but yeah if our trainer hadn’t intervened — because I just wanted to go home — and if our team doctor hadn’t sent me to the hospital, things could have been really different.

The Patriots went 11-3 with Brady at quarterback the remainder of the regular season and made it to the AFC championship game where they upset the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Bledsoe got into the game in the second half as Brady suffered an ankle injury.

While Brady would go on to play in the Super Bowl, it meant something to Bledsoe to be able to contribute.

“It did feel good to come back and play in that AFC championship game,” he said. “It did make the whole thing feel a bit better, to at least get back on the field during that run. The only hard part was that I tell people it was like giving a starving man a cracker. You just get a little taste of it, and then I had to go back on the sideline for the Super Bowl.

“But the thing that people don’t realize about that season — when I got to training camp and stepped into the huddle for the first time, I really thought we had a shot. For the simple reason being we had an offensive line that was going to be outstanding. The thing I really remember distinctly about coming into that AFC championship game was the first couple throws I made, I threw the ball and then I stood there and watched the ball get completed and nobody touched me.

“I just remember thinking, ‘OK, this is pretty cool. Chuck the ball, watch it get caught and you don’t get hit.’ So that O-line group really had come together and that’s why I believed in training camp that we really had a shot, and that ultimately ended up being the case.”

15 years later, the Patriots franchise has completely changed as the playing time allowed Brady to debut and now become one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time.

Who knows where Brady would have ended up if Bledsoe didn’t get hurt on that September day.

“Tom is a guy that always had that amazing work ethic and is a natural leader, but I don’t think anybody outside of Tom himself had the impression he was going to ultimately be a long-term starter in the NFL, let alone be a guy considered one of the all-time best,” Bledsoe said. “I felt like he was going to be a guy who was going to be around the league for a long time, and may get a chance to start for somebody somewhere. But ultimately he ended up having the opportunity to play for the best organization in football, and he as he grew into it and became a lynchpin for that organization.

“But if I hadn’t gotten hurt, maybe that doesn’t happen. Maybe he ends up with another organization, and winds up helping somebody else out.”

To read the complete Banks story, click here.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable