FOXBORO — It’s looking like Sebastian Vollmer won’t be in the lineup for the team’s most significant preseason game.

For a third straight day, the starting right tackle was not spotted as the Patriots worked in shorts and shells Wednesday on the grass fields outside Gillette Stadium.

Vollmer started and played 22 of 91 snaps on Friday against the Eagles with the starting offensive line, as did starting left guard Logan Mankins. Friday night, starters are expected to play the bulk of the first half against Carolina, meaning the Patriots will have to find some alternate plan for their offensive line protecting Brady.

One option for right tackle could be Nate Solder, who has played both tackle positions in the past, including on Friday when he reported as a tackle-eligible on the right side. Vollmer is coming back from a gruesome broken right leg, suffered against the Dolphins last October.

Teams are not required to disclose medical or injury issues during preseason so it’s not clear why Vollmer has been out the last three days.

If Vollmer is dealing with a significant injury issue, then it’s likely Marcus Cannon, who played some left tackle against the Eagles, could step in and fill the void at right tackle.

Other players missing again Wednesday were tight ends D.J. Williams and defensive linemen Sealver Siliga and Chris Jones. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, linebacker Cameron Gordon and offensive lineman Chris Martin were also not spotted during practice, as he did on Monday and Tuesday, Hoomanawanui left after stretching and headed down to the lower practice field to work with trainers.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Drafting rookies in fantasy football can be a very dicey proposition. Rarely do the year-end stats measure up to the preseason hype. In this piece I will be looking at some of the more intriguing rookie prospects for 2014 in terms of redraft value versus long-term value. These are players who, we feel, have a chance to earn substantive playing time in 2014. Obviously, circumstance comes into play, so there is a random nature to rookie breakouts, especially for the running backs, who all are in competition for snaps and carries. Having said that, this is one of the strongest rookie classes I have ever seen in terms of players who can make an immediate impact. You absolutely must be well versed in the top 15 options if you want to dominate your leagues in 2014.

If you’ve missed any of our prior fantasy content, I have indexed it below.

To keep up on any and all changes to our rankings and to access our cheat sheets and rookie scouting reports, check out The Rotobahn, where all of my 2014 content is indexed. I’ll be back later this week with an updated look at our high-value targets. And don’t miss the third episode of the Fantasy Football Hour this Sunday morning on WEEI 93.7. My co-host Jim Hackett and I will get into strategies for different leagues sizes and scoring formats. We’ll also talk with Eagles beat reporter Martin Frank, who spent last week watching the Patriots-Eagles joint practices.

1. Bishop Sankey, RB, Titans

Sankey is the one guy with a fix on a starting job and fantasy value starts with opportunity. Having said that, Sankey is a potential starter for a reason. If you are not familiar with the former University of Washington rusher, read his full scouting report. Sankey will cede some work to veteran Shonn Greene, and that will include a lot of goal-line action. You also have the new offense, which is a mild concern, though we have confidence that new OC Ken Whisenhunt will settle things down. Sankey should have low-end RB2 value in most 12-team formats, though he may be more of a RB3 early on as he gets his feet wet. Draft him accordingly.

2. Terrance West, RB, Browns

Yes, he’s not even starting, but when you do all the math on West, it’s hard not to conclude that he’ll be packing some serious weekly value at some point in 2014. We expect Cleveland to run the ball enough for two backs to work up a good lather. West could end up with some flex appeal in deep leagues even if starter Ben Tate stays healthy. However, if Tate misses time as he’s done most every season, West’s value could explode. There’s also the chance that West could simply steal the gig over time. He’s got enough upside to draft at his current ADP of 94 if you play in a 12-team league with a flex spot. If you’ve never seen the former Towson star play, do yourself a favor and digest his Rotobahn scouting report, and watch the film.

3. Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints

The New Orleans offense is a well-oiled machine, and the Saints should be able to integrate Cooks in seamless fashion as they did with Kenny Stills in 2013. Cooks is an inside-outside option who can even line up in the backfield if you want him to. This is a kid who prides himself on yards after contact. Here’s what he said when we caught him at the combine: “For me, I like taking a short pass and breaking it for a run. Catch a shallow, catch a hitch, catch a slant and make one miss and go.” I think HC Sean Payton agrees. Look for Cooks to play a diverse role in 2014. He’ll be part Darren Sproles, part Lance Moore, and he’ll be more explosive than either one of them. We project WR3 value with WR2 upside. Read Cooks’ full scouting report. This a player who you simply must know for fantasy purposes.

4. Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers

Frank Gore cannot be discounted, even at age 31, but we think some folks are discounting Hyde, who, I think, is the best back in this year’s class. He is going to be the lead man in Frisco at some point, and perhaps some point this year. I want him on my team if I can get him late in smaller drafts and in the middle of larger ones. He looks good so far in preseason action, and those who draft Gore would be wise to add Hyde later on as an insurance policy or handcuff. Do yourself a favor and read his scouting report if you aren’t already in the know on Hyde.

5. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers

He’s got a lot of the qualities we look for in a stud NFL receiver. Read his full scouting report for all the details, but the key takeaway is that Evans can be an every-down option for Tampa and he has serious red zone chops. If the Bucs have a functional offense, and we think they will, Evans has a very good chance at WR3 value in 12-team leagues. He’s got some upside, too. Evans probably caps out at the WR2-level in 12-team leagues. His long-term ceiling is even higher.

6. Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills

Watkins was our top-rated receiver heading into the draft. Sadly, of all the elite options, he was dealt the worst hand in terms of NFL locale. Buffalo is a cold, windy place, and the team lacks a QB with proven NFL chops. I’m not in love with the coaching staff, either. While we fully expect Watkins to impress, he will have to really earn it. Still, when a team trades up to the fourth spot to draft, you can expect that player to receive a lot of playing time. That reality, combined with Watkins’ top-shelf skill set, should give him WR3 appeal as a rookie. He has the upside for better if EJ Manuel settles in and plays well in his sophomore campaign. Read Watkins’ complete scouting report if you haven’t already.

7. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers

In his Rotobahn scouting report I dubbed him Mr. Upside, and he still is. Benjamin will be given every chance imaginable to make an impact as a rookie, and he has the talent to do it. The risk lies in his somewhat raw skill set and the fact that defenses can key on him. Still, his potential for high volume including solid red zone potential are reason enough for excitement. He’ll be rostered in any league I play in. He has WR2 upside with some bust potential if you overdraft him. If there’s one game that sort of frames Benjamin perfectly, it would Florida State’s tilt last year against Florida. You see it all there. The concerning elements and the eye-popping talent.

8. Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons

We remain unconvinced that Steven Jackson will own the touches in Atlanta this season now that there’s legit competition on the roster in the form of Freeman. We expect a job share that could go either way based on how the players perform, but with Jackson’s age and injury history, we are a lot more excited about Freeman at his current ADP of 102 than Jackson and his ADP of 81. We see the former Florida State star as a game-ready player. Read his scouting report for all the details and some good film.

9. Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles

He impressed us with his game film and then again at the combine, where he was confident and highly intelligent. Read Matthews’ entire scouting report for full illumination, but we see high-end potential in Chip Kelly‘s offense. The issue is the rookie curve and a very deep Eagles offense — even with DeSean Jackson now playing in Washington. Then again, while the Eagles are deep and diverse, they do have some injury concerns at receiver, with Jeremy Maclin and rookie Josh Huff banged up. And Riley Cooper is coming off a foot injury. Matthews is in good position and has looked very good in preseason action.

10. Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals

Hill is a player to follow very closely over the next two weeks. A strong finish to camp could change both the value of Hill and Giovani Bernard. LSU’s 2013 starter is a back who can play all three downs and is a potential goal-line monster. Check out his scouting report if you have not already.

11. Andre Williams, RB, Giants

He’s slowly but surely gaining prominence as other Giants running backs fall by the wayside. David Wilson has retired and Peyton Hillis is banged up and a bit lead-footed anyway. The starter is scheduled to be Rashad Jennings, who has no proven track record in terms of availability. Williams is not a good option in PPR formats, but he could have some legit value in standard scoring leagues and you’d be nuts to pass him up as a handcuff option to Jennings if you take Jennings as a starter. I know all you Bostonians know this kid, but I have a full scouting report for you just in case. This guy landed on the right team. He’ll be a very productive Giant if he can keep those shoulders healthy.

12. Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars

As I said in his scouting report, Lee is an NFL-ready player. He’s also on a team that needs receiver help. It’s quite possible that Lee becomes the Jaguars’ No. 1 option at some point this season. He’s got WR3 potential in 12-team formats and he could be draftable in smaller leagues if he has a good camp. Right now, Lee is a nice mid- to late-round option in most drafts.

13. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants

We are big on Beckham. Read his scouting report to find out all the specifics and to watch his film. Beckham is game-ready, and his team invested the 12th overall pick on his talents. There is a concern that the Giants have enough depth at receiver to bring him along slowly, but that’s not why you take a WR at 12 overall in a deep draft. The G-Men plan on giving Beckham every opportunity, once he’s fully recovered from his hamstring injury, and they should play a ton of three-receiver sets in 2014. We think he will be a WR3 in 12-team leagues at some point this season. Long term, we think he has yearly Pro Bowl potential. Don’t reach for him, as his hamstring could linger into the regular season. Draft him as a reserve option in deeper formats.

14. Cody Latimer, WR, Broncos

As I said last preseason with regard to Julius Thomas, who was going undrafted at the time, “All of Peyton Manning‘s targets must be owned.” Latimer now is a Peyton Manning receiver, and while he may not be part of the regular rotation early on, he has the potential to outplay Emmanuel Sanders or to fill in in case Sanders, Wes Welker or Demaryius Thomas goes down. The former Indiana star has an outstanding skill set with size and speed in abundance. His long-term outlook is bright and all he needs is an opportunity to break out as a rookie. I break down Latimer’s game in his Rotobahn scouting report. Watch the film.

15. Tre Mason, RB, Rams

Having a good camp will be huge for Mason because the Rams have an established starter in Zac Stacy who they can lean on heavily if need be. Having said that, Mason has the skill set to earn a large share of the job once he is settled in. This is a situation to monitor both for Mason’s value and, more importantly, for Stacy’s. If you are unfamiliar with Mason’s game, spend a few minutes with his Rotobahn scouting report.

16. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Vikings

People are totally napping on this guy as a fantasy sleeper. There is potential for legit value here if he wins the starting job. That’s far from a given at this point, but we are big fans of the Vikings’ skill talent from top to bottom, as I said in my recent column “Respect the Norsemen.” All they need is an accurate QB who can get the ball to the playmakers. If the rookie can fill that void, he can be relevant for fantasy purposes. Remember, this is a QB with plus mobility and outstanding awareness. We expect some foot points in addition to what he can do with his arm. Can he beat out Matt Cassel from Day 1? It’s a story worth following for fantasy GMs. Check out Bridgewater’s scouting report if you have not already. He is going undrafted in most seasonal leagues.

17. Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars

Bortles has played well enough this preseason to put pressure on incumbent starter Chad Henne, who has played solid ball himself. Bortles most certainly is a rookie to watch because he’s a very good athlete for a big man and has major foot-point potential in fantasy. While Bortles likely would benefit from some clipboard time, he’s already a capable fantasy force if he is starting. He also adds a dynamic to the Jaguars offense that the statuesque Henne does not. Check out Bortles’ scouting report if you aren’t familiar with his game. He’s a player to watch through the rest of camp. If the Jacksonville receivers get and stay healthy, Bortles could be a real sleeper if and when he gets in there.

18. Dri Archer, RB, Steelers

This may surprise some people, but we think Archer is a running back to watch in camp. The Steelers don’t have any players who have the kind of explosiveness we see from Archer on film. He doesn’t need a ton of snaps to make an impact, and he can play all over the formation. If you think a player like Andrew Hawkins is exciting, just wait until you get a load of Dri Archer. Check out his scouting report if you haven’t already. I’m targeting Archer as a late-round selection in large redraft formats, especially in leagues with PPR scoring.

19. De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Chiefs

Thomas is a complex talent. I recommend digesting his scouting report. The reason he’s got redraft potential is because of the team that took him. Thomas is a potentially excellent fit for Andy Reid‘s scheme and he’s a pure playmaker. His RB eligibility makes him a serious sleeper in PPR formats. He’s definitely a talent to monitor in camp, and remember, Dexter McCluster now is a Tennessee Titan. There’s significant opportunity in K.C. for anybody who can add any kind of dimension to the Chiefs’ passing attack. If he picks up the system quickly, Thomas could be a factor from the get-go.

20. Jerick McKinnon, RB, Vikings

He was our fourth-ranked running back heading into the draft, and when you consider that he comes from Georgia Southern and that he wasn’t a running back for most of his college career, that is saying something. McKinnon is an athletic freak and a versatile talent. I see him as the back to own behind Adrian Peterson. If I draft Peterson early, I am looking to land McKinnon a tad before his ADP for handcuff or insurance purposes. He’s still battling Matt Asiata for the job, but we’re laying our chips down on the rookie. Check out McKinnon’s full scouting report.

21. Eric Ebron, TE, Lions

While we like Ebron and expect him to get a chance to play significant snaps as a rookie, we also see a growth curve for the former Tar Heel star. In our view, the realistic hope is that Ebron becomes a startable talent as the season wears on. Anything more than that should be considered a bonus. He still has some route work and his hands are inconsistent on film, as we mentioned in his scouting report.

22. Johnny Manziel, QB, Browns

His name recognition could cause him to be overdrafted, so be careful with where you select him, because quarterback depth is at an all-time high. The Rotobahn QB Plan will be out soon and we’ll have several strategies for how to build your quarterback position based on league size, draft position and so on. Right now, we envision Manziel posting QB1-caliber fantasy numbers because he can score points in so many ways, but that won’t matter until he is starting, and we expect that to happen some time around Week 5, when Cleveland is coming off of its bye. Former Patriot Brian Hoyer has been named as the Week 1 starter. Hoyer has scant fantasy appeal and is not worthy of a redraft selection. If you haven’t done so already, check out Manziel’s pre-draft scouting report.

23. James White, RB, Patriots

I doubt I need to go on at length with regard to White, who has impressed so far in Patriots camp. Stevan Ridley‘s well-known ball-security issues give White a potential role as a rookie and we love the way he fits into the Patriots system. He can run the ball and he can function in all aspects of the passing game. When you factor in Shane Vereen‘s penchant for injury, there are a few ways White could get heavily involved. He may not be exciting, but fantasy production often is about opportunity, and White’s solid fundamentals could give him plenty of opportunity.

24. Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars

Mr. Robinson has tons of upside, but he is a rookie and he’s been down for most of training camp with a hamstring injury. When he gets back, possibly by Week 1, he’ll be a bit behind. Having said that, he’s not a bad stash option in big leagues. He is a big-bodied playmaker who Bill O’Brien featured last year as his lead weapon in Penn State’s passing attack. It’s all here in Robinson’s scouting report. Watch the film and check out his natural ability in the open field. He’s also a guy who can go up and get the football. He has excellent long-term upside playing with Bortles.

25. John Brown, WR, Cardinals

What can Brown do for you? Quite a bit. The Cardinals shocked a lot of people by taking the rookie out of Pittsburg State in the third round of this year’s draft. We were high on Brown, but I can’t say that we expected him to go that soon. It’s a good sign for his short-term value, and if there’s even one injury in Arizona, Brown could become a weekly starter in all leagues. He’s that talented. Right now, Brown is battling Ted Ginn for the third receiver job, and we think he wins it. Check out the little-known receiver’s scouting report.

26. Lache Seastrunk, RB, Washington

Washington’s backfield could go a lot of ways this year with a new coaching staff. Seastrunk was drafted by the new regime, and that’s no small detail. The main thing to know about the former Baylor back is that he’s a big play waiting for a place to happen if you give him some room to run. For Seastrunk to have a big rookie year, he will have to have a good camp and earn a role. His primary competition will come from incumbent starter Alfred Morris and Roy Helu. Check out his scouting report if you haven’t seen Seastrunk run. HC Jay Gruden is looking for playmakers, and Seastrunk’s a guy who hits the home run. He could be a nice producer at some point in 2014.

27. Davante Adams, WR, Packers

The positives are Adams’ obvious talent and the fact that he’s landed with a HOF QB in his prime. Still, as we said in Adams’ scouting report, he does have some things to work on and it’s quite possible that he will be a fourth receiver for a period of time. If he can outperform Jarett Boykin in camp, he could be the third receiver out of the gate and that would make him an interesting fantasy option. That is far from a given. Boykin is talented in his own right and played 59 percent of the Packers‘ offensive snaps in 2013, putting up 49 receptions for 681 yards and three scores.

28. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Buccaneers

The Bucs have a lot of red zone weapons, so Seferian-Jenkins should not be forced into action as he might have been with a different team. Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans form a huge athletic pair of bookend receivers that most NFL teams would die for. That said, the rookie tight end has serious chops as a receiver, especially near the goal line. He’s worthy of an investment later on in big redraft formats, and he could become a priority waiver pickup at some point in medium-sized leagues. Read his full scouting report if you don’t know his game.

29. Paul Richardson, WR, Seahawks

He’s being sold as a special teamer in 2014, and Seattle certainly is a team that makes rookies earn their keep. Having said that, Richardson is a receiver who could make impact playing in the Seahawks offense. He could absolutely force his way onto the field at some point. If he flashes in camp, we’ll be looking to nab him late in large drafts. Read our glowing scouting report on the Colorado product if you have not already.

30. Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts

He’s raw and he’s a body-catcher, but he’s also a big play waiting to happen. I cover it all in his pre-draft scouting report. If there are injuries in Indianapolis, this kid has the potential to go off as one of Andrew Luck‘s big weapons. For now he’s a player to monitor with Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks all looking healthy.

31. Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers

I am a big fan of the ex-Clemson star’s game, but he is a little bit raw and he’s on a team with solid overall receiving talent. A cursory glance at the Steelers would lead one to think that Bryant won’t do much as a rookie, but there are a few things in his favor. The Steelers lack size on the outside. Both starters, Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton, are susceptible to injury as smallish run-after-catch options. One injury is all it might take for Bryant to get a starting gig. The other factor is Bryant’s size. He’s a natural red zone weapon and he’s probably the best on the team outside of Heath Miller. I sat down with him at this year’s combine and he’s a kid who knows what he’s doing and what areas he needs to work on. I’m betting on him for the long term. It’s all in his scouting report.

32. Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins

He’s stuck behind a few veterans, so he may not have a big role as a rookie, but this is a player to keep an eye on both for fantasy GMs and for those who root for teams in the AFC East. I think Landry has the potential to become a Hines Ward-type, but it will take a little time. He has some of the best hands we’ve scouted in recent years. It’s all there in his scouting report.

33. Derek Carr, QB, Raiders

Carr is not a draft-day target outside of very large formats and obvious long-term formats like keeper and dynasty. That being said, if he overtakes Matt Schaub for the starting job, he will have some value — certainly more than Schaub. Carr’s full scouting report is up on Rotobahn.

34. Zach Mettenberger, QB, Titans

When all is said and done, Mattenberger could be one of the best values in the 2014 NFL draft. This guy has a top-shelf NFL arm. The former LSU starter can throw lasers all over the gridiron. The questions about Mettenberger revolve around his health and also his character as he had some off-field incidents early on in his college career. It’s all in his scouting report. Watch the film and you’ll be able to scout Mattenberger, Landry and Beckham all at the same time.

35. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Patriots

I’m giving him an honorary mention. No, he won’t have any value unless something unspeakable happens. Having said that, Garroppolo’s presence could be a season-saver for New England if Tom Brady goes down for, say, six weeks. We think the rookie can hold down the fort against average competition and keep the team alive if it needs him. Check out my original pre-draft take on the young passer who, we think, is Brady’s heir apparent.

Blog Author: 
Peter Davidson

The New England Patriots continue to be one of the most valuable commodities in sports.

The New England Patriots continue to be one of the most valuable commodities in sports.

According to Forbes, the team held by Robert Kraft and his family are worth $2.6 billion, surpassed in the NFL by only the Dallas Cowboys, worth $3.2 billion.

The Cowboys are surpassed by only the soccer superpower Real Madrid ($3.4 billion) in terms of overall net worth among all global sports franchises. Thanks in part to Cowboys Stadium (a.k.a. “JerryWorld”), Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has seen his value rise by 36 percent over 2013.

The Cowboys top Forbes’ rankings by a healthy margin for an eighth consecutive season, having risen in value by $900 million over the last 12 months to become the only NFL team worth more than $3 billion.

Here’s the top 5 franchises in the NFL:

Franchise Value
1. Cowboys $3.2 billion
2. Patriots $2.6B
3. Redskins $2.4B
4. NY Giants $2.1B
5. Texans $1.85B

The Cowboys have the NFL’s highest revenue ($560 million) and operating income ($246 million). This year, Jones added something new and different – partnerships with a worldwide luxury watch and cruise line, an NFL first.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are seven teams are worth less than $1 billion: the San Diego Chargers ($995 million), Cincinnati Bengals ($990 million), Oakland Raiders ($970 million), Jacksonville Jaguars ($965 million), Detroit Lions ($960 million), Buffalo Bills ($935 million) and the St. Louis Rams ($930 million).

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Darrelle Revis has been good when it comes to avoiding penalties over the years.</p>
<div class=

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick hasn’t seen much losing in his career as a head coach, especially in New England.

The only sub-.500 season Belichick has endured with the Patriots was his first, when the 2000 team went 5-11. The next season, his team started 0-2 but ended up as Super Bowl champions. He’s been a record-setting winner ever since.

In Cleveland, of course, it was different. He had losing seasons in four of his five seasons by Lake Erie and endured the most arduous end to a season imaginable. So, Belichick does remember what losing was like. And he remembers something else, a bad feeling in training camp and preseason usually is never followed by a successful regular season.

On Tuesday, he explained why.

“I think it’€™s probably just an overall feeling,” Belichick said. “Just the way that the team works, the way they respond to the things they’€™re asked to do in camp and how they handle some of the tests that they’€™re put through. It’€™s a grind. It’€™s tough. It’€™s a very competitive situation. It’€™s a challenge for the team ‘€“ not just the players – but the entire organization to handle all the things you have to handle in training camp, without something kind of internally being a problem and being ready to go.”

There was no bigger potential distraction than what the 2013 Patriots had to deal with heading into camp, when star tight end Aaron Hernandez was released after being charged with the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. But that was dealt with on the first day. There was the forearm injury of Rob Gronkowski and whether he would be ready to start the season. That actually became a bigger soap opera but eventually he returned and the team rolled to a second straight 12-4 season and a third straight trip to the AFC championship.

In 2011, owner Robert Kraft lost his wife Myra over the summer after helping negotiate the end of the labor impasse. That year, inspired from the start, the Patriots overcame the Ravens in the AFC championship and nearly overcame Rob Gronkowski‘s bum ankle in a heart-breaking Super Bowl loss to the Giants. The seed of toughness of the 2011 and 2013 teams were sowed in the summer.

“You have to be able to show some mental toughness, some ability to block out distractions and focus on your job and improving individually and as a team and all those things,” Belichick reminded everyone Tuesday. “If you can do those over a training camp period of, call it six weeks, then it’€™s probably a pretty good indication that you have a chance to do it during the year. If you don’t, then it’€™s probably an indication that when the pressure really comes on during the season, which the pressure is going to mount for the team as the season goes, I’€™d say the likelihood of it all just magically coming together without a legitimate foundation, I haven’€™t had a lot of great experience with that.”

In 2001, the Patriots started 0-2, lost their starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe to a life-threatening injury and had an offensive lineman in Joe Andruzzi, whose brother helped save lives at Ground Zero on 9/11. The Patriots somehow managed to overcome the distractions and play with the right kind of emotion, finishing 11-5 en route to a stunning Super Bowl win that started a dynasty.

Of course, Belichick has seen the flip side when his 1995 Browns were submarined by owner Art Modell‘s mid-season announcement he was moving to Baltimore in 1996. The City of Cleveland was devastated and that Browns team could never recover, finishing 5-11.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Devin McCourty looks to lead the Patriots secondary with a hands-off approach this season (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Football fans, Devin McCourty feels your pain.

He tried to watch Monday night’s game between the Browns and Redskins just like a fan. And like a fan, he found it really hard to not change the channel with the number of flags thrown, especially on defensive backs.

“I think as a DB, you’re trained to never to look for a flag,” McCourty said. “It’s makes them throw it more. But even [Monday] night, watching the game, it’s just seems like every couple of plays, there’s another flag. It’ll be tough for people trying to watch the game who have work in the morning and stuff like that.”

All joking aside, McCourty has the unique perspective of having started out as a cornerback before transitioning to safety full-time last season. He knows he won’t be able to get away with as much tugging so technique, even for a safety, will be key this season.

“I think it’s a little different but we have some of the same issues as far as how we’re covering guys, too, like guys coming off the line of scrimmage, things that you might have gotten away with you may not get away with [this season],” McCourty said. “But I think it’s hard to try and change your whole game. We don’t want to start to giving up long passes and touchdowns just to say, ‘I didn’t want illegal contact.’ Hopefully, they reduce the [number of] flags and we get to play a little bit.”

Bill Belichick never stops playing mad scientist with his secondary, like on Friday night against the Eagles, when he had Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan taking snaps at safety.

“I don’t it’s that much tougher,” McCourty said of watching and playing with new players rotating at safety. “I think a lot of it is putting your rules and what you do as a defense into what they’re doing so it’s just guys just talking about it and seeing stuff the same way and being on the same page. As long as you can do that, you just put your rules toward that.

“Anytime you get out in the game atmosphere and you’re playing, and the refs out there and playing together, I think that’s always key going into the season. It’s always better the first time when it’s live bullets. I always think it’s good to get some of the preseason reps in there and hopefully, we don’t see as many flags as we’ve been seeing this preseason throughout the game.”

McCourty said Tuesday that another newbie to the secondary – perennial All-Pro Darrelle Revis – looks very comfortable with the rest of the defensive backs.

“It’s been cool,” McCourty said. “He’s fit in pretty good. Communication has been going good. I just think as a unit, we’ve been taking the right steps each day, just trying to get better, working on things we’ve made mistakes on. I think that’s what’s been great about our unit. We haven’t made a lot of the same mistakes. When you can do that, it keeps giving you room to grow and get better as a unit. I think we just have to continue to do that as we head into the season.”

Another difference this week is preparation. The Patriots are practicing against themselves again, not the Redskins or Eagles. For McCourty and the defensive backs, it’s back to the traditional method of watching it in the classroom and then replicating on the field.

“You just have more conversations,” McCourty said. “It’s not as easy as playing it live. I think when you’re doing it at practice against a team, you can talk about it right there on the field. Sometimes, two guys can come off and say, ‘I saw this.’ Then I say, ‘This is what it really was.’ When you are in film [study], you might see something and think it’s similar but it might look a little different in two different games for one team so you just have to talk about it and make sure you get on the same page as far as how we want to see it going into the game.

“The first two weeks, I think the hard thing for the rookies is that you get used to practicing against a team and then going to play it’s a lot easier than trying to watch film, just going off scouting reports. That’s the biggest difference now is we actually really get into a regular season mode, as far as watching film together, trying to get things adjusted from film and go into the game that way. It’s starting to really get us prepared for the season.”

It’s not just McCourty getting back to the traditional methods. It’s Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. Those two pieces of the defense have been back on the field together this week after Mayo missed last week.

“It was just exciting to have him back out there,” McCourty said of Mayo. “I think they do a lot to help us as a defense and as a team. Everybody is excited. Two guys in the middle that plug things up, and having Mayo control everything just helps our defense out a lot.”

Maybe the most significant sign of the importance of the secondary is that McCourty and the defensive backs have kept their places in the locker room while others, like Vince Wilfork, Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater, among others, have been shifted.

“Shows our importance,” McCourty said, tongue firmly planted in cheek. “They came to us and we said we’re not moving, and they left us. Nah, I don’t know why they did that.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO —’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price assess the comfort level of Brandon LaFell, the readiness of Darrelle Revis and the “game-ready” approach the Patriots are taking toward Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in their third preseason game Friday at Gillette Stadium.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — The NFL announced Tuesday that the practice squad for each team will be expanded from eight to 10 players in 2014. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said that the idea of having a a couple of extra practice squadders on the roster is a good thing:

“I think the reality of it is that those are probably the players that are going to get signed in the first few weeks of the season when teams have needs at that position,” Belichick said Tuesday afternoon. “If they’€™re not with any team and they’€™re available then those are the kind of guys that you can go out and add on to your team — some of them.

“Now, there are some older veterans that you would do that with too, but certainly those first, second-year guys that maybe made the team last year so their practice squad eligibility is up and this year they don’€™t make the team or a team and you get into the season, three, four weeks into the season and instead of going with a rookie, you look at a player like that. So, ‘€˜Here’€™s what he did last year. He’€™s got six, eight, 10, 12 games of experience, whatever it is, didn’€™t quite make the roster.’€™ That guy might be the roster.

“That guy might be a guy over the rookie, might be over a rookie on your practice squad too. I think keeping those guys in the system, it’€™s probably a lot of the same guys that are going to be signed. The only reason they weren’€™t on the practice squad last year was because they weren’€™t eligible, not because they weren’€™t wanted but they just, by rule, you couldn’€™t do it. I would imagine a lot of those guys would show up there.”

The league has also announced some changes when it comes to practice squad eligibility. From the press release:

The criteria for Practice Squad eligibility has been expanded in two respects.

First, a player must have a minimum of six games ‘€“ up from the current three games ‘€“ on a Practice Squad in order for that season to count as one of the player’€™s three permissible seasons of Practice Squad service.

Second, each club will be permitted to sign a maximum of two Practice Squad players who have earned no more than two accrued seasons of free agency credit. Absent this exception, a player who has earned one or more accrued seasons would not be eligible for a Practice Squad unless the player spent fewer than nine games on a club’€™s 46-player active list in each of his accrued seasons.

All other practice squad rules under Article 33 of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement will remain in effect during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO — Sebastian Vollmer was not on hand as the Patriots began their first day of post-training camp practice Tuesday on the grass fields outside Gillette Stadium.