Bill Belichick went into great detail on how he makes sure his team knows all the rules in the rule book. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick went into great detail on how he makes sure his team knows all the rules in the rule book. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

By now, everyone knows what happened at the end of the Seahawks-Lions game on Monday Night Football.

Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson was reaching for the goal line and a go-ahead touchdown with just under two minutes to go when he was hit and the ball bounced into the end zone. Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright, unaware that it’€™s illegal to hit a ball out, did just that.

Yet instead of Detroit retaining possession at the 1-yard line because it was illegal, there was no penalty called and Seattle was awarded the ball at the 20 and went on to run out the clock to earn the win.

On Tuesday’s conference call, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about the play and how much emphasis he and the coaches educate the team on the rules and gave a very expansive answer.

“I try to keep the team — I talk to the team on a regular basis on situational plays, which involves officiating, timing, utilization of timeouts and so forth and so on,” Belichick said. “So that is probably on a regular basis from training camp all the way through the end of the season. Probably once a week or something like that, probably in that vicinity. Sometimes it’s more than that, but I’m always trying to keep our team aware of situations and a lot of times we change the situation a little bit to extend the conversation about a play.

“So this is what happened, but something else, or they didn’t have timeouts or the ball was here, the ball was there, you know just to try and understand and comprehend totally what we’re doing from a team standpoint or an individual situation. The whole sideline, ball security, whistle, all those kind of ball possession plays, those are all very important for everybody to understand and we stress those a lot in knocking the balls loose, like was in last night’s game to try and make sure they understand what they can do and what they can’t do.”

Belichick said it goes beyond him, as the positional coaches go over rules as well during spring practices and training camp where it’s good to get the players in a smaller setting to speak to them about rules specific to that position.

“Each of our position coaches devotes a significant amount of time in the spring and then also in training camp, particularly in individual, 1-on-1 type drills where a lot of times there’s only two or three guys on the screen instead of all 22 so you can really get a good close up look at a lot of rules like that — holding and illegal contact and offensive pass interference, defensive pass interference, all those types of things,” he said. “That’s covered very much on an individual basis specifically to that position. Obviously the offensive guard doesn’t need to know everything about pass interference and vise versa, but it’s important for them to know the things in their position and how the game is being officiated. Then, those things are also played out in various other team or individual settings as they become pertinent throughout the course of the year — whether it is a particular play or particular opponent, that type of thing.”

The teaching of the rules starts right from when a player is drafted, as the coaches make sure each player understands the rule differences between college and the professional game. It also continues when the officials visit each team during training camp.

“Let’s start with rookies coming into the league. The first thing we do is teach them the rules in the National Football League and in particular make them aware of the changes between the college rules and the pro rules, which there are a significant number,” Belichick said. “We don’t really assume because we have no way of knowing how educated or not educated they are on the rules. They even are the same between the two — between college and professional level so it starts there. The NFL comes in and they go all over the rule changes with the team and the coaching staff. They meet with the coaching staff in the spring, which is their informative meeting and then they meet with the team in training camp and go through the rule changes and that is usually done during a time when the officials come to work the few days of training camp that they do for each team.

“That is also good. It creates a good dialogue between the officials, the players and the coaches. It gives coaches, players an opportunity to ask questions. Sometimes the dialogue goes back and forth — how’s this being coached, officiated and so forth? All that is done with the intention of getting everyone on the same page.”

With all the time Belichick and the Patriots put into learning the rules, he does understand how a player or an official can not know a rule because of the number of them and how complex and detailed some of them can be.

“It’s a lot for the officials to understand, it’s a lot for the coaches to understand and it’s a lot for the players to understand,” Belichick said. “But, in the end we try and look as the rule book as a useful tool, something that will benefit us if we know what we have to work with and make the best of the situation based on the way the rules are written and try and maximize our opportunities there, but that being said, there is still a lot that happens that is challenging for all of us — players, coaches and officials.”

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Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison made his weekly appearance on Ordway, Merloni and Fauria on Tuesday to discuss the Patriots matchup with the Cowboys and other matters from around the league.

NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison made his weekly appearance on Ordway, Merloni and Fauria on Tuesday to discuss the Patriots matchup with the Cowboys and other matters from around the league. To hear the interview, go to the OM&F audio on demand page.

Following their Week 4 bye, the Patriots will take on the Cowboys Sunday in Dallas. The Patriots may be catching a break as Dallas will be without Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, as well as likely their leader on defense in linebacker Sean Lee. Harrison said the Patriots should be able to take advantage.

“I think if you’re New England, you kind of look on that defensive side of the ball and without Sean Lee, every time he goes out, the last couple weeks, that defense is in complete disarray,” Harrison said. “The lack of communication, guys look confused. Sean Lee is really the anchor of that defense and unfortunately he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. That defensive line can’t stop the run. Atlanta had a lot of success. You kind of look in the fourth quarter and when your team has the lead and they are able to keep it because the defense is giving up big plays. That has to be a concern.

“If I’m [Tom] Brady, if I’m the Patriots, I come out with my same game plan. Run the ball, pass the ball, obviously you have to be concerned about [Greg] Hardy when he comes back, but I think overall the Patriots definitely have enough to beat this team.”

A lot has been made from Monday night’s Seahawks-Lions game when there was an “illegal bat” in the end zone at the end of he game. It appeared the Lions coaching staff as well as the referees weren’t aware of the rule. Harrison said Bill Belichick definitely would have known and pointed out the mistake.

“Of course. Bill Belichick knows everything,” Harrison said. “That is why he is the smartest, why he gets the most out of his players and when he is in a situation where any coach has to second guess anything, he knows everything.”

Despite the Broncos‘ 4-0 start, quarterback Peyton Manning has faced a lot of criticism. Harrison feels this should be Manning’s last season regardless of the outcome.

“Well, the good thing about him for him is it’s not just Peyton Manning anymore, I mean he has a really good group of guys around him,” he said. “I think you have one of the top defenses in the league, probably the best defense in the league when they can get after the quarterback and they have a really good secondary. I think it’s a really good defense overall. I think the main thing he is looking at is, he still doesn’t have it, but the thing that he has is the smarts. He has intelligence and he has the will to want to be great.

“Every time he passes the ball, I’m like, ‘Look at that duck’ and it’s amazing because these guys go up and make plays for him. I think overall, looking regardless of what happens, whether he wins the Super Bowl or not this year, this really should be his last year because the longer you play, the more we remember this Peyton, not the old Peyton.”

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Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Is it really Week 5 already? The NFL moves fast and as a fantasy GM, you need to keep up. I’€™ll endeavor to put some wind in your fantasy sails with today’€™s waiver wire. And remember, this morning’€™s addition is not the end of it. As a dedicated film geek, I watch every NFL snap every week. As soon as I post this, I will get back to the games. So head over to my free site, Rotobahn, this afternoon for my expanded wire. It will feature more players for deeper leagues and some matchup defenses for Week 5.

I’€™ll be back on Friday with the starts and sits, plus another DraftKings bonus article on Saturday that will delve into the best values for DraftKings lineups in Week 5. Also, check out the Fantasy Football Hour if you haven’€™t already. Jim Hackett and I are live every Sunday morning from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m and to keep pace with all my fantasy football content, follow me on Twitter.

The rates of ownership listed below are sourced from Yahoo!.


Marcus Mariota, Titans, 68 percent
Sam Bradford, Eagles, 63 percent

Neither should be available, but they are in some leagues. Both can be weekly options in 12-team leagues or matchup plays in 10-team leagues.

Jameis Winston, Buccaneers, 23 percent

His numbers for fantasy are not that bad and they are going to get better the rest of the way as he settles in. Winston’€™s remaining schedule is very favorable and he has the weapons to put up big numbers.

Alex Smith, Chiefs, 25 percent

He has a nice home matchup with the Bears this week so he’€™s a solid short-term pickup. Smith is doing his thing. He gets the ball out of his hand and lets his playmakers make plays. He’€™s a functional bye week replacement in any league.

Michael Vick, Steelers, 18 percent

With Vick’€™s risk, you get Vick’€™s upside, which is considerable when you look at his array of weapons. This week he gets Martavis Bryant back and that will loosen up defenses. His matchup at San Diego is nothing to get excited about or be scared of.

Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings, 51 percent

Bridgewater is on the bye this week so he’€™s a long-term buy. He has value the rest of the way as a matchup option. The Vikings have cleared some of their tougher matchups from their schedule. They do have a matchup with the Seahawks in Week 13, but at least it’€™s a home game.


Ronnie Hillman, Broncos, 35 percent

The stat-heads are yelling for Hillman, but the reality is that he had one single long run and that the rest of his day was similar to C.J. Anderson. This looks like a time share to me. As much as I would love to say that Hillman will be the lead guy, he’€™s been stuffed almost as much as Anderson. The real problem in Denver is the offensive line has been simply horrible. Now for the good news. Denver’€™s early schedule has been very tough against the run and it starts to lighten up this week against Oakland and then again in Week 6 against the Browns. Hillman is an upside add. It’€™s hard to tell if he can take the gig or whether he will be splitting time. Either way, with a plus schedule going forward, Hillman will have value in most leagues and needs to be owned.

Duke Johnson, Browns, 31 percent

My guy Johnson finally broke out in Week 4. If you are in a league using PPR scoring, this is a player you absolutely want. He’€™ll have plenty of good weeks in standard scoring, too. While the Browns are obviously forcing him into their moribund passing attack, Johnson also has plenty of ability as a runner. He should be owned in all leagues.

Chris Johnson, Cardinals, 65 percent

It’€™s not the easiest situation to read. There are three distinctly different backs in the Arizona backfield and they all have the potential to be fantasy options. Johnson seems like a good bet to hang onto the early down carries though perhaps not in a dedicated role. He’€™s a good pickup for the now and you may get lucky on the long haul. The one big plus Johnson has is his durability. This guy doesn’€™t miss games though he gets very little credit for it.

Matt Jones, Washington, 61 percent

Coming off of a bad week, Jones is still a back to own if not play because as the season progresses, the priorities in Washington will move from the now to next season, and Jones looms large in the long-term view. I love him as a stash in leagues with adequate bench space.

David Johnson, Cardinals, 44 percent

As I said with the other Arizona Johnson, this is a three-headed backfield and it’€™s hard to tell how things will play out. Here’€™s the reason to not give up on the rookie. He’€™s the best back on the team. Sadly, he is also the most inexperienced. What could happen is that David Johnson’€™s role will continue to be limited as he continues to learn. Then, at some point, head coach Bruce Arians could go to the rookie in a larger role to boost the offense. It’€™s also important to note that Andre Ellington is only slightly more durable than Jordan Reed. That alone makes David Johnson a very worthy stash option. As good as Chris Johnson has looked, he is a bit stiff in the passing game and Arizona requires more of its backs in passing situations.

Antonio Andrews, Titans, 9 percent

Andrews would have been a hot pickup last week because he looked very good in Week 3. The Titans Week 4 bye put a damper on his marketability, but he is looking like a reasonable flex option this week against a Bills team that has been mediocre so far. The really good news is that the schedule lightens up nicely after this week’€™s matchup. If Andrews hangs onto a good portion of this job, he could have some very nice value down the stretch.

Christine Michael, Cowboys, 9 percent

Meet the ultimate lottery ticket. Michael is the lone power back in Dallas where the offensive line is the crown jewel of the entire operation. Over the next few weeks, we will find out about Michael. Is he the talented back who was stuck behind Marshawn Lynch, or is he a guy who doesn’€™t play to the level of his ability? His competition in Dallas is an old uninspiring Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle, a guy who is getting yanked even when he produces because he refuses to run plays the way they are drawn up. Randle’s lack of respect for ball security is also an issue. Michael may or may not be the answer in Dallas, but he should absolutely be stashed because if he takes off, he could take off big.


Nelson Agholor, Eagles, 49 percent

He was in my buy-low recommendations last week and he did not disappoint. Agholor is a big part of the Eagles’€™ plans and he is playing most of the offensive snaps. He is a player to add if you can, and he’€™s still a nice buy low option in PPR leagues if he’€™s available via trade. The Eagles’€™ schedule gets better (much better) going forward. Agholor needs to be owned in all leagues. If you aren’t in the know as far as Agholor’s talents are concerned, check out my scouting report on the Eagles’ first rounder.

Leonard Hankerson, Falcons, 19 percent

His role is what makes him valuable. Hankerson is not a high-end talent, but he is a solid player and he gets to play behind Julio Jones. I’€™d be adding Hankerson as a play now option in any league where he is available.

Terrance Williams, Cowboys, 66 percent

Volume is the key. Williams is finding out that being a lead dog in the NFL is a hard job. He no longer has Dez Bryant drawing number one corners and extra attention over the top. Still, while he is not getting open as consistently as he was under the old paradigm, his looks are on the rise because he is far and away the best remaining outside threat on the team. That volume will give him weekly WR3 appeal in all formats.

Michael Floyd, Cardinals, 34 percent

He is slowly coming to life and he is one of the better stash options you are going to find. Floyd is a great talent who is stuck on a team with a ton of weapons, but his numbers are not at all representative of what you will see the rest of the way. Floyd is nearing full health as a nasty hand injury (multiple finger dislocations) this August. This is the time to go get him. When the bye weeks really kick in, you will be glad you did.

Tavon Austin, Rams, 17 percent

I know some of you laughed when I had Austin as an add last week and the week prior. What I saw was a player who was being given a real chance by his coaches and the player was responding. I have a feeling that things could get even better now that the Rams have Todd Gurley going strong. They want to use these two players together in much the same way Minnesota should be using Adrian Peterson and Cordarrelle Patterson. I’€™d be stashing Austin right now or using him as a flex option in larger leagues.

Tedd Ginn, Panthers, 33 percent

It’€™s hard to argue with production. There’€™s a target vacuum in Carolina and Ginn is filling the void. Cam Newton has always liked Ginn’s ability to run under the deep ball. Now they are hooking up on shorter routes and in the red zone as well. This is promising. Ginn should be owned in all 12-team leagues.

Dorial Green-Beckham, Titans, 18 percent

His role was growing, heading into Tennessee’€™s Week 4 bye. He should be stashed for his upside alone, plus, he is a very dangerous red zone weapon right now.

Tyler Lockett, Seahawks, 21 percent

He had his best game so far and I am still stashing him in my leagues that offer sufficient bench space. Lockett has nice PPR upside if they start using him just a tad more. Right now, the rookie is the third receiver.

Willie Snead, Saints, 4 percent

He is now playing more than Marques Colston and he is getting regular targets. The other positive is that Drew Brees looked healthy on Sunday night. Snead is a player to own in 12-team PPR leagues for sure and a player to watch in all leagues.

Devin Smith, Jets, 0 percent

He’€™s a future star if he can stay healthy, but the Jets will limit him in the near future for a few reasons, none the least of which is Ryan Fitzpatrick‘€™s buggy whip arm. The good news is that the Jets will play three receivers more than most teams going forward. Smith is one reason for this, but the Jets’€™ lack of any type of threat at tight end is the bigger factor. The Jets are running a spread offense, so this really isn’€™t up for debate. They will continue to play a lot of three wide receivers. Smith is a viable add in deep leagues and a mandatory pickup if either Eric Decker or Brandon Marshall suffers a long-term injury.

Stefon Diggs, Vikings, 0 percent

He looked very quick last week and caught six balls against a tough Denver defense. It’€™s not out of the question that this kid could steal a job soon — even when everybody is healthy. He’€™s a guy to stash in leagues with ample bench space.


Charles Clay, Bills, 70 percent
Julius Thomas, Jaguars, 65 percent
Antonio Gates, Chargers, 54 percent

The top three guys are easy adds if they happen to be available in your league. Clay has been better than expected (by me), while Thomas and Gates are both returning after four game absences. Gates for a PED suspension and Thomas from a finger injury.

Gary Barnidge, Browns, 11 percent

He lit up the Raiders in Week 3, and that’€™s like beating up your little brother, so not that many folks paid attention. Well, it’€™s time to take Barnidge seriously, because he followed it up with a plus effort against the Chargers which included another trip to the end zone. As I said last week, they are desperate for targets in Cleveland. Barnidge is now a player to add if tight end help is what you seek.

Ladarius Green, Chargers, 25 percent

Here is an interesting case. Green has been very good so far and he’€™d have been even better if he’€™d avoided a concussion suffered in practice heading into Week 1. Green returned quickly and of course, exacerbated the injury the following week causing Green to miss the Charger€™s third game. Green returned for Week 3 and scored his second touchdown on the season, and looked very good in the process. As I said a few players ago, San Diego gets Antonio Gates back this week and that creates a logjam at the tight end position. Making matters even more muddied are the injuries to both Malcom Floyd (concussion) and Stevie Johnson (hamstring.) Both players could miss Monday’s game against the Steelers, who do not cover tight ends very well. Green is a player to own for at least one more week, and perhaps longer.

Richard Rodgers, Packers, 17 percent

He’€™s a guy who can score on any week, so he makes a viable bye week replacement in all leagues and you never know when his usage might increase because Aaron Rodgers likes him.

Tim Wright, Lions, 1 percent

If the injury to Eric Ebron is significant, Wright could be a real sleeper in 12-team leagues for the short term if Ebron is forced to miss time. He may not be an add tonight, but perhaps later in the week depending on Ebron’€™s status.

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Blog Author: 
Peter Davidson

Former Patriots linebacker and current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi joined Dale & Holley with Thornton on Monday to discuss the AFC East and where things stand through four games of the season.

Former Patriots linebacker and current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi joined Dale & Holley with Thornton on Monday to discuss the AFC East and where things stand through four games of the season. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

The Dolphins fell to 1-3 with their loss in London to the Jets and on Monday they fired head coach Joe Philbin. Bruschi said a major issue with Miami is defensive end Ndamukong Suh, who the team signed as a free agent this offseason.

“Here’s the worst thing I can say about Ndamukong Suh — at times it looks like he doesn’t care,” Bruschi said. “My gosh, if you know me, that’s a huge insult to not care when you’re on the field. Watching that game [Sunday] and the Miami Dolphins, I mean they looked like they didn’t care, especially Suh at points in time. Jarvis Landry, he was out there playing his butt off. He was out there trying to win the game by himself. It was so noticeable because everyone else on that team wasn’t. If everyone played like Jarvis Landry, from what I saw based on yesterday, they would have been alright. But, you have a leader in the clubhouse that was supposed to be the free agent signing of the offseason that you’re all supposed to look to for the example. He’s showing that example and it seems like everyone else is falling in line based on his false leadership.”

Another team struggling in the AFC East is the Bills, especially when it comes to penalties. Through four weeks they have committed a league-high 47 penalties. Rex Ryan defended the penalties following the game, but Bruschi said there’s a fine line in doing that.

“A part of me understands and I know where he’s coming from and if you know coaches like Rex Ryan and people like Rex Ryan that just really say what they mean at that particular time,” he said. “Do you want that type of trait in a head coach? I think you have to think about that as an owner and as a player and as an organization. This is a guy that is going out there — I mean he said it was ridiculous, yes for all the penalties that they had. For me, the two different situations you have in the AFC East right now in Miami and [Joe] Philbin losing his job and then the Buffalo Bills and Rex Ryan — there’s two things, two very huge traits a coach has to be able to do.

“A coach has to motivate his team, that’s one thing. That’s one thing you have to do. But, another thing that has to go along with that is your players have to be made clear that there will be consequences for poor play and poor decision making. That is a fine line because you can just motivate a team.”

The Jets are currently 3-1 and in second place in the division, but Bruschi doesn’t think they are for real as he expects quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to have a few bad games.

“You just wait for the blowup with [Ryan] Fitzpatrick, really,” Bruschi said. “He’s going to have a game to two where he turns the ball over 2-3 times. It’s just that way and as fired up as he gets me sometimes the way that be plays because he gives it absolutely everything he has. He’s maxed out in terms of his intelligence combined with his athletic ability over experience. Those three things. All of that put together, that is the best you get right there. He runs for first downs, he will get every single yard. He’ll try and make throws that he has no business making, but he still attempts to do them because he’s that type of a fighter.

“I really respect Fitzpatrick, but there comes a time where everyone knows there’s going to be that two turnover game and that three turnover game and they are a solid team that can be competitive. Can they split with the Patriots? Absolutely. Certain plays can be made, the ball can bounce certain ways and maybe he plays a clean game vs. New England. But in terms of lasting, there are games he’s going to make those mistakes.”

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Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

FOXBORO — After nearly two months in the system, Michael Williams is still working hard to get comfortable with the Patriots.

Listening to Bill Belichick Sunday during a conference call, the hard work is paying off. Belichick credited Williams’ transition from offensive tackle to tight end as a reason for feeling comfortable enough to deal Michael Hoomanawanui to the Saints last week for defensive end Akiem Hicks.

While many of his teammates were spending a good portion of their bye week resting and getting away from football somewhat, Williams was busy using the extra time to learn the offensive scheme since being dealt to the Patriots from the Lions on Aug. 25.

“Study. It’s taken a lot of my free time away,” Williams told Monday. “Had two weeks in the preseason and up till now to learn as much as I can and as much time as I can working with [tight ends] coach [Brian] Daboll every day. Just learning and studying and repetition. Repetition is big for a player for a player like me. I like to be able to do it. I learn in that type of way by doing. Just repetition in practice helps me learn things better.”

Ironically, Michael Hoomanawanui, the biggest teacher in the learning process for Williams, is now gone to New Orleans because Williams proved himself valuable enough as a third tight end.

“Honestly, Hooman was my biggest help,” Williams said. “He was a very smart player. All my questions were to Coach Daboll or him. He’s helped me to get to this point where I’m at. I’m sad to see him leave but it’s part of the business. But he was a really big help for me.”

As for Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler, Williams says it’s helpful to be around two veterans that know what is expected from the tight end position in the Josh McDaniels offense.

“Gronk is Gronk, best tight end in the league, just a monster,” Williams added. “You can’t do some of the things that he does. He is able to help you in learning the system. Chan is a wily vet who just has been around, knows his way, knows how to play the position. Just an all-around great room to help people learn, help young guys like me learn the offense.”

Williams is not just a football player, he’s a fan. He was aware of how the Patriots used their tight ends as far back as last season. But that’s not what he was thinking when the Lions traded him to New England for a 2017 seventh round pick. When the Patriots assigned him the No. 85, Williams had an idea of what was in store.

“I didn’t have an [idea] of what I was doing when I was getting traded here,” Williams said. “I thought I was playing tackle. And the first day, they switched the number to a tight end [number] and we’ve been rolling ever since. Yeah, I saw in the playoffs and all last year how they used the extra tackle as a tight end on tackle-eligible play. I always thought that I could be perfect for that role. That’s why they called me at Alabama, tackle with ball skills. It just part of everything I’ve done before. It just so happened to be part of what they do here.”

Williams was a seventh round pick of the Lions out of Alabama in 2013. After spending two years in Detroit without ever playing in a regular-season game, Michael Williams is finally getting his shot with the Pats.

The 6-foot-6, 300-pound Williams was a blocking tight end at Alabama. After missing his rookie season with a hand injury, Williams switched to offensive tackle in 2014 but never managed to get on the field.

“Basically, being able to catch on every other play,” Williams said. “It’s all the same technique. You’re just one spot out. A lot of times you’re on linebackers instead of defensive ends but you’re also on defensive ends a lot. It’s not too much different in the blocking scheme. The biggest difference is just running routes and catching the ball.”

Williams finally got a chance to catch his first NFL pass against the Bills and the man throwing it was none other than Tom Brady, a thrill for Williams to be sure. The 15-yard catch was one he’ll always remember.

“It’s big for me,” Williams said. “It’s been two years since I caught a pass in any type of game, format, anything. It’s just something that one day you knew was going to happened. It just happened sooner than some thought. I was happy for it and I’m looking for a lot more.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
New defensive lineman Akiem Hicks is glad to be with the Patriots after being traded by the Saints last week. (

New defensive lineman Akiem Hicks is glad to be with the Patriots after being traded by the Saints last week. (

FOXBORO — Things weren’t working out for defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, the 2012 third-round selection by the Saints.

Hicks was benched against the Buccaneers in Week 2 and then played sparingly in Week 3 against the Panthers before being traded to the Patriots for tight Michael Hoomanawanui last week.

Clearly, things weren’t working out for Hicks in New Orleans and when he spoke for the first time as a Patriot Monday, he was all about his new team and didn’t want to discuss his time with the Saints.

“I look forward to taking my step forward here,” Hicks said.

And when he was asked what that next step would be?

“Back to playing football,” he simply stated.

The 6-foot-5, 324-pounder has totaled 66 tackles and 6.5 sacks over his 48-game NFL career. The 25-year-old has only had one practice with his new team, but seems to be taking things in stride, saying it’s “bunches of fun” to now be in New England.

The Patriots liked what they saw in Hicks during joint practices with the Saints this summer and those sessions played a role in the team wanting to trade for him.

“Great organization,” Hicks said. “Both sides have a lot of respect for each other, and I really admire the coaching style and the style of play, and (the joint practices) were a good experience overall.”

“It’s always a positive when a team welcomes you into their building with open arms, so I definitely take it as a positive and I look forward to my time here,” he added.

Hicks will add depth to the defensive line behind Alan Branch, Sealver Siliga, Malcom Brown, Dominique Easley and Khyri Thornton. He can play anywhere on the defensive line, not just the interior, and is hoping to help out in any way he can.

“I definitely want to be as versatile as I have been in the past. Just look forward to playing in this new scheme. I don’t have a hold on it yet, but I look forward to what I’ll learn as the year goes on.”

DraftKings DraftKings has your shot to play for FREE in the $1 Million Fantasy Football Contest THIS SUNDAY! First place takes home $100,000! FOR FREE ENTRY, CLICK HERE.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Malcolm Butler won't get the chance to match up against Dez Bryant on Sunday. (Mike Petraglia/

Malcolm Butler won’t get the chance to match up against Dez Bryant on Sunday. (Mike Petraglia/

FOXBORO — If you want to be the best you have to beat the best. It’s a time-tested cliche in sports and it’s one that Malcolm Butler has learned in just his second year in the NFL.

But to beat the best, they have to be on the field against you. That won’t be the case this Sunday when Butler takes his usual spot at corner as Dez Bryant is still rehabbing his broken right foot suffered in Week 1.

“You’re always going to want the best but that’s not the situation in this case so take whatever is out there. I’m going to play everybody hard, no matter who you are,” Butler said.

Cole Beasley caught six passes on six targets from Brandon Weeden Sunday while Terrance Williams caught three passes on 10 targets. Beasley and Williams aren’t Dez Bryant so it’s not clear yet how Butler or the Patriots will play it.

Of course, Bryant is far from alone in the MASH unit known as the trainer’s room in the Cowboys locker room. Quarterback Tony Romo injured his left shoulder in Week 2 in Philadelphia and running back Lance Dunbar is likely done for the year with a knee injury suffered Sunday night in New Orleans.

From what Butler saw of Weeden Sunday night, he thinks the Cowboys’ backup can more than handle himself and provide a challenge for the Patriots secondary.

“I’ve just seen him on TV. I haven’t caught up on the film just yet but I’m on it. The guy’s got experience,” Butler said of the 31-year-old QB in his fourth NFL season. “He’s in the NFL. You’re in the NFL for a reason so I’m pretty sure he can do a lot of good things. He did [Sunday] night. Just prepare for him the best way we can.”

Butler was tested by two of the game’s best in the first two weeks, as Antonio Brown caught nine of 11 balls thrown his way against Butler in Week 1. Then in Week 2, Sammy Watkins caught six of eight passes against Butler, including a late touchdown in the fourth quarter.

One thing Butler won’t get caught up in is the 100,000-seat football palace known as AT&T Stadium.

“Tell you the truth, I’ve never been there before,” Butler said. “My mindset and everybody else’s mindset should be just go down there and play football, no matter the environment. Just go down and play football.”

Butler was like everyone else on the Patriots in the last week, enjoying the break but taking the time to do some self-scouting before taking off for Vicksburg, Miss. over the last weekend.

“It’s good to have a little free time. It’s about to get going, thirteen weeks straight out of this. I enjoyed the time while I could.”

As for the self-scouting and breaking down his own tape, Butler said it was nothing out of the ordinary.

“I do that week in, week out,” Butler said. “I always go back and correct myself and my errors. When I do good things, I learn from them, too. It’s all about getting better, going back and looking at your mistakes and the good things, they all help a lot.

“I really don’t beat myself up. My standards are high for myself anyway. It can be little small things that can really frustrate you and small things mess you up. That’s why you go look at film, to correct it.”

And what does he see when he critiques himself?

“Just Little technique things. Little, small things,” Butler said without spilling any trade secrets.

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Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined Dale & Holley with Thornton on Monday to discuss the bye week and what the team was able to accomplish during the week off. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.