Sep 1, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;   New England Patriots outside linebacker Jamie Collins (91) attempts to block a pass by New York Giants quarterback Ryan Nassib (12) during first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Jamie Collins could be soaring toward a big deal in free agency. (Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — No one knows more than Bill Belichick that, in today’s NFL, you have to prepare for the games while always keeping an eye on the future.

Asked Friday about the large number of defensive starters who have pending contract issues on the horizon after the season, the Patriots coach provided some perspective and insight on how the team regards signing its own free agents.

“In general, there’s some team planning, you do what you can do,” Belichick said Friday. “Sometimes if you can work out a contract, which we’ve done that during the season with various players — if you can work that out, you work that out. If you can’t, there’s been a number of players we’ve signed — our players that we’ve signed once free agency has started. Devin (McCourty), to pick a name.”

McCourty’s case might provide some insight as to the Patriots approach this time. After free agency began in March 2015, the team inked him to a five-year, $47.5 million deal through 2019. But that didn’t mean the team wouldn’t re-visit it down the road. Days before this season began, they converted $3.74 million of his salary this season into his signing bonus. That move cleared $2.8 million of cap space. A win-win for the player and the team.

“I don’t think you can be afraid of free agency. It’s not if a guy gets to free agency, you can’t resign him. You’re in a competitive market, but you’re in a competitive market anyway. These guys know that they have other options, depending on who the player is and what their situation is. They have other options. We know there’s only so much money to go around.”

What the Patriots were able to do with Devin McCourty last season is something they would certainly like to pursue with others on their defense.

Linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower, defensive ends Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long, cornerback Logan Ryan, safety Duron Harmon and defensive tackle Alan Branch are unrestricted free agents. Collins, Hightower and Sheard are all considered front line starters and figure to demand big money over multiple years.

Third-year corner Malcolm Butler is a restricted free agent. The Patriots could match any offer Butler receives and be more patient with that.

“If you can work it out, then you have the security, if you can’t then you have your options,” Belichick added. “They have their options, we have our options. That’s professional sports.”

On the offensive side, starters Martellus Bennett, LeGarrette Blount, Marcus Cannon, Sebastian Vollmer and James Develin are all set to hit free agency next March.

Why might Belichick have such patience and feel confident? Simple, the Patriots are projected to have approximately $60 million in cap room after the season, meaning they could sign most of their free agents and let the season play out, which is usually what the Patriots prefer to do when there’s internal discussions over keeping players or letting them walk.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
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Bill Belichick holds court Friday in Foxboro. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — The praise of Bill Belichick, his coaching staff and the players has been flying around Foxboro more than Tom Brady’s passing game at its peak.

Even our own Chris Price wrote after the 27-0 demolition of the Texans without Brady, Rob Ninkovich and Jimmy Garoppolo that Belichick should already be considered the 2016 NFL coach of the year.

Don’t trying telling that to Belichick.

Asked by CSNNE’s Tom Curran at the end of Friday’s press conference if he takes any measure of pride in the amount of adversity the team has negotiated in the 3-0 start, Belichick showed his laser focus.

“Again, we’re really focused on Buffalo,” Belichick began. “I mean, I don’t really care about last week, I don’t really care about two weeks ago, I don’t really care about last year. I don’t really care about four years ago. I don’t really care.

“We’re just trying to get ready and compete against Buffalo. That’s our challenge this week. The rest of it, it’s in the books. It is what it is. Write whatever you want to write about it.

“I don’t care. It was good, it was bad, I don’t really care. It’s done. We’ve got to do a good job with what we have right here with Buffalo. Can’t live in the past.

“I respect where you’re coming from. It’s not like I’m trying to be dismissive of it but I really don’t care. It doesn’t really matter. Nothing that happened last year, last week, last month, really has anything to do with this week.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
IMG_0801

Bill Belichick holds court Friday in Foxboro. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — The praise of Bill Belichick, his coaching staff and the players has been flying around Foxboro more than Tom Brady’s passing game at its peak.

Even our own Chris Price wrote after the 27-0 demolition of the Texans without Brady, Rob Ninkovich and Jimmy Garoppolo that Belichick should already be considered the 2016 NFL coach of the year.

Don’t trying telling that to Belichick.

Asked by CSNNE’s Tom Curran at the end of Friday’s press conference if he takes any measure of pride in the amount of adversity the team has negotiated in the 3-0 start, Belichick showed his laser focus.

“Again, we’re really focused on Buffalo,” Belichick began. “I mean, I don’t really care about last week, I don’t really care about two weeks ago, I don’t really care about last year. I don’t really care about four years ago. I don’t really care.

“We’re just trying to get ready and compete against Buffalo. That’s our challenge this week. The rest of it, it’s in the books. It is what it is. Write whatever you want to write about it.

“I don’t care. It was good, it was bad, I don’t really care. It’s done. We’ve got to do a good job with what we have right here with Buffalo. Can’t live in the past.

“I respect where you’re coming from. It’s not like I’m trying to be dismissive of it but I really don’t care. It doesn’t really matter. Nothing that happened last year, last week, last month, really has anything to do with this week.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Michael Lombardi

Michael Lombardi

NFL analyst Mike Lombardi, making his weekly appearance with Kirk & Callahan, said the Patriots are justified in waiting to decide until shortly before game time who will start at quarterback against the Bills on Sunday. To hear the interview, go to the Kirk & Callahan audio on demand page.

Lombardi said the Patriots need to wait as long as possible to see if Jimmy Garoppolo can play through the injury to his shoulder.

“I don’t know if anybody can know that until Sunday,” Lombardi said. “I really don’t. And I don’t mean to be skirting the issue. But I think that Garoppolo is in such an iffy situation. I think Jacoby Brissett’s fine. I think whatever the rumors were about Brissett were wrong. I think Brissett’s fine, I think he can play. I think they probably tried to split reps [in practice].

“But I think the key’s going to be, it’s going to be windy on Sunday, can Garoppolo throw the ball all the way around the field, and how much pain can he tolerate. I don’t know if they’re really going to know that until Saturday — at least Saturday, or Sunday [after] another day of treatment. And if he can go, I would suspect he’ll go, but I have a feeling they’ll play both quarterbacks. … I don’t know if Jimmy’s going to be able to play for 60 minutes, and I don’t think they’ll want to risk that.”

Lombardi said this game likely will come down to New England avoiding mistakes and winning a low-scoring battle.

“They’re going to manage the game,” Lombardi said. “The first thing they’re going to do is not lose the game. So they’re going to protect the ball, not turn it over. And look, they’re not playing a juggernaut, they’re not playing the greatest offense on turf, So you’ve got to look at them and say, ‘OK, look, if we keep them in the pocket, if we don’t turn the ball over, if we don’t give up a big run, the game’s going to be in the teens.’ They’re not going to score very many points. So that’s how you have to approach the game plan: ‘Look, we’re not going to give up a big play down the field. If [wide receiver] Marquise Goodwin comes on the field, everybody on the sideline, play the deep ball. You’ve got to handle that. We’ve got to handle the down-the-field throws. Keep them in the pocket, don’t let them get out of the pocket.’

“It’s the law of inversion. This is what makes [Bill] Belichick so brilliant, is he operates under the Charlie Munger law of inversion. He asks what he must eliminate before he can win. And that’s what he does. They’re going to eliminate the big play, they’re going to stop the run, they’re not going to turn the ball over, and one of my pet peeves of all time is they typically are not going to get penalties on special teams.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

On Rex Ryan: “I think he’s a really good defensive coordinator. As a head coach I think there’s a lot to be desired.”

On which team is second best in the AFC East: “The Jets are clearly the second-best team. Their defense is good. The Jets have no depth. That’s the problem with the Jets.”

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

Tom Brady and Robert Kraft are expanding their horizons.

The Patriots quarterback and team owner have become minority partners in UFC.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Tom Brady and Robert Kraft are expanding their horizons.

The Patriots quarterback and team owner have become minority partners in UFC.

“Expanding our ownership group to include this caliber of talent and entrepreneurs is a strong indicator of UFC’s fast-growing global presence,” UFC President Dana White said. “Our new investors bring an incredible depth of knowledge and experience to help us continue to elevate this brand and capitalize on its entertainment and sports crossover appeal.”

Brady becomes part of a star-studded group that is buying in on one of the biggest and fastest-growing brands in sports worldwide.

Also included in the partnership are Abel “The Weekend” Tesfaye, Adam Levine, Anthony Kiedis, Ben Affleck, Calvin Harris, Cam Newton, Conan O’Brien, Flea, Guy Fieri, Jimmy Kimmel, Li Na, LL COOL J, Maria Sharapova, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Bay, Rob Dyrdek, the Williams sisters (Serena and Venus), Sylvester Stallone, Trey Parker and Tyler Perry.

In July 2016, global entertainment and sports leader WME | IMG – joined by Silver Lake Partners, KKR, MSD Capital, L.P. and MSD Partners, L.P. – announced it would acquire UFC®, the world’s premier professional mixed martial arts (MMA) organization.

The organization, founded in 1993, produces more than 40 live events annually and is the largest Pay-Per-View event provider in the world, broadcast in over 156 countries and territories to more than 1.1 billion television households in 29 languages.

UFC continues to capitalize on digital platforms via its wholly owned subscription over-the-top service, UFC FIGHT PASS, which delivers exclusive live events, thousands of fights on-demand and original content to fans around the globe.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
LeGarrette Blount didn't want any of the credit for his award Thursday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

LeGarrette Blount didn’t want any of the credit for his award Thursday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — LeGarrette Blount certainly deserved it.

The Patriots running back was named the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Month for the month of September as he currently leads the NFL in rushing yards (298) through three weeks and has chipped in with four touchdowns over the Patriots’ 3-0 start.

It was the first time he’s won the award in his career.

When asked about winning the award Thursday, Blount deflected all the credit to his teammates.

“It’s an honor, man, but it was a group effort,” Blount said. “It wasn’t all me. I know I get a lot of the recognition — I know I get most of the recognition right now. But it was a group effort. It trickles down from the offensive line to the tight ends to the fullback to the wide receivers. They all play a part in how I’ve been able to play.”

Blount, along with the overall Patriots rushing attack, has been much better in 2016 than in years past. He is currently averaging 99.3 yards per game, which is much better than his 58.6 yards per game last year.

The running back credited the team coming together and working better as a unit for being the main reason for the success.

“We practice together, and we work together every day,” Blount said. “We’ve had each other from the beginning of OTAs and camp, and everybody’s been able to stick around. We jell together like a family, man. That’s what it is here.”

After three games Blount is on pace for over 400 carries this season, which would be more than his three previous years with the team.

So how will Blount and the Patriots keep this pace up, or will they change the way they approach things?

“Listen to Bill [Belichick],” Blount said. “Simple as it gets.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

FOXBORO — There was no changes to the Patriots’ practice report from Wednesday.

Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski

FOXBORO — There was no changes to the Patriots’ practice report from Wednesday.

Both quarterbacks — Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett — were limited in the Patriots’ walkthrough on Thursday. The same goes for Rob Gronkowski and Dont’a Hightower.

The team will practice again Friday in preparation for Sunday’s matchup with the Bills.

Here is the complete Patriots practice report:

LIMITED PARTICIPATION

QB Jacoby Brissett (thumb)
OL Marcus Cannon (calf)
OL Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont’a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

FOXBORO — On Wednesday, Rex Ryan got testy on his conference call with the New England media, as he didnR