Eric Rowe admitted he's frustrated with his hamstring injury. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

Eric Rowe admitted he’s frustrated with his hamstring injury. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Part of the recent resurgence of the Patriots defense has been cornerback Eric Rowe playing a predominant role.

Rowe, who came over from the Eagles during training camp, has played quite a bit of cornerback the last three weeks, mostly on the outside with Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan being on the inside.

Before the last three games, he and Justin Coleman were battling for playing time, but Coleman has been inactive the last three games.

The cornerback suffered a hamstring injury against the Rams, which Rowe admitted was frustrating given his increased role of late.

“I was finally getting into a groove,” Rowe said Wednesday. “It does set me back, just me not being out there practicing to keep it going. It is a little frustrating, but that’s part of the NFL. Just another thing I have to take on.”

Rowe has no idea when or how the injury occurred.

“I’ve played in cold games in college, I was nice and stretched. I obviously stretch my hamstrings a lot because I do a lot of running,” he said. “Just one play, a regular play, and I was just running and it came on me. I still can’t figure it out. It is frustrating.”

With four games remaining in the regular season, Rowe knows it’s important to be safe, but it was worth noting he was at practice on Wednesday.

“I’m just trying to take it day by day and get better. Obviously, hamstrings are nothing to play with,” Rowe said. “I’m not going to try to rush myself out there and make it worse.”

The first injury report of the week is due out Thursday, so more will be known then.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Kyle Van Noy has been a great addition to the Patriots defense. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Kyle Van Noy has been a great addition to the Patriots defense. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — It wasn’t the greatest two-and-a-half years for Kyle Van Noy with the Lions, who selected him in the second round of the 2014 draft.

Van Noy played in 30 games over the two-plus seasons and had a total of 35 tackles and a sack.

The linebacker was traded to the Patriots the week before the team traded Jamie Collins and after taking a few weeks to adjust to New England, Van Noy has been one of the defense’s best players the past three games, picking up both a sack and his first career interception.

The BYU product appears to be having a lot of fun on the field, which comes with being used as a pass rusher, something he wasn’t able to do much of with the Lions.

“Wouldn’t you have fun if you didn’t play that much and then you start playing? Yeah, it’s good,” Van Noy said. “It’s fun to play the game of football. It’s a kids’ game at the end of the day and, you know, we’re blessed to have the opportunity to get paid a lot of money to do it. You’ve got to have fun, even on the days when it’s a grind and all that. You’ve got to dig deep and find a reason and usually it’s being around a group of guys like we have here to enjoy the game.”

Van Noy has played 29, 28 and 40 snaps in the last three games — his first three as a Patriot.

“You just want to help out the team to win and prepare each week like you’re the starter,” Van Noy said. “It’s a work in progress and we’re just trying to get as good as we can and ready for the playoffs and ready to win each game.”

Bill Belichick praised Van Noy earlier on Wednesday, as it isn’t easy to join the Patriots midseason and pick things up.

It’s also worth noting he was the signal caller Sunday when Dont’a Hightower was out of the game.

“He started off well right away,” Belichick said. “He came in and learned things and picked things up. Again, with a player like Kyle, part of it is just getting to know him, just getting to work with him, getting to know what he — things he does well, things he picks up on quickly, things that are instinctive to him and maybe things he hasn’t done before.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Chris Long believes Joe Flacco is elite. (Mitch Stringer/USA Today Sports)

Chris Long believes Joe Flacco is elite. (Mitch Stringer/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Is Joe Flacco elite?

That is a question that has been asked for years, and not only in just football circles, including most recently at presidential debates.

One person who does believe Flacco is elite is Patriots defensive end Chris Long.

“He’s smart, he can move around a lot better than people give him credit for in the pocket,” Long said. “He does a lot of things that make him an elite quarterback.”

Long was also asked about how physically tough the Ravens are and he found a way to mention Flacco being elite.

“As far as I can remember, Baltimore has been one of the most physical teams in the league,” Long said. “Of course, Coach [John] Harbaugh does a great job with that. They’ve got guys up front, they have good skill guys and obviously Joe, being an elite quarterback, is a big challenge.”

While Bill Belchick didn’t say Flacco was elite, on a conference call with the Baltimore media, Belichick praised the Ravens quarterback.

“We’ve played him quite a bit,” he said. “It seems like he always plays well against us, so I have a lot of respect for him. He’s a good football player and he’s been pretty good. Don’t forget, he took them to the Super Bowl championship.”

Flacco is completing 64.6 percent of his passes this season for 3,258 yards with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Bill Belichick loves lacrosse. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick loves lacrosse. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Sometimes it’s tough to get Bill Belichick to expand on things.

The Baltimore media found out lacrosse is not one of those things.

On Wednesday’s conference call in advance of Monday’s game with the Ravens, Belichick was asked about John Harbaugh starting to get into lacrosse with his daughter, Alison, being a promising lacrosse player in the Baltimore area and that set Belichick up for a long response showing his love for the sport.

“John [Harbaugh] and I saw a game a couple of years ago, a Hopkins [Johns Hopkins University] vs. Maryland game,” Belichick said. “Yeah, I think John is seeing the light. It’s a great sport. Obviously such a great part of Baltimore and Maryland tradition. Crabs and lacrosse, that’s part of what that area is, a big part of the culture there and it transcends the new people that move into the new area. They pick up on it pretty quickly and enjoy it and embrace it and see the way the game is spreading throughout this country and internationally really. But it’s now become much more of a national sport, especially with Denver winning and the World Championships a couple of years ago out in Colorado. I mean, I was fortunate to grow up in that area and have been able to enjoy so much of lacrosse and all that goes with it, what a great spring sport and tradition it is in that area, and I’m glad that my family have been able to – to have them share some of the same experiences and of course they all love the sport, played it.

“My daughter, [Amanda], coaching it and still coaching it at Holy Cross. It’s been a big part of our family and a big part of my life. I know at the end of football season that means we’re coming up pretty close to the start of lacrosse season. I know it’s right around the corner. I always look forward to getting down there and seeing Hopkins play, seeing Coach [Dave] Pietramala and the great program that they run, being around, meeting those kids. We have Mike Pellegrino up here with us. He’s done a great job for us on the staff. I feel very closely connected to that program and to Coach Pietramala and what he’s done for Hopkins and what he’s done for college lacrosse.”

Belichick said he didn’t need to do much convincing of Harbaugh and also noted there’s a Paul Rabil event in New York Wednesday night that he wishes he could attend.

“I think he’s seen the light,” Belichick said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. Tonight is Paul Rabil’s big event in New York. I know Paul does a great job with his foundation and supporting lacrosse and some of the underprivileged programs that need support in lacrosse. I wish that I could be there to support Paul in that event but I can’t do it here tonight. I know that’s a big one in New York. A lot of those benefits will go back to that area and what Paul’s done in the Baltimore area.”

Belichick noted he will attend as many Hopkins games as he can this season and hopes to see them at Gillette Stadium as it will host the NCAA Final Four.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

FOXBORO — Before practice on Wednesday, Patriots rookie Cyrus Jones stood before a group of reporters and admitted that when it comes to working as a return man, he’s struggled when it comes to the confidence part of the job.

Cyrus Jones has struggled as a returner. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Cyrus Jones has struggled as a returner. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Before practice on Wednesday, Patriots rookie Cyrus Jones stood before a group of reporters and admitted that when it comes to working as a return man, he’s struggled when it comes to the confidence part of the job.

“It’s definitely a confidence thing [and], I didn’t really do a very good job helping myself out this year in that category,” Jones admitted when asked about his confidence when it comes to working as a returner this season. “But I still feel confident in what I can do. I’m just trying to focus on becoming more consistent, and like I said, just eliminate bad football.

“You know, it’s tough to gain the trust of the coaches when you keep going out there and keep muffing punts and doing things like that. So it’s on me. The coaches keep giving me opportunities because they know what I can do. And once I get the bad football eliminated. that’s what I’m focusing on, just trying to be more secure with the ball. … From then on, once I get the ball in my hands, that’s the easy part.”

Jones has eight kick returns for 180 yards (22.5 average) and nine punt returns for 42 yards (4.7 average). But it’s been ball security that has really given him a hard time this year, as he’s had four fumbles this season, according to the NFL’s official gamebooks. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder, who had four punt returns for touchdowns last year at Alabama, said that right now, it’s about building consistency.

“Definitely,” he said. “I mean, the more success you have, the more confident you are in your ability to go out there and make plays. Having good weeks of practice. Haven’t muffed any in practice, but to get back out there and do the same thing again, it’s pretty frustrating. But you build character through tough situations.

“I’m just taking it in stride. I know it’s not the end of the world. Just next time I get the opportunity, [I have to] try to make a play.”

Despite the issues, Jones will continue to get special teams reps going forward for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that semi-regular punt returner Danny Amendola could be out for a few weeks between now and the start of the postseason. When asked if he anticipates more reps at the spot going forward, Jones shrugged.

“Danny’s out, so somebody has to get back there and do it,” he said. “I’ll just take whatever opportunities I get.”

The Alabama product didn’t offer any predictions when it comes to the college football playoffs.

“No predictions. As long as Bama comes out on top,” he said with a smile. “Of course I want my team to win. But the playoffs are tough. They just have to keep doing what they’ve been doing. I wish those guys the best of luck.”

In year’s past, when it comes to big games, there’s been some side action that involves a wager or two. (Usually where the player from the losing team has to practice or meet the media in the opposing teams’ jersey.) But Jones said not one has approached him yet about a bet.

“I’m sure when it gets close to game time, some people will start trash talking,” he said.

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

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO — There were four players missing from Patriots practice on Wednesday.

Martellus Bennett, Danny Amendola, Matthew Slater and Jordan Richards were all absent from the session.

Tom Brady was present, which is a good sign relating to the health of his knee, as the team has an extra day of work with the Monday night game.

This is a 2016 photo of Martellus Bennett of the New England Patriots NFL football team. This image reflects the New England Patriots active roster as of Wednesday, May 25, 2016 when this image was taken. (AP Photo)

Martellus Bennett

FOXBORO — There were four players missing from Patriots practice on Wednesday.

Martellus Bennett, Danny Amendola, Matthew Slater and Jordan Richards were all absent from the session.

Tom Brady was present, which is a good sign relating to the health of his knee, as the team has an extra day of work with the Monday night game.

Amendola was injured against the Rams and reportedly will be out the rest of the regular season, while Slater and Richards didn’t play against the Rams. Bennett has been on the injury report since Week 5 and it’s appeared to have impacted his play of late, so a down day was likely needed.

It’s worth noting rookie running back D.J. Foster was working with the receivers and not the running backs, so perhaps he’s an option to replace Amendola. Foster was added to the 53-man roster to replace Rob Gronkowski last week.

The Patriots will practice Thursday, Friday and Saturday before hosting the Ravens on Monday night at Gillette Stadium.

With the extra day this week, there will be no injury report on Wednesday.

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

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable


How does Bill Belichick define toughness? Before practice on Wednesday, the Patriots coach went deep on the idea of what makes a mentally and physically tough player.

“There are a lot of different types of toughness,” he explained. “Going over the middle and catching a ball when somebody is getting ready to hit you hard — that’s one kind of toughness. Lining up against a guy that’s big and strong a few inches away is a different kind of toughness. Taking on guys that are bigger than you in the run-force and linemen and things like that, that’s another kind of toughness. Receivers cracking on ends and linebackers and safeties; there are different kinds of toughness.

“Then, there’s mental toughness — kickers, it’s a non-contact position but there is a lot of mental toughness in those specialist positions; snappers, holders, kickers. There is an element of physical toughness but there is definitely an element of mental toughness that is different than a guard’s toughness. They’re different.”

Askd how he measures intangibles like toughness when it comes to evaluating a player, Belichick checked off a number of boxes.

“Toughness, intelligence, work ethic, I mean, those things aren’t … you don’t get that out of vertical jump,” he said. “Whatever characteristics you want, you put whichever ones in there. Dependability. Whatever adjectives you want.”

One thing he’s aware of is the fact that this week’s opponent is one of the most mentally and physically tough teams in the league.

“I imagine you probably wouldn’t last very long there if you weren’t [tough],” Belichick said of the Ravens. “Yeah, probably it’s a combination of all of those things from the owner to the general manager to the head coach to their team leaders right on down the line. A tough, competitive group every week.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Sep 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona (49) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Cardinals 23-21. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Cardona is an active Naval officer who also serves as the Patriots long snapper. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — No one in the Patriots locker room has a keener appreciation of Wednesday’s 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor than long snapper Joe Cardona.

The 24-year-old active naval officer spoke about the significance on Wednesday.

“We had naval history courses where we studied the past naval battles, past wars,” Cardona said. “Obviously, being at the Naval Academy, just seeing when Dec. 7 came around people took it a little more somberly because it is a part of our history as a Navy.

“It’s just a day of remembrance for the men that were involved in defending Pearl Harbor and trying to really remember their legacy and honor those who are still here today from that generation, the sailors that were there, came under attack unexpectedly. They fought back and a lot of the survivors were part of the campaign in the Pacific to take back the Pacific and really make a huge impact on that war.”

Bill Belichick addressed the lessons of Pearl Harbor in his press conference Wednesday, pointing to how Americans banded together to unite and respond in the face of attack and war. That is something Cardona echoed in his comments in front of his locker.

“That’s a huge takeaway from it, just with preparedness and always being ready for any circumstance that comes across, whether that be from a [military] defense standpoint or now, on this side, from a football standpoint, being ready for whatever,” Cardona said. “Obviously, as a Navy, we look back and reflect on this day and remember the lives lost but also just take moment to appreciate those that fought in that war and defended our freedom.”

Cardona, a 2015 graduate of the Naval Academy, said he’s never been to Pearl Harbor but definitely plans on visiting someday.

“Definitely. A huge bucket list item to go see the memorial and to be able to see that kind of history,” Cardona said. “I’ve had the opportunity once or twice to meet Pearl Harbor survivors and it’s just unimaginable to have come under attack like that.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia