With the number of trades the Patriots have made with the Bears of late, it’s evident the two organizations have a strong working relationship.

The relationship is strong enough that the two teams will have joint practices at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 15 and 16 prior to the Aug. 18 preseason game. It will be the second preseason game of the season for both teams.

With the number of trades the Patriots have made with the Bears of late, it’s evident the two organizations have a strong working relationship.

The relationship is strong enough that the two teams will have joint practices at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 15 and 16 prior to the Aug. 18 preseason game, the Patriots announced on Monday. It will be the second preseason game of the season for both teams.

Bill Belichick is a big fan of joint practices, but typically will only have them with teams he has a good relationship with and it appears the Bears and coach John Fox are now in that category.

Joint practices are now an annual occurrence for the Patriots as they’ve partnered up with the Saints the most times, including last year in West Virginia. The Patriots host the Saints in the first preseason game, which may be too early to hold joint practices this year.

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

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Bill Belichick continues to rely heavily on former Rutgers' players like Devin McCourty. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick continues to rely heavily on former Rutgers’ players like Devin McCourty. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick still has a soft spot for the Scarlet Knights.

The Patriots’ roster is at 90 players, and while it will obviously continue to grow and evolve and change as the regular season draws closer, at this point on the calendar, no school is better represented than Rutgers. Five former Scarlet Knights — Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Logan Ryan, Jonathan Freeny and Kevin Snyder — are currently on the Patriots’ roster, making them the school of choice.

Four different schools have at least three players on the New England roster: Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina State and Stanford. (It’s been a big offseason for the Wolfpack, as three former N.C. State players: defensive lineman Markus Kuhn, offensive lineman Joe Thuney and quarterback Jacoby Brissett were all added within a month or so of each other.) Sixteen different schools are represented with two players, while everyone else is tied with one.

Check out the complete list below:

Rutgers — 5
Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina State, Stanford — 3
Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Eastern Illinois, Florida State, Georgia, Houston, Illinois, Kent State, Marshall, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Pitt, Texas Tech, UCLA — 2
Alabama A&M, Arizona, Boise State, Brown, Cal, Colorado, Connecticut, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Tech, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Monroe, LSU, Maryland, Memphis, Michigan State, Missouri State, Monmouth, Navy, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Purdue, Sacramento State, Southern Miss, Tarleton State, Temple, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Christian, Tiffin, Vanderbilt, Virginia, West Alabama, Western Michigan, Wisconsin — 1

When it comes to the roster breakdown by conference, the Patriots are currently led by Big 10 players (17). The SEC is a close second (16), while the Pac 12 (12), ACC (10) and American Athletic Conference (7) round out the Top 5. A complete list is below:

Big 10 — 17
SEC — 16
Pac 12 — 12
ACC — 10
American Athletic Conference — 7
Conference USA, Big 12 — 5
Mountain West — 3
Ohio Valley, Mid-American, Missouri Valley — 2
Southwestern Athletic, Ivy League, Sun Belt, Big Sky, Mid-American, Gulf South, FCS, Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic, Lone Star — 1

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Veteran pass rushing specialist Dwight Freeney is 35 years old, but he doesn’t sound ready to retire.

Veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney was asked about the possibility of signing with the Patriots.  (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney was asked about the possibility of signing with the Patriots. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Veteran pass rushing specialist Dwight Freeney is 35 years old, but he doesn’t sound ready to retire.

The veteran free agent, who had eight sacks last season with Arizona and 119.5 sacks over the course of his illustrious career, is interesting in sticking around as long as possible, and said he would love to return to the Cardinals, even after they swung a deal to obtain Chandler Jones.

Freeney, a New England native who has long been a favorite of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, was also asked about the idea of continuing his career in New England.

“Well, that’s hard to fathom. But I’m not against Bill,” Freeney told Peter King’s MMQB. “I understand the dynamic involved, but at the end of the day, this is a business. My first allegiance right now is to Arizona, if they’re interested. But if it happened that I ended up in New England, I can tell you, both sides would win.”

With the Colts, Freeney was always a handful for the Patriots to deal with — Matt Light said Freeney was the toughest matchup he faced over the course of his career.

“He’€™s a guy that I had a lot of respect for. It’€™s not just the way he plays the game, it’€™s how many different ways he can make you look silly out there, [of] which, there are plenty,” Light said of Freeney in 2012 shortly after New England’s longtime left tackle announced his retirement. “I can go through them all. We can go watch film of he and I, and you’€™ll see it yourself. He’€™s just an all-around great player. And he’€™s not a guy that talks a lot out there, he doesn’€™t have anything to say to you, he’€™s not trying to beat you with his words. He’€™s going to go out there and he’€™s going to put the work in and he’€™s going to show you how bad you can look.”

While Freeney isn’t the overwhelming pass-rushing presence he used to be, as a situational player, he could be an intriguing fit with the Patriots. One thing to remember when it comes to a possible Freeney-in-Foxboro scenario is that New England acquired a veteran pass-rushing end in Chris Long, and also has established players like Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard already in the system. If the Patriots are interested, it’s unclear how they might make it all fit, but Freeney’s response certainly provides some food for thought.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson can poke fun at himself.

Wilson, who was the commencement speaker at the University of Wisconsin on Saturday, passed along some worthwhile advice to the graduates during his speech. At one point, he harkened back to his Super Bowl XLIX defeat to the Patriots, a loss that was sealed when Malcolm Butler picked off a pass on the goal line.

“If you’re playing the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, and you got 26 seconds left and you’re down by four and you’re second-and-goal on their 1-yard line, try not to throw an interception,” he said with a smile.

Turns out Wilson is also no fan of former N.C. State and Boston College coach Tom O’Brien. Wilson, recalled his interaction with O’Brien when the two were together at North Carolina State. Wilson said O’Brien — who was the head coach at Boston College from 1997 to 2006 before leaving to take over the Wolfpack program in 2007 — wanted to move him to safety before the start of his freshman season.

“Excuse my country voice here, but he says, ‘Son, I’m switching your position. I’m moving you to safety.’ He’s not asking me. He’s telling me,” Wilson recounted. “I could have just gone along with it, and maybe I should have just gone along with it. But for whatever reason, I wasn’t ready to take no for an answer.”

Wilson also remembered a conversation he had with O’Brien right before he ended up transferring to Wisconsin.

“The summer before my senior year of college, I’m playing minor-league baseball. I called my football coach at NC State and said, ‘Hey coach, I’d like to come back for my senior year.’ He told me I wasn’t coming back,” he said. “He said, ‘Listen son, you’re never going to play in the National Football League. You’re too small. There’s no chance. You’ve got no shot. Give it up.’ Of course, I’m on this side of the phone saying, ‘So you’re telling me I’m not coming back to NC State? I won’t see the field?’ He said, ‘No son, you won’t see the field.’”

Of course, Wilson would go on to become a third-round pick of the Seahawks, and lead Seattle to back-to-back appearances in the Super Bowl.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Rob Gronkowski turned 27 on Saturday. (Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski turned 27 on Saturday. (Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images)

1. Rob Gronkowski celebrated his 27th birthday on Saturday. With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at where his performance to this stage of his career stacks up with some of the greats of the game at the same age. Gronkowski’s 380 career receptions prior to his 27th birthday is 12th-best in NFL history. (For some perspective, Randy Moss had 525 catches before he turned 27. Larry Fitzgerald’s 523 catches by his 27th birthday are second.) However, it’s worth noting that Gronkowski’s 5,555 career receiving yards are fifth-best on the list, while his 65 receiving touchdowns is second-best all-time for anyone in that same span (he trails only Moss with 77).

2. Offseason workout routines can occasionally make for some intriguing combinations. (There’s one theory that suggests Gronkowski, who was a workout pal of Martellus Bennett this past offseason, helped push through the deal that delivered ultimately Bennett to the Patriots.) With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that Jeff Christiansen — who has served as the personal quarterbacking teacher for current Patriots’ backup Jimmy Garoppolo for several seasons — is currently working with Houston’s Brock Osweiler. (Contacted by WEEI.com, Christiansen said Saturday he was in Houston to work with Osweiler this coming week.) Of course, Christiansen also tutors several other quarterbacks at various stages of development, from high school through the NFL. But with Osweiler in Denver backing up Peyton Manning and Garoppolo serving as the No. 2 quarterback behind Tom Brady in New England the last few years, the parallels are certainly worth noting.

3. Smart move on the part of the Patriots to pull No. 51 out of circulation for the time being. Even if they’re not going to retire the digits — with expanding rosters, not sure how practical it is to out-and-out retire numbers any more — it’s an easy way to acknowledge the career of veteran Jerod Mayo and what he meant to the organization. Via Instagram on Saturday, Mayo thanked the Patriots for the move, what he called a “silent paycheck” that was more a sign of respect than anything else. “I retired from the game as my ultimate sign of respect to the best organization, owner, coach, teammates and staff the Mayo family could have ever dreamed of. I gave my all and wanted to leave knowing I was able to always live my end of the bargain. I wanted and needed nothing more in return; the organization did enough. There is a thing in life called a ‘silent paycheck'; and ways to show gratitude. To the classiest organization in all of sports, and maybe even in all of business on behalf of Chantel, our children and I, we say thank you for one of the most humbling and unexpected silent paychecks we have ever received.” No one suggests that the number will be out of action for an extended stretch — only that No. 51 should remain on the shelf this coming season as a way to pay tribute to Mayo.

4. Vince Wilfork isn’t around anymore, but he still has some pull with his old mates, as it appears the veteran defensive tackle has gotten Mayo and Devin McCourty into horse racing. Thanks to an article that was sent along by our pal Mike Mutnansky, we found that Wilfork, Mayo and McCourty are part of a group that owns 3-year-old filly Elysea’s World, a horse that beat Grey Stark by a half-length Wednesday on the turf at Belmont Park and is regarded as a filly to watch. Wilfork is also the sole owner of Great Minds, who won his third straight race in the Texas Mile earlier this month. Wilfork got into racing in 2008 after he “fell in love” with Big Brown, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. “I said, ‘You know what? I want to get involved. I want to own one.’ I played with a couple of claimers and learned the game,” Wilfork told reporters earlier this week. “And when I felt like I was ready to own my own horse, I got introduced to Claiborne Farm. They’ve been nothing but awesome people over the years. For my first yearling to do what he’s doing right now, you can’t put a price on that.”

5. Not sure if first-year tight end Steven Scheu (pronounced SHOY) is going to stick with the Patriots, but it was clear from speaking with the rookie free agent very briefly this week that the Vanderbilt product is a guy with a good head on his shoulders and a solid sense of perspective. Asked if majoring in medicine meant that he’d like to head into that field once his playing career is done, Scheu said yes. “Most of the people in that major are guys that are going to go on and pursue some sort of professional healthcare careers like medical school, optometry, being a dentist; whatever it is,” he said. “So, after football or possibly in the offseason I’d like to pursue my MBA in healthcare management and then after I do that kind of go from there.” The 6-foot-5, 256-pounder, who was named to several All-SEC honors rolls over the course of his college career, ended his tenure at Vandy with 83 catches for 933 yards and seven touchdowns. While he enters a crowded picture at tight end in New England — his ceiling is likely as a practice squadder, at least at this moment — the Patriots do have a fondness for smart and savvy players. One to watch.

6. As for the rest of the rookies we met, we didn’t get a chance to talk to all of them, but of the ones we did speak with, a few things stand out: Scheu is going to succeed whatever he ends up doing in life. There’s no way of knowing yet if linebacker/safety Kamu Grugier-Hill can play at the NFL level, but he certainly carries himself like someone who believes he can play on Sundays. The same is true for wide receiver Devin Lucien and running back D.J. Foster. That’s not to say they’re cocky, only to suggest that all three appear relaxed and at ease with the media. Linebacker Elandon Roberts speaks slowly, and chooses his words very thoughtfully. (Especially when it comes to wearing No. 51.) And defensive lineman Vincent Valentine did well addressing questions about his commitment and consistency while in college. No one was overly revealing, but there were self-aware moments from many of them that seemed to indicate that they were already “on the program” when it came to dealing with the media.

7. I wrote about father-son coaching connections across the league earlier this year, but when I was doing research for another story, I came across the fact that Klint Kubiak was also named an assistant coach with the Broncos this past season, joining his father’s staff in Denver. (The younger Kubiak left his position as the wide receivers coach at Kansas to become the offensive assistant to the quarterbacks for the Broncos.) That means the last three Super Bowl-winning coaches — Kubiak, Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll — all have their sons working with them on their respective coaching staffs.

8. Many ex-Patriots have managed to make a smooth transition in the media over the last decade-plus, with Matt Chatham, Christian Fauria, Scott Zolak and Tedy Bruschi to name a few joining the ranks of the fourth estate. However, we could see a lot more in the coming years, as several others have signed up to take part in the 10th annual NFL broadcast boot camp, set for later this month at NFL Films. James Ihedigbo, Adalius Thomas, Bobby Carpenter and Duane Starks are all listed as participants in this year’s program. The four-day boot camp, co-directed by the NFL Player Engagement and NFL broadcasting departments, covers a wide range of topics with instructors from top broadcast and radio networks, including Big Ten Network, CBS, ESPN, FOX, NBC, NFL Network, SiriusXM, and Westwood One Radio. Sessions include hands-on work in areas such as tape study, editing, studio and show preparation, radio production, production meetings, and field reporting. Each player will tape segments as a game analyst and a field reporter and will also have a chance to serve as a live guest host on SiriusXM NFL Radio.

9. They’re optimistic in Minnesota for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact they’re set to open a new stadium and that young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has emerged as one of the better young signal-callers in the game. On Friday, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson dropped the hammer comparison-wise, saying that Bridgewater reminds him of a young Tom Brady. “He reminds me of a Tom Brady because Tom Brady is great at those mediocre passes,” Peterson told NBC Sports Radio. “Those short passes and midrange passes, and that’s exactly what Teddy does as well. He’s the type of guy that needs the receiver that runs routes and that’s at a specific location that you’re practicing. So I feel like with the additions that we’ve made to the offensive line and of course me envisioning what I’ll be able to bring to the offense as well I think that’s going to make his job a lot easier. With that he’ll feel more comfortable and he can really get back there and just play his game. So I’m expecting big things from Teddy this year.” For the record, here’s a look at what Brady and Bridgewater did over their first two years as starters in the NFL — while Brady rode the wave to a Super Bowl win in 2001, from a pure numbers perspective, it’s an interesting comparison.

Brady 2001-2002: 30 games started (20-10 record), 63 percent completion rate, 6,607 passing yards, 45 TDs, 26 INTs, 86 percent passer rating, 6.5 yards gained per pass attempt.
Bridgewater 2014-2015: 28 games started (17-11 record) 65 percent completion rate, 6,150 passing yards, 28 TDs, 21 INTs, 87 percent passer rating, 7.2 yards gained per pass attempt.

10. The CFL draft took place this past week, and there were two local stories of note worth passing along: one, former Patriots practice squadder Alex Singleton was selected sixth overall by the Calgary Stampeders. One report indicated that New England was interested in the possibility of bringing the linebacker back in 2016. (For what it’s worth, the California native was only recently declared a Canadian, because his mom was born north of the border. Under CFL rules, each team must have at least 21 players classified as Canadian nationals or non-import players, though QBs do not count towards the rule.) And two, Boston College defensive lineman Mehdi Abdesmad was taken by the Ottawa Redblacks in the third round. The 6-foot-6, 284-pound Abdesmad is currently on the Titans’ roster, but the only Canadian invited to the NFL combine in February would be considered a prime addition to the Ottawa roster if Tennessee decided to cut him loose and he would have the option to head north.

11. You want to get jacked up for the new season, or maybe just the new season of Madden? Check out the teaser trailer that EA Sports dropped the other day starring cover boy Rob Gronkowski. It’s awesome, but there are two things that stand out for me: one, the fact that EA Sports had Garoppolo working as the holder on either the extra-point or the field-goal attempt. I realize it’s standard operating procedure for the game to default to the backup quarterback as the holder, but let’s get some love for the real holder — Ryan Allen — in there. And two, don’t think that the folks in North Jersey didn’t notice that it was Gronk hurdling Darrelle Revis (or a Revis video-game facsimile) near the end of the ad. I know it’s a commercial, but it is what it is.

12. A quick PSA: “NFL Sunday: The Offseason Edition” has been shelved indefinitely, but we are anticipating that it’ll return on a regular basis before the start of the regular season. (There’s also the possibility of one-off shows here and there, depending on the news cycle.) In the meantime, make sure you listen to Mike Giardi and Rob Bradford on Sundays. I anticipate delivering semi-regular podcasts with a variety of guests. We’ll keep you posted on updates.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Tom Brady took to Facebook on Saturday to wish Rob Gronkowski a happy 27th birthday.

The Patriots quarterback joked by writing: Happy birthday to my spirit animal Rob Gronkowski -Gronk! Extending your curfew to 11 tonight… Have fun!!!

Tom Brady took to Facebook on Saturday to wish Rob Gronkowski a happy 27th birthday.

The Patriots quarterback joked by writing: Happy birthday to my spirit animal Rob Gronkowski -Gronk! Extending your curfew to 11 tonight… Have fun!!!

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Rob Gronkowski is expecting Tom Brady to be on the field for all 16 games despite currently being suspended the first four games for his role in Deflategate.