Belichick: Cunningham suspension 'unfortunate'

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Belichick: Cunningham suspension 'unfortunate'

Patriots coach Bill Belichick gave the expected answer when asked about his latest suspended player.

"It's a league matter," he said on Tuesday's conference call. "It's really out of our hands."

Belichick's reaction to the ban of defensive lineman Jermaine Cunningham is nearly identical to the one he had less than three weeks ago, when running back Brandon Bolden was suspended.

Both players broke the same NFL rule by violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances.

Both players received the same punishment: Four games off without pay.

If Belichick fears a trend, he wouldn't say. Though that doesn't mean the coach hid his displeasure entirely.

"Unfortunately, sometimes on these things people make mistakes," Belichick said. "But everybody's accountable for them. I think those situations are unfortunate. Neither one of them needed to happen, they weren't that important. But they were violations, so they are what they are."

As the league is dealing with Cunningham, Belichick has the rest of his roster to manage. New England travels to Miami this weekend for its first of two divisional battles with the Dolphins. The Patriots can not only improve to nine wins this Sunday, but in doing so, clinch the AFC East's top spot.

The defensive line needs to be patched up in a hurry.

"We'll have to take a look at our options here," Belichick said of replacing Cunningham's presence. "Basically, there's two options: We could bring somebody in from outside and sign them to the roster, or we could do something with a player on the practice squad. We'll see. We'll take a look at our options, talk to Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio, get his thoughts and input on it relative to the personnel that's available like the way we usually do."

Cunningham's loss could mean gains for Trevor Scott.

Scott, a fifth-year defensive end, has played on the line sparingly this season, spending more time on special teams instead. But when starter Chandler Jones injured his ankle two weeks ago against Indianapolis, Scott stepped up. Against the Colts and Jets, he's added 51 snaps on the 'D'-line in addition to the usual duties on kickoff, punt coverage, and punt return.

Belichick lauded Scott's versatility Tuesday.

"Trevor's smart. He works hard," Belichick said. "He's in very good condition and he's a good athlete. He can run, he's quick, and he's long, he's got good length at the end of the line of scrimmage. He can handle some of those bigger tackles and tight ends, the 6-5, 6-6 tight ends with long arms. I think he's done a solid job when he's had the opportunity. We've had a lot of competition at those positions with Rob Ninkovich, and Chandler of course, Jermaine, Justin Francis . . .

"It's been a very competitive position, but he's done well when he's had the opportunity and he's contributed well for us in the kicking game."

Jones, seen Monday without a walking boot or limp, could come back this weekend. Cunningham, however, isn't eligible to return to the active roster until Monday, December 24. Someone -- Scott, or some rotation of players -- will need to make up for the 48-percent of snaps the latter defensive end played through New England's first eight games. And the coaching staff has to figure it out quietly, efficiently.

Belichick won't abide anything but business as usual.

"We'll handle it the same way we usually handle those types of situations," he said. "We'll try to make the best decision for the team we can for this week, for the remaining five games."

Bruins need Hayes to "take his game to another level"

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Bruins need Hayes to "take his game to another level"

BUFFALO -- With it appearing that Loui Eriksson is all but gone from the Bruins with the July 1 opening of free agency around the corner, B’s general manager Don Sweeney must find a way to replace the second-leading point man from last year’s hockey club. With or without a suitable Eriksson replacement at right wing via trade or free agency, the Bruins will also need greater production from their returning wingers on the right side.

That means 20-year-old David Pastrnak needs to have a breakthrough season after the Bruins knocked away attempts to extract him in trade discussions for a top-4 defenseman, and Jimmy Hayes needs to rebound from a streaky, disappointing first season in Boston. The 6-foot-6 Hayes slumped to 13 goals and 29 points in 75 games, and was a team-worst minus-12 while going through long stretches where it was hard to even notice him on the ice.

His GM said that needs to change next season with the Bruins counting on him to play more consistently, and be willing to play the big man’s game.

“We have internal candidates that might have to step up, and David is a player like that…Jimmy is a player like that. There’s no question we’re not a complete team right now,” said Sweeney. “So we’ll go to work now, and that could be through free agency, or through potential trade stuff. It could also be about the excitement if somebody pops from the development side of things. I think Jimmy had a pretty start to the year, but he really tailed off when the team needed him most. He should take some responsibility for that. We had a pretty frank discussion about that to challenge him to take his game to another level, and be able to help out a younger player.

“He played a lot with Ryan Spooner. I have to put ownership on Jimmy in terms of saying ‘Hey, I have to take more responsibility. It’s not just about finishing and scoring goals.’ He has the capacity to do that. He gets power play time and net-front time, and he needs to get to the hard areas of the ice with more consistency. It’s an area that he needs to continue to improve upon. We as an organization feel that we need to have players that are driven to get better.”

As far as the free agent options mentioned by Sweeney, Kyle Okposo and Troy Brouwer would be names to watch closely as they both fight the Black and Gold mold of winger with size, strength and finishing ability.

Clearly there’s no choice but for the 26-year-old Hayes to have a bounce-back season given that he’s signed for two years in Boston at $2.3 million per season, and that they need him with the right side of their forward group in flux. 

Ray Bourque arrested and charged with OUI Friday

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Ray Bourque arrested and charged with OUI Friday

Bruins Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque was arrested in Andover this weekend, and charged with operating under the influence of alcohol according to multiple reports.

Andover Police told CBS Boston that the former Bruins and Avalanche defenseman was taken into custody around 11:30 p.m. Friday night on Lowell Street. The Bruins legend has lived on the North Shore with his family since retiring from the NHL, and has been a constant presence in the community at charitable events and Bruins functions.

Bourque was released on bail. No additional information was immediately available

Saturday's Red Sox-Rangers lineups: Wright tries to stay on roll

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Saturday's Red Sox-Rangers lineups: Wright tries to stay on roll

Knuckleballer Steven Wright will try to stay on a roll, as will the Red Sox, as they continue their three-game series tonight (9:20) against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas.

Wright (8-4, American League-leading 2.01 ERA) faces Rangers right-hander A.J. Griffin (3-0, 2.94), in his first start since coming off the 15-day disabled list.

The Red Sox rallied to win the series opener 8-7 with a four-run ninth inning.

The lineups:

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Travis Shaw 3B
Bryce Brentz LF
Christian Vazquez C
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Steven Wright RHP

RANGERS
Shin-Soo Choo RF
Ian Desmond CF
Nomar Mazara LF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Prince Fielder DH
Roughned Odor 2B
Elvis Andrus SS
Mitch Moreland 1B
Robinson Chirinos C
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A.J. Griffin RHP