Brady expects Finnegan-Welker battle

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Brady expects Finnegan-Welker battle

FOXBORO - Annoying as a gnat, nasty as a hornet, Cortland Finnegan is the kind of opponent every wide receiver detests.
An agitator without peer, the Rams cornerback is one of the NFL's most effective players when it comes to burrowing under a wideout's skin.
Despite the reputation which precedes Finnegan, Tom Brady -- who plays with a bit of an edge himself -- appreciates Finnegan's game.
"He competes his butt off and he's smart, catches the ball well," said Brady. "He's a seventh-round pick, so you just are always fighting for your life out there. Even though he's had a lot of success, you see he wants to continue to get better and improve and he's still a young player."
The 28-year-old Finnegan was a career-long Tennessee Titan before signing with the Rams to rejoin his old Titans coach Jeff Fisher. Finnegan has already helped the Rams by injecting his personality into their defense.
In Week 2 against Washington, Finnegan goaded Redskins receiver Josh Morgan into a personal foul penalty at the end of the game when Morgan whipped a ball at Finnegan. The penalty turned a 47-yard field goal attempt to tie into a 62-yarder. It missed and the Titans won.
The Rams use Finnegan in a variety of spots, said Brady.
"I think wherever they want him to assert himself in the coverage in order to have the most opportunities to make plays, thats where he's going to be," said Brady. "In regular defense, their base defense, he's outside. They dont match a ton (meaning Finnegan on a specific receiver), although they do flip sides on occasion, but for the most part against us hell probably be inside all day."
Which means Finnegan will be lined up against an equally hard-nosed (though less vilified) player in Wes Welker.
"I have a lot of respect for (Finnegan)," said Brady. "He plays really hard. Wes Welker is very much the same way. Wes plays his butt off too, so its kind of our strength against one of their strengths."

Belichick taking wait-and-see approach with Stork's status

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Belichick taking wait-and-see approach with Stork's status

FOXBORO -- Bryan Stork has had a whirlwind few days. 

On Wednesday, news broke that Stork had been informed of his release. Then before that move became official, the Patriots and Redskins worked out a trade to send the third-year center to Washington. After that, indications were that Stork was retiring, and the Redskins were unsure as to whether or not he would even report. 

Stork eventually made up his mind, tweeted that he was ready to start a new chapter in his career -- a tweet he has since deleted -- and made his way to the Redskins.

The latest update on Stork's saga is that he failed his physical and that his right have reverted back to the Patriots. When asked about the situation, Bill Belichick chose to wait on illuminating the media of his plans since the picture was still a bit hazy.

"I don’t know if that’s official," Belichick said of Stork's rights. "That sounds like the way it is going to go."

Asked if the Patriots would be releasing Stork, as they originally intended, Belichick replied, "Well, we’ll find out exactly what the story is and whenever that is we’ll make the best decision that we can."

Stay tuned.

Return of Gerald Green could fill vital bench role for Celtics

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Return of Gerald Green could fill vital bench role for Celtics

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON –  Say what you want about Gerald Green, but his athleticism is the one thing you can bank on him delivering.

The 30-year-old Green doesn’t play above the rim nearly as much as he used to, but he does enough to where his presence will indeed be an upgrade for the Celtics this season.

But in terms of what his exact role will be, that will be worked out in the coming months as Green begins a second tour of duty with Boston (the Celtics drafted him with the 18th overall pick in 2005).

The ceiling for Green: Sixth or seventh man

Green’s return will in no way impact Jae Crowder’s status as the Celtics’ starting small forward. And Avery Bradley has nothing to worry about when it comes to Green competing for his spot as the team’s starting shooting guard, either. But Green’s experience will give him a chance to compete for minutes behind both coming off the bench.

At 6-foot-8, Green has the size and length to play both positions. And having played nine seasons in the NBA, Green has learned enough in that time to find ways to impact games in ways besides highlight-quality dunks.

Green is coming off a not-so-stellar season in Miami in which he averaged 8.9 points and 2.4 rebounds, while shooting 39.2 percent from the field and just 32.3 percent on 3s – both numbers below his career averages.

Part of Green’s drop in production last season (he averaged 11.9 points or more in three of the previous four seasons) had to do with the emergence of Justice Winslow, and Green’s own shooting struggles, which eventually led to him playing a more limited role in the Heat offense.

But in Boston, Green won’t be counted on to be a significant contributor in terms of scoring. Instead, he will be seen as a player who can be looked upon from time to time to provide some punch (offensively or defensively) from the wing. If we’re talking offense, Green can help both from the perimeter or as an effectively attacker of the rim.

The floor for Green: Active roster

As much as the attention surrounding Green’s game centers on what he does with the ball in his hands, it his defense that will keep him on the Celtics’ active roster all season. Although Miami sought scoring more often from others, doing so allowed Green to focus more of his attention on defense, which may wind up being the best thing for his career at this stage.

Coming off the bench primarily after the All-Star break, opponents shot 33.3 percent when defended by Green, which was more than 10 percentage points (10.9) below what they shot from the field (44.2) overall.

He was even tougher on opponents shooting 2-pointers against him. They were held more than 15 percentage points (15.5) below their shooting percentage from 2-point range when he was defending versus their overall shooting for the season.

But don’t be fooled.

Green can still score the ball and as he gets older, he’s finding more and more ways to do so.

While much of Green’s NBA success has come about with him attacking the rim, he has progressively improved his game as a catch-and-shoot player. In fact, 54.8 percent of his shot attempts last season were of the catch-and-shoot variety according to nba.com/stats.

That makes sense when you consider that he had an effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) of .491 when he took shots without taking any dribbles, which was better than Green’s eFG% when he shot from the floor and took at least one dribble.

Green’s second stint with the Celtics doesn’t come with nearly as much hype as there was when Boston selected him  out of high school with the 18th overall pick in 2005. Still, he has the potential to fill a vital role for the Celtics now, a role that could go far in determining how successful this season will be for himself as well as the Celtics.  

 

 

Injured offensive linemen Cooper, Mason return to Patriots practice fields

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Injured offensive linemen Cooper, Mason return to Patriots practice fields

FOXBORO -- The Patriots saw two of their injured offensive linemen return to practice on Monday.

Both Jonathan Cooper (out since suffering a foot injury on July 30) and Shaq Mason (reported hand injury) were on the practice field for the team's warm-up period. The pair then headed down to a lower field to do some conditioning with others. 

Special teams ace Matthew Slater, linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, running back Dion Lewis and tackle Sebastian Vollmer were missing from the session. Lewis and Vollmer remain on the physically unable to perform list and won't be prepared to begin the season Week 1. Grugier-Hill missed Friday's preseason game with the Panthers due to an absence.

New Patriots edge defender Barkevious Mingo was present for his first practice with the Patriots. He was wearing the No. 51 which was most recently worn by former defensive captain Jerod Mayo. 

Danny Amendola (PUP), Tre' Jackson (PUP), Rob Ninkovich, Shea McClellin and Malcolm Mitchell went down to the lower field for conditioning after warmups. Jabaal Sheard, who has dealt with a knee injury he suffered against the Saints in New England's first preseason game, remained with the team for drills after warming up. Also, Alan Branch, who was suspended by the Patriots for a week and reinstated late last week, was present at practice.