Reggie rolls on for Colts in stately Wayne manner

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Reggie rolls on for Colts in stately Wayne manner

OXBORO - The Patriots made two shrewd picks in the 2001 NFL draft - Richard Seymour at No. 6 and Matt Light at No. 48.

But the need for a wideout back then was such that there was much lobbying outside Foxboro Stadium for the Patriots to pull the trigger on someone to help bail out Drew Bledsoe.

Reggie Wayne went 30th to the Colts that year. Now, we're not trying to roll back history and say the Patriots "missed" on Wayne. But he was known as a technically proficient route-runner at Miami with magnificent hands and - for the past 12 seasons - he's been as reliable as the sunrise.

He'll turn 34 on Saturday and his numbers this year with the newly remade Colts make him seem like a latter-day Art Monk.

He's got 69 catches so far this season and - by the end of the year - he'll be darn close to 1,000 for his career (he has 931). You could say, "if he stays healthy" but that's the other thing about Wayne. He hasn't missed a game since his rookie year.

And this year, he's been reinvented a little bit. After spending much of his career as Marvin Harrison's partner-in-crime on the receiving end of throws from Peyton Manning, Wayne re-upped with the Colts for the Andrew Luck era. And he's been terrific operating with Luck in the system that offensive coordinator Bruce Arians brought with him from Pittsburgh

"They moved him around a little in the past, but not much," said Bill Belichick. "And now he's Hines Ward. They motion him a lot, he's blocking, cracking, he's lining up close to the formation, he's in the slot, he's doing a lot of things that Hines Ward did in Pittsburgh.

"It's interesting to see him in that role, but he's always been good at whatever he's done," he said. "You see him work the middle of the field on middle reads, and on option routes or that kind of thing, or working on the perimeter. He's good at all of it."

Wayne had 75 catches last season with a collection of ineffective Colts quarterbacks throwing to him. But Belichick is quick to point out that Wayne wasn't responsible for his drop below 80 catches for the first time since 2004.

"I don't really see Reggie Wayne much differently than I saw him in the past," Belichick stated. "He was good then, he's good now. There were some issues with the quarterback and passing game and all that, but I didn't see any dropoff in Reggie Wayne as a football player. Maybe I missed it, but he's always looked pretty good to me."

Good enough so that the Patriots made an offseason run at signing Wayne before he returned to Indy.

Belichick told the Indianapolis media on Wednesday he believes Wayne is having a "Hall of Fame career."

Arians, who's been the Colts interim head coach in place of Chuck Pagano, makes it clear that Wayne's influence has extended far beyond his 69 receptions.

Arians mentioned that, a couple of weeks back, there were eight first-year players on the field during Indy's winning drive against the Dolphins.

"The rookies have followed the pied piper, and thats Reggie Wayne," said Arians. "He sets the tempo for us offensively and then Andrew is the second guy in line. If he can handle it, then they can handle it and Reggie makes sure that the receiving corps and everybody else is ready to go."

Arians said there was little doubt Wayne would return to Indy.

"Hes a Colt and he wanted to be a Colt bad. Hes a legend here and hes going to go into the Hall of Fame," Arians predicted. "Im really lucky because Ive gotten a chance to have my second receiver catch 1,000 passes and maybe get to two induction ceremonies (Hines Ward being the other). He always wanted to be here and as soon as Chuck made that call, it was just a matter of, Yeah Im coming. He knew what he was getting into and I think hes excited more than anybody with the change hes a rookie in this offense too because he sat out on the left side for 10 years and now hes all over the place, running routes that hes never run before. So hes jumped in and hes really excited about it. You cant put a quantified value on how much his leadership means to our team."

Like every season, this year's MVP debate will revolve around the best players on the best teams or the ones who put up eye-popping individual numbers.

So far, though, no player's been more valuable in more ways than Wayne's been to Indy.

Morning Skate: Rangers seem to be a strong candidate for Shattenkirk

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Morning Skate: Rangers seem to be a strong candidate for Shattenkirk

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading with Bruins captain’s practice set to kick off this coming week.

*The Rangers sound like they’ll be a strong candidate for Kevin Shattenkirk, and the Dallas Stars seem willing to stand pat at the goalie position.

*PHT writer James O’Brien speculates on who might be the next Artemi Panarin to break into the NHL ranks from overseas, and make a big impact.

*Yahoo fantasy hockey is making some changes this season, and those that liked to draft Dustin Byfuglien and Brent Burns are going to bummed about it.

*An original St. Louis Blues jersey from the old time hockey days has found its way back to its original home in St. Louis.

*Steve Simmons says that Dave Bolland has earned the right to be more than a punch line at this point in his career.

*Looking back on Phil Esposito’s classic speech amid the 1972 Summit Series.

*The All-Snub team for the World Cup of Hockey would be a talented lineup, and would no doubt be captained by P.K. Subban.

*For something completely different: those looking for signs of a rift between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady need to call off the search.

Belichick discusses risk of exposing players to waiver claims

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Belichick discusses risk of exposing players to waiver claims

Bill Belichick knows the data. Knows the risk involved in exposing a player to a waiver claim at this time of the year and long ago came to the uneasy truce that you can’t keep ‘em all and somebody else might snag ‘em.

This summer, the Patriots don’t have a mass of easy releases, especially among their rookies and first-year players.

There are a lot of very intriguing players who’ve looked good either in practices, games or both. Good enough to make the Pats think twice about whether they want to leave them exposed.

Top of mind for me there are corners Jonathan Jones and Cre’Von LeBlanc, linebacker Elandon Roberts, wide receiver DeAndre Carter, defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton and running back D.J. Foster who appear to be right on the roster bubble but are impressive.

“It’s something you take into consideration, it’s a hard thing to predict,” Belichick said when asked about weighing the risk of a released player the Patriots would like to re-sign to their practice squad getting claimed. “There’s going to be, I don’t know, certainly going to be a lot of players, probably over 1,000 players that will be exposed to waivers in the next eight calendar days or whatever it’ll be. I think the average claim is somewhere in the high 20s there…so that’s what the odds are. We’ve had years where we haven’t had any of our players claimed and we’ve had years where we’ve had multiple players claimed. I think at the end you just have to do what you think is best for your team.”

Belichick has given us terrific insight this week into how he and Nick Caserio strategize their roster decisions. When asked about the team’s releases in advance of the cutdown deadlines, Belichick mentioned the team wanted to have the ability to accommodate new players who may come available.

Enter the Barkevious.

He also got into projecting young players against established performance levels of veterans and weighing current contributions against future ones.

"That’s the $64,000 question," Belichick said on Tuesday. "That’s what it is. It’s been like that since the day I got into this league. From all of the personnel meetings I’ve ever been in it’s a [matter of] a player who’s more experienced [and] more ready to help the team now, versus a player that’s not as ready now but at some point you think the pendulum will swing in his favor. Will you do that? Can you do that? What are the consequences of making that move? What are the consequences of not making that move? How likely, as you said, is it that you could keep both players in some capacity?

"That’s what it’s about, trying to balance now with later. We’re going to field a team in November, we’re going to field a team next year, we’re going to field a team in 2018. Not that we’re getting too far ahead of ourselves, but we’re going to be in business in those years, so we have to sort of have an eye on those moving forward and a lot of the other factors that go into that. Those are all tough decisions. They’re all things that you really have to think about."

As is the risk of having a player scooped.

“It’s pretty hard to predict what’s going to happen when you put players on the wire because in all honesty, you don’t know what the other [31] teams are going to do and who they’re going to put on the wire,” Belichick explained. “Even though you put a player out there that you don’t want to lose, if another team happens to put a player out there that may be a team that needs that position and would be better with your player, your player gets claimed. Sometimes we waive players that we didn’t think would get claimed and they were, so that’s really hard to predict.

“In the end, you’ve got to make the decision that you feel like is best for your football team, and if you really want that player and you just can’t bear to live without them, then you shouldn’t be exposing them to the wire,” he concluded. “That’s the reality of it. We keep an eye on them, but I don’t think it’s an overriding factor. If you’re prepared to waive them, then you’ve got to be prepared to lose them. That’s just the way it is.”

Belichick considering using Jones as the No. 1 punt returner

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Belichick considering using Jones as the No. 1 punt returner

Back in May, when the Patriots drafted Cyrus Jones in the second round, Patriots director of player personel Nick Caserio made it very clear: Jones' ability to return punts is what made him their favorite player available at pick No. 60.

"I think the thing that tipped the scales in Cyrus’ favor a little bit," Caserio said at the time, "was his overall versatility -- punt return -- that’s a huge component of what we do and we thought he had the ability."

Jones broke out with a 60-yard return on Friday against the Panthers, flashing the kind of explosion in the kicking game that the Patriots anticipated when they made him their first selection this year. 

Though Jones has admitted he has had his share of issues securing the football during punt-return periods in practice, he has not dropped a punt in a preseason game. And in a conference call on Saturday, Bill Belichick acknowledged that Jones could be the team's primary punt returner in Week 1 even though the team employs two accomplished players who have performed that well in the past. 

"Yeah, I think that’s a consideration," Belichick said of using Jones as the No. 1 returner. "Obviously, Danny [Amendola] and Julian [Edelman] have a lot of experience returning punts for us as well as kickoffs in the past. We’ll see how it goes, but we have good depth at that position and that’s always a good thing to have.

"We have confidence in all of those guys back there. Last night we even had D.J. [Foster] who got a chance to handle the ball. We’ll see how it goes going forward, but I think we have good competition and good depth at that position."

Saving Edelman and Amendola from further wear-and-tear could help extend the careers of both 30-year-old receivers. Not long after Jones was drafted, we took a look at how many hits Edelman and/or Amendola could be saved on a weekly basis by using Jones in the kicking game.