Wendell leads NFL in playing time statistic

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Wendell leads NFL in playing time statistic

FOXBORO -- Between quarterback Tom Brady, receiver Wes Welker, linebacker Jerod Mayo and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, the Patriots are loaded with star power. It's a team that possesses Pro Bowlers and future Hall of Famers. But there's one Patriot who was out on the field more than any other this season, and he's never been to Hawaii.

That distinction goes to Patriots center Ryan Wendell, who started all 16 games this season, and not only led his team in playing time, but the entire NFL as well.

The first-year starter played 1,231 offensive snaps and 148 special teams plays for a total of 1,379 plays. The mark is a tribute to Wendell's durability and toughness, but he praised teammates and team staff when asked about his ability to stay on the field.

"It says a lot about the organization as a whole," Wendell said. "The guys around us, our athletic trainers head athletic trainer Jim Whalen and assistant athletic trainer Joe Van Allen, along with the strength training coaches, head strength and conditioning coach Herald Nash, assistant strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera, who spend a lot of time and effort trying to make sure we're healthy and out on the field as much as we can."

The Patriots had the NFL's most productive offense (both in terms of points and total yards) this season and set an NFL record for first downs, which led to a few of their offensive players being among the league leaders in playing time. Nate Solder led all of the NFL in offensive snaps (three more than Wendell). His 105 special teams snaps and 1,339 total plays put him second overall in the league.

"I think we all feed off each other," Solder said. "Wendell's one of those guys who's always working hard. He's always taking care of his body, I think that's a big part of the reason he's been able to do that."

Both Solder and Wendell are playing in roles that have increased significantly since last season. Solder, a rookie last year, is in his first season as New England's full-time starting left tackle. Wendell was thrust into a starting role when longtime Patriots center Dan Koppen was released, and Brian Waters did not return to the team during training camp, shifting Dan Connolly to guard.

However, both explained that there was no trick to their durability.

"I work hard, as we all do to take care of our bodies," Solder explained. "We all work hard to take care of our bodies. That's part of our job. Proper nutrition, proper sleep. Staying in shape. Working in the weight room. All those things contribute to that."

"I think you try to keep doing all the things that got you to the point that you got those opportunities," Wendell said, "and you just have to make sure to keep your priorities in order that when you have any extra time or free time that you focus on whatever thing will help you personally stay healthy."

Wendell's extra effort has given the Patriots consistency at the position where every offensive play gets its start. His impact has not gone unnoticed by his teammates, most notably the teammate who's on the receiving end of Wendell's snaps.

"Hes done a great job," Brady said of his center. "Hes really done a great job since he got here. He fought for his opportunity and once he got it this year, he really took advantage. Hes been healthy and durable, consistent. Playing center on our team is not easy. There are a lot of adjustments and calls that we have, both the communication I have with him and what he relays on to the rest of the offensive linemen. Hes done a great job. Hes a tough, hard-nosed football player that loves the game and loves to compete."

The NFL released playing time numbers for the first time this season, and FootballOutsiders.com compiled those numbers into a list here.

OFFSEASON

Hawks adding Howard could lead to Celtics signing Horford

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Hawks adding Howard could lead to Celtics signing Horford

BOSTON – It’s a toss-up as to which was celebrated more by Boston Celtics fans: Dwight Howard coming to terms with the Atlanta Hawks, or the fact that it significantly improves Boston’s chances of landing one of their top free agent targets Al Horford.

A league executive texted CSNNE.com that Howard being off the market and going to Atlanta, should make the Celtics the favorite to land Horford.

Acquiring Horford, a four-time all-star, would be the biggest free agent signing in the Danny Ainge era. Boston is scheduled to meet with Horford tonight and is expected to offer him a four-year, $113 million max contract.

But as much as the Celtics want Horford, their primary target remains Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant who may be more inclined to seriously consider Boston if they were to acquire Horford.

OFFSEASON

Turner: Ainge 'seemed confident' about Celtics chances of signing Horford

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Turner: Ainge 'seemed confident' about Celtics chances of signing Horford

After signing with the Blazers, Evan Turner has been making the rounds showering praise on the Celtics organization and fans. He also left a farewell gift for those excited about free agency: Turner told the Boston Globe that Danny Ainge “seemed confident” at the Celtics’ chances of signing free agent center Al Horford.

Previous reports indicated that the Celtics plan to make a max-contract offer to Horford when they meet him Friday night in Atlanta. The Rockets are the only other team that has reportedly met with the former Hawks All-Star, and Houston's situation isn’t nearly as attractive as Boston’s.

If the Celtics do manage to land Horford on Friday, they’d obviously be adding a former All-Star who’d immediately help the team on both ends of the floor. Immediately, though, Horford would give them another recruiter. Horford and Durant reportedly would like to play with each other, so having him enter the room might help their chances at luring Durant to Boston during Saturday's meeting.

As for Turner, he told the Globe that Ainge expressed he would like him back, but would've had to take a pay cut and a reduced role.

"I liked Boston a lot, bro. The organization, and it’s just a sports city and the city is super nice," Turner told the Globe. "If you put money and everything aside, I would play in Boston every single day of the week. Seeing all those Hall of Famers come back and everything, that’s a real franchise."

The Celtics will likely be saying singing a similar tune to both Horford and Durant this weekend.

After ‘tough month,’ Farrell understands speculation on his job status

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After ‘tough month,’ Farrell understands speculation on his job status

BOSTON - With the Red Sox reeling coming off a month in which they went 10-16 and dropped a handful of games in the standings, speculation has recently focused on John Farrell's job security.

Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox' president of baseball operations, told reporters Thursday that Farrell's job status was not a focus and that the entire organization had to perform better. Dombrowski added that it's seldom that one person is responsible for a downturn in play.

"We've come off a tough month and finished a disappointing trip through Texas and Tampa,'' acknowledged Farrell when asked about the chatter regarding his job status. "I can understand the question and the potential speculation that's out there. But our expectation is to win and that doesn't change. The focus daily is that, is to go out and put together an effort to win.      

"My communication with Dave is very consistent. I think he's confident in my focus  and that's to win each and every day. That's where we stand. We're looking forward to  the opportunity to start this final homestand before the [All Star] break, so that gets underway tonight.''

Farrell was also asked about the dichotmy that existed between his own evaluation of David Price's outing Wednesday and Price's own estimation. 

Farrell said post-game that he believed Price "probably had his best stuff of the season, in terms of velocity and in terms of the shape of his secondary pitches.''

Price, who was in full self-flagellation mode, offered a slightly contradictory assessment.

"Changeup, that's probably the worst changeup I've had in a month,'' he said. "Curveball was awful. Can't get my cutter or my slider where I want to. I'm just bad right now.''

Farrell was questioned Friday about the seemingly contradictory analysis.

"The commentary was, here was a guy coming off an outing where he had best velocity he's shown all year -- up to 97 mph,'' said Farrell, "strikes out 10 over six-plus innings. He made some mistakes in the middle of the middle of the plate. But in terms of just raw stuff, I thought he showed a curveball that had much more consistent depth to it than in more recent starts.

So in terms of raw stuff, I thought it was one of his better outings of the year. The execution?

No, that wasn't as good as the game against San Francisco or the game against Seattle.

"Whether that's a differing opinion from someone else? That was just my view of the raw stuff.''

Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter: @Sean_McAdam