Belichick: Preparation key for new players


Belichick: Preparation key for new players

FOXBORO -- The Patriots moved cancer survivor Marcus Cannon from the reservenon-football injury list to the 53-man roster this week. Coach Bill Belichick could give no timetable on when the offensive lineman might see field action, but the activation inspired a big-picture question: How do new guys get game-ready?

The subject is timely for the Patriots, who started two practice players, safety Sterling Moore and linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, last weekend against the Jets. Belichick emphasized it was not entirely a trial-by-fire situation.

"All the players practice with the team every day, so whichever guys, whoever is on the team, they take reps in there just because they have to be ready to play," said Belichick. "We all know that who goes out there on the first play of the game, there could be somebody out there different on the second or third play of the game so everybody has to be ready.

"We try to give everybody on the team as many reps as we can but certainly some reps so theyre prepared to play whether thats because of circumstance or because of a rotation or something like that. That consistency gets built through practice repetitions thats what practice is, its preparation for the game."

Circumstance gifted Moore and Tarpinian Sunday's playing time.

Starting safety Patrick Chung (58 tackles, one interception) suffered a foot injury in Week 10. Brandon Spikes (44 tackles in seven games) is the lost first-string linebacker, out with a strained MCL. With the Patriots defense already ranked last in the NFL, the Jets were expected to continue their winning streak at the expense of New England's depleted 'D.' And that was before 2008 third-round pick Antwaun Molden came in for 2010 Pro Bowl cornerback Devin McCourty, whose shoulder Moore separated via a friendly fire tackle.

But the Patriots survived.

The defensive line, led by Andre Carter's franchise record 4.5 sacks, did its job. The "scrubs" -- expected by so many to explode into shards of anxiety on impact -- didn't screw up anything. Tarpinian had four tackles; linebacker Tracy White (17 combined tackles last season) had four. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez had just one passing touchdown.

Preparation: Belichick stressed it for a reason. Also, he doesn't just heap the extra work on his assistants. He said Wednesday that he is as involved as possible and relishes the opportunity.

"It's one of the advantages, honestly, of being a head coach is you can kind of go wherever you want to go. If you want to work with this group, you can work with this group; if you want to work with that group, you can work with that group. It's kind of nice.

"If there's anything I want to try to convey to a particular player or a particular group, and it doesn't make a difference if it's new guys or old guys, whoever they are, I have no problem going into that meeting room, calling them into my office, sitting down with him, whatever it is and trying to tell them, 'Look, this is what I think's important this week, or this is what we think you can better, this is what we're looking for from you, this is something that's going to change, here's what's going to happen.' I'd say I try to do it on a weekly, but I'd say it's more of a daily, basis."

These days, the Patriots need it.

Celtics co-owner pleased with present, future of team

Celtics co-owner pleased with present, future of team

BOSTON – Like most of us around New England, Wyc Grousbeck heard all the early praise doled out on the Boston Celtics as being one of the elite teams in the East prior to this season starting. 

“I felt before the season that maybe we were being overrated,” Grousbeck, co-owner of the Celtics, told “That we were maybe a top-10 team in the league and the top few in the East, maybe. But it still felt like a longshot.”

And here they are, preparing to play Game No. 75 this season, against Milwaukee, with the best record (48-26) in the Eastern Conference. 

“They’ve grown into themselves,” Grousbeck said. “They’re playing better than I probably thought.”

But Grousbeck has been around the NBA long enough to know there is still much work to be done. After all, the Celtics’ focus remains on winning an NBA title. But Grousbeck is wise enough to know that while that is the goal, it often takes longer to accomplish than anyone – himself included – would like. 

It’s even trickier when you consider how the East is still relatively close despite their being just a handful of games remaining. 

“There’s a bunch of teams scuffling around in the East, and we’re scuffling around with them,” Grousbeck said. “We gotta do something in the playoffs.”

This will be Boston’s third straight season advancing to the postseason. Each of the first two appearances ended with a first-round exit. 

But this year is different. The Celtics are on pace to finish with home court advantage at least through the first round of the playoffs. But if they’re able to win the games they are favored throughout the remainder of this regular season, they will finish with the top seed in the East and with it, home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. 

And as we’ve seen of late, home court has indeed been an advantage for Boston which comes into tonight’s game having won its last seven at home, which includes the first four games of a current six-game home stand. 

The success Boston has had thus far has raised the expectations of many. 

And while Grousbeck certainly wants to see the Celtics have more success than they have had the last couple of years in the playoffs, there’s no mistaking he is pleased with the direction of the franchise that just four years ago was a lottery team.

“There’s no reason to put a ceiling on the season,” Grousbeck said. “I think this season already looks good to me. I love our coach. I love our young players. I love our draft picks and our potential cap room (this summer); all of our fans. So I’m already happy with where the team is going.

Grousbeck added with a grin, “If we can speed it up all the better.”

Jerod Mayo: 'Cyrus Jones will probably be most improved this year'

Jerod Mayo: 'Cyrus Jones will probably be most improved this year'

Jerod Mayo still has faith in New England Patriots cornerback Cyrus Jones.

The cornerback, who was the Patriots' top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, struggled mightily in his rookie season. He fumbled his way out of a role on special teams, where he served as a returner.

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He then failed to perform at nickel cornerback, and the Patriots traded for Eric Rowe, who pushed Jones down the depth chart and often onto the inactives on game day. Jones' emotional outburst during Week 5 when he got ejected for punching Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins didn't help.

Despite all that, Mayo thinks Jones will turn things around.

"I think Cyrus Jones will probably be most improved this year," Mayo said in the latest edition of "The Ex Pats" podcast. "I want people to remember a rookie [Matthew] Slater. A rookie Matt Slater was terrible. He would sit here on this podcast and tell you he's terrible, and I think Cyrus Jones is more athletic than Matthew Slater. I think -- I know for a fact, because I've seen it time and time again, the biggest leap not only in athleticsm but also in confidence is from year one to year two."

Jones admitted to the Baltimore Sun that his rookie was "hell." He added he felt "embarrassed." The 23-year-old cornerback said he didn't feel like he was a part of New England's Super Bowl LI win.

“Failure is another opportunity to begin again more intelligently,” Jones wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post.

Mayo seems to think Jones has learned his lesson, and will rebound with the help of Bill Belichick. And the Patriots may need Butler to be the most-improved player. Malcolm Butler's future with New England has become uncertain, and the remaining top cornerbacks are over 6-feet.

The Patriots need a slot corner. Jones is the next man up.

"As much as the media has kind of battered this young kid, Bill's going to boost him up this entire offseason," Mayo said. "Bill -- he's the best at putting lowlights up after a game . . . But during the offseason, he kind of -- it's individualized coach. He knows this guy's confidence is in the toilet. He's going to boost him up as much as possible.

"You know [Jones] can play football. He played in the SEC. He played on the top team on the country, and was a standout performer. So this is a confidence issue. This entire thing is a confidence issue, and I think they fix that."