Belichick pleased with first performance

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Belichick pleased with first performance

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick wouldn't rule out the return of linebacker Dane Fletcher during a conference call Friday.

Belichick did acknowledge that the linebacker, who tore his ACL on a punt, according to a source, is not in good shape.

"The news on Dane doesn't look very good," said Belichick. "He'll be out for a while. It's unfortunate. He worked hard in the offseason. We've got good competition, it will be an opportunity for somebody else to step in but it's unfortunate for Dane."

Belichick remains high on the upside of veteran Bobby Carpenter, who seemed destined to platoon with Fletcher as a coverage linebacker, taking Brandon Spikes off the field on clear passing downs.

"Bobby is a very experienced player," said Belichick. "Hes been with several teams. Hes played inside and outside in the 3-4, hes played the different positions in the 4-3 and nickel defenses, he has a lot of experience in the kicking game. Hes done a lot of different things for Detroit, Miami, Dallas and us. Hes a versatile player with a lot of experience."

Mike Rivera, a second-year player who now movesup the depth chart, is still learning according to Belichick. "Mike is a player that is trying to work his way up from the other end (from Carpenter). He was on our practice squad last year; wasnt in training camp for us but had a good year on the practice squad and did enough things that we re-signed him this season and hes been very competitive in camp. Were trying to give him some opportunities to see what he can do and how effective he can be doing it. But hes certainly well ahead of where he was last year because of the spring practices, the OTAs and being here in training camp, so he knows our system a lot better. Hes a hard working kid that has shown up in the kicking game and on defense. Hes done some good things, but still has a long way to go to establish himself as a veteran NFL player. I think Bobby has done that."

The Patriots don't play again until a week from Monday. The players have the weekend off then will be back for the longest continuous string of practices they have for the rest of the preseason.

Belichick seemed pleased after looking at film of the game.

"Overall the players competed well and we were running without too many bumps in the road so I think that was in the right direction," Belichick pointed out. "Individually there were good plays from a lot of players. Some of the things we worked on in practice showed up on the field in a fundamental and technique standpoint. We had production running the ball. Defensively, we didn't give up many points. We played competitively against both the run and the passing game."

One standout Thursday night was Jerod Mayo. The Patriots' linebacker has played all over the second level, filling different roles. This year, playing as the weak-side linebacker, he seems in a position to utilize his speed and playmaking ability a bit more. He had a nice third-down takedown of Darren Sproles Thursday night and also tipped a pass that was picked off.

"Jerod has a lot of strengths and he does a lot of things well thats why hes such a good player," said Belichick. "He can run, he can tackle, he can take on blockers, he can chase down plays. He can play good zone pass defense, he can cover guys man-to-man, he has the ability to blitz. Hes smart, he calls our defenses, he makes adjustments. Hes a versatile player, but hes also a player that if you just put in one spot that can do a lot of things well and help your defense in a lot of ways."

Mayo's versatility, combined with the versatility of other linebackers like Rob Ninkovich and Dont'a Hightower, makes the defense as a whole better, said Belichick.

"He gives you good flexibility on your team all the way around just because he does so many things well," Belichick explained. "And he has a very good understanding of not only what were trying to do, but what the opponents are trying to do and what things we would or wouldnt want to do against certain looks or certain problems that they try to give us. He does a nice job of getting the defense to something that we would want to be in or something that we would want to play in that situation."

Thursday's Patriots-Bills practice report: Garoppolo, Brissett practice again

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Thursday's Patriots-Bills practice report: Garoppolo, Brissett practice again

FOXBORO -- The Patriots held a walkthrough on the field behind Gillette Stadium one day after both Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) tested their arms during the team's practice in full pads n Wednesday.

Both quarterbacks were back on the field, but for the second consecutive day they were limited, according to the injury report. That injury report was, in fact, unchanged from Wednesday's, meaning tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) and linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) were also limited. 

There was one significant alteration to the Bills practice report, however, as tight end Charles Clay (knee) was back on the field Thursday. Receiver Sammy Watkins (foot) remained out. 

Patriots coach Bill Belichick described Watkins' explosive abilities in Buffalo's passing game earlier this week. 

"Watkins is big, he is good after the catch, he’s obviously good on the deep balls," Belichick said. "But he is good on catch-and-run plays. He can take those intermediate routes or crossing routes and turn a 10, 15-yard catch into 40. So, a hard guy to tackle, big, fast, very athletic."

If he can't go, the Bills will have to find other ways to try to manufacture yardage. 

Here's Thursday's practice participation report for the Patriots and Bills.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)

BUFFALO BILLS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
TE Charles Clay (knee)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)

Blount: Belichick has had my back from the beginning

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Blount: Belichick has had my back from the beginning

FOXBORO -- During the week, there are times when Bill Belichick and LeGarrette Blount will walk out to practice together, chatting, laughing, looking like old pals. On Sundays, Belichick will coach Blount like any other player, calling Blount by the same nickname Blount's teammates use for the 250-pound bruiser: "LG." After Thursday's win over the Texans, Blount ran for over 100 yards and two scores and earned special recognition from the head coach.

From the outside looking in, they are the Patriots version of the Odd Couple. One is a Hall of Fame, old-school, buttoned-up disciplinarian. The other is a care-free 29-year-old who spends chunks of his free time on Snapchat and Instagram, often taking pictures of his sneaker collection.  

But with Belichick, Blount's career has taken off. Undrafted in 2010 due in part to off-the-field issues, Blount bounced from the Titans to the Buccaneers, and in Tampa Bay, he found early success. He ran for over 1,000 yards as a rookie and followed that up by starting all 14 games in which he played during his second season. Having fallen out of favor with the coaching staff in 2012, he was traded to New England for return specialist Jeff Demps the following offseason. 

With the Patriots, Blount ran for 772 yards and a career-high seven scores, setting him up to sign a free-agent deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers before the start of the 2014 campaign. It was a turbulent few months for Blount, who was arrested for marijuana possession, served a one-game suspension, and then walked off the field during a game against the Titans, leading to his release. 

Who was there to scoop him up? Belichick, of course.

The Patriots moved quickly to re-sign Blount to a two-year deal, and Blount was very open about how thankful he was that the Patriots offered him another chance. Though it may seem like a head-scratching match, Blount enjoys playing for Belichick and he appreciates Belichick's frankness. There are no promises made, but expectations are laid out, and the onus is on the player to earn his role. At other stops, Blount felt as though he may have been misled. 

Belichick has leaned on Blount over the course of the first three weeks of this season much in the same way Blount leaned on the Patriots organization when he was looking for another chance to play in 2013 and 2014. With Tom Brady suspended, the Patriots have run the football more than any other team in the NFL, and Blount has recorded more carries than any other back in the league, helping them get out to a 3-0 start. 

On Thursday he was named the AFC's Offensive Player of the Month for posting 298 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and he shed some light on the relationship he shares with his head coach.

"I have a really good relationship with Bill," Blount said. "I love Bill to death. He’s always had my back from the beginning, from the first time I met him. I think he’s probably going to have it forever. We just have a really great relationship. I like everything that he does, I respect him a lot. I think he’s going to go down in history as the best coach to ever coach this game."

And what about having your boss call you by a nickname? 

"Can’t complain if he calls you that," Blount said. "Because what’s LG stand for? Life’s good, right?"

Right now, for both Blount and Belichick, it can't get much better.