Belichick: Preparation key for new players

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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.

After knee injury, Beleskey set to return for Bruins vs. Blackhawks

After knee injury, Beleskey set to return for Bruins vs. Blackhawks

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins, looking for a spark after terrible, back-to-back losses to the New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings, are hoping the return of Matt Beleskey from a knee injury can help provide the inspiration. 

The blue-collar left winger has missed the past 23 games with a torn MCL in his right knee suffered in early December against the Buffalo Sabres, but now he’s easing back into the lineup on the fourth line in Friday night’s showdown with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Beleskey was skating with Dominic Moore and Austin Czarnik on the fourth line at morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena and should be expected to throw a few hard hits and play with some intensity in his return.

“I’m ready to go and excited to get back out there,” said Beleskey, who has been skating with the team for roughly a week after giving the knee sufficient time to heal. “I’ve just got to keep it simple and do what I do well: Be hard on pucks, take the body and just try and find your groove. You don’t want to expect too much in your first game back, but you just want to be able to contribute.

“’I’ve been saving [the pent-up energy] for a while, so I’m ready to get back out there and hopefully provide a spark for us.”

The Beleskey return also provides the player with a bit of a reset button after a slow start to the season that saw him with two goals and five points along with a minus-6 rating in 24 games played for the Black and Gold prior to his injury. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairs against the Blackhawks based on morning skate today:

Marchand-Bergeron-Vatrano

Schaller-Krejci-Pastrnak

Spooner-Nash-Backes/Hayes

Beleskey/Blidh-Moore-Czarnik

 

Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Morrow-Liles

 

Rask

Thomas on not getting All-Star start: 'It hurts but I’ll be all right’

Thomas on not getting All-Star start: 'It hurts but I’ll be all right’

WALTHAM, Mass. –  Isaiah Thomas stood before the media throng on Friday afternoon at the Celtics’ practice facility and answered all the questions with the usual truthful tone sprinkled with a bit of humor.
 
But you could sense that he was still bitter about the results announced by the NBA on Thursday as to who will be the starters in next month’s All-Star Game.
 
Cleveland’s LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler were the frontcourt starters announced by the league. In the backcourt you will find Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, who finished in a tie with Thomas in this first season in which fans, media and players all have a say in who will be the game’s starting five, as opposed to past seasons in which the starters were chosen strictly by fans.
 
DeRozan and Thomas finished in a tie under the voting system, but DeRozan moved ahead of Thomas due to a tie-breaker (fan vote), in which DeRozan had about 41,000 more votes than Thomas.
 
“It’s not the end of the world; it’s all good,” said Thomas. “I was disappointed, but those guys deserve it as well. I did everything I could in my control to put myself in position to be a starter. It’s not the end of the world.”
 
Especially knowing that the coaches will vote him on to the team for the second year in a row.
 
But for Thomas to be even in the conversation speaks to how the league’s new system of choosing All-Star starters, makes the whole choosing of starters about more than just a popularity contest, which is the irony of Thomas being left off the starting five – it ultimately came down to DeRozan receiving more votes from fans than Thomas.
 
“I didn’t really look at it. I didn’t look at what the reason was, but it is what it is,” Thomas said. “I’ll use it as motivation. I have to get better. That’s all I took out of that. I’m not where I want to be.”
 
Thomas finished fourth in fan voting for the starting nod, but was second among players and first among Eastern Conference guards among the media.
 
“I appreciate everybody who voted for me, especially you [media] guys,” Thomas said. “The media showed me some love and then my peers showed me love too.”
 
But as far as coming so close to being an All-Star starter and not making it, Thomas said, “It hurts but I’ll be alright. I’ll use it as motivation and keep going.”
 
Thomas is having a banner season that has elevated his name and game into the conversation for the league’s MVP award that so far is being led by Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.
 
He averages 28.7 points per game, which is tops among Eastern Conference players and fourth overall. 

Among his more notable accomplishments this season, he scored a franchise-record 29 points in the fourth quarter of a win over Miami, and in the same game, wound up scoring a career-high 52 points.
 
Thomas isn’t the only NBA player who has had a season that most would believe would result in him being an All-Star starter.
 
“You look in the west, [Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook] averages a triple-double and he didn’t get in [to start],” Thomas said. “I guess…I’ll let everybody debate for me and argue for me. Those guys that made it who start, they deserved it.”