Brady, Harbaugh both Michigan men

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Brady, Harbaugh both Michigan men

FOXBORO - The University of Michigan was never quite "Quarterback U", but the Wolverines produced a chain of NFL quarterbacks through the 1980s and '90s that began with Jim Harbaugh and ended with Tom Brady.

The two ends of that chain don't know each other too well, however.

I asked Brady on Wednesday how often he'd interacted with the 49ers coach who'll try to stop Brady this weekend.

"He used to have a golf tournament every summer (when I was at Michigan)," said Brady. "He'd come back and it was a big deal. The guys all got excited when he was around. I didn't get too many chances to talk to him. I was just one of the plebes."

Since then?

"I saw him out golfing out one day while he was coaching at Stanford. Talked to him a little bit," said Brady. "He's a tough, hard-nosed guy."

Harbaugh was the Wolverines starter from 1984-86. Elvis Grbac, Todd Collins and Brian Griese were some of the quarterbacks in between Harbaugh and Brady who was the most-of-the-time starter in 1998.

Brady's had a better pro career than Harbaugh did.

Harbaugh, of course, is working very hard to cultivate a hard-ass, no-nonsense persona in the NFL, so it will be interesting to see what kind of interaction he has with Brady on Sunday prior to the game.

Given Brady's penchant for using slights for fuel, if Harbaugh goes hard-ass, it might not work out so well for him.

Van Noy sees playing-time bump as he learns Patriots language

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Van Noy sees playing-time bump as he learns Patriots language

When Kyle Van Noy was traded to the Patriots in late October, he had a lot to learn. He needed to understand the layout of his new team's maze-like facility. He needed to adjust to a new locker room. He needed to adapt to a new home. 

He also had to become fluent in a new language.

The former Lions 'backer was inactive for two weeks before he was comfortable enough with the Patriots system -- and the coaching staff was comfortable enough with him -- to get on the field. He played 29 snaps against the Niners in first game with his new club, then saw 28 plays against the Jets. On Sunday he saw his role expand as he played 40 of a possible 51 plays, which was more than Shea McClellin (38) or Dont'a Hightower (33). 

"Kyle has done a great job of working really hard to acclimate to what we’re doing, and he has had to learn really fast as far as the system, the communication, the language," said defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on a conference call Tuesday. "It’s like when you go to a different system, offensively or defensively, a lot of times it’s just learning the vernacular and the verbiage . . . That’s a big part of it. Then getting more familiar with that kind of terminology and the communication is critical because there’s a lot of calls and adjustments, things like that that we’ve got to do on the field."

Van Noy was making some of those calls himself on Sunday as he wore the green dot on his helmet when Hightower was on the sidelines. Even with the added responsibility, Van Noy was able to play freely enough that he put together what might have been the best game of his three-year career. 

Used at the end of the line of scrimmage as well as in a more traditional off-the-line linebacker role, Van Noy was effective in defending both the pass and the run: He stuffed three Rams rush attempts, he recorded a quarterback hit that led to an incompletion, he drew a holding call, and he recorded an athletic interception when he tracked a wobbling Jared Goff pass that floated over the middle after Jabaal Sheard hit Goff's arm as the rookie released his throw.

After several of his stand-out plays, Van Noy was visibly excited on the field and later on the sidelines. It was the culmination of six weeks of work, learning as much as he could from a coaching staff that was eager to teach him. 

"He’s extremely prideful in his work and his approach to the game," Patricia said. "He’s very cerebral. He’ll ask a lot of questions. He really wants to understand what we’re doing and why, which is great. We’re trying to give him those answers and insight into kind of where some of this either came from or developed or situations like that so that’s really good."