Koppen fighting to be at the center of things


Koppen fighting to be at the center of things

FOXBORO -- Dan Koppen might be fighting for his job.

During Thursday's OTAs, Dan Connolly -- formerly the backup -- was first in at center. Koppen answered questions about it during a media scrum . . . however glibly.

"I think there's always competition (for jobs)," he shrugged. "You approach every year, there's always guys coming in and trying to take your job and my approach this year is not going to be any different from last year. No one's job is safe on this team -- maybe minus Tom Brady. But you never know around here.

"You've just got to compete and work hard, show the coaches you can be reliable, dependable, that you know what to do, be in the right spot and just go. There'll always be competition; that's what the coaches stress to us and everybody coming in. That's what we're told."

The 32-year old has started 120 of the 121 games he's played as a career Patriot. When he broke his left fibula last season in Week 1, it was Connolly who stepped in. And it was Connolly who signed first during free agency, agreeing to a three-year, 9.7 million deal.

It sounded like starter's money.

Koppen was offered a deal before free agency began but tested the waters, most notably with a visit to the Titans. He re-signed with New England in mid-April: two years, almost 6 million.

Thursday, he said he's back where he belongs.

"I didn't want to go anywhere else," he said. "Thank goodness it did work out. It's more of a pain moving the whole family and getting that stuff squared away. To be able to play here . . . hopefully for a little bit more -- end my career here -- it's a good feeling. So this is where I want to be. This is what I know. I'm just excited to play this year."

Ironcally, the league is changing the injured reserve rule this season. Had it been done one year earlier, Koppen -- who went on IR September 21 -- could have come back after Week 8.

"It's tough," he said of the absence. "It makes you appreciate things a lot more. Especially sitting around watching . . . you put everything into the offseason. Just to sit around and watch, it makes you have greater appreciation for your job and being around the guys and going out there and playing for one another."

But he's not thinking about what could have been. A full season to recuperate was beneficial; Koppen said he's now healthy, "good to go."

Whether he'll be "going" from the start or off the bench is less certain.

As far as he'd let on, Koppen's focus is wider. The team is stockpiled all over the place and it won't shake out for weeks. Adding talent and creating competition is the only way to push the entire team, right?

"If you're going to stay still, everybody else around you is just going to get better," said Koppen. "All 32 teams right now, 31 other teams, we're at the same point. It's just how hard we work now that's going to really determine how we do this year. If we come in and think we've got all the answers, that's not the right approach -- might as well just come in, try to learn it like a rookie, and just go out there and work as hard as we can."

We'll see how he feels in September.

Butler imitates Brown with post-interception dance: 'Nothing personal'


Butler imitates Brown with post-interception dance: 'Nothing personal'

Malcolm Butler didn't mean any disrespect. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 


When the Patriots corner picked off a Landry Jones pass in the first quarter -- one that was intended for receiver Antonio Brown -- Butler stood up in the end zone, faced the Heinz Field crowd, stuck one arm in the air a and gyrated like someone had attached jumper cables to his facemask. 

He was doing his best to mimick one of Brown's well-known touchdown dances.

"Me and Brown had conversation before," Butler said, "and it was a joke to him once I showed him how I do it. Much love for that guy. Nothing personal."

For Butler, it was the highlight of what was a productive afternoon. The third-year corner was asked to shadow Brown for much of the day, and he allowed Brown to catch five of nine targets for 94 yards. He also broke up a pair of passes intended for Brown's teammates.

“Stopping Antonio Brown, that’s impossible," Butler said. "You can’t stop him. You can only slow him down. I just went out there and tried to compete today . . . Great players are going to make plays but you have to match their intensity.”
Even on the longest throw from backup quarterback Landry Jones to Brown, a 51-yarder, it appeared as though Butler played the coverage called correctly. 

Butler lined up across from Brown and trailed him underneath as Brown worked his jway from the left side of the field to the right. Butler was looking for some help over the top in that scenario, seemingly, but because Brown ran across the formation, it was hard for the back end of the defense to figure out who would be helping Butler. 

Belichick admitted as much after the game. 

"He was on [Brown] a lot the way we set it up," Belichick said. "Look, they've got great players. They're tough to cover. They hit us on a couple over routes, in cut where they kind of ran away from the coverage that we had. 

"The plays were well designed. Good scheme, good thorws and obviously good routes by Brown. They got us on a couple, but I thought we competed hard. We battled all the way. We battled on third down. We battled in the red area. They made some. We made some, but they're good. They have a lot of good players."

And Brown, in particular, is about as close as it gets to unstoppable in the NFL. Butler found that out in Week 1 of last year when he matched up with Brown in his first game as a starter, giving up nine catches for 133 yards to the All-Pro wideout. 

Though Sunday might not have been perfect for Butler, it was better than that day about 14 months ago. And at times, it was worth dancing about. 

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Seahawks, Cardinals miss OT FGs, tie 6-6


SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Seahawks, Cardinals miss OT FGs, tie 6-6

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Seattle's Stephen Hauschka and Arizona's Chandler Catanzaro missed short field goals that would have won the game in overtime and the Seahawks and Cardinals settled for a 6-6 tie Sunday night.

Hauschka's 27-yard field goal was wide left with seven seconds left after Catanzaro's 24-yarder bounced off the left upright.

The tie was the Cardinals' first since Dec. 7, 1986, a 10-10 draw at Philadelphia when the franchise was based in St. Louis. It was the first for the Seattle since entering the NFL in 1976.

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