Marshall Faulk: 'I'll never be over being cheated out of Super Bowl'

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Marshall Faulk: 'I'll never be over being cheated out of Super Bowl'

NEW ORLEANS -- The Super Bowl is back in New Orleans for the first time since February 2002, when the Patriots upset the mighty St. Louis Rams.

On Tuesday, I asked Marshall Faulk if being back in the Superdome this week conjured up any emotions from that day.

"All of my memories about playing the game is all good feelings," Faulk began. "I only remember the Super Bowl I won in Atlanta (after the 1999 season). I couldn't even conjure up the feelings of what I felt after the game (against the Patriots). I'm sure I was heartbroken and maybe a little upset but when you talk Super Bowl, all of my feelings go directly to winning."

People in New England, Faulk was told, believe he still shows bitterness over the loss. And a dislike of the Patriots in his role as an NFL Network commentator.

"They misunderstand," Faulk corrected. "Am I over the loss? Yeah, I'm over the loss. But I'll never be over being cheated out of the Super Bowl. That's a different story. I can understand losing a Super Bowl, that's fine . . . But how things happened and what took place. Obviously, the commissioner gets to handle things how he wants to handle them but if they wanted us to shut up about what happened, show us the tapes. Don't burn 'em."

Faulk was referring to tapes the Patriots had of opposing coaches sending in defensive signals. It's a story from another epoch, to be sure, but as Faulk spoke, it became obvious the scab is still there. And with just a scratch to the surface, Faulk was soon rolling downhill in accusing the Patriots of having taped the Rams' walkthrough prior to Super Bowl XXXVI.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said back in 2008 that he had no evidence that the Patriots -- and video assistant Matt Walsh in particular -- taped the Rams walkthrough.

In April of 2008, Goodell explained his findings and decision to destroy the tapes he'd confiscated.
"The reason I destroyed the tapes is they were totally consistent with what the team told me," Goodell said during his State of the NFL speech at the NFL Owners Meetings. "It was the appropriate thing to do and I think it sent a message. "The actual effectiveness of taping and taking of signals from opponents -- it is something done widely in many sports. I think it probably had limited, if any effect, on the outcome of games. "That doesn't change my perspective on violating rules and the need to be punished."Goodell said there were six tapes, some from 2007 preseason games and the rest from 2006. Another reason he destroyed them was one tape was leaked to the media just after the Patriots-Jets game. "We wanted to take and destroy that information," he said. "They may have collected it within the rules, but we couldn't determine that. So we felt that it should be destroyed."The NFL did present some tapes at the 2008 NFL Owners Meetings that it hadn't destroyed. The tapes showed the Patriots' taping defensive signals, shots of the scoreboard and even 15 seconds of cheerleaders performing.

Still, Faulk says circumstantial evidence from the game leaves him believing the Patriots gathered intel somehow.

"I understand Bill (Belichick) is a great coach," said Faulk. "But No. 13 (Kurt Warner) will tell you. Mike Martz will tell you. We had some plays in the red zone that we hadn't ran. I think we got to fourth down -- we ran three plays that we hadn't ran, that Mike drew up for that game -- Bill's a helluva coach . . . we hadn't ran them the whole year (and the Patriots were ready for them)."

Faulk said the only time those plays were practiced were at the walkthrough.

"I know, in that game, in the red zone, the plays we ran, most of them we hadn't ran most of those plays that year," Faulk noted. "And a couple of plays on third down that we walked through also . . . Any time that I was offset, I was always stationary. And we had creating motioning in the backfield at the same depth on the other side of the field. And they created a check for it. It's just little things like that. It's either the best coaching in the world when you come up with situations that you had never seen before. Or you'd seen it and knew what to do."

At one point in the conversation, Faulk said, "I don't even know why you brought this up now."

In fact, Faulk was the one who broached it.

Faulk attempted to temper his comments, saying, "Bill has done a great job. I love Mr. Kraft and what he's done. They almost drafted me. I remember (Kraft's) vision for that organization. I respect everything about that organization. But am I bitter about how that went? Am I bitter about how the league handled them taping people? If Bountygate was that bad and Sean got suspended for a whole year? If we want to talk about some unfair assessment of how we're assessing things? Man.

"If you lost a game and your brother cheated you," said Faulk, "you'll remember that."

LeBlanc's ability to play the football could help him earn spot with Patriots

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LeBlanc's ability to play the football could help him earn spot with Patriots

FOXBORO -- Not long after Cre'Von LeBlanc made a hard-to-fathom, one-handed interception in New England's preseason opener against the Saints, Patriots coach Bill Belichick labeled the play "special." Then he delved a little more deeply into LeBlanc's practice performances with the team to that point.

"Day in and day out, he's been pretty consistent for us going all the way back to the spring," Belichick said at the time. "I'd say his instinctiveness, his ability to be around the ball, his anticipation and ability to recognize routes maybe offset some of the testing numbers that aren't elite . . . Knowing how to play -- he has got some of that. He finds the ball. Or the ball finds him. However you want to look at it."

LeBlanc has seen more preseason targets (20) than any other corner in the NFL thus far, according to Pro Football Focus, and he's allowed nine receptions for 95 yards. His percentage of targets caught (45 percent) is the third-best of any corner with at least 15 targets, and he's allowed a quarterback rating of 38.5 when targeted.

The undrafted rookie out of Florida Atlantic has one pass breakup to go along with his eye-popping pick, and his ability to make plays on the football -- something he flashed in one-on-one drills throughout training camp -- is something that may allow him to earn a spot on the team's 53-man roster.

When asked to explain the value of a player who seems to have a knack for finding the football, Belichick said it can be a difficult skill to assess. It may seem, at times, like a player is fortunate to make those kinds of plays at first. But if they happen again, and again, you might just have something.

"It's a valuable skill," Belichick said. "Logan Ryan is another guy that did it in college. He has done it here. Some guys have a real knack for that, other guys not as much. Sometimes it's a little bit acquired, sometimes it's just instinctive.

"The best example I ever had was [former Giants corner] Everson Walls. He didn't technically do hardly anything right from a fundamental standpoint. You would never take another player and say, 'Look, do it the way Everson's doing it. This is the way you would want to do it.' But in the end [he had], I don't know, whatever it was, 56 career interceptions. It was a lot. It was over 50. He did things, but he could find the ball and he had a great instinct for quarterbacks, routes, pattern combinations and so forth. Certainly it wasn't a speed and measurable thing. You would have released him on those measurable. That's whyhe wasn't drafted. But as a football player he's productive.

"When I was in Detroit, Lem Barney . . . same kind of thing. Lem probably had better measurable skills coming out, but at that point he made a lot of plays and he made them on his instinctiveness, ball skills, awareness, etc.

"Ty [Law], I mean Ty was a first-round pick, but Ty had that too. There are a lot of first-round picks that don't have that and he had that.

"It's definitely an important skill, and it really probably separates good from great players or average to good players. It's not the easiest thing to evaluate, and sometimes some of those plays are circumstantial more than they are great instinctive plays. They're fortunate the way they happen. But when a guy starts making enough of them then you know it's something a little special."

Time will tell as to whether or not the Patriots believe LeBlanc has that something special. Final roster cuts are due on Sept. 3. He's been included in our latest 53-man roster projection, but he's competing in what appears to be a deep positional group that includes second-year players Justin Coleman and Darryl Roberts as well as fellow undrafted rookie Jonathan Jones.

Brady to serve as Michigan honorary captain Sept. 17

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Brady to serve as Michigan honorary captain Sept. 17

Tom Brady will have some time on his hands the next couple of weeks. So, why not travel back to the ol’ alma mater to serve as honorary captain.

That’s what the Patriots quarterback will be doing Sept. 17 when Michigan hosts Colorado at the Big House in Ann Arbor.

Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh told the NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, another Michigan alum, that Brady will be back in Michigan for the game. 

There has been speculation that Brady will find time to work out with the Wolverines to stay sharp while he’s away from the Patriots serving his four-game Deflategate suspension. His visit with the Wolverines will no doubt fuel more of that talk.