Patriots: Polamalu still 'head of the class'

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Patriots: Polamalu still 'head of the class'

Patriots players return to Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, but the coaching staff is already back to work after the bye week, and while continuing preparation for Pittsburgh, coach Bill Belichick said the Steelers "look good as usual" and use a lot of the same plays and schemes as last year when they were AFC Champions.

Also playing similarly to last year, according to the Patriots, is safety Troy Polamalu, who's the returning Defensive Player of the Year.

In a conference call on Monday, Belichick was asked about Polamalu, and the injuries he's had this season. But the Patriots coach doesn't believe he's struggled one bit.

"Wasn't he Defensive Player of the Year last year? It's not like he didn't do anything," said Belichick. "He's just one of the top defensive players in the league."

Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien agreed.

"You look at Troy Polamalu in his ninth year. The guy's playing as good as any safety in the league," said O'Brien on Monday's conference call. "You've got to know where this guy is, on every single play. He's a very instinctive player. He's a guy that can really disrupt the game, if you don't have knowledge of where he is on every play. He's playing really fast . . . He's one of many defenders on that defense that's going to be tough to go against. He's at the head of the class."

The Patriots also praised Pittsburgh's offense on Monday, and more specifically, wide receiver Mike Wallace.

"He's a big-play receiver," said Belichick. "He's really fast. There's no way you're going to catch him. So, you've got to be careful about how much space he gets when he catches the ball. But I think he's improved a lot from when we played him last year."

"He was big, and could always run in college," said Nick Caserio. "He's just become more consistent in all phases: route running, catching the ball, understanding coverages, just understanding how the defense is playing. And really, these last couple years, including this year, he's played at a very high level."

Trump wishes Kraft good luck, says Brady called to congratulate him

Trump wishes Kraft good luck, says Brady called to congratulate him

President-elect Donald Trump made sure to thank a few of his supporters from New England -- particularly those at 1 Patriot Place -- during a speech on the eve of his inauguration to the nation's highest office. 

Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady all earned shout-outs from Trump. Kraft was one of many Trump donors present for a dinner at Washington, DC's Union Station, where he was singled out by the soon-to-be-president. 

"In the audience we have somebody that's under no pressure whatsoever because he's got a great quarterback named Tom Brady and a great coach named Belichick: Bob Kraft," Trump said. "Good luck, Bob.

"Your friend Tom Brady just called. He feels good. He called to congratulate us. He feels good. Good luck. You're going to do great."

Trump gave one extra nod to Belichick, who he says taught him to out-work his competition. 

"I out-worked everybody," Trump said. "I think I out-worked anyone who ever ran for office. I learned that from Belichick."

Patriots sign TE Rob Housler to future contract

Patriots sign TE Rob Housler to future contract

FOXBORO -- The Patriots have signed free-agent tight end Rob Housler to a future contract. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound target last played for the Bears but was released at the end of training camp.

Housler won't be eligible to participate with the Patriots during the postseason, but he will be available for the offseason program and training camp leading up to the 2017 campaign. 

Housler taken in the third round by the Cardinals with the 69th overall selection in 2011. In 65 career games, he has 109 catches for 1,166 yards and one touchdown. 

The Patriots may have been intrigued by Housler's skill set last summer when he caught one pass for 52 yards -- making two Patriots defenders miss in the process -- during a preseason game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots and Bears held joint training camp practices in August that would have given Patriots coaches and scouts a closer look at everything Housler has to offer as a player. 

Housler was one of the better athletes at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2011, running a 4.55-second 40-yard dash (fastest among tight ends), posting a 6.9-second three-cone drill, and recording a 37-inch vertical leap.

Bill Belichick and his staff hit big on a future-contract signing two years ago when a running back with a significant injury history was available to scoop up at the behest of then-assistant to the coaching staff Michael Lombardi. Since then, the Patriots still have never lost with Dion Lewis in uniform.