Pats quiet on distractions

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Pats quiet on distractions

FOXBORO -- It came from the empty spaces in front of Patriots lockers, through the swinging doors leading into the team's training room, and from the throng of players who whizzed by the media only to vanish a moment later: silence.

Even for the Patriots -- keepers of a particularly quiet locker room -- they seemed hushed on Friday.

The news that offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien had accepted the head coaching job at Penn State broke on Thursday night, and the Patriots weren't talking.

That is, of course, the Patriots way.

Apparently, word was passed down from coach Bill Belichick to leave the subject untouched. The players -- as they so often do -- took heed. Of the scant few who were wrangled by reporters, some admitted that they were instructed not to comment. Some politely declined. Others were mum, promising interviews at a later date. Each had his own way of keeping quiet, but their silence was as uniform as the jerseys they wear on Sundays.

A few strayed from the plan. Julian Edelman spoke (and was thanked profusely by the media). Offensive lineman Nick McDonald spoke, too, but he didn't say much.

"Just another work day," McDonald insisted. "Come to work. Do our jobs."

With that, the hulking 300-pounder disappeared, leaving little more than the muffled sounds of hip-hop music coming from the nearby Patriots weight room to fill the air.

There is a reason for their tightened lips. It is the Patriots way. It is the Patriots staying on task. All season they preached focus on the next game, the next opponent, and they followed that road to a 13-3 record, an AFC East championship and the No. 1 seed throughout the AFC playoffs.

They weren't about to veer off course on Friday. They weren't about get bogged down in questions on O'Brien's impending move.

It's a policy that can be frustrating for media or fans starved for sound bites, but it's not without its benefits at a time of year when distractions can quickly derail a season. It's easy to accuse the Patriots of being dull or uncooperative. But not focused? Not them.

Their concentration -- even if it's an act, the script passed down by Belichick -- always appears to be finely tuned. On Friday, in the face of what could be perceived as a distraction, they pulled the rip cord and deployed the silent treatment. As a team, they made (almost) no comment about their fiery coach undertaking a high-profile gig just before the start of the playoffs.

Crisis averted. Continue on the highlighted route to the Divisional Playoff game.

Today at 11:30 am, O'Brien will be announced as the Penn State head coach. When the Patriots speak with the media next week, they may touch on O'Brien's new job because it will be official. But more importantly to them, by then they will have a definitive opponent -- either Cincinnati, Pittsburgh or Denver -- and that's where their focus will lie. That's what they'll be more likely to comment on, not who's coming or who's going on the coaching staff.

Cincinnati. Pittsburgh. Denver. For better or worse, that's the Patriots way.

Belichick on Brissett pick: Always try to plan at quarterback

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Belichick on Brissett pick: Always try to plan at quarterback

FOXBORO -- When Bill Belichick took the podium back in the spring of 2014 to discuss his decision to draft Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round, he raised some eyebrows when he professed his belief that it was a position of need. 

"The situation we have at quarterback, I think that we felt as an organization that we needed to address that to some degree in the future, so we’ll see how all that works out," Belichick said. "I think we’re better off being early than being late at that position."

He added: "We know what Tom’s age and contract situation is. I don’t think you want to have one quarterback on your team. I don’t think that’s responsible to the entire team or the organization."

At the time, Tom Brady was about to turn 37, and his contract was scheduled to keep him in New England through 2017. The team also had backup Ryan Mallett entering the final year of his rookie deal. 

Given Belichick's reasoning, and given the team's willingness to spend a second-rounder on him, it sounded as though the Patriots were ready to plan for a future with Garoppolo taking Brady's place. 

Two years later the Patriots spent another Day 2 draft pick on a quarterback when they selected North Carolina State's Jacoby Brissett in the third round on Friday.

The situation isn't exactly the same as it was in 2014, but there are some similarities.

As was the case in 2014, Brady is still one of the top quaeterbacks in the league. And as was the case in 2014, Brady and the incoming rookie quarterback now have contracts that will run out at the same time; both players are on parallel paths to hit free agency after the 2019 season. 

Unlike Mallett, Garoppolo is not entering a contract year. He still has two seasons remaining on his rookie deal, but Brissett's addition could be an indication of New England's plans for their backup.

If Brissett develops to the point that he's ready to be a No. 2 in 2017, and if Brady remains healthy and among the best in the game, Garoppolo could quickly become a valuable trade chip. There will almost certainly be a quarterback-needy team next offseason willing to pay handsomely for a quarterback who has spent three years under Belichick and Brady and held his own in preseason action.

If the Patriots choose not to deal Garoppolo before the 2017 season, they'll end up keeping three quarterbacks on their roster for two consecutive years. That's not completely out of the realm of possibility, but for a team that turns over the bottom of its 53-man roster as often as the Patriots do, it seems like a situation Belichick might like to avoid if at all possible.

One would assume that at the end of his contract, Garoppolo would like to find a starting job -- and starter's money -- elsewhere. If he were to leave, the Patriots could receive a compensatory pick in return that might pale in comparison to whatever they would receive in a trade before the 2017 campaign. 

I asked Belichick on Saturday night if Garoppolo's contract situation played a role in the Patriots selecting Brissett at pick No. 91 overall. 

"There’s always an element of team planning, especially at that position," Belichick said. "If you can you try to look ahead a little bit. If you can’t, then take it as it comes. Things change but there’s an element of planning at all positions on your team, certainly that one."

Bottom line: It's the one position at which the Patriots never want to be unprepared. They don't want to be the 2011 Colts with Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky. They don't want to be the 2015 Ravens with Mallett, Matt Schaub and Jimmy Clausen rotating behind center. 

They want to make sure they have capable bodies to man their most important position. By drafting Brissett -- a toolsy quarterback who took care of the football in college  andwas respected as a leader -- they may have found a future backup. At the same time, they've given themselves some flexibility next offseason to seek value for Garoppolo via trade if they so choose.

Report: Patriots sign nine undrafted free agents

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Report: Patriots sign nine undrafted free agents

The Patriots have reportedly added nine undrafted free agents after selecting nine players in the 2016 NFL Draft.

DJ Foster, RB/WR, Arizona State
Devante Burns, CB, Texas A&M
De’Runnya Wilson, TE/WR, Miss State
Steven Scheu, TE, Vanderbilt
Woodrow Hamilton, DT, Mississippi State
CJ Johnson, LB, Mississippi State
V’Angelo Bentley, CB, Illinois
Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn
Cre’Von LeBlanc, CB, Florida Atlantic

Foster is arguably the highest profile player the Patriots signed and was filmed celebrating the moment.

Foster has the versatility the Patriots looks for. He played running back over his first three collegiate seasons before shifting to wide receiver. He finished his career at Arizona State with 666 total touches for 4,813 yards and 32 touchdowns.

Stay tuned for more…