Pats quiet on distractions


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.

Van Noy: 'I was shocked" to be traded from Lions to Patriots


Van Noy: 'I was shocked" to be traded from Lions to Patriots

FOXBORO -- It's not often that NFL teams make deals before the trade deadline. Seeing starters get dealt before the deadline is a veritable rarity. It's no wonder linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who started in all seven Lions games this season, reacted the way he did when he was dealt to the Patriots earlier this week.

"I was shocked to go from starting there to traded," Van Noy said during his first back-and-forth with Patriots reporters. "I was shocked. I respect everybody with the Detroit Lions, they'll all be my guys there. Just grateful for the opportunity to come here and get it going."

Van Noy has been working closely with Patriots linebackers and linebackers coach Brian Flores since his arrival, even getting some last-minute notes from Flores before meeting with reporters and heading out to Thursday's practice. 

The 6-foot-3, 243-pounder wasn't completely unfamiliar with the operation in New England before being sent to Foxboro along with a seventh-round pick in exchange for a sixth-rounder. He admitted he had "a lot" of contact with the Patriots before being taken in the second round by Detroit.  

Now he's playing "catch-up" to learn the Patriots playbook, which could include learning multiple positions within the team's defense. He played mostly as an off-the-line linebacker in Detroit, but when he entered into the league out of BYU, he was considered to have the tools to be a productive pass-rusher as a pro. 

Van Noy, who lost about 15 pounds going into this season, indicated that the Lions didn't get the most out of him because of how he was used. 

"I mean, they didn't know where to put me," he said. "Here, they want me here, and I'm happy to be wanted." 

Van Noy was injured for much of his rookie season and had a hard time making an impact last year. He was relied upon to fill a more substantial role this season, playing in 60 percent of the team's defensive snaps. It's unclear just how Van Noy will fit in as a member of the Patriots, but he says he's willing to do whatever it takes to work his way back up another depth chart.

"I'm here now, and I'm gonna do whatever they have me [do], and whatever they want my weight to be at," he said. "Whatever they want me to do I'm gonna do it because I want to win and be part of this team."

Patriots running back Dion Lewis (knee) returns to practice


Patriots running back Dion Lewis (knee) returns to practice

FOXBORO -- Dion Lewis returned to practice for the Patriots on Thursday afternoon. He has not practiced all season and has been on the physically unable to perform list since before the start of training camp.

The clock has now started on the deadline for the Patriots to activate Lewis. The team has three weeks to place him on their 53-man roster. Should the Patriots make the most of that window, they would not activate him until the days leading up to their Week 11 game against the 49ers. He is eligible to be activated as soon as this week and could, in theory, be on the roster for this weekend's matchup with the Bills. The Patriots have an open roster spot at the moment. 

Lewis suffered a torn ACL in Week 9 of last season and was progressing well until enduring a stress fracture to his patella. In order to repair the fracture, Lewis underwent a surgical procedure that required screws to be inserted to the affected area. 

On Thursday, the Patriots conducted practice in full pads, and the media availbility portion of the session included only stretching and warmups so Lewis was not seen participating in drills. 

Lewis established himself as one of the most dynamic backs in the league last season, catching 36 passes for 388 yards and two scores. He also averaged 4.8 yards per carry and ran for two scores, forcing 43 missed tackles in seven games.