Silvestro taking position change in stride

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Silvestro taking position change in stride

FOXBORO -- Alex Silvestro, defensive end, got the call about his position change in the offseason. After the shock wore off, he figured he should get to work.

"Okay," he had said to himself. "Now I gotta work on tight end things."

Easy, right?

Not even close.

Silvestro last played offense while at Paulsboro High School in New Jersey. Though to recall the fact is almost unfair -- it's not like that experience gave the now 23-year-old any advantage in the NFL.

"It's completely different," he laughed. "That's the thing. I think of things I did in high school and it's just nowhere near this. It's high school!

"I guess you could say I felt like I was starting over. I felt like a rookie again. I came in, tried to learn the system, took the best notes possible, listened to my coach and tried to learn everything he was trying to teach me to do the best I can on the field."

It is, after all, his best shot at making the team.

Silvestro went through Patriots training camp last season at defensive end but got cut. Since then he's been inching his way toward another shot.

New England signed him to the practice squad a few weeks after camp, and he was brought up to the 53-man roster during the week of the Super Bowl. At the time, it was thought Silvestro could add D-line depth in Andre Carter's absence so the Patriots could keep fresh pressure against Eli Manning all night.

But in light of Monday's comments from Nick Caserio's, Silvestro could have provided insurance for someone else. The injured Rob Gronkowski, perhaps?

"Alex worked on both sides of the ball in practice on our practice squad," Caserio explained.

"He was a defensive player but he's tough, he's smart, he's got good size, he's got good playing strength. He actually did a pretty good job for us last year in practice on the scout teams in the tight end role so we thought that it was something that he'd be able to handle."

Though he may be handling the concept, Silvestro still has a long way to go on the field. When asked what the biggest challenge is to the transition, he heaved a sigh, shook his head, and was silent for several moments.

"Honestly, just everything."

Caserio and the rest of the coaching staff knows its a tall order.

"There's so much that goes into that position blocking, receiving, catching, splits, alignments, blocking a certain technique, whether it's a six-technique, whether it's a seven-technique, whether it's a nine-technique," Caserio said. "But you just try to establish your foundation through the spring in training camp and work on those techniques in a real live setting, whether it's in practice or whether it's in the game."

Silvestro went back to Rutgers this offseason and worked out with a group of players there. He practiced 1-on-1s, talked to linemen about blocking, and asked for pointers on technique.

After returning to Foxboro, he met with tight ends coach George Godsey whenever he had questions. Silvestro said he had "tons" of them.

He's committed to not making the same mistakes again and again. And some strides have been taken. Monday was one of his best days of practice. His hands look softer. His routes look a little crisper. Silvestro has made a couple of excellent catches recently, with quarterback Tom Brady getting so excited after a connection Sunday, he pulled his new tight end in a quick hug back at the line.

The focus isn't on a perceived inadequacy or failure at defensive end. Caserio said coaches felt the position change was best for both the player and the team, and Silvestro is okay with that.

"How I took it was just an opportunity. The more I can do, the more valuable I am to the team. Anything that can help us win."

Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: A nice pair of kicks

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Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: A nice pair of kicks

We're into the Top 10 now.

These are the plays of the Bill Belichick Era you best never forget. And probably can't. They're the ones that led directly to championships -- most for New England, a couple for the other guys. Or they're plays that signified a sea change in the way the New England Patriots under Belichick would be behaving from there on out.

I did my best to stack them in order of importance. You got a problem with that? Good. Let us know what's too high, too low or just plain wrong. And thanks for keeping up!

PLAY NUMBER: 4

THE YEAR: 2001 (actually Feb. 3, 2002)

THE GAME: Patriots 20, Rams 17

THE PLAY: Vinatieri 48-yarder in Superdome delivers SB36 win

WHY IT’S HERE: When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, it was viewed nationally and locally as a cathartic moment for a long-suffering region. Deliverance for a fanbase that resolutely suffered through 90 years of star-crossed heartbreak with a mix of stoicism and fatalism. “Long-suffering Red Sox fan” was a badge of honor, an identity. And New Englanders – baseball fans or not - would self-identify with the hideous notion of Red Sox Nation. There was no “Patriots Nation.” To drag out the forced metaphor, Patriots fans were living in tents and cabins in the wilderness, recluses. Reluctant to be seen in town where they’d be mocked. And suddenly, they cobbled together one of the most improbable, magical seasons in American professional sports, a year which gave birth to a dynasty which was first celebrated, now reviled but always respected. And while so many games and plays led to this 48-yarder – ones we’ve mentioned 12 times on this list – Adam Vinatieri kicking a 48-yarder right down the f****** middle to win the Super Bowl was an orgasmic moment for the recluses and pariahs that had been Patriots fans when nobody would admit to such a thing.
 

PLAY NUMBER: 3

THE YEAR: 2001 (actually Jan. 19, 2002)

THE GAME: Patriots 16, Raiders 13

THE PLAY: Vinatieri from 45 through a blizzard to tie Snow Bowl

WHY IT’S HERE: Two thoughts traveling on parallel tracks were running through the mind while Adam Vinatieri trotted onto the field and lined up his 45-yarder to tie Oakland in the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff Game, the final one at Foxboro Stadium. “There’s no way he can make this kick in this weather,” was the first. “The way this season’s gone, I bet he makes this kick. It can’t end here. It can’t end now.” From where I was sitting in the press box I couldn’t see the ball clearly, probably because I was looking for it on a higher trajectory than Vinatieri used. So I remember Vinatieri going through the ball, my being unable to locate it in the air and then looking for the refs under the goalposts to see their signal. And when I located them, I saw the ball scuttle past. Then I saw the officials’ arms rise. Twenty-five years earlier, the first team I ever followed passionately – the ’76 Patriots – left me in tears when they lost to the Raiders in the playoffs. Now, at 33, I was covering that team and it had gotten a measure of retribution for the 8-year-old me.
 

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