Talib says life is 'better' since he landed with Pats

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Talib says life is 'better' since he landed with Pats

FOXBORO - The importance of Aqib Talib to the Patriots is shown by the responsibilities he shoulders.

On Sunday, playing in his first career playoff game, he was manned up with the great Texans receiver Andre Johnson. The Patriots don't often sic a corner on one specific receiver but Talib has been asked to do it twice now against the Texans - December 10 and Sunday.

Both times, Talib fought Johnson to a draw. Sunday, Johnson finished with eight catches for 95 yards. In today's NFL, that's about as well as you can do in a game where the quarterback throws it 54 times and is playing catch-up most of the game.

"It was a great battle; its two good football players," Bill Belichick said after the Patriots 41-28 win. "Johnson is a great receiver. Hes arguably one or two all-time (ed. note: I don't think he meant that...), hes tremendous. Hes big, fast, has great hands, good route runner. Aqib competed with him every down, just like he did the first half of the first game. Thats two good football players and thats a battle. We didnt give him a lot of help. Johnson caught a few but Aqib battled him pretty well there. It was a good matchup."

"It's football, man," answered Talib in his twangy cadence. "As a corner, a lot of time you draw that job. I'm definitely honored."

The 26-year-old Talib was traded to New England in October because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were sick of dealing with him. Since joining Tampa as a first-rounder in 2008, he'd been in frequent trouble both with the law and within the league.

When New England acquired Talib, he was still on suspension after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

For a player whose career was headed off a cliff, Talib has - at least for now - grabbed onto a branch and it climbing back up.

"This is what you play for, man.. You don't play to play 16 and go home, you play to get in the tournament you know and try to win it all," Talib said when asked to reflect on where he's gotten. "Bill gave me a chance to come here and I got a chance to play in the tournament, man, so I'm very thankful."

Asked if life has gotten simpler since he's been in New England, Talib said, "It's a lot better. I wouldn't say simplified. I'd say it's a lot better. It's a lot better, man, getting to work for Mr. Kraft, Coach Belichick, it's a lot better."

At the end of this season, Talib will be a free agent. His work here has showcased that he's a very capable corner. The market for his services will likely be high. Whether New England is the right fit for him for the long-term, Talib wouldn't say.

"Right now I'm a Patriot, man," he said. "I'm a Patriot and next week we got the Ravens. I put (the future) in God's hands. He's the best planner, man, that's what my momma told me."

Thursday's Patriots-Bills practice report: Garoppolo, Brissett practice again

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Thursday's Patriots-Bills practice report: Garoppolo, Brissett practice again

FOXBORO -- The Patriots held a walkthrough on the field behind Gillette Stadium one day after both Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) tested their arms during the team's practice in full pads n Wednesday.

Both quarterbacks were back on the field, but for the second consecutive day they were limited, according to the injury report. That injury report was, in fact, unchanged from Wednesday's, meaning tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) and linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) were also limited. 

There was one significant alteration to the Bills practice report, however, as tight end Charles Clay (knee) was back on the field Thursday. Receiver Sammy Watkins (foot) remained out. 

Patriots coach Bill Belichick described Watkins' explosive abilities in Buffalo's passing game earlier this week. 

"Watkins is big, he is good after the catch, he’s obviously good on the deep balls," Belichick said. "But he is good on catch-and-run plays. He can take those intermediate routes or crossing routes and turn a 10, 15-yard catch into 40. So, a hard guy to tackle, big, fast, very athletic."

If he can't go, the Bills will have to find other ways to try to manufacture yardage. 

Here's Thursday's practice participation report for the Patriots and Bills.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)

BUFFALO BILLS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
TE Charles Clay (knee)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)

Blount: Belichick has had my back from the beginning

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Blount: Belichick has had my back from the beginning

FOXBORO -- During the week, there are times when Bill Belichick and LeGarrette Blount will walk out to practice together, chatting, laughing, looking like old pals. On Sundays, Belichick will coach Blount like any other player, calling Blount by the same nickname Blount's teammates use for the 250-pound bruiser: "LG." After Thursday's win over the Texans, Blount ran for over 100 yards and two scores and earned special recognition from the head coach.

From the outside looking in, they are the Patriots version of the Odd Couple. One is a Hall of Fame, old-school, buttoned-up disciplinarian. The other is a care-free 29-year-old who spends chunks of his free time on Snapchat and Instagram, often taking pictures of his sneaker collection.  

But with Belichick, Blount's career has taken off. Undrafted in 2010 due in part to off-the-field issues, Blount bounced from the Titans to the Buccaneers, and in Tampa Bay, he found early success. He ran for over 1,000 yards as a rookie and followed that up by starting all 14 games in which he played during his second season. Having fallen out of favor with the coaching staff in 2012, he was traded to New England for return specialist Jeff Demps the following offseason. 

With the Patriots, Blount ran for 772 yards and a career-high seven scores, setting him up to sign a free-agent deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers before the start of the 2014 campaign. It was a turbulent few months for Blount, who was arrested for marijuana possession, served a one-game suspension, and then walked off the field during a game against the Titans, leading to his release. 

Who was there to scoop him up? Belichick, of course.

The Patriots moved quickly to re-sign Blount to a two-year deal, and Blount was very open about how thankful he was that the Patriots offered him another chance. Though it may seem like a head-scratching match, Blount enjoys playing for Belichick and he appreciates Belichick's frankness. There are no promises made, but expectations are laid out, and the onus is on the player to earn his role. At other stops, Blount felt as though he may have been misled. 

Belichick has leaned on Blount over the course of the first three weeks of this season much in the same way Blount leaned on the Patriots organization when he was looking for another chance to play in 2013 and 2014. With Tom Brady suspended, the Patriots have run the football more than any other team in the NFL, and Blount has recorded more carries than any other back in the league, helping them get out to a 3-0 start. 

On Thursday he was named the AFC's Offensive Player of the Month for posting 298 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and he shed some light on the relationship he shares with his head coach.

"I have a really good relationship with Bill," Blount said. "I love Bill to death. He’s always had my back from the beginning, from the first time I met him. I think he’s probably going to have it forever. We just have a really great relationship. I like everything that he does, I respect him a lot. I think he’s going to go down in history as the best coach to ever coach this game."

And what about having your boss call you by a nickname? 

"Can’t complain if he calls you that," Blount said. "Because what’s LG stand for? Life’s good, right?"

Right now, for both Blount and Belichick, it can't get much better.