Ties bind a few Ravens to New England

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Ties bind a few Ravens to New England

FOXBORO - The Patriots and Ravens play so often, there are few secrets between the two teams.

And with James Ihedigbo, Arthur Jones and Corey Graham, there are probably even fewer than normal.

Jones, a Ravens defensive lineman, is the older brother of Patriots rookie defensive end Chandler Jones. Ihedigbo, a safety and special-teamer for Baltimore, was with the Patriots last season and played a key role and spent time with the Patriots in camp.

Graham, a corner, is a Buffalo native who went to UNH. All have friends and family who may have split allegiances this week when the Ravens and Patriots play in the AFC Championship game, but the Brothers Jones, of course, have the closest binding ties.
Jon "Bones" Jones, the famed UFC fighter, will be at the game Saturday, according to Arthur Jones. Also "a couple of cousins and a bunch of friends."

Arthur's hoping to see Ravens hats on as many members of the entourage as possible, he told Ravens media Wednesday.

Arthur Jones said he talked to Chandler Tuesday, two days after he tweaked an ankle in Sunday's Patriots win.

"Weve been going back and forth talking crap," said Arthur. "Really, I have been just seeing how hes doing. I know he got rolled up bad last week, so I was trying to figure out if he was going to play or not and get the inside scoop. But hes doing a good job not telling me anything. Hes not telling me anything, but I think he is going to be out there. Hes a hard-worker. I know hes getting treatment on it hard.

Ihedigbo, meanwhile, is staunchly a member of the Ravens now.

"Its exactly where its supposed to be," he said. "Im here as a Raven. I love being here, Im proud to be here and Im proud to go out with these guys and fight for the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl.

Released by the Patriots on August 31, he signed with Baltimore on September 2. He played in all 13 games for the Ravens, starting three. But he's not sure he can give much inside knowhow about New England's inner-workings.

I dont know if it helps at all," Ihedigbo said when asked about what advantage he can provide. Teams change every year, but one thing we know is Tom Brady is a phenomenal quarterback. He does a great job with that offense in terms of getting those guys the ball, and thats really our focus on defense. We have our hands full.

Ihedigbo defers to the coaches when discussing the things Brady does well.

"A lot of coaches who are coaching here have gone against him a lot longer than Ive been in the league six years," Ihedigbo pointed out. "So, I dont know how much intel I can give into that. But, everyone knows Tom Brady and the kind of quarterback he is and the things he can do with that offense.

Ihedigbo also noted that "Life Without Gronk" is not going to mean a day off for the Ravens defenders.

"They do a lot of the same things (whether Gronkowski is available or not. "Gronk is a phenomenal player he had a tough injury, so he wont be playing but besides that, in terms of that offense, theyll do what they do. Their offense is explosive, they get the ball going downfield, they move at a high pace and they score touchdowns. Our job is to stop them.

Graham notes that, "All of my roommates were big-time New England Patriot fans in college, and all of my friends still to this day are die-hard Patriots fans and Red Sox fans. It is a big game for me, obviously. I went to college New Hampshire in that area. I was up there all of the time. I know what it is like. They have die-hard fans out there. Obviously, you dont want to lose against the Patriots, especially when all of my friends are going to be out there probably with a Patriot jerseys on. Its going to be a little different his week, but no matter who you are playing, you want to go out there and win. This is for all of the marbles to get to the Super Bowl, so this is ever bigger.

Secretary of Navy: Cardona 'may have to leave the Patriots' to serve

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Secretary of Navy: Cardona 'may have to leave the Patriots' to serve

United States Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus joined the Dan Patrick Show on Thursday to discuss new Ravens draftee Keenan Reynolds, a record-setting quarterback during his career at the Naval Academy. In so doing, Mabus hit on the uncertain status of Patriots long-snapper Joe Cardona. 

"Right now we do have a process," Mabus said. "It hasn't got up to me yet to [decide on whether or not Reynolds will be eligible to play], but there are a lot of paths to both play and to serve. 

"We've got Joe Cardona, long snapper for the Patriots. He played . . . last year for the Patriots while he was on active duty because he was able to work them both out. Now he's been assigned to a ship, and he's going to report to that ship. He may have to leave the Patriots for a year or so to go fulfill that roll."

The playing status for individuals like Reynolds and Cardona is always somewhat uncertain given their commitment. Last season, Cardona was able to serve by working at the Naval Preparatory Academy during his time away from the Patriots facilities. Once his rookie season ended, he headed back to the Newport, Rhode Island-based school to work full-time and help mentor students there. 

Cardona was scheduled to make his way to Norfolk, Virginia later in the offseason and live there for about two months to participate in the Navy's Basic Division Officer Course, or "BDOC," which was required before he could report to his ship as a Surface Warfare Officer. From there, he was scheduled to travel to Bath, Maine, to work on the USS Zumwalt. 

"I'll get to work there and figure out a schedule that doesn't interfere with either of my jobs," Cardona said back in January following New England's loss to Denver in the AFC title game, "and hopefully be back on the field next year."

Cardona has long maintained that his job as an active member of the Navy is his top priority. Should his duties on the USS Zumwalt interfere with his long-snapping work with the Patriots, he could realistically sit out for the season. 

The Patriots signed veteran long-snapper Christian Yount earlier this offseason in a move that reminded those following the team that Cardona is not guaranteed to be available for 2016. Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich has long-snapped in the past and typically serves as the team's emergency snapper. 

Cardona was selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft and played in all 16 regular-season games and two postseason games for the Patriots last season. 

Caserio: Wasn't the plan to aquire 2017 4th-rounder for Deflategate

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Caserio: Wasn't the plan to aquire 2017 4th-rounder for Deflategate

When the Patriots walked away from last weekend's draft, they did so with an extra fourth round pick to be used in 2017. That was especially noteworthy given that the Patriots will be docked a fourth-rounder next year as part of the Deflategate punishment handed down to the team by the league. 

But when Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio joined Sirius XM's "Move the Chains" program this week, he said they weren't dead-set on grabbing an extra fourth-rounder for next year. 

"Not necessarily," Caserio explained. "When you get into the draft, you're not really sure how it's going to unfold. You go into the process, you get yourselves prepared to pick whenever you're going to pick."

The Patriots traded down twice and up once during the three-day draft process. On Day 2, they traded the No. 61 overall pick to the Saints in exchange for picks No. 78 and No. 112, which turned into North Carolina State guard Joe Thuney and Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell, respectively.

On Day 3, Caserio and Bill Belichick made two more deals. First, they dealt two sixth-rounders (No. 196 and No. 204) and a seventh-rounder (No. 250) to Miami for the Dolphins' fifth-rounder (No. 147). Then the No. 147 overall selection was flipped to the Seahawks, along with No. 243, in exchange for No. 225 and a fourth-rounder in 2017. The Patriots eventually spent No. 225 on Arizona State receiver Devin Lucien.

"I don't think anybody had a master plan, like, 'This is how it's going to go,' " Caserio said. "I think you look at the draft, and you kind of assess where you are relative to the players you're going to pick. If you feel it makes sense to make a trade, then you go ahead and do it. If you don't, then you go ahead and pick.

"Like, we were prepared to pick there with that fifth-round pick [at No. 147] that we ended up moving. But the way it worked out, like, I don't any of us would've said going to the draft, like, 'This is how we think it's going to go.' "

The league's punishment for Deflategate states that the Patriots will lose the higher of their two selections in the fourth round for next year so it's unclear as to whether it will be their own fourth-rounder or Seattle's that will be erased. Either way, at least now they are scheduled to pick in the fourth round in 2017, whereas before the Seahawks deal they were not.