Week 17 milestones in sight

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Week 17 milestones in sight

The Patriots need a win against the Dolphins on Sunday. They also need the Broncos andor Texans to lose, in which case the Pats will earn a first round bye and maybe JUST MAYBE home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

Of course, chances are that this won't happen, and the Pats will host either the Colts or Bengals in the Wild Card round, but you never know. Either way, here are a few milestones that the Pats will be playing for in Game No. 16.

Thomas Edward Brady:
Brady needs 11 pass attempts to set a new career high with 612 for the season.

He needs 23 completions to set a new career high with 402 for the season.

He needs 90 passing yards to pass Drew Bledsoe for ninth on the all-time list and a much less realistic 478 to become the ninth QB in NFL history to throw for 45,000 yards in his career.

Wesley Carter Welker:Welker needs 14 catches to set a career high with 124. That would be the second best reception total in NFL history, behind Marvin Harrison's ridiculous 143 in 2002.

With 10 catches, Welker will finish with 120 and own three of the top eight reception seasons in NFL history.

Brandon Matthew Lloyd:
For all the drama and criticism surrounding Lloyd's season, he needs only five catches to set a new career high with 78.

He needs 98 yards to break 1000 in a season for only the second time in his career.

In that case, Lloyd will become the 10th receiver in Patriots history to break 1000 yards, and the fifth to do so with Brady (Troy Brown, Randy Moss, Welker and Gronk are the others; Deion Branch missed by two yards in 2005).

Also, Welker and Lloyd could become the fourth set of Patriot teammates to surpass 1,000 yards in the same season, along with Welker and Gronk (last year), Welker and Moss (2007-2009), and Stanley Morgan and Harold Jackson (1979).

Stevan Todd Ridley:Ridley needs 39 yards for 1228 on the year, and that would be the fourth best single season rushing total in Pats history behind Corey Dillon (1635 in 2004), Curtis Martin (1487 in 1995) and Jim Nance (1458 in 1966).

Dillon and Martin both fumbled five times during their big seasons. Nance fumbled seven times. Heading into Sunday, Ridley has only four fumbles.

And let's wrap this up with a guy on the other side of the ball, one . . .

Vincent Lamar Wilfork:Vincent has already set career highs this season with six passes deflected, four fumble recoveries and three fumbles forced. That's a pretty solid trifecta. With two sacks on Sunday, he'll set a another career high with four on the season. Obviously, that's unlikely but at the end of the day none of this really matters.

Not as much as a win.

Which in turn, probably doesn't matter as much as a Texans andor Broncos loss.

But hey, good times.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Postcard from Camp: Garoppolo takes first team 11-on-11 reps

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Postcard from Camp: Garoppolo takes first team 11-on-11 reps

FOXBORO -- Every day from Patriots training camp, we'll provide you with some notes and observations from the Gillette Stadium practice fields. Here's what we saw at the first day of on-the-field work for Bill Belichick and his club. 

* Linebacker Jamie Collins was not spotted at practice, one of only two players that were not seen for the summer's first practice. (Running back Dion Lewis, who is on the physically unable to perform list, was also not present.) It's unclear what might have been keeping Collins off of the field as he was present for spring workouts, and he was not one of the seven players placed on PUP earlier this week, but CSN Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran is told Collins' absence "was expected and is not contract-related."

* Jonathan Freeny saw reps at linebacker next to Dont'a Hightower with Collins out.

* Even after coach Bill Belichick made it clear that it was a priority to get Jimmy Garoppolo ready for Week 1, it was Tom Brady who was first in line to take reps with the Patriots offense during 7-on-7 portions of practice. When the team went to 11-on-11 work, it was Garoppolo who took over with what projects as the first team offensive line. 

* Several players on PUP were present for Thursday's workout, but did not participate outside of early conditioning work. Receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola were on the field early but not in helmets. Same went for offensive linemen Sebastian Vollmer and Tre' Jackson. Tight end Clay Harbor was also present but not participating. Alan Branch, who was placed on the active/non-football injury list on Wednesday, was present early but did not have a helmet. 

* Shaq Mason appears to have been removed from the PUP list as he practiced with the team with his helmet on. Fellow offensive linemen Josh Kline and Nate Solder were present and participating at practice. Neither player was seen during spring practices. 

* Running back LeGarrette Blount was another player who was on the field and participating Thursday after having missed spring work. Blount's 2015 regular season came to an end when he suffered a hip injury late in the year. 

* Players wore shorts, shells and helmets for the workout. Players in red jerseys included all three quarterbacks, safety Duron Harmon and corner Logan Ryan. Both Harmon and Ryan were not seen during OTAs or minicamp practices open to reporters. 

* Matthew Slater's No. 18 was not spotted on the field, but the special teams captain was out there. He gave a nod to his teammate Nate Ebner -- who is with the USA Rugby Men's Sevens team at the Rio Olympics -- by wearing No. 43 for the practice. 

* The first day of training camp often brings with it some different contraptions used by the team in drills. On Thursday, the Patriots broke out large foam wheels that were rolled by coaches and then hit by players working on their form tackling. 

* During special teams work, Brady worked off to the side with tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. At the same time, Garoppolo handled hand-off duties during a period focused on offensive and defensive line play.

* A little over an hour into the session, Jabaal Sheard spent some time on the turf, apparently tending to his left foot or ankle. Eventually he got to his feet and stayed on the field. 

* Rookie second-round pick Cyrus Jones, Keshawn Martin and Chris Harper spent time returning punts. 

* When Garoppolo got reps with the first-team offensive line in 11-on-11 work, Brady chatted with Patriots owner Robert Kraft. 

* For a time, Amendola and Edelman ran routes near a back corner of the practice fields while their teammates practiced. They finished up their workout about 15 minutes before the rest of the team finished their on-the-field work.

7-on-7 RED ZONE

Brady: 5-for-8

Garoppolo: 6-for-8

Brissett: 2-for-4

Brady complete to Bennett on a back-shoulder throw with Freeny in coverage

Brady incomplete (deflected by a racquet)

Brady complete to Bennett with McCourty in coverage. 

Brady incomplete to Gronkowski. Pass was dropped. Chung was in coverage. 

Garoppolo complete to AJ Derby over the middle

Garoppolo incomplete for Martin. Pass broken up by Justin Coleman. 

Garoppolo complete to Martin

Garoppolo complete to Washington with EJ Biggers in coverage.

Brissett incomplete to Devin Lucien

Brissett incomplete (deflected by racquet)

Brissett complete to Lucien

Brissett complete to Gaffney (scrambling)

Brady complete to Bolden on back-shoulder

Brady complete to Boldenon wheel  with Hightower in coverage

Brady incomplete to Bennett

Brady complete to Dobson with McCourty in coverage

Garoppolo complete to Develin

Garoppolo complete to Hogan. Good adjustment by Hogan to come back to the ball. 

Garoppolo incomplete (deflected by racquet)

Garoppolo complete to Gronkowski with Jordan Richards in coverage. 

7-on-7 and 4-on-3 RED ZONE WORK

Brady: 4-for-6

Garoppolo: 3-for-5

Brissett: 3-for-5

Brady complete to Gronkowski with Chung in coverage

Brady complete to Martin

Garoppolo complete to Nate Washington

Garoppolo complete to DeAndre Carter

Brissett incomplete

Brissett incomplete

Brady complete to Hogan

Brady incomplete to Dobson with Ryan in coverage

Garoppolo incomplete 

Garoppolo holds

Brissett complete to Steven Scheu

Brissett complete to Blount

Brady complete to Gronkowski in the back of the end zone. 

Brady incomplete for Washington

Garoppolo complete to James White. 

Garoppolo incomplete to Malcolm Mitchell

Brissett complete to Harper 

11-on-11

Garoppolo: 4-for-6

Brady: 3-for-6

Brissett: 3-for-6

Garoppolo complete to Blount

Garoppolo incomplete to Carter. Hightower broke up the pass. 

Garoppolo incomplete to James White. White was out of bounds. 

Garoppolo complete to Bennett with Rob Ninkovich in coverage. 

Garoppolo complete to Dobson in the back of the end zone. 

Garoppolo complete to Hogan over the middle with Freeny in coverage

Brady complete to Harper with Cyrus Jones in coverage

Brady incomplete to Donald Brown. Biggers swatted the ball out of Brown's hands

Brady incomplete to Gronkowski. Pass was broken up by Richards. 

Brady complete to Hogan in the back corner of the end zone with Biggers in coverage

Brady complete to Gronkowski on a back-shoulder throw

Brady incomplete to Dobson. Throw was out of reach of Dobson's dive. 

Brissett complete to Gaffney

Brissett incomplete to Mitchell. Pass was dropped.

Brissett complete to Lucien

Brissett incomplete to Bryce Williams. Sunseri in coverage. 

Brissett incomplete. Bad snap from Ted Karras. 

Brissett complete to Harper. 

Curran: Jimmy G. Era is a reminder of what NFL did to Brady

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Curran: Jimmy G. Era is a reminder of what NFL did to Brady

FOXBORO -- So I guess this would be the official start of the Jimmy Garoppolo Era?

It is -- by Belichickian decree -- his team from now until October 3. He’s the lead dog, the head honcho, the big chief, the alpha male, head cheese, capo di tutti capi. For 67 days -- that’s from now until October 3, when Tom Brady can legally walk back into Gillette Stadium after his four-game banishment -- Garoppolo gets his dry run as The Man.

Brady, obviously, will be out there and -- especially during the early stages of training camp -- there will be an effort to make sure there’s no toe-stepping. Proper deference will shown to the future Hall of Famer.

But that will start to fade as the games draw closer and the urgency to be ready for Arizona grows. Believe it or not, the bus for Arizona is already idling (figuratively) and if you ain’t gonna be on it when it pulls out of town, you’ll need to step aside for the ones who will be.

That includes Brady, the greatest quarterback of all-time. We really don’t have to plumb the details of how absurd, unfair, unethical and flat-out wrong Brady’s suspension is. It’s pretty well-established. The reality is, Brady is the clipboard-holder for the first time since September 2001.

Enter Diamond Jimmy.

And watch New Englanders now stagger into an awkward embrace of the third-year quarterback. This process has actually been going on for a little while now. A lot of it was -- aside from the maniac radio callers -- done in hushed tones with a hand cupped over the mouth. “Ya know, I actually am looking forward to watching Garoppolo. See what we got there.”

On the face of it, I understand the sentiment. There’s a second-round pick with a lightning release, good feet, excellent touch and impressive accuracy. If you like football, you like watching football players play football to see if they are good at it.

But it’s gone beyond that, I sense. There is a swath of the populace looking forward to four regular-season games of Jimmy. Some want to see him showcased and turned into a pick. Others think the four games rest will be beneficial for Brady. Others are simply bored by regular-season games and the Patriots' annual inexorable march to the playoffs and so this adds a little spice.

You idiots.

I don’t care what your excuse is, every snap that Garoppolo takes in 2016 should be taken as a personal affront. A flick in the tender region from the NFL, the 31 other “Roger has a tough job” owners and Goodell himself.

But besides that, we’re talking about one-quarter of an NFL season that will be missed by the best player the Patriots will ever have. Would you people have wished away 20 more games from Bill Russell, Larry Bird or Bobby Orr in the '60s, '70s and '80s just to see what Satch Sanders, Kevin Gamble or Mike Milbury could do?

So -- for football’s sake -- I say go ahead and enjoy the Garoppolo administration. But don’t get too carried away trying to put a buff-and-shine on the turd the NFL dropped on Foxboro.

Belichick on start of 42nd season: 'Each year is different'

Belichick on start of 42nd season: 'Each year is different'

FOXBORO -- He may be in his 42nd year in the National Football League, but for Bill Belichick, no two seasons are the same. As training camp practices get underway for the Patriots on Thursday, he'll be dealing with scenarios and skill sets that he hasn't yet seen.

This isn't Groundhog Day for him. Every year is different.

"It absolutely is," he said Wednesday. "Even though fundamentally I think a lot of things are the same -- things you have to do in camp in order to prepare for a season -- but each year is different.

"Players are different, teams we play are different, things change in the league, there are some rule modifications, or whatever. Things like that. So, every year is different and the chemistry – each team is different. Even with some of the same players there’s still always a little bit of a different mix. We’ll just have to see how it all goes. I don’t try and predict it. I don’t try and control it. It will just work itself out. We’ve got a lot of snaps out there, a lot of days, a lot of training camp days. It will all take care of itself."

Different as the Patriots situation may be to start this season, players who have come to know Belichick have come to expect a consistent approach. With so many variables swirling around each team every year, Belichick's mindset is constant.

After 42 years and four Super Bowl titles, it's clear he believes he's found something that works.

"I think the thing that’s remarkable about Bill is his approach," said Matthew Slater, one of the longest-tenured Patriots on the team, a fifth-round draft pick in 2008. "He hasn’t changed at all, and that consistency in his attitude and preparation, the things that he values and the things he tries to stress to his team. It’s really remarkable.

"I think it would be easy for him to become complacent. It’s human nature, once you have success you kind of exhale and think you have it figured out. And if anyone has it figured out it’s Bill Belichick. But you wouldn’t know it by the way he prepares, by the urgency with which he coaches us, the hours he puts in. That’s really been impressive to me in my time here, whether we go out and win a Super Bowl or don’t make the playoffs, he’s always been consistent in that regard."