Foster has Patriots' scout team on the run

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Foster has Patriots' scout team on the run

FOXBORO --New England's preparation for the Texans ground game is something like a symphony.
It starts with simulating Arian Foster.The running back's 351 rushing attempts and 15 touchdowns led the NFL in 2012's regular season.
"It comes down to a lot of film study," said Patriots rookie Brandon Bolden. "It sounds very boring, but it's just a lot of film study. We just try to give the defense the best look as possible, just try to imitate them as best as possible.
"Patience is a big part of his game. It's a very big part. He tries to set things up and he works around it. We're not him exactly, but we can try to do the stuff that he kind of likes to do."
"Shane Vereen, Woody Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, all of them. . . they're different than Foster, but it's close enough, certainly good enough for our defense to work against," said coach Bill Belichick. "Those guys make good cuts, they see holes well. I think our backs do a good job giving us the look on the scout team in the running game."
Houston's penchant for zone blocking can make things interesting.
The Texans' offensive linemen rely more on athleticism than muscle in creating running lanes. They are disciplined, coordinated. They will trick opponents, double-team them, cut block them.
Yet another challenge for the Patriots scout team.
"I think its harder actually to simulate, to get all the offensive linemen it doesnt matter who you play its usually harder to get them too, to get the blocking schemes kind of exactly the way the other team does it," Belichick noted. "Its probably easier for the runner than the overall blocking patterns, depending on how each team does it during the week. You have to try to get all those guys coordinated."
Defensive end Rob Ninkovich elaborated on the challenge of facing a fleet-footed offensive line.
"This team does a good job of all moving together," he said. "All the offensive linemen are athletic and they can move, so the challenge is, for us as a D-line, to play strong and be fast, kind of reset the line of scrimmage. That's your job, really, is to get those guys knocked back and not be run into the sideline."
For the Patriots, knocking O-lineman back starts with nose tackle Vince Wilfork.
"Playing cut blocks is always a big challenge when youre facing a team like this because it seems like I dont care if youre getting cut on the front side or the back side, that running back sees it and he hits it right off that cut block," said Wilfork. "So up front its going to be very important for us to try to stay on our feet and make sure that we are playing our blocks pretty good."
New England's defense held Foster to 46 rushing yards when the teams met December 10. Houston gained just 100 ground yards on the night.
The Patriots offense did its part by jumping out to a 28-0 lead, thereby forcing the Texans to air the ball out. Foster's 15 carries in Week 14 marked his third-lowest single game total of the season.
But Wilfork feels like the run defense can hold its own. The Patriots are preparing for, expecting Houston's best shot. They will be ready.
"Weve faced it, weve seen it a bunch of times, so we kind of know how we want to play this game. If we play it the way that we need to play it, well be okay."

Spooner, Bruins nearly $2 million apart in arbitration figures

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Spooner, Bruins nearly $2 million apart in arbitration figures

The figures and briefs are in for the Bruins and Ryan Spooner for their arbitration hearing Wednesday, but both sides are still hoping that a deal can be reached prior to it. The Bruins have submitted a one-year contract offer for $2 million. Spooner’s camp countered with $3.85 million, creating a sizeable gap of almost $2 million between the two.

Spooner, 25, has averaged 12 goals and 44 points the past two seasons with the B’s, including 35 power-play points while working the half-wall for a Boston PP that’s been ranked seventh overall two seasons in a row.

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Spooner is coming off a two-year contract worth $1.95 million and his is a complicated situation for the Black and Gold. Spooner holds significant value as a trade piece and has been an important part of a very effective power play, but he also finished the playoffs as a healthy scratch after going quietly the past few months of the season.

Spooner was one of the major pieces discussed in trade talks with the Minnesota Wild around the draft prior to the Wild shipping Marco Scandella to the Buffalo Sabres and he's been involved in trade discussions with several teams the past couple of years.

The Bruins have prospect Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson waiting in the wings if/when the B’s decided to spin Spooner to another team, but they also enjoy his speed and playmaking when he’s on his game. There’s clearly a scenario where the Bruins start the season with Spooner installed as their third-line center and perhaps explore more trade discussions while seeing if a full season under Bruce Cassidy can unlock his significant offensive potential.

If that's still in the plan, they’d be wise to come to an agreement and avoid the hearing Wednesday where they’d ostensibly be bad-mouthing a player they’d want back on their team. The Bruins have the right to walk away from Spooner should he be awarded the full $3.85 million by the arbiter. Still, it’s hard to believe they’d do that given that he’s a homegrown asset with trade value.

The feeling at this address is that there’s a deal to be made between the two sides for something around the $3 million mark. That’s something that would be worthwhile for the Bruins if they have any designs on continuing on with Spooner. 

Report: Kyrie Irving believes LeBron James leaked trade request news

Report: Kyrie Irving believes LeBron James leaked trade request news

Noting that LeBron James "wants the world to know that he had absolutely nothing to do with Kyrie Irving deciding that he wanted to be traded," Stephen A. Smith said on ESPN Monday that Irving believes King James may have been the one who leaked the news last week. 

It was reported Friday that Irving wanted out of Cleveland in what's been a tumultuous offseason for the Cavs. Smith said that the timing of the leak has many close to the situation suspicious.

"According to my sources, they believe LeBron James had everything to do with news getting out that Kyrie Irving wants to be traded. Because Kyrie Irving and his representation and others met with the Cavaliers a couple weeks ago, and not a word got out until recently," Smith said.

"They believe that LeBron James got word of it and was put off by it and leaked it. I’m not going to accuse LeBron of such a thing. I don’t know that to be true at all, but I know that’s what Kyrie Irving believes. 

Still just 25, Irving has three seasons left on a team-friendly five-year, $94.3 million deal.