Harrison to Welker: Play better

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Harrison to Welker: Play better

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey -- Wes Welker and Deion Branch sat with NBC's Rodney Harrison this week in an interview you'll see on NBC's Football Night in America before the Jets-Patriots game. Branch -- who this week bristled with local media when it was suggested the Patriots' offense was struggling -- pooh-poohed the notion that jamming the Patriots is a blueprint for success. "No, thats not a blueprint," said Branch. "Its a lack of execution. Thats the blueprint for us. If we execute, were okay. We only have to throw the ball down the field, five or six times a game. Hey, if were still scoring, still getting passing yards, whatever. Its not a big deal."Harrison, who hasn't shied away from ripping the Patriots on NBC or other places (cough, QuickSlants, cough), asked the receivers if criticism from former teammates was irksome. "We hear the rumors," said Branch. "The thing for us is to stay focused on what is at task, and thats our next game, which is the Jets. Weve got to stay in house . . . go out, work hard, practice hard, and try and put the same thing on the football field on Sunday."Added Welker, "We understand that you all just want to start controversy and everything else, and get more Twitter followers and everything else."To which Harrison replied, "Well, if you played better, Wes, I wouldnt have anything to criticize."

Report: Ainge could prefer George to Butler with Nets pick

Report: Ainge could prefer George to Butler with Nets pick

Will the Celtics part with the right to Brooklyn’s 2017 first-round pick in order to get a star before Thursday’s trade deadline? 

MORE TRADE TALK

Citing a pair of NBA executives, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News wrote this week that Danny Ainge’s willingness to trade the pick should be in doubt.

Sola named Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and Paul George as potential targets, adding that the C’s might include the latter.   

Wrote Isola: 

Two executives doubt that Ainge, who historically plays it close to the vest, would give up the Nets pick in a deal for Butler. However, Ainge might consider it in a trade for George, the Pacers-free agent-to-be who has expressed doubts over re-signing with the Pacers.

‘With Danny, no one ever knows what he might do,' said the executive. ‘He's one of the best. If he thinks he can make a run at the Cavs this season, considering all the injuries Cleveland has had, I can see him making a move.

‘Everyone is talking about Butler to Boston but Danny and Larry Bird go way back. Paul George could be the sleeper.’

This season, the 26-year-old George is averaging 22.3 points 6.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists a game. 

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

LeGarrette Blount knows where he wants to be for 2017. Ever since he re-joined the Patriots in 2014 following a short stay in Pittsburgh, the 250-pound back has been very open about how he wants to play out the rest of his career in New England. 

Those feelings haven't changed, even as he faces free-agency after having recorded the best season of his seven-year career.

"I just want to make sure that I go to this free agency with an open mind, knowing that I definitely want to go back to New England," he told NFL Total Access on Monday. "I love it there. I love the culture. I love the players. I've become close with a lot of the guys. Obviously you know how my running back group is.

"We'll cross that bridge whenever we cross it. On that point, I feel great. I'm in amazing shape. I feel like I could play 100 more years if I have to."

Blount finished 2016 with career-highs in attempts (299) yards (1,161) and touchowns (18). His ability to help the Patriots close games in the fourth quarter was notable throughout the course of the season, and he was among the most effective goal-line backs in the league. His 18 rushing scores are a franchise record.

Toward the end of the season, as Dion Lewis worked his way back into the Patriots offense, Blount had his workload cut into, and his fumble in the Super Bowl was a near-catastrophic moment -- his devastated reaction to which was caught expertly by NFL Films. But a big-picture view of Blount's year would reveal that he  posted the most prodictive "big back" season the Patriots have had in more than a decade.

Blount signed a one-year deal with the Patriots last offseason after seeing his 2015 prematurely ended by way of a hip injury. He turned 30 in December.