Lucchino: 'It's a new chapter beginning today'

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Lucchino: 'It's a new chapter beginning today'

FORT MYERS, Fla. Red Sox principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and presidentCEO Larry Lucchino met with their players today before the start of the first official full-squad workout.

It was setting the tone of 2012, Lucchino said. It was a customary Opening Day meeting.

I would say that we talked about how proud we are to be involved with this organization, said Werner. They should feel proud that we have great fans and this is going to be a new chapter. I think we didnt spend too much time talking about 2011. Its a new chapter. We have a new spring training ballpark. Our fans are excited about this year. And I certainly think our players are motivated to play post-season baseball.

After the team went 7-20 in September to miss out on post-season baseball for the second consecutive season, with post-season reports of unseemly clubhouse behavior during the season, Lucchino was asked if he expected the team to be more focused in 2012.

That suggests that they were not focused last season, Lucchino said. So I dont subscribe to that notion as a generalization about the season. But looking forward to 2012, I do expect this team will be focused, highly motivated.

But, with all that happened at the end of the season and after, does the organization have an image problem?

I wouldn't put in those terms, Lucchino said. But I would say we feel collectively that we have something to prove in 2012. I think the players feel that way. I think our managers and coaches feel that way. I know general manager Ben Cherington and our baseball office feel that way. And I can say ownership feels that way as well.

We said that we accept our share of the responsibility for perhaps not having a more open-door policy, Werner said. I think we'll be more present this year. But in the end, I do think more has been written about this than the state of the union, so we're moving on. This is a new chapter. We've accepted some collective and individual responsibility.

I think they said enough, Henry said. I agree with what both Larry and Tom said.

It's a new chapter beginning today, said Lucchino. For us, we think of this as the beginning. The first day of the 2012 season is today. When we have this meeting, when everybody's in camp and we go to work as a unit and our idea is let's write this new chapter and enough has been said about the last chapter.

Henry asked if he is more focused on his Liverpool soccer team than the Red Sox.

It's difficult because I'm not here today, Henry said in jest. I'm somewhere else. If I were here today, I'd say this is about baseball. Today is about baseball. With us, every day is about baseball. We have other things, too. But every day, pretty much, I think we speak 365 days a year, maybe 364. But virtually every day there's something related to baseball.

Henry was then asked if he is more focused on baseball recently or if he has pulled back.

I think that it's been more recently than it has for a while because there's been more to attend to, he said. There's been a lot of changes.

But the Red Sox have not been to the playoffs since 2009, when they were swept in the ALDS by the Angels, and have not won a post-season series since the 2008 ALDS.

I'm not concerned about the direction of the organization, Henry said. I think we have the right direction. I've heard the term new chapter. I sort of felt like it's the next chapter. There's a real excitement here in camp. It's palpable. It's not just a new facility. There's a real excitement to be back at it again. I'm extremely happy with the leadership of this organization and the product we're going to have on the playing field and with the general attitude and atmosphere at the events this morning.

Asked if he would be more involved, Henry replied:

We're always involved. But there's been more to do. I think one of the things that we've done over the years is try to let your general manager do his job. You let the CEO do his job because they're qualified to do their jobs as managers. In that regard, there's not a lot to do. But when you're making changes along those lines, there's a lot to do.

Asked if his presence would make a difference, Henry replied:

I don't think it makes a difference for the players, really. I think what happens on the field, what happens when we were on our way to 100 wins or what happened in September, they're not thinking about 'Well, what's going on with ownership? where are they?' We're there. They see us. We're at every home game.

What will it be like when Goodell shows up in Foxboro?

What will it be like when Goodell shows up in Foxboro?

Tom E. Curran in the Cumberland Farms lounge joins Sports Tonight to discuss what he thinks it will be like when Roger Goodell attends the Patriots home opener on September 7.

Burkhead's former running backs coach: 'He's going to flourish' with Patriots

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Burkhead's former running backs coach: 'He's going to flourish' with Patriots

PHOENIX -- Rex Burkhead was buried on a deep running back depth chart in Cincinnati, but in New England he may finally have a chance to show his offensive value. That's how Burkhead's former running backs coach and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson feels, at least.

Before he was hired as Browns head coach last season, Jackson worked closely with Burkhead for three years and saw the 5-foot-10, 210-pounder's versatile skill set on a daily basis. With the Patriots, under Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, Jackson believes Burkhead has a chance to see that skill set maximized. 

"He's very talented," Jackson said during the league meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. "He's a guy that was playing behind some very talented players [with the Bengals], and so he's going to get his opportunity now, and he's going to flourish. He's a really good player. A really good player.

"He's very versatile because he's a good runner, a good pass-catcher. He's a good blocker. He's very bright. He's been a sensational special teams player there so he brings a lot of different elements to that football team."

The Patriots signed Burkhead to a one-year deal earlier this offseason that could pay him more than $3 million -- a sign that they're hoping he'll factor heavily into the offense in 2017. With LeGarrette Blount still on the free-agent market, Burkhead is currently the biggest back on the Patriots roster alongside Dion Lewis, James White and DJ Foster, and he could be in line for a significant amount of work in short-yardage situations and on first and second down.

Burkhead served primarily as a special-teamer during his four-year career in Cincinnati, but in Week 17 of last season, because of injuries to his teammates at the position, he was the Bengals lead back and ran 27 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns. We took a closer look at the qualities he put on display that day right here

It was a performance that gave Burkhead's profile a where-did-that-come-from type of boost as he headed toward unrestricted free agency, but his head coach at the time wasn't surprised.

"Not at all. That's why we drafted him," said Bengals sideline boss Marvin Lewis, who went on to explain why Burkhead was an inconsistent offensive contributor leading up to that game.

"A lot of times when Rex got opportunities to play, he wasn't quite 100 percent and so that kind of limited him some. Even in preseason opportunities and so forth like that where you'd go into the game, and it'd be Rex's -- in my mind, Rex's ballgame -- to carry the ball in the first or second quarter and he wasn't able to suit up that day.

"That's one of the things he's battled over his career is just being 100 percent completely healthy. [But] he's just a hard-working guy who always wants to be out there."

And in New England, it looks like he'll have the chance to be out there more.