Belichick commends Crumpler, Branch

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Belichick commends Crumpler, Branch

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- Patriots coach Bill Belichick met the media on Wednesday to discuss the bye week.

Well, not the week's plan itself, because there aren't many specifics to delve into. New England will play at 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 16. Who against? It's yet to be determined. So in the meantime, all the Patriots can do is get the reps in that will make them better.

"Were just trying to work on some things that we feel like we need to improve on,'' Belichick said. "Weve got a good list of those. It doesnt matter who we play, just things that we feel we need to do better. I think theres definitely some carryover in the three potential opponents" -- the Jets, Ravens or Chiefs -- "that we could face, but more important than that, right now, its trying to work on things that we feel like need to get worked on. Then well deal with whoever we have to play after this weekend.

As this will be the ninth Patriots playoff berth in the Hoodie Era, there was an air of 'business as usual' hanging around Gillette. And this despite the fact that 25 players from New England's last playoff team, just last season, aren't involved in 2010's Super Bowl run.

Deion Branch is one guy who's been there, done that. Branch was on Tom Brady's receiving end when the Patriots brought home Lombardi trophies in 2003 and 2004. He earned MVP honors in Super Bowl XXXIX for his record-tying 11 receptions.

Belichick says that not much has changed about the player -- even after five seasons with the Seahawks -- and that's a good thing.

"The similarities far outweigh the differences. Hes a very intelligent player, really smart, really instinctive guy. No matter what the route, no matter what the coverage is, he always seems to do the right thing, make the right adjustment, make the right decision, make the right adjustment and I think that gives the quarterbacks a lot of confidence in him.

"Deion prepares well," Belichick continued. "Hes got good experience, but hes also got a good skill set. He can get open and catch the ball. He can run with it after the catch. Hes returned kicks in the past. Hes got some running skills and certainly has got a lot of experience. As a pure receiver, he knows how to get open and he has the skills to get open."

Branch has returned to his natural role on this roster without much stress. But there have been some more difficult transitions for this team in light of how much turnover there's been.

Tight end Alge Crumpler has had to make adjustments. A four time Pro Bowler with the Atlanta Falcons, Crumpler has a mere six receptions for 52 yards for the Patriots this season. New England has been featuring two-tight end sets frequently this year -- those sets have just favored rookies Aaron Hernandez (6 TD receptions) and Rob Gronkowski (10)

Does decreased catches bother him though? Belichick says no.

"You see a lot of players roles change and its not a problem and then you see other guys have a harder time making that adjustment. Without having worked with Alge before, I didnt really know exactly how it would go with him, but really, since day one, whatever weve asked him to do, hes not only tried to do them but hes very receptive to everything, a whatever you need type attitude, asking, Do you need me to do this? Do you need me to do that? Or how do you want me to do something else? and then hell try to do it that way. So he's been great.

"Alges been a big contribution to this football team in a lot of ways, probably too many to mention."

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

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Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

FOXBORO -- After starting the offseason "five weeks behind," as Bill Belichick put it, the Patriots have caught up. 

"I think we’re probably caught up to where we are now," he said before Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium. "I think it’s being behind in draft, free agency and that type of thing.

"I think at this point, we’re ready for OTAs. We’ll be ready for training camp. I think that part of it we’ll be on schedule on. It’s the catching up on all the spring projects, draft and free agency. It’s the initial part of it."

Belichick made headlines on the morning after winning his fifth Lombardi Trophy with the Patriots when he said, "As of today, and as great as today feels and as great as today is, in all honesty we're five weeks behind in the 2017 season to most teams in the league. Fortunately we have a great personnel staff

"Look, in a couple weeks we're going to be looking at the combine, obviously the draft, all-star games have already occurred, and in a month we're into free agency, not to mention all the internal Patriots players (whose) contracts are up and we're going to have to work with in some form or fashion like every team in the league does."

Leaning on evaluations of players that began in the build-up to previous drafts, Belichick and his staff opted to trade away some of this year's draft capital for veterans like Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy and Dwayne Allen. They also gave up their fifth-rounder to sign restricted free agent Mike Gillislee.

Before heading out to the team's third practice of the week -- the first week the Patriots were allowed to introduce helmets and run offense versus defense periods -- Belichick said that part of his focus will be spent on finding out how those players he picked up this offseason are progressing.

"Yeah, that’s definitely part of it," he said. "Seeing the new players, how they’re doing and also how they’re doing relevant to the rest of the other players that I’m a little more familiar with. Again, each year is a new year, so even though we’ve seen some of these guys multiple years, it’s still starting all over again, seeing where they are, how they’re progressing in their training and preparation for the season."