Belichick pleased with first performance

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Belichick pleased with first performance

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick wouldn't rule out the return of linebacker Dane Fletcher during a conference call Friday.

Belichick did acknowledge that the linebacker, who tore his ACL on a punt, according to a source, is not in good shape.

"The news on Dane doesn't look very good," said Belichick. "He'll be out for a while. It's unfortunate. He worked hard in the offseason. We've got good competition, it will be an opportunity for somebody else to step in but it's unfortunate for Dane."

Belichick remains high on the upside of veteran Bobby Carpenter, who seemed destined to platoon with Fletcher as a coverage linebacker, taking Brandon Spikes off the field on clear passing downs.

"Bobby is a very experienced player," said Belichick. "Hes been with several teams. Hes played inside and outside in the 3-4, hes played the different positions in the 4-3 and nickel defenses, he has a lot of experience in the kicking game. Hes done a lot of different things for Detroit, Miami, Dallas and us. Hes a versatile player with a lot of experience."

Mike Rivera, a second-year player who now movesup the depth chart, is still learning according to Belichick. "Mike is a player that is trying to work his way up from the other end (from Carpenter). He was on our practice squad last year; wasnt in training camp for us but had a good year on the practice squad and did enough things that we re-signed him this season and hes been very competitive in camp. Were trying to give him some opportunities to see what he can do and how effective he can be doing it. But hes certainly well ahead of where he was last year because of the spring practices, the OTAs and being here in training camp, so he knows our system a lot better. Hes a hard working kid that has shown up in the kicking game and on defense. Hes done some good things, but still has a long way to go to establish himself as a veteran NFL player. I think Bobby has done that."

The Patriots don't play again until a week from Monday. The players have the weekend off then will be back for the longest continuous string of practices they have for the rest of the preseason.

Belichick seemed pleased after looking at film of the game.

"Overall the players competed well and we were running without too many bumps in the road so I think that was in the right direction," Belichick pointed out. "Individually there were good plays from a lot of players. Some of the things we worked on in practice showed up on the field in a fundamental and technique standpoint. We had production running the ball. Defensively, we didn't give up many points. We played competitively against both the run and the passing game."

One standout Thursday night was Jerod Mayo. The Patriots' linebacker has played all over the second level, filling different roles. This year, playing as the weak-side linebacker, he seems in a position to utilize his speed and playmaking ability a bit more. He had a nice third-down takedown of Darren Sproles Thursday night and also tipped a pass that was picked off.

"Jerod has a lot of strengths and he does a lot of things well thats why hes such a good player," said Belichick. "He can run, he can tackle, he can take on blockers, he can chase down plays. He can play good zone pass defense, he can cover guys man-to-man, he has the ability to blitz. Hes smart, he calls our defenses, he makes adjustments. Hes a versatile player, but hes also a player that if you just put in one spot that can do a lot of things well and help your defense in a lot of ways."

Mayo's versatility, combined with the versatility of other linebackers like Rob Ninkovich and Dont'a Hightower, makes the defense as a whole better, said Belichick.

"He gives you good flexibility on your team all the way around just because he does so many things well," Belichick explained. "And he has a very good understanding of not only what were trying to do, but what the opponents are trying to do and what things we would or wouldnt want to do against certain looks or certain problems that they try to give us. He does a nice job of getting the defense to something that we would want to be in or something that we would want to play in that situation."

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.

Garoppolo's mom keeps him apprised of trade rumors: 'She's all over that stuff'

Garoppolo's mom keeps him apprised of trade rumors: 'She's all over that stuff'

Jimmy Garoppolo can't help but hear trade rumors that involve his name. He heard all about them during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Now his mom's keeping him up to date. 

"My mom loves telling me the news updates," Garoppolo told ESPN's Adam Schefter, "so she’s all over that stuff, but it’s been working really well . . . 

"I’m telling you, she could be your assistant. She’s all over the place. Her and my dad on Twitter and stuff like that. I don’t even think they know how to tweet, but they always have something going on . . .

"They know what to hit me with and what to keep quiet. They know me so well that they know what I’d like to hear and what I don’t need to hear. There’s a couple slip-ups here and there, I’m not going to lie to you, but they’re just so excited about it. It’s an exciting time, and they’re loving it."

Garoppolo tried his best to deflect questions about his future as he prepared for Super Bowl LI, but he could only insulate himself so much from those conversations. After six quarters of well-played football, he's chummed the waters for quarterback-starved franchises. As the draft nears, offers are expected to hit the Gillette Stadium offices, and it will be up to Bill Belichick and his staff to determine whether they should part ways with Tom Brady's backup. 

Schefter asked Garoppolo about one team in particular that could be interested: the Chicago Bears. Their general manager Ryan Pace is an Eastern Illinois alum, like Garoppolo, and Garoppolo is a Chicago-area kid. 

"I get asked about [that possibility] all the time from my friends and family back in Chicago," Garoppolo said. "They’re good reporters, my family. But I keep telling them I really don’t know how it would feel until . . . if it was to happen, I wouldn’t know how I’d feel until it did, you know? So it’s kind of one of those things, it’s hard to say right now."

Garoppolo added: "For the most part I am just trying to stay level-headed, trying not to think about it, over think it too much because at the end of the day I am still under contract. It is not my decision if I get traded or if I don’t, so I am just trying to take it all in stride. At the end of the day, you just have to enjoy it. The NFL, it is a hard place to be, hard place to succeed and when you get an opportunity you have to go and take advantage of it."

The idea of getting an opportunity, though, is an enticing one. Before the 2016 season, Garoppolo was very open about how he looked forward to his opportunity to start with Brady suspended for the first four weeks of the season. And with Schefter, he acknowledged that there are times when it's hard not to be impatient when you're the guy behind the guy.

"There’s times," Garoppolo said. "Obviously the kickoff happens and you are ready to roll. The juices get flowing again. You get the adrenaline, the butterflies. It’s football, you have to love the atmosphere . . . 

"We all play the game. We all want to be out there on the field and get an opportunity to play. I guess we will cross that bridge when we get there is probably the best way to put it. We’re competitors at the end of the day. We want to be out there, I want to be out there competing and playing with my teammates.”