Haynesworth could help if Jets run

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Haynesworth could help if Jets run

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
FOXBORO Inside the New England Patriots locker room, there was an Albert Haynesworth sighting on Friday.

On the practice field, there he was for the second day in a row.

If you've followed the injury-riddled, conditioning-challenged Haynesworth even in passing, stringing together a couple of consecutive practices is a bigger deal for him than others.

Now whether he plays on Sunday when the Patriots host the New York Jets, remains to be seen.

If he does, his return could not come at a better time for a Patriots defense that's dead-last in the NFL with teams ripping them for 477.5 yards per game.

Potentially having Haynesworth return also bolsters the Patriots against a Jets running game that for years has been one of the team's greatest strengths.

In addition to being one of the NFL's top defenses under Rex Ryan, New York has also found success with a punishing rushing attack that has finished no worse than fourth in the league under his leadership.

The Jets (2-2) have thrown the ball considerably more this season than past years under Ryan, which to some degree helps explain why they are near the bottom (30th out of 32 teams) in rushing the ball this year.

New York has thrown the ball 147 times this season which ranks 11th in the NFL. Last season, they ranked 18th in pass attempts. The year before that?

Dead last.

Even if the numbers suggest that New York is airing the ball out more, the Patriots expect to see the Jets -- losers of two in a row -- go back to their ground-and-pound rushing attack ways on Sunday.

If they do, that makes the potential return of Haynesworth even more invaluable.

Prior to Friday's practice, he wasn't sure if he would be able to play against the Jets.

"I hope so," he said. "But I'm definitely feeling better. We'll see."

In addition to providing a much-needed inside presence defensively, Haynesworth will also be looked upon as someone who can also help the Patriots with their leaky pass defense.

"I hope all our players that play, play well," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. "We'll see where we're at with Albert. He can definitely help us. He's a versatile guy - he can play the run, he can rush the passer, he's a physical guy, he's a good athlete. We just have to see how all that plays out and what he's able to do."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Butler reaction to Gilmore signing: 'We got another good player'

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Butler reaction to Gilmore signing: 'We got another good player'

FOXBORO -- Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium gave reporters their first opportunity to see both Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore on the field at the same time.

Once Gilmore signed with the Patriots earlier this offseason, there was no guarantee he'd actually team up with the 27-year-old in his fourth season out of West Alabama. But Butler wasn't given an offer sheet by the Saints or anyone else, he wasn't traded, and now together they make up one of the most talented cornerback duos in the NFL. 

"Um, nothing much really," Butler replied when asked for his initial reaction to the Gilmore deal. "Nothing much really. We got a better player. We got another player. We got another good player on this team. Anything to help the team win, I'm down with."

Depite the fact that Gilmore is the one who received the big-money contract from the Patriots earlier this year, Butler had nothing but good things to say about his teammate following Thursday's workout. 

"He brings the size and the coverage skills," Butler said. "One of the best guys in the league. Very underrated. [He's] come in, head down, working hard. Just trying to build off each other no matter what."

Butler acknowledged that the corner group, which also includes Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones, has some work to do when it comes to their communication, but he indicated he'll be happy to chip in wherever he's needed. The Patriots could use some help in the slot following Logan Ryan's departure to Tennessee, and Butler said he'd be open to playing inside.

"Wherever they put me, I'm gonna play that role," he said. "I'm ready to play the slot if that's what it is."

Does Butler want to be with Patriots beyond 2017? 'Whatever happens, happens'

Does Butler want to be with Patriots beyond 2017? 'Whatever happens, happens'

FOXBORO -- Malcolm Butler came off of the Gillette Stadium practice field to a gaggle of reporters who had been interested in speaking to him all offseason. There had been speculation not too long ago that he'd be traded. There was speculation he might sign elsewhere as a restrcited free agent.

What he would say on those topics might prove to be informative. People were eager to hear from him. But it was what he didn't say that may have been the most interesting part of his first back-and-forth with reporters since Super Bowl LI.

In the rain, in front of a dozen or more microphones, following his team's third organized team activity practice, Butler was asked if he would like to be in New England beyond the 2017 season, the final year of his contract. 

"Can't predict the future," he said. "Whatever happens, happens."

Butler was given several opportunities to say that he'd like to stick with the Patriots for the long term, but he was non-committal. Though his presence on the roster for this season gives the Patriots a supremely talented cornerback duo, the fact that the team gave Stephon Gilmore a lucrative long-term contract this offseason makes Butler's long-term future in New England a bit hazy.

Playing for a restricted free agent tender worth $3.91 million, Butler was asked if it was difficult to separate the business side of things from his on-field performance.

"Not really," he insisted. "Just gotta come here and just play football. You gotta earn everything you want. Gotta come here, work hard each and every day. Nobody's gonna give you nothing."

He added: "Just gotta keep working. Ignore the noise, and just keep working. No matter what. You got a job to do no matter where you're at. Glad to be here to do this job."

Butler received significant interest from the Saints during the offseason, and he made a trip to New Orleans to visit the organization's facilities there. Unwilling to provide Butler with a big-money contract offer and turn over their first-round pick to the Patriots, the Saints decided to cease in their pursuit of the 27-year-old Super Bowl XLIX hero. 

Butler said he didn't wasn't always sure he was going to be in New England for 2017.

"You never know what's gonna happen, I was just sitting back patiently waiting," he explained. "Just doing what I can do, control only what I can control. I'm here now and that's what it is."

That Butler has been at Patriots workouts and OTA practices since signing his tender is an indication that he's ready to throw himself into the upcoming season with his sights set on performing as well as possible in order to put himself in the best position possible when he's scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency at the end of the year. 

"Wasn't gonna hurt nobody but myself if I missed this," he admitted. "This is extra time to get better, and that's what I'm out here to do. To get better and have another great year. Anything to help the team. Present a positive image."