Belichick approves of kickoff rule tweaks

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Belichick approves of kickoff rule tweaks

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

NEW ORLEANS - On Monday, Bill Belichick sneered at the proposed changes to kickoffs floated by the NFL's Competition Committee. On Tuesday, he was more accepting. Asked his reaction to the rule adopted Tuesday which will move the kickoff line of scrimmage from the 30 to the 35, Belichick downplayed the overall impact. "It's fine, we look forward to it," Belichick told ESPN.com's Tim Graham and a few other media members.Initially, the rule was also going to move the line of scrimmage on touchbacks up to the 25. It will remain at the 20. Additionally, the two-man blocking wedge will still be in effect. "I think that's good for the game," Belichick said of streamlining the change. "We don't need too many new rules every year. It's hard for the coach to keep up with them, let alone the fans. I'm still working on some of the new rules from last year."Asked what he figured the impact would be, Belichick said, "Based on the numbers, you're still probably looking at at least two-thirds of the kicks being returned, maybe three-quarters. At the end of the year it goes down anyway. There's a lot more touchbacks in the first part of the season than there are at the end. The ball just doesn't carry as far in the cold. I don't care. Just doesn't go as far."The league also adopted a rule that makes all scoring plays subject to booth review without a coach's challenge. "It'skind of like the college rule, kind of cleans it up a little bit," said Belichick."I think any time the pro rules and the college rules are the same, that's better for the fans. It's easier to follow, you know, one foot, two foot, all the things like that. To make it more consistent, that's better."

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Belichick impressed by rookie Thuney's work at left guard

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Belichick impressed by rookie Thuney's work at left guard

FOXBORO -- Joe Thuney may not have won the starting left guard job officially, but Bill Belichick says he's on the right track. And for a rookie, that's feat in and of itself.

The third-round pick out of North Carolina State -- you may remember it as the Kevin-Faulk-in-the-No.-12-jersey selection -- has been the first-team left guard since the start of training camp, and he hasn't moved since. Thuney has occasionally taken snaps at center, and the Patriots have him learning multiple spots behind the scenes. But every time Nate Solder has run on to the field as the left tackle, Thuney has been there by his side at guard. 

Even going back to OTAs, held not long after he was drafted, Thuney was the top choice at that position. 

"Joe has done a good job with what we’ve given him," Belichick said. "There was a point where we felt comfortable making that, I’d say temporary move, It wasn’t permanent. But he has handled it well. I think he’s certainly moving towards being able to lock something down at some point. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think he is certainly gaining on it. He has had a good preseason, had a good spring."

What once may have been deemed a temporary move back in the spring -- perhaps due to players like Shaq Mason, Tre' Jackson and Josh Kline dealing with injuries early in the offseason -- now seems like it should be a permanent one.

Thuney's run as the No. 1 left guard has been uninterrupted because his performance hasn't warranted a change. He's held his own against former first-round defensive tackle Malcom Brown in one-on-one practice drills, and he's been the highest-graded player on the Patriots offensive line through two preseason games, per Pro Football Focus. (The only players with higher grades on the team through two games are tight end AJ Derby and defensive end Trey Flowers.)

The man who went viral before the draft for his ability to solve a Rubik's cube in just over a minute has flashed an understanding of how quickly things move on the inside. Plus, playing under unretired offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, Thuney has been quick himself, both picking up pressures and working to the second level in the running game with aplomb.

Thuney will still have a preseason game or two to solidify his grasp on a starting role, but even for the brief period during which Mason and Kline were simultaneously healthy, Thuney was the choice on the left side of the interior offensive line. Now that Mason is dealing with what's been reported as a hand injury, Jackson remains on PUP, and Jonathan Cooper is still out after suffering a foot injury early in camp, the job seems like Thuney's to lose.

That Belichick even hinted Thuney is "gaining on it" is an indication of just how impressive he's been during his short time as a pro.