Patriots prepare for new-look Dolphins

531566.jpg

Patriots prepare for new-look Dolphins

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn These are not your Don Shula-coached Miami Dolphins.

And no one will confuse current quarterback Chad Henne with Bob Griese, or Daniel Thomas with Larry Csonka.

But these Dolphins, on paper at least, are decent.

So there's actually some substance to the "that's-a-pretty-good-team . . ." spiel that Bill Belichick and just about every NFL coach this time of year, shovels out on to the public.

Belichick, in his weekly press conference leading up to the season opener against Miami, spoke on the challenge presented by opening at Miami.

"It's always tough to go on the road in this division, to play down there this time of year," Belichick said. "Miami has played well in the preseason games. They have a lot of weapons on offense. They're a big, physical defensive team. Have good speed and athleticism with their linebackers and defensive backs and much improved in the kicking game from where they were last year. They'll be a big challenge for us."

The Dolphins also have, to a certain degree, an element of surprise with new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and running back Reggie Bush.

"With Brian Daboll there now, he has some new ideas," said Belichick of the former Patriots assistant. "How much they'll retain from last year, how much they'll put in new, how many new things they have with a player like Reggie (Bush) that they haven't shown -- that's a big question mark, too. No question, from a preparation standpoint there are a lot of possibilities and we know they won't be able to do all of them. We just don't know which ones they'll do or which ones they'll feature. From a game plan standpoint, that's difficult."

Here are Belichick's thoughts on a few other topics Tuesday.

On how the Patriots use their safeties
BB: "To put safeties in that category was the way it was many years ago when you had a lot of two-back offenses and one safety traditionally played closer to the line of scrimmage and another safety traditionally played in the deep part of the field. As the game has evolved, over the last Id say 20 years, offenses have done a much better job of trying to make your strong safety play free safety, make your free safety play strong safety, not let your defensive players get comfortable playing where they want to play and make them play where you dont want them to play. In our system, we have always taught our safeties both positions. If theyre on the strong side of the formation or on the weak side of the formation, inevitably there are going to be times when the offenses are going to do that and force you to do that and then sometimes we, by game plan, adjust that from week-to-week on what specifically we want them to do. Sometimes we can control who is the strong safety and who is the weak safety but a lot of times we cant so they really need to learn both responsibilities for when it gets to that point, which like I said, inevitably it does."

On how Deion Branch looked in camp
BB: "Deion has had a pretty good camp; hasnt missed any time at all and that was something he wasnt able to do last year. We had to manage him a little bit in practice but he was, I think, in good condition. He took certainly his share of reps out there in training camp and I thought he looked good doing it. I think hes in position, based on what Ive seen so far and what he has done in training camp and preseason, I think hes ready to have a good year. (He) works hard, gives us good leadership at that position, very smart player, instinctive player, knows what to do, does the right thing and is very dependable. I think everybody in the organization feels good about counting on Deion. Hes a very consistent guy every day. Every time the ball is snapped he almost always does the right thing, does it the way you want him to do it. We all have a lot of confidence in Deion.

On Brandon Spikes' offseason
BB: I couldnt really describe any players offseason - we didnt see any of the players in the offseason. I thought Brandon got off to a good start in preseason and then he missed some time and so hes a little behind with the time that he missed, but hes back on the field now and working hard on getting back; his conditioning and all his timing and all those things. Well see how quickly he can get back to where he was at a few weeks ago. Its unfortunate that he missed a little bit of time because he was doing well, but hes back out there now and looks like hes doing OK now. Well see how quickly he can get back up to that level, that speed."

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

Kraft OK with the idea of a Raiders move to Las Vegas

raiders-gallery.jpg

Kraft OK with the idea of a Raiders move to Las Vegas

Robert Kraft doesn't seem all that concerned about the potential pitfalls of having an NFL franchise in Las Vegas.

The temptations found in that city, he says, can now be found around any dark corner of the Internet. That's part of the reason why he would be supportive of the Raiders if owner Mark Davis chose to move the team to Vegas from Oakland. 

He explained his reasoning to NFL Media's Judy Battista at the league's annual spring meetings on Tuesday. 

"I think we can put the discipline and controls in [for] whatever anyone might be worried about," Kraft said. "With the Internet and the age of the Internet and what's going on in today's world, it's so much different than when I came in 20 odd years ago. If you'd like to move there and they're supportive and Oakland doesn't do what they should do, I'm behind them."

The comments echoed what Kraft told USA Today earlier this week.

"I came into the league in ’94," Kraft said. "Back then, any exploration of that market was dismissed out of hand. I’m looking where we are today and thinking of the last 10 to 15 years, and the emergence of new media, with Google and Facebook and the like. We’re just living in a different world, technology-wise. The [sports gambling] risks in Vegas are no longer exclusive to Vegas. Whatever the risks, they are no greater [in Las Vegas] than playing a game in New Jersey."

Davis' hope to move the Raiders stems from an inability to get a deal done for a new stadium in Oakland.

"I have given my commitment to Las Vegas," Davis said this week, "and if they can get done what they're talking about doing, then we will go to Las Vegas."

Curran: Roger The Dodger continues his evasive maneuvers

6snc30524161464134344104_3450k_1280x720_692176451582.jpg

Curran: Roger The Dodger continues his evasive maneuvers

Roger Goodell is doing that damn thing again down in North Carolina this afternoon.

The NFL commissioner -- who once could carry off a press conference with a breezy, in-command air -- came off like a carrot-topped armadillo talking to reporters at the end of the May owner’s meetings in Charlotte.

Defensive, clipped and disingenuous, a monotone-speaking Goodell was asked about Deflategate and Monday’s Congressional report that alleged the NFL had lobbyists trying to pressure concussion researchers into using NFL-approved doctors.

Asked about the appeal for a rehearing of Tom Brady’s case on Monday, Goodell said, “I respect the NFLPA’s ability to appeal if they choose to do that . . . I’m not really focused on that at all.”

Goodell did not answer the second part of the question, whether or not he’d keep Tom Brady off the field if the court case was unresolved.

The answer, one can only presume would be, “Abso-friggin-lutely.”

As for the Congressional report, Goodell had the gall to answer that he “didn’t see the report.”

He then went on to disagree with what was in the report -- meaning his initial response was less than candid.

A few more minutes of short answers and the show was over with nobody much the wiser than when he began. 

Kraft on Deflategate: 'The whole thing has been mishandled'

new-england-patriots-robert-kraft-32116.jpg

Kraft on Deflategate: 'The whole thing has been mishandled'

At the NFL's brief annual spring meeting, which typically lasts about 24 hours, Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft provided some equally brief remarks about his quarterback. 

Asked for some comment on Tom Brady's legal situation, Kraft told NFL Media's Judy Battista a version of what he has been saying for the last few months as it relates to Deflategate.

"We've been behind him," Kraft said, "and the whole thing has been mishandled, in my opinion. It's unfortunate, and we hope he prevails."

The NFLPA and Brady's legal team filed a petition to the Second Circuit on Monday requesting that he be granted a rehearing. The Second Circuit reinstated Brady's four-game suspension upon appeal earlier this offseason.