Patriots sign 12 rookie free agents, two draft picks

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Patriots sign 12 rookie free agents, two draft picks

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
With the Patriots set to hold their first on-field practice of the 2011 season Thursday morning, the team announced the signing of two draft picks - Marshall tight end Lee Smith and Central Arkansas linebacker Markell Carter - as well as a dozen rookie free agents. The rookie free agents are: OL Mike Berry (Auburn), LBLS Ryan Coulson (Nevada), OL Kyle Hix (Texas), K Chris Koepplin (Massachusetts), DE Aaron Lavarias (Idaho), LB Anthony Leonard (West Virginia), DE Clay Nurse (Illinois), WR Jeremy Ross (California), DE Alex Silvestro (Rutgers), LB Jeff Tarpinian (Iowa), OL Corey Woods (Akron) and TE Will Yeatman (Maryland).The team also activated wideout Tyree Barnes and running back Eric Kettani from the reservemilitary list. Here's the skinny on each of the undrafted guys that the team sent out.Berry, 6-3, 316 pounds, started in 35 games while appearing in 45 with Auburn. He started all 14 games in 2010 at right guard and was part of an offensive line that paved the way for 254 yards rushing and 519 yards of total offense in the national championship win over Oregon.

Here's a youtube video of Berry's highlights at Auburn
Coulson, 6-5, 255 pounds, converted from linebacker to defensive end as a sophomore. He started seven games as junior and all 13 games as a senior in 2010, finishing with 53 total tackles and 3.5 sacks as a senior. He also handled long snapping duties. Hix, 6-7, 325 pounds, was a four-year for Texas, who played in 51 games with 39 starts. He started 28 games at right tackle before moving to left tackle as a senior in 2010.Koepplin, 6-3, 210 pounds, played two seasons at UMass in 2006 and 2007 after transferring from Nassau Community College. At UMass, he became the career record holder in PAT percentage (98.0) and was second in field goal percentage (71.0). Koepplin played for the Manchester Wolves of the Arena Football 2 League in 2008 and 2009.Lavarias, 6-2, 255 pounds, was named second team All-WAC as a senior in 2010 after finishing with 52 total tackles and 10.0 sacks. He was Idahos Defensive Player of the Year as a junior in 2009.Leonard, 6-1, 246, started all 13 games last season for West Virginia and finished third on the team with 70 tackles, including 6.5 for a loss. Nurse, 6-3, 260 pounds, played and started in all 13 games as a senior in 2010, finishing with 23 total tackles. As a junior in 2009, he recorded four sacks in a win over Minnesota. Ross, 5-11, 213 pounds, finished his collegiate career second on Cals all-time punt return average list with an average of 15.2 yards per punt (31 returns, 471 yards and one touchdown). He totaled 2,287 all-purpose yards (201 rushing, 764 receiving, 471 punt return, 851 kick return), with an average of 53.2 yards per contest.Silvestro, 6-3, 267 pounds, began his career at Rutgers as a linebacker before moving to defensive end and defensive tackle. As a senior in 2010, he had 56 total tackles, 14.5 for a loss, and 4.5 sacks. Tarpinian, 6-3, 238 pounds, began his college career at Iowa as a defensive back before moving to linebacker during the spring of 2007. He was a top special teams player as well as a starter at linebacker during his career and recorded 97 total tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.Woods, 6-5, 300 pounds, was a four-year starter at Akron, who played at both left and right tackle during his college career. He played his first two seasons at right tackle before moving to the left side as a junior in 2009. Yeatman, 6-5, 268 pounds, was a two-sport standout at both Notre Dame and Maryland in football and lacrosse. After three seasons at Notre Dame (2006-08), he transferred to Maryland and sat out the 2009 season. As a senior in 2010, he played in all 11 games with three starts and finished with 13 receptions for 134 yards and one touchdown
The two players reinstated from the military reserve:

Barnes, WR, 6-0, 196 pounds, was originally signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent on May 4, 2009 from Navy and was placed on the reserve military list on July 23, 2009.

Kettani, RB, 5-11, 235 pounds, was originally signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent on May 4, 2009 out of Navy and was placed on the reserve military list on July 23, 2009.

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

Curran: Too early to read anything into Patriots' practice groupings

Curran: Too early to read anything into Patriots' practice groupings

FOXBORO – On Thursday, we noted that the early part of Patriots practice -- 7-on-7 passing -- had Tom Brady running with the starters. When 11-on-11s came, it was Jimmy Garoppolo The Patriots flipped it on Friday. 

A major part of training camp is seeing who’s running with whom to get an idea of which way the coaching staff is leaning. But not all reps are created equal, as Bill Belichick pointed out Thursday morning. 

“There’s a balance,” he explained. “Players that will probably play together, you let them work together, but you never really know how that’s going to go. And in the end everybody’s got to work with everybody until those things get worked out, get declared. 

“I don’t think we’re really in that spot yet,” he added. “But, you know, you get into the season and you want a certain receiver running a certain route, a certain situation, that’s who it’s going to be. I don’t think we’re really there. Offensively, we’re just installing our offense. We don’t even have 50 percent of our red-area offense [installed], and that’s what we worked on yesterday so we’re a long way from really trying to nail down a lot of specifics. But you saw some times in practice where the quarterbacks would be working with an individual receiver, maybe during a special-teams period, things like that. There’s some of that but we’re not in that full-scale mode yet.”

And it will take a while before you can really read the tea leaves on groupings and figure out who is near the top of the depth chart. Some guys are still in 100-level classes. Others are more highly evolved.

“Everybody can work with everybody, that’s not a problem -- I’d say the knowledge base, the overall level of execution of certain things is higher in one group than it is in another group. We have some players with less experience spending more times on the basics and the fundamentals, Not that they don’t practice some of the little more sophisticated things, but that’s not the point of emphasis for them. It’s for them to work on their fundamentals and more of the basics first. But it’s a balance, it’s a tough thing in camp that you’ve got to balance, and at some point you’ve got to turn the corner and get your players that are going to be ready to play, whoever those are, ready to play.”

That time’s not now. And it may not come in force until after the Bears and Saints joint practices and preseason games. So take every report of reps and combinations with a grain of salt for the short term. And we’ll keep pumping them out.  

Bennett on chemistry with QBs: 'I've dated two girls at the same time before'

Bennett on chemistry with QBs: 'I've dated two girls at the same time before'

FOXBORO -- Martellus Bennett has what may be seen as a difficult task this summer: Pick up some measure of chemistry with not one but two new quarterbacks as he learns the Patriots offense. 

Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo have different skill sets, different arm slots and different release points. Their timing with their throws probably isn't identical, either. Still, Bennett has to figure out how to get in lockstep with both while deciphering a complicated offense with a playbook built up over 16 years. 

But the challenge of working in unison with two quarterbacks shouldn't be much of a challenge at all, Bennett explained. 

"I've dated two girls at the same time before," Bennett said with a laugh. "That's the old Martellus though."

During his short time in New England, Bennett has shown he is not afraid to engage in colorful back-and-forths with reporters, and Friday was no different. 

Here are some other highlights from Bennett's interaction with the media on Day 2 of training camp: 

* On if he could see himself in New England long-term (Bennett is currently in the last year of his contract): "Yeah. I don't really think about next year. Right now, I'm just trying to have the most fun playing football this year. It could be taken from me at any time. I didn't get to finish the season last year. For me, it's just a joy to be out there playing and enjoying the game. I'm enjoyig the process and making progress every single day. I'm haven't even thought about tomorrow, I'm just worried about my todays."

* On the pressure to perform for his new club: "I always feel pressure to perform. It's a performance-based game. If you don't perform, they move on from you. Every single player out here has pressure to perform. It's our lives on the line, it's our careers. Every single day, you just try to show them what you can do. That way you can get a little bit more and a little bit more and a little bit more. I've always had that pressure on myself. I don't play for myself. I play for my family. My wife and my daughter and my teammates so I have pressure on me every single day because if I don't play well, it affects my wife and my daughter so that's my mentality when I come on the field."

* On what it's like to play with Brady versus other quarterbacks: "I wouldn't compare apples and oranges. I've been fortunate to play with a lot of great quarterbacks. With Tom, he's just really good. I just tell [teammates] every day: 'Man, you guys are lucky, you guys have played with Tom Brady forever.' He's just a really good quarterback."

* On competitiveness he's seen from Brady, who spiked a helmet on Friday : "He's been competitive even when we're just working out. It's fun because he plays at such a high level that you have to match that level. Oil and vinegar don't mix. You just want to make sure you rise to the top when he rises to the top as well."

* On where he sees players on the team exhibit competitiveness: "Everywhere. Even in the cafeteria."

* On how it feels to get back on the football field: "It's like when you break up and you finally get back with the girl that you love in the first place."