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.

Report: Patriots sign LB Jonathan Freeny to two-year extension

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Report: Patriots sign LB Jonathan Freeny to two-year extension

The Patriots have signed backup linebacker and special teamer Jonathan Freeny to a two-year contract extension through 2018, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported.

Freeney, 27, was originally signed by the Patriots to a one-year free-agent deal in March 2015 after spending the first four years of his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins. He then earned a one-year extension last September and played 13 games, seven starts, with 50 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble. 

"Jonathan is a very dependable player," Bill Belichick said on a conference call Saturday. "He is able to do a lot of different roles for us. He can play inside, outside, on the line of scrimmage and off the ball defensively. He has been a very valuable player for us in the kicking game, obviously with some size, a four-phase special teams player.

"He is one of our overall top workers in terms of the offseason program, preparation, training. He always does things right. He works hard, doesn't really say a lot, but is very dependable and consistent. I think everybody in the organization looks up to him."

 

49ers' Colin Kaepernick refusal to stand for national anthem ignites controversy

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49ers' Colin Kaepernick refusal to stand for national anthem ignites controversy

Colin Kaepernick was already a noteable NFL player as the one-time, and now apparently former, face of the San Francisco 49ers.

The quarterback likely will gain even more notoriety for his stance on refusing to stand for the national anthem at a preseason game on Friday:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told Steve Wyche of NFL Media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

In a statement released Saturday, the NFL said players "are encouraged but not required to" stand for the anthem.

More here from Mike Florio of NBCSports.com's Pro Football Talk on Kaepernick and Florio on the NFL's statement in response.

 

 

Curran: Impact of Brady's suspension already being felt on field

Curran: Impact of Brady's suspension already being felt on field

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It’s an inconvenient and uncomfortable truth that can’t just be blissfully ignored.

The pound of flesh Roger Goodell extracted from the Patriots in the form of Tom Brady’s Deflategate suspension is starting to hurt.

Friday night, we watched the less-than-ideal quarterback rotation between Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo unfold. 

Garoppolo completed a 17-yard dart to Aaron Dobson on his first throw of the night. He completed eight of his next 14 for 40 yards – an ugly yards per attempt average of 3 – took a sack, threw a would-be pick and had a fumble. He looked skittish, indecisive and a thousand miles away from being in total command.

The Brady suspension was designed to punish the Patriots and it is.

Garoppolo played three ineffective series at the start of the game. He got the hook after that and the predictable power surge that came when Brady was on the field instead of the guy who – on this night – couldn’t get anything done was almost tangible.

Garoppolo’s first pass went to Dobson went for 17? Brady dialed up the same player and the play went for 37. Three of Brady’s six incompletions were drops (one was a near pick) and his 33-yard touchdown throw would have given every quarterback in the league except maybe Aaron Rodgers inadequacy issues.

I asked Garoppolo earlier in the week about trying to take command of the team while still remaining deferential to Brady’s status as TFB, future Hall of Famer. Garoppolo admitted it was tough.

How can it not be when the reminders are everywhere, including the pregame exit from the locker room and the trot onto the field. 

Brady is the leader. Jimmy is the long-term substitute. Substitutes don’t have it easy.

There is no solution for what’s going on. It is the ultimate, “Is what it is…” scenario. Can’t do anything about it, so everyone’s got to deal with it.

For Brady on Friday night, that meant staying apart from pretty much everyone for most of the first quarter.

When the Patriots offense was on the bench, he stood with arms folded and jaw set staring onto the field with the occasional glance up at the replay board or over at the area where Garoppolo, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and rookie Jacoby Brissett were going over plans.

When the Patriots offense took the field, Brady retreated to the bench and sat alone. There were two interactions during the first three series came when strength coach Moses Cabrera went to Brady and clapped him on the shoulder pads then rubbed his head as Brady sat on the bench. The other came when Brady sidled up to Brissett and asked him to play catch.

This is not open hostility. This is not Brady trying to undermine Garoppolo. But anyone expecting to see Brady putting an arm around Garoppolo every time he came off the field and publicly lend an ear to Jimmy isn’t getting that. Who knows, maybe Garoppolo doesn’t want that, maybe Brady thinks it’d be counter-productive, maybe McDaniels wants there to be one voice in Garoppolo’s ear during games. The fact is, it’s not cozy.

And you shouldn’t expect it to be. Brady is a quarterback who – while still at the height of his powers – is being forever reminded that the party for him is almost over.

Belichick himself did it the day he drafted Garoppolo. Consider again what was said: 

“The situation we have at quarterback, I think that we felt as an organization that we needed to address that to some degree in the future, so we’ll see how all that works out,” Belichick said during the 2014 draft when Garoppolo was taken in the second round. “I think we’re better off being early than being late at that position. We know what Ryan [Mallett’s] contract situation is. We know what Tom’s age and contract situation is. I don’t think you want to have one quarterback on your team. I don’t think that’s responsible to the entire team or the organization."

Age? Contract? Rather be early at that position than late?

Brady’s best method for combating speculation about when he’d be put out to pasture has been to own his position with peerless play and turn in – in my opinion – the best Super Bowl performance a quarterback’s ever had.

Not only is Brady miles away from being ripe for the picking, the only reason Garoppolo’s playing at all is because of a BS investigation and punishment that turned Brady’s life upside down and besmirched his name.

Garoppolo taking Brady’s reps, taking Brady’s team for a month is the punishment for Deflategate. Watching Jimmy G. play is the punishment Brady was handed. No wonder he’s standing with arms folded and jaw set.

If you simply look at the dynamics between players of Brady’s ilk and their would-be successors you realize that expecting Brady to go merrily along and show no signs of agitation is absurd. Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, Joe Montana and Steve Young, Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. In each, the incumbent wasn’t real keen on wet-nursing the new guy.

Garoppolo’s case is a little different, though. He has no illusions about being better than Brady (that little 25-for-25 day from Brady in the intrasquad scrimmage earlier this month probably helped put that to bed). 

Garoppolo just wants to come in, play well, do his job and not step on any toes. He’s not looking to create a quarterback controversy. But he can’t afford to be deferential anymore or concerned about how the legend in his shadow feels or how he feels about the legend in his shadow.

He just has to go play. Something that Brady – very soon – won’t be able to do.