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.

Tomlin calls Patriots 'a--holes' in speech Antonio Brown posts on Facebook

Tomlin calls Patriots 'a--holes' in speech Antonio Brown posts on Facebook

Showing a knee-buckling lack of self-awareness, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown put up 13:35 of footage on Facebook Live after his team’s 18-16 win over Kansas City on Sunday night.

It was a weird betrayal of the team’s privacy by one of its star players. Brown, allowed viewers to see live (and on tape until it’s inevitably taken down) that, while head coach Mike Tomlin was around a bank of lockers addressing what Tomlin presumed was his entire team, Brown was mugging in front of his phone for a growing online audience.

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The video starts with Brown and teammates having fun in front of their lockers. As the team is called together for a postgame prayer, Brown keeps the camera rolling. After the prayer, Tomlin made a statement.

“When you get to this point in the journey, not a lot needs to be said,” said Tomlin. “Let’s say very little moving forward. Let’s start our preparations. We spotted those a******* a day and a half. They played yesterday. Our game got moved to tonight. We gonna touch down at 4 o’clock in the f****** morning. So be it. We’ll be ready for that ass. But you ain’t gotta tell them we coming. Because some of us might not like the damn (woofkisses?) The chest pounding.  Keep a low profile.”

While Tomlin was issuing that low-profile request, Brown rolled on. Another Steeler then spoke up saying, “Keep cool on social media, this is about us, nobody else.”

Finally, what sounded like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger addressed the team saying of Foxboro, “That’s a lion’s den we’re going into this week. It’s a lion’s den. I’ve been there, a lot of us have been there. Keep your mouth shut.”

While people might fan themselves over Tomlin calling the Patriots a*******, that’s benign and likely will be matched in private by Patriots coaches this week.

What’s staggering is that a player of Brown’s ability and seeming intelligence would be so self-absorbed as to be agog at putting on a video show for Facebook followers at the expense of his coaches, teammates and franchise.  

Curran: Steelers survive, advance to AFC Championship Game vs. Patriots

Curran: Steelers survive, advance to AFC Championship Game vs. Patriots

For the third time in the Belichick-Brady Era, the Patriots will be trying to step over the Steelers to get to a Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh went into Kansas City on Sunday night and outlasted a breathtakingly sluggish Chiefs team, 18-16.

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If you spent the day stewing about the Patriots adequate-against-Osweiler-but-probably-nobody-else offensive performance Saturday night, maybe Sunday night calmed your nerves.

Despite having a more than 2-to-1 edge in total yards entering the fourth, Pittsburgh had managed just six field goals from kicker Chris Boswell. Their best chance at getting six on the board was squelched when Ben Roethlisberger got picked at the goal line in the first half.

That Kansas City was even in the game with a chance to tie it in the final three minutes has to be humbling for the Steelers. They dominated every statistical category of consequence while the Chiefs played aimlessly behind Alex Smith, who may be a cut above Brock Osweiler but is definitely a cut below every other quarterback in the Divisional Playoff round.  

On this night, Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t much better.

Still, Pittsburgh’s got the best 1-2 punch in the NFL at running back and receiver – LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown were both at 101 yards after halftime – and New England’s entire defensive game plan will revolve around corralling those two and getting them horizontal.

The Patriots beat a Roethlisberger-less team in October, 27-16. Landry Jones was at quarterback that day.

The Steelers were in the Patriots’ red zone four times. They came away with 10 points. They were inside the Patriots’ 40 six times and finished with 16.

“In an offense like that with a bunch of very explosive players, one slant can turn into a touchdown so you have to be really careful in your coverages,” defensive end Rob Ninkovich told me after that game. "There’s not just one go-to guy. They got a running back that can catch it out of the backfield and make plays (Le’Veon Bell). [Antonio Brown] can catch it anywhere on the field and make plays. You just have to make sure with a guy like [Landry Jones] to have him make the throws. It’s hard in this league to be perfect. So to have him sit back there and try to make all the throws was what we chose and the secondary did a great job.”

Bell and Brown combined for 268 yards from scrimmage against the Patriots.

The Steelers scored one touchdown.

The ever-dawdling Bell, who practically walks to the line of scrimmage then skips around like a little kid with a full bladder before finding a crease to exploit, is where it will start for the Patriots.

If the Patriots are going to go to their seventh Super Bowl since Belichick’s hire, Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Donta Hightower and Elandon Roberts – their two best interior linemen and their two inside linebackers – will be the ones who start the bus. The overwhelming majority of Bell’s runs are between the guards so building a wall and out-patienting him as he probes for a crease is Job One.

The Chiefs weren’t stout enough at the line of scrimmage and Bell brutalized them. It will, of course, fall to more than just those four. Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, Chris Long, Vincent Valentine and Shea McLellin will also be in focus. Run-support from safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty will be a part of it as well, but that’s where the Steelers become tough to deal with.

Once Bell’s established himself, the Steelers can start to work play-action and get Brown into space. Creep too far and the numbers on the back end could wind up being insufficient to deal with one of the NFL’s fastest players.

That’s why you can expect the Patriots to not overexert themselves with pressures and blitzes against Ben Roethlisberger. They’ll want as many back in coverage as possible to deal with Brown and some of the other Steelers speed merchants.

The Patriots have dealt with Pittsburgh’s defense enough to know where to attack. LeGarrette Blount ran for 127 yards on 24 carries in the first meeting and

Tom Brady went 19 for 26 for 222 with two touchdowns.

The Patriots had Gronk that day and the Steelers didn’t have Roethlisberger. That tips the scales some when measuring the differences. But after watching Pittsburgh kick six field goals and keep afloat an underperforming Chiefs team, the issue that dogged them in October – red zone offense – looks like its still around.

And they are going to visit a team that does that led the NFL in preventing points.