Quick Hits: A wild day at Gillette

504485.jpg

Quick Hits: A wild day at Gillette

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran FOXBORO - Albert and Ocho. What's the worst that could happen? Well, for starters, say Ocho and the quarterback pile onto Albert's boat. And the head coach too. Of course he'll be there because he and Ocho are boys. Albert opens it up a little bit and the next thing you know they're going 145 when they T-bone Codzilla in Boston Harbor. While Ocho's water skiing. And Belichick's fishing. And Brady's sunning himself on the quarterdeck. And it doesn't work out so good for any of them. But aside from that? Not much, right? Here are some quick hits from a bizarre day to start the 2011 Patriots season.
1. INSIDE KNOWLEDGEWhen the Patriots decided to pull the trigger on Haynesworth, two things had to happen. The price had to be right - a fifth-round pick and a renegotiated deal with no guaranteed money was right. And there had to be people willing to vouch for him. One of them, no doubt, was Floyd Reese. The Patriots' Senior Football Adviser drafted Haynesworth out of Tennessee and was with Haynesworth for the entirety of the player's career in Tennessee. The other was likely Jim Schwartz, head coach of the Lions and Haynesworth's defensive coordinator with the Titans. Belichick is not shy about gathering and sharing information with people in the coaching fraternity, especially if they are far removed from New England. And with Schwartz as head coach of the Lions, there was sufficient buffer. A call to Schwartz hasn't yet been returned, but here's what he had to say about Haynesworth last year after one of the DTs rare productive games for the Redskins. "It's him playing in a 4-3. It's him being disruptive, attacking blockers, knocking them back, affecting the run and the pass," Schwartz said after watching tape of Haynesworth ruining the Bears offense last October. "I mean, he was hard to handle one-on-one. Those are the things I remember about Albert. He affected that game."When he gets moving, he's very difficult to block. He is a guy that's a very good athlete, he's a very smart football player, and he's tremendously big. And you combine all three of those, and it's very difficult to block him. That's one of the reasons, like I said, that he had so much success. That's one of the reasons he had so much success last week. And again, it's one of the reasons he was in such demand as a draft pick and also a free agent."2. See What Condition His Condition Is InGiven Haynesworth's disinterest in playing for Mike Shanahan in Washington last season, it's hard to imagine he's been working out like a fiend to get ready for 2011. That will be one of the biggest issues he'll face when joining the Patriots. You figure he won't be on the field until he passes his conditioning test, although if he does fail it, he may be out there for mental reps. As big as Vince Wilfork is, he is in tremendous cardiovascular shape and rarely misses practice. That hasn't been Haynesworth's modus operandi. We'll see if it changes. 3. Ocho's Barstool ExclusiveNews is news and one of the most revealing insights into the fact that Ochocinco gets the difference between his "brand" and being a football player was given to Dave Portnoy (aka El Presidente) at Barstool Sports. In Miami recently, Portnoy talked to Ochocinco at a Skyy Vodka party. The mostrelevant part was Ocho talking about assimilating into the system in New England. (It's kind of stream-of-consciousness, but what the hell . . . you get what he's saying). "A lot of people say my style of play would be weird in that system but the thing they dont realize is that I dont have to be Chad Johnson," he told Portnoy. "I dont have to be Ochocino in the media, because Im finally getting what Ive wanted. Winning. Winning."Listen, I create this party, I create this guy that loves football thats like a little kid out there. I know I get to camp July 26, when January gets here Im done. So Im trying to cram as much(flipping) fun as possible into the games as I can. Listen, Im just saying, yo, I wouldnt have to do that (stuff). I wouldnt have to celebrate. Celebrate for what? Ill score 30(flipping) times! They wouldnt have a(flipping) chance! You know? You understand what Im saying?Belichick knows me, see, this is what I love about the New England Patriots. Im close to that man on a personal level, they already know that behind the fun, behind the celebrations, they know how hard I work. Theyre the ones . . . theyre the ones ESPN wanna say, Oh he cant play no more. Ask the players there next time you see em. Ask Belichick next time you see him."We'll do that Friday. 4. Light's On?No word yet on whether the Patriots will retain Matt Light as they hope to. He hasn't been linked to any other teams and the Globe's Greg Bedard reported Thursday that the Patriots are nearing a deal. That's all for Thursday. We'll be back at it in the morning. We'll have Belichick around 9:30 and Brady after practice.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

Friday Bag: What’s the Patriots' future at running back look like?

Friday Bag: What’s the Patriots' future at running back look like?

Every Friday Tom E. Curran, Mike Giardi and Phil Perry will take your Patriots questions (Curran is sitting this one out) on Twitter and answer them as a joint mailbag -- or a Friday Bag, as they call it. 

Got questions? Tweet the guys using the hashtag #FridayBag.

MG: Q leading off my portion of the always popular, always exciting, always (occasionally?) informative #FridayBag. I think it would be easy to think that way from the outside looking in, or knowing how callous some organizations can be, but I just don’t believe that to be the case here. Players talk. Agents talk. Hell, coaches talk. If the Pats were to operate that way, it would get around the league in a heartbeat. Then why would someone want to play here knowing they’ll be treated even more like a disposable commodity then normal? The flip side to this is actually protecting the player from himself. Guys in the last year of a deal sometimes feel compelled to play through every damn thing so they can at least say “look at me, I’m a warrior!” And on that note, I’d sit Marty Bennett next week in Denver and probably the following week against the Jets if that will help the ankle and whatever else is ailing him heal to the point where he’s a hell of a lot more effective than what we just saw versus the Rams (He was awful). Bennett’s too valuable going forward. 

MG: Lisa, my understanding is teams nominate their player and then it goes to a panel (one that includes the NFL Commish) to decide who wins for the league (It was Anquan Boldin in 2015). Can’t quibble with Rob Gronkowski being the team’s nominee this year. People have no idea how much he does for the community. Heck, we don’t even know the extent of it, but the great Don Rodman of Rodman Car Dealer fame and one of the most incredibly charitable individuals to ever grace this area said that there are few if any athletes who devote more time and effort to charitable works/foundations. I hope he wins. It would mean a lot to Gronk.

MG: You never figured you’d have to worry about the offense, did you Steve? But the season-ending injury to Gronk and now the injury to Danny Amendola does concern me. Both of those guys are incredibly reliable 3rd down targets, and in Gronk’s case, he’s usually the first or second option on 3rd down. Bennett hasn’t been able to pick up the slack because he’s clearly not healthy either. That means the Pats and Josh McDaniels will be going through a trial and error period here to best determine how to improve that number and become more efficient. I suspect more will fall on Julian Edelman, but also look for the continued evolution of the two back set with James White and Dion Lewis.

MG: Ambrose, the Pats have remained incredibly committed to the run because they don’t want to find themselves in the same spot they were a year ago, when the run game was so pathetic that neither Miami in the regular season finale nor Denver in the AFC title game paid it one mind. That means rushers pinning their ears back and smashing into Tom Brady at rates no one is comfortable with. So while I won’t be surprise if Brady throws it 45 times, I don’t think they shelve the ground game, at least in the first half. 

MG: Ok Bunk, I stole a comment of yours for the mailbag. Trying to make you famous…yes, I stand by my tweet in which I stated the Ravens and Broncos are bigger threats than the Chiefs or Raiders. Oakland’s defense would give up 40 to Brady. 45 if the Pats needed it. Or 50. I’m dead serious. As for the Chiefs, Alex Smith is not coming into Foxboro and beating this team, even with some of it’s defensive issues. And Belichick will make damn sure that rookie Hill doesn’t get many cracks at touching the football in the return game. Oh, and now the Chiefs best linebacker, Johnson, is out for the year with an Achilles. Should I continue???

MG: History tells us no, David. Brady would throw a fit and argue that he needs to play to remain sharp or iron out this problem or that problem. There’s also the possibility of a bye week looming, meaning he’d go 3 weeks without actually playing in a game. Seems like a good idea in the sense that you don’t risk a 39-year old to a blindside shot, but neither he nor Belichick would ever go for it.

PP: The running back position might be the toughest to project moving forward because there are so many injuries there and there are so many backs who come from nowhere to earn significant roles. I'll say this though: The backs they have on the roster -- not including Brandon Bolden, who has turned into strictly a special teamer after having a difficult time holding onto the football this year -- don't seem to be slowing down. LeGarrette Blount just turned 30 but is in the middle of his best season. Dion Lewis looks strong after two surgeries. James White has taken his game to a new level in his third season. I could see the same group coming back next season, but given the volatility of the position, you know the Patriots will always be scouring for talent there. 

PP: Tom E. touched on this yesterday, Big Wally. Brandon Pettigrew, who was released by the Lions on Friday, might make sense. Otherwise, there's not a whole lot out there. Zach Sudfeld? He's available. Would be an unlikely reunion, but desperate times . . . I think the Patriots will continue to roll out Martellus Bennett at less than 100 percent. I think Matt Lengel could see more work as a blocking tight end as he becomes more familiar with the system. I think we'll see more Cameron Fleming, and we could see more two-back sets with no tight ends. In my opinion, Bennett could use a rest, but I don't think it's coming any time soon. As far as Sarge's question about the hurry-up, I'm not sure we'll start to see more that. It's possible, but one of the benefits with the hurry-up is to keep a defense from substituting to shift matchups in its favor. With Gronkowski or Bennett on the field in a hurry-up situation would have even further highlighted the matchup issues they present. If either one found himself with a slow linebacker on him, the Patriots could have rushed to the line and continued...to exploit...that matchup. Without Gronkowski and without Bennett at full strength, the advantage of the no-huddle is somewhat sapped.  

PP: It's so late into the season, I'm not sure there's much in the way of opportunity for a breakout game this week, Paul. I guess the obvious choice would be Griff Whalen. If he can give the Patriots a pair of sure hands as a punt-returner, that would be a significant enough add that I might qualify it as a "breakout." Bill Belichick made it clear this morning that the team views him as more than just a returner, though, so he could see some offensive snaps in four-receiver sets and provide the Patriots with a presence in the slot. I'd deem a four-catch, 50-yard performance as a "breakout" as well. To me, that's the range of his ceiling for this week. One other name as a potential "breakout" candidate? Justin Coleman. He could be used defensively after being inactive for the last three weeks due to Eric Rowe's hamstring injury. If he's able to help slow down the combination of Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and Steve Smith, that'd be a breakout in my book. 

PP: The combined record of opponents they've beaten is actually 26-57-1, including the Browns 0-12 mark twice, but now it's out there. 'Preciate you, Dave!

PP:  There's still so much up for grabs in the AFC West that it's hard to determine the likelihood of Patriots playoff matchups and where those games will be. However, without getting into the nitty gritty details, I'll just point out that it's still possible that the Patriots end up on the road in either of these cities in the postseason. On the road, Denver is the tougher matchup. Always has been a brutal place for the Patriots to play, and Denver's defense is still good enough to cause them problems. At home? I'd say, of these two teams, Kansas City would be the one that would provide the Patriots with a slightly tougher test. In my mind, they're a little more balanced and I have more faith in Alex Smith to make plays than I do Trevor Siemien.

Friday's Patriots-Ravens practice report: Richards returns to the field

Friday's Patriots-Ravens practice report: Richards returns to the field

Friday's practice participation/injury report for Monday night's Patriots-Ravens game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
TE Martellus Bennett (ankle/shoulder)
DB Jordan Richards (knee)
LB Elandon Roberts (hamstring)
DB Eric Rowe (hamstring)
WR/SpT Matthew Slater (foot)

BALTIMORE RAVENS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Crockett Gilmore (thigh)
LB Terrell Suggs (not injury related)
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh)
C Jeremy Zuttah (not injury related)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
G Alex Lewis (ankle)

FULL PARTICIPATION
G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)