Versatile Fletcher draws high praise from Belichick

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Versatile Fletcher draws high praise from Belichick

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @dannypicard
FOXBORO -- Second-year linebacker Dane Fletcher could get some moreplaying time in the near future, now that Jerod Mayo is expected to miss an extended period of time with a sprained MCL.

On Monday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick commended Fletcher on theimprovements he made from his rookie season.

Belichicks obvious confidence in Fletcher most likely meansmore playing time in Mayos absence.

I think Danes taken a big jump from where he was lastyear, said Belichick. Last year he came in as really a defensive lineman, andmade an impact for us in the kicking game. At other points in the year, he didsome things situationally, on defense.

But this year, he came in and played inside linebackerright from the beginning of the year. Hes way ahead of where he was last year.Theres really no comparison. He had a good year of experience and hedefinitely built on that. Hes a smart guy. He works hard. Hes in goodcondition. Hes a good athlete. He runs well. Hes physical."

Belichick's a believer, obviously.

We have a lot of confidence in Dane, Belichick said. SoIm sure that whatever we ask him to do, hell try to do it. I have no doubtabout that.

Thats been evident over the last couple of weeks, as thePatriots have used Fletcher on the offensive side of the ball as well, makinghim the fullback in goal-line situations.

Dane kind of has a good feel for that, said Belichick.Its different, but similar to linebackers. Linebackers, youve kind of got tosee the hole. You dont want to fill where your guys are. You want to fillwhere theyre not, and fill in that space. And thats the same space therunning backs seeing.

Fletcher said he has slim to none experience on offense,but did say he played tight end in high school. Either way, hes willing todo whatever Belichick assigns.

If they tell me to go run my face into some people, Ill doit, said Fletcher. They tell you a certain thing, they want you to run in acertain direction and fill a hole, and hit somebody on the way. In a lot of thesame sense, its like linebacker. So far Ive been doing alright at it.

His presence on the offensive side of the ball may bringback memories of former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel, who was also used ingoal-line situations. But Belichick isnt ready to put Fletcher on that levelyet.

Youre talking about a guy who might have had the besthands on the team in that group when he was on the field, said Belichick aboutVrabel. Im saying, when Mike was on the goal line, offensively, all theplayers that were on the field, he probably had the best hands of anybody weput out there.

Danny Picard is on twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

Patriots won’t have to deal with Bills WR Sammy Watkins on Sunday.

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Patriots won’t have to deal with Bills WR Sammy Watkins on Sunday.

FOXBORO - Scratch the estimable Sammy Watkins from the Bills roster for Sunday. 

Buffalo shared via Twitter that their long, tall wideout is out for Sunday with a foot injury. Also down are wideout Greg Salas and left tackle Cyrus Kouandijo.

The Bills' starting left tackle Cordy Glenn has been dealing with an ankle injury that caused him to miss last week's game. 

Robert Woods will be the Bills best outside threat with Watkins taking Sunday off. The Bills' talented corner Ronald Darby is also trying to get back this week from a hamstring injury that caused him to miss last week's game with Arizona. 

 

 

No intel gathering on Garoppolo at Patriots practice

No intel gathering on Garoppolo at Patriots practice

FOXBORO - There were no tells about the Patriots quarterback situation for Sunday during the portion of Friday practice the media was allowed to watch. 

Jimmy Garoppolo, who on Wednesday was seen throwing short and medium-range passes without a lot of zip, hasn't thrown a ball with media in attendance since. Friday morning, after stretching and jogging, Garoppolo began a session feigning taking a snap from a center and going into a drop. But he did so without a football in his hands. 

Rookie Jacoby Brissett did flip a few passes during the jogging and stretching portion and, while he was wearing gloves, he is showing no signs of favoring his right thumb. 

So the question isn't whether the Patriots have any quarterbacks for Sunday against the Bills, it's whether or not they'll have Garoppolo. Certainly, it's a question that's been on the mind of Bills head coach Rex Ryan who keeps speaking the truth in jest by referencing the uncertainty around the Patriots situation. 

After being on the field in limited capacity all week, it's a certainty that Garoppolo dresses for the Bills game. Whether he plays and how effective he might be remains anything but certain.