Versatile Fletcher draws high praise from Belichick

511296.jpg

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.

Belichick asked if playing at home helps: 'Go ask Dallas and Kansas City'

Belichick asked if playing at home helps: 'Go ask Dallas and Kansas City'

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick knows that how you play, not where, is what matters most. 

That's why when he was asked on Wednesday about the advantage the Patriots will have by playing at Gillette Stadium in the AFC title game, he wasn't willing to go all-in on how a comfortable environment will positively impact his team.

"I don’t know," he said. "Go ask Dallas and Kansas City."

The Patriots apparently thought enough of home-field advantage that they played their starters throughout their regular-season finale win in Miami, exposing their best players to potential injury in order to maintain their positive momentum while simultaneously ensuring a better road to the Super Bowl. 

The Patriots fans in attendance on Sunday will help when the Patriots take on the Steelers, Belichick acknowledged. But there's much more to it than that. 

"Yeah, of course," he said, "but the game is won by the players on the field. That’s who wins football games – the players. And they’ll decide it Sunday night."

And if you needed any further proof, just ask the Cowboys and Chiefs how helpful their home crowds were in the Divisional Round. 

Tomlin not letting up on Brown after ill-advised Facebook Live video

Tomlin not letting up on Brown after ill-advised Facebook Live video

FOXBORO – Mike Tomlin didn’t sidestep questions related to Antonio Brown’s ill-advised locker room broadcast.

Instead, Tomlin actually seemed to up the ante during a conference call with New England media. Asked whether Brown seemed to get the message that Tomlin delivered and take it seriously, Tomlin said, “I think time always tells those stories.”

Tomlin easily could have used a “we’re moving on” message or talked about how Brown simply made a youthful mistake but he opted not to. Which isn’t surprising.

The number one criticism of Tomlin is that the Steelers head coach runs a loose ship and that the lack of discipline and accountability is a big issue.

Seeing Brown run a live broadcast from the locker room while Tomlin’s trying to make a point doesn’t just keep that perception afloat, it advances it to a place it’s never been.

It’s not a stretch to say that Brown’s actions imperiled Tomlin’s reputation. There’s no wonder he isn’t willing to let Brown off the hook.

Brown addressed the controversy on Wednesday saying, “I absolutely regret the Facebook Live situation. It’s a total distraction to the organization. A total distraction to my teammates. Obviously disrespect to my coach. I’ve got utmost respect to my coach so I totally regret that.”

Tomlin on Tuesday went as far as to suggest other players doing team-distracting things like Brown wind up getting passed around the league despite their great talent. “That's often why you see great players move from team to team,” said Tomlin. “Don't want that to happen to Antonio Brown.

Tomlin expressed embarrassment that the language he used in the postgame in the privacy of his locker room was served up for public consumption.

“As a parent, I’m not into public displays of that type of language so I was more embarrassed about that aspect of it not necessarily the content or the message of the video,” said Tomlin.

As to referring to the Patriots as “those a*******,” Tomlin said, “Man, you could have applied that sentiment to any opponent. You could have made that tape two weeks earlier and applied it to that opponent. It’s not about the nameless great faces that we play, it’s about our overall preparation and that was the sentiment of the message that I was sending to the guys not necessarily about the New England Patriots, they just happened to be who we’re playing this week.”

Tomlin also addressed the time element he referenced in his postgame speech when he said the Patriots had a day-and-a-half head start on his team. 

“I was just trying to instill a sense of urgency in our group regarding preparation and I wanted them to understand that we didn’t have a lot of time to pat ourselves on the back based on the performance of the last game,” he explained. “That we needed to transition and transition quickly and start the preparation, whether it was actual preparation or just from a mentality standpoint.”

Because of Brown’s decision, it’s probably been a lot harder to make that transition than Tomlin ever hoped.