Bill Belichick Confidently Shrugs Off High-Profile Cuts and 19 Other Thoughts


September 7, 2011

Bill Belichick Confidently Shrugs Off High-Profile Cuts and 19 Other Thoughts FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots are still in the process of wrapping up one of the busiest stretches of the year, as the bottom portion of the 53-man roster is in fluid motion. Meanwhile, they're also prepping for Monday night's season opener in Miami, so it's a chaotic time at Gillette Stadium.

Let's run through some of the happenings in this week's Two-Minute Drill.

1. I'd expect the Patriots to name their captains Wednesday. Last year, they voted Monday of Week 1 — each player wrote down two names on a card and handed it into the coaching staff — and Bill Belichick announced them to the team during their 8 a.m. meeting Wednesday. There were four last season, including quarterback Tom Brady, running back Kevin Faulk, linebacker Jerod Mayo and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. Tight end Alge Crumpler was named as a captain in October.

2. I wouldn't be surprised if Brady, Faulk, Mayo and Wilfork were all named captains again. Brady and Mayo have led the team stretch prior to their four preseason games, and they're locked in with that title.

3. On the other hand, I was surprised last season when wide receiver Wes Welker was not elected as a captain. I'd think Welker, left guard Logan Mankins and safety Patrick Chung would be strong candidates to earn the honor this week.

4. Speaking of Chung, I spent a good deal of time over the last month speaking with his teammates about his leadership ability, and they had some seriously high praise for him. There were some very interesting quotes in that story, but Chung's was particularly impressive.

5. I wanted to share some leftover quotes that couldn't fit into that feature. Here's James Ihedigbo on Chung: "He plays the game relentless and fast, and I share those qualities and like to think I play the game the same way, so it's kind of like that connection. I admired him, like every time I watched him, I was like, 'Wow, that guy plays intense. He's getting after it.' I appreciated that about him, and now having him as a teammate, you get to understand why that is and the kind of leadership he commands in the huddle and around the team."

6. Linebacker Rob Ninkovich on the comparison of Chung and Mayo: "I think Chung is a young player that has so far had a great career. As he has more experience on the field, he's going to continue to improve. Having [Nos.] 51 and 25 on the field at the same time is always a good duo."

7. In February, I started asking around about safety Brandon Meriweather's trade value because I was under the impression that the Patriots would be ready to part ways with him. The general consensus was the Pats could probably unload him for a third-round pick, but that value plummeted right before the deadline for roster cuts. Still, I'm absolutely shocked that they couldn't get anything for him, and I wonder how hard they tried to shop him before releasing him.

8. The most surprising aspect is that the Patriots unloaded both Meriweather and James Sanders in the span of a few days. Again, I wouldn't have been too alarmed if they released both of them on February because I would have assumed the front office had a backup plan. Not saying Sergio Brown, Josh Barrett and Ihedigbo don't have potential, but Brown — as a second-year player who was undrafted in 2010 — is now the second-longest tenured safety in New England, and there isn't a lot of experience behind him. It's risky.

9. On a related note, Sunday's season opener between the Bears and Falcons will have some extra New England feel with Meriweather and Sanders on opposing sidelines.

10. Cornerback Darius Butler was another high-profile casualty. His release wasn't surprising, but his rapid downfall certain was. Butler was tremendous during the Patriots' string of 2010 offseason practices, many of which were open to the media. He was always around the ball and made a number of plays. There was a stretch in the early summer when he was the best defensive back on the team, but things tapered off in training camp and really sunk in Week 2 against the Jets.

11. Belichick was asked Monday if he was disappointed if any of the players that were released got claimed by another team on waivers, preventing the Patriots from putting them on their own practice squad. That seemed to be the Patriots' hope with tight end Lee Smith (claimed by Bills), tight end Will Yeatman (Dolphins) and tackle Steve Maneri (Chiefs). Belichick shrugged it off, saying if the team really wanted the player and thought he could help them, they wouldn't have been released.

12. Take that one step further, and I think it shows how highly they view undrafted rookie linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, who had a nice start to camp but hasn't practiced since Aug. 13 due to an unknown injury. Even with the injury, the Patriots wanted to carry Tarpinian on their initial 53-man roster and didn't want to risk losing him. Of course, Tarpinian could still get cut at any moment, making this a moot point.

13. Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien was asked Tuesday if he had to lift the spirits of BenJarvus Green-Ellis after the team drafted a pair of running backs in April, or if there was any thought that Green-Ellis might be worried about losing his job. O'Brien responded, "I'll speak for myself, I'm not looking to replace him." That kind of reaffirms my belief that Green-Ellis will lead the team in rushing again in 2011.

14. One stat that might mean something or nothing at all: Wide receiver Deion Branch didn't catch a single pass in the preseason. It doesn't bother Belichick, who said Branch has had a "pretty good camp" and has also been healthy. "I think he?s in position, based on what I?ve seen so far and what he has done in training camp and preseason, I think he?s ready to have a good year," Belichick said.

15. The Patriots reportedly claimed linebacker A.J. Edds (last name rhymes with "weeds") off waivers Tuesday. Edds tore his ACL as a rookie in 2010, but the Dolphins were pretty high on the fourth-round pick from Iowa who is supposed to have good coverage skills. The Dolphins gave up on Edds a little quickly, which is an obvious sign that they don't believe he's recovered from the injury, but he's a good football player who might help the team down the road.

16. The signing would make sense, too. I think the Patriots' pass defense over the middle could be a concern because their linebackers can struggle in that department. Edds should add to the versatility of that group.

17. New Patriots guard Brian Waters said his release from Kansas City was a mutual decision, and he didn't have any hard feelings toward his organization of 11 years. Young NFL players might want to avert their eyes to this quote, though.

"The idea of playing with someone your whole career, the same team, is just unrealistic if you play for a long period of time," Waters said. "I've had the blessing of being in Kansas City for 11 years, and I have another great opportunity here."

18. Mankins had a pretty funny quote while discussing the similarities between himself and Waters. "That's why I was a fan of him," Mankins said. "He played like I do. We like that."

19. The Patriots have a young group of running backs, which makes Faulk's presence that much more important, particularly since Sammy Morris was released. "Kevin is a great guy, and he's always been there to help everyone," Woodhead said. "He's a great person to bounce things off of, and I think we've got a good group."

20. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was asked, mostly jokingly, if he was disappointed that his brother, Chris, joined the Colts over the weekend. Gronkowski's response, in turn, was genuine. He was just happy that his brother had a job.

"As long as he's playing, I don't care what team he's on," Gronkowski said. "It makes it more fun playing versus him."

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