Patriots

Branch says McDaniels brings 'wrinkles'

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Branch says McDaniels brings 'wrinkles'

FOXBORO -- It's hard to discern during OTAs what's solid intel and what's just happenstance.

For instance, if a coach calls for a player to jump in on kickoff returns as a fill-in, but the media doesn't know the tenor of the request, misreads happen.

Rightly or wrongly, I spend more time watching formations and individual work than "scheme" stuff. So it made me perk up some when I heard Deion Branch say that Josh McDaniels "has thrown a lot of different wrinkles at us" during the OTAs.

McDaniels' NFL orientation came with the Patriots and he was schooled in the offense authored by Charlie Weis, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. But McDaniels had the opportunity to add to his tool belt as head coach in Denver and then as offensive coordinator for the Rams. Branch welcomes McDaniels back "and all the great things he picked up."

And it was interesting to hear Branch add that "there ain't too much (fooling around) going on because everyone is still picking up the offense. It's a plus especially with a new offensive coordinator and doing the new stuff we're doing."

Branch also says he's enjoying the chance to play with longtime friends Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth for the first time.

"We all came in together, me Jabar and Donte were all in the same draft class and to have an opportunity to play with those guys is great," said the 2002 second-rounder.

Stallworth was the first of the wideouts taken in the 2002 draft -- 13th overall to New Orleans. Gaffney went 33rd to the Texans (Houston's second draft pick ever), and Branch was the final pick of the second round (65 overall).

Brady enjoys 'unique experience' of road trip

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Brady enjoys 'unique experience' of road trip

While being away from home isn’t uncommon for the Patriots - just think about all those Super Bowl trips - Tom Brady believes each excursion takes on its own feel, its own flavor and - eventually - its own meaning.

Back in 2014, the Pats went from playing in Green Bay and losing to the Packers straight to San Diego for a week on the West Coast prior to a rousing victory over the Chargers. That week, many players said in the aftermath, helped propel the team to great heights,.  You’ll recall, that season ended in grand fashion, a triumph in Super Bowl 49 over Seattle, at the time - and maybe still - the greatest Super Bowl ever played.

“I think all these experiences are pretty unique,” Brady said Friday from Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy. “That was a very unique experience. This is different.”

Brady spoke about the number of stops the Pats have and will have to make on this trip - from Denver to Colorado Springs then on to Mexico City Saturday before a Sunday night return to Foxboro and their own beds for the first time in 10 nights.

“When you’re on the road like this, there’s less to do,” he said. “You know my family is not here, my kids aren’t here. There’s nobody telling me what I did wrong in the house. It’s just being at home and now it’s being here and trying to figure out a way to win a game.”

Brady quickly smoothed over any possible ill-will at home - why make Gisele mad? - smiling and saying “I didn’t mean that so I’ll take it back.”

Kidding aside, the 40-year old signal caller seemed pleased with the work the Patriots have put in during this long trip. A week of team-bonding can’t be a bad thing, especially for a group that seems to be hitting it’s stride both on and off the field. There’s the five wins in a row and also a locker room that has a better understanding of one another than it did during the first month of the season. But Brady is not ready to make any grand proclamations. That just wouldn’t be his style.

“I think it’s still work in progress,” he said of team chemistry. “You look at still adding a player like Marty (Bennett) last week. Things are always changing and evolving. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re doing well and after 8 or 9 weeks, you start to figure those things out. Now we have to work hard at those things, try to really own them, and use them going forward to try and win the most important games. We have a lot of important games coming up, starting with this one. Hopefully we can play our best football going forward.”

Brady said he’s been fired up for this game with the Raiders south of the border ever since the schedule was released all those months ago.

“I’ve never been to Mexico City,” he said. “It’s been a game you kind of look forward to. We’re playing against a really good football team in a pretty cool environment. It will be very memorable. I think everyone is excited.”

Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

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Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

The Patriots will be without center David Andrews on Sunday when they play the Raiders in Mexico City. Andrews, who hasn’t all practice all week with an illness, is one of four Pats listed as out on the injury report released Friday.

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Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, who didn’t play last week against the Broncos is also out, along with wide receiver Chris Hogan and special teams captain Matthew Slater. Offensive linemen Ted Karras and Joe Thuney each took reps at center so one of them will likely start in Andrews’ absence. LaAdrian Waddle filled in for Cannon and performed well last week vs. Denver. 

Here’s the full injury report for the Patriots and Raiders: