Patriots

Ex-Patriot Ellis Hobbs says he's not done yet

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Ex-Patriot Ellis Hobbs says he's not done yet

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran Ellis Hobbs has a lot to offer off the football field. You just hope he doesn't jeopardize that by trying to get back on it. On Thursday, the former Patriots cornerback said that - contrary to reports earlier this offseason - he has not retired from the NFL because of the scary neck injuries he suffered in each of the past two seasons with the Eagles. "It's so funny, everybody starts fabricating things and with this lockout going on, everybody's pulling for stories but I haven't officially made any announcements," Hobbs said on WEEI's Big Show Thursday afternoon. "(I'm) waiting on doctor reviews to let me know if I can or can't play. If a doctor can come back to me and tell me, 'You have no more harm or danger then the next guy of getting hurt,' then I'm totally back in the game. But if they tell me, 'You know what, it's life threatening. You need to sit down and find a new career,' I'm fine with that too. I'm financially secure. I would only come back for the love of the game." It was reported in February that, in the wake of two neck surgeries in the past two years (one of which required doctors to go in through the front of his neck, move his voice box to the side and insert a cadaver vertebra) Hobbs had retired. And at 28, that seemed a wise move. Not only is Hobbs "financially secure" he's also a terrific asset. One of the main reasons we had him on Thursday was so he could hype his football camp being held July 18-22nd at West Warwick High School. Hobbs' directive at the camp is not just directed at football for the kids who show up but various life skills as well. He's got a sincere commitment to making sure that kids are armed with information about how to approach life in general. But if a team doctor is willing to sign off on Hobbs coming back, he will do it. "At the end of the day, I don't think a doctor or a team will bring me on with that kind of risk if I'm not 100 percent," he said. Hobbs is very conscious of the myriad physical issues NFL players face in their lives after football. And it wasn't until listening to the interview again that I wished I pressed him harder on why he'd risk his long-term health simply because he "loves" playing. Two other noteworthy nuggets from the interview: Hobbs doesn't get the fiscal irresponsibility many of his NFL peers exhibit, saying, "With the amount of money we run into as professional athletes, as entertainers, there's no reason why we should have any excuse for not having a dollar at the end of the day with just a little bit of discipline."Also, he isn't living and dying with every report on lockout progress.
"I thinkI speak for the majority of us we really - because we understand that it's a business and we understand that these things take time and how intricate it is - we really don't care," he stated. "Get the job done. Whenever it's done, it's done. ...Whatever, do what you have to.
I can only control what I can control and that's taking care of my body, training myself to be ready. ...When this thing is over, all documents are signed, we get the official press release, that's whenI want to be back involved. Until then, don't email me, don't text me, don't call me about the ifs or whats. I just want to be by myself and enjoy my family.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

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: 

 


 

Belichick getting the most out of his veteran safeties

Belichick getting the most out of his veteran safeties

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - Bill Belichick’s never been shy about getting the players who play the best on the field as much as possible. 

So, when he looked at a crowded secondary this summer, the Patriots’ coach didn’t view every spot as a defined position. Instead, he analyzed the skill set of his players and decided that the Pats needed their top three safeties - Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon and Pat Chung - on the field as much as possible. Just past the midway point of the season, Belichick and his defensive coaching staff have managed to do that quite a bit.

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McCourty missed one defensive snap all season, the last play of the opener (590). Harmon has often times found himself as that single-high safety (479) while - as illustrated earlier - Chung has played 83 percent of the snaps, although about a third of those designated as a cornerback (494 total/333 as safety). There are only two other teams in the NFL that play three safeties as often as the Patriots: the Chiefs (Ron Parker, Daniel Sorensen and Eric Murray) and Broncos (Justin Simmons, Darian Stewart and Will Parks). 

When I asked Belichick about all that the responsibilities he puts on that safety trio, the coach wouldn’t single out just those three. He also highlighted veterans Nate Ebner and Jordan Richards.

“That’s good group really with Pat, Devin, Duron, Jordan, Nate gives us a lot in the kicking game. That’s five guys that all help us in a lot of different ways…they all are pretty versatile,” said Belichick. 

Versatility is a critical element to the Patriots being able to put those players on the field and keep them there, no matter what the opposition throws New England’s way.

“You see Jordan play strong safety, you see Jordan come in in multiple defensive back sets. You see Chung play a corner type of role sometimes. I play a corner type of role. I  think it allows us to say ‘if they come out in this personnel, we’ll be ok’” said Devin McCourty. “We’ll just match up these guys in whatever different role in the defense and it’ll work.”

Of course, sometimes that’s easier said than done when you consider what personnel the opposing team can employ. In the opener against Kansas City, the Pats tried and failed to match up with an explosive grouping that including Tyreek Hill and DeAnthony Thomas, wide receivers who can line up in the backfield and take a handoff as well. 

The opponent Sunday, Oakland, doesn’t have those kinds of pieces, but the Raiders still have players in place that can keep defensive coordinators up at night. The suspicion here though is that Matt Patricia sleeps better than most, in part because of his secondary.

“A team like Oakland will come in what we call ‘oh 1’ personnel where they have four receivers and [tight end Jared] Cook on the field, which is kind of like a fifth receiver,” noted McCourty. “We can easily stay in different groups and say ‘all right, this is how we want to match that.’ Where if we didn’t have that versatility we’d have to start to run corners on and then they keep [Marshawn] Lynch on the field in place of Cook and run the ball. There’s so many different things that the offense can do to mismatch personnel. Having the versatility and players who understand different roles allows players to stay calm and match up.”

There’s also an unseen element to what this safety group brings to the field every week. That’s their experience, not just in the NFL, but together. There’s comfort in knowing the guy next to you has seen the same things you have and can go through their mental Rolodex to recall and adjust to personnel groupings and formation changes that maybe weren’t prepared for during the week (yes, even with Belichick as the coach that happens).

“I’ve been playing with Pat and Dev - all of us being together - this has been four years and you don’t catch that too often, especially three safeties,” said Harmon. “I just think us being able to be in a whole bunch of different positions, being able to learn from each other and playing together has allowed us to even been more versatile with each other and be able to run more things, have a better feel for the defense and put ourselves in maybe different positions that you wouldn’t put anyone else in.”

“We don’t have many groups like us that have been together for the last four or five years,” said McCourty. “We don’t always break things down as the strong safety, free safety, the money back, like a lot of things we did, it’s just a position, a spot on the field. I think we all understand that all three of us or all four of us on the field at any time can play at any of those positions. I think that allows us to say, ‘Remember last time we did this, in this game, you were here and you were there’ but this time because this is what they like you go here and I’ll go there. This that allows us to understand what we do defensively but also match it to whatever the offense does. Obviously, that’s what the coaches want to do. When the players can do that, it always helps.”

Belichick knows this and it’s pretty clear this trait - the ability to adjust on the fly - is something he appreciates a great deal. That’s why over the past five games, you haven’t noticed nearly as much movement and - let’s face it - confusion as there was in that first month. The players have shared history to fall back on and it’s smoothed out the communication and led to a much higher level of play.

“We can definitely go back to things that maybe we haven’t done in a while, talk about how we used this against Tampa or we used this against Buffalo or somebody and there’s good recall and good application of it,” Belichick said. “Yeah, there’s times where that definitely helps. Same thing on the offense, with guys like Tom [Brady], James White, Rob [Gronkowski], Danny [Amendola]  - guys that have done things together for multiple years. You got a situation that’s similar to a situation you had awhile back, you can go back and refer to that. You’re not going to be able to do that with Deatrich Wise or [Jacob] Hollister. They just haven’t had that kind of experience. But with experienced players, sure, that comes up from time to time. That’s a good reference.”

So, don’t be surprised Sunday in Mexico City if you see Harmon shaded over the top of Amari Cooper, or McCourty in the box providing an extra run fit, or Chung playing slot corner or linebacker. It’s old hat for a group that is asked to do more and routinely responds well to those challenges. 

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