Patriots

Slater on Ninkovich: 'He gave everything he had'

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Slater on Ninkovich: 'He gave everything he had'

FOXBORO -- As one of the longest tenured Patriot players, Rob Ninkovich ended his career Sunday. Another of the “old guys,” Matthew Slater, paused to reflect on the first time he met a man who wasn’t just a longtime teammate, but a friend.

“I always joke with him, 2009, I think we signed him in August {August 2nd}, the middle of camp,” said Slater. “He came in wearing number 45. This guy was running all over the place, making plays and our coaches can’t say his name but they were saying ‘hey, this is a guy, this is the type of effort we need.’ That was Rob. He gave everything he had. To go from a guy wearing number 45 not knowing if he was going to be here, to having contributed for the last eight years, it’s truly remarkable. It speaks to his character, what type of man he is and what type of football player he was.”

Slater was one of many on the team - players, coaches, training staff - who filed into the media workroom and listened to every word spoken by and about Ninkovich. It was a great tribute to the player, but maybe even moreso to the person. Every one in that room lined up to share an embrace with the 33-year old. Every. Single. One.

“As a teammate of his, it’s bittersweet. You’re going to miss a guy like that,” Slater told me after practice. “It’s not only for what he did for us on the football field either. Rob and I have had a tremendous friendship over the years - and that’s going to continue  - but a piece of you is kind of like ‘man, I hate to see him go.’ At the same time, we’re celebrating what he accomplished, what he gave of himself to the organization…he should be very proud of everything he’s accomplished over the last 11 years.”

The Patriots' only healthy QB offers little insight on Brady injury

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The Patriots' only healthy QB offers little insight on Brady injury

FOXBORO -- Brian Hoyer did his best Sgt, Schultz impression Thursday afternoon.

He saw nothing, he knows nothing and, had we asked him, Hoyer probably would have denied even Tom Brady’s existence. The Patriots backup quarterback has been thrust into the spotlight because of the right-hand injury Brady suffered in practice Wednesday. Though Brady appeared at the media access portion of today’s session, the team listed him on the injury report as not having participated. That would mean Hoyer -  as the team’s only healthy signal caller - had to get more reps than usual, right? 

“Define what is usual,” he said. “Since I’ve been here there’s been days where I’ve taken a lot of reps and days where I’ve taken any. I just do what’s asked of me.”

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So, you were asked to do more today?

“You’ll have to check the injury report. I don’t know if they put that on there or not.”

Okay then. This was just the beginning of a question-and-answer session that provided many of the former and almost none of the latter. Hoyer said he “wasn’t there” when the injury happened. When asked if Brady threw any passes today, the normally genial Hoyer paused before saying tersely, “you have to ask somebody else that question. I’m not going to answer that question.”

There were also a couple of “I’m not going to speak for him” or “you have to ask him” responses. Not unexpected given the nature of the queries but also handled better by every player we spoke to today, from Trey Flowers saying he’s not a hand doctor to James White joking the world will never know how Brady was injured to Kyle Van Noy saying of Brady: “He always looks good. He’s handsome”.

What Hoyer did have a good handle on was what he needs to do to be ready if his number does get called Sunday in the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.  

“I prepare every week like I’m going to play,” he said. “Whether I do or don’t...that’s not really up to me. I did the one thing I can benefit from since I was the backup here - I played a lot of football. I’ve been a starter for three different teams. I know how to prepare as a starter. Whether I’m given those reps or not, each rep I’m not getting I take as a mental rep. I stand back there and I go through and I try to think who I’d go to, who would I’d make the Mike [middle linebacker] on this play. Whether I’m getting the reps or not I’m always preparing to play because you never know when your name is going to be called.”

The Patriots hope it doesn’t come to that. Hell, maybe even Hoyer hopes it doesn’t come to that.

“If I don’t play, that’s good for our team.”

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Brady injury has moved Patriots-Jaguars line 1.5 points

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Brady injury has moved Patriots-Jaguars line 1.5 points

FOXBORO -- You would have to be either supremely confident or supremely behind on current events to place a bet on the Patriots in this weekend's AFC title game. 

Tom Brady suffered a hand injury in Wednesday's practice and he was held out of Thursday's session (for all but the stretching portion), leaving him one final chance to practice on Friday before the Jaguars make their way to Gillette Stadium for a shot at a Super Bowl berth. 

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It's unclear how Brady's hand issue will impact his ability to play on Sunday. The expectation is that he will play, but his effectiveness . . . for now seems somewhat uncertain. And the line has moved as a result. 

The Patriots were once nine-point favorites at Caesars Palace, and they are now favored by 7.5 points. Westgate's line made the same move from Patriots -9 to Patriots -7.5. 

For those who feel as though Brady will be OK as he takes on the league's top-ranked passing defense, this represents a golden opportunity. For everyone else, this is probably a good time to focus your gambling efforts on the NFC Championship Game.