Patriots

Patriots hope to take game out of officials' hands

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Patriots hope to take game out of officials' hands

FOXBORO -- The Patriots weren't blaming anything on the replacement officials, Wednesday.

Prior to practice, they were unaware of any progress between the NFL and NFL Referees Association, amidst reports that an agreement on a new deal was at hand.

Their comments about replacement officials were made with the belief that they would once again be on the field for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills. The overall sentiment in New England's locker room was that, regardless of who is officiating on Sunday, the Patriots know they have to be better at controlling what they can control.

"We all know whats going on," said Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch before Wednesday's practice. "We've just got to go out and take the game out of the refs hands and just play our game. We'll be ok.

"My biggest thing is, I'm staying as far away from that situation as possible," added Branch. "Let those guys handle that . . . I think enough is enough, but like I said, we've just got to go out and play our game. We can't worry about the refs."

Taking the game out of the officials' hands has, at times, been more difficult through the first three weeks of this season. But replacement officials or not, the Patriots saw the same tape of Sunday nights game that everybody else saw.

And if the regular refs are on the field Sunday, the Patriots will still have to take the game out of their hands by, quite simply, playing better football.

"That's our job every week," said Branch. "I'm talking about, for years. You never want to leave the game in anyone else's hands. It's our job, as players, to go out and play our game. Leave no doubt, period, regardless of the situation that we have going on now, versus if the original refs were in here. We've got to go out and make sure we play our game."

Doing so is just part of the mental toughness that goes along with an NFL season.

"Thats what we have to do," said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on Wednesday. "You cant really approach it any way else, other than to worry about what you can control. You cant worry about what call is made or not made, or who is out there, the wind, the weather, the crowd noise its just part of mental toughness that you have to persevere."

Most -- if not all -- of the Patriots seem to agree. Even those who have the most to improve upon from Sunday night's loss, like cornerback Devin McCourty.

Bad calls or not, replacement officials or regular officials, if McCourty and the rest of the Patriots defense can make the plays they failed to make against the Baltimore Ravens, they should be able to get back to .500 on Sunday.

"It's tough," said McCourty. "Each game has its own flow. I think the key for us is just working on what we can control. A lot of things we have no control over. But there are certain plays put there that we can control fully. And we've got to take advantage of them.

"Go out and play. What we do on the field is what really matters. That's how you play every game. You don't want to leave plays in someone else's hands."

Julio Jones presents Johnson Bademosi opportunity to prove he's not niche player

Julio Jones presents Johnson Bademosi opportunity to prove he's not niche player

None of us thought Johnson Bademosi would be starting this past Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the Jets because -- well -- that’s not what we perceive the 27-year-old to be. He’s a special teamer. It’s how he’s made his mark in the NFL dating back to 2012 with Cleveland. So why would that change in mid-October for a team he’s only been with for six weeks? Because Bademosi is -- and has always been -- intent on proving he’s more than a niche player.

“I see myself as a football player,” he said, “and whatever position they put me in, I’m going to try to be the best because that’s how I operate and who I am as a person. Whether that’s as a cornerback, on special teams, if they ask me to play wildcat quarterback. Whatever…”

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Bill Belichick and his staff asked for Bademosi to go on the field and not come off. He played 73 defensive snaps in addition to his usual core four special teams duties. 

“I felt like I played a whole game,” Bademosi joked, before saying, “I love playing football so I’m going to go out there and empty myself.”

He did just that, getting targeted only two times in the 24-17 win over the Jets. It was hoped that Bademosi would return to his normal specialist role, but with Stephon Gilmore still out with a concussion, it now seems more and more likely that the sixth year pro will have to be an ironman again Sunday night in primetime against the Falcons. Historically, the Pats have defended bigger receivers. That means Bademosi may be responsible for one of the most dangerous players in the league, Julio Jones.

“He’s an amazing player," he said. “We all know what he’s capable of. As a defense, we have to be prepared for him.”

The Pats were on Super Bowl Sunday and Jones still made a couple of ridiculous plays with either Logan Ryan or Eric Rowe in coverage with safety help over the top.

“He’s fast. He’s physical. He can jump. He can run. He’s smart. He’s everything you want in a wide receiver,” said Bademosi without blinking an eye. That’s the kind of confidence you want from a player at that position and facing this type of challenge. 

“You gotta believe in yourself,” he said “ I’m confident in my abilities. I work hard and trust my preparation.”

Being an elite athlete certainly helps. Bademosi was a scholarship football player at Stanford -- “some guy named Jim Harbaugh called” -- before ending up in the NFL. But it’s Bademosi’s willingness to go all in in the film room that impressed safety Devin McCourty. 

“…I think, honestly, the most work he did was probably with just himself jumping into the film, watching more stuff to exactly see,” said McCourty Thursday. “You know, when you’re a backup more, you’re kind of trying to see everything because you don’t know what role you might be thrust upon once you’re in the game. But, I think once he knew he was starting, it was kind of like, ‘Alright, let me focus in on this.’ I thought he did an awesome job of just being ready and competing.”

Bademosi will have to compete his ass off Sunday night, even against what has been to this point a physically compromised Jones. Based on what he did several days ago, there’s no reason to believe the Pats cornerback won’t bring everything he has, trying to prove again that he’s more than just a special teams whiz.

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