What if refs get better? And 34 lines on 17 topics

What if refs get better? And 34 lines on 17 topics

By Tom E. CurranFOXBORO - So here's a dynamic to watch as the replacement referees get ready for their closeup this weekend. What if they ... do OK? What if the level of competence is indistinguishable from the work of the normal refs? The rush to pillory the replacements and have fun at their expense has been swift. I've gotten more than my share of shots in. But we all need to remember the weekly hand-wringing we do over calls missed and blunders executed by the regulars on the regular. The inevitable mistakes of the replacement crews have to be seen through that lens. Because the replacements will improve as time passes. If the negative impact they have in Week 1 is negligible, the leverage twists back to the league. And the specter of the replacements improving will make some of the holdout officials get a little nervous, especially when they start to weigh the chance of losing their part-time job which pays more then 150,000 a year. I have heard the words, "air traffic controllers" used this week. It's a reference to 1981 when Ronald Reagan fired the striking air traffic controllers, replaced them and simply moved forward. It's a risk the idling officials have to weigh while they wait for massive screw-ups by their replacements which will impact the game they presumably have a reverence for. Of course, if an owner like Jerry Jones loses a game because of a replacement officials incompetence, it will be interesting to watch how quickly his tune changes. Now, 34 lines on 17 MORE topics. If Brian Waters wants to play football this season, he'll be doing it for the Patriots. Unless someone blows their doors off with a trade offer, an unlikely scenario. I'm still a little stunned by the release of linebacker Bobby Carpenter. But it shows two things: 1) the surprising rise of Nate Ebner; 2) Bill Belichick's commitment to playing subdefense with five and six defensive backs even more than last year. Dan Koppen was a great guy to cover and - for a fifth-rounder - a tremendous success story. But the Patriots gave him every chance to emerge and show he could still do it at the level that would make him impossible to cut and he couldn't. If Koppen's final game was against the Giants, he went out with a verbal bang. When referee Don King couldn't get the call straight and the chaos was obvious, Koppen yelled from the sidelines, "Hey (posterior orifice)! Hurry the (freak) up!" The Patriots released Eric Kettani from their practice squad on Tuesday. I never really saw the appeal of even keeping him for that. Ras-IDowling's best days are ahead of him but he was outplayed by both Kyle Arrington and Marquice Cole in camp and games. We'll see who Matt Patricia wants playing outside when the Patriots go to nickel and Arrington or Cole slides inside to play the slot receiver. Stephen Gostkowski has had enough of Zoltan Mesko invading his locker space. Gostkowski put a thick piece of white tape down as a line of demarcation to guard against the punter's seepage of socks, etc. The Patriots first two opponents this year are the Titans and Cardinals. They outscored those two teams 106-7 combined the last time they met (47-7 in 2008 for the Cardinals, 59-0 in 2010 for the Titans). Tuesday night, the NFL Network replayed the Super Bowl. It's like watching a movie again and seeing all kinds of things of great import that got missed the first time around. The avalanche of bad luck, gaffesand big plays missed by the Patriots was too much to overcome. One that got lost was Rob Ninkovich jumping offsides on a third-and-7 at the Giants' 11 when a pass fell incomplete allowed the Giants to continue a fourth-quarter drive that ultimately ended with them pinning the Patriots at their 8. Never mind the fumbles that went unrecovered. Or the tipped pass on the Patriots final drive that was intended for a good-to-go-for-35-yards-or-so Deion Branch. Why am I discussing this? Not sure. But the catch Wes Welker wasn't able to come up with? It was almost identical to a clutch catch made in the Patriots-Giants regular season game by...Jake Ballard. Last wordson Ryan Mallett, who I don't believehas shown enough to be a twisted ankle from starting at quarterback.If Tom Brady's down for six games,Brian Hoyer might not win you games, but he won't lose them....don't feel that way about Mallett right now. Tweeted this Tuesday but, by the end of the week, you'll wish Devin and Jason McCourty shared a room and not a womb. IDENTICAL TWINS EVERYONE! Mayo Bowl III is at Kings in Dedham on September 10. Bang it here for the details. The first Quick Slants of the season is Thursday night, 7 p.m. Paoletti is geared up for 2012 so you'll want to tune in.

Patriots cut ties with Cassius Marsh, sign Eric Lee to help front-seven


Patriots cut ties with Cassius Marsh, sign Eric Lee to help front-seven

Cassius Marsh was brought to New England to help a depleted defensive end group and play in the kicking game. The Patriots wanted him badly enough that they parted with two draft picks -- a fifth and a seventh -- to acquire him in a trade with the Seahawks just before the start of the season. 

Less than three months later, they've decided to part ways with the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder. 

Marsh played in nine games for the Patriots this season, providing the team with an edge defender and someone with special-teams experience. He blocked a kick in Week 7 against the Falcons that earned him an enthusiastic attaboy from coach Bill Belichick. 

Coming off the edge, Marsh recorded one sack and 13 hurries. Against the run, he was used more sparingly, and he was one of the Patriots on the scene for Marshawn Lynch's 25-yard run in the second quarter on Sunday. He played in just two snaps in Mexico City after missing the previous week's game in Denver due to a shoulder injury. 

Without Marsh the Patriots remain thin at defensive end. In order to help bolster that spot, the corresponding move the Patriots made to fill the open spot on their 53-man roster was to sign defensive lineman Eric Lee off of the Bills practice squad. 

Lee entered the league with the Texans last season as an undrafted rookie out of South Florida. Listed at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, Lee has bounced on and off of the Bills practice squad this season since being released by the Texans before this season.

The Patriots got a good look at Lee during joint practices last summer with the Texans at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. In the preseason game with the Texans that week, Lee played 40 snaps and according to Pro Football Focus he had two quarterback hurries. The Patriots have a history of snagging players they've practiced against, and with Lee, that trend continues

Belichick takes some heat for 'earthquake' comment


Belichick takes some heat for 'earthquake' comment

Bill Belichick sounded less than enthused about traveling to Mexico to play a game. And his line about being "fortunate there was no volcano eruptions, earthquakes or anything else while we were down there," didn't exactly sit well with some folks south of the border.


“Personally, I wouldn’t be in any big rush to do it again,” Belichick said on his weekly appearance on WEEI's "Dale and Holley with Keefe" show Monday. “Players did a great job dealing with all the challenges that we had to deal with. I think we’re fortunate there was no volcano eruptions, earthquakes or anything else while we were down there. I mean you have two NFL franchises in an area that I don’t know how stable the geological plates that were below us [were], but nothing happened so that was good.”

Pancho Vera of ESPN Mexico took exception to Belichick's comment on Twitter, which, translated, called out the "ignorance of the genius of the NFL." More than 200 people were killed after a quake centered near Mexico City struck in September. 

Other Twitter users said, using Belichick's reasoning, they wondered if they'd be fortunate not to be killed or wounded in a mass shooting if they were to travel to the US:

Translated, the tweets read "I also have luck in Las Vegas I was not in a shooting" and "But you are right, I apply the same when I go to the U.S. and say I was fortunate I was not in some crazy shootout."