Patriots

Saints appear to be in hot water again

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Saints appear to be in hot water again

From Comcast SportsNetNEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The New Orleans Saints denied an anonymously sourced ESPN report on Monday which alleges that general manager Mickey Loomis' booth in the Superdome was wired so he could listen to opposing coaches' radio communications during games.ESPN could not determine if the system was ever used. The report on Monday's "Outside the Lines" said Loomis would have been able to eavesdrop on opponents from 2002 to 2004. The report also said the system was disabled in 2005, when the Superdome was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina.Saints spokesman Greg Bensel called the report "1,000 percent false.""We asked ESPN to provide us evidence to support their allegations and they refused," Bensel said. "The team and Mickey are seeking all legal recourse regarding these false allegations."Loomis explained his use of an earpiece and described his game-day setup in the Superdome booth in an emailed statement."I have a monitor in front of me in my booth that provides the league issued stats for the game," Loomis stated. "I have a small TV with the network broadcast and I have an earpiece to listen to the WWL-AM radio game broadcast."To think I am sitting in there listening and actually ... doing something with the offensive and defensive play calls of the opposing teams makes this story and the unnamed sources that provided the false information that much more less credible," Loomis' statement continued. "It just didn't happen."Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was the Saints' head coach from 2000 through 2005. In a comment the Saints forwarded to the AP by email, Haslett denied knowledge of any system that would have allowed for eavesdropping on opponents."At no time during my tenure as head coach with the New Orleans Saints did Mickey and I discuss monitoring opposing team coaches communication, nor did I have any knowledge of this," Haslett said. "To my knowledge this concept was never discussed or utilized."If the Saints had installed a system allowing them to listen in on their opponents it would have violated NFL rules and also could have infringed on federal wire-tapping laws."We were not aware of it," league spokesman Greg Aiello said. "We have no knowledge of the allegations."FBI spokeswoman Sheila Thorne said the agency's New Orleans office was aware of the situation, but wouldn't comment further.U.S. Attorney Jim Letten in New Orleans also said his office had been told about "general allegations" involving the Saints and possible wiretapping, but he did not elaborate. Letten declined to discuss who made the allegations, and whether they involved Loomis or any other Saints officials.For the Saints, the report in itself added to a slew of recent bad publicity, which began in early March when the NFL released a report describing a crunch-for-cash bounty system that provided improper cash bonuses to defensive players who delivered hits that hobbled targeted opponents.Commissioner Roger Goodell has suspended head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season in connection with the bounty probe. Loomis was suspended for the first half of the regular season and assistant head coach Joe Vitt was suspended six games.The team also lost its second-round pick in this week's NFL draft and was fined 500,000. Goodell took away the Saints' second-round pick in 2013 as well, but has said he may lessen that punishment if he is satisfied with the club's cooperation in the ongoing investigation.The NFL still has yet to hand down punishment to between 22 and 27 current and former Saints defensive players whom the league has said participated in the bounty program.

With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

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With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

Continuity along the offensive line was one of the reasons the Patriots were able to have the season they had in 2016. They tossed aside the early-season experiementation that Bill Belichick favored at times in order to establish a starting five that could be relied upon, if healthy, start to finish. 

They attacked 2017 with the same approach, but because of injury the consistency simply has not been the same. Both starting tackles, Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, have missed time injured this season, and Cannon will sit out again on Sunday as he continues to deal with an ankle injury. 

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The interior of the line has remained largely in place until this week when center David Andrews came down with an illness, missed two practices, and was ruled out. 

On a line where familiarity is key, where the center is the one making the calls, the one in constant communication with Tom Brady, what now?

The Patriots will likely turn to second-year man Ted Karras, who has the ability to play both guard spots and also backed up Andrews for the vast majority of training camp. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder was released at the end of camp, quickly signed to the Patriots practice squad, and then he re-signed to the active roster in Week 1 when Malcolm Mitchell was placed on injured reserve.

Karras, drafted in the sixth round in 2016 out of Illinois, was named a practice player of the week earlier this year and he earned some praise from Belichick before the Patriots took off for Mexico City.

"Ted works hard," Belichick said. "He loves football. He gets there early, stays late."

Belichick noted that Karras (nine snaps, all against the Broncos) hasn't played much this season, but he did see plenty of work early last season when he filled in for an injured Shaq Mason. He was the Week 1 starter at right guard in a win ver the Cardinals and he played 41 snaps in Week 2 against the Dolphins. 

The Patriots offensive line could also potentially turn to Joe Thuney at center. He's practiced there before and got some experience at the position during his time at NC State. This seems like the less likely move since the Patriots would then have to deal with two new players at different spots -- center and left guard (whether the player replacing Thuney would be Karras or rookie Cole Croston) -- which could have a domino effect on the rest of the line. 

However the Patriots choose to handle it, they'll face an interesting test south of the border. The Raiders feature a pair of talented pass-rushers in Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack, who Belichick says play all over the offensive line, yet Oakland is tied for last in the league in sacks. 

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Bill Belichick takes time to admire yet another opposing punter

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Bill Belichick takes time to admire yet another opposing punter

If the Patriots are about to go up against one of the more talented punters in the league, one way or another, you're bound to hear about it from Bill Belichick.

Sometimes Belichick will go into great detail on opposing punters in one of his weekly press conferences. Sometimes he'll go out of his way to highlight a punter during one of his "breakdowns" on Patriots.com. 

He went the latter route this week, gushing over Raiders punter Marquette King.

"We usually don't have the punters on the highlights here, but King's a very athletic punter," Belichick said. "He runs a lot of fakes, a guy you have to really be conscious of as a both holder on field goals and punts on fakes."

King is the No. 2 punter in the league when it comes to net punting (45.5 yards), and he's tenth in the league in terms of the number of punts dropped inside the 20-yard line. 

"King is an athletic guy," Belichick reiterated, "and he can change field-position big time."

Add him to the list of big-legged punters -- "weapons," if you will -- Belichick has praised in the past.

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