Patriots

Young Patriots running backs learning from veteran Woodhead

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Young Patriots running backs learning from veteran Woodhead

FOXBORO -- Without Kevin Faulk roaming through the Patriots locker room and in running back meetings at Gillette Stadium, Ivan Fears needed a veteran presence.

He needed someone who was going to show second-year running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, and rookie running back Brandon Bolden, that being a successful player in the NFL is more than just what you do on Sundays.

As the Patriots enter their bye weekend with a 5-3 record midway through the regular season, Fears' young -- and now very successful -- running back group is benefiting from the message of his eldest back: 27-year-old Danny Woodhead.

"Oh, I love to have a veteran around. Woody's my veteran," said the Patriots' running back coach on Thursday. "Ya, he's my veteran. Shoot, he keeps everything going in that room. He keeps the guys in tune and shows them how it's done, and how to be a professional athlete. Ya, that's my big dog right there. He's the boss of the room there."

Woodhead is in just his fourth NFL season. It wasn't too long ago that he was an undrafted fee agent who wasn't even invited to the NFL Combine.

He signed with the New York Jets in 2008 and spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve. In 2009, Woodhead played in 10 games for the Jets, rushing for 64 yards on 15 carries, and making eight catches out of the backfield for 87 yards.

Once he was released by the Jets in September of 2010, the Patriots signed him four days later, just a day before New England's Week 2 game against those same Jets.

Now, Woodhead seems to be a constant option for the Patriots' offense, especially in critical third-down situations. And the 5-foot-8 running back seems to move the chains almost every time you ask yourself, "Why are they giving it to Woodhead on third down again?"

Woodhead's reliability on the field is something for any running back on the Patriots' roster to admire. But his coaches see Woodhead's off-the-field mentality as a major asset to a team with such a young, inexperienced backfield.

"I think it helps to have some senior leadership, a veteran guy," said Fears. "For young guys coming in, this is a different game. This is not the college game, this is a different game. So, it helps to have somebody around. You've got to remember, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen were both here with Kevin Faulk and those guys last year, so, they got a chance to learn from those guys about little things about being a professional athlete. I mean, that's what it's all about. How you have to take care of your body, all the things that are important, off the field.

"None of those guys have a problem on the field," added Fears. "They practice, they play hard, but it's the little things they do off the field, that makes them successful, that gives them a chance for longevity in the league. Those are the things that they learn from the veteran guys."

And as Fears so adamantly and pleasantly points out, Woodhead is his "veteran guy".

"They watch him train," said Fears. "You've got to train off the field. You've got to prepare yourself to play. And they watch him study, and figure the importance of all those things. And those are a couple of things they have to figure out.

"These guys, they're used to everybody telling them everything to do. That doesn't happen anymore. They're men now. They're running their own life, you should say. So, they've got to make some decisions on their own, about what they're going to do off the field, in their free time. When they finish with us, at 3:30-4 o'clock in the afternoon, what are they doing? What are they doing? Man, that's the kind of stuff they have to learn from older guys. That's important."

For those who aren't in the Patriots team meetings or on the sidelines, it might be tough to grasp the fact that the seemingly soft-spoken Woodhead is such a leader amongst his peers. But in fact, he nearly defines the "Patriot Way".

Every answer he gives the media is as generic and by-the-book as you can possibly get. And given his history of being a Division II football player that's had to claw his way to the pros, it's clear that Woodhead is as humble as they come. Nothing has been handed to him. He's earned everything he's ever received in this game.

Now, in just his fourth full season in the league, he's giving back to a successful running corp that is clearly following his lead.

"What really opens their eyes is the success he's had on the field," said Fears. "That's what they're looking at. I mean, this guy's successful. He's not just on the bench. He's not watching the game. He's playing the game. They're saying, 'He's doing what I want to do, playing the game. So how's he get it done? That's what I want to do.'"

Belichick: Karras stepping in an illustration of why Patriots are good

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Belichick: Karras stepping in an illustration of why Patriots are good

Is it Tom Brady? Is it Bill Belichick? Well, yes and yes. But there are other reasons for why the Patriots are 8-2, obviously, and Belichick highlighted one of them by lauding one of the most unsung players on his 53-man active roster.

What Ted Karras did on Sunday -- filling in against the Raiders as the starting center in place of David Andrews -- was just one of many examples of a player making the most of an opportunity presented to him, Belichick explained.

PATRIOTS 33, RAIDERS 8

"Ted always works hard," he said after the Patriots beat the Raiders, 33-8. "Nobody spends more time at the facility than he does. Training. Preparing. He had an opportunity, and he stepped up and did the most with it. That's what we needed. That's why we have a good team. We have a lot of guys who do that."

Andrews came down with an illness last week and missed the team's final two practices at the Air Force Academy. As the primary fill-in at all three interior offensive line spots, Karras was tapped as the replacement, and he played all 60 offensive snaps for the Patriots in what was his first start since filling in for Shaq Mason during the 2016 season-opener. 

Karras had played just nine snaps going into the game -- all in a blowout against the Broncos the week prior -- but was part of an effort in the trenches that allowed Tom Brady to remain relatively clean for the vast majority of the game. On 38 drop-backs, Brady was pressured just seven times, he was hit three times, and he was sacked only once. And for the second consecutive week, Brady's offensive line was not penalized. 

Considering that Karras wasn't the only fill-in used, the offensive line's performance was all the more impressive. LaAdrian Waddle continued to be the primary replacement for Marcus Cannon, who is dealing with an ankly issue, and when Waddle left Sunday's game briefly on two different occasions then Cameron Fleming took his place. 

"They did a great job to step in like that . . . [Waddle] was battling out there, going against some really good players," Brady said. "It was a great team win. Great by the offensive line. They've really done a great job with the penalty situation, moving the line of scrimmage and so forth. Great protection. We just have to keep it going."

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Former Patriots wide receiver Terry Glenn killed in car crash

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Former Patriots wide receiver Terry Glenn killed in car crash

Terry Glenn, the Patriots' top draft pick in 1996 who had a tumultous six-year career with the team -- and who also caught the first NFL touchdown pass ever thrown by Tom Brady -- died early Monday morning in a one-car accident in Irving, Texas. He was 43.

Glenn wound up playing 12 years in the National Football League, joining first the Packers and then the Cowboys after leaving the Patriots in controversy in 2001. Glenn was involved in a pay dispute with the team during training camp, had issues with the coaching staff, and was deactivated by Bill Belichick after the fourth game of the year. He wasn't given a Super Bowl ring after the Pats beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.

He had earlier clashed with Bill Parcells as a rookie, with Parcells famously referring to Glenn as "she" when he was sidelined with a minor injury. He caught 90 passes for 1,132 yards and six touchdowns in '96 to help the Patriots advance to the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history; they were beaten by Green Bay in Super Bowl XXVI.

Glenn and Parcells reunited in Dallas in 2003 after Glenn had spent one yeat with the Packers, and he played the remainder of his career with the Cowboys. He had two 1,000-yard receiving seasons in Dallas.

According to reports, Glenn was with his fiance at the time of the accident. She's being treated at a local hospital for unspecified injuries.

He played college football at Ohio State.