Patriots

Pats-Panthers practice participation/injury report: Burkhead still missing

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Pats-Panthers practice participation/injury report: Burkhead still missing

FOXBORO -- Rex Burkhead was the only Patriots player who missed practice on Thursday. It was the second straight day that the running back was not on the practice field. He's dealing with a ribs injury he suffered in Week 2 against the Saints.

Against the Texans, the split for Patriots backs wasn't drastically altered without Burkhead. Dion Lewis, who can serve as an all-purpose back, played 12 snaps. Versus the Saints in Week 12, he played 14 snaps. James White (the team's primary sub back) and Mike Gillislee (the team's big back) have not seen their roles change with Burkhead out, either. 

Utilizing Lewis more, however, could make sense for the Patriots in certain situations. They've struggled in short-yardage this season, but handing off to Lewis could potentially help them solve those woes.

The quickness Lewis has displayed at the line of scrimmage is unlike anything the Patriots have at that position, meaning when the Patriots offensive line has trouble generating movement -- which it has on third-and-one and fourth-and-one -- Lewis could potentially pick up yardage on his own by making tacklers miss. 

For example, in the third quarter against the Chiefs, Lewis was hit a yard behind the line of scrimmage, wiggled away, bounced off three tackles and somehow fell forward for five yards. Another example? In the third quarter against the Saints, Lewis was hit a yard behind the line of scrimmage again, spun out of two tackles, dove underneath two more hits and fell forward for a one-yard gain.

Neither of those plays featured opposing defenses stacking the line of scrimmage the way they would in a third-and-one or fourth-and-one situation, but maybe the Patriots will be willing to try something new if they need a yard to move the chains against the Panthers.

Here's Thursday's full practice participation/injury report, which featured no changes for the Patriots from Wednesday . . . 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
RB Rex Burkhead (ribs)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
WR Danny Amendola (concussion/knee)
OT Marcus Cannon (ankle/concussion)
WR Phillip Dorsett (knee)
S Nate Ebner (shoulder)
CB Stephon Gilmore (groin)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)
WR Matthew Slater (hamstring)

CAROLINA PANTHERS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
LB Jeremy Cash (calf)
LB Thomas Davis (rib)
DE Daeshon Hall (knee)
DE Charles Johnson (rest)
C Ryan Kalil (neck)
RB Jonathan Stewart (rest)
CB Daryl Worley (shoulder)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
QB Cam Newton (right shoulder)
WR Curtis Samuel (back)

FULL PARTICIPATION
WR Kelvin Benjamin (knee)
DT Star Lotulelei (shoulder)
DE Julius Peppers (rest)

Gimme s'more: New additions to keep an eye on

Gimme s'more: New additions to keep an eye on

Second in our series looking ahead to the opening of Patriots training camp July 26.

Patriots reporters had access to a handful of the team's spring workouts, but for fans, training camp represents the first opportunity to see the latest iteration of their team in person. And given the number of roster alterations made this offseason, there will be plenty for them to take in. 

Let's start with the first-round rookies. Isaiah Wynn and where he ends up on the offensive line will be worth a look. How Sony Michel's speed and pass-catching ability factors into the Patriots offense will be fascinating as well. 

Fellow first-year players Duke Dawson (will he compete as the "star" in the slot for Bill Belichick), Braxton Berrios (might there be an opening for him with Julian Edelman suspended), Ja'Whaun Bentley (could he help patrol the middle of the defense), JC Jackson and Keion Crossen (athletic corners who impressed in the spring) will garner interest as well. 

Then there are the veteran additions. Danny Shelton's arrival could prompt the Patriots and Brian Flores to lean on more 3-4 looks. Adrian Clayborn may provide the defense with a pass-rushing boost, particularly on third downs off the right side. Jeremy Hill looks like he'll compete with Mike Gillislee for "big back" duties. Cordarrelle Patterson might be able to take advantage of the new kickoff rules to make an impact as a return man. 

The newcomer who may generate the most interest? Jordan Matthews. His experience in the slot could make him a featured piece in the Patriots offense with Edelman out at the start of the season. 

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Harrison: Belichick's a better coach than Tomlin

Harrison: Belichick's a better coach than Tomlin

The who's-the-better-coach-Bill Belichick-or-Mike Tomlin? debate has been over for a while now -- last December may have been the final nail in that particular coffin -- but James Harrison played for both, he was Skip Bayliss and Shannon Sharpe's guest on FS1's Undisputed, so the question was a natural one:

Mike Tomlin [or] Bill Belichick?

"Belichick" was Harrison's quick, unequivocal answer.

By far?

"To me, yes."

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Okay, then, Why?

"Mike Tomlin's good as a head coach," said Harrison, the Steelers' long-time linebacker who finished his career with the Patriots last season. "He's a players' coach. I think he needs to be a little bit more disciplined . . . 

"The big thing with Belichick is, he's very regimented. He's disciplined. Everyone is going to be on the same page. It's not going to be anything as far as someone doing their own thing. Over there, their whole coaching staff is like that. You're going to know what you're doing. There's meeting after meeting; I ain't never been to so many meetings in my life . . . Man, I seen Tom Brady running to a meeting, scared to be late . . . I don't even know what happens if you're late to a meeting over there. 

'Cause everybody gets there on time?

"Yes. Yes."

The bottom line, in Harrison's mind, is this:

"Belichick is old school. Like, 'You're going to do it like this or it ain't gonna get done.' Like I said, playing for him is easy if you're used to [regimentation], if you're used to disicipline; (if you're used to it) it's not something that's hard to do. If you're not, then you're going to have some issues until you get in line."

And personally?

"Belichick's actually funny. He's nothing like the guy that you see on TV."

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