Patriots

After six stops in less than a year, Lucien working hard to stick with Pats

After six stops in less than a year, Lucien working hard to stick with Pats

FOXBORO -- Thursday's preseason opener wasn't a showcase for the Patriots wide receivers by any stretch. There were moments of great competency but, with the velocity-challenged Brian Hoyer taking most of the snaps, it wasn't an aerial circus.

But the wideout who made the most of his opportunities against Washington was Devin Lucien. He had a team-high 71 yards on four catches (six targets).

Another catch came on a little in-cut and required a well-executed hands catch on a ball that was away from his body.

Also impressive was the block he threw on running back Ralph Webb's first touchdown when he got into a Washington defender and walked him through the end zone, sealing the edge for Webb.

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"We were taught to make sure we leave one," Lucien explained, referring to the process of selecting a defender to block and leaving the other for the back to beat 1-on-1. "I ended up getting the linebacker. The linebacker, I tried to push him into the other dude that I was supposed to get and it ended up being a touchdown for Ralph. When you've got people like Julian (Edelman) and them blocking like they do all the time, you just kind of do your best like they do."

It was a helluva block and the kind of play that will earn Lucien notice as much as the pre-halftime catches.

Getting noticed has not been an issue for Lucien since he was drafted by the Patriots in the seventh round in 2016. Getting a toehold has been an issue.

After being cut at the end of camp as a rookie, the Patriots were able to re-sign Lucien and have him on the practice squad that year. But an injury at the end of camp last year caused the Patriots to put him on IR. They then released him from IR after an injury settlement. And Lucien went on an odyssey from New England to Indianapolis to Kansas City to Houston to Tampa Bay. He finished 2017 on the Bucs roster but was released in May. The Patriots picked him up again.

He's made six stops in less than a year. He still has no regular-season NFL statistics.

"We're glad to get him back this year," Belichick said after Thursday's game. "He's made some good plays in practice and he made some good plays tonight. He gained some experience in several organizations and I'm sure those places were a good learning experience for him."

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Lucien acknowledged that things went pretty OK against Washington.

"I felt like it was a good way to start," he said. "A good way to start the preseason. I know there is a lot to work on both as a group and individually. I'm just trying to do that and do my best during the preseason and the regular season if I'm blessed enough to be around."

Asked if he'd be able to take a satisfied breath after his performance, Lucien indicated he wouldn't.

"I'm actually going to be looking at the Philadelphia Eagles (the Patriots Game 2 opponent)," he said. "I'll see what I did wrong but after that, I'm working on Philly. You can't wait, especially here. You can't focus on the past at all. It's on to the present and the future."

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How Jimmy Garoppolo won his 49ers teammates over soon after Patriots trade: 'It was sick'

How Jimmy Garoppolo won his 49ers teammates over soon after Patriots trade: 'It was sick'

MIAMI -- George Kittle was dressed as a pirate. It was the day before Halloween of his rookie season. He was going to celebrate the holiday as any 24-year-old would. Then, as any 24-year-old would, he peeked down at his phone to check on a notification.

Jimmy Garoppolo had been traded by the Patriots to Kittle's 49ers. He had a new quarterback.

"I said, 'Wow, that's really interesting.' It was cool," Kittle remembered. "Jimmy G. Two Super Bowls. Hell of a leader. It's fun to have someone like that."

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Kittle and other Niners this week remembered the deal that sent Garoppolo to San Francisco and in the process changed the course of the franchise. They couldn't have known exactly what they had then. Garoppolo had only two NFL starts to his name. But now, sitting in front of microphones in Miami in the days leading up to Super Bowl LIV, they couldn't believe their good fortune that Garoppolo landed in their laps. 

The hints that they had something in Garoppolo came early. 

"Honestly, it sounds cliche but it's real, it was at the first practice," said fullback Kyle Juszczyk. "He ran the scout team the first day. And that first period he absolutely diced our defense. You could see it in his footwork, his mechanics, the confidence that he emitted. You could see that this guy was the real deal."

For Kittle, the sign came loud and clear that his offense had a new leader. It came before Garoppolo even made his first throw from under center. 

"It was funny, his first play under center, he has a really good cadence," Kittle said, referring to the quarterback's calls at the line of scrimmage. "He has a good voice for it. Right after he said, 'Hut! Hut! Hike!' for the first time, everyone was like, 'Whoa! Nice!' It was sick."  

"Very authoritative," offensive tackle Joe Staley said of Garoppolo's line-of-scrimmage vocals. The 13-year veteran smiled and added, "He's commanding. Lets you know he's there."

It came together quickly for Garoppolo in his second professional stop. He started five games after being traded, winning all five, and completing 67.4 percent of his passes at a clip of 8.8 yards per attempt. 

He tore his ACL after three games the following season, but rediscovered his 2017 form this season. The Niners went 13-3 with Garoppolo taking the snaps. He completed 69.1 percent of his throws (fourth in the NFL), threw 27 touchdown passes (sixth), and put up an 8.4 yards per attempt figure (third). 

"I didn't really know much, actually," Staley said of Garoppolo's days in New England. "I remember the one game he had in Arizona where he started and did really, really well. But didn't know much. Didn't have much of a reaction [to the trade] either way. Knew everyone was really high on him. 

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"Then he came in here and he really blew me away. In the huddle. All the little nuances of being a quarterback. The command that he had. His quick release. You could definitely tell that he was trained in that Patriots system as far as getting rid of the ball fast, which is awesome for an offensive lineman. He's continued to grow and develop since he's been here. It's been awesome to see him get to this point."

The Niners are back in the Super Bowl after a 4-12 record last season. Back in the Super Bowl with a chance to win one for the first time since January 1995. And thanks in part to Tom Brady continuing to play at an MVP level the season Garoppolo was dealt, thanks to the Patriots holding onto Garoppolo until midseason that year, all it cost the Niners to change everything was a second-round pick.

"I think," Juszczyk said, "we got him for a bargain."

Tom Brady reacts to Dante Scarnecchia's retirement with heartfelt message

Tom Brady reacts to Dante Scarnecchia's retirement with heartfelt message

On Tuesday, longtime New England Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia decided to call it a career.

Several Patriots players bid farewell to the soon-to-be 72-year-old via Instagram, including quarterback Tom Brady.

Brady left a comment on the Patriots' Instagram announcement, commending Scarnecchia's for his unmatched dependability:

Couldn't have been a greater man or coach! What a privilege to play and work with Dante for two decades. The definition of the Patriot Way - consistent and dependable EVERY DAY!!

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Five of the Patriots' six Super Bowl titles came with Scarnecchia coordinating the blocking schemes that protected Brady.

As for who will take on the difficult task of replacing Scar, assistants Cole Popovich and Carmen Bricillo appear to be the leading candidates.