Patriots News and Notes

Both Patriots to miss Pro Bowl

The New England Patriots made a number of roster moves, allocated players to NFL Europe shared some staffing change announcements to kick off their offseason. What else is happening in and around Foxborough? -- Get inside to find out.

NOTES

--Quarterback Tom Brady has cited an injury and will not play in the Pro Bowl.

-- Defensive lineman Richard Seymour has opted out of the Pro Bowl as well, citing injury concerns also. The absence of both Brady and Seymour leaves the Patriots without a Pro Bowl player.

--New defensive coordinator Dean Pees isn't planning any radical changes on his side of the ball. He has extensive experience in the 3-4 alignment the Patriots favor, dating all the way back to his days as an Ohio high school coach in 1974. And after serving as the Patriots' linebackers coach for the last two seasons, he knows that head coach Bill Belichick sets the Big Picture agenda.

"All I'm going to try to do is continue what we do," Pees, 56, said. "It is really Bill's scheme."

Pees has been in the NFL for just two years, since the Patriots lured him away from a head-coaching gig at Kent State (1998-2003). But he spent 15 seasons as a college defensive coordinator, including two stints (at Toledo and Michigan State) under Belichick disciple Nick Saban, now the coach of the Dolphins.

"I think when you have to stand in front of a defense and a team and present ideas and teach, I think there is certainly some carry-over" from college to the NFL, Pees said. "Hopefully all of that (experience) will help me do a good job here."

Pees succeeds Eric Mangini, who held the job for one season before leaving to become head coach of the New York Jets.

This past season, Pees' veteran linebacking crew overcame a rough start to become the strength of the defense. Tedy Bruschi returned from an offseason stroke in Week 8. Mike Vrabel led the team in tackles after switching from outside linebacker to inside. And Rosevelt Colvin, Willie McGinest and Vrabel finished 1-2-3 on the team in sacks, collecting more than half the team's total. Said Pees: "This group, from day one, from the minute I walked into this office, was special."

-- Age (29 in this case) is just a number, according to new Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Less than 10 years removed from his own college career as a Div. III quarterback-turned-receiver, McDaniels belatedly inherits the job vacated by Charlie Weis, who left after the 2004 season to coach Notre Dame.

McDaniels is only a year older than quarterback Tom Brady, who turns 29 in August.

"I don't really look at it as an advantage or a negative for me," said McDaniels, who becomes the youngest coordinator in the NFL. "Every job that I have had here Bill (Belichick) has given me because he felt like I was ready for it. I trust his judgment and have faith in whatever he tells me that I'm ready to do. If he feels like I'm ready to do this, then I do, too."

The Patriots did not have an official offensive coordinator this season. Belichick would not reveal who called the plays, although he noted early in training camp that he would be "responsible" for whatever plays were called.

McDaniels, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, Brady and Belichick all were believed to be part of the decision-making process. It was McDaniels, though, who relayed the calls in to Brady. Asked who would be calling the shots in 2006, McDaniels was coy, saying only, "We'll come up with a plan together."

--Bill Belichick's playoff coaching record (including a 1-1 mark in Cleveland) dropped to 11-2, an .846 winning percentage. That means that Vince Lombardi (9-1, .900) once again owns the best postseason coaching mark in league history. Washington's Joe Gibbs (17-6, .739) is third. Since 2001, Belichick's overall mark (regular season and playoffs) is 68-23 (.747). That's still tops among NFL coaches. Pittsburgh's Bill Cowher (60-27-1, .688) is second.

--Team owner Bob Kraft told The Boston Globe that Belichick's contract does not expire after next season. The last public acknowledgment of Belichick's contract status came at the start of the 2003 training camp when the team announced that he had signed a two-year extension through 2006. Kraft declined any further comment on the topic.

--By virtue of their 27-13 win in the divisional playoffs, the Broncos became the first team since the 2000 Jets and Dolphins to beat the Patriots twice in the same season. Since 2001, the Patriots had been 18-3 in in-season rematches, including 6-0 when they had lost the first game.

--The Patriots have not lost back-to-back games since December 2002. Their current streak of 49 straight regular-season games without consecutive defeats is the longest in franchise history. The 1995-99 49ers hold the NFL record at 60 straight regular-season games without back-to-back losses.

--The Patriots ended the regular season with four players ranked in the top nine on the NFL's career sacks list for active linebackers. Willie McGinest and Chad Brown are tied for first with 78 sacks each. Rosevelt Colvin is eighth with 40, and Mike Vrabel is No. 9 with 34. Brown entered the league in 1993, McGinest in 1994. Colvin's rookie season was 1999, two years after Vrabel broke in.

--Despite being picked off twice by the Broncos, quarterback Tom Brady still owns the lowest playoff interception percentage in NFL history (1.36 percent). He has thrown five career interceptions in 367 playoff attempts. Bart Starr ranks second at 1.41 percent (three in 213 attempts), followed by Phil Simms (2.15 percent, six in 279 attempts).

--Slow playoff starts such as the one they experienced in Denver are nothing new to the Patriots. Their last three playoff games, and five of their last six, have featured scoreless first quarters for both teams. The exception was last year's AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh, in which the Patriots led 10-3 after the first quarter. Since grabbing a 14-10 lead over Green Bay after 15 minutes of Super Bowl XXXI, the Patriots have been shut out in the first quarter in 10 of their last 14 playoff games. They failed to score in the first quarter against the Jaguars and Broncos in this postseason.

Family Guy:

Quarterback Tom Brady made a special guest appearance on FOX's show The Family Guy show in an episode title "Patriot Games" which aired on Sunday night. Last year, Brady guest starred on another FOX animated show, The Simpsons.

More on the Show: Article (Bostonist) :: Reviews (TV.com) :: Official Site (familyguy.com)

Still Mad:

"There were some real questionable decisions. No doubt about that. ... I'm surprised that was a playoff (officiating) crew." - Bill Belichick on the controversial calls in the Patriots' playoff loss to the Broncos.

Groin Injury:

According to a number of reports, quarterback Tom Brady decided to withdraw from the NFL Pro Bowl for what was assumed to be either a lower leg injury or an aggravated shoulder issue. The real injury appears to be a groin issue which sidelined the signal caller.

Although he was able to play in a celebrity golf tournament this past weekend, Brady felt unfit to play football in February in Hawaii. Willie MCGinest talked a little about Brady's injury on the Dan Patrick Show on ESPN yesterday, saying that he knew Brady was hurt, but everyone was hurt at the end of the season. He went on to describe Brady as "tough" and not the type of player to let injuries keep him out of action if he could play.

NFL Europe:

The Patriots have designated their players for the 2006 NFL Europe League. Among the list are a few names the team has had in camp or on their practice squad previously.

Here are the players who are going to the NFLEL:

RB Earl Charles
QB Todd Mortensen
WR Rich Musinski
T Jeff Roehl
CB Antwain Spann
G Nick Steitz
S Raymond Ventrone.

 

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