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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, which is timely because the team’s recent deployment of wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson as a running back has a Packers-like twist to it.

That was one of the points that running backs coach Ivan Fears made Wednesday when asked about Patterson leading the team with 10 carries for 38 yards in Monday’s win over the Buffalo Bills.

Emphasizing that it wasn’t a big deal, Fears noted that the Packers had done something similar when they turned Ty Montgomery from a receiver to a running back in 2016. It was often unusual to see No. 88 running the ball for the Packers the last two years before his trade to Baltimore, just as it was Monday night to watch No. 84 taking handoffs that a traditional running back would normally be getting.
Cordarrelle Patterson likely won’t get the 25 caries he talked about getting, in fact he may not get any if Sony Michel returns, but his versatility to be able to get 10 on Monday night helped the Patriots. Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
“Come on! It’s nothing new,” Fears said in his always-excitable delivery. “This is football. You have 11 guys and you take the best guys you can throw on the field, and if they can make a play for you, you try to get them in position. We had a need. We thought this was a great idea, because if you give that kid the ball, he makes things happen. So how many ways can we find a way to give him the ball? Hell, just line him up back there and give it to him! Let him run! Don’t make it harder than that.”

The Patriots did that 10 times with Patterson, compared to eight with James White and twice with Kenjon Barner, and Patterson – who had played some halfback with the Raiders, according to Bill Belichick — loved it. After the game, he said he hopes to get 25 carries this week.

It’s also possible that he might not get any if rookie running back Sony Michel (knee) is ready to return. Without Michel, the Patriots were down to just two healthy running backs. They could have promoted Kenneth Farrow from the practice squad, but that would have required another roster move to make room for him.

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Instead, they turned to Patterson.

“We needed help. The answers were not too many, not many choices,” Fears said of the team’s thought process in turning to Patterson. “There was one looking right at us, and he was willing. He was like, ‘Hey! I can do that.’ Really? Well, let’s see. And then you thought about it, well, yeah.

“You have injuries and stuff you have to deal with, you don’t always have space to get people. You have to use what you got.”

Prior to that point, the Patriots had used Patterson as more of a gadget option on offense.


As for how much Patterson might be used as a traditional running back in the weeks to come, Belichick hinted that what unfolded Monday was more of a short-term fix because of the temporary personnel shortage.

“We had a couple things for him and didn’t have a lot of depth at running back, so we were able to utilize him as part of the group at that position,” Belichick said on sports radio WEEI. “A couple plays he got whacked pretty good. But he runs hard, he’s tough, has good size, good power. I don’t think it’s … we’ll see how it goes.

“We’ll see where we’re at relative to who’s available and how we want to structure the game plan. But I’d say [running back depth is] a concern.”

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Brandon Marshall has two things that were noticeably lacking in the Seattle Seahawks’ wide receiver corps before they agreed to terms with the six-time Pro Bowler on Tuesday: size at the top of the depth chart and experience on the back end of it.

He also has a 34-year-old body with 12 seasons of NFL wear and tear on it, including an ankle injury that limited him to five games and 18 catches last year with the New York Giants. That led them to release him last month with a failed-physical designation.

It’s no wonder that Seattle’s addition of Marshall appears to be on the lower end of the risk spectrum.
At 6-foot-4, Brandon Marshall gives Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson a big target. Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports
While the full details have yet to emerge, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Marshall’s one-year contract can be worth up to $2 million if incentives are reached. The minimum salary for a player who has been around as long as Marshall has is $1.015 million, so the signing bonus is apparently under $1 million. For context, the max value of $2 million is a fraction of the $11.5 million that Doug Baldwin makes on average, and it’s less than the $2.75 million the Seahawks will pay in 2018 to Jaron Brown, who is also in the mix to be one of their top three receivers.

Signing Brown (6-foot-3, 204 pounds) and Marshall (6-4, 230) gives Russell Wilson a pair of big targets to go along with Baldwin and Tyler Lockett, who are both 5-foot-10 and less than 200 pounds. Those additions came after Seattle brought in Terrelle Pryor Sr. (6-4) for a free-agent visit and reportedly had one scheduled with Jordy Nelson (6-3) before he signed with Oakland. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the Seahawks’ interest in big-bodied receivers comes after their passing game lost its biggest body when they let tight end Jimmy Graham — he of 10 red-zone touchdowns last season — leave for Green Bay.

Marshall becomes the 12th receiver on Seattle’s roster, though one could be waived to make room. Had they not signed Marshall or another available veteran, the Seahawks would have been counting on one or more of their unproven youngsters to contribute to the rotation in 2018. It’s a group that has plenty of potential but not much production to this point in their respective careers. In fact, the trio of Tanner McEvoy (14), Amara Darboh (eight) and Marcus Johnson (five) have combined for 27 receptions while the others behind Baldwin, Lockett, Brown and now Marshall — i.e. David Moore, Cyril Grayson Jr., Damore’ea Stringfellow, Keenan Reynolds and Caleb Scott — don’t have any.

Marshall, meanwhile, has six seasons of at least 100 receptions, the most in NFL history per ESPN Stats & Information research. He has topped 1,000 yards eight times, most recently in 2015, when he also finished in a tie for the league lead with 14 touchdown catches. His numbers dropped considerably in 2016 — 59 catches, 788 yards, three touchdowns — but Seattle’s offense would gladly take that type of production in 2018 if Marshall could replicate it.
At his age, Marshall doesn’t offer Seattle much long-term upside, and therein lies a drawback to signing him even at a rate that protects the team from any substantial financial risk. There are only so many game snaps and practice reps to go around, especially with the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement considerably reducing the amount of on-field work teams can do each offseason. Any time that Marshall gets in practice or games is time that one of Seattle’s younger receivers doesn’t get. That had to be a consideration, particularly with regards to Darboh (2017 third-round pick), Moore (’17 seventh-rounder) and Johnson (acquired from Philadelphia in the Michael Bennett trade).

But if one of those receivers plays well enough to beat out Marshall for the fifth or sixth roster spot — depending on how many Seattle keeps — it’ll be a good sign for the long-term future of the position. And if Marshall makes the team, it’ll mean he showed enough over the summer to convince the Seahawks that he still has something left in the tank.

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots are in the fifth week of their voluntary offseason program, and for the first time this decade, quarterback Tom Brady hasn’t been a participant.

It is part of the “less is more” philosophy Brady detailed two weeks ago at the Milken Institute Global Conference, saying family considerations are part of his decision while explaining, “I’m really trying to fill my tank up so that when I do go back, I’ll actually be, in my mind, a better teammate because I’ll be really rejuvenated.”
Few doubt Tom Brady is keeping himself in top shape, which is why he’s getting the benefit of the doubt while missing voluntary workouts. Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire
To Brady’s former teammate Matt Chatham (2000-2005), who now works as an analyst for the New England Sports Network, the approach makes sense even if he might have questioned it as a younger player.

“It’s not even a question of preparing your body, but psychologically, Tom is in uncharted waters,” Chatham said. “The hardest part for older players — and my last season I was 31 — is the routine. It gets really f—ing old. It doesn’t mean you don’t love to train, and don’t love to push yourself, and don’t want to stay on top, but I think it comes to a point, ‘Would the team be one day or one week sharper, or whatever, if Tom was there for every day of voluntary [work]?’ Yeah, probably. But what’s the return on that investment? You maybe get a more tired guy in November and December. Do you get a guy that starts to wear down? You don’t want that to happen.

“Tom lives in a different universe than everybody else because he’s done something different than any player has [at age 40].”

Former Patriots quarterback and sports-radio host Scott Zolak, who has been the color analyst on Patriots radio broadcasts since 2012, acknowledges that point. He’s one of Brady’s biggest boosters.

At the same time, Zolak pointed out, “Everyone keeps stressing ‘this is voluntary, this is voluntary,’ so this is excused. I’m a guy that fought it forever, and if I’m not around, I’m not seen and I’m not heard. Bill Parcells used to say that. But they like gym rats. I’ve never heard the offseason program, with this organization, be talked about as ‘voluntary’ as much as I have these last two months or so. I know it says voluntary, but there has always been an expectation that you do whatever you can to be there.”

And therein lies a significant part of what makes Brady’s absence notable to some people who have been closely connected to the Patriots’ program in Bill Belichick’s 19 years as head coach.

Whereas some teams have sporadic attendance for their voluntary program, the Patriots traditionally have had closer to full attendance on an annual basis. Brady’s presence at voluntary workouts, when he would often win a preferred front-row parking spot for exemplary performance, has had a tone-setting impact on his teammates.

“The workout part of it isn’t a big deal, because you know Tom is working out hard … but if he doesn’t show up for the OTA/minicamp part of it, that’s probably more of an issue because then guys aren’t taking reps [with him].”
Rob Ninkovich,
former Patriots linebacker
To highlight that point, consider remarks made by owner Robert Kraft in 2010, when Brady was absent for the first week of the voluntary program before showing up.

“If you’re asking me if I’d prefer he be here the whole offseason, yes,” Kraft said at the time. “To me, he’s the most unique, special leader and player in the NFL. They are voluntary. He has a family. Look at your lives, you’ve all changed; so it’s priorities. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s working out hard.

“Would we be better as a team if he was in Foxborough every day between now and the start of training camp? Absolutely. Does it work for him? I don’t know. I think he’s balancing a lot of things. I hope he spends as much time as he can in Foxborough and I believe he will.”

This past Friday, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels echoed some of those thoughts.

“Obviously, this is a voluntary part of our year. We don’t have any control over that part of it. As coaches, selfishly, we always want them all here, because that’s when we have the most fun and you enjoy working with them all,” McDaniels said. “But I totally understand those things happen, it’s happened here before, [and] I have no doubt that he’s doing what he thinks is right for him and his family, and I completely respect that. I know he’ll be ready to go, and I know he’ll be in good shape and good condition, and I’m sure he’s working really hard.”

That’s precisely why Chatham and former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich (2009-2016) don’t view Brady’s decision to stay away as a big deal. Brady’s children are now 10, 8 and 5.

“Would you really, in your heart of hearts — after knowing this guy for 18 years — think there would be any concern with the level he would show up were he not under your care? That really has to be the fundamental question you ask if you care if someone comes to voluntary [workouts] or not,” Chatham said. “With Tom, I think you’re so far past that, you might be doing more harm having him there than not. It can just be mental fatigue over the course of the year.”

“I think the Tom thing is a little overblown,” added Ninkovich, who has maintained a residence in Massachusetts, and thus is aware of how it has become a hot topic of conversation on sports talk radio. “The workout part of it isn’t a big deal, because you know Tom is working out hard, and his specific workout [with trainer Alex Guerrero] that is going to help him play at a high level as a 41-year-old quarterback.

“So I don’t look into it at all, but if he doesn’t show up for the OTA/minicamp part of it, that’s probably more of an issue because then guys aren’t taking reps [with him]. You’d have Brian Hoyer taking all the first-team reps [at quarterback] and that’s not an ideal situation that you’d want going into training camp.”

The OTA/minicamp part of the voluntary offseason program, which lasts one month, begins next week. The mandatory minicamp as part of Phase 3 is June 5-7.

Up to this point, the Patriots have had two weeks of Phase 1 (limited to strength and conditioning work) and are currently in the third week of Phase 2 (only individual drills allowed, with all coaches on the field).

Of the upcoming third phase, Zolak said, “The way the league is now, with limited practice time, the OTAs and throwing activities are extremely important. Especially to them.”
So if Brady doesn’t show up at that point, it would cause Zolak to wonder if there is something more behind Brady’s offseason approach. Zolak remembers how Brady came back from a four-game NFL suspension in 2016 with a vengeance, and perhaps there is a similar storm brewing within him after his trainer, Guerrero, had his access restricted at Gillette Stadium by Belichick last year.
“He was devastated and so hurt by that suspension [in 2016], which he viewed as a knock on his character and the way he played the game, and totally unjustified. He came out like gangbusters, so it could be that mentality from him this offseason — that I’m so upset with something but I’m going to totally internalize it and channel it to make me the best when I’m back out there,” Zolak said, theorizing.

Regardless, Zolak emphasized that by the time the Patriots arrive for training camp in late July, he expects everyone to be operating off the same script. That includes tight end Rob Gronkowski, who also has stayed away from the voluntary offseason program this year.

Chatham is also aligned with that viewpoint as it relates to Brady not being present at voluntary workouts.

“There are a lot of younger players, and there were probably moments when I thought it, where it’s, ‘Come on, I have to go through this, you have to go through it too.’ But the older you get, the more experience you have, you realize that is kind of a silly attitude to have,” he said. “You grow out of that really fast. And I’m talking about Tom, who is two times past that point. He’s so far beyond the scale that if there is a person who is offended by it, I would love to hear their perspective and the validity of their argument.”

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TAMPA, Fla. — New Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Chandler Catanzaro is the Bucs’ eighth kicker in six seasons, but their struggles at the position — including swinging and missing badly with second-round draft pick Roberto Aguayo in 2016 — aren’t looming over his head like an imminent storm.

“I’m pretty aware [of the Bucs struggles],” said Catanzaro, 27, now in his fifth season. “Being a kicker, we’re in a pretty tight knit, close…almost fraternity. So we’re definitely aware but I wasn’t here during that time so I’m kind of looking forward to doing my thing this season. I’m really excited for the opportunity and very thankful.”

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The Bucs believed in Catanzaro enough to reward him with a three-year contract worth $9.75 million, including $3.75 million guaranteed. By comparison, the Bucs’ last kicker Patrick Murray was on a one-year deal worth $540,000 with no guaranteed money. Nick Folk, a 10-year veteran before he got to Tampa, was on a one-year deal worth $1.75 million with $750,000 guaranteed.

“I promise you — it’s hard to believe — but I put more pressure on myself than anybody ever can or will, to succeed and to kick well and to do my best and to reach my potential,” Catanzaro said. “I hold myself to a very high standard, higher than anybody has ever or will ever hold me to. So that’s enough for me.

“I’m just focused on doing my best in my process and my routine. I rely on my routine so outside circumstances don’t really affect me as much. I’m very reliant on my process, routine, preparation. I work very hard at what I do. I watch a lot of film. I work hard in the weight room. So I’m focused on more of those things, and we’ll let the results take care of themselves.”

The Bucs were 3-7 in one-score games last year. Five of their 11 losses came in games with a three-point margin or in overtime. In Week 5 against the New England Patriots, Folk missed three field goals, and the Bucs lost 19-14. The Bucs also had three missed extra points last year, while Catanzaro didn’t miss any with the Jets.

“The extra points, that was a big thing for me last year,” Catanzaro said. “I think repping it more in practice and treating it like a 33-yard field goal instead of having that label as an extra point, I think that was big for me. I went 29-for-29. I’m definitely happy with the way that went. I’m excited to keep that going here.”
Catanzaro has made 84.6 percent of his career field goals in games decided by one score or less. By comparison, since 2013, Bucs kickers have made 77.1 percent of their field goals in games decided by seven points or fewer, second-to-last in the league in front of only the Cincinnati Bengals.

He also has long-range ability, something the Bucs have lacked the past two seasons, going just 37.5 percent of field goals from 50-plus, third-worst in the league. Since 2016, Catanzaro’s made 62.5 percent of his field goals from 50-plus yards. That includes a 57-yard field goal last season in a 17-14 win over the Cleveland Browns. In 2016, he drilled a 60-yard field goal in a loss to the Buffalo Bills, as well as making kicks from 54 and 56 yards. Those kicks did wonders for his confidence.

“I have kind of gotten more comfortable from that long range,” Catanzaro said. “The weather is good here, it’s pretty warm, so it should be conducive to pretty long kicks. We’ll see. Bottom line is, whenever a coach sends me out there, I expect to score. I hold myself to a very high standard. Whenever I get on the field, I’m expecting myself to score points for the team and help.”