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Call Off the Zebras

Get ready, because here is another fantastic op-ed entry from Zeus:

 

Call Off the Zebras

 

The collective self-esteem of pro football offenses must be noticeably flagging. Maybe that is why in the NFL’s Brave New World, an offense that fails to convert on third down is not only given a do over, but is also awarded a first down, a bonus five yard improvement in field position, and a pony. Now you can call it defensive holding or illegal contact or any number of other names. But the all too predictable outcome will be interminably long games with scores that more resemble NCAA basketball than professional football and celebrity NFL referees getting more TV face time than Dr. Phil.

 

In a game that features 300 pound linemen savagely trying to beat each other senseless and lightning quick 250 pound linebackers routinely trying to decapitate or otherwise maim equally fast, insanely powerful running backs, it is indeed a strange and ironic twist for the rules to require that pass receivers be allowed to scurry down the field unimpeded by any minute, trivial contact that might imperil a pass completion and the attendant fantasy points.

 

Once again, the fans are on the receiving end of the dubious business judgment and questionable leadership of Commissioner Blockhead, the owners’ $44 million cabana boy. The vehicle for implementing this travesty is the so-called Competition Committee, the corrupt and imbecilic Kangaroo Court that presides over the enforcement of the NFL’s byzantine rule book, a document that makes the Federal Income Tax Code seem like a shining example of fairness, clarity and brevity. (Any discussion of the lamented committee would be remiss if it failed to note the ham-handed efforts of its chairman, Mean Mr. Moustache, a man who has been handsomely and inexplicably rewarded for being so utterly unremarkable.)

 

The abject corruption of the Competition Committee was on full display in 2004 when Bill Polian drove it to embrace the flag football rules that brought the game one step closer to Arena Football. It’s no secret that the remorseless Polian acted not for the good of the game, but in naked self-interest. That Polian’s actions were greedy, cowardly and disgraceful was readily apparent to anyone with the tiniest sense of decency and a double digit IQ.

 

Now, after February’s internationally televised public flogging of the league’s most precious asset, The Gigantic Forehead, the Committee steps once more into the breach. Once again, the good of the game is being publicly sacrificed at the altar of television ratings and revenue growth, the incredibly powerful narcotics that are leading the NFL owners down the path to destruction. But this time, it’s a fool’s errand.

 

As a long time season ticket holder, my message to Football Family Kraft, Commissioner Blockhead and the rest of the Billionaire Boys Club is as follows:

 

I am not paying ($169 per ticket x 6 tickets x 10 games = a hell of a lot of money) to watch guys dressed in white pants, striped shirts and funny hats blow their silly whistles and throw their festive colorful yellow bean bags around the field.

What I am paying ($169 per ticket x 6 tickets x 10 games = a hell of a lot of money) for is to watch Professional Football. Now I can’t say for sure just what it was that was happening on the Gillette Stadium field Friday night, but it most definitely was not Professional Football.

I really don’t want to invest my heart and soul into a game whose outcome depends so much on the capricious and whimsical judgment of some guy named Clete who can make my life miserable simply because it’s easy for him to do so. (Ed. Note – Clete has already done this at least twice that I can think of.) I want the players to play and, to the greatest extent possible, the officials to stay the hell out of the way.

 

I’m hard pressed to figure out who benefits from this. Fans are already complaining loudly. Players and coaches have to be exasperated. And even the officials themselves must be embarrassed having to call lame penalties for such ticky-tack nonsense.

 

The good news is that it’s August and it’s not too late.

 

It’s time to call off the zebras.

 

Thank you once again to Zeus for allowing me to share his unique perspective on the current state of the National Football League.

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

This and That (This Year’s Model)

It gives me great pleasure to once again pass along the latest meanderings of Zeus:

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This and That (This Year’s Model)

 

1. This Year’s Model – I probably couldn’t pick Blake Bortles – the #3 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft – out of a lineup. But pretty much every day, I can turn on the NFL Network and see extensive coverage of the #21 pick – Johnny Manziel – flawlessly executing handoffs without spilling his beer (reassuring his parents that Johnny’s three years at Texas A&M were not a complete waste of his time and someone else’s money). Manziel has officially replaced Tim Tebow as the most overhyped athlete in the football universe and maybe in all of sports.

 

2. Whatever physical decline Tom Brady may have suffered (and there has to be some) is more than offset by his mental approach, his understanding of football in general and of the Patriots’ offense in particular. There are few QBs in the league that could come close to handling the responsibility that Brady bears for New England. His presence allows the Patriot offense to do things other teams wouldn’t dream of trying.

 

3. Revis – Most huge long term contracts in professional sports turn out to be mistakes. However, Darrelle Revis is a risk worth taking. I suspect the Patriots will treat this as they always do – they will set a maximum value as a walkaway number. In this particular case, I expect the max value to be quite high, befitting a Hall of Fame talent. New England’s best chance to keep #24 is a Super Bowl run, which might persuade Mr. Revis that being on television playing football in January and February is more enjoyable than wringing the very last dollar out of the free agent market. However, Patriot fans should prepare themselves for the very real possibility that Revis is every bit the mercenary that he has appeared to be so far in his NFL career.

 

4. Underrated – Old friend Rodney Harrison ruffled a few local feathers recently with his observations about the Patriots’ Super Bowl aspirations past and present. My take is that Rodney was not so much being critical as giving the team and fans a pep talk. For what it’s worth, the numbers suggest that Harrison was underrated as a Patriot. During his tenure in New England (2003-2008), including playoffs, the Patriots were an astounding 63-9 (.875) when Harrison played and a merely very good 26-13 (.667) when he did not. I have long believed the Patriots would have soundly beaten the Colts in the 2006 AFC Championship game were it not for the Bobby Wade/Jeff Fisher cheap shot that knocked Rodney out of the playoffs.

 

5. Great Expectations – The post-game presser last Thursday was the usual Bill Belichick grumpfest. He sat out eleven of his very best players, pretty much tied the hands of the guys who did play and then offered the usual monologue about the need to play and coach better. I’m not being critical of Bill here – quite the contrary. It’s remarkable that his standards never waver. Bill expects even the scrubeenies to play well and holds them accountable to that. It’s one of the reasons he’s so good at what he does. Everyone is expected to do their job, no matter what.

 

6. Jumping to Conclusions I – With teams deep in practice mode, The Sporting Press and many diehard fans are in roster assembly/depth chart frenzy. Where’s the fire? With numerous practices and three preseason games to go, it’s time for players to compete and coaches to experiment. As September draws nearer and rosters shrink, the level of play goes up and competition intensifies. The UDFA who looks like a show horse in August all too often comes back to the pack. Let’s not forget the role that injuries play in shaping the final roster. A perceived surplus can quickly vanish into thin air.

 

7. Jumping to Conclusions II – A week ago, some thought that Jimmy Garappolo didn’t belong in the NFL. The jury is still out on that but Mr. Garappolo’s rapid progress in such a short period of time has given us a sliver of hope for the future. At the same time, many have viewed Ryan Mallet’s performance as lacking. It’s tough to judge a quarterback in preseason. As we saw with Matt Cassel, I don’t think you really know what you’ve got until the player has the benefit of first team reps in practice and a game plan tailored to his strengths and weaknesses. Otherwise, we’re just guessing.

 

8. Practice? – I was at practice on Tuesday with more than 25,000 other football fans. The bleachers were full, the hill was packed and the stadium ramps to the south end zone were filled to the very top of the building.

For practice.

Here’s how far the sport of football has come here in New England. In 1990, a December Saturday afternoon home game against Washington was attended by 22,286. (Lacking anything better to do, I was one of the unfortunate attendees.) The 1969 Boston Patriots played their home games at BC’s Alumni Field, which at the time was a glorified high school field, seating just over 25,000. The average attendance was 21,344 and four of the seven home games drew less than 20,000 fans.

 

9. Public Safety Hazard – The NFL Competition Committee has put my health in jeopardy. I’ve told my wife that if I were to be inflicted with some physical malady during the football season, she should find the most ornery personal injury lawyer in the country and sue Jeff Fisher (lead pipe cinch first ballot Hall of Mediocrity member) for a comfortable living. It’s early yet, but from what little fake football I’ve been able to withstand, this year’s idiotic Point of Emphasis seems intent on eradicating any semblance of pass defense whatsoever. Why bother having defenders at all? In the not too distant future, by rule, defensive backs will be nonagenarians and inanimate objects such as orange safety cones.

 

10. The more I think about it – **** you, Jeff Fisher.

 

Thanks once again Zeus, for allowing me to share your unique perspective on the current state of Patriots Nation and of the NFL.

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

This and That (A.D.D.)

Editor’s Note: Once again this season we will hand control of this column over to Andy, aka Zeus, for his unique perspective on the state of the NFL and of Patriot Nation. All I can say is that if you enjoy his opinions even one half as much as I do, you will not only find his entries entertaining, insightful and well worth reading, but they will also leave you looking forward to the next installment. Enjoy…

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Well, I have been putting this off and for no good reason. But it is time to unburden myself about the upcoming NFL season. As the seven or eight regular readers of this feature may recall, This and That appears in this space on an inconsistent-to-semi-regular basis to share meandering thoughts about pigskin related matters. It is intended to stimulate further conversation but has rarely been even remotely successful in that regard. What the content lacks in brevity, it more than makes up for in incoherence. If, like me, you are the sort of person whose lips get tired after reading more than three sentences in one sitting, you are advised to turn your attention elsewhere.

Some innocent facts may occasionally be sacrificed in the interests of entertainment. With all that in mind, here we go …

 

1. Adrenaline Deficit Disorder – Adrenaline is the drug of choice of red-blooded sports fans everywhere. It is adrenaline that focuses our attention, causes our palms to sweat and our pulses to race. It is adrenaline that sears events into our memory – that’s why you can remember Vinatieri’s field goal against the Rams like it was yesterday.

It is also adrenaline that is completely absent from the local sports scene. The Celtics are in for a prolonged rebuilding effort and the Bruins season went off a cliff against the hated Canadiens. And now, the Red Sox again have unloaded a goodly portion of their roster in the middle of a disappointing season. (The Sox unceremoniously dumped 80% of their starting rotation, choosing to keep only Clay Buchholtz, a guy who looks more like a heroin addict than a baseball player.)

Here come the Patriots with 2014 looming as the team’s most anticipated season since 2007. We’ll all still have to wait until September to get the real jolt that will restart our adrenal glands, but at least the end is in sight.

 

2. Hot Air – During June and July, the lack of truly meaningful football action creates a void that is filled by players, coaches and owners making stupid pronouncements. Teams who haven’t sniffed the playoffs in years declare themselves playoff teams. There’s also a proliferation of franchise quarterbacks, 2000 yard rushers and 20+ sack pass rushers, exactly none of which ever comes to fruition. Sooner or later, someone is going to play a real football game; that will be a relief to say the least.

 

3. Reign of Error – It’s been a bad stretch in the haphazard administration of the intrepid Commissioner Blockhead. His Reefer Madness crusade against Demon Marijuana continues unabated, as does his vendetta against tackling, pass defense and the unsightly contagion of non-regulation socks. Now, it’s the commissioner’s job to overlook whatever bad behavior is being perpetrated by the denizens of the Billionaire Boys Club. It’s perfectly acceptable for Irsay Jr. to careen around the streets of Indianapolis at 12 miles per hour with a head full of dangerous chemicals in a car full of illegally obtained prescription drugs and $30,000 in loose change. (Extreme wealth does lend an aura of respectability not readily available to your garden variety street-urchin-dope-fiend.) Similarly, defrauding your customers of tens of millions of dollars is perfectly okay as long as you have the financial wherewithal to purchase a Get Out of Jail Free Card, which, in the case of Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, cost $92 million. (Ed. Note: for public safety purposes, please do not wait underwater for Roger to take any action in either of these cases.)

Goodell’s obscene compensation (which approximated the combined pay of Brady, Brees and Manning in 2013) should be an affront to every player, coach and paying customer of the NFL. That the owners can’t find someone better for the job at significantly less money is an indictment of their overblown business acumen or their integrity or both. I guess $44 million must be the going rate for a cabana boy – it must be nice to know they can count on Roger to look the other way.

 

4. Domestic abuse is no laughing matter – One can only hope that Ray Rice is sincerely contrite and will follow through on his promise to change. The commissioner’s tone deaf treatment of this matter has given the league a black eye. The victim interceding on behalf of her assailant is all too common; using this as justification for less stringent punishment is potentially a grave error in judgment.

 

5. A Humane Solution – A pressing concern for good people everywhere is the sad state of affairs known as the new york jets. Here’s one solution: euthanize the franchise. Players and coaches could be humanely moved to obscure locations (a la the Federal Witness Protection Program) and season ticket holders could be bused to Atlantic City to gamble away the remainder of their meaningless existence in squalid decrepitude. In turn, the league would be free to place an expansion franchise, unburdened by the stench of 45 years of failure and embarrassment, in London or Los Angeles or San Antonio (or Davenport, Iowa, for that matter). This initiative should be undertaken as soon as possible if for no other reason than it is The Right Thing to Do.

 

6. Good vs. Great – The winter sports of hockey and basketball recently concluded their seasons in June (for reasons related to television contracts). The Los Angeles Kings’ Stanley Cup victory was a high wire act, with dramatic comebacks and near-death experiences. The San Antonio Spurs championship run was an awesome display of excellence not seen in any sport in a long time. Both teams are champions. One prevailed by the slimmest of margins. The other played well outside any conceivable margin of error, completely dominating its opponents. This is the difference between a good team and a great one. Will the 2014 Patriots be merely good or can they aspire to be a great?

 

 

Thanks much Andy, for taking the time to break down the current state of the NFL.

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

A historical look at the uniform numbers for the new Patriots: #39, Brandon Browner

We are in the dead zone of the NFL year folks, that time between the end of mini-camp and the start of training camp. There’s not much to go over that hasn’t already been over-analyzed – so with that in mind here is the thirteenth in a series of historical perspectives on who has previously worn the uniform number of the 2014 additions to the roster of the New England Patriots. Unless noted otherwise all the players listed took part in at least one regular or playoff game in the season listed for the Patriots.

Brandon Browner is the latest members of the Pats to don the number 39; here is a look at those who have preceded them to wear that jersey over the years during the franchise history of the Patriots. For those of you who immediately thought of Sam Cunningham, congratulations and thank you for your longevity as a fan of the Patriots.

 

39 – Corner Brandon Browner

- The 6’4″ defensive back went undrafted out of Oregon State, and signed with Denver as a rookie free agent in 2005. He never played in a real game for the Broncos though, spending all of ’05 on injured reserve due to an arm injury, and was released at the start of the 2006 training camp. He immediately signed with Calgary, and spent four seasons in the Canadian Football League. During that time he had 12 interceptions, two touchdowns, made 206 tackles, was a three-time CFL All-Star, and won one Grey Cup with the Stampeders.

After the 2010 season ended Browner signed with Seattle. In his first NFL season he started every game for Pete Carroll, with six interceptions and two pick-sixes, and was named to the Pro Bowl. He was suspended for the first four games of 2012 for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, reportedly for Adderall. He missed some time last season with a groin injury, and then the NFL suspended him again, for missing drug tests while he was in Canada and not under and any NFL contract; he will miss the first four games of the 2014 season. In his three years with Seattle he had 117 tackles, 39 passes defensed, ten interceptions and three forced fumbles. Browner signed this off-season with the Patriots after drawing interest from the Jets, Washington, Saints and Raiders as well as from the Patriots and Seahawks.

Browner uses his 6’4″, 220 pound body to his advantage with a very physical style of play; even bigger receivers struggle with his pressure. He pushes the envelope when it comes to the five-yard bump zone, resulting in him being among the league leaders in penalty flags thrown in his direction. He is the type of player that you love if he is on your team and detest if he is an opponent, in a manner that is not unlike that of former Patriot great Rodney Harrison. While he does not have elite speed or athleticism, he makes up for that with a long reach and being able to get receivers off their routes at the line of scrimmage. Nick Underhill notes that “when his man could cut over the middle, he often released that player and continued down the field. It is unclear if this wrinkle was because Browner lacks lateral quickness or if was simply the design of the defense. The results were mixed the few times he tracked his man over the middle“.

The bottom line is that his addition to the team strengthens both the top end talent as well as depth in the New England secondary. Browner will be a guy worth watching in preseason, to see how it changes the Patriots defense.

 

2010-12: RB Danny Woodhead

- After his home state school (the University of Nebraska) did not want him, Woodhead followed his older brother Ben to Division II Chadron (Nebraska) State College. There he had a record-setting career, and was a two-time Division II Player of the Year. He rushed for 1,840 yards as a true freshaman, and two years later set an all-division NCAA record by rushing for 2,756 yards. In his four years at Chadron he ran for an NCAA record 7,962 yards, averaging 6.9 yards per carry. Despite his illustrious college career and gaudy stats, he was not invited to the NFL Combine. At his Pro Day he posted a 4.33 40-yard dash time and a 38.5 inch vertical, that would have been among the best at the Combine, but still went undrafted. The Jets signed him as a rookie free agent in 2008, but he suffered a knee injury in training camp and spent his entire rookie year on the Reserve-Injured list. The following year the club gaffed badly when they waived him on September 14, 2010, to make room for WR David Clowney. Clowney had one reception for the Jets that year, and finished his NFL career with 22 receptions.

The Patriots swooped in and signed Woodhead, though many fans (and even some media members) openly speculated that the transaction was done solely to obtain information on the Jets, whom the Patriots were playing that week. Woodhead took over the roster spot that had been vacated by Laurence Maroney (see below), and was inactive against the Jets; over the next 2½ seasons that would happen just one more time, over a span of 51 games. Kevin Faulk was injured in that Jets game, and would go on season-ending injured reserve with a knee injury. Any concerns were quickly dispelled as Woodhead stepped right in as the new third down back and performed as well if not better than Faulk. He played in 14 games with six touchdowns and 926 yards from scrimmage in 2010, averaging 5.6 yards per carry while catching 34 passes. Before the season was over the Patriots had seen enough productivity to sign him to a two-year extension. Although he is just 5′8″7″, he showed great toughness as a pass blocker. With his superior receiving ability to go along with his shiftiness running with the ball, comfort in lining up in the backfield or split wide as a receiver, Woodhead created mismatches and headaches for opposing defensive coordinators.

The next season Woodhead helped the Patriots to a 13-3 regular season and a trip to the Super Bowl, and in 2012 he helped was a vital part of the team that went 12-4 and made yet another trip to the AFC Championship Game. In March of 2013 his contract with the Patriots expired, and he elected to sign with the Chargers. Shane Vereen was ready to take over as team’s new third down back, and Woodhead most likely saw more job security – don’t forget NFL contracts are not guaranteed – in San Diego than he did in New England. With the benefit of hindsight, the Patriots should have made more of an effort to re-sign him, but at that point in time nobody knew that Vereen would break his wrist in week one and miss nine weeks, or that Aaron Hernandez would go on a killing spree. New England’s loss was San Diego’s gain, as Woodhead set new personal NFL single-season highs last season with 1,296 all-purpose yards, 1,034 yards from scrimmage, 76 receptions, 605 yards receiving, six touchdown receptions, and eight total touchdowns. Thirty one of his receptions went for first downs, which was the second-most in the NFL for running backs; that was a large reason why San Diego led the NFL in 2013 in third down conversion percentage. He also rushed for a touchdown in the playoff victory at Cincinnati, for his second post-season score, and once again did not miss a single game.

Woodhead finished his career with the Patriots with nine starts and 45 regular-season games played. He rushed for 1,199 yards, which is 25th all-time in club history. His 4.8 yards per carry ranks fifth among those with at least 100 carries, and is second behind only Steve Grogan among players with at least 200 carries. Woodhead also rushed for ten touchdowns, which is 24th all time. His 92 receptions are 50th among all players and 15th for running backs, and the 982 receiving yards rank 46th for all players and 8th for running backs. He scored a total of 88 points, which is tied with Julian Edelman for 52nd most in franchise history, and his 14 total touchdowns rank him in a tie with Edelman, Tom Brady and four others as 45th most in club history.

 

2006-09: RB Laurence Maroney

- In three seasons at the University of Minnesota, Maroney averaged 6.0 yards per carry while rushing for 3.933 yards and 32 touchdowns. He was one of three players in Big Ten history to rush for over 1,000 yards in each of their first three seasons, and finished second in school history in rushing yardage and rushing touchdowns. The Patriots selected him in the first round, 21st overall, in the 1996 draft. In his rookie season he led the Pats and finished second in the NFL with a 28.0-yard kickoff return average, and led the team is rushing yards seven times. Maroney finished the year second on the team to Corey Dillon with 175 rushes for 745 yards and six touchdowns.

In 2007 Dillon was gone, so Ellis Hobbs took over the kick return duties. Maroney rushed for 835 yards and he scored three touchdowns in the playoffs, tops on the team in the post-season. In the two conference games he rushed for 244 yards, but was limited to 36 yards in the Super Bowl. The next season in the opener against the Chiefs he averaged 5.1 yards on ten carries, but the next week he had just 16 yards on eight carries against the Jets. Maroney suffered a shoulder injury in that game, and after missing two of the next three games he was placed on injured reserve.

After averaging 4.4 yards per carry in his first two seasons, Maroney averaged 3.9 yards in 2009; perhaps more disconcerting was that he fumbled four times after fumbling just once in his first three seasons. Whether it was a lingering physical or mental effect of the previous year’s injury, he seemed far more likely to dance in the backfield than he had previously, infuriating many fans. Still, he led the team with 757 yards on the ground and he rushed for nine touchdowns, and at one point rushed for a touchdown in six consecutive games.

Maroney did not get on the field for the second or third 2010 preseason game, and when he finally saw some action in the final August game it was with the backup offense. Even so, it seemed unlikely to many that his job was in jeopardy; the options were either players well into their thirties (Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk), or the relatively inexperienced BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who had mostly been used only on special teams the previous two seasons. Maroney was inactive for the week one game, and the Pats were able to unload him to Denver when the Broncos found themselves in a bind at the position. Knowshon Moreno, Correll Buckhalter and Andre Brown were all still recuperating from training camp injuries for the Broncos, and LenDale White had been placed on IR. Meanwhile in Foxboro, Maroney had plummeted down the depth chart behind Taylor, Morris and Law Firm, with Faulk as the third down back; a 4th round draft pick for Maroney – a free agent the next year – was a steal.

Four days after Maroney was traded the Pats signed Danny Woodhead to fill the open roster spot. Any concern over who would replace Maroney was soon forgotten; that season Woodhead gained 926 yards from scrimmage and scored six touchdowns, while BJGE rushed for 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns, while never fumbling the ball. Maroney gained just 124 yards from scrimmage in four games with the Broncos, averaging 2.1 yards per carry. He was inactive in every game from week ten on, and then was arrested for possession of weed along with a firearms charge (and later acquitted), in his hometown of St. Louis in the off season. No teams showed any interest in free agency until Washington worked him out the following October, but no offer for a contract was made.

Maroney finished his career with the Patriots with 2,430 yards rushing, which ranks 14th all-time, just behind Leonard Russell and ahead of Mosi Tatupu. His 21 rushing touchdown is tied with Antowain Smith for ninth most in club history, and his 1,062 kickoff return yards is 20th in franchise history. Maroney had 24 total touchdowns, which ties him with Terry Glenn and Andy Johnson for the 24th most on the club’s all time leader board.

 

2003: FS Shawn Mayer (wore 23 in ’04)

- At Penn State, Mayer led the Nittany Lions in tackles in junior and senior seasons as he finished his career with 252 tackles (147 solo), five interceptions, 1½ sacks and eight tackles for loss. The Patriots signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent on May 2, 2003, but he was released as part of the final roster cuts on August 31. The Pats signed him to their practice squad the next day, and activated him to the 53-man roster on October 19. He ended up playing in nine games and ranked fifth on the team with 13 special teams tackles, and was on the roster for all three playoff games. In the Super Bowl 38 victory against Carolina, Mayer was on the field at safety for most of the second half after Rodney Harrison got hurt. He made one tackle in that game, which ironically was against former high school teammate Ricky Proehl. In 2004 Mayer made the roster out of training camp in part due to his versatility and special teams performance, and played in the first three games, mostly on special teams, before being released on October 5.

As a member of the Patriots, Mayer played in twelve games with 17 tackles, plus three playoff games with four tackles. In terms of memories about playing with the Patriots, he says that “Bill Belichick is one of the best to run the team like a business” and that “he’s a real smart guy and puts a lot time in to put together winning teams. He also states that he still stays in contact with Asante Samuel, whose locker was adjacent to his, and that Tom Brady “is a very good guy, down to earth, and real quiet, not saying much and very professional in what he does”.

The Falcons signed Mayer and allocated him to NFL Europe in 2005. He was an All-NFL Europe player, tying a league record with three interceptions in one game, while setting a Hamburg Sea Devils single season record with five picks. Cleveland sent him to NFL Europe again in 2006, but when he returned he tore his MCL during training camp. The Browns gave him an injury settlement, and after one more trip to NFL Europe his playing days were over.

After hanging up his cleats, Mayer worked until 2009 as a personal trainer at HealthQuest in his native New Jersey, specializing in speed and agility training. Mayer then spent one year as an assistant football coach at South Brunswick (NJ) High School, and was a defensive backs coach at Fairleigh Dickinson. He then spent one year as a special teams coach and player development coach at Rutgers, and in 2013 was the defensive backs coach at Widener University. Today Mayer has moved on from coaching football, and is a commercial insurance agent at Farm Family Insurance in Hillsborough, New Jersey.

 

1999: CB Rico Clark

- A three-year starter at Louisville, Clark was an All-Conference USA selection and finished his college career with 264 tackles, six interceptions and 24 pass breakups; the picks and passes defensed still rank in the top ten in the Cardinal’s history. Perhaps overshadowed by teammate Sam Madison, Clark went undrafted and signed as a rookie free agent with Indianapolis in 1997.

Clark played in all 16 games in 1998 for the Colts, but during the season a former Louisville student sued Clark and four other one-time Cardinal football players for damages for beating him during a pickup basketball game in 1995. After the Colts released him during the 1999 training camp, Cincinnati claimed him off waivers. He played in eight games with one start before the Bengals released him on December 14, with Bruce Coslett continuing a revolving door of corners for his 31st-ranked defense.

Two weeks later the Patriots signed Clark when they were down to just one healthy corner. Ty Law had just been placed on IR with a broken hand, starter Steve Israel had an ankle injury and Tebucky Jones had a knee injury. That left backup Kato Serwanga as the only healthy corner. Three days later he played in his one and only game with the Pats, a 20-3 victory over Baltimore, as the third corner behind Serwanga and another newly signed player with a very brief career with the Pats, Terry Billups.

In 2000 Clark played for Amsterdam in NFL Europe, but that game with the Patriots was the final one of his NFL career. He played in a total of 29 NFL games with three starts and two interceptions over three seasons. In 2001 Clark played for the Memphis Maniax of the XFL, registering 48 tackles and one interception.

 

1988-91: RB Marvin Allen

- In 1987 Allen led Tulane – then coached by current Texas coach Mack Brown, in his third season as a college football head coach – with ten touchdowns rushing, and was second on the Green Wave in receptions and receiving yards. After graduating from Tulane, the Patriots selected Allen in the 11th round, 294th overall, in the 1988 draft. A solid 5’10″ 208 pounds, he was seen as being more of a fullback than tailback. Allen played in the first eleven games of his rookie season almost exclusively on special teams, excelling on coverage units while also 18 kicks for an average of 21.7 yards before missing the final five games with a left shoulder injury. In the 1999 season opener against the Jets he ripped off a run of 18 yards, but then injured his right shoulder. He did not play after week five, eventually landing on IR for the second straight season.

The Patriots released Allen at the end of training camp, but re-signed him on October 29, 1990. He played in each of the final nine games of the season, temporarily replacing John Stephens as the primary ball carrier. In his first start he rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown against the Colts, but the losses kept coming for Rod Rust, and eventually he went back to Stephens as his starting back. In 1991 he played in 15 games, again excelling on special teams. On October 20 Allen recovered a fumble in overtime against Minnesota to set up a game-winning Jason Staurovsky field goal. That gave new head coach Dick MacPherson his third win of the year, tripling the amount of victories the Pats had the previous season, and at 3-4 Patriot Nation was full of renewed enthusiasm for the team. Unfortunately that was the pinnacle of the Macpherson era; the Pats would go 5-20 over the next year and a half, bottoming out with the names Lisa Olson and Zeke Mowatt dominating the headlines the next season.

Allen fortunately missed all that turmoil – during the 1-15 1990 season he would sometimes publicly deny he was with the team – as 1991 turned out to be his final year as a player in the NFL; he was waived as part of the final roster cuts just prior to the start of the season on September 1, 1992. He finished his career with three starts in 37 games played, 378 yards rushing at 4.0 yards per carry, two touchdowns, 43 kick returns for 844 yards, and seven fumble recoveries. His 844 yards returning kicks was at that time 14th all-time in franchise history, and is 26th on the career leader board today.

In 1993 Allen returned to the Patriots, working in the player personnel department for the better part of 16 years as one of the team’s area scouts. Allen then rejoined his former boss, Thomas Dimitroff, when he took the position of Eastern Regional Scout with the Atlanta Falcons in 2009. After four years there he moved further up the ladder to become the Kansas City Chiefs’ Director of College Scouting, a position he still holds today.

 

1973-82: RB Sam Cunningham

- Before being drafted, Cunningham had a key role in a milestone moment in college football. In 1970 the color barrier for the football team at the University of Alabama had still not been broken. In his first game for USC, Cunningham rushed for two touchdowns in the first quarter, and finished with 135 yards on just twelve carries, as the Trojans crushed the Crimson Tide 42-12 in Birmingham. The home defeat was so devastating that the school and its fans finally relented and allowed head coach Bear Bryant to integrate the team, as it became obvious that their team could not compete as an elite program if George Wallace and his followers insisted on fielding an all-white team.

In three seasons at USC, Cunningham rushed for 23 touchdowns, including 13 in his senior year. New coach and GM Chuck Fairbanks selected Cunningham with the eleventh overall pick of the 1973 draft. Over the next six seasons Fairbanks’ teams revitalized the franchise as they went on to post five consecutive winning seasons and a pair of 11-win seasons , and Cunningham was a very large part of that success. Despite splitting the carries with Mack Herron, Andy Johnson and others, during that time he rushed for 4600 yards, averaged 1,030 yards from scrimmage, and scored 40 touchdowns.

Despite missing a full season due to a contract dispute, Cunningham is the Patriots’ all-time rushing leader with 5,453 yards. His 43 rushing touchdowns are second in team history, just two behind Jim Nance’s 45. At the time he retired he held the franchise record for total touchdowns with 49, a record that has since been surpassed by Stanley Morgan (68), Ben Coates (50) and Randy Moss (50). Cunningham also is the club career leader in rushing attempts (1,385), and is one of a select group to have played in over 100 games with the Patriots. He was named to the Patriots’ 1970s All-Decade Team and to the 50th Anniversary Team. In 1977 Cunningham averaged 99 yards from scrimmage per game, rushing for 1,015 yards while adding another 370 yards on 42 receptions. In 1978 he was the leading rusher on the team that set the NFL record for most rushing yards in a season, and was finally named to the Pro Bowl. In 2010 Cunningham was enshrined to the Patriots Hall of Fame as well as the College Football Hall of Fame.

 

 

Previously:

#10 – QB Jimmy Garoppolo

#14 – KR/WR Reggie Dunn

#16 – WR Reese Wiggins

#19 – WR Brandon LaFell

#21 – CB Jemea Thomas

#23 – S Patrick Chung

#24 – CB Darrelle Revis

#28 – RB James White

#29 – RB Roy Finch and CB Malcolm Butler

#31 – S Shamiel Gary

#35 – RB Jonas Gray and CB Daxton Swanson

#36 – S Stephen Houston

 

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

A historical look at the uniform numbers for the new Patriots: #36, Stephen Houston

We are in the dead zone of the NFL year folks, that time between the end of mini-camp and the start of training camp. There’s not much to go over that hasn’t already been over-analyzed – so with that in mind here is the twelfth in a series of historical perspectives on who has previously worn the uniform number of the 2014 additions to the roster of the New England Patriots. Unless noted otherwise all the players listed took part in at least one regular or playoff game in the season listed for the Patriots.

Stephen Houston is the latest members of the Pats to don the number 36; here is a look at those who have preceded them to wear that jersey over the years during the franchise history of the Patriots. For most fans, you are going to first think of a pair of safeties when you see a player in this jersey: Lawyer Milloy and James Sanders.

 

36 – Safety Stephen Houston

- Last year at the University of Indiana, Houston averaged 6.7 yards per carry, rushing for 753 yards and five touchdowns. The 6′ 0″ 225-pound back played for three years in Bloomington, and ranks in the top ten in several Hoosier all-time career rushing categories: he is fourth with 25 rushing touchdown, sixth with 29 total touchdowns, ninth with 2,304 rushing yards, and ninth with nine 100-yard rushing games. Houston also caught 65 passes for 658 yards and four touchdowns, and last season returned 15 kickoffs for 296 yards. At the end of the year he received the 2013 Indiana Howard Brown “Dedication to IU Football” Award; that type of characteristic is something that Bill Belichick and his staff love to see from their players.

In May, Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald wrote that Houston was at the head of Patriots’ undrafted class, and that he “seems to possess the traits that could make him the latest undrafted player to impact the Patriots”. At his Pro Day he posted a 40-inch vertical leap, an 11-foot-broad jump, bench pressed 225 pounds 24 times, ran a 4.52 forty, a 4.23 shuttle, and a 7.07 second 3-cone drill.

 

2013: S Kanorris Davis
(still on roster, also assigned no. 36)

- Davis was a linebacker at Troy State University, who began to make the switch to safety during his training for his pro Day prior to the 2013 draft. Coming out of the Sun Belt Conference, it was not a surprise that he went undrafted. However, Davis was a bit surprised that the Patriots, a team that had previously not spoken with him, were the club that offered him a contract. The Pats told Davis that they loved his special teams abilities, and told him that he could make a living on special teams.

After being released as part of the final cuts at the end of training camp, the Patriots immediately re-signed Davis to the practice squad. Last season he flip-flopped between the 53-man roster and the practice squad, each time either taking Marquice Cole’s spot, or being replaced by Cole. Davis played in weeks four (at Atlanta) and five (at Cincinnati), before permanently replacing Cole at the end of the season. Davis later returned and played in the week 17 game against Buffalo, as well as the two playoff games; he had two tackles in the 43-22 victory over the Colts. He has adopted Matthew Slater as his mentor, and performed very well on special teams for the Patriots as the gunner in punt coverage. While many fans may overlook him, I am one who is expecting him to be on the New England roster right from the start of the regular season.

 

2011: FB Lousaka Polite

- Lousaka grew up in Pittsburgh, and then went to college locally. He was the first three-time football captain in the history of the University of Pittsburgh, gaining 1,140 yards from scrimmage while (with some help from Larry Fitzgerald) helping transform the Panthers from a two-win team to a nine-win club. Bill Parcells signed him to the Cowboys as an undrafted rookie in 2004, and he played in 27 games for the Cowboys over three seasons. After one year with the Bears where he played strictly on special teams, Polite reunited with Parcells in Miami. He started 24 games over the next three seasons for the Dolphins, primarily as the lead blocker for Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Polite was also a very effective short yardage back during that time, converting on 41 out of 43 third-and-one or fourth-and-one attempts from 2008-10.

The Dolphins released Polite at the end of camp in 2011, and he was out of football until the Patriots signed him on December 27. He played in week 17 as well as the three playoff games for the Pats that season, with one carry for three yards. The Patriots released him the following March, signing fullbacks Tony Fiammetta and Spencer Larsen in his place a few days later. Atlanta signed Polite last August, and he played in six games for the Falcons before they released him in November.

For his NFL career Polite has played in 82 games, with 32 starts; he has 296 yards and one touchdown rushing, and 241 yards with one touchdown receiving. Polite will turn 33 in September, making it unlikely that we will see him in an NFL uniform again.

 

2005-10: S James Sanders

- One of three players (Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell) from Fresno State to play for the Patriots during the Bill Belichick era, Sanders was selected by New England in the fourth round (133rd overall) of the 2005 draft. His rookie season he played mostly on special teams and occasionally as a nickel or dime back, appearing in ten games with two starts, highlighted by a 39-yard pick-six against Buffalo. Sanders played in all 19 games in 2006, with five starts (plus three in the playoffs) after Rodney Harrison was injured. In 2007 Sanders replaced Artrell Hawkins as a starting safety, and have two interceptions and five passes defensed while registering 71 total tackles. In 2008 Sanders again was the starter, but in ’09 his playing time started to drop with the additions of Brandon McGowan and Patrick Chung. After playing in all but one game and starting ten games in 2010, he was expected to start at safety the next season. In a relatively surprising move Sanders was released during the first round of training camp cuts in 2011.

In his six seasons with the Patriots, Sanders appeared in 84 games with 50 starts, and also played in eight playoff games. He had eight interceptions, two touchdowns, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries with the Pats.

Sanders signed with Atlanta for the 2011 season, getting six starts when William Moore was injured. He then signed with Arizona for the 2012 season, backing up Kerry Rhodes. He was suspended for the first four games of 2013, and has not been on an NFL roster since then. For his NFL career Sanders had played in 114 games with 56 starts, with eight picks and two touchdowns.

 

1996-02: S Lawyer Milloy

- A two-sport athlete at the University of Washington, Milloy was drafted to be a baseball pitcher as well as an NFL defensive back. The Pats selected him in the second round, 36th overall, in the 1996 draft. He went on to play in 246 regular and post season NFL games over 15 seasons, intercept 35 passes, and make the Pro Bowl four times. He became a starter in mid-October of his rookie season, played in 106 consecutive games, and was a team captain four times. In 1998 Milloy led the Pats with 151 tackles (100 solo), was second with six interceptions, and was named to his first Pro Bowl.

Milloy was at his best against the Pats biggest rivals. In a 21-16 victory over the Colts in ’98, he made twelve tackles while also picking off two Peyton Manning passes. The next season was highlighted with an interception off Vinny Testaverde that led to a touchdown in a 30-28 comeback victory over the Jets, and a fumble recovery off Manning to help seal another win against Indy. In 2000 he led the team with twelve tackles in another victory against the Colts, and forced an Edgerrin James fumble that set up a score.

In 2003 Milloy was in the fourth year of a seven-year, $35 million contract and was scheduled to make $4.5 million that year. He had a $5.856 million cap number, and the Patriots were tight up against the salary cap. The Pats had been attempting to renegotiate since April, and shocked the football world when they released Milloy just days before the start of the ’03 season. Milloy promptly signed with the Bills, joining Drew Beledsoe as former Patriots in Buffalo. Five days after being cut the Pats were in Buffalo for the season opener and were thrashed, 31-0, in what was to become known as either the ‘Lawyer Milloy Game‘ or the ‘They Hate Their Coach Game‘, with Milloy registering a sack, five tackles, and forcing an interception. ESPN’s Tom Jackson proclaimed, “I want to say this very clearly: they hate their coach, and their season could be over”. Jackson later admitted that he had no sources (in other words, he just made it up – yet would not apologize, and the network did not censure him. Despite dire predictions of doom, the distraction subsided and the Patriots went on to win the next two Super Bowls. At the end of the season Jackson attempted to shake Bill Belichick’s hand, and the coach not only refused but said ‘f*** you’. Years later Jackson admitted that the he attempted to motivate the Jets to beat the Patriots by predicting a Pats win, and again his employers did not censure him for the out of line bias.

But back to Lawyer Milloy… In his seven years with the Patriots, he played in 112 games, with 19 interceptions, seven sacks, seven forced fumbles, and seven fumble recoveries. He had five consecutive seasons with more than 100 total tackles, ranks fourth all-time with 538 tackles, and his 19 picks rank 12th in franchise history. In his NFL career he made 1,033 solo tackles and 1,438 tackles total, with 25 interceptions, 12 forced fumbles, and nine fumble recoveries. He says that he now understands the business side of the game and why he was released, and that he always considers himself to be a Patriot in his eyes. Milloy says that he keeps himself busy these days with his daughters’ athletic schedule, a home-based business with ACN and charitable activities.

 

1994: RB Leroy Thompson

- Thompson grew up in Knoxville, just a few minutes from the campus of the University of Tennessee, but decided he wanted to get away and instead went to Penn State. After backing up Blair Thomas, he became the lead back on a 1990 squad that included future NFL players Sam Gash and O.J. McDuffie. The Steelers selected Thompson in the sixth round of the 1991 draft, 158th overall. Pittsburgh was well stocked in the backfield at the time with Barry Foster, Merril Hoge, Warren Williams and Tim Worley, but Thompson was seen as someone who could play special teams and provide depth as a third down back, to replace Richard Bell.

In his first two seasons, Thompson had only 55 rushes and 36 receptions, totaling 613 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown. Foster and Worley both missed a combined 18 games in 1993, paving the way for Thompson to take on an expanded role. He started six games and led the Steelers with 763 yards rushing and 1,022 yards from scrimmage. He was a restricted free agent following that season, and his agent thought he could get Thompson – who wanted to stay in Pittsburgh – a nice pay raise by telling the front office to pay us or trade us. The Steelers responded by calling the bluff, and traded him to New England in exchange for a fourth round pick in the upcoming draft. To make room for Thompson, the Patriots relinquished their rights to unsigned Leonard Russell, who had rushed for 1,088 yards and seven touchdowns the previous season.

Thompson was part of the 1994 team under Bill Parcells that doubled their wins from five to ten, and made the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. Thompson once again found himself in a backup role though, replacing Marion Butts on third downs. He split kick return duties with Ray Crittenden, averaging 20.9 yards on 18 kickoff returns, while also gaining 777 yards from scrimmage and scoring seven touchdowns. The next season he became an unrestricted free agent, and went to Kansas City – another move which he later says he regretted – on the premise that he would replace Marcus Allen as the Chiefs’ starting running back. The problem was that even though Allen was 35 years old, he still had plenty of tread left on his tires after years of not being used while in Al Davis’ doghouse, and Thompson ended up with the least amount of playing time since his rookie season. Thompson then joined Tampa Bay for the 1994 season, but he was released in late October when Errict Rhett ended his holdout and rejoined the team.

In his one season with the Patriots, Thompson rushed for 312 yards and two touchdowns and had 65 receptions for 465 yards and five touchdowns. His 65 receptions were third most on the team that year, part of a contingent in which five players had more than 50 catches each. At the time his 376 kick return yards were 28th all-time in franchise history; somewhat remarkably that still places him in the top-50 on the team leader board (43rd). One footnote to his career: he (along with Ben Coates and Michael Timpson) each had double-digit receptions in the famous victory against Minnesota when Drew Bledsoe went 45-70; I don’t know of any game before or since when three players on the same team each had ten or more receptions. Thompson 4th-quarter touchdown reception pulled the Pats to within three in that game, with a Matt Bahr field goal tying the game, and Bledsoe’s final pass to Kevin Turner winning it in overtime.

Since leaving the NFL, Thompson has been active in charities and volunteers at programs such as the YMCA and Boys Club. He is also the owner of BDT Development & Management, which is a real estate development and construction management firm that builds retail centers, residential developments, and provides project management services on public and federal projects. He has also worked as a regional director for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, overseeing efforts to attract new businesses, help existing businesses expand and support other regional economic development efforts for the state.

 

1991-93: S Jerome Henderson (wore 26 in ’96)

- Not to be confused with Mark Henderson, Jerome Henderson was a free safety at Clemson whom the Patriots selected in the second round, 41st overall, in the 1991 draft. Dallas had traded Ron Francis, David Howard, Eugene Lockhart, their 1991 first round pick (which turned out to be Pat Harlow, 11th overall) and the pick used to select Henderson in exchange for the Patriots number one overall pick in the ’91 draft. At the time the logic seemed right, as the Patriots had plenty of holes to fill, but the Cowboys got the better end of the deal, selecting Russell Maryland with the first pick of the ’91 draft. The Dick MacPherson-Joe Mendes-Victor Kiam era Patriots had been unable to agree to terms with Raghib Ismail, which prompted the trade. Dallas wanted Ismail but they too could not sign him, so they took Maryland instead, and won three Super Bowls with him as their starting defensive tackle.

Henderson played in every game his first two seasons. During that time he had five picks and a fumble recovery, and he returned 27 punts his rookie season for an average of 7.4 yards. Bill Parcells shuffled Henderson off to Buffalo the following season, and he played with the Bills and Eagles before returning to New England for the 1996 season. Henderson then played for the Jets for two seasons, before embarking on a career as an NFL position coach. He was an assistant in New York in 2007, and then was the Jets’ defensive backs coach when Darrelle Revis was a rookie in 2008. Henderson then took the same position with Cleveland for three seasons; in his final year there the Browns ranked second in the NFL in pass defense. Since 2012 Henderson has been the defensive backs coach for Dallas.

In his NFL career Henderson appeared in 98 games with 34 starts, with nine career interceptions. He played in two Super Bowl: with the Bills in their 30-13 loss to Dallas Super Bowl 28, and with the Patriots in their 35-21 loss to the Packers in Super Bowl 31. Henderson played in a total of 40 games with ten starts with seven interceptions during his two stints with the Patriots. His biggest highlight was probably an interception against the Jets in 1996 that set up a touchdown; the Pats won that game 34-10 to clinch a playoff berth.

 

1990: S Brian Hutson

- Hutson was a strong safety who graduated from Mississippi State in 1987, and went undrafted. His only time in the NFL came with the Patriots three years later; I’m not sure if he played in the CFL or somewhere else in the interim. He did play in two games for the Pats in ’90, but that’s about all I know of his football career. He is the owner of BHC Office Solutions in Addison Texas,  a company that has been in the Dallas area for 25 years that specializes in sales, service, design, installation, liquidation, asset management and client storage of new and pre-owned office furniture.

 

1972-74: RB John Tarver

- After two years of junior college, Tarver transferred to the University of Colorado. In two seasons with the Buffaloes he rushed for 14 touchdowns and 1300 yards, averaging 5.0 yards per carry, splitting his time there at tailback and fullback. The Patriots selected him in the seventh round of the 1972 draft, 166th overall, with a pick that was acquired the previous year when they traded Eddie Ray (see below).

Tarver spent the fist six weeks of his rookie season on the taxi squad before being elevated to the team’s regular roster. He was more of a threat catching the ball (112 yards on 11 catches) than running (132 yards, 3.1 average), as a backup to Carl Garrett and Josh Ashton that season. In ’73 he was starting to get a fair amount of the carries (17 in week 3, 14 in week 4), but then he got Wally Pipp’d. Tarver missed five games with a broken scapula, and while he was gone rookie Sam Cunningham took over as the primary ball carrier. Tarver finished the season with four touchdowns and 321 yards rushing, averaging 4.5 yards per carry, but he also had his share of fumbles (8). In ’74 he played in all 14 games but got only 41 carries, for 101 yards and two scores.

On January 23 the Patriots traded Tarver to Philadelphia for the Eagles’ fifth round pick in the ’75 draft, and a 1976 eighth round pick. He finished his career with the Pats with 15 starts in 31 games, with a total of eight touchdowns and 754 yards from scrimmage. He is tied with LaGarrette Blount and Billy Lott for 32nd in club history with seven rushing touchdowns, and his 554 rushing yards ranks 41st in franchise history, right between Reggie Dupard and Drew Bledsoe. Tarver lasted just one more year in the NFL, playing in eight games for Philly with just seven carries.

 

1970: RB Eddie Ray

- Ray was a running back and punter for Louisiana State from 1967-69, averaging 5.1 yards per carry and being named All-SEC his senior year. Ray also led the conference with an average of 42.8 yards per punt as a sophomore. For his three seasons with the Tigers he averaged 4.5 yards on 227 carries, for 1,011 yards and five touchdowns; he also had 22 receptions for 217 yards and one score. The Patriots selected him in the fourth round, 83rd overall in the 1970 draft. At 6’2″, 230 pounds, he was seen as a backup and possibly eventual replacement to Jim Nance, but that never materialized. He was a bit heavy when he arrived in training camp, and an ankle injury limited him to five rushes for 13 yards in five games as a rookie.

The next off-season the Patriots tried him at tight end as well as fullback, but it didn’t pan out. On September 8, 1971, the Patriots traded Ray to San Diego for their seventh round pick in the 1972 draft; that turned out to be John Tarver. In his first three seasons, Ray had a total of 62 yards rushing with three different teams. In 1973 he had his best NFL season, with the Falcons, when he had a total of 11 touchdowns and 626 yards from scrimmage. 1976 was his last NFL season, with Buffalo. He finished his NFL career with 48 games played, 691 yards rushing, nine rushing touchdowns, 275 yards receiving, two touchdown catches – and 21 fumbles on just 214 touches.

 

1969: TE Ken Herock

- Undrafted out of West Virginia, Herock spent six seasons in the AFL before having a long career as a scout. He was primarily a tight end, but like many players at that time he played both offense and defense, and was a linebacker as well. Herock spent four seasons with Oakland, one with Cincinnati, and one with the Patriots. He played in six games for the Pats in 1969, but had no receptions. For his AFL career he had 64 catches for 924 yards and four touchdowns over 73 games, plus one other score on a 15-yard fumble return.

After he hung up his cleats, Herock spent seven years as Oakland’s personnel scout and special teams and tight end coach, before becoming their personnel director when the Raiders won Super Bowl XI. He then went to Tampa Bay and became the Bucs’ Director of Player Personnel for eight years, before discovering as many others did that Hugh Culverhouse was a penny pincher, and that he could make more money elsewhere. He returned to the Raiders for three years, and then was named Director of Player Personnel for Atlanta in 1987. From 1988-96 he was the Falcons’ Vice President of Player Personnel, during which time they acquired players such as Jamal Anderson, Cornellus Bennett, Chris Doleman, Brett Favre, Chris Hinton, Lincoln Kennedy, Andre Rison, Chuck Smith, Deion Sanders and Bob Whitfield.

Herock then returned once again to the Raiders for one season, and then joined the Packers, where he was named Vice President of Personnel; he remained in that position until 2001. In 2002 Herock established Pro Prep, which is a service that prepares pro prospects for the National Football League. He has a thriving business that has worked with more than 800 prospects over the years, to prepare them and enhance their position in the NFL Draft. In 2010 Herock gained a bit of notoriety when he stated that ‘no question is off limits‘ when it comes to interviewing a prospect, in response to the Dolphins’ controversy with the line of questioning they had with Dez Bryant.

 

1967-68: P Terry Swanson

- Like many players on the Boston Patriots, Terry Swanson was a local guy. He was born in Cambridge, went to Belmont High, and then went to college at UMass, where he punted and played safety. With the Redmen, as they were known back then – see Dan Snyder, it is okay to change your team name – Swanson averaged 40.5 yards on 65 punts. Swanson was signed as an undrafted free agent after averaging 48.8 yards in a special tryout that the Pats held for punters. His first season he averaged 40.5 yards on 65 punts, and in 1968 that dropped to 39.5 yards – with two blocks – on 62 punts.

In the off-season, the Patriots traded for Tom Janik, and he became the team’s new punter. At the time he left, Swanson ranked second all-time in team history with 5,081 punting yards. Today that, and his 127 punts both rank 13th in franchise history. After being released, Swanson became a horse trainer – specifically for sulky horses. He made a comeback late in 1969 with the Bengals, but after that he became a full time horse trainer.

 

1963: HB Tom Neumann

- Despite being a very late round draft picking and only playing one season with the team, Neumann is very much a part of the folklore and history of this franchise. He attended the university of Wisconsin for two years, then transferred to Northern Michigan. His senior year he set a single-season record for the Wildcats by rushing for 835 yards, and was named to the small college All-Star team, played in the All-American Bowl, and received honorable mention on the Little All-American team. The Patriots selected him with the seventh pick of the 17th round, 135th overall in the 1963 draft.

After three seasons playing at Nickerson Field, the Patriots had the opportunity to play their home games in a ‘major league’ stadium: Fenway Park. On Friday October 11, 1963, the Pats hosted their first game at Fenway, against the Raiders, in front of a crowd of 26,494. Oakland led 14-3 in the second half, but the Patriots came storming back, scoring 17 points in less than five minutes to win the game. Babe Parilli – who had been questionable to play two days earlier, with an arm injury – hit Jimmy Colclough on a long bomb at the five yard line, and Colclough ran it in for a 56-yard touchdown. On the ensuing drive, Bob Dee hit Oakland quarterback Tom Flores, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Larry Eisenhauer on the Raiders’ 25-yard line. That led to a Gino Capeletti field goal, that put the Patriots within one point of Oakland. On the first play from scrimmage after the kickoff, Houston Antwine and Ross O’Hanley forced another fumble, and the Pats had a first and ten at the Raiders’ twenty yard line.

Parilli was scrambling in the backfield, somehow eluding the Oakland rush, trying to find a receiver. He found Neumann on the two, but the pass was a bit off, behind his target. Neumann whirled around, managed to catch the ball, and fell into the end zone for the go-ahead score. The Patriots would go on to defeat the Buffalo Bills to win the AFL East that season, before falling to San Diego in the AFL championship game.

That touchdown turned out to be the only one of Neumann’s career, but it won the Patriots’ first-ever game at Fenway Park. He played ten games for the Pats in 1963, with 148 yards rushing and 48 yards receiving, serving as Jim Crawford’s backup at halfback. In 1964 Neumann was again with the team, but did not make the roster out of training camp.

 

 

Previously:

#10 – QB Jimmy Garoppolo

#14 – KR/WR Reggie Dunn

#16 – WR Reese Wiggins

#19 – WR Brandon LaFell

#21 – CB Jemea Thomas

#23 – S Patrick Chung

#24 – CB Darrelle Revis

#28 – RB James White

#29 – RB Roy Finch and CB Malcolm Butler

#31 – S Shamiel Gary

#35 – RB Jonas Gray and CB Daxton Swanson

 

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

A historical look at the uniform numbers for the new Patriots: #31, Shamiel Gary

A historical look at the uniform numbers for the new Patriots: #31, safety Shamiel Gary

We are in the dead zone of the NFL year folks, that time between the finish of draft and the start of training camp. With the exception of the one day a week that the media has access to organized team activities, there’s not much to go over that hasn’t already been over-analyzed – so with that in mind here is the eleventh in a series of historical perspectives at who has previously worn the uniform number of the 2014 additions to the roster of the New England Patriots. Unless noted otherwise all the players listed took part in at least one regular or playoff game in the season listed for the Patriots.

Shamiel Gary is the latest members of the Pats to don the number 31; here is a look at those who have preceded them to wear that jersey over the years during the franchise history of the Patriots. A gold star goes to anybody that recognizes any of the four players that wore number 31 for the Boston Patriots.

 

31 – Safety Shamiel Gary

- A first team freshman All-American at the University of Wyoming, Gary had nine games with double-digit tackles in two seasons, and a total of 192 tackles and 11 passes defensed. He then transferred to Oklahoma State to be closer to his ill grandmother, and had to redshirt for one season to fulfill NCAA transfer guidelines. He recorded 119 tackles as a two-year starter at strong safety in Stillwater, and led the team his senior year with nine passes broken up.

 

2012-13: CB Aqib Talib

- Talib attended the University of Kansas, where he was an All-American with 13 interceptions in 34 games, and MVP of the Orange Bowl. Tampa Bay selected him with their first round pick in 2008 draft, 20th overall. At the rookie symposium he got into a fistfight with fellow Buccaneer teammate Cory Boyd, and the following off-season he was arrested for battery on a cab driver. Talib missed the last four games of 2010 when he went on injured reserve with a hip injury, and in the off-season he was arrested in Texas arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon when he was accused of shooting at his sister’s girlfriend; a year later those charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence. In 2011 he again went on IR, this time missing the final three games with a hamstring injury. Four games into the 2012 season he was suspended by the NFL for four games for performance enhancing drugs. He wasn’t playing as well as he had in the past, and had become the whipping boy for the local media as the Bucs lost three in a row. Talib was due to become a free agent the next year and it was apparent the team was not interested in re-signing him with all his baggage, so they traded him to the Patriots along with a seventh round pick in exchange for New England’s fourth round pick.

After serving the suspension, Talib joined the Patriots in week 11. In his first game as a Patriot, Talib had a 59-yard pick-six off Andrew Luck as the Pats routed the Colts, 59-24. His presence solidified the secondary, representing an upgrade over Sterling Moore at corner, while at the same time allowing Devin McCourty to become a full-time safety; the Patriots won six of the final seven regular season games after Talib was on the roster. However, he once again finished the season on the sideline: this time leaving in the first quarter of the AFC championship loss to Baltimore with a thigh injury.

After not generating much interest as a free agent, Talib re-signed with the Patriots for one year. In the second game of the season Talib had a forced fumble and then two fourth quarter interceptions, as the Patriots defeated the Jets by three. After doing a magnificent job of shutting down Jimmy Graham, Talib again was injured, and missed the next three games. In his first game back he seemed to completely lose his composure while covering Steve Smith, in a loss to the Panthers. Talib finished the season with four picks and 13 passes defensed, was on the field for 73% of New England’s defensive snaps, and was named to the Pro Bowl. However, in the playoffs he once again landed on the sideline, leaving early with a knee (or was it hip?) injury. In the off-season Talib signed a six-year, $57 million contract with Denver – which, because of the numbers, is in reality a three-year deal for $27 million.

In his 1½ years in New England, Talib played in 19 regular season games, with five picks, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and one touchdown; he also played in two full playofff games and portions of two others. He currently has 23 interceptions and four touchdowns in his NFL career.

 

2011: S Sergio Brown (wore 38 in 2010)

- Brown went to Notre Dame, where he primarily played on special teams for Charlie Weis; he did not become a starter there until midway through his junior season. The Patriots signed him as an undrafted free agent on April 29, 2010 after liking what they saw with his special teams play. He was released at the end of training camp and signed to the practice squad; the Pats promoted him to the 53-man roster in late October, and he appeared in every game from week seven on.

In 2011 the Patriots released both of their starting safeties from the previous season (James Sanders and Brandon Meriwether) during training camp, leaving a huge void at the position. He played in all but one game in 2011, with three starts, but was being counted on to do more than he was really capable of. Brown made 30 tackles plus nine special teams tackles, had one interception and one pass deflection. Brown was released during the final round of camp cuts in 2012, and claimed off waivers by the Colts the next day. He played in all 16 games for Indy, mostly on special teams, and is still on their roster now.

 

2007-10: S Brandon Meriweather

- While at the University of Miami, Meriweather made news on and off the field. In uniform he was an All-American and twice a semi-finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, and known for his big hits. Off the field he made headlines when he was involved in a shooting incident (with no charges filed, due to it being in self defense), and was suspended when he was caught on camera stomping on an opposing player in a brawl in a game against Florida International. The Patriots chose him in the first round, 24th overall, in the 2007 draft.

In four seasons he did not miss a game with the Patriots, playing in all 69 regular and post season games, with 43 starts. Meriweather got his first start in 2008 after Rodney Harrison was injured, and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2009 and 2010. However, some felt that he was more interested in making a big hit than a sure tackle, and he free-lanced a bit too much rather than sticking to his assignment, and could get burnt on occasion by taking poor angles. During the off-season he was involved in another shooting incident, with two people injured, but again no charges were filed. In what was considered to be a surprise by some, he was released during the final round of cuts at the end of training camp in 2011. Meriwaether finished his four-year career in New England with twelve interceptions, five forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one touchdown, and 181 total tackles (80 solo).

A day after he was cut by the Pats, Meriweather signed with the Bears, and spent one season with Chicago. He then signed with Washington, but only played in one game in 2012 due to a knee injury. Last year he started twelve games, and the club re-signed him to a one-year, one million deal in March.

 

2006: S Antwain Spann (wore 28 in ’07-08)

- After two years at junior college, Spann transferred to Louisiana-Lafayette where he played linebacker and defensive back; he had four interceptions and one pick-six his senior year. The Giants signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2005, but Spann was cut at the end of training camp. In the spring of 2006 Spann played for the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe, appearing in six games with three starts. Spann then went back and forth between the Patriots practice squad and 53-man roster three times in 2006, playing in his first NFL game in a 38-13 victory over Cincinnati on October 1. He was on the 53-man roster for ten regular-season games in ’06, seeing action primarily on special teams in eight of those games while being inactive in two others. Spann was also active in all three playoff games, and in the 24-21 wain at San Diego he had a hit on a punt return that led to a fumble recovery and subsequently a field goal for the Patriots.

The Pats cut Spann at the start of training camp in 2007, and re-signed him to the practice squad in September. In late December he was promoted to the 53-man roster and played in the final regular season game against the Giants, but was inactive for all three playoff games. In 2008 he was cut at the end of camp and re-signed to the practice squad; the Pats signed him to the 53-man roster when Rodney Harrison went on IR with a quad injury against Denver in what turned out to be his final NFL game. The Patriots cut Spann for the final time just before the start of camp in 2009 when Patrick Chung signed his contract.

Spann spent brief time in training camps with Buffalo and Denver in ’09, but did not make either team’s final roster. He joined the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League in 2010, but was released just before the start of the season; Spann has not played any professional football since then. He finished his career with the Patriots with 19 games played, and 13 tackles (8 solo).

 

2005: RB Amos Zereoue

- Born on the Ivory Coast and raised on Long Island, ‘Famous Amos’ was a walk-on at West Virginia. The first time he got a carry he went 69 yards for a touchdown, and he went on to start for three years. Zeroue became the Mountaineers’ career rushing leader with 4,086 yards, averaging 5.2 yards per carry while rushing for 40 touchdowns, and was selected by Pittsburgh in the third round, 95th overall, in the 1999 draft. He was a backup behind Jerome Bettis; at 5′ 8″ he was seen as a third down back. His best season was in 2002 when his playing time went up when Bettis was hurt, and Zeroue rushed for 762 yards and four touchdowns. In the 2001 post-season, he scored a touchdown for Pittsburgh against the Pats in the conference championship game.

Zeroue spent one season in Oakland before the Pats signed him as a free agent at the end of September. He was on the roster for four games in the month of October, appearing in three games and inactive for one. His only touches came when he and Patrick Pass shared running back duties in week six, when Corey Dillon was hurt; Zeroue had seven rushes for 14 yards, and one reception for five yards. After a bye week he was questionable with a thigh injury for the next game, against Buffalo, and was released the day after that game. In his NFL career Zeroue rushed for 2,137 yards and ten touchdowns, a 3.9 yard average over 84 games. He had 137 receptions for 1,111 yards and had a total of eleven touchdowns. His younger brother Maurice is now also a running back at West Virginia.

 

2003: FB Larry Centers

- After graduating from division 1-AA Stephen Austin, Centers was chosen in the fifth round, 115th overall, in the 1990 draft by Phoenix. He spent nine seasons with the Cardinals, to with Washington and two with Buffalo before the Patriots signed him as a free agent on July 30, 2003. As we have seen many times, Bill Belichick likes to acquire players that have performed well against the Pats, and Centers was no exception: in 2002 he caught 11 passes for 98 yards, and added 17 yards on two rushes in against the Patriots. Unfortunately he was 35 years old at that point, and he hurt his knee badly in a game against the Giants. Centers was released after six games with an injury settlement, then re-signed heading into week 15. He appeared in all three playoff games, and had a nice 28-yard reception in the second half of the conference championship game against the Colts that set up an Adam Vinatieri field goal.

After earning his only Super Bowl ring that year, Centers retired. At the time He was ranked third among active players in career receptions with 827, behind only Jerry Rice and Tim Brown. His 6,797 career receiving yards was at that time the most ever in the NFL by a running back, and in 1995 he became the first person in the history of the Cardinals franchise to catch more than 100 passes in a single season. Centers was named to three Pro Bowls and in 1996 he was an All Pro; in addition to his capabilities as a receiver, he was an excellent blocking back as well.

 

2001-02: CB Ben Kelly

- Kelly was a third round pick, 84th overall, out of Colorado by the Miami Dolphins in the 2000 draft. He spent nearly all of 2000 on injured reserve, and then in the off-season he was arrested for DUI. After appearing in just two games while being inactive four times in 2001, he showed up 20 minutes late for a team meeting and Miami released him the next day. The Pats claimed him off waivers on November 2, making room for him by placing Adrian Klemm on injured reserve. Kelly was brought in to return kicks, as Curtis Jackson had been placed on IR and Bill Belichcick wanted avoid having to us Kevin Faulk in that role. Kelly did return seven kicks in two games, but he also ended up going on IR, with a foot injury. A day after he was acquitted of the DUI charge, the Patriots tendered Kelly, and re-signed the restricted free agent shortly thereafter. However, he struggled to grasp New England’s defensive playbook, and he was released on August 1. The Broncos signed Kelly, but he was cut at the end of training camp. He finished his NFL career with thirteen games played (with nine of those being with the Patriots); he spent more time on IR (16 games) and almost as much as a game day inactive (10 games) as he did on the field.

 

1999-2000: CB Kato Serwanga

- Serwanga was born in Uganda, and moved to Sacramento at the age of four when his family fled from tyrant Idi Amin. He and his football-playing twin brother went to Sacramento State and then to the University of the Pacific. When that school dropped their football program Kato transferred to Cal and Wasswa went to UCLA, resulting in the twins competing against each other in the Pac-10. Neither was drafted, but both went on to play in the NFL.

The Patriots signed Serwanga as a free agent immediately following the 1998 draft. He was waived at the end of camp, and signed to the practice squad the next day. He was promoted to the 53-man roster in December, but was inactive for the final four games of the ’98 season. The next year he appeared in all 16 games – with three starts after Ty Law broke his hand – and had three interceptions, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one sack and 37 tackles. In 2000 Serwanga played in fifteen games, with 20 tackles, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and two sacks. The next year the Pats re-signed him as an exclusive rights free agent in large part based on his superior special teams play, but he was released at the end of training camp. Washington signed him a month later and he played 11 games for them, then spent two years with the Giants. In 2004 Serwanga signed with the Colts, but was released at the nd of camp. Overall he played in 58 NFL games, with 31 of those as a member of the Patriots.

 

1995-97: CB Jimmy Hitchcock (wore 37 in 2002)

- After attending the University of North Carolina, the Patriots selected Hitchcock in the third round, 88th overall, in the 1995 draft – the same draft where the Pats picked up Ty Law, Ted Johnson and Curtis Martin. He was projected to be taken as early as the first round by some, but injury concerns due to the fact that he had no anterior cruciate ligaments (!) caused him to slide to the third round.

Hitchcock played in eight games his rookie season, and started five of the 13 games he appeared in the following year. In 1997 he became a full-time starter at right corner, and set a club record with a 100-yard interception return off Dan Marino for a touchdown. The next year, Pete Carroll drafted Tebucky Jones and traded Hitchcock away to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a 1999 third round pick, which turned out to be safety Tony George. Hitchcock picked off seven passes in his first season with Minnesota, leading the NFL with three interception returns for touchdowns, and set a club record with 30 passes defensed – apparently recovering from being thrown under the bus by Cris Carter. He spent two seasons with the Vikings and two with Carolina before returning to New England for his final year of pro football. Hitchcock was on the roster from week 3 to 11, but appeared in only one game; he was released November 20. He played 37 games with the Patriots with 20 starts, four interceptions and one touchdown. In his NFL career he played in 101 games with 61 starts, with 19 interceptions and five touchdowns.

In 2008 Hitchcock was charged with robbery and assault. His google profile says that he is a part owner of a liquor distributor and also an independent rep for Fortune High-Tech Marketing; the latter was shut down by the FTC in 2013 for being a pyramid scheme. There is also a person in his home state that has the same name and is the same age that was charged by the FBI with mortgage fraud, but I have not been able to verify if that is the same Jimmy Hitchcock who played for the Patriots.

 

1982-91: S Fred Marion

- Marion had ten interceptions with the University of Miami, just as the Hurricanes were beginning to make impressive strides from just being a mediocre team, to a national powerhouse under Howard Schnellenberger. The Patriots selected him in the fifth round, 112th overall in the 1982 draft, and he turned out to be arguably the best fifth round draft choice in franchise history.

His first two seasons were relatively uneventful, playing nickel and on special teams. Six weeks into the 1984 season Marion got his first start, and he remained in the starting lineup for the next seven and a half years. The next season he had seven picks, led the NFL with 189 yards on interception returns, was named to the Pro Bowl and was a second-team All Pro. Marion was one of the defensive leaders on that team: he had an interception and two passes defensed in the wildcard victory over the Jets, an interception, a fumble recovery, two pass deflections and seven tackles the next week against the Raiders, and had a clutch interception at the four yard line in the Squish the Fish game that won the AFC championship and sent the Patriots to their first Super Bowl.

Marion played 144 regular season games, and five playoff games in his NFL career, all of which was with New England. His 29 interceptions is tied for third most in the club’s history; he is a member of the team’s All-80s team, the 35th Anniversary Team, and the 50th Anniversary Team. In 2012 he was a finalist for the Patriots Hall of Fame, and hopefully some day the veteran’s committee will see fit to enshrine him in the HoF. Since his playing days ended he has put his business management degree to good use, at one time owning a restaurant, and now working as a a general sales manager at a Toyota dealership in Sanford, Florida.

 

1987: CB Jon Sawyer

- A Replacement Player, Sawyer appeared in the October 4th loss to Cleveland and the October 14th victory against Buffalo. He went to the University of Cincinnati, intercepted three passes his junior and senior seasons, and was the recipient of the Brig Owens Award in 1985 as the Bearcats’ Most Outstanding Back. About the only thing I could find from his playing days with the Bearcats was a photo of him being beaten by an Auburn receiver in a 52-7 loss to the Tigers in 1986.

 

1975: RB Leon McQuay

- The Giants selected McQuay out of the University of Tampa – two seasons before the Spartans ended their football program – with the 119th overall pick in the fifth round of the 1973 draft. McQuay was the first African-American athlete to receive a football scholarship at the University of Tampa, which was still segregated at that time. ‘X-Ray’ McQay rushed for 3,039 yards and scored 37 touchdowns, and was a two time small college All-American in three seasons at UT. As a junior he rushed for 1,362 yards and scored 22 touchdowns; McQuay, Freddie Solomon and John Matuszak led the Spartans to a 10-2 record and a victory over Jack Lambert and Nick Saban in the Tangerine Bowl. Enticed by cash and thinking he had nothing left to prove as a college player, McQuay then skipped his senior year to play in the Canadian Football League, where he averaged 7.1 yard per carry and went to the Grey Cup with the Toronto Argonauts.

McQuay spent three years in the CFL before joining the Giants. Thought to be too small at 5’9″ to be an every down player, he was their kick returner, averaging 27.6 yards on 25 returns, and added another 299 yards from scrimmage as their third down back. On August 21, 1975, the Patriots traded their sixth round 1976 draft pick to the Giants for McQuay. He played in 13 games for the Pats, returning 15 kicks, with limited time at running back (74 yards from scrimmage). With three fumbles he landed in Chuck Fairbanks’ doghouse though, and the following spring McQuay was traded to Oakland for the Raiders’ 10th round draft choice in 1977.

McQuay played four games for the Saints in ’76, then returned to Toronto and the CFL the next year. He tried making a comeback with his hometown Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL in 1982, but was cut during training camp. In 1983 McQuay was inducted into the University of Tampa Athletic Hall of Fame. He then became a licensed auto mechanic and an ordained minister, but died of a heart attack in 1995 at the age of 45. His grandson, Leon McQuay III, is a safety at Southern Cal.

For much more on his life, check out The Saga of Leon McQuay and Leon McQuay III has a legacy to live up to.

 

1972-74: RB Josh Ashton

- In two seasons at Tulsa, Ashton rushed for 1,536 yards and 11 touchdowns, and added another 367 yards and four touchdowns on 29 receptions. He led the Golden Hurricanes in rushing and scoring both years, in kickoff returns (444 yards, 24.7 average) in 1969, and had five 100-yard rushing games; at the time his 205-yard game against North Texas was the second most in school history.

The Patriots selected him in the 9th round (209th overall) of the 1971 draft – their fifth pick that year due to trades – but signed with the BC Lions of the CFL when he did not agree to contract terms with the (then) notoriously tight Pats.

After spending six months in the Army and feeling a bit homesick, Ashton signed with the Patriots for the 1972 season. His rookie season he started at fullback, and led the team in rushing with 546 yards. In a week three 24-23 upset over NFC champions Washington, Ashton ran for 108 yards and a touchdown that put the Pats up 14-7 in the first half, then caught a 24 yard fourth quarter pass from Jim Plunkett for the winning score.

The following year the Pats drafted Sam Cunningham, and added Mack Herron; by 1974 his carries plummeted to just 26 attempts. That game against Washington turned out to be the only 100-yard game of Ashton’s NFL career. The Patriots traded him to New Orleans on July 31, 1975, for the Saints’ seventh round choice in the 1976 draft. He did not survive training camp cuts, and that year he finished his NFL career playing in just two late season games for the Rams. Ashton then returned to his native Houston area, where he died in 1993 at the age of 44. He ranks 29th all-time in club history with 950 yards rushing and is 49th with 309 kickoff return yards.

 

1968: WR Bill Murphy

- Murphy went to Cornell, where he set Ivy League single-season records with 50 receptions for 853 yards and nine touchdowns. He was Cornell’s MVP in 1967, and his 163 yards receiving against Harvard was a school record that stood for 25 years. Murphy played the final six games of the 1968 season for the Patriots, starting five times. He ended up with 18 receptions for 268 yards, averaging 14.9 yards per reception, with no touchdowns.

His business career has been far more sensational than his pro football career though. Murphy put his Ivy League education to good use, specializing in commodities futures at Merrill Lynch. After working at a couple other Wall Street firms, Murphy then opened up his own brokerage. In 1998 he co-founded the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee, where he is the chairman. That organization was organized to expose, oppose, and litigate against collusion to control the price and supply of gold and related financial instruments.

 

1966-67: DB/KR Vic Purvis

- Purvis was a star quarterback at Mississipi Southern College (now known as the University of Southern Mississippi) in the early sixties. He accounted for an astounding 1,079 yards of offense in a two-game span his senior year, rushing for over 200 yards and also passing for more than 300 yards in each of those games. Purvis was a two-time Academic All-American, and an honorable All-American in 1965. His 238 yards rushing on September 25, 1965 was a school record that stood for 17 years, and he rushed for over 100 yards five times with the Golden Eagles; for a while it appeared that he might become the first quarterback to ever win the NCAA division one rushing title.

Because he was more of a rusher (374 carries) than a passer (317 attempts) in college, pro teams did not look at him as a potential starting quarterback. The Patriots signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent in 1966 and converted him to defensive back and kick returner. He played in every game his rookie season, but two games into the 1967 season he suffered a shoulder injury that would ultimately end his pro football career. Purvis’ final stat line was 16 games played, with an average of 23.1 yards on eight kick returns, and an average of 8.6 yards on five punt returns.

After his playing days ended Purvis returned to Mississippi, where he founded Purvis Sales & Marketing; he is now at Pine Belt Promos, a company he has owned since 2005. In addition, since 1974 he has worked as the color commentator on Southern Miss’ football games, one of the longest running stints in all sports. Purvis was elected to the Southern Mississippi Athletic Hall of Fame in 1972, and to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.

 

1963: FB Harry Crump

- Who’s Harry Crump? Harry “The Thump” Crump was a star local athlete, which was perfect for the then-new Boston Patriots: he was born in Framingham, and went to Westborough High School and Boston College. In 1962 he led the Eagles to an 8-2 record, rushing for 641 yards at an average of 5.2 yards per carry.

Crump played all sixteen of the Patriots’ games in 1963, mostly blocking for Larry Garron and getting the ball in short distance and goal line situations, in what would turn out to be his only season of pro football. In the regular season he tallied 120 yards rushing, but did score five touchdowns for the Patriots; in the championship game against San Diego he had 46 yards from scrimmage, third most that day for the Pats.

 

1960-61: CB/P Clyde Washington

- Washington went to Purdue, where he was part of a five-player running back by committee, with each player getting between 50-65 carries. The Browns chose him in the tenth round, 116th overall of the 1960 draft, but he ended up signing with the Patriots as a free agent for the inaugural American Football League season. He was the team’s starting left cornerback, and appeared in all but one game in his two seasons with the Pats. Washington had seven interceptions with the Patriots, and also handled the punting duties in 1960. From 1963-65 he played with the Jets, and finished his pro football career with nine interceptions in 63 games played, plus three rushes for ten yards and 17 punts.

The following year Washington became assistant director of player personnel, a position he would hold through the 1969 season. He died of a brain tumor on December 29, 1974, in his hometown of Carlisle, Pennsylvania ; he was only 36 years old.

 

 

 

Previously:

#10 – QB Jimmy Garoppolo

#14 – KR/WR Reggie Dunn

#16 – WR Reese Wiggins

#19 – WR Brandon LaFell

#21 – CB Jemea Thomas

#23 – S Patrick Chung

#24 – CB Darrelle Revis

#28 – RB James White

#29 – RB Roy Finch and CB Malcolm Butler

#35 – RB Jonas Gray and CB Daxton Swanson

 

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

A historical look at the uniform numbers for the new Patriots: #35, Jonas Gray and Dax Swanson

We are in the dead zone of the NFL year folks, that time between the finish of draft and the start of training camp. With the exception of the one day a week that the media has access to organized team activities, there’s not much to go over that hasn’t already been over-analyzed – so with that in mind here is the tenth in a series of historical perspectives at who has previously worn the uniform number of the 2014 additions to the roster of the New England Patriots. Unless noted otherwise all the players listed took part in at least one regular or playoff game in the season listed for the Patriots.

Jonas Gray and Dax Swanson are the latest members of the Pats to don the number 35; here is a look at those who have preceded them to wear that jersey over the years during the franchise history of the Patriots. Hopefully one of them can break a three-decade long trend, in which nobody has come close to the production and performance of the player that wore number 35 in the days when the team was known as the Boston Patriots.

 

35 – Running Back Jonas Gray

- In his first three seasons at Notre Dame, Gray played in 21 games but had only one start, and 75 carries for 309 yards. His senior year he averaged 6.9 yards per carry for 791 yards and 12 touchdowns, despite missing the final three games with a knee injury. The Dolphins signed him as an undrafted free agent in May of 2012, but he was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform/Non-Football Injury list due to the lingering effects of surgery to repair the torn ACL. The Dolphins waived him on August 31, and Baltimore signed him to their practice squad two days later. The Patriots signed Gray to a future/reserve contract on January 10 after the Ravens elected to not do the same at the end of their 2013 season.

At 230 pounds, Gray is a powerful back built to run between the tackles. He could potentially fill a void on the roster as a big, muscular back, but may need some more time on the practice squad to work on route running, blocking, and avoiding fumbles before landing a spot on the 53-man roster.

 

35 – Cornerback Dax Swanson

- In his freshman year at Toledo, Swanson played in ten games with seven passes defensed and one forced fumble. He then transferred to Sam Houston State, where he started for three years. In 41 games there, Swanson intercepted 14 passes, broke up 31 more, and made 129 tackles. With eight picks and nine passes defensed in his junior year, he was at one point projected to go as high as rounds 3-5 in the draft. Despite running a 4.43 forty at his pro day, his relatively small frame (186 pounds) and lack of experience against top-tier receivers presumably resulted in his not being drafted. The Colts signed him as an undrafted rookie immediately following the 2013 draft, but he he suffered an injury during training camp and was placed on Injured Reserve. Indy waived him with an injury settlement at the end of October, but he did not stay unemployed for very long. After the 49ers released Perrish Cox and Tarell Brown was injured, they signed Swanson to their practice squad. He remained with San Francisco for the remainder of the season, then was released in May after selecting two corners in the draft.

Early reports have been encouraging; Doug Kyed from NESN wrote the following, from OTAs on June 13:

Swanson has made big plays during all three OTAs open to the media this spring. He had a few pass breakups in Week 1, an interception in Week 2 and another pass breakup in Week 3. The Patriots will need a fifth cornerback while Brandon Browner serves a four-game suspension to start the season, and Swanson is in the running for that role.

Swanson’s rookie season didn’t go as planned after he suffered an injury during training camp with the Colts, then spent the 2013 season on the San Francisco 49ers’ practice squad. He’s getting a second chance with the Patriots, and he’s not letting it go to waste.

Swanson continues to impress: he followed that practice up by intercepting two passes in practice on the 18th.

Dax Swanson Scouting Profile

 

2014: S Jeremy Deering (released 5/22)

- Yet another Patriot prospect from Rutgers, Deering began his collegiate career first as a running back (4.4 yards per carry, 578 yards, 2 touchdowns), then wide receiver (21 receptions, 415 yards, 19.8 yards per catch, 1 touchdown), and finally moved to safety. His senior year he played in all 13 games with ten starts, compiling 39 tackles (22 unassisted) with one interception and one pass defensed. He was signed May 16, and released six days later when the Pats signed Dax Swanson.

 

2011: S Ross Ventrone

- One of the few players to have his name become a verb; to be Ventroned refers to the practice of being signed, released, signed to the practice squad, promoted, and released again multiple times in honor of the 29 transactions he was part of with the Patriots in 2011 and 2012. Ross ventrone followed the footsteps of his brother Ray – Bubba – to Villanova and to the patriots as an undersized but tenacious, overachieving special teams player. Signed as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2010, he was cut twice near the end of camp, and signed to the practice squad in October. Ventrone was signed to the roster seven times, to the practice squad six times, and released eight times in 2011, managing to log eight games on the NFL roster. The Patriots released Ventrone at the end of camp in 2012, and he signed a reserve/future contract at the end of the 2012 season with Pittsburgh. The Steelers cut him at the end of camp in 2013, and re-signed him after the end of the 2013 season to another reserve/future contract. Ventrone is still with Pittsburgh, and will once again be fighting for a roster spot based primarily on special teams play.

 

2007-08: CB Mike Richardson

- Not to be confused with the cornerback of the same name who started for the Bears in the 80s, this Mike Richardson was drafted by the Patriots in sixth round, 202nd overall in the 2007 draft. Richardson was a two year starter at Notre Dame, with career totals of 115 tackles (85 solos), four interceptions (48 yards), 10 pass breakups, five tackles for loss and three quarterback sacks. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve, placed on IR on the same day the Pats finally agreed to a contract with Asante Samuel at the end of August. Richardson was waived during final camp cuts in 2008, and immediately signed him to the practice squad. On October 20 Laurence Maroney went on IR, and Richardson was promoted to the 53-man roster. He played ten games for the Pats that season in a backup role, registering 15 tackles and one forced fumble. The Patriots released Richardson during August of 2009, ending his time in New England.

A month later the Chiefs signed Richardson, and he played in eleven games for Kansas City in 2009. He was on their roster but inactive for three games late in 2010, and then signed with Indianapolis. Richardson played the final regular season game and as well as the Colts’ playoff loss to the Jets, but that was it for his NFL career.

 

2000-06: FB Patrick Pass

- The Patriots selected Pass in the 7th round (239th overall) of the 2000 draft. He was a versatile athlete at Georgia, with 35 receptions, 26 kickoff returns, 15 punt returns, 3-5 passing, and 221 carries for 1,022 yards – while also playing baseball in the minor leagues for the Florida Marlins. He was initially cut out of camp and signed to the practice squad, but promoted two weeks later. The Patriots released him again at the end of camp in 2003, but re-signed him a month later. In 2006 Pass was placed on PUP with a foot injury, and not activated until November. In December he suffered a hamstring injury which caused so much pain he grabbed his leg and fumbled the ball, much to the chagrin of many fans who felt he should have ignored the pain and held on to the ball. He was placed on IR, and became a free agent at the end of the season. Pass signed with Houston, but was cut at the end of camp. He signed with the Giants in November, and played in one game in ’07. After being sidelined with a turf toe injury, Pass attempted to comeback and re-signed with the Patriots on June 4, 2009. The Pats apparently felt he wasn’t physically up to the challenge at the age of 32, and they released him five days later. He officially retired from the NFL in 2010.

With the Patriots he was a swiss army knife, exhibiting the versatility that Bill Belichick covets, and is one of a small group to earn three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots. He filled in reasonably well at both fullback and running back, blocked well, returned some kicks (he was sure-handed with kickoff returns against the Raiders in the snow of the ‘tuck’ playoff game in 2001-02), blocked on kick and punt returns, performed well on kick coverage teams, and could catch as well. He finished his career with 526 yards rushing at 4.1 yards per carry, plus 66 receptions for 570 yards, with four touchdowns in 79 regular season games; he also averaged 20.7 yards on 36 kickoff returns. He still often appears in the New England area, eager to help out with fund raising drives for charity events.

 

1999: RB Jerry Ellison

- Tampa Bay signed Ellison as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Tennessee-Chattanooga in 1995. In his rookie season he was particularly successful against Detroit: he scored two touchdowns in the first meeting, including a 36 yard run around left end, and then a 75 yard score in the season finale. He spent four seasons with the Buccaneers as a special teamer, and backup at running back first to Errict Rhett and then Warrick Dunn.

Ellison played in all 64 games for the Bucs from 1995-98, and then signed with the Patriots as a free agent. In twelve games he again played mostly on special teams, with only two rushes for ten yards and four receptions for 50 yards. The following season he re-signed with Tampa Bay, but was hurt during training camp. He was released with an injury settlement, but he did not play again in the NFL. He finished his career with 368 yards rushing, five touchdowns, and 310 yards on 30 receptions; he also averaged 18.6 yards on 19 kickoff returns.

 

1996-97: RB Marrio Grier

- Grier was a footnote to one of the best trades in franchise history for the Patriots. The Detroit Lions wanted to move up in the 1996 draft, and the Patriots obliged, trading their third round pick (76th overall) to Detroit for their third (86th overall), a fourth round pick, and a sixth round pick. The Pats used those picks to select Tedy Bruschi, Chris Sullivan, and Grier, who was from Tennesee-Chattanooga after transferring from Clemson. The Lions took Georgia Tech safety Dave Stewart; if you know him, it’s because you listen to the 2 Live Stews sports talk radio show, and not for his NFL career (42 games, two starts, one interception, 22 tackles).

Grier played all 32 games in his two seasons with the Patriots. In the final game of the ’97 season, Grier scored the go-ahead touchdown as the Pats defeated Miami 14-12 to clinch the AFC East title. He was re-signed the following spring, but did not make the final roster in ’98. Grier finished his career with 180 yards rushing and two touchdowns. He spent time with the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe in 1999, where he scored a touchdown in the World Bowl, and blocked for Lawrence Phillips, who led the league in rushing.  From 2000-03 Grier then played fullback and linebacker with Carolina and Colorado in the Arena Football League, before hanging up his cleats for good.

 

1993-94: FB Burnie Legette

- Legette played his college ball at Michigan, where he blocked for Jon Vaughn, Ricky Powers and Tyrone Wheatley from 1989-92. The Patriots signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent, and he played in seven games in ’93 and three in ’94, primarily on special teams, with no stats. During training camp in ’95 he pulled a hamstring, and was released during final cuts.

 

1989: RB George Wonsley

- Selected in in the fourth round (103rd overall) out of Mississippi State in the 1984 draft by Indianapolis, Wonsley played in 73 games over five seasons with the Colts. He was one of three brothers all playing running back in the NFL: Nathan was with Tampa Bay in 1986, and Otis was with Washington from 1981-85. Wonsley appeared in five games for the Patriots, from weeks 11-16 in 1989. He had two carries: one for a loss of two yards, and one for no gain. For his NFL career Wonsley rushed for 1,158 yards and nine touchdowns, and also had 60 receptions for 527 yards.

 

1983: RB George Peoples

- Primarily a blocking back at Auburn, where he rushed for 442 yards his senior year, Peoples was chosen by Dallas in the 8th round (216th overall) of the 1982 draft. He played one season for the Cowboys, with 22 yards rushing on seven attempts in eight games. The Pats signed him the following year, and he was on the roster for all 16 games, with one fumble recovered. He played the next two seasons in Tampa, appearing in eight games. His final NFL stat lines read four seasons, 32 games, eight carries for 24 yards, and two fumbles recovered.

 

1979-80: RB/KR Allan Clark

- Not to be confused with the singer, songwriter and guitar player from the Hollies, Allan Clark was a running back and return man from Northern Arizona. He was an AP All American Honorable Mention in 1978, averaging 4.9 yards per carry, and held the school record for most yards rushing in a season (1,333 yards) and in a career (2,753 yards). At Northern Arizona Clark rushed for more than 200 yards during a game three times, and the Patriots selected him in the tenth round, 271st overall in the 1979 draft.

Clark excelled in coverage on special teams, and surprisingly made the roster in ’79. He also handled kickoff returns, averaging 22.1 yards on 37 returns. In 1980 he missed five games early in the season with a broken thumb, and due to that relinquished his return duties. Clark still played on the punt and kickoff coverage teams, and had three fumble recoveries – including one for a 15-yard touchdown in 1980 against Baltimore. Unfortunately between his reckless playing style and small size, more injuries would derail his career. After missing all of 1981, he played six games with the Bills and Packers in ’82 before calling it quits. Clark finished his NFL career with 33 games played, 140 yards rushing, three rushing touchdowns, 35 yards receiving, an average of 20.7 yards on 44 kick returns, and five fumble recovries – with one for a TD.

 

1976-77: RB Jess Phillips

- Phillips was a person who made the most of a second chance. He was convicted of forgery while at Michigan State, and spent four months in prison. The expansion Cincinnati Bengals selected him in the fourth round, 84th overall in the 1968 draft, and he played for them for five years. Originally the Bengals had Phillips playing safety, but switched him to running back. He then played for New Orleans for two years and one in Oakland before the Patriots signed him in 1976 at the age of 29. That team was deep at running back with Sam Cunningham, Andy Johnson and Don Calhoun, so Chuck Fairbanks used him as the kick returner. In his two seasons in New England he played in 27 games, with 191 yards rushing, two touchdowns, and an average of 24.5 yards on 20 kickoff returns. Phillips finished his NFL career with 3,568 yards rushing, 694 yards receiving, 15 touchdowns, an average of 23.3 yards on 45 kickoff returns, and 5,326 all-purpose yards; in 1970 he was a Sporting News All-Pro.

 

1972: RB Henry Matthews

- Matthews was a backup to Eric Allen at Michigan State in 1970-71, and went undrafted the following spring. The Patriots signed him for three games in December, during which he had no rushes or receptions, and three kickoff returns for an average of 24.7 yards. The following season he played in nine games for the Saints and Falcons, compiling four yards rushing, 19 yards receiving, and one fumble recovery for 55 yards.

 

1965-73: RB Jim Nance

- In 1963 and 1965, Jim Nance was the NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion at Syracuse and an All-American. On the gridiron, Nance was just as good. Despite splitting carries with Floyd Little, he rushed for 1,021 yards and 13 touchdowns his senior year, and scored in ten straight games. Most people assumed he would sign with the NFL, but Nance liked Mike Holovak a lot more than George Halas – and the fact that Holovak did not object to his wrestling. The Bears drafted him in the 4th round, and the Patriots took a flyer on him in the 19th round, 151st overall in the 1965 AFL draft. Nance surprised people by signing with the Pats, and eventually – far too late in my opinion – was enshrined to the Patriots Hall of Fame.

In his rookie season, Nance weighed 260, and Holovak told Nance he would make a fine guard after averaging just 2.9 yards per carry. Whether he meant it or not, the motivation worked wonders. Nance lost 25 pounds, and in his second season he led the AFL with 1,458 yards rushing, 11 rushing touchdowns, and 1,561 yards from scrimmage. He was an AFL All-Pro, AFL Most Valuable Player, and AP and UPI AFL Player of the Year. In the ten year history of the AFL, Nance was the only player to eclipse the 1,400-yard plateau and his 104.1-yard rushing average per game that season still remains a franchise. That was the year of the first Super Bowl, and the Pats came within a whisker of playing the Chiefs – a team they had tied late in the year in Kansas City – for the AFL championship and a chance to compete against the NFL in that first-ever championship, thanks primarily to Nance’s performance.

In 1967 Nance again led the league in rushing, with 1,216 yards, and was an All-Pro for the second time. The team around him grew old however, and went into a rebuilding stage. Opponents were able to key completely on him, and injuries slowed him down. He ended up playing seven years for the Patriots, rushing for 5,323 yards; that record was broken a decade later by Sam Cunningham, but still remains the second most in franchise history. He also rushed for 45 touchdowns, which is still a club record. After the 1971 season Nance was traded to the Eagles, but did not play. After sitting out the 1972 season, he was signed by the Jets, but was at that point a shell of his former self, rushing for just 78 yards in seven games. He also played two seasons in the World Football League before retiring.

After suffering a heart attack and stroke in 1983, Nance passed away in 1992 at the age of 49; that unfortunately happened prior to his 2009 induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame. He is without a doubt one of the greatest players in the history of the franchise, and one that made me a huge fan of the team when I was a young kid.

Here is Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick on Jim Nance:

“Jim Nance is really, when I look back on all the players that I remember both growing up and even as a coach, he’s kind of really the prototype fullback… I remember being a kid at the Naval Academy and going to his wrestling matches and seeing Jim come in there and, boy, he looked like a fullback in his wrestling outfit. He was, of course, an NCAA championship wrestler with just incredible quickness and balance and power for a big man. Of course, you saw that on the field and off the field. I think the recognition there is certainly well-deserved. He was a very, very hard guy to tackle and deal with. [He was], like I said, more of a prototype fullback. I know Jim Brown – and the greatness that Jim [Brown] has brought to this game is on a different level – but it’s almost like Jim [Brown] was a halfback with his speed and his elusiveness in the open field. Nance was a pretty special player here and in that era as well.”

Jim Nance on the cover of Sports Illustrated

 

 

Previously:

#10 – QB Jimmy Garoppolo

#14 – KR/WR Reggie Dunn

#16 – WR Reese Wiggins

#19 – WR Brandon LaFell

#21 – CB Jemea Thomas

#23 – S Patrick Chung

#24 – CB Darrelle Revis

#28 – RB James White

#29 – RB Roy Finch and CB Malcolm Butler

 

 

 

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2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

A historical look at the uniform numbers for the new Patriots: #29, Roy Finch and Malcolm Butler

We are in the dead zone of the NFL year folks, that time between the finish of draft and the start of training camp. With the exception of the one day a week that the media has access to organized team activities, there’s not much to go over that hasn’t already been over-analyzed – so with that in mind here is the ninth in a series of historical perspectives at who has previously worn the uniform number of the 2014 additions to the roster of the New England Patriots. Unless noted otherwise all the players listed took part in at least one regular or playoff game in the season listed for the Patriots.

Roy Finch and Malcolm Butler are the latest members of the Pats to don the number 29; here is a look at those who have preceded them to wear that jersey over the years during the franchise history of the Patriots.

 

29 – Running Back Roy Finch

- Finch averaged 5.4 yards per carry in his four-year career at Oklahoma (262 carries, 1,412 yards), with 5.9 yards per carry his senior year (59 carries, 347 yards). He also returned had 43 career kickoff returns, for 1,099 yards and a touchdown. Due to his size (he was measured at 5′ 6½”, 177 pounds at his pro day) and an ankle injury, he didn’t get a lot of playing time in college, and his best shot at making the team will be as a return man and possibly a third down back. Finch ran the 40 in 4.50 seconds and the three-cone in 7.07 seconds, the latter a time that would have ranked him 10th best among running backs at the combine. Finch thinks that the Patriots are getting an “exciting player“, and he seems to be somebody worth keeping an eye on once training camp opens up to the public.

 

29 – Cornerback Malcolm Butler

- Butler was one of four players from West Alabama signed as rookie free agents with NFL teams this spring. He was a first team All-Gulf South Conference corner the last two years, leading the conference in passes defended (18), while registering 45 tackles and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. Butler also played on special teams, where he blocked a kick and averaged 27.9 yards on 13 kickoff returns.

 

 

2013: RB LeGarrette Blount

- After two years in junior college, Blount rushed for 1,002 yards and a school record 17 touchdowns as a junior at Oregon in 2008. At the beginning of his senior season he was expected to be an early draft pick, but that all changed very quickly. In the first game of his senior year he was in an ugly incident, where he sucker punched a Boise State player at the end of the game and then needed to be restrained by police and team staff to keep from going after fans. Blount was suspended and was not reinstated until the final two games, and no NFL teams wanted to take him in the 2010 draft.

Jeff Fisher signed Blount and he initially made the 53-man roster, but was released prior to the first game of the season. Tamp Bay claimed him off waivers, and he rushed for 1,007 yards and six touchdowns his rookie season. Blount made some highlight reel plays that year, hurdling over would be tacklers as if he was a lot lighter than 245 pounds. The next year he ran for 781 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 4.2 yards per carry, as the 4-12 Bucs found themselves having to throw more often than they had the previous season. In 2012 Greg Schiano replaced Raheem Morris as head coach, and went with rookie Doug Martin (319 carries) almost exclusively, with Blount getting only 41 carries. On the final day of the 2013 draft the Bucs traded Blount and a seventh round pick to the Patriots for Jeff Demps.

With Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Leon Washington, Brandon Bolden, George Winn and fullback James Develin competing for what would probably be four roster spots, many did not think Blount would make the 53-man roster when training camp began. Blount proved the doubters wrong by making the squad, and between Shane Vereen’s injury and Stevan Ridley’s fumbles, Blount’s playing time increased. He averaged about 7-8 carries a game until late in the season; 51 of his 153 regular season rushes came in the final three games. In week 15 Blount had 16 carries for 76 yards and two touchdowns against Baltimore, all season highs for him, and then topped that the next week with 24 rushes for 189 yards and two touchdowns, plus two kick returns for 145 yards against Buffalo. That carried over to the playoffs, where he ran 24 times for 166 yards and four touchdowns in the 43-22 victory against Indianapolis.

In that three-week span Blount rushed for 431 yards and eight touchdowns, as the Patriots prepared for the conference championship against Denver. Unfortunately the Pats could not contain Denver nose tackle Terrance Knighton, and Blount gained just six yards on five first half carries. Down 20-3 at that point, the Patriots virtually abandoned the run; that turned out to be the final game for Blount as a Patriot. He signed a two-year, $3,850,000 contract, including a $950,000 signing bonus, with Pittsburgh as an unrestricted free agent. With the Steelers he is expected to once again get about six to eight carries a game, backing up Le’Veon Bell.

Blount finished his one year with the Patriots with 772 yards rushing and seven touchdowns, averaging 5.0 yards per carry. He also had two receptions for 38 yards, and averaged 29.1 yards on 17 kickoff returns for a total of 1,304 all-purpose yards. The rushing yardage ranks 32nd for a single season in Pats history, the touchdowns are tied for 21st-best, and the all-purpose yards is 34th best in a single season. He set a franchise record for most touchdowns in a playoff game with four against the Colts, and his 166 yards rushing in that game tied Curtis Martin for the team record for the most in a post-season game.

 

2011-12: CB Sterling Moore

- Moore went undrafted out of Southern Methodist, and originally signed with the Raiders in 2011. The Patriots signed him to their practice squad on October 5, 2011, and he was promoted the roster, three times during that season. He appeared in six regular season games with three starts at safety, and also played in all three playoff games. In week 17 against the Bills he had two interceptions, one for a touchdown, and was named NFL Rookie of the week.

Two weeks later Moore made his signature play for which he will always be remembered. In the AFC Championship game against Baltimore, the Ravens had the ball on the New England 14-yard line with time running out, and the Pats up by three. Baltimore appeared momentarily to have scored the game-winning touchdown on a pass in the end zone to Lee Evans, but Moore stripped the ball just before Evans could gain control. Two plays later Billy Cundiff badly shanked a chip-shot field goal, and the Patriots won, 23-20.

Moore was limited with a knee injury in 2012. He was released on October 31 when the club signed safety Derrick Martin. The Pats signed him to their practice squad two days later, and the Dallas Cowboys signed him off the practice squad to their roster on December 1. Dallas let him go at the end of training camp in 2013, and re-signed him in late November.

While with the Patriots, Moore played a total of 14 games with three starts – but it will be his one play in one playoff game for which he will always be remembered in New England.

 

2010: CB Tony Carter

- There was another Tony Carter who started 29 games for the Patriots at fullback from 1998-99, but this one is a corner who has spent most of his NFL career in Denver. At Florida State he had 139 tackles, nine interceptions, 26 passes defensed, and scored four touchdowns (three interceptions and one fumble). The Broncos signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2009; he spent most of that season on their practice squad, and appeared in two games with one fumble recovery.

After being released with an injury settlement in 2010, the Patriots signed Carter to their practice squad in early September. He spent 13 games on the PS before being promoted to the roster in mid-December; Carter appeared in two games for the Pats. At the beginning of training camp he was released, hardly being noticed in a group of cuts that included Tully Banta-Cain, Nick Kaczur, Alge Crumpler and Ty Warren.

The Vikings signed him but he was again released at the end of camp, and then Denver re-signed him to their practice squad at the end of November. He ended up playing the final three regular season games and both playoff games for the Broncos, and had a special teams tackle in the 45-10 loss to the Patriots. The last two seasons Carter has seen more playing time, appearing in 27 games with two starts. He also played a key part in New England’s 34-31 comeback victory over the Broncos last year. The Patriots punted in overtime, and return man Wes Welker made a ‘poison’ call to alert his teammates to get out of the way, but the signal was made far too late. The ball hit Carter, Nate Ebner recovered, and Stephen Gostkowski kicked the game winning field goal as the Patriots recovered from a 24-0 deficit to defeat the Broncos.

Trivia: Tony was one of three players with the last name Carter to be with the Patriots in 2011. The other two? Sixth-round draft pick Markell Carter, and veteran free agent pick-up Andre Carter.

 

2009: CB Shawn Springs

- Springs was selected third overall out of Ohio State in the 1997 draft by the Seahawks. He spent seven years in Seattle and five in Washington, and went to one Pro Bowl. With Tom Brady returning from his knee injury in 2009, the Patriots seemed to try and put together a Super Bowl run by bringing in a lot of veterans. Springs, Alex Smith, Joey Galloway, Greg Lewis and Chris Baker – and all had at best a limited return on investment for the Pats. Springs reportedly had a less than stellar attitude on a team that had poor chemistry. Springs was one of five players to be sent home after arriving late for a team meeting, and when reporters later surrounded Adalius Thomas for interviews and comments, Springs sarcastically said “Sorry A.D.” in a high-pitched voice. With the comment being made in front of all the media, the presumed interpretation was a mocking of Bill Belichick and his rules; Springs ended up being inactive for four games, many of which some people speculated he was healthy enough to play in. Late in the season Springs threw Brandon Meriweather under the bus for blown coverage on a play, and the Patriots released him early in the 2010 off-season.

In twelve games with the Patriots, Springs had one interception, four passes defensed, and 35 tackles. Over 13 NFL seasons he played in 169 games with 155 starts, 33 interceptions, 84 passes defensed, six forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. The 2009 season was a disappointment for Pats fans, finishing 10-6; Springs never played on an team with a better record during his NFL career. His release was thought by some to be addition by subtraction.

 

2008: CB Lewis Sanders

- Sanders was a solid return man (two kickoff returns for touchdowns) and defensive back (ten interceptions) at Maryland, and was taken by the Browns in the fourth round, 95th overall, in the 2000 draft. He spent four seasons with Cleveland, two with Houston and one with Atlanta; he was never a starter, but got plenty of playing time as a third back.

The Patriots signed the 30-year old Sanders as a veteran free agent at the tail end of his NFL career in 2008. The previous season he had finished the year on IR with a torn pec; his deal was for only one year with a modest $40,000 signing bonus and $730,000 base salary. Sanders had a solid training camp, and looked to be on the verge of being a starter opposite Ellis Hobbs. However, he had a head injury and then a hamstring injury, and then a shoulder injury. Sanders played in ten games with four starts, but could have played more in place of Deltha O’Neal had he been able to stay on the field. He finished the year with 22 tackles, one fumble recovery and one pass defensed, and was not offered a new contract by the Patriots in 2009.

In eight years in the NFL he played in 97 games with 29 starts, with five interceptions, 22 passes defensed, 3 fumble recoveries, 2 forced fumbles, and 196 total tackles. Since then he has become a firefighter, and was inducted into the Staten Island Sports Hall of Fame.

 

2007: CB Eddie Jackson

- Over four years in the NFL, Jackson played in 42 games, three of which were for the Patriots. He was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Arkansas by Carolina in 2004. With the Razorbacks he played both corner and safety, and also was a track and field All-American, running the hurdles. He played ten games for the Panthers in ’04, and 29 games over the next two seasons with Miami.

He tore his ACL late in 2006, and the Pats – perhaps under the recommendation of former Miami head coach Nick Saban – signed the special teamer to a two-year deal with no signing bonus. Jackson began training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list, and on August 30 he was placed on the Reserve/PUP list, which meant he would miss at least the first six weeks of the season. He started practicing in mid-October and was activated off PUP – along with Chad Jackson – on Novemeber 7. Jackson appeared in his first game for the Pats in week 11, November 18 against the Bills. He also played the next week against the Eagles, but was inactive for both of the next games. Jackson played in week 15 against the Jets, but was waived three days later on December 19 to make room for DT Rashad Moore. He signed with Washington the following off-season, but was released before the start of training camp. In 2013 Jackson appeared on the Fox reality show, MasterChef.

 

2006: CB Chidi Iwuoma

- Undrafted out of Cal, Iwuoma originally signed as a rookie free agent with Detroit in 2001. After three weeks on the practice squad, he was promoted and appeared in 13 games for the Lions. Iwuoma signed with Pittsburgh in 2002, and played there for four seasons. Twice he was a special teams co-captain with the Steelers, and he was a standout on coverage teams. Pittsburgh re-signed him to a three-year contract in 2004 and in 2005 he appeared in all 16 games; however, he was slowed down by shoulder, ankle and glute injuries. The physical mayhem of special teams was taking its toll on his 5′ 8″ frame. In 2006 he was limited in minicamp due to the shoulder injury, and he suffered a concussion in the final preseason game; a week later the Steelers released him.

The Patriots signed the special teams ace on October 4th, but the injuries had slowed him down, and after three games in New England the Pats released him. He bounced around between the Rams, Steelers and Titans, but appeared in only three more NFL games. Iwuoma played in 77 NFL games over seven years, with 63 tackles, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He went back to Cal and for four years worked as their Assistant Director of Student-Athlete Development, and is now a scout for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

2005-06: S Guss Scott

- Scott was a Senior Bowl participant after a strong career at the University of Florida, and was drafted by the Patriots in the third round, 95th overall in the 2004 draft. The Patriots wanted to sign him to a five-year contract with a $625,000 signing bonus, but agent Drew Rosenhaus didn’t want a deal that long, looking ahead to free agency (and another commission). He had Scott instead sign a one-year contract for the rookie minimum of $230,000 – and Scott injured his knee in the second pre-season game, and after five games was placed on injured reserve on October 19.

The Pats re-signed Scott to a $350,000 contract the following March, but he was injured again in the 2006 training camp. He was released at the end of training camp on September 2nd, and finished his career with the Patriots with five games played, two starts, and 21 tackles and six assists. The Texans claimed him off waivers but he was inactive (six games) more often as he made an appearance (five games), and they released him. Before the 2006 season ended he spent about a week each on the practice squads of the Jets and Seahawks – as well as the Patriots, who re-signed him on the same day they released WR Doug Gabriel – but Scott never again played in an NFL game.

With Rodney Harrison and Eugene Wilson already entrenched at the position, Scott wasn’t expected to start – but he was still expected to see plenty of playing time as part of a three-man rotation, and first player to step in when the inevitable injury sidelined a starter. More than the injuries, his biggest liability may have been that he was simply a ‘tweener: not big enough to excel against the run, but not fast enough in pass coverage. As a third round pick, his minimal contributions were certainly a disappointment for Patriot fans.

 

2004: CB Earthwind Moreland

- Undrafted out of Georgia Southern, Moreland originally signed with Tampa Bay, but the Bucs released him out of camp. The Jets claimed him off waivers, but he made only one appearance in his rookie season. The next year he was traded to New Orleans, and a week later he was waived – and claimed by Jacksonville. The Jags let him go a month later and he was signed by Cleveland, and in 2002 they allocated him to the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe. He spent one year on IR and another on the Browns pratcie squad, playing only two NFL games with Cleveland in his three years with the organization.

On August 5, 2004, the Pats signed Morris, but released him at the end of camp. He spent some time with Minnesota’s practice squad, was cut, and re-signed to the New England practice squad. In 2004 the Patriots were desperate for help in the secondary due to injuries, and he joined Troy Brown as a defensive back for the Pats. In the 2004 championship season Moreland played in nine games for the Pats, with two starts. His mother’s fondness of the 1970s R&B band made Moreland as memorable for his name as he did for his play on the field.

 

2003: S Aric Morris

- Tennessee drafted Morris in the fifth round, 135th overall, in the 2000 draft. The Michigan State Spartan played three years for the Titans, appearing in 47 games with ten starts.

The Pats signed Morris in May of the 2003 season, and he stuck on the roster out of training camp. Morris was on the New England roster for the first five weeks of the 2003 season, playing in all but the first game. In his first game, week two at Pahiladelphia, he had a 33-yard interception and three tackles. He was released on October 7 to make room for fullback Fred McCrary.

 

2002: S Chris Hayes

- Hayes was a was two-time All-Pac 10 selection, and a Butkus Award finalist as an outside linebacker at Washington State. The Jets selected him in the seventh round, 210th overall, in the 1996 draft. He was waived at the end of camp, and spent time on the practice squad with Washington and Green Bay. The next year the Packers traded him back to the Jets, and he played 78 games with New York over five seasons. After the Jets released him, the Pats signed Hayes in March of 2002; he ended up playing four games for New England in what turned out to be the final season of his NFL career. Hayes now works with a company that assists athletes and coaches in reaching their potential not only in sports, but also in life by focusing on money management in addition to physical training and nutrition.

 

2001: LB Hakim Akbar

- A second-team All-American strong safety at the University of Washington, Akbar was selected by the Patriots in the fifth round (163rd overall) of the 2001 draft. In his senior year with the Huskies he had 91 tackles, six interceptions, three fumble recoveries and seven forced fumbles. He played six games for the Patriots in 2001, but in November he suffered a spinal injury and nearly died when he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed. Akbar was thrown from the vehicle and spent a month in the hospital, being fed through an IV, with three fractured vertebrae, broken ribs and an injured hip and shoulder.

From 2002-07, Akbar spent time with the Texans, Rams, Bucs, Jaguars, and also was in the CFL and NFL Europe. He played in ten games in the NFL, and was also inactive for seven games.

 

2000: RB Raymont Harris

- After rushing for 2,649 yards at Ohio State – at the time the 6th best in school history – Harris was drafted in the fourth round, 114th overall, in the 1994 draft by Chicago. He rushed for 464 yards as a rookie, but missed virtually all of 1995 with a broken collarbone. In 1996 he rebounded with 748 yrds rushing and 296 yards receiving, with five total touchdown.s The next season was his best, as he rushed for 1,033 yards and ten touchdowns, and totaled 1,148 yards from scrimmage.

Harris signed with division rival Green Bay as a free agent, but in two seasons he missed 24 games with injuries and only ran for 228 yards. The Patriots signed him on on Feb. 14, 2000, after the Packers released him, but he did not make the roster out of training camp. He later signed with Denver and played two games for the Broncos before they too released him. The Patriots brought Harris back early in December, and he had 14 yards on three carries with two receptions for one yard against his original NFL team, the Bears. Harris was a game-day inactive the next week against Buffalo, and was released on the same day the club suspended Ty Law for his border arrest following that game against the Bills.

Harris finished his NFL career with 2,509 yards rushing and 739 yards receiving, but by the time Patriots signed him his 30-year old body was showing the effects of too many injuries. He has since returned to Ohio State, where he is employed in the Athletic Department as Director of Development, responsible for fund raising projects.

 

1997-98: RB/KR Derrick Cullors

- Cullors was a running back who transferred to Murray State after not receiving much playing time at TCU. Undrafted in 1996, he signed with Baltimore but did not make their roster. The Pats signed him to their practice squad for the ’96 season.

In 1997 Cullors was on the roster and he dressed for all but one game, but he had only 22 carries and two receptions. His lone touchdown came on one of his 15 kick returns, and 86-yarder versus Buffalo. Then in the playoffs against Miami, Cullors was called upon in the second half due to an injury to Curtis Martin. Cullors responded with 86 yards on 22 carries; that allowed the Patriots to chew up the clock and also set up a field goal, as they defeated the Dolphins 17-3. The next game didn’t go quite so well; Cullors had 18 yards on seven rushes at Pittsburgh, as the Steelers won 7-6.

The following season Martin was gone, but Cullors still got little playing time. Robert Edwards carried the ball nearly 300 times, and Cullors had only 18 rushing attempts – and that was it for him in the NFL. He finished his career with the Patriots with 149 yards rushing and 154 yards receiving in 31 regular-season games; he also had 60 kick returns, averaging 24.5 yards per return, with one touchdown. In addition he had 104 yards rushing and 18 yards receiving in three playoff games, with seven kickoff returns at an average of 14.6 yards.

 

1994-95: S Myron Guyton

- Guyton was drafted in the 8th round (218th overall) of the 1989 NFL Draft, out of Eastern Kentucky. With the exception of time missed due to an injury in 1992, he started all but three games in his seven-year NFL career. Guyton was one of ‘Parcells’ guys’, who followed the head coach from New York to New England. In his two seasons with the Patriots he had five interceptions and four fumble recoveries, and also recovered an onsides kick. After the 1995 season, Guyton was forced to retire at the age of 28 due to back and neck injuries.

 

1991: S Darrell Fullington

- Raised in one of my favorite places, New Smyrna Beach, Fullington went to college at Miami. As a member of the Hurricanes, he was a key player in the wrong side of one of the greatest comebacks in college history. Miami was crushing Maryland, up 31-0 at the half on November 10, 1984. The Terrapins drew a bit of incentive from the ‘Canes attitude, and Frank Reich replaced Stan Gelbaugh at quarterback in the second half – and threw six touchdown passes. Maryland took the lead on a pass that Fullington got his hands on but could not hold on to – and it bounced into the arms of a Maryland receiver for the go-ahead touchdown in the 4th quarter, as the Terrapins went on to win, 42-40.

The Vikings selected Fullington in the fifth round (124th overall) of the 1988 NFL Draft. He was with Minnesota for three years, appearing in all but one game with 13 starts at free safety, with five interceptions. The Patriots signed him in 1991, but after being burnt one too many times they waived him on September 30. Fullington had appeared in five games for the Patriots, with no other stats.

Tampa Bay claimed him a day later off waivers, and he spent the rest of the season as their nickel back – with interceptions in each of the first two games after he left New England. He started at free safety in 1992 for the Bucs, but that was his final season in the NFL. In five years in the league he played in 79 games, with 26 starts and ten interceptions.

 

1990: RB Don Overton

- Overton entered the NFL in 1989 as an undrafted free agent from Fairmont State University, and is the last of three players from the Virginia school to have appeared in the NFL. He finished his college career with the Falcons with 3,450 yards rushing and 282 points, school records that stood for 16 years. In his senior year he ran for 1,014 yards, leading Fairmont to the NAIA playoffs – they haven’t been to the post-season since – and scored their only touchdown on a 91-yard kickoff return

Overton was on the Pats roster for the first eight weeks of the 1990 season, appearing in all seven games. He was used primarily on special teams, stuck low on the depth chart behind John Stephens, Marvin Allen and Mosi Tatupu. That year Overton returned ten kicks for an average of 18.8 yards, with five rushes for eight yards and two receptions for 19 yards. He then played in 1991-92 with the Lions, appearing in 15 games with 59 yards rushing and 38 yards receiving while backing up Barry Sanders. In 1993 Overton signed as a free agent with Philadelphia in hopes of getting more playing time, but the Eagles then brought in Herschel Walker to be their feature back. He later spent time in training camp with Cincinnati, but did not make the final roster. In his post-NFL career, Overton is employed as a mortgage broker for Cardinal Mortgage Services in Columbus, Ohio.

 

1990: RB Jamie Lawson

- Lawson was recruited by Bill Arnsparger to accept a scholarship to LSU in 1984. After two seasons with the Tigers he transferred to play two more years at Nicholls State, and was drafted by Tampa Bay in the fifth round of the 1989 draft, 117th overall. He appeared in eleven games from 1989-90 with the Bucs, all on special teams. The Patriots signed him late in the season, and he was on the roster for the final two games of the year. Lawson was inactive in a week 16 game at the Jets, and then active the next week against the Giants. All his NFL playing time came on special teams, he had no carries or receptions during his two season in the NFL.

 

1978-81: WR Harold Jackson

- A 12th round draft pick in 1968 out of Jackson State, Harold Jackson went on to five Pro Bowls with the Eagles and Rams. Twice he led the NFL in receiving yards, and also led the league in receptions in ’72 and receiving touchdowns in ’73. The Rams figured a decline was imminent at age 32, and traded him for a couple of draft picks when the Patriots found themselves with a hole at receiver following Daryl Stingley’s being paralyzed by Jack Tatum. Even though that Patriot team was a run-oriented club (671 rushes, 390 passes), Jackson, as the number two receiver behind Stanley Morgan, still had six touchdowns and 743 yards receiving.

In four seasons with the Patriots, Jackson caught 156 passes for 3,162 yards, and had 18 touchdown receptions in his first three seasons. With Jackson, Morgan and Russ Francis, opponents could not stack the line of scrimmage to attempt to slow down New England’s record-setting rushing attack. When Jackson retired from pro football in 1983, he ranked second all-time behind only the AFL’s Don Maynard in career receiving yards. During the seventies Jackson led all players with in 432 receptions, 7,724 yards receiving, and 61 receiving touchdowns – yet was not named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 70s. Jackson finished hi NFL career with 10,372 yards receiving, 76 touchdowns, and an average of 17.9 yards per catch. It is baffling that he was never elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, even now when he is eligible to be enshrined by the HoF’s Senior Selection Committee; perhaps that is due in part to his playing most of his career on average teams that rarely made the playoffs, and were not often on national television. Regardless of the reason why, it is long past due the time to right that wrong, and get his bust and plaque placed in Canton.

Jackson averaged 22.5 yards per catch in 1979 and 21.1 yards per catch in 1980, single-season marks that rank third and sixth respectively in the history of the Patriots franchise. His 1,013 yards receiving in 1979 was at the time the a single season franchise record; he and Stanley Morgan were the first two players in club history to have 1,000 yards receiving in a single season, and they were the only pair to achieve that feat in the same year until 2007. When Jackson retired he was third all-time in franchise history with 3,162 yards receiving – even though he only played four years, in his thirties, on a run-oriented team during an era when the NFL did not pass the ball nearly as often as they do today. Since retiring as a player, Jackson has worked as a receivers coach, offensive coordinator and assistant coach in both the pro and college ranks. He was New England’s wide receiver coach from 1985-89, and is now the head coach at his alma mater of Jackson State.

 

1976: S Willie Germany

- Germany was a six-foot, 192 pound strong safety from Morgan State. He was drafted by Washington in the seventh round of the 1971 draft and was with five organizations (Washington, Atlanta, Detroit, Houston and New England) over five seasons. Germany started eleven games with the Lions in 1975 before the Patriots signed him. He played in every game from week three on, with his final NFL game being the Ben Dreith game at Oakland in the ’76 playoffs.

 

1975: S Durwood Keeton

- Keeton was an overachiever, a person that others were forever thinking was too small to play football. A free safety at Oklahoma in 1972-73, he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 4th round, 85th overall, in the 1974 draft. Keeton decided instead to play for Tom Fears and the Southern California Sun of the fledgling World Football League with their larger contracts and better opportunities in ’74. That franchise was in financial disarray, and the following year the Cardinals traded his rights to the Patriots. Keeton played in twelve games in 1975 for the Pats, mostly on special teams, in what was Chuck Fairbanks’ first year as the head coach in New England. The next year he and Joe Blahak were selected in the veteran allocation draft for the two new expansion teams by the Tampa Bay Bucaneers. He never played a down for the Bucs, and never played in the NFL again after being released by the Buccaneers.

 

1973: S Greg Boyd

- This gets a little confusing, because there were two Greg Boyd’s that played in the NFL in the seventies – and both played at some point for the Patriots. The other Greg Boyd was a defensive end who was a bit more well known, drafted by the Pats in 1976; he was with the club until 1978 and played in the NFL until 1984.

This Greg Boyd is a defensive back from Arizona who was drafted by Miami in the 14th round of the 1973 draft, 364th overall. The Patriots traded for Boyd – why they would trade anything for the 364th pick of the draft, I do not know. Perhaps it may be an example of why Miami was coming off a perfect season and Super Bowl championship, while the Pats were 3-11 the previous year, and new coach and GM Chuck Fairbanks considered Boyd to be an upgrade over what little talent was held over on the roster from the John Mazur era.

The last news on Boyd was that he was apparently doing okay as a contract project manager for a real-estate development company operating in the Phoenix metro area, but reported zero income to the IRS for three years; he was sentenced to three years in February.

 

1972-73: S Honor Jackson

- Jackson played football at the College of Marin and then at Pacific University, where he had scholarships for both football and track. With his sprinter’s speed he caught 74 passes for 1,236 yards, and was drafted by the Cowboys in the 9th round (233rd overall) of the 1971 draft. Dallas was coming off a Super Bowl and was deep at receiver but really liked Jackson’s speed, so they converted him to defensive back. Jackson was not particularly happy with that decision, and he was traded along with guard Halvor Hagen and outspoken running back Duane Thomas to the Patriots for running back Carl Garrett. After not being able to find Thomas, he made his way to Foxboro – and on the first play of the next practice, Thomas refused to go into a three-point stance, quit the team, and head coach John Mazur attempted to have the void traded. Pete Rozelle stepped in, and Garrett and Thomas returned to their former teams; Rozelle had the Patriots keep Jackson and Hagen in exchange for their second and third round draft picks.

After the Patriots signed Randy Vataha, they too wanted Jackson to move to the defensive side of the ball. Jackson started ten games at strong safety for the Pats at strong safety in 1972, with a fumble recovery and four interceptions – including two against the Dolphins in a game that he also knocked Mercury Morris out with a hit during Miami’s undefeated season. Jackson appeared in seven games with one pick the following season for the Patriots before being traded to the Giants, but a crack-back block damaged the perineal nerve in his right leg. He attempted a comeback but the injury had robbed him of some of his speed, and a doctor told him that if he injured that leg again he would have a permanent limp. Having seen the ravages of injuries to other NFL players, Jackson decided it was not worth the risk, and he retired from the NFL at the age of 27.

Since retiring from football, Jackson has been the the Northern California president of the National Football League Retired Players Association, worked as a drug store manager, and helped out with various charities and youth groups for at-risk kids.

 

1968-69: WR Aaron Marsh

- One of the first African-American student-athletes at Eastern Kentucky, Marsh was a tailback for his first two years and then switched to wide receiver. He was a first team All-American as a senior, and drafted in the third round, 60th overall, of the 1968 AFL/NFL draft. After a slow start, Marsh went on to catch 19 passes for 331 yards and four touchdowns – including a 70-yard TD against the Jets – and was named AFL Rookie of the Year. The next year the Patriots drafted Ron Sellers in the first round, and he had a Pro Bowl season. Marsh dropped to fourth on the depth chart at wide receiver, with just eight receptions for 108 yards on the year, and then switched to cornerback. Marsh was a full-time defensive back in the 1970 off-season, but failed to make the roster at the end of training camp.

With his pro football career over, Marsh decided to work with at-risk youths and serve as a mentor with Big Brothers. He moved west and started and organized a little league for inner-city children in Compton, California. In 2006 Marsh was inducted into the Eastern Kentucky University Hall of Fame.

 

Previously:

#10 – QB Jimmy Garoppolo

#14 – KR/WR Reggie Dunn

#16 – WR Reese Wiggins

#19 – WR Brandon LaFell

#21 – CB Jemea Thomas

#23 – S Patrick Chung

#24 – CB Darrelle Revis

#28 – RB James White

 

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

A historical look at the uniform numbers for the new Patriots: #28, James White

We are in the dead zone of the NFL year folks, that time between the finish of draft and the start of training camp. With the exception of the one day a week that the media has access to organized team activities, there’s not much to go over that hasn’t already been over-analyzed – so with that in mind here is the eighth in a series of historical perspectives at who has previously worn the uniform number of the 2014 additions to the roster of the New England Patriots. Unless noted otherwise all the players listed took part in at least one regular or playoff game in the season listed for the Patriots.

James White is the latest member of the Pats to don the number 28; here is a look at those who have preceded him to wear that jersey over the years during the franchise history of the Patriots.

 

28 – Running Back James White

- In 52 games at Wisconsin, White ran for 45 touchdowns (third most in school history), 4,015 yards (fourth most in school history), and totaled 5,450 all-purpose yards (fourth most). He set school records by averaging 6.2 yards per carry, and with 670 yards receiving as a running back for the Badgers. The Patriots drafted him in the fourth round, 130th overall, in April’s draft.

 

2012-13: S Steve Gegory

- The Chargers originally signed Gregory as an undrafted free agent out of Syracuse in 2006. In six seasons in San Diego he played in 85 games with 31 starts, with 197 tackles, two sacks, four interceptions and one touchdown. The Patriots signed him as a free agent in March of 2012, and he ended up replacing Patrick Chung as the starting safety. He was released in February in part because it saved the club about $2.8 million in cap space, and in part because he occasionally took bad angles in the field – and Duron Harmon was starting to look as if he would be better as the starter. In two seasons with the Pats Gregory played in 26 games, with 23 starts. He had 116 tackles (81 solo, 35 assists), three interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Statistically Gregory map appear to be a blip on the screen, but thanks to one play on Thanksgiving Day two years ago, he will forever be remembered fondly as part of the Patriots folklore: Gregory was the player that picked up the Butt Fumble, and ran it in for a touchdown. It was a sensational game for Gregory, as he an interception and two fumble recoveries that day, with the Patriots crushing the Jets 49-19.

 

2009-10: CB Darius Butler

- Butler was a four-year starter and two-time captain at UConn, and the Pats selected him in the second round, 41st overall, in the 2009 draft. Things looked good his rookie season: he got his first start and first interception in week five, and the following week had a 91-yard pick-six at Tampa Bay. He ended up playing in 14 games with five starts, and finished with 33 tackles, three interceptions, the one touchdown, and eight passes defensed.

Things went downhill rapidly in 2010. In a week two loss to the Jets he was burnt for one touchdown, and was called for pass interference twice on another scoring drive. Bill Belichick benched him, and didn’t even put him on the field in nickel situations. At the end of training camp in 2011 he was waived, and finished his two-year career with the Patriots with 29 games played, eight starts, three interceptions, 14 passes defensed, 58 tackles (54 solo, 4 assists), one fumble recovery, and one touchdown.

Carolina claimed Butler on waivers and he spent one season as a backup with the Panthers before being cut at the end of camp in 2012. After working out for the Raiders and Chiefs, the Colts signed him in September, and he has performed much better with Indy. In two seasons for the Colts he has eight interceptions, 25 passes defensed, and three touchdowns.

 

2007-08: S Antwain Spann (wore 31 in ’06)

- After two years at junior college, Spann transferred to Louisiana-Lafayette where he played linebacker and defensive back; he had four interceptions and one pick-six his senior year. The Giants signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2005, but Spann was cut at the end of training camp. In the spring of 2006 Spann played for the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe, appearing in six games with three starts. Spann then went back and forth between the Patriots practice squad and 53-man roster three times in 2006, playing in his first NFL game in a 38-13 victory over Cincinnati on October 1. He was on the 53-man roster for ten regular-season games in ’06, seeing action primarily on special teams in eight of those games while being inactive in two others. Spann was also active in all three playoff games, and in the 24-21 wain at San Diego he had a hit on a punt return that led to a fumble recovery and subsequently a field goal for the Patriots.

The Pats cut Spann at the start of training camp in 2007, and re-signed him to the practice squad in September. In late December he was promoted to the 53-man roster and played in the final regular season game against the Giants, but was inactive for all three playoff games. In 2008 he was cut at the end of camp and re-signed to the practice squad; the Pats signed him to the 53-man roster when Rodney Harrison went on IR with a quad injury against Denver in what turned out to be his final NFL game. The Patriots cut Spann for the final time just before the start of camp in 2009 when Patrick Chung signed his contract.

Spann spent brief time in training camps with Buffalo and Denver in ’09, but did not make either team’s final roster. He joined the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League in 2010, but was released just before the start of the season; Spann has not played any professional football since then. He finished his career with the Patriots with 19 games played, and 13 tackles (8 solo).

 

1998: CB Steve Lofton (wore 38 in ’97)

- Lofton was initially a wide receiver at Texas A&M, switching to defensive back his senior year in 1989. Undrafted, he spent 1990 with Montreal of the Wold League of American Football. From 1991-96 he was a backup defensive back and special teams player with the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals, appearing in 49 games with six starts during that time.

On September 30, 1997 the Pats released CB Scooter McGruder and signed Lofton. He played in four games for the Pats in ’97 and six in ’98 before being released on October 23, when the club signed WR Tony Gaiter. Lofton then re-signed with Carolina at the age of 31 for his final NFL season. He finished his NFL career with 74 games played and 13 starts, with one interception and 54 tackles.

 

1995-97: RB Curtis Martin

- In 1994 the New England running game was putrid, with Marion Butts the starter and averaging just 2.9 yards per carry. In the first year that Bobby Grier was promoted to director of player personnel during the Bill Parcells era, the Patriots drafted Martin in the third round, 74th overall, in the 1995 draft. Martin had suffered injuries in each of the last two years at Pitt – including an ankle injury that kept him out of all but two games his senior year – and many expected him to be a first-round choice had he stayed in school for one more year. He instead opted to come out, and with those injury doubts he was still available in the third round.

In his rookie season with the Patriots, Martin far exceeded the most optimistic expectations of any fans. He rushed for 1,487 yards and 14 touchdowns, and added another 261 yards on 30 receptions. The rushing yardage and touchdowns were both third best in the NFL, and he rushed for over 100 yards nine times. Martin went to the Pro Bowl, and was named Offensive Rookie of the Year.

After going 6-10 in ’95, the Pats improved to 11-5 in ’96, won the AFC East, and went to the Super Bowl. Martin’s rushing yardage dropped slightly to 1,152 yards, but he had 17 total touchdowns (14 rushing, three receiving). In the 28-3 playoff victory against Pittsburgh, Martin rushed for three touchdowns, including a 78-yard romp that put the Pats up 21-0, and finished with a franchise record franchise record 166 yards on the ground. Martin went to his second Pro Bowl, and then in ,97 rushed for 1,160 yards. The following year Martin was a restricted free agent, and the Jets signed him to an offer sheet that the Pats were unable to match due to poison pill wording that has since been outlawed. Just like that Martin was not only gone, but was now a member of the Jets.

Martin played eight seasons with the rival Jets, rushing for over 1,000 yards every year except his final season. In 2004 he led the league with 1,697 yards rushing, and was named to his fifth Pro Bowl. He finished his NFL career ranked fourth all-time with 14,101 yards rushing, and was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.

Despite playing just three years with the Patriots, he still ranks among the top in most rushing categories. He rushed for 3,799 yards (fourth in franchise history), 32 touchdowns (tied with Tony Collins for fifth most), and is tied with Wes Welker for 13th with 37 total touchdowns.

 

1992-93: CB Dion Lambert

- Lambert was selected in the 4th round, 90th overall, of the 1992 draft out of UCLA. In two seasons with the Patriots he played in 30 games with four starts, 53 tackles, one sack, one interception, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. He played one game with Seattle in 1994, and then was out of the NFL. Lambert returned to his hometown of Los Angeles and became the head football coach at his alma mater, Kennedy High School; he now works as an assistant coach for defensive backs and receivers at Valencia High School in Santa Clarita, California.

 

1985-89: S Jim Bowman

- A running back for his first year at Central Michigan, Bowman converted to safety for his sophomore year. He set school records that still stand with 16 career interceptions and eight picks in a single season, and became the first Chippewa to be invited to the Blue-Gray and East-West Shrine all-star games as senior. The Patriots took Bowman in the second round of the 1985 draft, 52nd overall. Excluding the three games when replacements played during the 1987 strike, Bowman played in 71 consecutive games for the Patriots.

He was primarily a backup and special teams player, but did get eight starts in ’87. Bowman made headlines during the Patriots playoff run in the ’85 season. In the playoff game against the Raiders, the Patriots were down 20-17 in the second half when they tied the score on a Tony Franklin field goal. On the ensuing kickoff, Mosi Tatupu hit the Oakland kickoff return man and forced a fumble. Bowman recovered the ball (for his second fumble recovery of the game) in the end zone to give the Patriots a lead – and what would be the winning touchdown, as the Pats won 27-20.

Bowman finished his career with the Patriots with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries in 73 regular season games, in addition to the two fumble recoveries and touchdown in the playoffs. Since retiring from the NFL he has worked as a a color commentator on University of Massachusetts television broadcasts, and was inducted into the Central Michigan University Athletics Hall of Fame along with NBA star Dan Majerle in 1998.

 

1987: DB David Hendley

- Hendley went undrafted out of Southern Connecticut State, and appeared in two of the three replacement games during the ’87 players strike: week three against Cleveland, and week four against Buffalo.

 

1980: S Bill Currier

- Currier was a three-year starter at South Carolina, and participated in the Blue-Gray All-Star Game in 1976. He was drafted in the 9th round, 232nd overall, in the 1977 draft by the Oilers. After three years with Houston he joined the Patriots for one season, playing in all 16 games in 1980. Currier then played five seasons with the Giants, starting at strong safety for them for four years. He played in 111 NFL games, with 11 interceptions, seven fumble recoveries, and three sacks. After his playing career, Currier returned to Columbia South Carolina and became football coach and athletics director at Ben Lippen School; he was inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.

 

1973: S Dave Mason

- Not to be confused with the guitar player with Traffic, this Dave Mason was a wide receiver on the 1971 national championship Nebraska team, with a brief career in the NFL. With prospects as a receiver dim on the stocked Cornhuskers team, he switched to defensive back for his final two years at school. The Vikings took Mason in the 10th round (246th overall) in the 1973 draft, but he did not make their roster out of training camp. He played seven games with one start in ’73 for the Pats, with one fumble recovery. The next year he returned to his native Green Bay, and played in twelve games with the Packers in what would be his final NFL season. After his football days were behind him, Mason put his schooling to good use, working for 25 years as a dentist in Green Bay.

 

1968-72: S Art McMahon

- McMahon was a defensive captain at North Carolina State, twice being named to the All-ACC team. The Patriots drafted him in the 15th round (385th overall) of the 1968 draft. Injuries derailed his career, missing half of the 1970 season and all of 1971. Over the course of five years with the Patriots, McMahon played in 43 games with seven starts – and missed 27 games with various ailments. He had three interceptions and two fumble recoveries

 

1964: PR Dave Cloutier

- Cloutier was a local New England product, growing up in Maine and attending the University of Maine. He was selected in the 18th round (242nd overall) of the 1962 draft by the Cowboys, and also spent some time with Buffalo in their training camp before signing on with the Patriots. In ’62 and ’63 Cloutier played for the Portland Sea Hawks of the Atlantic Coast Football League.

With the Patriots, Cloutier appeared in twelve games, and was third in the AFL in ’64 with twenty punt returns. He averaged 6.8 yards per punt return, and also had one kickoff return for 46 yards in his only season with the Pats.

 

 

I am most likely the only person that follows the Patriots who thought of it, but when White’s name was announced in the 4th round, the first person I thought of was this really cool sax player and his band from New York scene from the late seventies – early eighties.

 

Previously:

#10 – QB Jimmy Garoppolo

#14 – KR/WR Reggie Dunn

#16 – WR Reese Wiggins

#19 – WR Brandon LaFell

#21 – CB Jemea Thomas

#23 – S Patrick Chung

#24 – CB Darrelle Revis

 

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

We are in the dead zone of the NFL year folks, that time between the finish of draft and the start of training camp. With the exception of the one day a week that the media has access to organized team activities, there’s not much to go over that hasn’t already been over-analyzed – so with that in mind here is the seventh in a series of historical perspectives at who has previously worn the uniform number of the 2014 additions to the roster of the New England Patriots. Unless noted otherwise all the players listed took part in at least one regular or playoff game in the season listed for the Patriots.

Reese Wiggins is the latest member of the Pats to don the number 16; here is a look at those who have preceded him to wear that jersey over the years during the franchise history of the Patriots.

 

16 – Wide Receiver Reese Wiggins

- The Patriots signed Wiggins on May 27, which brought their roster up to the maximum size of 90 players for the first time in this league year. The 5′ 11″, 193 lbs Wiggins was an All-Conference USA honorable mention at East Carolina last year, with 26 receptions for 372 yards and four touchdowns. In three seasons with the Pirates he had 80 receptions for 1,012 yards and eight touchdowns. At his pro day Wiggins ran a 4.37 forty, a 4.17 shuttle, a 6.89 three-cone, had a vertical jump of 40 inches and a broad jump of 10′ 01″.

 

2013: WR Greg Orton (practice squad; no regular-season games)

- Orton was a starter for three of his four years at Purdue, amassing 203 receptions (fifth most in school history) for 2,356 yards (sixth in school history) and 13 touchdowns for the Boilermakers. The Bengals signed him as an undrafted rookie in 2009 after a mediocre showing at the Combine (4.69 forty). Cincinnati waived him at the end of training camp, and the Packers had him in for a visit late in the season, but did not offer him a deal. Orton then spent some time playing football outside of the NFL. In 2010 Orton was a member of the Arena League champion Spokane Shock, and the following season he led the team in receptions (120), receiving yards (1,588), and touchdowns (37).

Later in 2011 Orton signed with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League, but he left them a week later when Denver offered him a contract. The Broncos released him as part of the final camp cuts, but after signing with the Arena League’s Arizona Rattlers the Broncos brought him back to the practice squad, from week 13 through the end of the season. Orton reportedly looked very good during the off-season, but a high ankle sprain early in training camp slowed him down, and he was cut at the end of camp. Denver re-signed him to their practice squad for the entire 2012 season, but after another ankle injury he was waived/injured in the first wave of training camp cuts in 2013. The Patriots signed Orton to a reserve/future contract on January 20, 2014, and released him on May 22 when DB Dax Swanson and DL L.T. Tuipulotu were signed. Orton will turn 28 in December; at that age you have to figure more opportunities are doubtful, and those practice squads and training camps will be as close as he ever gets to playing in the NFL.

 

2012: WR Kamar Aiken

- At Central Florida, Aiken set school records in receiving for a true freshman with 33 catches, 584 yards receiving, and five touchdowns. Over his career with the Golden Knights Aiken had 121 receptions for 1,924 yards and 17 touchdowns, and also chipped in with eight tackles on special teams. Aiken was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Bills in 2011, but he was released as part of the final camp roster cuts. Buffalo re-signed Aiken to their practice squad, and in November he was promoted to the 53-man roster when Donald Jones went on IR. Aiken was inactive for all but two games in 2011 with no stats, and in 2012 he was once again cut at the end of training camp.

The Bears signed him to their practice squad in October and released him four weeks later; the Patriots then signed him on November 19 to their practice squad. Aiken was then Ventroned over the next two weeks. He was promoted to the 53-man roster on December 22, shortly after Donte’ Stallworth was placed on IR; he saw action the next day in New England’s week 16 victory at Jacksonville on special teams, as well as three snaps at wide receiver. Aiken was then released on Monday, re-signed to the practice squad Tuesday, and then again promoted to the 53-man roster. He remained there for week 17 and the two playoff games, but was inactive for all three of those games.

Aiken remained with the Patriots through the 2013 off-season, but was part of the first round of training camp cuts on August 26. Later he had a workout with the Bears, and on October 30 he joined Baltimore’s practice squad. Aiken spent the rest of 2013 with the Ravens, and is still currently on their roster. As of this time he is credited with three NFL games, with no receptions and one tackle.

 

2009-12: WR Shun White (Reserve/Military list; no regular-season games)

- As a running back at Navy, White set a single-game school record with 348 yards rushing on August 30, 2008. He was one of three Midshipmen (Eric Ketanni, Tyree Barnes) on the Pats 2009 roster. He was placed on the Reserve/Military list on August 17, 2009 so that he could fulfill his military obligations; the Patriots released him on March 28, 2013.

 

2005-08: QB Matt Cassel

- Despite having virtually zero college experience (20-33 in four years at USC, backing up Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart), the Patriots drafted Cassel in the 7th round (230th overall) in the 2005 NFL draft. In training camp he outperformed Rohan Davey and Chris Redman, and made the final roster. His rookie season he saw action in two games: garbage time at San Diego, and in the final regular season game of the year against Miami. The Pats were in odd situation for that game, where a loss was preferable as it gave the a first-round game against Jacksonville (whom they would defeat, 28-3) rather than Pittsburgh. Cassel went 11-20 with two touchdowns (to Tim Dwight and Ben Watson) in the game that is most remembered for being the one that Doug Flutie made a drop-kick for an extra point. Over the next two years he was generally active on the game-day roster, but never got on the field; excluding that Miami game, through three seasons he had thrown 19 passes.

In 2008 Cassel was thrust into the spotlight when Tom Brady suffered a torn ACL in the first quarter of the first game – and immediately connected with Randy Moss for a 51-yard completion. He completed 63% of his passes for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns (with only 11 interceptions), as the Patriots went 10-6. At the end of the year the Patriots placed the franchise tag on him, and he was eventually traded to Kansas City with Mike Vrabel for the 34th pick in the 2009 draft. The Chiefs signed Cassel to a a six-year, $62 million contract with $28 million guaranteed. Cassel’s numbers dropped to 55% complete, 2,924 yards, 16 touchdowns and 16 picks, and the Chiefs went 4-12; Kansas City fans immediately became disgruntled with the two former Patriots, Cassel and GM Scott Pioli. 2009 was much better as KC went 10-6 and won the AFC West; Cassel threw for 3,116 yards with 27 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, and was a Pro Bowl alternate. However, 2011 started badly, and the fans and media again turned their wrath on Cassel. In the first two games the Chiefs were blown out by a combined score of 89-10 to the Bills and Lions, with Cassel throwing one garbage time touchdown and three picks. Cassel and the club rebounded to win four straight, but he was placed on IR with a hand injury suffered in week 10. The 2012 season again started slowly, with the low point being when Kansas City fans cheered when Cassel had to leave a game with a head injury.

It was obvious that the fans and media wanted Cassel gone, and the following March Cassel was released. He signed on with Minnesota to back up Christian Ponder, who was awful. The Vikings later signed Josh Freeman, who was even worse; coach Leslie Frazier, despite needing wins to save his job, inexplicably was reluctant to let Cassel start. The Vikings won only five games in 2013, with Cassel being the starter of primary quarterback in all of those wins – while Ponder and Freeman went a combined 1-7-1 in games when they were the primary QB. In March the Vikings re-signed Cassel to a two-year, $10 million deal; he’ll keep the seat warm until rookie Teddy Bridgewater is ready to start.

 

2004: QB Kliff Kingsbury (off-season and IR only; camp cut in ’04; wore 15 in ’03)

- At Texas Tech in 2002, Kingsbury led the NCAA with 5,017 yards passing and 45 touchdowns. He set 39 school records, 16 Big-12 records, and 17 NCAA records during his four-year college career with the Red Raiders. As a senior he was awarded the Sammy Baugh Trophy, presented annually to the nation’s best college quarterback. The Patriots drafted him in the 6th round of the 2003 draft, 201st overall. He was placed on injured reserve on August 27, though as a member of the team he did get himself a Super Bowl ring.

The Patriots released Kingsbury at the end of the ’04 camp, on September 3rd. He bounced around the league for several years after that. Kingsbury spent 2005 on the Saints’ practice squad, and was then cut at the end of camp in ’05. He then spent two weeks on Denver’s practice squad before signing with the Jets. He remained on their roster for most of the 2005 season but was usually inactive on gamedays; he finished the year with three appearances and one completion in two attempts. In January of 2006 the Jets assigned Kingsbury to the Cologne Centurions of NFL Europe where he completed 58 of 102 passes for 633 yards and two touchdowns; in May the Jets released him. The Bills claimed Kingsbury off waivers, but he was cut at the end of their ’06 training camp. Tampa Bay worked him out but that was the last of Kingsbury’s NFL career. He spent 2007 in the CFL with Montreal and Winnipeg, and then embarked on a college coaching career.

From 2008-11 Kingsbury was with the University of Houston, eventually becoming offensive coordinator for a prolific offense that featured Case Keenum at quarterback. He then became the OC at Texas A&M and received much notice there, with the Aggies moving to the SEC and turning heads with Johnny Manziel at quarterback. Last year Kingsbury returned to his alma mater to become head coach at Texas Tech.

Note: Kingsbury wore number 15 in 2003, and switched to his college number, 16, in 2004

 

2001-03: WR Scott McCready (practice squad and off-season only; no regular-season games)

- McCready went to South Florida, and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Patriots in April of 2001. He was the first British-born non-kicker to make an NFL roster – he moved to the US at age 15 – and the first British player to earn a Super Bowl ring. The Patriots released him before the start of training camp in ’01, but re-signed him to their practice squad on Halloween of that year. The Pats re-signed McCready, and assigned him to NFL Europe in 2002. He was cut at the end of training camp in ’02, and re-signed to the practice squad in October.

In 2003 the Patriots again assigned McCready to NFL Europe; with the Scottish Claymores he finished the season with 23 receptions for 337 yards and three touchdowns. McCready suffered a shoulder injury early in the 2003 training camp, and he was waived with an injury settlement. The Packers then signed him, and they too allocated him to NFL Europe, where he led the league with 59 receptions. In June of 2004 the Carolina Panthers signed McCready, but he was cut at the end of their camp. McCready played for the Hamburg Sea Devils of NFL Europe in 2005, and then signed with the Chiefs in the 2006 off-season. McCready missed time in camp with an arm injury, and Kansas City released him at the end of August.

 

2000: WR Matt Bumgardner (off-season only; camp cut)

- Bumgardner had 37 catches for 582 yards (15.7 yards per catch) and scored four touchdowns at Texas A&M, where he also sprinted on their track team; his senior year he had 18 receptions for 282 yards and three touchdowns. The Patriots signed him for his speed as an undrafted free agent, but he did not make the final roster. Bumgardner now works for a nonprofit organization in Houston that is dedicated to improving the quality of life for families with children that have special needs.

 

1992-98: QB Scott Zolak

- Zolak went to the University of Maryland, where he was stuck backing up Neil O’Donnell until his season year. That season he led the ACC in pass completions and passing yards, and the Patriots drafted him in the 4th round of the 1991 draft with the 84th overall pick. He spent all of 1991 as the “emergency” third string quarterback, and did not get any playing time. In ’92 Hugh Millen was the starter, but he was sidelined with an injury behind a porous offensive line after five games. Tommy Hodson, who was drafted in the third round out of LSU in 1990 took over, but was ineffective as the Pats went 0-6 with him as their starter. The next week Zolak made his first career start, with Dante Scarnecchia getting his first game as head coach due to Dick MacPherson’s landing in the hospital with acute diverticulitis. The Pats got their first win of the season that day, with Zolak completing 20 of 29 passes for 261 yards, two touchdowns, defeating the Colts 37–34.

Zolak was named AFC Player of the Week, but that first NFL start turned out to be the highlight of his pro football career. The Pats did beat the Jets the next week, but Zolak was only 7-16 for 102 yards and no touchdowns. The Patriots were shut out in each of the next two games, and he alternated with Millen and Jeff Carlson at quarterback for the rest of the year. Zolak finished the season 52-100 for 561 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. The next season the Patriots drafted Drew Bledsoe, and Zolak would only start three more NFL games. He stuck with the Patriots as their backup until 1998, and then signed with the Jets, but did not make their roster. Zolak landed in Miami and spent one season with the Dolphins before calling it quits. He finished his seven-year career with the Patriots with 1,314 yards passing, eight touchdowns, seven interceptions, and 81 yards rushing.

Since his pro football career ended, Zolak has worked in sports radio and television industry in the Boston area; since 2012 he has worked the Patriots radio broadcasts as the analyst alongside play-by-play man Gil Santos.

 

1971-75: QB Jim Plunkett

- In his first game at Stanford, Plunkette threw for 277 yards and four touchdowns – on just 13 passes. That year he set a Pac-8 record with 2,156 yards passing, and the next year broke his won record with 2,673 yards and 20 touchdowns. Plunkett came back for his senior year and led the NCAA in passing yards, completions, touchdown passes, total yards and total touchdowns. Along with being an All-American, Plunkett won the Maxwell Award as the College Player of the Year and the Heisman Trophy, and then led Stanford to a startling upset over #1-ranked Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.

A year earlier the Vikings went to the Super Bowl with Joe Kapp as their quarterback, but contract negotiations with the former CFL player broke down. In what was then an unprecedented move, Kapp became a free agent – he had played the previous year without a contract – and Boston area fans and media were in glee when the Pats signed him as for the then-pricey sum of $150,000 per year. The adulation and optimism for Kapp was short lived; Kapp threw only three touchdowns while throwing 17 interceptions, and under Clive Rush the Pats went 2-12 – a record that earned them the first pick in the 1971 draft.

Plunkett started every game for the next four years, and in his rookie season he brought some hope to fans. His first game was also the first one held in the new Schaefer Stadium, and behind Plunkett the Pats rallied in the second half to come back and upset the defending AFC champion Oakland Raiders 20-6. The Patriots finished 6-8 in ’71, a vast improvement from the previous year, and the team’s best record in five years. Plunkett passed for 2,158 yards and 19 touchdowns and was named Rookie of the Year.

Unfortunately the offensive line was still a mess, and Plunkett endured a horrific beating during those years; he was sacked 97 times from 1972-74. Chuck Fairbanks replaced John Mazur as the Patriots coach in 1973, and installed an offense that had Plunkett running some option plays and continuing to take a beating. By 1975 the spirit was willing but the body was not, and Plunkett was replaced by a younger, more mobile Steve Grogan, who was a much better fit in Fairbanks’ offense. Plunkett was traded in the off-season in a lop-sided deal that would benefit the Patriots immensely. San Francisco gave up two 1976 first round picks, a first and second round pick in 1977, and backup quarterback Tom Owen for Plunkett. Those draft picks would turn into center Pete Brock, cornerback Raymond Clayborn, safety Tim Fox and running back Horace Ivory, and help turn the Patriots into one of the best teams in the NFL in the late 1970s.

Plunkett’s body was still too beaten up from numerous knee and shoulder injuries for him to be effective with the 49ers, and they released him after the 1977 season. He signed with Oakland and appeared in only four games with 15 passes in two seasons. In 1980 he was 33, but by now he was completely healed. With virtually no playing time in the last two years and third on the depth chart, Plunkett asked to be traded – but Al Davis would not oblige. In week five starting quarterback Dan Pastorini broke his leg, and Raiders’ coach Tom Flores decided to go with Plunkett rather than first round draft pick Marc Wilson. It was a wise choice as the Raiders went 9-2 with Plunkett under center to make the playoffs (after a 2-3 start), and then win four playoff games to become the first wild card team to win the Super Bowl. Plunkett threw for 261 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, as the Raiders opened up a 24-3 lead before cruising to a 27-10 victory over the Eagles in New Orleans. Plunkett was named Super Bowl MVP, becoming only the second player (along with Roger Staubach) to win the Heisman and be the Super Bowl MVP.

The following year the younger Wilson was handed the reins as the starter, and Plunkett returned to being the backup. In 1982 Plunkett regained the starting position, and the Raiders – who had just moved to Los Angeles – went 8-1 in a strike-shortened season. The following year the Raiders made Wilson the starter again, but once again turned to Plunkett when he was injured. The Raiders won the AFC West for the third time in four years – with Plunkett as their primary starter each time – with a 12-4 record. They breezed through the playoffs, winning three games by a combined score of 106-33, culminated by a 38-9 throttling of Washington in the Super Bowl. Including the post-season Plunkett had gone 13-3 as the starter that year for the Raiders.

To this day Plunkett is the only quarterback to win two Super Bowls that is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Plunkett was one of five Heisman Trophy award winners to be part of the Patriots organization; the others were 1960 winner Joe Bellino, 1984 winner Doug Flutie, 1986 winner Vinny Testaverde, and 2007 winner Tim Tebow. Of that group only Bellino and Plunkett were originally drafter by the Patriots. Plunkett finished his career with the Patriots with 9,932 yards passing; at the time that was second most in franchise history, and is sixth most today. He also fifth in franchise history in touchdown passes with 62. He finished his NFL career with 25,882 yards passing and 164 touchdown passes, plus 2,293 yards and 11 touchdowns in the playoffs. In Super Bowl history Plunkett ranks second to only Joe Montana with a career passer rating of 122.83, third in yards per pass (9.41), and has the third-best single game passer rating (145.04 in Super Bowl 15). In 1992 Plunkett was named to the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, in 1995 he was an original member of the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame, and in 2007 he was enshrined in the California Sports Hall of Fame. Since retiring from the NFL in 1987 he has worked doing Raiders post-game radio broadcasts.

 

Previously:

#10 – QB Jimmy Garoppolo

#14 – KR/WR Reggie Dunn

#19 – WR Brandon LaFell

#21 – CB Jemea Thomas

#23 – S Patrick Chung

#24 – CB Darrelle Revis

 

 

 

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