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Ask PFW: A mixed mail bag

Why do you think they put Matthew Slater in to field that kickoff [against the Steelers], which he ended up fumbling?*Chad Alexander *

After the game, Chad, a reporter asked Ellis Hobbs, the Pats' normal kickoff returner, that exact question. He said he was feeling ill and even vomiting on the New England sideline, so the coaching staff had no choice but to replace him. Slater has been alongside Hobbs all season in that return slot, usually as the up-man who paves the way for Hobbs, so it was a logical decision to have him step in at that time. Hindsight is always 20-20, of course.
Erik Scalavino, Patriots Football Weekly

Has there ever been a discussion of increasing the penalty for a cheap hit that knocks a player out of a game – like not letting the defensive player return until the offensive player is able to return? I think any team would trade Wes Welker for a 15-yard penalty, as happened in the Pittsburgh game.Andrew Grigg

Not sure if there's ever been a debate about that particular punishment, but I like the general idea, Andrew. That might be more of a deterrent than just the 15-yards.
Erik Scalavino

I was wondering if the NFL kept a record of YAC (yards after catch) on the books and, if so, what's the record for a team in a year? How many have the 2008 Pats racked up so far?Anthony Mancino

Unfortunately, the NFL does not keep official statistics on the YAC. There's no easy way to determine how many yards the Patriots have accrued after catches this year – except to go back and watch every game and calculate it by hand.
Erik Scalavino

I am of Welker background. My great-grandfather was named Welker and was Scotch-Irish descent. I was wondering if Wes Welker was from the Welkers from Kentucky, Tennessee or Indiana.
Charles Tally

Wes Welker hails from Oklahoma. Not sure if that means you can claim his as a relative or not, Charles.
Erik Scalavino

What would be the best way to get autographs from players like Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker and some other Patriots players? I don't live near New England.John Sheelar

Well, you have two choices, John. Move to New England or make a trip here. Either way, you'll have to do what ever other fan does to get a Brady, Moss, Welker or other Patriots player's autograph – visit training camp, pick out a spot in the rope line, and hope you're one of the lucky few who gets his item chosen by a player who's signing on that particular day.
*Erik Scalavino *

With BenJarvus Green-Ellis improving every time he touches the ball, do you think he's showed enough so far to convince Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli to move Laurence Maroney or Sammy Morris in the offseason?
Mark Hand

Green-Ellis, a rookie, certainly did well in relief of Maroney, Morris and oft-injured LaMont Jordan. But since Morris has gotten healthier of late, he's gotten more of the carries. That said, I would expect this entire group to be back in training camp this August competing for jobs once again (Jordan may be a question mark, however). Maroney may have the most to prove, given his status as a former first-round pick, but I think he'll get another chance to show what he can do, if healthy.
Erik Scalavino

I've been hearing some speculation that Josh McDaniels will be a highly sought-after head coaching candidate next year, and that, if he leaves, Matt Cassel might follow him to his new team. That will leave an opening at offensive coordinator. Now, Charlie Weis is quite possibly done in Notre Dame after this season. Romeo Crennel may be on his way out of Cleveland. I don't know what Dean Pees' status will be after this season, but what is the possibility we get the three-Super Bowl powerhouse of Bill Belichick, Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel and Tom Brady back for 2009?Peggy Lawlor

With Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel most likely fired by the end of the year, what do you think of their possibly coming back to their old coordinator positions? Josh McDaniels is most likely gone to head coach another NFL team and Dan Pees is not getting the job done on defense.
Dave Ferreira

We heard that same speculation about McDaniels after last season, but he ultimately decided he was better off in New England as a coordinator. I wouldn't say it's a slam-dunk that McDaniels flees Foxborough after this season. Remember, there are some coaches who like being coordinators and not head coaches. Not saying McDaniels is definitely one of these or the other, but it has to be taken into consideration, especially after the route he chose last off-season, when the head-coaching rumors began. As for Pees, yes, his defense hasn't quite performed to expectations this year, but it's not fair to place all the blame on him. After all, he's not on the field making the plays (or failing to make them, as the case may be), nor is he responsible for all the injuries his group has suffered. That said, there's no guarantee he'll be back either … that's life in the coaching world. At the same time, I'm not convinced that Weis is finished in South Bend, but if he is and McDaniels goes elsewhere, too, sure, he could be a possible replacement. But he may not want to return to the NFL, nor to a coordinators job. Same thing with Crennel. But there could very well be other options out there that we aren't considering and they could be just as good, or better, candidates, if either of these jobs becomes available. At this point, it's all just speculation, so I think it's best simply to let everything play out before we try predicting the future too far in advance. A lot can change in a month.
Erik Scalavino

Is Tom Brady's mentorship, presence, and/or participation in film study aiding Matt Cassel's development?Goeff Moore

Cassel has been asked this question often since taking the reins of the Patriots. Recently, during a press conference, he was asked specifically about Brady attending meetings and film study. Cassel said that Brady has not been part of the quarterback or offensive meetings since he's been back in Foxborough rehabbing his surgically-repaired knee. So, I'd say, Geoff, that Cassel's development has much more to do with Cassel himself than with Brady. The two do talk, as Cassel has admitted several times, but probably not to the extent that it would benefit Cassel on the field.
Erik Scalavino

I was under the impression Adalius was to be put on IR. It doesn't appear to be so. Is it possible he'll come back when they make the playoffs?Mike Alberton

Ah, Mike, an eternal optimist, I see. You said 'when' the Pats make the playoffs. I like the way you think. Obviously, after Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh, that's not so certain a proposition. But your main premise, I think, is plausible. Thomas has not been placed on IR yet because the team might think he has a chance to return in January, if they make it that far, or even sooner. Or there might be some other reason (i.e., administrative) that we haven't considered. Thing is, none of us in PFW is privy to the specifics of his condition, medical or otherwise, so we can't say with 100-percent certainty why the organization has yet to make a roster move with him since he was injured.
Erik Scalavino

Has anyone picked up linebacker Victor Hobson or wide receiver Chad Jackson? With the always injured Maroney on the sidelines as usual and Jackson gone, what is left of that year's draft (2006)?
Dan Sullivan

Hobson, a free agent from the Jets this past off-season, is not working for any NFL squad at the moment. Jackson, however, is now with the Denver Broncos. He made his first catch for them this past Sunday against the Jets, a 19-yard grab. As for the rest of the Patriots 2006 draft class, all are playing in the NFL, save defensive back Willie Andrews. Tight end/fullback Garrett Mills, linebacker Jeremy Mincey, and guard Dan Stevenson are no longer with New England, but Mills is playing with Minnesota, Mincey is now a defensive end with Jacksonville, and Stevenson collects a paycheck from Houston. Tight end David Thomas, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, and defensive lineman Le Kevin Smith are regular contributors with the Pats. Offensive lineman Ryan O'Callaghan might have been, but he's currently on injured reserve.
Erik Scalavino

As a Patriot fan, I find it a little discouraging that Tom Brady could not be on the sideline during the games. After all, Tom is still part of the team, regardless of the unfortunate injury. There are several players that get hurt during the season, yet they are still on the sideline to encourage their teammates. Tom's position as quarterback is a vital position to the team. Please do not get me wrong, I believe Tom Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. With that being said, knowing that Matt Cassel has not had the experience as a quarterback in the NFL, it would be helpful for Tom to be on the sideline to assist the offensive coordinator and give Matt helpful advice. It only makes me wonder what the Patriots status would be for the 2008 season if Tom would have been on the sideline to help and encourage his team. I guess we will never know what a vital role Tom Brady could have been on the Patriot sideline.
Sandy Hundl

Quick question for you, Sandy: Are you equally discouraged that Shawn Crable, Rodney Harrison, Laurence Maroney, Ryan O'Callaghan, Bo Ruud, Kenny Smith, Barry Stokes, and Tank Williams haven't been on the sidelines encouraging their teammates during every game? All of those guys are with Brady on injured reserve, as I'm sure you're well aware. Are they any less a part of the team than Brady? Are their positions any less "vital," as you described Brady's? Look, I appreciate your concern for the team and for Cassel's development. However, contrary to what you may think, it is not standard operating procedure for an out-for-the-year player to attend every game, home and away, as a cheerleader. Some make cameos now and then, and that's fine. Some don't, and that's fine, too. If I were you, I would be more concerned at this point with how well Brady and the rest of these guys are rehabbing from their respective injuries. Besides, Cassel has done fairly well – better than expected, I'd say – with the coaching and instructions he's receiving from Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, both of whom are pretty good at what they do, wouldn't you agree? I think a case can be made that he's benefited from not having the added pressure of having the NFL's reigning MVP looking over his shoulder all the time – a constant reminder of who Cassel is not. Instead, Cassel has had the luxury of knowing the offense is his this year and he can be who he is, which is a pretty darn good QB, considering his lack of starting experieince. Adding Brady chirping in Cassel's ear might have been a recipe for information overload. And you know what they say … too many chefs spoil the stew.
*Erik Scalavino *

I watched the Colts game, and at the end of the first half with time running down, the commentators said the Browns could punt the ball and if the Colts called for a fair catch, the Colts could have a free kick off the tee and if it went through the uprights it would count as a field goal. Did I hear this wrong? If I didn't could you please explain this rule?
Jesse M.

Great question, Jesse. Had to look this one up myself, to make sure my memory was correct. Here's the deal: teams in the NFL and in high school (thought not in the NCAA) can take a free kick on the play immediately following any fair catch of a punt. In the NFL, if the receiving team chooses this option as time expires during the punt, the half is extended with an extra down, with which the offense can attempt their free kick (just like when an extra play is added when time expires and there's a defensive penalty on the final play). The ball must either be held on the ground like a normal field goal or extra point (without a tee in the NFL, with one in high school) or drop-kicked. This play is considered both a field goal attempt and a free kick. So, if the ball goes through the uprights, the kicking team gets three points. This is the only case in which a free kick itself has a chance to score points. Obviously, such situations are rare because teams don't normally punt at the end of a half, nor does the receiving team generally return such punts in field goal range.
Erik Scalavino

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