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Ask PFW: Keeping the faith

This week’s Ask PFW mailbag answers questions about Ken Walter, Tom Brady, Mike Cloud and other issues surrounding the Patriots.



            **Why are the Pats so enamored of Ken Walter? I know he's good at placing short punts where he wants them, but he also seems to be good for one solid shank per game, giving up attendant bad field position, and he doesn't have the leg to kick them out of trouble. There have to be lots of young legs out there that the Pats could get cheap. I think you can coach punt placement, and field position especially when the offence stalls is huge. Is this just a blind spot for the coaching staff, or what?**  

Vancouver, BC

Craig, I can understand your frustration with Walter as I have had similar feelings over the past year or so. Walter does do a decent job of directional and short punting, but as fans the things that stick out in our minds are the short punts off the side of his foot. But to be honest there aren't a lot of good punters out there. It is amazing that every season a number of teams make moves at the punting position and seem to recycle the same list of veteran castoffs, as the Dolphins have already done this season. Walter isn't perfect by any means, but the coaches seem willing to stick with him through the shanked kicks with the hopes that in the end his situational value outweighs his poor kicks.
Andy Hart

Could you please tell me the last person Andre Tippett sacked.
Mary Potter
Tiverton, R.I.

First of all Mary I love your son Harry's books and movies. My girlfriend and I just can't get enough of them. But on to the question. Tippett's final sack came in the 1993 season finale on January 2, 1994 against the Miami Dolphins at Foxboro Stadium. The Patriots won the game in dramatic overtime fashion, 33-27, on a Drew Bledsoe to Michael Timpson 36-yard touchdown pass. In the game Tippett recorded his 100th and final career sack on Miami signal caller Scott Mitchell for a 10-yard loss in the fourth quarter.
Andy Hart

The patriots improved their running attack this past week against the Titans. Do you believe that Patriots coaches will stick to control and time possession football via a running attack for the remainder of the season or do you think that Coach Weis will get out of hand and push QB Tom Brady beyond his long-ball passing limits in an effort to run a down-field offensive passing scheme that Brady is not well suited for?
Linda Evangelisti
South Berwick, Maine

I don't believe that Weis will force the down-field passing game. While the Patriots have been a passing offense for the last year-plus, most of those passes were of the short variety. I believe that will remain this team's bread and butter. But if the offensive line and running backs can show the type of success that they did last week against a strong Titans defensive front then the coaches would be crazy not to make it a bigger part of the game plan. As Bill Belichick has said on a number of occasions the approach the team takes every week varies depending on their opponents' strengths and weaknesses. The team does what it thinks can give them the best chance to win and will continue to do so. They won't run the ball if it not achieving success, just to prove a point. They also won't ignore the running game if it is performing well. But success like the 161 yards and 6.0 yards per carry last week certainly can only strengthen the chances of a more balanced attack in the coming weeks.
Andy Hart

What is the date of the 2004 away game against Miami?
Wrentham, Mass.

The NFL does not release the season schedule before the spring. Obviously the Patriots will be playing in Miami at some point next fall, but that information won't be available until sometime around the draft. We do know one thing though the game certainly won't be in April, April.
Andy Hart



            **Mike Cloud's performance was tremendous to me and I wanted to know will he be the starter from now on?**  

Aw Jus
Fall River, Mass.

While Cloud's performance this past week was certainly very impressive, he won't just be handed the starting running back job and rightly so. He put up impressive numbers, 7 carries for 73 yards and two scores, but his career totals certainly aren't overwhelming. In his four seasons in Kansas City he rushed the ball 121 times for 381 yards (3.1 avg.) and caught 11 passes for 89 yards. It is also important to remember that while Cloud made a big splash with his initial Patriots carries, it wasn't something that Kevin Faulk and Antowain Smith are incapable of. Both have had similar days in their careers and are more proven veterans. That said, Cloud certainly earned more chances with his Sunday performance and gives the team another running back option in case Faulk's leg injury lingers. Smith also ran well Sunday, so now it looks like that, when healthy, New England may have three players capable of being productive contributors, although none of the three is in a position at this time to claim the job outright.
Andy Hart

Hi. When the patriots going back to the red white and blue uniforms?
Terry J.
Allentown, Pa.

There are no current plans for a return to the old red, white and blue jerseys. The team wore those Throwback jerseys last season as an alternative look. This year they will be wearing an alternate silver jersey for a game or two later this season. But for right now the old red, white and blue jerseys are going to remain a part of the franchise's history.
Andy Hart

What has happened to Chas Gessner? Is he a tall wide receiver?
Travis Simpson
Waltham, Vt.

Don't worry Gessner hasn't shrunk, he is still a tall wide receiver. The 6-4, 215-pound former Brown University star is currently on the Patriots physically unable to perform (PUP) list. By rule he will be eligible to start practicing with the team following this week's Giants game. The team would then have 21 days from his first practice to decide to put him on the active roster, release him or leave him on PUP for the remainder of the season. Gessner injured a hamstring in rookie mini camp and we haven't really seen much of him. Unless the team is overcome with injuries at wide receiver I wouldn't expect to see Gessner on the field any time soon as there are already six wide outs on the 53-man roster.
Andy Hart

I have a dumb question. Why do people say that when a defense is on the field for too long they get tired and are more likely to let up points? Wouldn't the opposing offense be on the field as long as the defense and why wouldn't they be tired too? For example, if the Pats play the Dolphins and the Pats defense can't stop Ricky Williams and the Pats offense doesn't play ball control, you'll hear stuff like: "The Pats offense couldn't keep Ricky of the field and the Pats defense was on the field too long." But wouldn't the Miami offense get tired from being on the field for so long? Why would they have an advantage? I don't get it.
Mark G.
Warwick, R.I.

Mark, good question. It is one of those things that I think people just take for granted as a truth and never really question. Personally I think part of it is that it is more tiring from a defensive front's viewpoint to fight off blockers and react to an offense than it is to fire off the ball as an offensive line and run block. Also, when an offense is driving they not only pace the game through their own use of the play clock and time outs, but they can also change personnel at will. Again a defense must react to what the offense does. But don't get me wrong whether you are an offensive player or defensive player I think you get tired the more you are on the field. But offensively there is a certain mental advantage to pounding away at a team, scoring and leading your team toward a win. Defensively not only do you have to overcome the added strain of extra playing time, but also the mental stress of being dominated on a consistent basis and sooner or later potentially losing your will to keep fighting back.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, I love coming to this site every week and loading up on Patriots info. I've lived here in Jersey about all my life, but I've inherited my family's Patriots/Red Sox/Bruins/transplant status. I wanted to comment on something that Jeff from Pa's said about Tedy Bruschi, (whom I also adore) and the overall lack of national coverage that the Patriots get in general. It's frustrating because for us transplants we never get any Patriots info in the media unless its some huge story like Milloy defecting to the Bills/Drew v. Tom/ etc. Do you guys think that the lack of media spotlight is because we don't have a media hog type of player like Temper tantrum Terrell Owens/Foot in mouth Jeremy Shockey/Cry baby Kurt Warner? Or do you think that historically the Patriots aren't just a media friendly team? Thanks for listening!
Andrea Fonseca
Cherry Hill, N.J.

Andrea I do believe that a lack of flashy players has something to do with the team's somewhat quiet existence at times. We all hear about what people like to see on Sportscenter (i.e.—dunks, big hits, flashy plays, etc.) and some of the things the Patriots do as a team don't fit into that media mold. I also think some of it has to do with what Bill Belichick tries to build in his team. The Patriots play as a team and construct an environment where every player is theoretically as important as the next. On top of that, and I know I will get some heated responses for saying this, but aside from Adam Vinatieri the Patriots don't have many players who would be considered as the best at their position in the NFL. It's the same reason that not many Patriots make good fantasy football players. They simply aren't the flashy, number-producing type guys that win fantasy points or sell on national magazine covers. But as a fan does that really matter. I know you want to see more national coverage, but keep coming to and we will keep you up to date with everything that is going on you're your boys. Winning as a team, as this franchise did two years ago, earns you the same ring and trophy as any star-filled bunch of players would receive.
Andy Hart

Before Bill Belichick went on a player cutting spree the pats were supposed to be ranked six in power rankings, and predicted to go to the super bowl! And now I am not even sure they'll make the playoffs! Mlloy gone, Colvin is out for the season, 13 players are hurt and even Tom Brady is probable because of his shoulder. What is going on here! The hardest hitting player in NFL got released and injuries are haunting us . Help me out here no more super bowl dreams or what!
Joseph Sanchez
Bridgeport, Conn.

Joseph, step back from the ledge and take 10 deep breaths. I know it looks bad on paper, but in case you haven't noticed the team just beat a very good Tennessee Titans team and probably should have won the previous week in Washington. For what has happened in the early going a 3-2 record isn't bad and it could be 4-1. If the team can play as well and as hard as it has for the remainder of the season, some of the injured guys will return and the schedule could benefit the team in a late-season playoff run. Like you I was ready to throw in the towel two weeks ago with all the injuries, but Bill Belichick has done a superb job in keeping the team motivated and believing in itself, not to mention putting together a pair of pretty solid game plans. I know this isn't the type of year we expected just over a month ago, but there is still hope and at the very least sit back and enjoy a team that is playing its heart out right now.
Andy Hart

The patriots don't really have any huge weapons on offense, this off-season if TO doesn't re-sign with San Francisco do you think the pats would pick him up. Also Ted Washington has 1 year left on his contract if I'm not mistaken, if we chose not resign him and Tampa doesn't resign Warren Sapp do you think the pats will ever pick up Warren Sapp to help make some play and free up Richard Seymour leading to pro bowl seasons. I hope we get 1 big star soon.
Seekonk, Mass.

Correct, Ted Washington is in the last year of his contract. But I don't really see a scenario in which either of the players you mentioned end up in New England. Owens doesn't appear to be the team-first player that the Patriots look for. And Sapp seems to have an inflated view of his own value at this point in the career. I don't think he is as dominant as he once was, but he will likely be looking for elite money. Belichick will also have to take care of some of his own contract issues with players like Damien Woody and Ty Law before he can even look at the free agent market. I know we all got excited about the team's acquisition of an elite free agent in Rosevelt Colvin last spring, but I think that was a specific case of value meeting need. I don't think the Patriots are suddenly going to become a team that throws around huge amounts of free agent money every offseason.
Andy Hart



            **Injuries are not going to be the topic of this question, but rather, how does a team with an ex-Super Bowl MVP, and last years AFC passing TD leader, not get enough respect? Every week I see polls, on-line and on TV, that ask the same question, "Who would you want as your starting quarterback on your Fantasy Football Team"? Brady is never an option, and I am sick of seeing this. The kid is talented.**  

Miami, Fla.

Bryan with a Y, hmm? I won't hold that against you even though that is the spelling a certain one of my rather opinionated and sometimes frustratingly annoying coworkers uses. (For those of you that don't know, that would be Bryan Morry, editor of Patriots Football Weekly) As for your question, I agree that Tom Brady is very talented, but he is probably not one of the top handful of quarterbacks in the game. And Brady certainly doesn't make some of the flashy plays that guys like Mike Vick, Donovan McNabb or even to some degree Steve McNair are capable of. In general Brady is a very accurate, intelligent field general who fits in nicely with the Patriots short passing game. As we have seen he is more than capable of leading a team to Super Bowl glory, but that doesn't mean he is the best at his position. And limited by both his own abilities and the confines of the New England passing game, Brady doesn't put up the huge numbers that others like a Drew Bledsoe, Kerry Collins or even a Peyton Manning might. He also doesn't present the rushing possibilities that can also help in fantasy football.
Andy Hart

I hate to sound like the negative New Englander, but I am what I am. My comment concerns Tom Brady. I feel that he is very intelligent, accurate, and with an adequate arm. He has always seemed to be able make quick reads. But I have noticed (or maybe nitpicked) what to me seems to be two trends. One, when Brady seems to be enthusiastic and energetic...he plays great, the team plays great. When he comes across as flat (like the Buffalo game), he plays terrible! Am I correct in this theory? Second trend/problem. His reads don't seem to be correct or on the money like they were. Example. I attended the Pats/skins game, and all 83,000 plus fans could plainly see that the first two interceptions, the receivers were covered like a wet blanket. Didn't stop Tom from forcing the ball anyway. I know blitzes and pressure have a lot to do with decision making, but the line seemed to do a pretty good job Sunday and nothing in your face. Am I looking too deep into this? His last interception on Sunday, third and seven, past mid field, and no pressure on Tom, all the secondary was outside the hash marks. tom could have tucked the ball and run for the first down. He didn't. He forced the ball. Any theory's?
Paul Calderone
Washington, D.C.

From one negative New Englander to another, I think you are being a bit tough on Brady. I agree he has made some poor decisions this year and has struggled with his accuracy at times. But he is also trying to make more plays down the field in the passing game. Give him a chance and see how he ends up after a 16-game sampling this year. So far all his interceptions have come in two pretty bad games. I have the feeling in the end his numbers will be up there where we would expect. In terms of the emotion, I think it might be a case of the Chicken and the Egg. What comes first Brady's flat, depressed look or poor play? Sometimes I think he gets worn down in games and does let it affect his play, but I don't think he comes into games that way. I also think that he is very emotional when the team does well and shows his excitement. While he probably tries to maintain an even-keel emotionally, he tends to express the emotion of the moment more than some fans might like from a leader.
Andy Hart

Will the Patriots ever play the AZ Cards. in AZ? I catch two games per year in person as close to the west coast as possible. This year Monday night in Denver (I will be the one freezing my a?? off) and the Houston game.
Tucson, Ariz.

Gary you are in luck. The Patriots will play at Arizona next season, 2004. Look for the exact date to be released next spring and hopefully we will see you there on a beautiful Sunday afternoon next fall.
Andy Hart

Do you think Mike Cloud can come out and make some awesome plays for the Patriots to maybe get some confidence back?I've read some articles about Cloud and he seems to be a great pick-up for the Patriots. Another thing....If Cloud does exceptionally well, do you think he will take over as starting RB over Kevin Faulk and Antowain Smith?

Ben Christopher
Holyoke, Mass.

Ben, while I know you asked this one before last Sunday's game I just wanted to post it to give you credit for bringing up the possibility of Cloud's contributions. Obviously he did make some plays, including two touchdowns and a big 42-yard run, but don't expect Cloud to necessarily take over as a starter. He still has more to prove before any job is given to him on a consistent basis, but he certainly has added some life to the backfield. And everyone loves the story of the local boy making good for his hometown team.
Andy Hart

I believe that the patriots have two first round picks in the 2004 draft. Do you think that they might try to trade up to acquire a "top ranked" college running back?
Patrick Madison
Tampa, Fla.

The Patriots do have two first-round picks next April, their own and the Baltimore Ravens' top pick acquired in a trade during last year's draft. While the draft is a long way away, I do think that running back is one of the team's top needs. Obviously any moves would depend on where each of the picks end up in terms of draft order and what type of talent is available. The Patriots are all about value in terms of draft selection and if the team feels a move up to get a top player is worth the trade, then they would do it. In terms of need I would expect the team to look for a running back, linebacker and offensive lineman in the early parts of the draft based on the current team makeup.
Andy Hart

This question is in regard to a comment you made before. The comment was when you said Belichick would love to pick his players from a pro bowl roster. I'm sure every coach would love that, but since Belichick was Belichick he would look completely past the offensive talent and go straight after the defensive talent. That is what I think is hurting this team, Belichick is too defensive minded. Do you agree?
Chicopee, Mass.

I disagree. I think Belichick believes in building an all-around solid team. In his four drafts in New England he has used six of his 10 picks in the top three rounds of the draft on offensive players including the likes of top 2002 pick Daniel Graham and second-round picks like Matt Light, Bethel Johnson and Deion Branch. There is no question that this team made a concerted effort this offseason to improve an aging and suspect defense, but that doesn't mean it couldn't do the same thing on the other side of the ball this coming spring. You can only fill so many holes in any given year and I think Belichick addresses every part of his team with the urgency that he sees fit based on what is available through both free agency and the draft.
Andy Hart

Two questions: 1. What happened to Vrabel? and 2. there are 13 people on the injured list, would you guys happen to know what the record for the pats or any team?
Mike Cziria
Davenport, Fla.

On the Vrabel issue, he broke his arm and as of last week was in a cast from his biceps down. He hopes to return of the field as soon as he is physically capable, but that isn't really an option until he at least gets a smaller cast that would allow movement in the elbow joint. As far as the injury list goes I am not sure what the record listing is, but a few years back Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan listed the better portion of his team. At the time he was being reprimanded by the league for not being completely forthcoming with information on his injury reports and made the extreme list to make a bit of a point that almost every NFL player could be listed with some minor ailment at some point during the season.
Andy Hart

Do you think that Larry Centers will ever get consideration for the Hall Of Fame? I know its a long shot but he has the most yards from the halfback/fullback position ever! That should be worth something.
East Orange, N.J.

I think he will get some Hall of Fame consideration. He has put up some ridiculous and record-setting numbers in terms of receptions for a running back and continues to be a productive player for the Patriots. While I can't really gauge whether he will ever get in, his longevity and numbers alone deserve consideration. As of today Centers has 825 career receptions, placing him 7th on the NFL's all-time list amongst some of the best wide receivers to ever play the game. Not bad for a lowly fullback.
Andy Hart

Do players wear new uniforms each game? If not, who dry cleans the grass stains out of their uniforms? If a Wilson NFL football is at recommended inflation, should it be hard as a brick?
West Warwick, R.I.

The players don't were new uniforms every game, it just looks that way thanks to the impeccable job done by the team's equipment staff. In terms of the football, according the NFL rulebook it should be inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds of pressure. At that level it will be rather firm, especially when it is new, but I wouldn't necessarily say it will feel like a brick.
Andy Hart



            **Hi. I was wondering why they did what the did in the last 2 plays of that Washington game. I had thought they ran the draw play so they could call timeout and get a few more yards closer for a field goal. Why didn't they kick a field goal on that last play? It would've been about a 55 yard kick which isn't bad when in my opinion you have one of the best, if not the best kicker in the NFL right now. Can you clear this up for me? I have thought it over a hundred times and it still doesn't make sense.**  

Deerfield, N.H.

In the locker room after the game Adam Vinatieri admitted that at the team's current field position that the kick was a bit out of his range for that day. Every game Vinatieri warms up prior to the game to not only prepare and get used to the kicking environment, but he also comes up with a worst-case scenario distance for that day's game. In Washington, the game-ending field position was outside of the range Vinatieri had given Bill Belichick based on the specific circumstances of the day. That played a key factor in the team's decision to go for the first down and not try the long kick.
Andy Hart

There have been so many injuries, I have lost track of who is on what list anymore. Could you please list which players are on which injury lists (PUP, IR, etc.) and maybe include a short prognosis of chances that the player might contribute this season (or at all). I was rooting for Chas Gessner before he went on PUP.
Norman Porter
North Canton, Ohio

As of today Rosevelt Colvin, Mike Compton, Kliff Kingsbury and Dan Stricker are all on injured reserved and can therefore not play or practice again this season. Tully Banta-Cain, Chas Gessner, Kenyatta Jones and Stephen Neal are all on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Gene Mruczkowski is on the reserve/non-football injury list (NFI). The players on PUP and NFI are eligible to start practicing any time after Week 6 (this week's game against the Giants) through Week 9. Once they start practicing the team has 21 days to decide to either activate the player to the 53-man roster, release him or leave him on PUP and lose him for the remainder of the season. Please read the beginning portion of today's posting for a more specific answer on Gessner.
Andy Hart

Hi, I went to the Blood Drive at Gillette Stadium on 09/30/03, and got a bunch of autographs. Now, can you tell me who was there to sign autographs? Half of the numbers aren't on the current roster (#61,62,64) and one guy didn't put his number down when he signed (and I'm not a pharmacist, so I can't read his writing). Can you please help me out? Thanks, and GO PATS!!!
Chris Walz
Chicopee, Mass.

In terms of the guys you mentioned, I can tell you that 61 is Stephen Neal, 64 is Gene Mruczkowski and 62 is practice squad player Tim Provost. The other players that attended the Red Cross Blood Drive included Tully Banta-Cain, Don Davis, Russ Hochstein, Fred Baxter, Christian Fauria, Ethan Kelley, Deion Branch, Brandon Gorin, Dan Klecko, Patrick Pass, Jamil Soriano, Tedy Bruschi, Jarvis Green, Dan Koppen, David Patten, Eugene Wilson, Matt Chatham, Bobby Hamilton, Rick Lyle and Lonie Paxton. I hope that you can figure out who the final autograph belongs to based on this list. Good luck.
Andy Hart

How can a question be sent to Tom Brady's agent? I have a couple of boys who would like to write and question the choice of picture shown during a game but we have no idea where to address this question. Thank you.
Sherri Glidden
South China, Maine

Sherri I would contact the NFL Players Association (202-463-2200 or and they should be able to get you an address to contact Brady's representatives.
Andy Har

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