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Ask PFW: Walter's back

Obviously Ken Walter's return was the hot topic this week. At last count, there were 42 questions wondering what Bill Belichick was thinking.

I usually don't try to second guess the Patriot organization when it comes to personnel moves, BUT could someone please give me some insight as to why the Pats would take back Ken Walter?
Pete Kurtyka
Cumberland, R.I.

Belichick just felt Walter gave his team the best chance to win. Although he has struggled badly at times this year, Brooks Barnard had not experience and his punting wasn't much better, although his one game was during a raging blizzard and was perhaps not the fairest gauge of his talents. In my opinion, and this is based on nothing Belichick said, is that if the punting game was going to be subpar, it's better to be subpar with someone you're comfortable with. And Walter's experience has to make the coaching staff more comfortable with him than Barnard.
Paul Perillo

How long has it been since we have played the Dolphins in Miami in December. It always seems like they play here in December.
Bill C.
San Diego, Calif.

Generally you're right. Lately the Patriots have hosted Miami late in the season while traveling to play the Dolphins early. The last time New England played in Miami in December was a Monday night game on Dec. 22, 1997. The Patriots clinched the AFC East title with a 14-12 victory.
Paul Perillo

Am I missing something or is it possible for Indy to beat NE for No. 1 seed in the AFC even though N.E. beat Indy during the season?
Mashpee, Mass.

It's pretty unlikely, but it is possible. There would need to be a three-way tie between the Patriots, Colts and Chiefs. As an example, if the Chiefs and Patriots lose one of their remaining two games while Indy wins both of its two, all three would finish with 13-3 records. The tiebreaker procedures for three teams are as follows: 1. Head-to-head (if applicable). Since Kansas City didn't play either team, this step is eliminated. 2. Best record against conference opponents. All three would have two of their three losses against AFC teams, so that wouldn't apply. 3. Best record against common opponents. There are four common opponents among the teams (Cleveland, Buffalo, Denver and Houston). Remember, we're assuming all three finish 13-3 so the Colts would finish 5-0 against those teams with Kansas City 4-1 (a loss to Denver), and the Patriots 4-1 at best (assuming they lose to the Jets and not the Bills). So a three-way tie at 13-3 would favor the Colts. The Patriots could still get the No. 2 seed as long as they lose to the Jets and not Buffalo. If that was the case, the Patriots and Chiefs would have to go the fifth step which is strength of victory. Backed by its 7-0 record against teams with a winning record, New England has a sizable edge over Kansas City in that department. But if the Patriots one loss came to Buffalo, the Chiefs would get the No. 2 seed based on their 4-1 record against common opponents vs. the Patriots 3-2 mark.
Paul Perillo

I read something about the Pats signing Larry Centers as a fullback recently but couldn't earlier because of some injury implications of some sort. Could you please clarify this for me?
Will Perez
Richmond, Va.

The Patriots reached an injury settlement with Centers shortly after the Giants game on Oct. 12. By rule, the Patriots had to wait eight weeks before re-signing him of they chose to. Once that period was up, Centers returned.
Paul Perillo

A punt is not a free ball. The receiving team gets the ball if no one touches it. A kickoff is a free ball if it goes 10 yards. What is a kick after a safety – a free ball or the receiving team's ball? I ask because the Pats got a safety with the Dolphins and Miami punted. Now, if it's not a free ball, why catch it and possibly fumble when you can come close to running out the clock by taking a knee. If it is a free ball why doesn't the kicking team, in this case in desperation, do an onside kick and try to recover?
Hulius Goldfinger
Queens, N.Y.

You can onside kick on a free kick after a safety, but you can't punt the ball in order to do that. The ball must be held by a player and kicked off the ground (no tee is allowed on a free kick following a safety). Then, as long as it travels at least 10 yards, the kicking team may recover the kick.
Paul Perillo

I love Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk just because they play for the Pats, but their performance is making me upset. Has one of them even rushed for more than a 100 yards? I think there saving Mike Cloud for the postseason so no one will know how to stop him. If this happens Bill Belichick is a mastermind. Do you agree with me?
Chris B.
Chicopee, Mass.

The Patriots running game hasn't been too strong this season. Neither Smith nor Faulk has recorded a 100-yard game (Detroit is the only other team without a single 100-yard rusher). Smith has many 100-yard games in his career (11), but Faulk has never topped the century mark. As for your other point, if Belichick intentionally held a player back so he could surprise teams in the postseason he would never have won the Super Bowl in the first place. A coach has to go with what he believes are his best players. If Belichick felt Cloud gave his team the best chance to win each week, Cloud would be in there.
Paul Perillo

There's been a lot of talk during the season that Ty Law might suffer the same fate as Lawyer Milloy. Although I loved No. 36 as much as any other loyal Pats fan, there's no denying his production had decreased enough that it became difficult for management to justify his salary. Law's play has not dropped off. In fact, he is having the most productive season of his career. What are the chances the organization will really dump Ty as they did Lawyer? I hope they pay him and keep him!
Trumbull, Conn.

I'm with you, Jim. But unfortunately finances dictate a lot of football-related decisions nowadays and there's at least a chance that Law will not be with the team next year. His salary numbers are starting to get way up there and his cap numbers might make it difficult to keep him. The team could probably absorb his hit if it chose to and he's said in the past that he will not take a pay cut. But that doesn't mean he would be completely unwilling to restructure his deal to make it easier for the team to manage his salary. It's way too early to make a prediction, but these could be Law's last days in a Patriots uniform.
Paul Perillo

I was at the Chargers-Pats game last year when LT lit them up for 220 or something, how did the run D improve so much?
Encinitas, Calif.

First they added nose tackle Ted Washington to the middle of the defense. His play has been far superior to Steve Martin's last year. That has allowed the linebackers more freedom inside to make tackles. On the outside, Mike Vrabel and Willie McGinest have done a great job setting the edge and forcing running backs to turn it back inside, where players like Richard Seymour, Bobby Hamilton, Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson and Roman Phifer have been waiting. Also, the secondary has done a great job of tackling on the rare occasions when a back has slipped past the front seven. Instead of long touchdowns runs, like LT had last year, the secondary is making backs settle for 10-12-yarders this year. It's been a team effort.
Paul Perillo

Is there a team with more class than the Patriots? Unselfish players, team attitude, great owners … I just wanted to add, I received my 100 consecutive sellout card from the Krafts and noticed that among the pictures was one of Drew Bledsoe. I was impressed once again as Drew was such a big part of the team's climb to respectability. What a pleasure to be a Pats season-ticket holder.
Steve Bean
Littleton, N.H.

What do you mean, you don't know what you're talking about. Oh, wait a minute. You wrote nice things about the Patriots. Force of habit. Thanks for the kind words.
Paul Perillo

Who was the Patriots starting QB before Drew Bledsoe?
Robert Perrault
Lawrence, Mass.

Hugh Millen was the starting quarterback in 1991 and 1992, the years before Bledsoe arrived in 1993. Bledsoe started his first game as a rookie but missed three games with a knee injury while Scott Secules took his place.
Paul Perillo

Is there anything that the staff can do to get a quality RB/FB late in the season? There are teams in the league that are not going anywhere, but have strong running backs. Can the Pats snatch one on a promise of good Super Bowl ring potential?
Malden, Mass.

Unfortunately it really doesn't work that way. The trading deadline has long since past (in October) so the only way the Patriots could add a running back would be if there was one out of work. It's doubtful anyone worth picking up this late in the season would be available. There aren't many Clinton Portis-types looking for work.
Paul Perillo

I hate to bring up old demons, but a friend of mine brought up an interesting point about the "Snow Bowl" tuck rule incident two years ago. At the time, a lot was made of the fact that on the replay it is clear that the Raiders rusher that causes Brady to "fumble" does not actually hit the ball or Brady's arm. He hits Brady's helmet (which explains why Brady dropped the ball – a linebacker hitting a person in the head at full speed would make just about anyone drop a football!). So my question is, isn't hitting a quarterback on the head (before any other body part) a personal foul, roughing the passer or unnecessary roughness or something like that? Shouldn't the Raiders have been penalized 15 yards, giving the Patriots a first down and negating any question of a fumble/incomplete pass? You said in one of your columns that if a ref is reviewing a play looking for one thing but sees something else reviewable, he can call it. Is seeing a personal foul that was missed at the time "reviewable?"
Cambridge, Mass.

First, calling a penalty for roughing the passer is not reviewable. Even if the ref determined when watching it on replay that he felt he missed the call, he's not supposed to change it. Now, on the play in question, it's true that Charles Woodson made contact with Brady's helmet. However, that is not an automatic infraction. The ref determines what he think is a personal foul. There would definitely not be a roughing the passer called because Brady had the ball in his hand at the time of the hit. In my opinion, there was no unnecessary roughness on the play because I don't believe Woodson violently (or intentionally) hit Brady in the head. As Woodson goes to make the hit, Brady starts to duck and thus causes the contact. Could a penalty have been called? Yes. Should one have been? In my opinion no.
Paul Perillo

What is the record for most consecutive sellouts? Are the Pats close to it because to me 100 consecutive sellouts is pretty hard to reach.
Matt Nadeau
Sabattus, Maine

I'm not sure if there is any official NFL statistic kept for consecutive sellouts, I can tell you that Green Bay's Lambeau Field has been sold out for every game since 1960. Therefore, the Patriots streak of 100 straight sellouts pales in comparison.
Paul Perillo

Who do you feel are the offensive and defensive players of the season thus far? I have to say Richard Seymour and Tom Brady have been doing an excellent job. What are your thoughts?
Baton Rouge, La.

It's not too often that I agree with many people. Some might actually say I can be a bit argumentative at times (I know, hard to believe, but it's true). Brady is, in my mind, unquestionably the offensive MVP. He's generated enough offense to win despite playing behind a makeshift offensive line, with banged up receivers and with not even a hint of a running game. That's an MVP. On defense, the decision is tougher with guys like Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Ty Law and Tyrone Poole worthy of mentioning. But Seymour gets my nod for his consistency. Also, the Patriots allowed their only 100-yard rusher (Clinton Portis in Denver) when Seymour missed the game due to injury.
Paul Perillo

I understand that the defensive coach (Romeo Crennel) has been around for a while, how many Super Bowl rings has he earned?
Nancy Handley
Miami, Fla.

Crennel's NFL coaching career began in 1981 with the New York Giants as a special teams/defensive assistant. He spent 12 years with the Giants and was part of two Super Bowl winning staffs. He won a third in 2001 with the Patriots as defensive coordinator. He also was part of New England's staff in 1996 that lost Super Bowl XXXI.
Paul Perillo

Does the No. 1 seed in the playoffs play the winner of the Nos. 4 and 5 game, or does it depend on whether or not the No. 6 seed beats the No. 3 seed? In other words, are the playoff brackets set or do they change depending on outcomes?
Steve Maifield
Altoona, Iowa

The playoff brackets are not set and are dependent on the outcomes of games. If the No. 6 seed upsets the No. 3, the top seed would host No. 6 while No. 2 hosts the winner of the 4-5 game. If the favorite wins every game, No. 1 would host No. 4.
Paul Perillo

What is it that makes a guy like Larry Izzo such a special teams stud? Does the team really need him around just for this purpose? Couldn't someone else who could also see time at linebacker or safety easily do his job, instead of a guy who plays special teams and does nothing else? I don't mean to bash Larry, of course.
Warren, N.J.

Belichick places a high priority on guys who excel in various roles. Izzo is a linebacker by trade but his main value is as a special teams player, and he's very good at it. Not just anyone can do it as well as he can; that's what makes him a Pro Bowl special teams player. To Belichick, that's no different than a kicker or punter or long snapper – if you're good at what you do, you can carve out a role.
Paul Perillo

How come Charlie is calling less plays to Fauria and more to Graham when Graham has been struggling catching lately?
Stoughton, Mass.

The Patriots are a game plan team, which means each week they design their attack – both offensively and defensively – based on what plays, players and schemes might work best. Whether Graham is more involved one week than the next has to do with game plans, not necessarily how a player is performing. Graham was a big part of the game against Jacksonville last week while Fauria was a big part in Indy against the Colts. For whatever reason, the coaches must have felt Fauria could be a weapon against the Colts while Graham was a key against the Jags.
Paul Perillo

I haven't seen the movie yet but is it true that some of the Patriots have a small cameo role in "Stuck on You." I heard that Tom Brady was in it. Just wanted to make sure it was true before I went to see the movie. I am a huge Pats fan and think Tom Brady is the best QB in the NFL.
Lawrence, Kan.

I haven't seen the movie yet either but not only is Brady in it but Troy Brown and Lawyer Milloy are as well.
Paul Perillo

Was safety Anthony Dorsett ever with the Patriots?
Moosup, Conn.

Anthony Dorsett has never been a Patriot. He was drafted by Tennessee (then Houston) in 1996 and played for the Oilers/Titans until 1999. He went to Oakland in 2000 and has been there ever since. He's also a cousin of the Patriots Ty Law.

I was wondering if players on IR (like Colvin) still attend practice, meetings, etc., or do they have limited contact with the team until next season? Also, is Colvin's hip injury career threatening or is he expected back next year?
Leon Boegman
Perth, Australian

Depending on the severity of injury, players remain in contact with the team (at meetings, practice) for the most part. Kliff Kingsbury, as an example, has been with the team every day despite being placed on injured reserve during training camp. Players like Colvin and Mike Compton, who suffered more serious injuries, aren't always around because they receive treatment as part of their rehab. They have been in the locker room occasionally this year. Colvin's injury is not considered career threatening at this time. The last time I spoke with him (about three weeks ago) he was upbeat about his return and believed the injury would not have many lasting effects.
Paul Perillo

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