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NFC coaches provide Patriots perspective; Annual Meeting wraps up

Men who coached, or coached against, some new Patriots players share their insights. Plus, a couple of important rules have been changed at the conclusion of the 2013 NFL Annual Meeting.

Boston Patriots defensive lineman Houston Antwine in 1970.  (AP Photo/NFL Photos)
Boston Patriots defensive lineman Houston Antwine in 1970. (AP Photo/NFL Photos)

PHOENIX – Jeff Fisher spent just one season with Danny Amendola in St. Louis – last season. That was more than enough, however, for New England's free agent wide receiver signing to leave a positive impression.

So much so, apparently, that Fisher went out of his way to text Amendola when he learned that the player signed with New England.

"He did a great job for us," Fisher raved Wednesday morning at the NFC coaches' breakfast, on the final day of the NFL's Annual Meeting in Phoenix.

"He's a great team player. It's hard to find a harder worker on the practice field, and in games, he's very competitive. He's a playmaker.

"He's very competitive, smart, understands football, recognizes defenses, has exceptional quickness – lateral quickness – and good hands. He's got good vision to run. He's a good runner. He had a couple of long returns this [past] year, which you didn't get to see because they were called back."

Fisher believes the Patriots are getting a versatile player who is difficult to cover whether in the slot or on the outside.

"Nobody with the Patriots is going to be disappointed in Danny Amendola, at any level: as a person, as a player, as a competitor," Fisher emphasized.

Fisher is also no stranger to Adrian Wilson, New England's first free agent acquisition on defense this offseason. Wilson, formerly of the Arizona Cardinals, was a difficult player against whom Fisher had to game plan a season ago in the NFC West.

"Adrian is one of those guys during the practice week that you put a red hat on on the scout team," said Fisher, "because you need to know exactly where he is every play. He's a heavy hitter, a smart football player. He has a lot of experience."

Seattle head coach Pete Carroll has had even more encounters against Wilson in the West Division.

New England Patriots against the Buffalo Bills on September 14, 2009 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA. (Photo by Jim Mahoney / New England Patriots)

"He's a great football player. He goes beyond what normal guys perform at because of his instincts and savvy," Carroll, the Patriots head coach from 1997-99, explained.

"Depending on how they play him and utilize him, he would look like he freelances a lot, but he's so experienced he makes tremendous choices like great players do. And in that, he causes you a lot of problems. He can make plays when he just shouldn't make them because of his savvy and willingness to go for it. He's a great factor."

Carroll was equally effusive in his praise of Leon Washington. The erstwhile Seahawks running back and return specialist signed with New England last week.

"He's an amazing kid; a great, competitive kid. Loved him on our team. He was a big factor, and we hated to have to move on without him," declared Carroll. "The Patriots are getting a guy who's there every minute. He's a great practice player, very savvy game player, very determined to prove himself, which is what you love about him.

"He has tons of skills. He's an exciting returner who takes the special teams aspect as seriously as it's ever been taken. He's one of the all-time greats. They get a fantastic football player, and he can play from the line of scrimmage, too – catch the football out of the backfield. He's very elusive, a tough blocker. He's a complete football player."

Meanwhile, as the Annual Meeting drew to a close this morning, the NFL announced some rules change proposals that passed, including the elimination of the so-called "Tuck Rule," which New England fans remember well from the 2001 Super Bowl season. "I think we'll abstain," Patriots owner Robert Kraft joked to reporters earlier in the week, and it seems that's exactly what New England did when the vote came up (the Washington Redskins are also said to have abstained, while the Pittsburgh Steelers voted to keep it). In addition, it is now illegal for running backs (and other ball carriers) to initiate contact with an opponent using the crown of their own helmet. That vote overwhelmingly passed by a 31-1 margin, in what the league said this week was an effort to improve player safety on the field. Reportedly, the Cincinnati Bengals were the only team to oppose the measure.

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