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Patriots.com News Blitz - 1/3/2012

Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe looks at the Bill Belichick's plans for the Patriots in their bye week. "I think the big thing for us right now is to use our time and our opportunities and this position in a productive manner so that's what we'll try to do here,'' Belichick said. The Patriots will play on Saturday, January 14, 2012 and have a long list on improvements to make. "The bigger picture for us right now is just trying to make sure that we take advantage of our opportunities and practice and meetings and the time that we have between now and our next game to do the best things we can to help ourselves individually and help our team," said Belichick. "That's what we'll try to focus on, which obviously covers a lot of ground, but [we'll] try to prioritize those and it may be different for some individual players than others.''

Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald writes about the position change that Devin McCourty had during Sunday's win from cornerback to safety. McCourty has struggled much of the 2011 campaign after making the Pro Bowl in 2010. On Sunday, McCourty played a large role next to Patrick Chung in place of James Ihedigbo. "I think he has physical ability," Belichick said. "I think he has certainly the mental makeup, making adjustments, understanding what the concepts are, making smart decisions back there — all those things."

Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe writes about the role Aaron Hernandez has played in helping the offense recover from slow starts in recent weeks. On Sunday, after falling into a 21-0 hole, Hernandez hauled in seven passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. The 100-yard game is Hernandez's third of the season. "It just shows what he can do, his versatility," said tight end Rob Gronkowski. "He's unbelievable when he has the ball in his hands, he can make defenders miss at all times no matter what part of the field he's on. You saw a couple of other times when he made the guys miss when he caught the ball behind the line of scrimmage. He's an unbelievable player. I love playing next to him. It helps so much.''

Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com writes about a number of topics that quarterback Tom Brady covered in his weekly interview on WEEI. The topics included the New York Jets, his injured left shoulder and if he believes he gets favorable calls. When asked about a penalty the Buffalo Bills were called for on Brady, he replied "Probably not. I didn't even know they threw a flag. I was already on the sideline. I was pretty pissed at that point. ... It doesn't take much for me to go down. ... I haven't got any calls all year. I don't know if I've gotten any, that may be my first call all year. I don't think I've got any roughing or any of that. It's funny, because people say that, 'Yeah, he gets the [calls]' and I don't get any calls. So maybe that's just a little bitching from other guys."

Jeff Howe of NESN.com writes about how Wes Welker has spent much of his football life proving others wrong. The four time Pro Bowler set and NFL record this season by recording his fourth 110-catch season, yet Welker had been set free by two teams before landing in New England (San Diego and Miami). Welker led the NFL this year with 124 receptions and was second in the NFL with 1,569 receiving yards.

Mike Rodak and Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com look at the Patriots roster by length of contract. Players like Mark Anderson, Deion Branch, Andre Carter, Dan Koppen, Kyle Love and Wes Welker have contracts that expire at the end of the 2011 campaign. Matt Light, Kyle Arrington and Patrick Chung have contracts that will expire after next season. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are locked-up until the end of 2013. Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork are signed through 2014. Logan Mankins is signed through 2016 and Jerod Mayo is signed through 2017.

Ben Watanabe of NESN.com writes about the Patriots being recognized as the NFL's top team for the designated driver program for the second year in a row. More than 23,000 fans at Gillette Stadium this season pledged to be designated drivers, the most of any NFL team for the second straight year. Since 2009 the Patriots, the Revolution, Gillette Stadium, the Ensign John R. Elliott HERO Campaign and TEAM Coalition have educated fans about the importance of using a designated driver to ensure a safe ride home from the game.

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