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Insiders Report: Patriots News and Notes

Insiders Report: Patriots News and Notes

<p>New England Patriots Insider information. Rodney Harrison tries to see what it's like as a referee, Willie McGinest tries a stint as a guest on NFL Network, Tom Ashworth re-ups with the team and more breaking news, including news that Tedy Bruschi is back in the hospital.</p><p>Get inside to see what's happening with the team. <b><a href="https://secure.[NETWORKDOMAIN]/store/view.aspx?s=121&p=6" target="_blank">Free Trial</a></b></p>

INSIDERS REPORT

It is the height of irony. Rodney Harrison wearing black and white stripes and throwing the little yellow flag that's often thrown in his direction when the hard-hitting Patriots safety buries a receiver. He pushes the envelope as an aggressive defender that is often in the face of officials arguing a call. But last week, he was on the other side of that line, working through a three-day NFL Europe officiating internship in Florida.

"I'm definitely getting a great appreciation for what the officials go through and how tough their job is," Harrison said. "It really gives you a different perspective."

Harrison has probably been fined for illegal hits more than any other active player in the league, but while assigned to police the game, he won't allow his feelings about some of the calls made against him as a player affect him when he's throwing the flags.

"You get graded," he said. "You get graded every game and every practice and if you are not making the calls, your grade just keeps getting worse and worse and eventually you are kicked out if you are not doing your job."

Harrison made no secret of his disdain for the NFL crackdown on contact in the secondary last season, and while the player may still feel targeted because of his seedy reputation, Harrison the official sees it differently.

"You just get a different perspective. I knew what the rule was about, but did it stop us from winning a championship? It didn't," Harrison said. "Even with the rule implemented, you know that you still can go out there and be aggressive and win ball games and disrupt the receiver.

"You just have to know how to do it, and from my understanding with interacting with these officials and really just getting their understanding of it, I'm actually even more prepared for it. When I go back and practice with my teammates and the cornerbacks, I can give them a better understanding of what the officials are looking for and what they are going to call."

It would seem that Harrison would already know what the officials are going to call based on the amount of times he is flagged for his aggressiveness or over-aggressiveness as the case may be. His reputation certainly was in tow as he threw his flag for an illegal hit.

"I made a couple of pass interference calls and I called one illegal hit to the facemask and some of the guys were saying, 'Hey Rodney, that's the way you play.' They were joking and laughing, but it's fun because they know how you play the game. Sometimes you break up little scuffles and fights and then you hear the guys coming to explain their point of view. Of course they are never wrong; they are always right. It's been funny."

Yeah so funny with Harrison's switch that it's like the bank robber becoming a police officer. But officiating is a profession Harrison would someday like to pursue when his days of arguing with officials end.

"I know this is something that I would want to pursue," Harrison said. "I saw one guy get annihilated today and I almost jumped through the sky. I was pumped up. So sometimes you have to catch yourself."

Sometimes you have to do that as a player as well.

NOTES, QUOTES

  • Linebacker Tedy Bruschi's football future remains unknown and has to be considered in doubt after he suffered a mild stroke, but that won't be known for sure until Bruschi addresses the media, which he will likely do at some point once he knows what the future holds. Patriots owner Robert Kraft spoke to Bruschi recently and reported last week that Bruschi was doing well. "He sounded great. He's feeling well," Kraft said. "We hope his recovery continues as it has. His first responsibility is to his family and that's what we're all looking for. Anything that happens after that is a bonus."

  • Kraft made his comments at the Copley Mall in Boston's Back Bay as he unveiled the new Patriots license plate available in Massachusetts, the proceeds of which go to the Patriots Charitable Foundation. The team took orders for the first 3,000 plates before they were unveiled and then another 500 were ordered within a day of Kraft and players Daniel Graham and Matt Chatham pulling the cover off the plate which features a Patriots logo with the three Super Bowl championships listed on the plate.

  • Arizona TV station KOLD of Tuscon, reported that Bruschi was scheduled to undergo heart surgery later this week. In their report, Scott Kilbury speculated that the hole in his heart may have caused Bruschi's mild stroke last month. The Boston media has reported on KOLD's report but has been unable to confirm Bruschi's condition with team spokesman Stacey James telling the media that all updates on the linebacker's condition will come through the Bruschi family.

  • Willie McGinest, was a guest on NFL's total access Tuesday with host Rich Eisen. McGinest responded to questions on Bruschi, some free agent signings around the league and chatted with fellow USC football players about their prospects in the upcoming draft. McGinest commented to Eisen during one segment with Sammy Knight (Also a fellow USC alum), that he'd like to retire in the New England area, and "hopefully" when his contract comes up for renewal in 2006, that they can work something out so he can remain in New England.

    McGinest commented on Bruschi's health saying he's doing good, and that he [Bruschi] seems to be in better spirits. McGinest went on to comment about Brischi's condition remarking on the status of Bruschi's heart. While this could have been explained away or misinterpreted, Eisen made no attempt to follow-up on McGinest's comment.

    Tom Curran from the Providence Journal caught McGinest's comments and reported what PI reporters have stated, that McGinest told NFL Network "I think he had a hole in his heart."

  • Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch picked up his new Cadillac XLR Monday at Herb Chambers Cadillac in Providence. The car was presented to the game's MVP, which Branch won with his 11-catch, 133-yard performance in the Patriots 24-21 win over the Eagles.

  • Offensive Tackle Tom Ashworth has agreed to rejoin the team after a brief stint as a free agent. Ashworth came to terms with the Patriots on Tuesday, the same day reports of fellow unrestricted free agent offensive tackle Adrian Klemm was visiting Pittsburgh.

    With Brandin Gorin and Stephan Neal already signed, Dan Koppen and Matt Light under contract, Ashworth's signing brings about the return of 4 / 5ths of the Patriots starting line. Only guard Joe Andruzzi has left the team in free agency, chosing to join former Patriot's coach Romeo Crennel in Cleveland.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "That's the game. There is transition. When you have a salary cap, if you're younger players under their rookie contracts develop and then you increase their contract, there is not enough money for everybody. You just can't do it. Every team in the league goes through it. We're not unique." - Bill Belichick on the significant losses the Patriots have endured this offseason.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES

1. Inside linebacker. Thirty-six-year-old Roman Phifer was cut. Ted Johnson, 32, and Tedy Bruschi, 31, aren't getting younger. The Patriots need to groom or find a younger replacement to anchor the 3-4 defense and remain strong up the middle. If Bruschi returns, this becomes less of a priority, but the Patriots have to prepare for life without their Pro Bowl linebacker who is recovering from a stroke that may end his career. If they can't find help here in free agency, it's a good bet New England returns to a 4-3 base front next year rather than plug a rookie inside linebacker into the starting defense.

2. Wide receiver. David Patten signed with Washington. Troy Brown is gone, although could be back if the he and the team can agree on what is a fair deal for the 12-year veteran who sacrificed offensive production to play defense last season. Bethel Johnson hasn't developed as a receiver and P.K. Sam ended the season on the reserve/suspended list and must claw out of the doghouse. David Givens is a restricted free agent who received a first round tender that should keep him in Foxborough for one more season. The Patriots reportedly reached a one-year contract agreement with former Charger Tim Dwight, a speedster who could play a Patten-type role while also contributing as a return man in Brown's place. But Dwight caught only 16 passes over the last two seasons so his signing hardly fills the need here, although it could if he can return to 2002 form when he had his best career season with 50 receptions.

3. Offensive line. Starting LG Joe Andruzzi left in free agency and T Tom Ashworth has to prove he can overcome back problems to reclaim his starting right tackle job. But the Pats are thin across the front with Matt Light, Ashworth and Brandon Gorin the only experienced tackles while Stephen Neal, and to an extent, Russ Hochstein the only experienced guards. There isn't much individual talent in the group although Gene Mruczkowski may be ready to take the step that Ashworth, Neal and Gorin took in their development and vie for playing time as Andruzzi's replacement. Look for the Pats to sign a veteran and use a second day draft pick on a lineman. A young corner may also still be on the radar screen even after the team traded for Duane Starks.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: PK Adam Vinatieri.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: RB Rabih Abdullah; S Je'Rod Cherry; LB Don Davis; WR Kevin Kasper; OT Adrian Klemm.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR David Givens; DL Jarvis Green.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: DT Ethan Kelley; OL Gene Mruczkowski; S Guss Scott.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: OT Brandon Gorin; OG Stephen Neal; FB Patrick Pass ,OT Tom Ashworth.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED: WR/KR Tim Dwight; CB Duane Starks.

PLAYERS LOST: OG Joe Andruzzi; TE Zeron Flemister; CB Ty Law; QB Jim Miller; CB Earthwind Moreland; WR David Patten; LB Roman Phifer.

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