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Patriots unveil 2016 regular-season schedule

Here’s a look at the Patriots 2016 regular-season schedule:

Sunday, Sept. 11: at Arizona, 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 18: vs. Miami, 1 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 22: vs. Houston, 8:25 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 2: vs. Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 9: at Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 16: vs. Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 23: at Pittsburgh, 4:25 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 30: at Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Bye
Sunday, Nov. 13: vs. Seattle, 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 20: at San Francisco, 4:25 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 27: at NY Jets, 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 4: vs. LA Rams, 1 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 12: vs. Baltimore, 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 18: at Denver, 4:25 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 24: vs Jets, 1 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 1: at Dolphins, 1 p.m.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

DL Dominique Easley clears waivers, becomes a free agent

Dominique Easley

Dominique Easley

Released by the Patriots on Wednesday, Dominique Easley was not claimed on waivers Thursday. He is now a free agent and eligible to sign with any club.

Easley, who was a first-round pick of New England in 2014, struggled to consistently stay the field in his two seasons with the Patriots, as both years ended on injured reserve. The 6-foot-2, 288-pounder out of Florida played 22 games in two combined seasons with New England. The fact that a prospect like Easley went unclaimed suggests there are still questions about his health.

Easley posted a farewell note to the Patriots on Instagram earlier on Thursday, thanking the Patriots for the opportunity. His agent Drew Rosenhaus told Sirius/XM Radio on Wednesday he anticipated Easley landing a gig sooner rather than later.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Afternoon Delight: ‘U.S. Navy ship encounters aggressive Russian aircraft’

This is the hottest trending video of the day. A Russian fighter jet buzzing the U.S. Navy Destroyer USS Donald Cook. It’s gone viral first, because it’s not every day you see a military encounter this close. And also because it could be the establishing shot of the epic finale to the trilogy started by World War I and World War II. If not, well then it’s just fun to see an enemy jet in a close fly by.

I just hope that when that Russian fighter was being debriefed, he had this exchange:

“Started up on his six, when he pulled in through the clouds, and then I moved in above him.”
“Well, if you were directly above him, how could you see him?”
“Because I was inverted.”

Blog Author: 
Jerry Thornton

Poll: Which Patriots Hall of Fame finalist are you going to vote for?

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Blog Author: 
WEEI

Raymond Clayborn, Kevin Faulk and Mike Vrabel finalists for Patriots Hall of Fame

Mike Vrabel and Kevin Faulk are finalists for the Patriots Hall of Fame. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Mike Vrabel and Kevin Faulk are finalists for the Patriots Hall of Fame. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The Patriots announced Thursday that defensive back Raymond Clayborn, running back Kevin Faulk and defensive end Mike Vrabel have been selected as finalists for this year’s induction into the team’s Hall of Fame.

Starting today, Patriots fans are encouraged to vote for the former Patriot most deserving of enshrinement. Fans can vote on www.patriots.com/2016hof for the next month. Voting will end on May 14, and the Patriots will announce the 2016 Patriots Hall of Fame selection at a later date.

Via the team, here’s a bio of each one of the finalists:

Raymond Clayborn was a three-time Pro Bowl player (1983, 1985, 1986) for the Patriots during a career that extended from 1977 through 1989. He was drafted by the Patriots in the first round (16th overall) out of Texas in 1977 and quickly established himself as one of the game’s best cornerbacks as well as a superb kickoff returner. He finished his career with a franchise-leading 36 interceptions, a record which was tied by Ty Law in 2004 and remains today, 27 years after he retired. His 555 interception return yards are second in franchise history to Law’s 583 return yards. Clayborn also returned 57 kickoffs for 1,538 yards and three touchdowns. As a rookie in 1977, Clayborn returned 28 kickoffs for 869 yards and led the NFL with a 31.0-yard return average and returned three kicks for touchdowns, both of which remain franchise records. He is one of just 19 NFL players since the 1970 merger to finish a season with a better than 30.0-yard average on kickoff returns (min. 20 returns) and is the only Patriots player to accomplish the feat. Clayborn played a vital role in bringing the Patriots to respectability in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. During his 13 seasons with the Patriots, he helped the Patriots to 10 winning seasons, including four postseason berths. Clayborn intercepted Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino and recorded six passes defensed to help end an 18-game losing streak to the Miami Dolphins in the Orange Bowl in a 31-14 AFC Championship victory that propelled the Patriots to their first Super Bowl appearance. Clayborn was a member of the Patriots’ 1970s and 1980s all-decade teams. He also set a franchise record by playing in 161 consecutive games. 

Kevin Faulk concluded his 13-year career with the Patriots as one of the most productive players in team history. He filled various roles after joining the team in 1999 as a second-round pick (46th overall) out of Louisiana State. He is the Patriots’ all-time leader in all-purpose yards (12,349) and kickoff return yards (4,098) and is the Patriots’ all-time leading return specialist, totaling 5,041 combined return yards (4,098 kick return yards and 943 punt return yards). He ranks fifth in Patriots history in rushing yards (3,607), fifth in receptions (431), 12th in receiving yards (3,701) and eighth in punt return yards (943). For his career, he played in 161 games and accumulated 3,607 yards rushing on 864 attempts for a 4.2-yard average with 16 touchdowns, caught 431 passes for 3,701 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns, returned 181 kicks for 4,098 yards and two touchdowns and returned 101 punts for 943 yards. Faulk is the Patriots’ all-time leader in receptions by a running back, totaling 431 in his career and is one of just 30 running backs in NFL history to reach the 400-reception plateau. In the 2000s decade, he was one of just six players to rush for more than 3,000 yards and gain over 3,000 yards receiving, joining Tiki Barber, Marshall Faulk, Michael Pittman, LaDanian Tomlinson and Brian Westbrook. Faulk helped the Patriots claim 11 winning seasons, including three Super Bowls titles and five AFC Championships during his 13-year career with New England. Faulk is a member of the Patriots’ all-decade and 50th Anniversary teams as a return specialist. 

Mike Vrabel is recognized as one of the best free agent signings in team history. He joined the team prior to the 2001 season, following a four-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he was used primarily on special teams and as reserve linebacker. During his eight-year tenure in New England, Vrabel played a major role in the Patriots’ dynamic run of three Super Bowls in four years (2001, 2003 and 2004). He exemplified positional versatility, starting at both inside and outside linebacker positions during his Patriots tenure, regularly lining up on offense in short-yardage and goal-line situations and continuing to make valuable contributions on various special teams units throughout his career. As a Patriot, he caught eight regular-season passes, and two more in the playoffs. All 10 receptions were touchdowns, including touchdown receptions in back-to-back, 3-point Super Bowl wins over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXVIII (32-29) and Philadelphia Eagles (24-21) in Super Bowl XXXIX. In Week 8 of the 2007 season, Vrabel forced three fumbles, had three sacks, recovered an onside kick and scored an offensive touchdown against Washington, all of which earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. He earned Pro Bowl and NFL All-Pro honors following the 2007 season after registering 12½ sacks and helping the Patriots to the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history. On Dec. 26, 2005, on Monday Night Football, Vrabel became the first player since the official recording of sacks began in 1982 to have two touchdown receptions and a sack in the same game. Vrabel started 110-of-125 games and the Patriots were 95-20 in in those games for a .760 winning percentage. He was a four-time team captain, including the 2006 season in which the defense set a franchise record by allowing just 14.8 points per game and just 237 points, the fewest by the Patriots in a 16-game season. His 48 career sacks with the team are the seventh-most in team history. In 2009, he was voted to the Patriots’ 50th Anniversary Team as an outside linebacker along with Andre Tippett and the 2000s all-decade team along with Willie McGinest, both of whom are Patriots Hall of Famers. 

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Dave Dombrowski: Pablo Sandoval undergoes MRI, results Friday

In a text to WEEI.com, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski wrote that Pablo Sandoval would be undergoing an MRI on his strained left shoulder Thursday, with the results of the evaluation most likely surfaced Friday.

Sandoval was placed on the 15-day disabled list with the shoulder ailment Wednesday without the team conducting an MRI.

The third baseman said after being placed on the DL, and meeting with Dombrowski, general manager Mike Hazen and manager John Farrell, “I wake up and I can’t even move my arm.”
For more on Sandoval’s comments, click here.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Patriots re-sign RB Tyler Gaffney

The Patriots announced Thursday afternoon they have re-signed running back Tyler Gaffney. The following is a portion of the statement from the team on the move:

Gaffney was released by the Patriots on April 11, 2016. A 24-year-old veteran of two NFL seasons with New England. The 6-foot, 220-pounder, originally entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick (204th overall) by the Carolina Panthers out of Stanford in the 2014 NFL Draft. He suffered an injury in his first NFL training camp while with Carolina and spent the season on injured reserve after being claimed off waivers by the Patriots on July 28, 2014. Gaffney was injured in training camp last year and spent the entire 2015 season on injured reserve.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Frank Vatrano shares AHL’s most outstanding rookie award

Bruins forward Frank Vatrano was named a co-recipient of the Dudley Garrett Memorial Award as the AHL’s most outstanding rookie for the 2015-16 season.

Vatrano split the award with Avalanche prospect and 2015 10th overall pick Mikko Rantanen, who had more points than Vatrano but played far more games. Rantanen had 24 goals and 36 assists for 60 points in 51 games, while Vatrano led the AHL with 34 goals despite playing in only 34 games. Vatrano added 17 assists for a total of 51 points.

The first-year pro and East Longmeadow native played more NHL games than AHL games this season, as he scored eight goals and added three assists for 11 points in 39 games for Boston.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

Don Sweeney: ‘I don’t believe we need a major overhaul’

Don Sweeney

Don Sweeney

Speaking at Thursday’s press conference, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said he did not intend to make drastic changes to the Bruins’ roster.

Sweeney, who will enter his second offseason as Bruins general manager, said his priority is to add to what the Bruins have rather than rapidly shipping players out. The Bruins currently have 11 NHL players under contract for next season.

“I don’t believe we need a major overhaul,” Sweeney said. “I believe we need to continue to forge depth in the organization. When you go through these times where you have injuries and you have players that have to be able to step in, you have to have a plan that allows players to develop at the right time that they’re supposed rather than force a player. At times, when you don’t have the depth overall, you can expose a younger player. We’d like to have the patience in that regard.

“People talk about young player integration. David Pastrnak’s a great example of a player that we’re going to have a tremendous amount of patience with and Claude has patience with. [He’s] a very exciting player, a big part of our organization going forward and we need to make sure that we’re developing him in the right manner.”

Sweeney did not say whether he intended to part with any of the Bruins’ free agents. The GM said he discussed each of their futures in the team’s recent exit meetings, but declined to reveal whether he’d told them anything definitive. He did reiterate his preference to sign Loui Eriksson and said he did not regret keeping the player at the trade deadline.

On the subject of buyouts, Sweeney said he would be willing to use them. Jimmy Hayes, for whom the Bruins traded Reilly Smith last offseason, could be a candidate to be bought out of his contract.

“From a buyout perspective, I think everything in the CBA up and down will be at our disposal,” Sweeney said. “The ownership has been very supportive of what we need to do [and] continue to do going forward, and if that’s part of it, that’s part of it. We just need to continue to get better.”

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

Patriots announce dates and times for 2016 preseason slate

The Patriots have officially announced the dates and times for their 2016 preseason games:

Thu. Aug. 11 vs. New Orleans at 7:30 p.m.
Thu. Aug. 18 vs. Chicago at 8 p.m.
Fri. Aug. 26 at Carolina, 7:30 p.m.
Thu. Sept. 1 at New York Giants, 7 p.m.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price