Patriots notebook

Belichick, NFL at odds over new kickoff rule

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By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / August 17, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH - The intricacies of a kickoff are just the kind of details that Bill Belichick can talk about all day.

So yesterday, Belichick didn’t complain as he was asked numerous questions about the new rule that moves kickoffs up 5 yards to the 35-yard line. The change means some strategic decisions have to be made, and it could trickle down to the type of players a team keeps on its roster.

Belichick said he believes the decision ultimately was made to eliminate kickoff returns. But the league maintains it was made in the interest of player safety.

“That’s what they told us,’’ Belichick said. “I’m not speaking for anybody else. That’s what they told us, that they want to eliminate the play.’’

In a statement, the league disputed Belichick’s claim, saying, “That is not the goal. We are not aware of anyone representing the NFL that has made that statement.’’

But the rules are the rules, and teams must adjust. Reports across the league indicate that the number of touchbacks was up from the first week of preseason games last year.

In the Patriots preseason opener against Jacksonville, two of their eight kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.

With fewer chances for returns, Belichick said, teams may have to rethink their personnel.

“You’ve got to think about it,’’ said Belichick. “If, instead of covering 60 kickoffs in a year, you think you’re only going to be covering 30, then is that coverage player as important?

“Or on the flip side of it, in the return game, if you’re going to be returning 30 instead of 60, is what the guys who block on the kickoff return - or if you have a designated kickoff returner, if you think you’re going to be returning more punts than kickoffs . . . then maybe you put more of a priority on your punt returner than your kickoff returner, just as an example.’’

Offer is alleged Days before Patriots defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth goes to trial for a misdemeanor sexual abuse case in Washington, D.C., an attorney for Haynesworth filed papers Monday declaring that a prosecution witness was offered $50,000 to testify against him. Haynesworth allegedly touched the breast of a waitress while sliding his credit card into her bra in February. Haynesworth has pleaded not guilty to the charges. A. Scott Bolden, Haynesworth’s attorney, said in court papers that the witness was offered the money by a man the waitress introduced as her attorney, according to the Associated Press.

Cap room The Patriots began the week $9.2 million under the salary cap, a league source confirmed. According to, the Patriots are 16th in the league in most available cap space. The Patriots’ number does not include the up to $3 million veteran exception, the source said. They have not informed the league they want it. It’s a club option to take it. It’s not automatic. Teams must spend at least 89 percent of the $120,375,000 cap this year. Leaguewide, teams must spend an average of 99 percent of the cap this year.

Taking it easy The Patriots had a light practice yesterday on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. They practiced in shells, shorts, and helmets as they prepare for tomorrow’s preseason matchup against the Buccaneers. Running back Stevan Ridley, who left practice early Monday with an apparent injury, was back, as was wide receiver Darnell Jenkins, who also did not finish practice on Monday. In all, 21 players did not participate yesterday, and the list included receiver Taylor Price, linebacker Brandon Spikes, offensive lineman Ryan Wendell, defensive lineman Mike Wright, and defensive end Jermaine Cunningham.

Winding down This will be the final week of public practices. The Patriots will practice today from 1-1:45 p.m. on the grass fields. They will hold the final public practice Saturday at 1:30 p.m., lasting about 90 minutes . . . The offensive linemen gathered for a group photo yesterday with the Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award. Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, and Mark LeVoir traveled to Dallas in February to accept the honor on behalf of their teammates for the 2010 season.

Greg A. Bedard of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Monique Walker can be reached at

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