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NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (15-4)
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LAST YEAR: New England lost twice in its first four games but recovered to win 11 of its final 12 behind MVP season of quarterback Tom Brady. He impressed at age 40, throwing for 4,577 yards, 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He did so despite reported issues between himself, coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft following midseason trade of backup Jimmy Garoppolo to 49ers. Defensive inconsistency was ongoing issue and it caught up with Patriots in Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia. It included surprise benching of cornerback Malcolm Butler, one of several players to sign with new teams during free agency.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: RB Jeremy Hill, RB Sony Michel, QB Danny Etling, DE Adrian Clayborn, WR Jordan Matthews, OT Trent Brown, OL Isaiah Wynn, CB Jason McCourty, DT Danny Shelton,
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia [url=http://www.steelerscheapauthenticstore.com/customized-cheap]Cheap Customized Pittsburgh Steelers Jerseys[/url] , WR Danny Amendola, WR Brandin Cooks, CB Malcolm Butler, CB Johnson Bademosi, RB Dion Lewis, OT Nate Solder, OT Cam Fleming.
CAMP NEEDS: Wide receiver will be hot topic. After sitting out 2017 with torn right ACL, Julian Edelman is suspended for first four games of regular season for violating NFL policy on performance enhancers. Combined with losses of Amendola and Cooks in trades to Dolphins and Rams, respectively, it leaves Chris Hogan (34 catches, 439 yards, five TDs) as top returning wide receiver. Something also must be done to solidify defense that needs more edge rushing and someone to start alongside Stephon Gilmore at cornerback.
EXPECTATIONS: Even with offseason roster changes, Patriots enter camp as team to beat in AFC East. All-Pro TE Rob Gronkowski considered retirement in offseason; he and Brady skipped voluntary offseason workouts. But both returned for mandatory minicamps and say they are focused on helping New England reach what would be its fourth Super Bowl in five seasons. One of biggest question marks will be how linebackers coach Brian Flores does in new role as defensive play caller.
HUMBOLDT, Saskatchewan (AP) — A small Saskatchewan city devastated by a fatal bus crash involving its junior hockey team welcomed a trophy on Friday that fans no doubt hoped would one day be hoisted by one of their boys.
Washington Capitals forward Chandler Stephenson brought the Stanley Cup to Humboldt to recognize the community’s strength and resilience after the April crash that killed 16 people — 10 of them players.
But a quiet visit to the rural highway crossing where the Broncos’ team bus and a transport truck collided may have meant the most.
A tweet from Philip Pritchard, official keeper of the trophy, shows the Cup sitting in the middle of a makeshift memorial composed of hockey sticks [url=http://www.detroitlionsteamonline.com/da_shawn-hand-jersey]Authentic Da'Shawn Hand Jersey[/url] , crosses, flowers and flags.
“While their Stanley Cup dreams went unfulfilled, we thought we’d bring Stanley to them,” Pritchard wrote.
“That means so much to me,” said Kaleb Dahlgren, one of the 13 players who survived. “I know those people that lost their lives there would really appreciate that. I appreciate it too.
“It’s nice to honor that and it really does mean a lot.”
Some of the survivors met privately with Stephenson before the Cup was introduced to the public.
Stephenson, originally from Saskatoon and wearing a green “Humboldt Strong” T-shirt, was escorted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as he carried the Cup into Elgar Petersen Arena.
Stephenson was joined by more than a dozen current and former professional players for Humboldt Hockey Day, which was organized by the NHL and the players’ union to honor the town of 6,000.
Two of Stephenson’s friends — Dahlgren and Brayden Camrud — were among the survivors.
Chris Joseph, whose son Jaxon died, said that being back at the rink was difficult but he’s happy the Broncos are moving forward. Training camp for the upcoming season starts this weekend.
“I’m happy that the Broncos are … getting ready to play,” Joseph said. “I think it’s a big step for the town. I think it’s a big step for the country. It’s a big step for hockey.”
The Broncos were on their way to a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoff game in Nipawin when the crash occurred April 6.
Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, who was driving the truck, was not injured.
He is charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily injury.