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Bill Belichick’s offseason has already been a busy one, and things will likely be heating up on the personnel front in the weeks to come. (USA TODAY Images)

Some quick notes on this Wednesday morning:

Patriots head coach apparently spent some time at Auburn’s Pro Day on Tuesday as the team turns the page and starts preparing for the 2015 season.

There will likely be quite a few names mentioned in the months ahead as we get closer to the NFL draft, and it appears that Belichick and his staff are already taking a look at some players who could be on their radar when it comes time to make this year’s selections for the NFL Draft.


Photo by Zach Bland/Auburn University

Auburn had 21 players as part of their Pro Day, including wide receiver Sammie Coates – no relation to former Patriots tight end Ben Coats – who told the Montgomery Advisor that he was suprised when he saw Belichick on hand to take in the event.

“I turned around and seen the Super Bowl champ back there and I was like, ‘Whoa. He in Auburn. Did he know where that was?'” Coates told the newspaper. “But that was good to have him out here to watch us perform and I was very excited to see him back there.”

Coates was a player that Belichick apparently “watched closely” according to NFL.com, although Coates downplayed their interaction.

“I was excited to meet him,” Coates told NFL.com. “He just told me, ‘Good job, keep working hard,’ and that’s all I needed. I didn’t need to hear too much more than that.”

As for Bill Belichick, he didn’t speak at the event and declined interview requests.

MCCOURTY EXCITED FOR FREE AGENCY:

With Devin McCourty seemingly on his way to hit the free agent market, it sounds like the fact that he’s going to have teams begin courting for his services has both himself and his family excited to see how the process plays itself out.

‚ÄúMy mom keeps telling me this whole time, ‚ÄėYou‚Äôre not going to play football for that long, you have to take advantage of every opportunity that comes along,‚Äô ‚ÄĚ McCourty told the Boston Globe Tuesday night. ‚ÄúHaving a twin brother [Jason, a cornerback for the Titans] that wasn‚Äôt a free agent ‚ÄĒ he signed an extension with Tennessee ‚ÄĒ it‚Äôs an exciting time for both of us, and really my whole family.‚ÄĚ

The veteran safety still sounds like he’s prefer to stay in New England, but it also appears that while understanding the business side of things that it will ultimately come down to how things¬†go when he becomes available. ¬†McCourty told the newspaper¬†if the Super Bowl victory was his final game as a Patriot, it was a great finish.

‚ÄúIf that was the last game, then what a way to go out,‚ÄĚ he said.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

– The Patriots signed Ray “Bubba” Ventrone on Tuesday as their assistant special teams coach, filling a void created by¬†retired special teams coach Scott O’Brien. ¬†The team had promoted Joe Judge into O’Brien’s role and now Ventrone will get the opportunity to work with Judge to coach the Patriots special teams group heading into the 2015 season. ¬†The name Ventrone likely rings a bell as his younger brother was memorable for being a part of a host of transactions, which as Jeff Howe points out involved 29 total,¬†(signed 13 times, released 11 times, promoted from the practice squad to the active roster five times) from 2010-12, including 22 transactions (signed nine times, released eight times, promoted five times) in 2011.

– It appears Bills head coach Rex Ryan is already looking to make a little noise after pulling off a blockbuster trade to acquire Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. ¬†According to Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports, one Bills source said, “Holy s—, this went down in 20 minutes…’ ¬†His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is denying the deal has been finalized since it can’t become official until until March 10th, but Bills running back C.J. Spiller announced he’ll be leaving as a free agent, so that more or less confirms that something is likely going down.

– Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post feels that Ndamukong Suh could be a good fit in Miami, and despite the salary cap space the team has there is still a possibility that having a guy like Suh go to the Dolphins could attract other players want to play there and potentially even take a discount to do it. ¬†He spoke to former Dolphins Pro Bowl guard Keith Sims, who feels that adding talent like that would give them an edge that the Patriots have been able to have. ¬†‚ÄúIf you get a guy like Ndamukong Suh, it would attract other free agents to be part of the mix, something the Patriots have mastered for years, of putting together a team that is typically in contention so players would take less money to come and be part of that championship-caliber team,” said Sims. ¬†Habib also points out that the fact that the state of Florida has no income tax, which obviously comes into play on the types of deals these players tend to sign. ¬†Hopefully it doesn’t happen, since most fans would prefer to keep a guy like Suh away from Tom Brady.

– Patriots owner Robert Kraft was recently listed as ‚Ä®No. 381 on Forbes‚Äô list of world billionaires with a ‚Ä®net worth of $4.3 billion. That’s up¬†199 spots on the list from where he was last year when Forbes called him the 580th wealthiest man¬†in the world.

– NFL Films has released the Patriots Super Bowl DVD, recapping the incredible run the team made last season. ¬†These are typically incredibly well done so if you haven’t ordered yours yet you can do so on Amazon.com via This Link.


Patriots S Devin McCourty was not franchised by the team and may reach free agency if an agreement can’t be reached in the next week. (USA TODAY Images)

Following Monday’s decision to use the franchise tag designation on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, it was interesting to find out that apparently the communication between New England and safety Devin McCourty doesn’t seem to be as good as it probably should have been.

According to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, McCourty didn’t really know what the Patriots were going to do from that standpoint until the decision was made. ¬†Now it seems like he’s starting to believe he could end up elsewhere.

“I guess it’s more realistic now that (there’s) a chance that I might not be back there,” McCourty told Anderson. “Or there’s still a chance that I will, but I guess (there’s) more of a chance now with the franchise tag going to Steve that I could be playing in a different place. Still, keeping an open mind and trying to enjoy the process.”

For now it appears that McCourty could very well be headed to free agency and that could be bad news for New England, who may see one of the league’s top safeties receive an offer far above what they may be willing to pay him. ¬†The franchise tag number for the veteran was $9.6 million and the decision to target Gostkowski instead likely may have more to do with the fact it was a number they felt was simply too high.

There’s still time to get a long-term deal done as well as a chance to still bring him back, but it sounds like his time in New England could very well be coming to an end. ¬†Needless to say it will remain one of the bigger things to watch in the weeks to come.

REVIS HEADED TO FREE AGENCY?

For anyone hoping Darrelle Revis may have had enough fun in his first season to try and take a shot at winning a second ring and may have been eager to get a deal done, it appears that the veteran may have alternate plans and may be focused on still getting maximum value.

According to Adam Schefter Revis may also be headed to free agency as unless the Patriots pick up his $20 million option for the 2015 season, he’s apparently ready to test the market.

Darrelle Revis has a clause in his contract that says he can‚Äôt be tagged,‚ÄĚ Schefter said via NESN. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a $20 million option bonus payment that would carry a $25 million cap number. The bottom line is, it would surprise me if New England picked that up. So, the chances are ‚ÄĒ not chances are, it‚Äôs going to happen ‚ÄĒ Darrelle Revis is going to hit the market. He‚Äôll be another coveted free agent.‚ÄĚ

Now the bigger question will be whether or not Revis wants to remain a Patriot, or if he’ll simply continue his stance of the business of the NFL and go wherever he’ll get the most value.

‚ÄúThis all comes down to whatever Darrelle Revis wants to do,‚ÄĚ Schefter said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs got a Super Bowl ring, his career has been validated. He‚Äôs got one more big score left. One score in terms of big contract. So, does he want to take that big contract with a team like the New York Jets, who are dying to make a run at Darrelle Revis? Or the Buffalo Bills? Or is he willing to take less to go back and play with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and be in the environment he‚Äôs been in in New England? ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs a call that only he can make.‚ÄĚ

Hopefully if the two sides are close he’ll opt to stay, but for now it’s looking like there’s a chance this team may look quite different next season.

ADDITIONAL NOTES: 

Some good news for those who wish the worst for one of the biggest Patriots killers, as it appears the Tennessee Titans appear to be on the verge of cutting Bernard Pollard. ¬†Pollard finished 2014 on injured reserve after tearing his Achilles and the 30-year old will now be headed to free agency. ¬†Here’s to hoping he ends up somewhere playing for a team New England won’t face next season…

With $55 million dollars to spend, the Jets are reportedly making a “big push” for Revis, if he is cut loose before his bonus money is due. According to SI, Woody Johnson has told GM Mike Maccagnan that it needs to get done. Johnson made comments about the same thing publicly in December which led to a Patriots charge of tampering. If Revis is released and signed by the Jets, how would the league view those tampering charges then?

While Revis talk is dominating talk in New England, the “Spring of Suh” has begun. ¬†Lions DT Ndamukong Suh was not franchised and will be a free agent when the period begins on March 10. He’s the biggest name, both figuratively and physically to be looking for a new team. His potential suitors are deemed to be the Raiders, Colts, Dolphins, Bears and Jaguars. Other top free agents include Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray, Packers WR Randall Cobb, Broncos TE Julius Thomas, Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin, and designated pass rushers include the Bills Jerry Hughes, Steelers Jason Worilds and the Redskins Brian Orakpo.

With the NFL mandated salary cap set at $143.28 million for 2015, the Patriots had over $6 million in carryover from 2014 which was slashed down to just over a million due to adjustments. Right now, the Patriots cap for 2015 is¬†$144,578,084. The Patriots are currently more than $11,280,000 over the cap. They now have a week to remedy that situation. With big contracts of Revis, Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo being looked at, the Patriots have some work to do…

With the Patriots using the franchise tag on K Stephen Gostkowski, they join only four other teams to use the tag in 2015. The other four teams include: Justin Houston, Kansas City, Dez Bryant, Dallas, Demaryius Thomas, Denver, Jason Pierre-Paul, NY Giants. The Dolphins placed a transition tag on TE Charles Clay which means other teams can make an offer to Clay, but Miami will have the opportunity to match any offer made.

 

Franchise Tag Gives Patriots More Time For an Extension For Gostkowski


The Patriots gave Gostkowski the franchise tag designation Monday. (USA TODAY Images)

When Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri headed off to Indianapolis back in 2006, New England was left with quite the dilemma after losing one of the most clutch kickers in franchise history.

Given how much of an inexact science the NFL draft is, they were fortunate that year to grab Stephen Gostkowski in the fourth round in April and he’s quietly been better than the Patriots could have ever hoped for given the man whose shoes he ended up filling.

He had a decent start to his career after finishing 20-of-26 (76.9) during his rookie season, including a perfect 1-of-1 from 50+ yards. He finished the 2014 season with a career high kicking percentage of 94.6%, which was also a single-season record for the Patriots while becoming the team’s all-time leading scorer during their victory over Miami on December 14th. He currently has 1,179 career points.

On Monday as he approached free agency, New England made sure they didn’t let him get away after giving him the franchise designation. ¬†The deal, if he signs it, is reportedly worth $4.5 million in 2015, although according to the team it sounds like the goal is to get a long-term deal done with the veteran out of the University of Memphis.

“Stephen has been extremely productive and a vital component to our success since joining our team in 2006,” said the team via the statement they released. “Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach an agreement, which is the goal.”

The Patriots tagged Vinatieri twice, locking up him up in 2002 which later lead to a 3-year extension. “Both the Patriots and Adam are excited,” his agent, Neil Cornrich told the AP at the time. “Adam is looking forward to having the opportunity to remain a Patriot the rest of his career.” When the deal ran out they tagged him again in 2005, but it only ended up being for one year. He left for good at the end of the season.

For Gostkowski, the question will be whether or not New England will get a deal done long-term with the veteran, who turned 31 back in January.  Obviously at this point no deal has been reached nor has he signed the tender, but our own Miguel Benzan recently proposed a potential 5-year deal, with $19 million as a value that might make sense along with a $5 million signing bonus.  As Benzan points out, such a deal would make Stephen the highest paid kicker with an APY of $3.8 million and give New England a salary cap figure that would work for the team.

For now that’s all just speculation, but we’ll have to wait and see what the two sides eventually agree to.

 


Looking back, it’s hard not to make the case that the Patriots don’t win the Super Bowl without Danny Amendola. (USA TODAY Images)

The Patriots have some interesting personnel moves to make this offseason and for the first time in a while the wide receiver position is no longer as big of a priority as it’s been in past years.

New England got some terrific production for the second straight year from Julian Edelman, who once again went out and put up some impressive numbers.  Edelman caught 92 passes for 972 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season in 2014, missing the thousand yard mark primarily because he was a healthy scratch during the final game while the team rested some of their key players.  Newly acquired Brandon LaFell started off slow but ultimately settled in and became a key possession receiver for the Patriots, hauling in 74 passes and 50 first downs along with seven touchdowns.  He also had the second-longest reception of the season, which was a 56 yard fourth quarter touchdown against the Bills in Week 6.

Meanwhile, Danny Amendola was also a player who while he didn’t have a big regular season was big in the playoffs, finishing with 11 catches for 137 yards. ¬†He also ended up with¬†the team lead in touchdowns with Rob Gronkowski with 3.

Amendola’s a player who although things haven’t gone quite his way ended up being an important piece of the Patriots championship season. ¬†He signed a five year, $31 million deal back on March 14, 2013, but production-wise he caught 54 passes in 2013 and then saw his playing time diminish this season while catching just 27.

But during the year Amendola stepped up and became a big contributor on special teams, returning 20 kickoffs for 482 yards and averaging 24.1 yards per return. ¬†His postseason performance was ultimately one of the bigger stories because he did what hadn’t been done by an aging Deion Branch back in 2012 and Donte Stallworth in 2007, which was be able to consistently win one-on-one match-ups and get open during the playoffs. ¬†His fourth quarter touchdown helped erase a 10 point deficit against the Seahawks and at the time pulled the Patriots to within three points at 24-21, while Julian Edelman caught a scoring strike one possession later that ended up being the game-winner.

However, while the Patriots didn’t get their money’s worth out of Amendola during his first two regular seasons, they got exactly what they needed from him in the playoffs this year and it’s hard not to make the argument that without him, they may not have won their fourth championship. ¬†Granted his salary will likely be a topic of discussion but as our resident cap expert, Miguel Benzan, points out, it’s far more cap-friendly to reduce Amendola’s salary than it is to release him.

With a lower salary and his familiarity with the system Amendola already provides more than a free agent or a draft pick having become a viable threat offensively. ¬†Granted he’s not in the higher-tier of the depth chart given where Edelman and LaFell come into play, but he’s good enough to give them depth and gives them a viable kick-returner. ¬†The bigger question will likely be who takes over the fourth receiving slot next season, which will potentially¬†be a battle between third-year player Aaron Dobson and whoever else they potentially bring in this offseason.

But for now if Amendola accepts the fact that he’s finally carved out a role with this team, even though he’s not “the guy” and will have to adjust his salary to reflect that, he’ll be headed into 2015 with an opportunity to get back to where he was before being signed here. After all, as much as fans praised Wes Welker for what he did in the regular season, the knock on Welker will be the plays he didn’t make in the postseason that cost the Patriots an opportunity to potentially win a couple additional titles. Amendola made them, and that’s about all Patriots fans could have hoped for.

“Hard work pays off,” said Amendola after the team won it all just one month ago. “All the work pays off.”

That it did, and although he wasn’t perfect, it paid off enough to win a Super Bowl.

DOBSON HARD AT WORK FOR 2015:

Speaking of the wide receiver position, Aaron Dobson has quietly been hard at work behind the scenes to try and rebound from what has been a frustrating year for the former standout from Marshall.

Dobson suffered a¬†broken bone in his¬†foot at the end of the 2013 that didn’t heal properly and offseason surgery last March forced him to miss the ensuing minicamps as well as the first two weeks of training camp. ¬†He was never able to get completely healthy and an injured hamstring in Week 13 on a deep route against Green Bay ended what was obviously a frustrating season for him, and he was a spectator as the team went on to win a championship.

According to the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe Dobson seems motivated heading into this season, spending his time at Fischer Institute in Pheonix. ¬†It’s a facility where some big names have hosted players in past years, including fellow Patriots Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty, while other NFL players this year reportedly include quarterback Carson Palmer.

Brett Fischer, who runs the facility, told the Herald that Dobson is “hungry” and has been doing all the right things.

‚ÄúHe is doing great,‚ÄĚ Fischer said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm really excited for him. He has put the time and effort into it, comes in early, gets all his work in and he is hungry. There are a few specific things we found, minor little things we‚Äôre working on, that make his program a little bit unique to everybody else‚Äôs. Nothing major.

‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a matter of him developing some areas that were just a little weak and get him back on the field.‚ÄĚ

Dobson was a pretty dynamic player in college and is a player that at 6’3″ potentially gives New England a taller threat in their offense. ¬†He kicked off his rookie season with a 39-yard touchdown to start his NFL career, and finished with the longest reception for the Patriots that season, which was an 81-yard touchdown against the Steelers in Week 9.

Needless to say the potential is there, now he just needs to get back out there.   Hopefully if he does, the Patriots could have a pretty formidable group once again next season.

ADDITIONAL NOTES: 

Lost in the mix after his massive performance against the Colts in 2014 was Jonas Gray who went from hero to zero and became irrelevant after oversleeping just in time for the team to grab LeGarrette Blount after the veteran was released by Pittsburgh. ¬†That transaction left Gray as nothing more than a spectator for much¬†of the regular season, costing him an opportunity to capitalize on Stevan Ridley’s season-ending knee injury. ¬†He finished the regular season as the team’s leading rusher with 89 carries for 412 yards, 201 of which came in the game against Indianapolis that will hopefully not be the only game he’s remembered for.

Gray told the Herald that this season was a learning experience for him. ¬†‚ÄúI‚Äôve learned a lot,‚ÄĚ Gray told the newspaper. ‚ÄúAs a pro, you go through things in an NFL season that you wouldn‚Äôt have the year before, Look at Tom (Brady). He never thought he‚Äôd be talking about his job security in Week 4 of the season. So you go through things as a pro, you learn from them, you experience it, and you do absolutely everything in your power to make sure it doesn‚Äôt happen again. At the end of the day, that‚Äôs all you can do.‚ÄĚ …

Today ends the two-week period teams are allowed to designate a player with either the franchise tag or transition tag, which will likely result in something happening as the day goes on. ¬†At this point Devin McCourty and Stephen Gostkowski are two players who are about to become free agents and it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out and it could be somewhat telling about how the negotiations are going.

McCourty has already called the franchise tag “player-friendly” and something he doesn’t have an issue with, but if the designation is given to Gostkowski it could obviously be a big indication about how the negotiations are going. ¬†The tough part is, given how sometimes things break down, the franchise tag is sometimes used to extend negotiations to hammer out a deal much like we’ve seen with Vince Wilfork and even going back to when they did it to get a deal done with Adam Vinatieri way back when. ¬†But either way it’s going to be critical to lock up either Darrelle Revis or McCourty, although as has been mentioned in this space, both are a big key to this team’s success moving forward. …

The Patriots auditioned 300 cheerleaders over the weekend as they try and put together a group that will fill the 28 allotted spots for next season. ¬†It’s a part time job that sees many of women who are still in school or are recent college graduates and many of them came a long way for this year’s tryouts. ¬†At the end of this week’s audition judges will narrow the field to 40, who will then be invited back in two weeks for the next round of cuts. …

And finally, Rob Gronkowski was spotted with his brothers in Las Vegas over the weekend (pictured), spending some time at the Wynn Las Vegas’ club called¬†Andrea’s. ¬†Apparently Gronk spiked the cake on his brother Chris’ head. ¬†Good times.


Will Ridley get a shot at redemption in New England in 2015? (USA TODAY Images)

It’s amazing how one great year can be so overshadowed by¬†one bad one in the NFL. ¬†But unfortunately this is a league that focuses on what a player has done lately and not who they were even a year ago.

That’s just the way it is and it’s always been that way. ¬†Unlike baseball or any of the other sports, contracts and roster spots aren’t awarded thanks to lifetime achievements. ¬†The world that is the National Football League is a revolving door of hundreds of players each year who start out with promise while many of them end up returning to normal civilian life. ¬† Some go out and make a name for themselves. ¬† ¬†Some¬†slide down the ladder back¬†into obscurity. ¬†It’s not an exact science, and every year there are always players who surprise you on both ends of the spectrum.

For Stevan Ridley, he’s a player who has been on both sides of that fence. ¬†The former 3rd round pick out of LSU evolved into a player who rushed for over 1,200 yards in just his second season, only to¬†slam into a wall¬†the following year¬†and his timing couldn’t have been any worse. ¬†Coming off of his frustrating 2013 campaign¬†where fumble troubles derailed his follow-up season, Ridley was in need of a terrific 2014 as he headed into a contract year.

Instead, he ended up tearing his ACL and MCL against the Bills in week six.  Season over.

Just to add a little insult to injury, he got to stand on the sideline and watch his friends and teammates win it all without him. ¬†Now he’s the forgotten man who has to not only prove his knee is healthy enough for him to get back to playing at a high level, he has to also prove that his rough patch is over and brighter days are ahead.

“Where I’ll be playing, and who I’ll be playing for, is still unknown,” Ridley told Sirius XM Radio Friday. ¬†“But I know I’ve come in and done my job up to this point and now I have to put it in my agent’s hands to get me on another team, or stay where I’m at, and make sure I’m in pads playing ball somewhere next year. I know if you think about it too much it will worry you sick.”

Looking at Ridley’s entire body of work with more open-minded outlook, it’s been a long time since the Patriots had this caliber of talent in their backfield. ¬†He’s a guy who has been one of the best combinations of quickness and explosiveness that they’ve had since back when Corey Dillon was with this team and changed the dynamic of their running game. ¬†From there the Patriots went through a variety of running backs before Ridley came along, and as he weathered the storm in 2013 the addition of LeGarrette Blount ended up being a good thing for the veteran back.

Blount’s style is drastically different from Ridley’s, and the two did a great job of giving two different looks over the course of the latter part of the season. ¬†Both played well in the final five games of 2013, and 2014 saw Ridley carry the ball 94 times without a fumble before that horrible afternoon against Buffalo where his season came to an end.

After heading off to what he thought were greener pastures by signing a contract as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Blount took advantage of Ridley’s misfortune after he was cut by Pittsburgh midseason. ¬†From there he jumped back on board the Patriots’ offense and ended up being exactly what their ground game needed. ¬†All the while, Ridley wasn’t back out there with him after being forced to undergo surgery and start focusing on 2015.

Now the Patriots will need to make a decision, and the obvious answer for Ridley and his agent is to try and reach a one-year deal to keep him here so that he can work his way back into what will likely be a productive offense yet again next season. ¬†It’s great for the Patriots because they get a guy who doesn’t have a choice but to be at his best, and it’s always an advantage¬†to have a guy who is playing with a lot to prove and a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

Should he move on, it will be disappointing given what we know he’s capable of. ¬†We already know Blount’s a solid back. ¬†We also know what Ridley brings when he’s at his best. ¬†He was just starting to show it again before he got hurt, and hopefully he’ll get at least one more year to get back on track here in New England¬†in 2015.

McCourty and Patriots Headed for a “Serious Staredown”?

Greg Bedard of MMQB had an interesting take on the upcoming negotiations with Devin McCourty, and wonders if the negotiation may get contentious if McCourty balks at an extension after he’s given the franchsie tag designation.

From Bedard:

Safety Devin McCourty and the Patriots could be in for a serious contract stare-down before the start of free agency.¬†Safety is now a premium position, and with the dearth of free-agent and draft talent this year, McCourty has a lot of leverage to get a top contract. And I‚Äôm not sure the Patriots would pay another top contract in the secondary if their plan is to keep cornerback Darrelle Revis. But I expect McCourty and the Patriots to get something done, amicably, at some point. Most likely scenario: McCourty gets the franchise tag and agrees to a slightly team-friendly deal down the road. He‚Äôs not a boat rocker. And there are more important things to him than money. The only way things get contentious is if the Patriots tag McCourty and then he balks at an extension. The Patriots don‚Äôt like that (see Welker, Wesley).”

Hopefully that doesn’t end up being the case. ¬†McCourty recently talked about the fact he felt the salary cap was a “team-friendly” number, and hopefully the two sides can come to an agreement to keep him here for the foreseeable future.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

Cleaning up some of the items that didn’t make it in here¬†from earlier this week, ¬†it appears that the NFL.com’s ¬†Bryan Fischer believes that if Georgia running back Todd Gurley is sitting there when the Patriots go to make their pick at 32, they have to take him.”I don’t see how you pass up on Todd Gurley if he’s there at 32,” NFL Media analyst Curtis Conway said. “They may not go running back in the first round, I could see running back more in the second round for the Patriots. But if Gurley is sitting there at 32, you have to take him.” … Heading into 2015 another question mark is the receiver position, mostly because Aaron Dobson hasn’t quite settled into a role yet after battling through injuries and other issues that have set him back. ¬†Mike Reiss talked about him in his mailbag this week, and believes Dobson isn’t necessary considered to be a roster lock and the Patriots could address the position in the draft. ¬†“There aren’t a lot of Megatrons and Bryants around, but this wide receiver class is deep and you might be able to get part of what you’re looking for after the first round. On Dobson, I think it’s fair to say that any honeymoon-type period is over. Entering his third year, he isn’t considered a roster lock from this perspective.” … Vince Wilfork is apparently investing in technology, with a report this week pointing out that a smartphone app – Boston’s “Wigo” that helps college students answer, ‘Who’s going out tonight?’ – has apparently raised an additional $1.5 million in funding and Wilfork is on one of their investors. ¬†According to the report, it’s been downloaded at 1,400 campuses in the US so far and could be something that appears on its way to catching on. …. Former Patriots tight end Ben Coates is apparently headed to the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame’s class of 2015. ¬†According to WSPA.com, the Greenwood native and former Patriots star will be among several notable names to be honored on May 11th. … We’ll end on an entertaining note this morning. ¬†UBC Professor Marina Adshade had an interesting take on how the Super Bowl affects men’s “desire for porn” in the Huffington Post this week. ¬†From the article, “When Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson’s pass at the goal line, near-certain victory turned into certain defeat; Seahawks fans were left feeling crushed and, at that moment, each and every Patriots fan felt like a champion. ¬†And you know what champions do? They go forth and procreate.” Hopefully your Sunday night a few weeks ago helped to prove this study correct.


Brady made a few more plays with his legs in 2014. (USA TODAY Images)

Tom Brady may not be Colin Kaepernick or Cam Newton, but looking back at some of the changes he made to his game in 2014 it was hard not to appreciate some of the improvement he made with his mobility.

He was much more successful¬†when it came to using his legs last season, picking up 57 yards rushing the football during the regular season, and that yardage total would have also been a little higher had it not been for his¬†15 kneel-downs¬†where he lost some yardage. ¬†Oddly enough Brady didn’t have a negative carry at all last year after having two in 2013, which is a credit to the push he got from his offensive line, which took a lot of heat during the early part of the season when the team was struggling.

Looking at the numbers,¬†there was quite a jump both in yardage and first down conversions compared to 2013 and here’s a quick breakdown of his totals:

TOTALS:
2013: 32 carries, 18 yards, 5 First Downs
2014: 36 carries, 57 yards, 11 First Downs

Kneeldowns:
2013: 17
2014: 15

Negative Carries:
2013: 2
2014: 0

No Gain:
2013: 4
2014: 5

1-5 Yards:
2013: 7
2014: 12

6-10 Yards:
2013: 1
2014: 2

Over 10-20 Yards:
2013: 1
2014: 2

One of the bigger things that stands out is the fact he had 11 rushing first downs last season, compared to just 5 in 2013.

Brady running with the football isn’t exactly something Patriots fans want him to make a habit of, but it had some enjoyable moments. ¬†One of the more memorable ones in 2014 was¬†the 1st down he¬†picked up after a 17-yard run on third-and-11 against Miami in December which helped spark a 41-13 rout of the Dolphins.

That got the crowd fired up when Brady took a shot after lowering his shoulder on his way out of bounds. ¬†He’s not exactly fleet of foot, with teammate Julian Edelman giving the veteran quarterback a hard time after the game was over.

‚ÄúIt was the slowest 17 yards I‚Äôve ever seen in my life,” said Edelman.

It was Brady’s third longest career run and his longest since 2007 after he rushed for 19 against the Colts that season. ¬†His longest ever was a 22-yarder against the Bengals back in 2006.

He took the ribbing from Edelman in stride, even poking fun at himself later on his Facebook page while comparing himself to a cheetah.

Brady’s a guy who’s always focused on getting better, but¬†as much as it’s nice that he’s been taking off a little more with the football,¬†hopefully this is a weapon he’ll try and limit since taking an injury would certainly hurt them. ¬†After all, the Patriots need his arm more than his legs in order to come back and try to do it all again in 2015.

DEON SIMON TALKS ABOUT MEETING BILL BELICHICK:

Northwestern Tackle Deon Simon was apparently caught off guard at the combine, and offered his thoughts on meeting Patriots head coach Bill Belichick last weekend.

The 6’4″, 332-pound defensive tackle was surprised to meet the Patriots’ head coach, and in his “Around the NFL’s draft diary” explained the experience.

“I didn’t exactly think Bill Belichick was going to be there,” said Simon via NFL.com. ¬†“But when I walked in the door, he was sitting right behind the door and he stood up and he shook my hand.

“It felt unreal, I mean, you always see him on television and I mean — that’s Bill Belichick! To have the opportunity to be in the same room with him and in the same presence, it was really exciting. I was just trying to hold my composure.

“It was on Saturday night. He was asking me about my background, personal stuff, but in the back of my mind, all I’m thinking is, man, that’s Bill Belichick.

“There were a few people in there, Bill and six others from his staff. In most of my meetings, the technical questions were mostly the same. They would set up a base defense and ask me where to line up. They’d show me an under look, a 3-4 defense, a 4-3 defense, just trying to read the offense. They’d ask me to read the opposing offense — 21 personnel, 10 personnel, the base fronts.

“It was just an amazing experience, something I’m never going to forget.”

Great stuff.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

Former sports agent Joel Corry had a piece on CBSSports.com on Darrelle Revis, and points out there’s certainly urgency to get a deal done¬†for the Patriots given the window they have to get a deal done, and Revis has the leverage.¬† “Retaining Revis is New England’s top offseason priority. The Patriots have an exclusive negotiation window to rework his deal before the March 9 deadline for the option year and he becomes an unrestricted free agent on the following day. The problem for the Patriots is Revis has the leverage in the situation because of how he performed in 2014 and the team’s limited ability to prevent him from hitting the open market.” … Jonas Gray gave an interesting interview to the Boston Globe’s Nick A Zaino III and talked about his interest in stand up comedy, among other topics. ¬†” I had a friend of mine who did a little stand-up himself. One day we were all hanging out, and I literally kept making everyone laugh, and so did he. So he gave me some advice, ‚ÄúYou should think about doing stand-up.‚ÄĚ And he said, ‚ÄúOne thing you should do is, any time you say something funny and everyone laughs, you hear a joke, you think it‚Äôs funny, you write it down, you put in your notes, you put in a couple of keywords, you come back to it, and you try to turn it into a joke.‚ÄĚ Next thing you know, I‚Äôm doing that, and next thing you know, I‚Äôve got 200 jokes. I‚Äôve got a ton of jokes. I was telling him some of the material; he thought it was great. And he gave me advice to just go ahead and do an open mike one night. I did the open mike, I videotaped it for him, sent it to him, he loved it.” ¬†You can read more of the interview here¬†… Mike Reiss took a look at a potential Devin McCourty contract and feels five years, $45 million along with a $10 million signing bonus would be a good number to get a deal done with the Patriots safety. ¬†One would hope that locking him up for that long would be a possibility, especially if they get a similar deal done with Revis. ¬†We’ll have to see how it plays out … If you’ve ever heard the “free money” that could be owed to you by listening to the commercials on sports radio recently in Boston, they emphasize that a lot of people have no idea they have unclaimed funds waiting for them. ¬†According to MassLive.com, it appears State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg’s staff has tracked down some stars who are owed money by the state, including Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. ¬†Former Patriots TE Christian Fauria does a commercial for FindMassMoney.com on WEEI and brags about the fact he bought a “flat screen tv” and even “a couple of DVD’s to go with it.” ¬†Although one would believe that those other two guys have made just a little more money in the NFL than he did and won’t need to use whatever money they’re owed to buy one. … And finally there were reports about Shane Vereen seeking $5 million per season, but appearently that’s not the case. ¬†Vereen recently took to Twitter to shoot down those reports, laughing off the notion, saying, “Haha not true but who wouldn’t be?!?!” … Speaking of Twitter, we’ll soon have an an announcement in the coming days¬†about the fact¬†we’ll be doing something fun with a current Patriot¬†next Wednesday afternoon. ¬†If you’re on there it should be a good time, so stay tuned.


Devin McCourty has evolved into quite a leader for the Patriots. (USA TODAY Images)

Sometimes playing well doesn’t always get you a lot of attention, that’s just the way it is.

For Patriots safety Devin McCourty, that’s probably the best way to describe him.

The veteran cornerback has evolved into one of the NFL’s top safeties and now he’s inching closer to potentially becoming a free agent, one of the many important matters that director of player personnel, Nick Caserio, will likely be focusing on this offseason.

When thinking about what McCourty brings to this football team, the best way to describe him is probably that he’s a quiet calm in a group that has gotten used to facing adversity over the years, as well as the experience from playing on the biggest stage. ¬†You would almost have to equate him to the presence that Vince Wilfork provides up front on the defensive line, with the veteran being a guy who does a good job keeping guys from getting too high or too low when the going gets tough.

He’s already seen more than plenty of players his age, having played in two Super Bowls and adding a championship to his resume a few weeks ago. ¬†He’s now one of the seasoned veterans¬†in a secondary that has saw¬†young players like Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler lining up around him¬†and¬†having a player like that around them makes a big difference. ¬†He’s a player who was a leader in college, and a guy who treated the freshman with respect but made sure they understood their roles on the defense. ¬†According to Newsroom New Jersey, McCourty sat with them in meetings and paid attention to how well they understood the defense and then worked with them to help make sure they did.

Since joining the Patriots, that approach hasn’t changed. ¬†He’s garnered the respect of his peers who appreciate what he brings to the team.

“He’s not only one of our leaders, but he’s a vocal leader after that,” Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington said via lohud. “He gets everybody aligned right. He’s like the quarterback of our defense.

“Everybody has a great relationship with him off the field as well. It makes it a little bit easier to communicate with his guys.”

Players like that are special, and it falls into the blue print of what Belichick has tried to build his locker room around. ¬†The plan has been pretty simple; bring in leaders and guys who love football. ¬†The only challenge eventually becomes trying to keep all of them, and that’s what New England suddenly finds themselves dealing with this offseason.

Darrelle Revis will be the big story, since locking him up for the long-term really solidifies the secondary and essentially takes care of one whole side of the field. ¬†The Patriots have the ability to use the franchise tag on McCourty, which should obviously keep him in the fold. ¬†Logic would lead you to believe that they’ll franchise him but hopefully use that time to hammer out a deal that makes sense in order to ensure that he remains a key component of this group for years to come.

McCourty said earlier this month that he’s looking forward to how the process plays out.

‚ÄúI‚Äôm excited for the process to see how it will all work out,‚ÄĚ McCourty told¬†NJ Advance Media. ‚ÄúI haven‚Äôt really thought about it that much even though the season is over and that‚Äôs kind of the top thing on the list. I think just coming down off the Super Bowl run and winning that, maybe next week or the week after it will really start to set in as it really gets closer to the whole free agency, franchise tag and all of that.‚ÄĚ

Hopefully if all goes well, it won’t get to that point. ¬†A tandem like these two doesn’t come around very often, and you could even make the argument that you could sign McCourty and Revis and take your chances from there.

Caserio recently admitted this team will look a little different next season.  But hopefully, if nothing else, those two will be a part of whatever their plans may be heading into 2015 and beyond.

MCCOURTY SHEDS SOME LIGHT ON THE COMBINE:

File this under, “in case you missed it.” ¬†McCourty was interviewed by¬†MMQB recently and offered up some insight to what it was like for him when he went through the combine before being selected in the 2010 NFL Draft.

According to McCourty, part of what he didn’t like was the written exams, which he admitted players simply just have to ‘suck it up’ and accept the fact it’s part of the process.

“Everybody at the combine just graduated college or left college early. The last thing they want to do is sit in a room for hours and hours and fill in bubble sheets,” said McCourty. ¬†“One of the tests was four or five pages long, filled with ridiculous questions like, ‚ÄúAre you more like a dog or a cat?‚ÄĚ (I picked dog.) It‚Äôs kind of nerve wracking, and definitely stressful. But honestly, you just need to suck it up and push through it. Understand it‚Äôs just part of the process, and something you‚Äôll hopefully never have to do again in your life.”

McCourty also said that teams are trying to get players flustered and test how they’ll react in those situations.

“You hear stories about crazy questions teams ask guys: If they have girlfriends, if they could pick one superpower, etc,” said McCourty. ¬†“To be honest, what threw me most off guard was when one team pulled up tape from my junior year at Rutgers when I didn‚Äôt have such a good game. The coach was drilling me: What happened with this play? Why did you do this wrong? I was ready to talk about any game from my senior year‚ÄĒbut this? This game wasn‚Äôt reflective of my abilities. Looking back, I think the team knew that. They just wanted to see how I would react to that, and to see if I could demonstrate that I had grown since then.”

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

An interesting¬†note on Tuesday after Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post reported that the Patriots worked out former Green Bay Packers receiver Kevin Dorsey, citing a league source. ¬†The former 2013 seventh round pick out of Maryland spent his rookie season on injured reserve and seems to be considered more of a special teams player. ¬†Not exactly earth-shattering news but as we know many of the brightest stars, at first, don’t always end up shining as bright until later on. Needless to say, this appears to be the beginning of Bill Belichick¬†kicking things off and doing his ever so popular offseason “due dilligence”… Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston had an interesting take on a potential deal for Revis and pondered a long-term deal of five years, which would certainly be welcomed by fans who would like to see the veteran defensive back stick around. ¬†The deal, under Reiss’ parameters would be five years, $80 million, with a signing bonus of $16 million, giving him an average deal of $16 million per season. ¬†The bad news? Reiss ran the deal past one NFL source who felt the numbers might be a little too low to get it done… One final note about McCourty, looking back at the regular season the veteran finished fourth on the team with 67 tackles during the regular season in 2014, including two interceptions, six passes defensed and a forced fumble. ¬†He also finished second on the team with 14 tackles on third down as well as¬†¬†two passes defensed… According to CSNNE’s Tom Curran, it sounds like pass interference penalties might be changing. ¬†Curran reports that¬†Troy Vincent, the NFL‚Äôs Executive VP of Football Operations told NFL.com that changing PI to a 15-yard penalty is being considered by the NFL‚Äôs Competition Committee. ¬†Examples would include them having a couple of different types of PI calls, including a “Simple PI” from the Brown’s game to deal with “ticky-tack calls”, while a second category is called “Spot Foul Pass Interference” in which the ball is spotted where the foul occurs. ¬†It’s an interesting concept and one that we’re probably sure to hear more about given some of the mistakes that were made last season. ¬†However, instant replay will likely correct many of them, and for now it sounds like Bill Belichick’s request to make penalties reviewable could eventually become one more great thing to make a reality.


Collins has become a game-changing player in the Patriots defense. (USA TODAY Images)

It was just over two years ago that we first heard the name Jamie Collins, although at the time we had no idea he would be drafted by the Patriots, let alone become the player he’s been in their defense.

In 2013 during the NFL combine, Collins caught the attention of quite a few scouts following what was considered to be one of the better performances of the weekend.

He came within an inch of breaking the event record with a 41.5-inch vertical leap, ran a 4.64 40-yard dash, and led every linebacker who was there after recording an 11-foot, 7-inch broad jump. It was quite a showing, and clearly the Patriots liked what they saw because they went on to take him in the 2nd round with the 52nd overall selection.

On paper it’s impressive but the thing that’s actually more intriguing is the fact that knowing how hard it is to stand out even when a player comes from a winning program, Collins came from a winless Southern Miss team in 2012 before the 2013 draft. When the Golden Eagles hosted their Pro Day following the Combine that February, Collins opted to let the impression he made at the Combine stand and stood on his numbers, opting instead to have teams look at him in private workouts. Two teams that he reportedly met with prior to the draft included the Bills and Steelers, and New Orleans was also said to be interested after sending four scouts to his Pro Day.

Fortunately he obviously ended up in New England, and looking back at what happened in Arizona it’s hard not to appreciate the fact that Collins was a key factor in the Patriots victory over the Seahawks. He finished the game as the team’s leading tackler, leading all Patriots defenders with eight.

Overall in 2014 Collins lead the team by a landslide with 115 total tackles during the regular season, and was also the team’s leader in tackles on third down with 22, including three QB hits and one tackle for a loss. In the postseason he also led the team in tackles with 23, recorded two QB Hits, one interception, and was tied for the team lead in passes defenssed with Devin McCourty and Malcolm Butler with three.

That just emphasizes how athletic he is and back in December Bill Belichick did something pretty surprising and praised the second-year player, admitting that Collins is a pretty special guy.

“Look, Jamie Collinses don’t … it’s not like there‚Äô¬Ä¬ôs two or three dozen of them in the draft every year,” Belichick said at the time. “We’¬Ä¬ôre lucky to have one. Was Lawrence Taylor a prototype outside linebacker? Where‚Äô¬Ä¬ôs the next Lawrence Taylor? Those guys don‚Äô¬Ä¬ôt grow on trees.”

“I think that’s part of building your team is trying to anticipate where your team is going and to a certain extent where, especially defensively because you have to react to what they put on the field. Defensively you have to be able to defend those things. How do you construct the defense so you can handle the different challenges that you have?”

Easy, you take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself and fortunately Belichick didn’t miss out on snatching the linebacker away from the rest of the league. He’s been a tremendous addition that should hopefully serve this team well for the foreseeable future, and adding “Super Bowl Champion” to his resume in just his second season doesn’t hurt.

Needless to say he should be fun to continue to watch in the years to come and as Belichick said, they’re lucky to have him.


Collins may only be in his second year, but he played like an experieneced veteran last season. (USA TODAY Images)

COLLINS RECORD FALLS AT THE COMBINE:

As they say, records are made to be broken and a local player made a name for himself this weekend after putting up some impressive numbers.

University of Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones set a combine record in the broad jump, leaping 12-feet-3 inches, eight inches ahead of the previously mentioned total by Collins, which had been the previous record.

Interestingly enough according to the official school website for UConn, Jones’ leap also topped the official World Record in the track event, which is held by Norwegian Arne Tvervaag, who jumped 3.71 meters (12 feet, two inches) on November 11, 1968.

His record may have fallen, but that shouldn’t take anything away from Collins’ accomplishment given the fact that he’s a linebacker and Jones is a cornerback, so obviously they’re two different body types. But, like Collins, that type of athleticism should hopefully help his stock rise. He’s reportedly recovering from shoulder surgery which prevented Jones from running his 40-yard dash, but he’ll apparently run one when the team holds their pro day.

The Patriots last defensive back drafted out of UConn was Darius Butler, who was taken in the 2nd round by New England back in 2009 but was never able to settle in and is now a member of the Indianapolis Colts.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

The Patriots are obviously the Champions of the league, but apparently the Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t interested in comparing themselves to Bill Belichick’s group. According to Mike Prisuta of the Steelers’ official site, Pittsburgh is more focused on making sure they measure up better to Baltimore instead of New England, since the Ravens were the team that knocked them out of the postseason. ‚ÄúWe don‚Äôt get to compare ourselves to anyone else but Baltimore in my opinion because (the Ravens) are the ones that eliminated us,‚ÄĚ GM Kevin Colbert said… Jets head coach Todd Bowles took the anti-Rex Ryan route at the Combine, telling reporters that focusing on New England was a bad move because it’s going to take more than that to have success next season. “I don‚Äôt think it means anything to us right now. You can‚Äôt beat the Patriots in February,” said Bowles. “Just beating the Patriots is not going to cut it if you lose to everybody else. We‚Äôve got to have a growth process of how to win while we‚Äôre winning and trying to beat more than just the Patriots.” … The Patriots have some interesting decisions to make this offseason, one of which may potentially involve the receiver position while they decide whether to bring Danny Amendola back, as well as monitoring how things will play out with forgotten man Aaron Dobson. According to Jason LaCanfora, he believes the Patriots will be in the mix for Percy Harvin if things don’t work out in New York with the Jets. Seems like an odd fit, but obviously stranger things have happened… Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, has apparently teamed up with the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) to participate in its annual player externship program that began February 16 and runs through March 6. According to the press release, as part of the three-week externship program, New England Patriots practice squad defensive back Justin Green and former Baltimore Raven Ryan Bartholomew have been drafted in the Communications and Marketing and Government Relations Departments at Events DC to gain valuable post-NFL career insight and hands-on experience to further their skills in the game of life and give them a better opportunity for life after football. It’s a great program, and always nice to see a Patriot mentioned in these… Rob Gronkowski has certainly come a long way, and his latest admission should continue to quiet his critics who in the past had questioned how he handled his offseasons. According to the Boston Herald Gronkowski has said he won‚Äôt be doing “Dancing With The Stars” and was taking a pass because the show would interfere with his offseason training. This is a guy who has already had his football mortality tested and got a taste this season of what his ability can help produce when he’s able to stay healthy. Now he’s got a ring, and it appears he’s hungry for another. Good stuff… File this under one of those articles that stood out thanks primarily to Google. A short chubby man wearing a Patriots hat reportedly handed a bank teller a note and made off with at least $1200 in cash Monday morning, which now has police looking for the suspect. According to the Cliff View Pilot The Bergen County Sheriff‚Äôs Bureau of Criminal Identification is processing evidence but here’s a look at the suspect, and you should obviously notify authorities if you recognize him. Good to know he enjoys supporting the team while he’s out robbing banks. Nothing says “I love my team” more than that.


According to the Boston Herald, it appears that Hightower may be sidelined until at least the start of the 2015 season. (USA TODAY Images)

The Patriots have been fortunate they’ve been able to deal with the loss of Jerod Mayo to season-ending injuries over the past two seasons, but heading into 2015 it sounds like they’re potentially going to be in a bit of a bind through the early going.

According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, linebacker Dont’a Hightower’s offseason shoulder surgery could potentially cause him to miss training camp, with a 6-7 month timetable for recovery possibly keeping him out until at least the start of the regular season.

Hightower, who underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum after the team’s Super Bowl win, had a big year all around and ended up being one of the Patriots biggest playmakers in his expanded role. ¬†He finished second on the team behind Rob Ninkovich with 13 quarterback hits (Ninkovich had 16), tied for second on the team with Chandler Jones for sacks with 6 (Ninkovich had 8) and second behind Ninkovich in tackles for a loss with 9 (Nink had 11).

Another thing worth mentioning is the fact that as Howe points out, the Patriots are in a situation where they’re going to have to figure out how to handle Mayo’s high cap hit of $10.287, which would seemingly involve him to have to¬†restructure his deal. ¬†Obviously New England was able to win a Super Bowl in his absence, but there’s no denying the value Mayo brings to this defense. ¬†Given that there’s always a possibility of a setback in Hightower’s rehabilitation, keeping Mayo in the mix would re-solidify an already formidable group that included Hightower and Jamie Collins, both of whom had terrific seasons in 2014.

Mayo also has a high cap number for 2016 and 2017, so it would make sense for the two sides to rework the deal.  Another player who could fall into that category is Vince Wilfork, who may also see his deal potentially redone.  But both veterans are important parts of the defense and two that would allow the Patriots to continue making even more dangerous heading into next season, especially if they can keep Darrelle Revis in the fold for the long-term.

At the end of the day Hightower performed beyond expectations after being thrust into his new role, and earlier this month credited his teammates for helping him through it.

‚ÄúI was trying to do a little bit more than I was comfortable doing,‚ÄĚ Hightower said via the Montgomery Advertiser. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm not a big vocal leader. I think that was the biggest thing. Not understanding how to operate things. ‚Ķ I have really good players around me to help me out a lot. ‚Ķ I needed that push on me.‚ÄĚ

At 24 he’s already a Super Bowl Champion. ¬†It’s a tough injury to come back from and his recovery, as well as Mayo’s contract situation, will be two key stories to watch in the months ahead.


Even after winning it all, Brady can’t wait to get back to work.
(USA TODAY Images)

BRADY EXCITED FOR 2015

The 2014  season was one of the more interesting ones in terms of seeing the dynamic of how people would react if this team was ever no longer a championship contender, with the even more surprising thing being how fans would treat Tom Brady if the going got tough.

The answer? ¬†There were¬†fans and even media who had no issue pulling the trigger and calling for the Jimmy Garoppolo era to begin at the first signs of adversity. Looking back it’s now pretty ironic considering how this group was able to turn things around as they, led by Brady, straightened out a 2-2 start and obviously ended up winning a championship. ¬†Kudos to those who stood by him and the chants of “Brady, Brady” this season both in the Cincinnati 43-17 blowout win in Week 5 and as he walked off the field in the AFC Championship Game to an incredible ovation, stand out as two of the better moments of last season in terms of the level of appreciation that was shown for the guy who brought four titles to this region.

It’s interesting to know that the fire appears to be burning just as hot as he prepares to start it all over in the months ahead. ¬†According to Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, sources close to Brady have revealed that they’ve never seen him as excited to start putting the work in to get ready to try and win it all again in 2015.

One tidbit I came across looking back after he won the last one in 2004 was the fact that he appeared on 60 minutes and admitted that while it’s great to win, it’s important to celebrate but make sure it’s kept in perspective.

“Yeah, sure do,” Brady told Steve Kroft back in June of 2005 when asked if he gets excited about winning the Super Bowl. ¬†“At the thoughts of winning it. Oh, yeah. Every time, it’s been a different feeling, too. It’s been the ultimate high. You know, you gotta find a way to, as best you can, keep it in perspective, or else you’re just gonna kinda wither off those two months later.”

Brady also said something in the interview which, as we know, defines who he is here in New England.  Brady admitted that it was someone who spoke to his team about avoiding self-defeating attitudes and being positive, which if he was able to do that would affect not only himself but guys around him.

“I had talked to a guy who worked with a lot of the athletes at the school. He was a really neat person, a person I stay in contact with,” said Brady, who at the time was just 27 when he won his third ring. ¬†“He used to come and speak in front of our whole team about self-defeating attitudes and behaviors, and how you can beat yourself before you even go out there to compete, not only athletics, but in life. And just the positive attitude, and setting goals, and understanding that the only thing you can control is your attitude. Regardless of any of the other things that happen in your life, there’s only so much you can do, and you can control what you can control. And that was my preparation, my effort, my leadership ‚Äď not how other people affected me, but how I affected them.”

Obviously it’s been an approach that’s served him well, and looking back on this season it likely played a big role considering the adversity this team dealt with early on. ¬†But in the end he never faltered, and now at the age of 37 it seems like he’s excited about getting another shot.

ADDITIONAL NOTES: 

Speaking of Brady, according to Star Magazine it appears that the thought of being in the movies is something that could be in the cards for the veteran quarterback once his career comes to an end. ¬† The source reportedly told the magazine:¬†“At 37, Tom knows he only has a few seasons left before retirement. He’s thinking ahead and believes he could become a huge movie star.” ¬†Brady’s already set to appear in “Ted 2″ and “Entourage” next summer, and he had a memorable appearance on Saturday Night Live a few years ago. ¬†It’s tough to imagine Brady not involved with football, which seems to be a more likely future. ¬†But hopefully it will be a while before it’s something he’ll need to worry about… Steelers GM Kevin Colbert¬† stood behind his decision¬†when asked about cutting LeGarrette Blount, who¬†was let go after he¬†walked out on the team in his final game with the Steelers after getting on the bus with plenty of time left during their Monday night win over Tennessee back in November. ¬†When asked about if he had any regrets, he replied,¬†‚ÄúNone whatsoever.‚ÄĚ ¬†Obviously no one in New England is disappointed and after winning a championship, one would believe Blount likely isn’t¬†either… Last offseason Bill Belichick played an important role in one of the league’s rule¬†changes, including the extension of the goal posts by five feet, and it actually came into play at one point in the season against the Broncos. According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Belichick’s influence on the rules may play a factor this offseason after he proposed last year at the NFL‚Äôs annual meetings to reduce current restrictions and allow coaches to challenge any call on the field, particularly judgment penalties such as pass interference. It didn’t go through, but considering the issues the league had in 2014 it’s reportedly expected to be a ‚Äúmajor‚ÄĚ topic of discussion this year, according to Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who is a leading member of the NFL‚Äôs competition committee…. As the “Deflate Gate” saga drags on, I came ¬†across a tidbit from SI.com regarding the Patriots ability to file a lawsuit against the league given how this whole situation has played out should they be penalized. ¬†Robert Kraft obviously demanded an apology before the Super Bowl if they’re cleared, but if they’re not, it sounds like they’ll be stuck with whatever penalty they’re handed and won’t be able to file a lawsuit. ¬†According to SI.com, “Under the league constitution, the commissioner‚Äôs punishments of teams are final and not subject to review. Teams also contractually assent to not sue the league or one another, meaning the Patriots won‚Äôt be filing a lawsuit against Goodell or the NFL.” ¬†That apparently ends the debate that the team will have any recourse, but knowing that, it now¬†makes how this plays out even that much more interesting… Nick Caserio is going to have quite the job this offseason in trying to put together the 2015 version of this football team, which includes some deals getting done like ones for Revis, Devin McCourty, Shane Vereen, and others. ¬†One thing he noted was the fact that things are probably going to change and that this team will be “different” next season. ¬†Caserio told the team’s official site,¬†“Those are decisions that will be made at the appropriate time. The reality is our team is going to be different from what it was last year.” … Former Patriot Armond Armstead¬†saw his career in New England come to an end before it even had a chance to get started, but now according to the Boston Herald, apparently his brother, Arik, is trying to “carry on that torch” for him. ¬†“My brother not being able to play anymore, that’s why I’m trying to carry on that torch,” Arik Armstead told the newspaper. “Going through recruiting in high school, I wanted to be like him. I really started playing football when I fell in love with the game early on when I was little. My brother, hearing his name, he was a big-time recruit in high school and I wanted to be just like him. I fell in love with football and he’s been helping me ever since. He kind of paved the way for me.” … Malcolm Butler’s life has been a whirlwind since making the interception heard around the world earlier this month and he was honored Saturday in Vicksburg, Miss. with what one resident told the Clarion Ledger was the “biggest parade ever”. ¬†Butler’s been in quite the demand and according to the newspaper it was LeGarrette Blount who foreshadowed how different his life was about to vecome. ¬†“Somehow, I could hear his voice,” Butler said of Blount. ¬†“And he just kept saying, ‘You have no idea what you just did. You don’t realize how your life just changed.’ And I really didn’t. I guess it takes a day like this for it to really hit me.” ¬†Good for him. … And finally Chris Price of WEEI¬†pointed out yesterday that Julian Edelman has apparently moved ahead of both Brady and even Gisele Bundchen in the fashion world. ¬† Edelman was named “the most fashionable celebrity in Boston by” US Trendy, beating out Brady, who came in at No. 7, and his wife, Gisele, who was No. 3. ¬†Let the trash talking begin.


Keeping Darrelle Revis appears to be a priortiy. (USA TODAY Images)

At the end of the day Bill Belichick learned a lot about his football team in 2015, with the biggest lesson being one that seems to be a priority heading into this offseason.

Having a defense that can make a play in clutch situations is big, and it seems like making sure Darrelle Revis is with them in September is the focus as the team starts turning their attention toward getting deals done to keep their free agents.

According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, a variety of sources have told him that the team has “been deliberate with their other objectives” this offseason, with the Patriots actions indicating ¬†“they’re all in” on the veteran cornerback.

If that’s the case, the reasoning should be pretty obvious. ¬†There are few guys in the NFL who make the difference that Revis makes out on the field defensively and New England experienced that first hand last season. ¬†He lead the team with a staggering 14 passes defensed, which is an unbelievable number and nearly double that of Patrick Chung, who had 7. ¬†However, his presence clearly had an effect on opposing quarterbacks and that was a big benefit to the guys around him. ¬†When you have a player who can instill doubt in the guy running the offense of the opposition, that’s game changing and one would have to believe they’re not going to let him get away if they can help it.

Revis signed a two-year, $32 million contract last March, and being part of a team that could potentially repeat in 2015 may be a motivating factor for him to sign an extension. ¬†As Howe points out, Revis actually¬†turned down a couple of teams that would have paid him $16 million before agreeing with New England last season. ¬†That’s good news if he’s willing do potentially do that again. ¬†He played just as advertised for them in his first year as a Patriot and likely still has¬†several¬†good years left playing at this level. ¬† He’s also surrounded by guys he’s already admitted he loves playing with.

If the Patriots can keep Revis in-house for the long-term and get McCourty signed, the Patriots would return next season with two players in the secondary they can continue building around for the foreseeable future.  Both are incredibly talented and provide them stability in that unit, which is going to be key in putting New England in position to potentially play in San Francisco next February.

Revis is sitting on a $20 million salary for 2015, which Jonathan Kraft recently called a “placeholder”. ¬†So in theory they’ve already got him, but in reality getting a long-term deal done gives them some security and likely a more flexible cap situation.

But guys like him don’t come around very often and the Patriots seem to realize how much better he really did make them last season, and winning it all certainly reinforces that. ¬†Now it’s just a matter of figuring out a deal that keeps him around and allows them to put together a team that can help¬†put them in position to make a run at another championship.

ASU TAKING A PAGE FROM PATRIOTS OFFENSE:

When you win a championship other people tend to take a look at what made you so successful, and apparently Arizona State head coach Todd Graham has been impressed by what he’s seen from the Patriots.

ASU running back D.J. Foster is a player they believe is their Julian Edelman, and their quarterback, Mike Bercovici, is their version of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. ¬†According to Graham now their plan is to try and take a page from New England’s offense and work on getting the ball out faster and developing more rhythm from the pocket.


Getting the ball out quickly has made Brady more dangerous, and ASU appears to be looking to do the same.
(USA TODAY Images)

“A lot of the things I watched New England do is get people off of you,” Graham said Friday via FoxSports.com. “Their quick passing game is really good. We just haven’t done a lot of that. It’s been all run, play-action pass. Now, we’re still a run, play-action passing game. You’ll see more rhythm passing from the pocket.”

By getting the ball out faster, Bercovici is someone they believe that with his big arm should be able to make plays off the field if the approach keeps defenses off of him. ¬†They’re confident in his accuracy on these throws, and now the hopes is to give him more of an opportunity to get the ball down the field.

“Bercovici can throw a (quick slant) with 100-percent accuracy,” Graham said. “One, two, ball’s out on three. (Defenses) can’t get pressure. Play-action, is when we’re really throwing it down the field. So much of our intermediate passing game last year was limited to running naked, running (bootlegs).”

Needless to say if you’re a fan of college football, it may be something you want to keep an eye on.

ADDITIONAL NOTES: ¬†Pete Carroll has spent this offseason getting abused in the media after his decision on Seattle’s¬†final play of Super Bowl that lead to Malcolm Butler’s interception. ¬†However, after the Super Bowl Belichick defended him, with a pretty powerful quote that resonated well with Carroll. ¬†Said Belichick via ESPN Boston, “There has been a lot of criticism that I don’t think is anywhere close to being deserved or founded. That football team is very good, very well-coached, and Pete does a great job. Malcolm [Butler] and Brandon [Browner], on that particular play, just made a great play. I think the criticism they’ve gotten for the game is totally out of line and by a lot of people who I don’t think are anywhere near even qualified to be commenting on it.” ¬†Carroll responded on Friday at the Combine, saying, “He gets it, so I have always respected the work that Bill has done and the accomplishments and the achievements. For him to take the moment to do that is very gracious of him [and] we care a lot about coaches, we care a lot about the game. I think he [said that] just to let people know … what he feels about it and I appreciate it.” …¬†¬†The Hall at Patriots Place added some interesting additions to its inventory, with the cleats that Butler was wearing when he made his historic interception, along with his gloves and the football now on display. ¬†There’s also another list here of additional pieces that were added, including the jersey Tom Brady was wearing when he eclipsed 50,000 career passing yards, and plenty of others… ¬†In case you missed it, there was some nice news¬†recently¬†about Bianca Wilfork, the wife of Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. ¬†CareWell Urgent Care announced earlier this week that Bianca will be their new spokesperson and plans on trying to help educate people about the center’s offerings, which is a service that she’s been using for her family for many years… Patriots owner Robert Kraft recently appeared on an episode of Forbes SportsMoney and offered up some interesting insight in the piece. ¬†The Yes Network has some quotes, including his thoughts on what he was thinking when he made the decision to buy the team. ¬† Said Kraft,¬†“I just said if I had a shot of running this thing, what would I try and do? So then I tried to figure out how I could get an edge in buying the team. There were three parts: the team, the stadium which was a different ownership, and 300 acres of land around the stadium that you needed to be free on the day of events for parking.” … The NFL reportedly suspended the use of Helmet Sensors, with the pilot program designed with sensors within the helmets to relay information about the number and velocity of hits to them. ¬†According to the New York Times Brian McCarthy, a spokesperson for the NFL, said that¬†the league‚Äôs head, neck and spine committee would ‚Äúcontinue to review and analyze the research.‚ÄĚ ¬†The newspaper also reported the committee who conducted the study collected data on about 11,000 impacts during the 2013 season but had difficulty determining the location and severity of the impacts. The committee apparently wants more time to determine if there is a better system available and the NFL Players association is also reportedly concerned about the use of the data and whether or not it will be used against a player. ¬†It’s a complicated issue, and apparently this method of potentially dealing with it has been put on hold.