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It appears Rob Gronkowski is participating in OTAs this week

05.24.17 at 12:23 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski has been spotted on the field this week. (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

Rob Gronkowski has been spotted on the field this week. (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

The media isn’t given access to Patriots OTAs until Thursday, but the Patriots held sessions on Monday and Tuesday.

One of the biggest questions was whether or not Rob Gronkowski, who is recovering from back surgery, would participate.

Based off photos surfaced on Patriots.com, the tight end is a full-go.

Following Tuesday’s workout, the team website had a photo of Gronkowski making a one-handed catch, and also feeling good after making a reception. These would indicate he’s on the field with the rest of his teammates six months after back surgery.

OTAs are non-contact, but still is a great sign that he is on the field.

Also on Tuesday, the Patriots and Gronkowski re-worked his contract, which could make him the highest paid tight end in 2017.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

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Why did undrafted rookie free agent WR Austin Carr, who has been compared to Julian Edelman, choose Patriots?

05.24.17 at 10:29 am ET
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WR Austin Carr signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent. (Caylor Arnold/USA Today Sports)

WR Austin Carr signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent. (Caylor Arnold/USA Today Sports)

When Northwestern wide receiver Austin Carr when undrafted in last month’s draft, he could have signed with any team.

Five teams apparently showed interest, but in the end he chose the Patriots.

Carr primarily plays out of the slot, which is why he’s already received comparisons to Julian Edelman, with some even saying he potentially could be his replacement since Edelman is a free agent after this season.

Last season Carr had 90 receptions for 1,247 yards and 12 touchdowns, and was named the Big 10’s receiver of the year.

So with five teams interested, why did Carr choose New England?

“Feeling like I could learn from the veterans here, feeling like I could learn from some amazing wide receivers, and then also knowing that it’s a franchise that wins,” Carr said to reporters Tuesday at Gillette Stadium. “I don’t want to just go to the NFL, I want to go and I want to contribute to a team winning, and I felt like I could especially do that here.”

Carr joins a crowded receiving group with Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and newcomer Brandin Cooks.

He said he’s doing everything he can to learn from those players as the team kicked off OTAs this week.

“My focus is being humble and learning from those guys,” Carr said. “It’s not cynical, it’s not a mean room. Obviously they’re veterans and guys come in and out, it’s a revolving door for some people, and my goal is to grasp the opportunity, be humble, learn from them, stay out of their way at some points, but really the best I can do is be a sponge.”

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How Rob Gronkowski’s new deal with Patriots is perfect for both sides

05.24.17 at 10:04 am ET
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Rob Gronkowski restructured his 2017 contract. (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

Rob Gronkowski restructured his 2017 contract. (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

Rob Gronkowski’s deal for 2017 wasn’t a very good one for the 28-year-old, as the best tight end in football was only scheduled to make $5.25 million.

Yes, he deserves more money, but from a Patriots perspective there’s no guarantee he stays healthy. So, the Patriots and Gronkowski reworked his 2017 salary to have it be based off what he does on the field.

For a player like Gronkowski, who is so talented but also has a great deal of injury concerns, it’s the perfect way to satisfy both sides.

It’s a unique structure, but Gronkowski is a unique player.

According to Adam Schefter, there are three potential tiers for his 2017 salary. Tier 1 gives him $10.75 million and he would need to play 90 percent of the snaps, have 80 catches, 1,200 yards or be an All-Pro. Tier 2 gives him $8.75 million and he would need to play 80 percent of the snaps, have 70 catches, 1,000 yards or 12 touchdowns. Tier 3 gives him $6.75 million and he would need to play 70 percent of the snaps, have 60 catches, 800 yards or 10 touchdowns.

If Gronkowski can stay healthy and play say 14 or 15 games, he’s almost a sure lock for the $10.75 million because when on the field he’s the best tight end in football.

The tight end is a four-time All-Pro (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015). In those seasons he played in 16, 11, 15 and 15 games respectively. Bottom line, if he plays say 13 or more games, he’s going to be the highest paid tight end in the league because he will reach at least one of the criteria for the top tier.

(As of now, Seattle’s Jimmy Graham is the highest paid tight end in the league next year at $10 million.)

Why is this deal good for the Patriots? Because of Gronkowski is on the field, it likely means the Patriots are winning games.

While it is a unique deal, and likely wouldn’t happen for any other player, it is the definition of a fair deal that both sides can be happy with.

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Report: Patriots, Rob Gronkowski agree to restructured deal for 2017 season

05.23.17 at 5:37 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski could make as much as $10.75 million this season. (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

Rob Gronkowski could make as much as $10.75 million this season. (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

Rob Gronkowski will have a chance to cash in this season. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Patriots and Gronkowski have agreed to a restructured deal for the 2017 season that could boost his salary from $5.25 million to $10.75 million and make him the highest-paid tight end in the NFL.

Gronkowski would be able to get to that number if he hits 90 percent playing time, 80 catches or 1,200 receiving yards, or is named an All-Pro. Gronkowski has had 80 catches twice, 1,200 receiving yards once and been named an All-Pro four times.

There is also a second tier of incentives that would get Gronkowski to $8.75 million and a third tier that would land him at $6.75 million, detailed in Schefter’s report below.

Several rule changes reportedly coming to NFL next season

05.23.17 at 1:40 pm ET
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The NFL has several rule changes coming next season. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

The NFL has several rule changes coming next season. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

At the NFL owners meetings in Chicago, a few rule changes have been implemented for the 2017 season.

— According to multiple reports, overtime will now be 10 minutes, opposed to 15 minutes. This obviously will create more ties and teams being more aggressive in the overtime periods.

— Also according to multiple reports, there will only be one roster cut down day during training camp going from 90 players to 53 players. Before teams had to get down to 75 players midway through camp. This means the fourth preseason games should be more competitive with players competing for roster spots actually playing. It should also create a wild few days with so many players not knowing their fate for the upcoming season.

— Lastly, Roger Goodell announced on Twitter with a letter to fans the league is cutting back on penalizing celebrations. “We are relaxing our rules on celebrations to allow players more room to have fun after they make big plays,” Goodell wrote. Celebrations now allowed are: using the football as a prop after a touchdown, celebrating on the ground and group demonstrations.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

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Patriots announce 2 joint practices with Jaguars before 1st preseason game

05.23.17 at 12:30 pm ET
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Bill Belichick and the Patriots will host the Jaguars for two joint practices. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick and the Patriots will host the Jaguars for two joint practices. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

For the sixth straight season, the Patriots will hold joint practices before a preseason game.

The club announced on Tuesday it will have two joint practices with the Jaguars August 7-8 at Gillette Stadium before the preseason opener on August 10. The sessions are free and open to the public.

In the past, the Patriots have had joint practices against the Saints, Bears, Redskins, Eagles, and Buccaneers.

These are very valuable to Bill Belichick and his staff as it gives them a chance to see their players against other competition and also a chance to scout other teams.

Over the years Belichick has added players he’s gone up against during joint practices, including Brandin Cooks this offseason.

There have been talks the Patriots could also have joint practices with the Texans this summer as well, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

5 Patriots players who have most to prove during OTAs

05.23.17 at 11:57 am ET
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OTAs will give us an idea of Brandin Cooks' connection with Tom Brady. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

OTAs will give us an idea of Brandin Cooks’ connection with Tom Brady. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

The Patriots began OTAs this week with sessions on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday (Thursday will be open to the media). There is no contact permitted, but teams can run 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.

Much of the work done isn’t so much competition, but rather making sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to schemes, techniques and plays. OTAs are especially important for newcomers and rookies, as it is their first exposure to the Patriots system.

Here are five Patriots players who OTAs are especially important to.

Brandin Cooks — One of the things we’ll be looking for is Cooks’ connection with Tom Brady. As we’ve seen over the years, Brady demands a lot out of his receivers in order for them to get in “the circle of trust.” Many just assume Cooks will come in and immediately make an impact, but that is dependent upon him having the trust and connection with Brady. That work begins now and could show up during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work.

Derek Rivers — The Patriots’ top draft pick likely has a lot to learn as he comes from FCS Youngstown State and OTAs are the first chance to see how he’s doing. The third-round pick has a lot of talent, but as of now it’s unclear how much he will be able to contribute during his rookie season. It could be a case of this being more of a “red-shirt” year where he learns the system and gets acclimated to being a professional. OTAs will give a glimpse at how much he’s learned and what he can do.

Kony Ealy — Ealy came over from the Panthers in a trade and will now have to learn a new system and be led by defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. The defensive end can line up all over the defensive line — both inside and outside — and OTAs will likely show where he’s most comfortable and show what the team envisions him doing.

Malcolm Butler — It was an interesting offseason for the cornerback as he was reportedly upset following the signing of Stephon Gilmore and even visited the Saints as a restricted free agent. Ultimately, he signed his $3.91 million tender with the Patriots and will be on the 2017 roster. How he interacts with his teammates will be worth watching to see if he’s put what’s happened in the past and isn’t showing signs of being upset.

Mike Gillislee — The Patriots signed Gillislee as a restricted free agent the week of the draft and it is assumed he will be the lead back. Obviously, the Patriots don’t use running backs like other teams, but he should get the majority of the carries. OTAs could give an idea to how the Patriots plan on splitting the carries. Gilleslee, Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis appear to be the three backs who will be competing for reps.

Read More: Brandin Cooks, Derek Rivers, Kony Ealy, Malcolm Butler

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