|03.22.10 at 11:56 am ET|
According to a Boston.com report, Patriots’ Pro Bowl offense lineman Logan Mankins is steering clear of the start of the offseason program. Mankins, who was tendered at the first- and third-round level in February, is apparently avoiding workouts in Foxboro until there until there is some significant movement on his contract situation. In accordance with the restricted free agent system, Mankins was offered the one-year, $3.268 million deal — however, since Mankins hasn’t signed the tender and isn’t under contract, he’s not obligated to show up for any of the team’s offseason activities.
|03.22.10 at 11:31 am ET|
The news that Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he wants Bill Belichick and Tom Brady around as long as possible is hardly stop-the-presses kind of stuff, but it does signal that the team will continue to keep its current management model in place for the foreseeable future.
When he was asked how long he could see Belichick serving as head coach of the Patriots, Kraft told reporters at the NFL Meetings on Monday morning “there’s not another head coach” he would want more than Belichick.
“We have an understanding,” Kraft told reporters Monday morning at the owners meetings in Orlando. “He’s here, he’s coaching. He loves what he does. There’s not another head coach I would prefer to have over him. It’s working. It’s like a marriage, you know? And there’s an ebb and flow, and it’s not always straight-lined, but I think we’ve got something pretty good here and we want to keep it going.”
As for Brady, Kraft expressed some mild distaste for the fact that the quarterback wasn’t in Foxboro for the start of the offseason program last week. But it sounds like the team will do whatever it takes to retain the quarterback, who is entering the final year of his contract.
“Let’s put it like this: Tom Brady is going to be part of this franchise. He wants to be, we want him,” Kraft said. “You know, great things in life happen if you’re flexible and not rigid. We have to find a way to satisfy him and the team and have a team that can win — big time. That’s what it’s about. We’re bound to a lot of different factors in an unknown environment. So, we’re not sleeping. It’s just complicated. And it’s complicated for everyone. So we hope we do a satisfactory job. We’ll figure it out, one way or another.”
The working relationship among the three is maybe one of the most unique in all of professional sports. It’s not just on-field success that continues to distinguish them from their peers. Kraft, Belichick and Brady — along with general manager Scott Pioli, until he departed for Kansas City last offseason — have managed to strike a delicate balance that continues to elude most other professional franchises. All three clearly know what they have to do to make New England a success, and even without Pioli in the picture, the three most important members of the Patriots franchise continues to enjoy a convivial working relationship.
But maybe more importantly, they know enough to play to their respective strengths and not overstep their bounds. The phrase “Do your job” is the central, fundamental tenet to the overall success of the Patriots, and that holds true for everyone, especially in the relationship between the players, front office and ownership: All three are wise enough to realize they can handle their own business.
It sounds simple, but it’s a balance that can elude even the most talented NFL teams. The slightest misstep — an owner making personnel decisions, a coach complaining about ownership or a star making excessive contract demands — can doom even the most talented team.
In the end, the Monday morning quotes from Kraft remind me of a conversation I had with veteran NFL personnel man Charley Armey about the secret to the Patriots’ success. Armey said that in the end, Kraft’s ability to trust “his football guys” — namely, Belichick and Brady — has been one of the biggest reasons for New England’s success.
“He’s relied and depended on their judgment about players and player moves and roster adjustments and so on and so forth, and it’s paid off for them,” Armey said. “Because Robert Kraft has had the confidence in the fact that they know what they’re doing, and he allows them to do it.
“They’ve done a very good job of knowing their needs and knowing who fits and who doesn’t fit,” he added. “And Robert Kraft has been remarkable in that he’s allowed them to do that. He understands how to get a franchise going and how to get it off the ground. And they’ve done it successfully.”
|03.22.10 at 10:33 am ET|
Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he wants to keep Tom Brady around for a long time, although he admitted that he would have preferred that Brady was in Foxboro instead of Southern California as the team begins voluntary workouts. According to CSNNE’s Tom Curran, during a breakfast with Boston media members at the owners meetings in Orlando, Kraft said: “Would I prefer he be here in the offseason? Yes. To me, he is the most complete, special leader in the NFL. Would we be better as a team if he was here the entire time between now and the start of training camp? [Yes.]” Added Kraft: “It wouldn’t surprise me if he was [in Foxboro] by the end of the meetings.”
As for the team’s efforts to sign its quarterback to a contract extension, Kraft said: “Tom Brady will be part of this franchise. He wants to be. We want him to be. Great things happen if you’re flexible, not rigid. We’re not sleeping [on getting a new contract in place]. It’s complicated.”
Kraft also said the team will do what it can to keep coach Bill Belichick around as well. “We have an understanding,” Kraft said. “He’s here, he’s coaching. He loves what he does. There’s not another head coach I would prefer to have over him. It’s working. It’s like a marriage, you know? And there’s an ebb and flow, and it’s not always straight-lined, but I think we’ve got something pretty good here and we want to keep it going.”
Added Kraft: “He’s pretty steady, and one thing is he has a great work ethic, and a great football intellect. He stays pretty level, which is unusual in this business. He’s pretty even keel and I appreciate that. There’s no doubt in my mind, everything he’s doing, he’s trying to put the team in the best position to win, and that’s the most important thing to me. What our brand is about is trying to have a certain excellence on the field, and try to do it in a way that people are proud to be associated with. That’s our mantra and I think he works very hard at trying to do that.”
|03.22.10 at 10:06 am ET|
Patriots owner Robert Kraft met with members of the media Monday morning at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando and said he will support the new overtime rule for playoff games that gives the loser of the coin toss a bonus offensive series should the other team kick a field goal on the opening possession of OT. The proposal requires 24 yes votes (three-quarters of the teams) to pass.
|03.20.10 at 11:54 am ET|
Lots of tight end news lately around these parts: First, the Patriots lose Benjamin Watson in free agency and cut Chris Baker. They’ve worked out BYU’s Dennis Pitta, a finalist for the Mackey Award last season. Now, it appears they have reached an agreement with veteran Alge Crumpler, and, according to a league source, have expressed an interest in USC’s Anthony McCoy. McCoy is a 6-foot-5, 259-pounder who had 46 catches in three seasons with the Trojans.
McCoy is known as having a fairly balanced game as a blocker and receiver, and he has shown an ability to generate good yardage in the passing game. He never was the consistent No. 1 option in the USC passing game but still managed to average nearly 21 yards a catch as a senior. (The unquestioned highlight of his college career came last season against Notre Dame when he had five receptions for 153 yards in a 34-27 win over the Irish.)
A source indicates the Patriots plan to be at USC’s pro day in Southern California on March 31, and New England’s interest in McCoy makes sense of a number of levels. First, the Patriots are short on tight ends, and figure to add at least one in the draft. Second, it would elucidate the point made to me by former New England tight end Christian Fauria, who said earlier this week that New England frequently likes to pair a younger tight end with an older one — the combination of McCoy (22 years old) and Crumpler (32 years old) would certainly do that.
Third, even though the Patriots utilize the tight end as more of a blocker than a pass-catcher, the combination of the two — Crumpler as a blocker and McCoy as a pass-catcher — would provide the Patriots offense with the ability to show two different looks at the position. And fourth, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay seemed to intimate that while New England needs to add to the tight end position in the draft, the team’s best value at that spot might come in the second round — and McCoy is slated as a second-round pickup in most mock drafts.
|03.20.10 at 11:07 am ET|
The blog Faded Youth has some pictures of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady working out at a gym in Beverly Hills on Friday, going through what appears to be some sort of boxing routine. This is the second series of pics that have been snapped of Brady working out on the West Coast while the Patriots’ offseason conditioning program continues in Foxboro — the paparazzi caught him tossing passes at UCLA a few days ago with his dog, Lua.
Since the original pictures first surfaced, I’ve been asked several times for my opinion on Brady working out on the West Coast as opposed to Foxboro, and I’ve always deferred to the people who know him best — his friends and teammates. And everyone I’ve spoken with, both on and off the record, about Brady not working out locally said it is not that big a deal. That includes new/old teammate David Patten, who was asked if he was worried that Brady wasn’t at Gillette Stadium after the initial pictures cropped up.
“It’s the offseason right now — everyone has different schedules,” Patten said earlier this week. “I’m quite sure when he’s in, he’ll get his receivers together, because what I remember from that time, he was big on putting the time in during the offseason, so I’m quite sure when he gets in, he’ll get us all on the same page and we’ll all be together.”
|03.19.10 at 11:22 am ET|
Talked to my “NFL Sunday” co-host and former Patriots tight end Christian Fauria about New England’s acquisition of Alge Crumpler, and the two-time Super Bowl champion had some advice for the latest in a long line of tight ends.
“The more plays you make, the more touches you’re going to see,” Fauria said of Crumpler, who now figures to be the 14th different tight end to start a game for the Patriots since 2000. “The more plays you make, the more consistent you are, the more they will get you the ball. Are you a guy they can count on? They’ll figure it out quickly, and if you aren’t, they’ll get rid of you.”
Even with Crumpler in the fold, Fauria says that the Patriots will likely try and sign a younger tight end, as they have traditionally attempted to pair a younger tight end with an experienced one. (To that point, ESPN draft expert Todd McShay said on a Thursday afternoon conference call with the media that the Patriots could get good value at the tight end spot with one of their second-round picks.)
But even so, don’t expect Crumpler to be much of a pass-catcher, at least not in the New England offense.
“In that offense, the tight end now is either an extra tackle or a blocking guy,” he said. “You don’t expect too much from him. You want him to be there when you need him, but he’s not a major part of the offense.
“In an offense where [Wes] Welker and [Randy] Moss are the No. 1 reads, the tight end is a bit player,” Fauria added. “Especially on third down — the tight end is traditionally a big weapon on third down. But in this offense, they’re looking to Moss or Welker.”
For more on the acquisition of Crumpler and the continued evolution of the Patriots’ tight end position, check out my story here. In addition, don’t forget that our draft expert D.J. Bean has the latest in his series, “Potential Patriots.” This week, he looks at Penn State defensive lineman Jared Odrick.
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