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Opinion: Rob Gronkowski needs to change his act 02.05.13 at 11:32 am ET
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Rob Gronkowski had 11 touchdown catches in 2012. (AP)

Rob Gronkowski had 11 touchdown catches in 2012. (AP)

We’ve reached intervention stage with Rob Gronkowski.

Now, that’s not meant to suggest we are dealing with an alcohol issue when it comes to the best tight end on the planet, though I suspect if he had been completely sober there’s a chance the video we’ve all seen on TMZ wouldn’t exist.

Before we get to the areas of concern, though, let’s be very clear about this: Rob Gronkowski, by every account, works incredibly hard, is a terrific teammate, has production off the charts, plays hurt, has done more than his share of charity and seems to truly enjoy being a professional football player in New England. The fact that there is no filter is a reason for his popularity. And that’s why people, by and large, are OK with all the extracurricular activities. Put it another way: If video surfaces of John Lackey dancing and wrestling at a club in Fort Myers sometime over the next couple of weeks there will be a very different reaction in this city (of course correctly so). Lackey being Lackey isn’t viewed as a good thing.

Also this: I didn’t care about Bibi Jones and whatever they did or not do in his or her bedroom or anywhere else. I’m pretty sure these were consenting adults, I’m not really interested in passing judgement in the (presumed) sexual activities of two single people doing nothing illegal. I thought it was a massively overblown story and absurd that Gronkowski felt the need to apologize to Bob Kraft.

And the dancing controversy after last the Super Bowl last year was equally ludicrous. This was an opportunity for a vocal minority in the media to act outraged over something that didn’t deserve a second glance. Gronkowski was clearly limited with an ankle injury in that game — he would have surgery on the ankle a week later — and deserved praise for trying to play through it, not scorn for failing to grieve about a loss in the way the way some would have liked to see. Do I think Rob Gronkowski was just as upset about the loss to the Giants as everyone else on that team? Yup. Did I care that he chose to blow off some steam by removing his shirt and dancing at a postgame party? I did not.

Now what happened in Las Vegas on Sunday night is different. Lots of times we don’t know what right or wrong is but lots of times we do, and what Gronkowski did on that stage was potentially damaging to the New England Patriots. Not the brand, not some image, not the Patriot Way, but the actual on-field product. Lifting a friend in the air and attempting wrestling moves (and that was a hideous DDT) is inviting further damage to a left arm that has been broken twice in the last three months. This isn’t taking a picture with a porn star or dancing a week before surgery, this is pure recklessness. Rob Gronkowski is a $54 million investment for the Patriots ($18 million guaranteed) and a massive part of the future of the franchise. This is a guy who could easily end up in Canton if he can stay healthy. So is there any upside to his actions in Las Vegas, does it make any sense for Gronkowski to risk another setback?

I’m all for Gronk being Gronk — all we in the media do is bash the Patriots for not having personality, for following every Belichick command, so it seems inconsistent that Gronkowski’s individualism is being criticized — but there are limits, and it was crossed in Las Vegas. The act has to change just a little, some tweaking is needed. That’s all, the world isn’t ending, no criminal acts were committed. It was a 23-year-old acting like a 23-year-old without a $54 million contract and all the serious responsibilities that go along with that deal.

So Bill Belichick or Bob Kraft or Tom Brady (maybe all three, who knows?) needs to have the talk with Gronkowski (I’m guessing he’s already had the other talk). The TMZ footage was the tipping point, plain and simple.

And the message should be this: Don’t put yourself or the New England Patriots in danger. Enjoy being a single, famous and rich 23-year-old, but don’t cross the line again.

 

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Report: Junior Seau had brain disease 01.10.13 at 7:52 am ET
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Gina Seau, the ex-wife of former NFL star Junior Seau, told ABC News that her former husband’s brain has tested positive for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to memory loss, depression and dementia. Junior Seau committed suicide last May, shooting himself in the chest at his home in Oceanside, Cailf. Within hours of his death, the Seau family had received calls from researchers hoping to use Seau’s brain for study.

The Seau family ultimately selected the National Institutes of Health, and five independent brain specialists consulted by the NIH all came to the conclusion that Seau suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease associated with head trauma. Over 4,000 former NFL players are currently suing the league in federal court, claiming the league refuse to acknowledge the link between brain damage and football, even after CTE was found in retired players. The Seau family has not decided if it would join in the lawsuits.

“I think it’s important for everyone to know that Junior did indeed suffer from CTE,” Gina Seau told ABC News. “It’s important that we take steps to help these players. We certainly don’t want to see anything like this happen again to any of our athletes.”

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Key Moments: Rob Ninkovich forces pair of fumbles 10.07.12 at 7:30 pm ET
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For the Patriots, the key moment in Sunday’s 31-21 win over the Broncos came with five minutes left in the third quarter. Following a 16-play, 80-yard drive that gave New England a 24-7 lead — a drive that was kept alive by an unlikely 19-yard rush by Danny Woodhead on a 3rd-and-17 at the New England 43-yard line — the Broncos began a drive at their own 20-yard line.

On the first play of the drive, Peyton Manning was sacked by Rob Ninkovich, who beat tackle Orlando Franklin on the edge to get a hit on the quarterback, causing a fumble. (Chandler Jones also hit Manning on the play, beating Ryan Clady). Vince Wilfork recovered the fumble for the Patriots at the Denver 14-yard line.

The Patriots cashed in on the turnover quickly, as Shane Vereen drew an 11-yard pass interference call on Joe Mays on the first play of the drive. After a false start penalty from Nate Solder pushed the Patriots back five yards, Stevan Ridley rushed for an eight-yard TD (with solid blocking on the left side from Solder and Daniel Fells) to give the Patriots a 31-7 lead.

The Broncos rallied, however, and cut the lead to 31-21 and were at the New England 14-yard line late in the fourth quarter. That’s when Ninkovich made another impact play, stripping Willis McGahee (who had a crucial fourth-down drop earlier) of the ball on a second-down rush. Jermaine Cunningham recovered for the Patriots, who were able to convert a pair of third-down plays to run out the clock and move to 3-2 on the season.

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Key Moment: Second Stevan Ridley TD puts game away 09.30.12 at 4:22 pm ET
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For the Patriots, the key moment in Sunday’s 52-28 win over the Bills came with 11:46 left in the fourth quarter. Stevan Ridley followed Dan Connolly (in at fullback) and Donald Thomas to the end zone for his second touchdown of the game, giving the Patriots a 35-21 lead that the Bills wouldn’t challenge. It was part of a stretch that saw the Patriots wipe out a 21-7 Buffalo lead by scoring touchdowns on six consecutive drives. The 45 points scored by the Patriots in the second half is a franchise record.

The Patriots began the drive at the Buffalo 42-yard line following a Fred Jackson fumble forced by Brandon Spikes, the second fumble forced by the linebacker on the day (and one of six Buffalo turnovers). The Patriots went to the ground to drive down the field, as Brandon Bolden and Ridley combined for 40 yards on three carries (two by Bolden for a total of 27 yards) to land at the Buffalo 2-yard line. After a first-down toss to Rob Gronkowski that was nearly intercepted (a strange call at best, given how the drive was progressing), Ridley rushed to the left side the TD.

That rush for Ridley was part of an astonishing afternoon of production for the Patriots rushing attack, as Ridley (106) and Bolden (137) both went over 100 yards, the first time since November 23, 1980 (Don Calhoun and Vagas Ferguson) that two Patriots backs had 100 or more yards rushing in the same contest. The Patriots, without Logan Mankins, rushed for 247 yards in the win, most since December 14, 2008 vs. Raiders (277 yards).

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Opinion: Blame Roger Goodell, owners for replacement disaster 09.24.12 at 1:46 am ET
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Greed.

Roger Goodell has been NFL commissioner since 2006. (AP)

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has come under fire for his handling of the referee situation. (AP)

That’s the only reason you, me and 15 million others had to watch replacement officials do everything possible to screw up what should have been a terrific football game on Sunday night.

This is only about billionaire owners not wanting to lose a fight to referees, plain and simple. Follow the money and all that. We can knock Roger Goodell all day about this — and plenty of it is justified, to be sure — but if the owners told Goodell tomorrow to make a deal, Goodell would make a deal.

But that’s not going to happen. As hideous as the replacement officials were on Sunday night — players fighting after plays with no flags thrown, 24 accepted penalties for 215 yards and 13 first downs, botched holding and pass interference calls, utterly and completely overwhelmed refs who seemingly were intimidated by coaches and players, total amateur hour — it won’t change what really matters to Goodell and the owners.

Ratings aren’t going anywhere, which means money for the networks, which will eventually mean more money for the NFL. We know now that player safety and the integrity of the game don’t mean nearly as much as making every last dollar of profit. And no one is going to stop watching games and paying for Sunday Ticket and gambling on games and playing fantasy football. From a strictly financial perspective, where is the motivation to make a deal with the refs?

I get that it’s a business, I really do. No problem there. But don’t try, as Goodell as done over the last couple of years, to sell me on the idea that player safety is paramount. It’s not. Concussions only landed on Goodell’s radar because of lawsuits. Fear of losing money was the motivation. And now the chance to save some money is why you’ve got Division 3 officials looking like Division 3 officials every Sunday. Has “protecting the shield” ever seemed more disingenuous than it did on Sunday night?

Don’t blame the replacement officials, either. It’s not their fault that owners want to make the very best deal possible — quality of the product be damned — or that the regular officials want to continue their defined-benefit pension plan (the league wants to put a freeze on that plan and shift them over to a 401(k)).

Read the rest of this entry »

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Key Moment: Devin McCourty penalty sets up game-winning field goal 09.24.12 at 12:08 am ET
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For the Patriots, the key moment in Sunday’s 31-30 loss to the Ravens came on the game’s final play. For the second straight week for New England, a kicker faced a potential game-winning field goal. Last Sunday, Stephen Gostkowski missed a 47-yard kick in the loss to the Cardinals. Baltimore rookie kicker Justin Tucker was successful in his game-winning attempt, barely sneaking in a 27-yarder to give the Ravens the win and send the Patriots to 1-2 on the season and under .500 for the first time since losing the season opener to Buffalo in 2003.

(Vince Wilfork was adamant that Tucker missed the kick, yelling at officials in the end zone. Bill Belichick grabbed an official by the arm after the game, but the official ran by the New England coach and did not speak to Belichick.)

The Ravens started the game-winning drive at the New England 21, with Joe Flacco connecting with Jacoby Jones for a 24-yard gain. Dennis Pitta had a 17-yard catch on the drive, but it was Devin McCourty (who was beat by Jones on the 24-yard catch) with the key miscue of the game, flagged (correctly) for pass interference on Jones, setting up a first down at the New England 7-yard line. Two plays later Tucker kicked the winner, an attempt that very nearly missed to the right.

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Key Moment: Stephen Gostkowski missed FG gives Cardinals a shocking win 09.16.12 at 4:29 pm ET
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The key moment in Sunday’s 20-18 loss to the Cardinals came with seven seconds left in the fourth quarter, as Stephen Gostkowski missed a 42-yard field goal following an improbable Ryan Williams fumble with 1:01 left in the game that gave the Patriots a chance to win a game they didn’t deserve.

The Patriots were seemingly finished at the time of the fumble, out of timeouts and in need of a football miracle,a miracle that appeared to be granted as Brandon Spikes forced the fumble on Williams and Vince Wilfork recovered at the Arizona 30.

Following a Danny Woodhead rush for a TD that was wiped out by a Rob Gronkowski holding call, Tom Brady took a knee and then spiked the ball on the next two plays to set up Gostkowksi, who had made all four field goals, including two of more than 50 yards. But he was unable to convert on a fifth, missing wide left and giving the Cardinals a shocking victory at Gillette Stadium.

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