|Snap Judgments: Jimmy Garoppolo starts, gets plenty of help in Patriots’ preseason win over Saints||08.11.16 at 10:49 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Jimmy Garoppolo started and played the entire first half, going 11-for-18 for 168 yards in Thursday’s preseason opener, a 34-22 win for the Patriots over the Saints.
Garoppolo, who started a preseason game for the first time since 2014, got the call in place of Tom Brady. The youngster was shaky out of the gate but finished strong, going 8-for-11 for 135 yards down the stretch in the second quarter. Malcolm Mitchell suffered a nasty elbow injury late in the second quarter and did not return, but had four catches for 55 yards while he was on the field. Marcellus Bennett added three receptions for 33 yards, while Brandon Bolden added 33 yards on four carries.
Rookie Jacoby Brissett replaced Garoppolo to start the second half, and ended up 7-for-13 for 68 yards. Running back Tyler Gaffney added nine carries for 64 yards and a touchdown in the second half.
But the big story on the evening was Garoppolo, who finished with 40 snaps. He engineered one scoring drive, a four-play, 84-yard sequence that was highlighted by a 56-yard pass play to running back James White and was capped off with a 1-yard run by LeGarrette Blount. The Patriots had a touchdown opportunity at the end of the second quarter come up just short when a Garoppolo pass to the end zone for James White from the New Orleans’ 9-yard line was knocked away at the last second, sending the teams into the locker room with New England holding a 17-16 halftime lead.
Here’s what we’ll be keeping an extra close eye on when the Patriots meet the Saints in the preseason opener for both teams Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.
Who plays: Reportedly, Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman will not play. For the record, over the last 10 years Brady has sat for the first preseason game three times: 2014, 2011 and 2008. (For those of you projecting six months down the road, the Patriots reached the Super Bowl on two of those occasions.) As for Gronkowski and Edelman, both have consecutive-game preseason absences on the line. The big tight end hasn’t played in a preseason game since 2012, missing 13 straight. And Edelman has missed five consecutive preseason games dating back to last year. Not that it’s a huge surprise, but count on Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis and Sebastian Vollmer not to play as well, as they’ve been out of action to this point all summer.
Quarterback reps: As we have said all summer, not all reps are created equal. (That’s one of the reasons we’re not obsessively cataloguing who gets what opportunities every day when it comes to 7-on-7s.) Keeping in mind Bill Belichick’s directive at the start of camp that the goal was to make Jimmy Garoppolo as ready as possible for the regular season, it’s a sign that in this case, the value of preseason game reps trumps those in practice. For those of you wondering how much work is too much for Garoppolo, here’s a look at his preseason stat line from 2015.
vs. Green Bay — 56 snaps, 20-for-30, 159 yards, 1 INT
vs. New Orleans — 70 snaps, 28-for-33, 269 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
vs. Carolina — 33 snaps, 13-for-17, 126 yards, 1 TD
vs. NYG — DNP
One more note on Garoppolo: While the circumstances were different, it’s worth noting that the last time he started in the preseason, it was 2014 finale against the Giants. In that one, he went wire to wire, playing 69 snaps and finishing 22-for-42 for 284 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
|Report: Robert Kraft among investor group vying to buy UFC||06.16.16 at 6:14 pm ET|
Robert Kraft is already synonymous with winning in football, and apparently he wants to expand his empire to include the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
According to a report on ESPN, Kraft is part of a group attempting to buy the UFC in a deal that could top $4 billion. The report, from business reporter Darren Rovell, said that Kraft and other investors have agreed to put up $25 million to $50 million each with WME-IMG in conjunction with Dalian Wanda Group. WME is co-chaired by Ari Emanuel, reportedly the inspiration for Jeremy Piven’s Ari Gold character on HBO’s Entourage.
A group of investors from China are also in the running for the wildly successful UFC, the brainchild of former Boston resident Dana White.
The UFC, which has made crossover stars out of fighters like Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor, and Chuck Liddell, reportedly grossed over $600 million last year.
Bidding is drawing to a close and could be decided on Friday, ESPN reported.
|Malcolm Butler with Butch and Tomase on contract: ‘I’m not going to discuss that right now’||05.22.16 at 4:22 pm ET|
If the Patriots hadn’t signed Malcolm Butler as an undrafted free agent two years ago, there’s no telling what he’d be doing. But it probably wouldn’t involve the NFL.
Speaking to Butch and Tomase on Saturday before attending an event at Premier Fence in Canton, Butler discussed his fortuitous arrival in New England, explained why he’s been so driven not to be defined as a one-hit wonder, and chafed when asked to address his rookie contract, which runs through the coming season.
“I’m not going to discuss that right now,” Butler said of his contract. “Whenever the time comes, it comes. I’m a football player. I’m not a GM.”
Butler has one year remaining on his deal before becoming a restricted free agent in 2017. He made his first Pro Bowl last season.
Butler was happy to rewind to May of 2014, when the Patriots came calling after he had gone undrafted out of West Alabama. He officially signed on May 19 of that year.
“I didn’t watch the draft until the last couple of rounds on the last day,” he said. “Just being honest with myself, I knew I [probably] wasn’t going to get drafted, so if I was going to get drafted, it would be in the late rounds and I’d get a phone call later. I was just at home, just got done working out, watching the draft. I’m thinking it’s going to be a good little while before someone calls me, and I see a 508 number. I get the call, and I came up to try out and I think Nick Caserio called me into his office. He’d liked what I’d done, and we went on from there.”
Surprisingly, not a single other team contacted Butler after he went undrafted. If the Patriots hadn’t signed him, he’s not sure where he’d be.
“Only team,” he said. “Only team. I hate to even think about it. I hate to think about it. I’m just glad it happened. I’m just glad the New England Patriots called me and everything happened the right way, which it has.”
As for his breakout season last year, Butler was determined not to be defined by his game-sealing interception against the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
“AIE — that’s my motto. Attitude is everything,” Butler said. “I just put my mind to it that I wasn’t going to fall off from that play. That was an awesome play. I’ll never be able to do that again. I don’t think so, no I don’t think so. But when you’re doing that and that’s what you’re known for doing, that play, it’s kind of hard to replace that moment and live up to that moment. I’m not going to be able to go out there and do it over and over. I just kept the drive and just wanted to be a great player. I didn’t want to be defined by that one play, which I haven’t. I still have a lot more that I want to prove.
“I’ll never be able to do that again. Man, I just want to go out there and be a great football player. I got tired of the noise, talking about we’ll never hear from him again, lucky play and all that. I just used that as motivation to be a better player, and I always knew I’d be a good player in this league. I’ve still got a lot of work to do, and I’m looking forward to this season.”
|NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: West Virginia S Karl Joseph||03.18.16 at 9:26 am ET|
WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2016 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection. Although the Patriots do not own a first-round pick due to their punishment for Deflategate — and there are restrictions on their ability to trade up — we will include likely first-round picks in case someone slips or the Pats are able to swing a deal.
Position: Strong safety
School: West Virginia
Weight: 197 pounds
Achievements: 2015 All-Big 12 honorable mention, 2014 All-Big 12 first team, 2013 All-Big 12 honorable mention, 2012 WVU Defensive Player of the Year
What he brings: Across the board, scouts have raved about Joseph’s physicality and ability to play bigger than his size. NFL.com raves, “Against the pass, he has excellent instincts and range from the deep middle.” Additionally, he has been described as an explosive athlete with excellent speed and agility. Joseph “loves violent contact,” according to CBS Sports, which added that the senior “times his hits well to jar the ball loose, accounting for eight forced fumbles over his career.”
Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 2-3
Notes: Joseph, a team captain, missed the second half of his senior season with a torn ACL, which also forced him to miss the NFL combine. He was tied for the FBS lead in interceptions with five at the time of his knee injury (which occurred during a non-contact drill in practice). Even with the missed time, he still holds the school record for most forced fumbles with eight. He was West Virgina’s leading tackler in 2014 with 92. Joseph saw more snaps than any other player on defense that year, playing a season-high 91 against Iowa State. He led the Mountaineers with 104 tackles as a freshman.
|Michael McCann on OM&F: ‘I was awestruck’ by judge’s comment about ‘overwhelming evidence’ against Tom Brady||03.04.16 at 11:54 am ET|
Sports Illustrated legal analyst/UNH law professor Michael McCann joined Ordway, Merloni & Fauria on Friday to discuss what went down in Thursday’s Deflategate appeal hearing. To hear the interview, go to the Ordway, Merloni & Fauria audio on demand page.
The judges in Thursday’s hearing seemed to favor the NFL, judging by the questions and comments they made. One judge described the evidence against Tom Brady as “overwhelming,” which came as a shock to many in the courtroom, including McCann.
“The ‘overwhelming evidence’ comment by Judge Chin, I was awestruck. I had no idea where that was coming from,” McCann said. “Even if you take the Wells Report at its word, it doesn’t make that point. This is taking what was ‘more probably than not’ and transforming it into ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ I don’t understand the sequence of how that happened in his mind.”
The appeal hearing was expected to be an evaluation of Judge Richard Berman’s ruling on the case, not an analysis of the case itself. Expectations certainly did not match up with reality, as the judges focused almost exclusively on details from the Wells Report. One of the pieces of evidence they felt was particularly damning was the destruction of Brady’s cell phone.
“Brady turned over all of the phone records. He turned over his emails. And by phone records, according to [NFLPA attorney Jeffrey] Kessler, Brady went to the phone company, he got all of the phone numbers that Brady called and texted, and the NFL already had all of those texts from [John] Jastremski and [Jim] McNally and others,” McCann said. “So, it’s not as if there’s this pool of information that Brady was hiding. The Wells Report and the NFL already had it. It’s almost like the judges weren’t as familiar with the facts as others are.”
Added McCann: “It’s very bizarre. Kessler tried to use the phone as a way of showing that Brady was treated unfairly. Specifically, Brady is punished by [Roger] Goodell after the Wells Report comes out. Brady then goes to arbitration, he goes to the appeal, and Goodell goes against him. Well, during that appeal, this phone issue surfaced, and Kessler said, ‘Look, you can’t come up with some new ground to punish Tom Brady during the appeal,’ because if you do that there’s no second appeal, there’s no double appeal or anything like that. So it’s really unfair to Brady to bring up new reasons during an appeal. We don’t do that in law. Judge Parker basically said, ‘Well, arbitrators do what they want.’ I was really surprised and, frankly, disappointed by that kind of reasoning.”
|Live blog: Follow all action, tweets, from Super Bowl 50||02.07.16 at 12:10 pm ET|
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