It’s the end of another work week. Time to suck it up for one more day so that we can kick back and enjoy the weekend, so for now, here’s a look at this morning’s top stories.
Summer of Gronk begins – Man, it’s got to be good to be Rob Gronkowski.
Honestly, try and think of another player that even falls into the same category. Forget the fact that he’s arguably the best tight end in the game right now. since that’s obviously a given. But in terms of his overall demeanor and the way he carries himself off the field, he’s just a fun guy who loves what he does and he’s making the most of it.
He was excited on Thursday when he announced he made the cover of the upcoming Madden 17 video game, which features the veteran tight end making his first cover on the popular sports game. But that wasn’t the only cover he made.
Gronkowski is on the cover of GQ with model Hailey Clauson, with the two appearing in a photo spread in the magazine that features Gronk sipping from a nipple cup, running naked into the ocean with an also nude Clauson, as well as partying and having fun as only he can. Some of the images are obviously a little ridiculous, but it’s just Gronk being Gronk. Here in New England, we get it. Outside of here, there are likely plenty of fans of other teams who probably won’t be impressed, but those of us who have followed him closely appreciate the type of guy that he is. He’s a player who doesn’t get arrested and isn’t out causing trouble, and during football season it’s always business. He plays for one of the most competitive teams in the league with the best quarterback and coach, and when it’s time to take it to another level, you have to appreciate the way he’s able to handle himself when it matters.
Has there ever been a player like Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski? (USA TODAY Images)
But to Gronkowski, it’s obvious that the benefits of the photo shoots and endorsements aren’t first and foremost on his mind. Whether he’s hanging out with kids at a local high school, visiting the local children’s hospital, he’s also a player who is active in the community and with everything going on in what is likely a pretty hectic life, somehow he still finds away to balance it all. He admitted during the middle of last season that it’s not easy, but making a difference is important to him and he’s trying to use his success to inspire others.
“You can’t do it all,” Gronkowski said via ESPN last November. “You get many requests all the time, but I still have to focus on football, still have to live my life a little bit. But there are definitely times during the week when you want to take time out. “I was always blessed growing up with opportunities and access to facilities, equipment, and playing with my brothers in the backyard to be the best athlete I could be. Everyone always helped me out growing up, and everyone now supports me Sunday. So whenever there’s a chance to give back, to the community, to the less fortunate kids so they have the opportunity to gain the most potential they can in their life to be successful, it’s always good to do.”
He’s just a genuine guy who enjoys being the best he can be both on and off the field. It’s no wonder it’s good to be Gronk, because good things tend to happen to good people.
Caldwell’s Story a Sad One – You can’t help but shake your head a little bit when you go from talking about someone like Gronkowski, who wears #87, to a guy who once wore that same exact number before him, yet is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
The player we’re talking about is former Patriots’ receiver Reche Caldwell, who made the latest edition of ESPN the Magazine, but it certainly wasn’t for the right reason.
The former Patriots’ receiver, whose big eyes and less than reliable hands was part of a frustrating 2006 that ended with New England falling just short in the AFC Championship game in Indianapolis in a year where the Patriots easily could have taken care of the woeful Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl. Instead, a couple of ill-timed drops at the end of the contest derailed Tom Brady’s shot at a 4th ring and arguably also derailed Caldwell’s life.
He would go on to play one more season with the Washington Redskins after the Patriots brought in Wes Welker and Randy Moss the following year to rejuvenate their passing game, and Caldwell has since become a cautionary tale.
He’s been in trouble with the law for a while now, with charges ranging from running an illegal gambling ring (which he happened to set up right next to an elementary school), to being caught ordering a synthetic type of MDMA (which depending on the form can be ecstasy or ‘Molly’). The best part about that story is he ordered the synthetic MDMA from China, which got flagged by a postal inspector after it tested positive for the substance. From there a federal agent, who was posing as a UPS employee, was sent to deliver it. After Caldwell signed for it, he was ambushed by a SWAT team who quickly apprehended him.
“He had been caught red-handed,” Caldwell’s attorney, Nicholas Matassini, said via ESPN. “And by that I mean the drugs were literally found, by police, in the hands of my client, who was also tracking them on his phone.”
How did he find out where to order it from to begin with?
“I Googled it, baby!” he said in the article.
Reading his comments it’s amazing how relaxed his attitude remains, especially considering the episode landed him in prison. He’s had his fair share of legal issues over the years leading up to that arrest, and one can only hope that for the sake of his kids he’s able to turn his life around.
Fortunately for Caldwell the amount of trouble hasn’t put him in a situation where he can’t start making a turn in the right direction. He’s obviously a criminal given his transgressions, but considering how much worse it could have been, the opportunity is certainly there to start trying to get back on the right track.
He at least takes responsibility for his mistakes, which is obviously the first step. What he does from here on out, is obviously up to him.
“I’m not gonna blame football or concussions like everybody else for my mistakes,” he told the magazine. “I don’t blame my education or my hometown or my family. I have a great family. I had a great childhood. I grew up in a great place. This is about losing my way, being around bad people and making bad choices, and that’s all on me.”
Opportunity is knocking for rookie Vincent Valentine. (USA TODAY Images)
Valentine Motivated – After drafting Vincent Valentine in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, the rookie was arguably one of the more criticized selections by critics who questioned his work ethic.
They questioned his desire and his conditioning. They criticized his technique. If you listened to or read a lot of what came out, it was hard not to wonder who was right and who was exaggerating.
At the end of the day, any opportunity is only what you make of it, and the good news is it sounds like a lot of the talk might be exactly what Valentine needed to light a fire as he heads into his first season in the NFL.
“The past is the past,” Valentine told CSNNE.com. “I’m going to use that as motivation. I’ve got a lot of things to do out here. But the past is the past. I’m trying to put the whole thing at Nebraska behind me and just become as good as I can here. I’m not really worried about how things went at Nebraska — I know things could have been better — but I’m in a good spot now, and I think the coaches are ready to bring me along and I’m ready to be as good as I can.”
It sounds like he’s got the right attitude. One of the toughest parts about this market is the amount of intense media scrutiny this team is under each week and the amount of coverage this area receives. He’s not in Nebraska any more and everyone knows how things get amped up even more during the regular season when the games really start to matter.
Fortunately this is the best time to get the work in while media access is limited and the microscope isn’t quite completely on him just yet. For now he’ll just need to get used to learning how to ignore the noise and proving why the Patriots saw something special in him.
“It’s their opinion,” said Valentine of his critics, “but they can’t stop me from putting in work every day and bettering myself. I kind of tune that out and not pay attention to that as much. I’m in the position I’m at right now for a reason — it didn’t just happen, it didn’t just fall out of the sky. But I’m just excited to be here.”
Montana Believes in Brady – As Tom Brady continues his quest for a 5th Super Bowl ring, the honor would put him ahead of his childhood idol, Joe Montana, who like Brady also has four rings. Winning one for the thumb would obviously further cement Brady’s legacy as the best to ever play the game at his position, edging out the Hall of Fame quarterback.
That seems incredible to think about, and it’s one of those things that you can’t really appreciate until one day it comes to an end because watching Brady on a week-in, week-out basis sort of makes it hard to grasp how incredible a run he’s been on.
It took nearly 10 years in between titles before Brady managed to win his fourth Lombardi Trophy, which included a miracle play at the end by Malcom Butler that finally went their way to help seal the deal. But getting one more seems to be within reach and when you look at who he’s surrounded by right now with the team they’ve managed to build, even Montana acknowledged this group is pretty good.
In fact, Montana believes that if they can keep it going, he thinks Brady could win his fifth title.
“If the Patriots keep the team together, Tom’s got a good chance [to win a fifth Super Bowl title before he retires],” Montana told NFL.com. It’s hard to keep the teams together, and you have to have things going your way at the end of the line.”
“Sometimes it’s easier to get close to it than actually to obtain it. He’s definitely had some pretty good years at this point.”
And hopefully for Brady’s sake, he’s still got a couple more left in him before he joins Montana in retirement.
Jones happy to get a shot – You can coach technique and you can coach X’s and O’s, but you can’t coach sub 4.4 speed and that’s an asset that the Patriots are probably hoping they can utilize from Auburn’s Jonathan Jones.
Jones, who is an undrafted free agent looking to earn a spot on New England’s roster, ran a 4.33 40 time, which as the Boston Herald’s Chris Mason pointed out marked the first time since 2006 that a cornerback with the fastest 40-time had not gone lower than pick No. 100.
Part of that likely had to do with his height, with Jones measuring at under 5’9″, hardly the size you hope for considering a lot of the bigger receivers coming into the league. Obviously everyone passed on him and it’s always interesting to see which player can prove the doubters wrong. It’s all about making the most out of a given opportunity and that was one of the things that attracted Jones when it came to picking New England.
“Here you understand that you have an opportunity,” Jones told the Herald. “You have a fair shot and an opportunity and at the end of the day it’s what you do, and you’ll see the results of what you put in.”
He’s already an established athlete, having won a national championship as a hurdler. That type of athleticism is certainly a great thing to have and given the fact Jones played special teams at Auburn, having someone like that streaking up the field in a unit that Belichick values greatly could potentially help him make the team.
These are the types of stories you always love to hear about, and should he survive into training camp, it sounds like #31 may be a number to watch to see whether or not he can earn a spot on the roster.
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