“If you ever dream of beating me, you better wake up and apologize”
Muhammad Ali 1942-2016
Good morning, here are Sunday’s New England Patriots news 6-5 notes and what’s happening around the AFC East.
We all lament the loss of Muhammad Ali today, he passed away late Friday evening due to complications from Parkinson’s Disease and will be missed. There was no better tribute than the one I read Saturday morning. I encourage you all to do yourselves a favor and read Ron Borges’ column in the Herald about “The Greatest”…you will be glad you did. Among boxing writers, Ron has no peer.
Brady has a Busy Week:
The New England Patriots Charitable Foundation handed out 26 awards this week to those “who exemplify leadership, dedication and a commitment to improving their communities through volunteerism.” The awards are in honor of the late Myra Kraft, the wife of Patriots owner Robert Kraft and president of the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation until her death in 2011. Two surprise last minute attendees were QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski.
Brady had a busy week, besides getting some help in his on-going court case with the NFL with both Bob Kraft and the AFL-CIO filing briefs to support his cause, he popped into the Charitable Foundation’s ceremony and then on Friday held his Annual “Best Buddies Charity Football Game at Harvard Stadium which was followed by the annual bike ride from Boston to Cape Cod.
The scene of him and 93-year old Ida May Molitor of Norton was perhaps the best of the event. Molitor shared a private moment with Brady. “He wished me a lot of luck and said I did a great job,” said Molitor. “He’s a wonderful man, not just for what he does for the team, but what he does for himself and other people.”
WEEI’s Mike Petraglia captured the moment on video, as Brady smiled and laughed as he shared a poignant moment with Molitor, who told him to “keep up the good work”.
A precious Tom Brady moment with 97-year old Ida May Molitor, who told Brady to "keep it up" pic.twitter.com/n9lGma405e
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) June 2, 2016
Among the Patriots current and former players taking part in the Best Buddies touch football game were Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis, Tedy Bruschi and Dan Koppen. Julian Edelman was forced to cheer from the sidelines with his foot still in a walking boot.
**** Who would’ve thought 500 days ago that the job status of John Jastremski would still generate this much of a buzz? ****
Slater Doesn’t Want to see Kickoffs Changed:
With OTAs closed this week to the media, not much could be discussed in regards to on-field production. But Matthew Slater was made available for a short press conference and he is not a fan of the new kickoff rule.
“I’m very disappointed, obviously, in the way we’re discussing the future of the kickoff,” Slater said live on Patriots.com. “The kickoff is a big part of the history of the NFL and the history of football. For us to be sitting here talking about maybe doing away with the kickoff, it’s very disappointing.”
The Patriots, have traditionally tended to put a big premium on special teams, the rule change will obviously have an effect on how they approach things this season.
Matthew Slater a Pro-Bowl Special Teams player isn’t pleased with the new rule changes regarding kickoffs in 2016. (USA TODAY Images)
“I don’t know how we’re going to approach it yet,” Slater said. “Right now, we’re just practicing our techniques the same way we would if it was last year. We’ll see. I certainly think there is a possibility that a lot of coaches are not going to want to hand teams the ball on the 25-yard line.”
“I don’t feel like that’s the best thing for the game,” Slater said. “But I understand they’re trying to do what’s best in terms of health and safety, and I respect that.” He added that with the kickoffs possibly being phased out of the game, it would mark the end of the careers for players like him and former Patriot Larry Izzo.
“There’s nothing more important than the health and safety of our players, but I do not think the kickoff is a hazard that we need to be thinking of getting rid of.”
Butler Contract Talk Likely to Carry On into Training Camp:
Depending on the sources used, Malcolm Butler was either dissatisfied with his contract situation and skipping OTAs or wasn’t upset at all and planning on going to this past week’s OTAs which…conveniently were closed to the media.
Regardless of the situation, the talk of Butler’s contract is bound to be a subject of much conversation right into training camp and beyond. Currently, he’s a bargain at $600,000 a year for 2016 considering he’s the Patriots top cornerback.
Mark me down as one of those in the column of now is the perfect time to get a long-term extension done. Butler has been an excellent find for the team and stringing him out, while possibly a smart financial decision, isn’t the way to approach the deal in paying for a player who’s best playing days are still ahead of him.
Belichick Unloads on Players at OTAs, not a coincidence:
There was some talk last week of Bill Belichick blowing up at the players during the only practice that the media was allowed to cover over the supposed lapse of the players in regards to the practice sequence. No big deal? Think again.
Belichick always has his teams extremely well prepared and the tiny details during May and June which may seem minor or trivial today, are quite possibly the difference between winning and losing those close games in November and December.
With Bill Belichick there is always a method to his actions and last week’s OTAs sent a firm message to the new players on the roster. (USA TODAY Images)
While the mantra in New England is always, “Believe in Bill”, here it is well justified. With the influx of new players this season, especially so many veterans, they’ll quickly learn that no stone is unturned with Belichick and the Pats.
The Patriots record since 2002 will bear this out. H/T to Russell Baxter for these stats.
Best Divisional Record in the AFC East – New England 65-19. NYJ next with 38 wins.
Best Road Record in the NFL – New England 76-36, next closest Indy (70-42)
Best Home Record in the NFL – New England 95-17, next closest Baltimore (82-30)
There’s a reason the Patriots have had an unprecedented era of greatness and their preparedness is right at the top of the list.
East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:
Dolphins to Host Falcons in Orlando Aug 25:
The NFL has given the Dolphins permission to move the preseason home game against the Falcons to Orlando to allow the stadium renovations some extra time in getting complete.
This week Miami was placing the last of the supports in place to support the huge roof that will be put up in the coming weeks. All the work is expected to be completed on-time for the regular season.
The league also announced that the Pro Bowl will move to Orlando on Sunday, January 29, 2017, with week-long festivities and practices held at Walt Disney World Resorts.
Jets Still No Answers in the Fitzpatrick Impasse:
The New York Jets are still playing the waiting game for QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to sign a contract and come back to the team. The team offered a three-year deal that would pay the veteran QB $12 million dollars in 2016, and then only $6 million in 2017-18 which by then they hope to have either Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty step into a starting role.
While the spring OTAs have had both WRs Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker return from their self-imposed exile in support of Fitzpatrick, training camp is just about six weeks away and nothing seems to be moving in a positive direction.
Best news of the week for Fitzpatrick? During a media attended practice, starting QB Geno Smith threw an interception right into the arms of CB Buster Skrine while the WR was in essence….triple coverage according to Jets sources.
Bills DL Worthy May Have Found Himself a Home:
While it is still very early, Buffalo may have been the perfect landing spot for DL Jerrell Worthy. The former 2nd round draft pick (51st overall) for the Packers in 2012 has been quietly turning heads with his performance thus far during the spring and has been getting increasing reps as a result.
The Bills signed Worthy to the practice squad last season and with a year under his belt in Rex Ryan’s system, he’s playing like a man that will see the field in 2016. He had his best season as a rookie, playing in 14 games, starting four and logging 2.5 sacks.
His playing time decreased and he was traded to the Patriots during training camp in 2014 before being cut loose. Now he’s happy for the opportunity to compete.
“Man, I’m honored at the opportunity and I just want to come out here and showcase my skills,” Worthy said. “Just to prove that I belong here and prove that I can help this organization win. Just be a key player in this defense.”
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: 2016 Patriots Roster 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Danny Amendola Dion Lewis Jabaal Sheard Julian Edelman Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots Tom Brady