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New England Patriots News 12-18, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
December 18, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Posted: Dec 18, 2016 05:00
🕑 Read Time: 9 minutes

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 12-18, and AFC East Notes for this week.

Ever Wonder What It is Like to be a Part of the End Zone Militia?
Everyone who has ever been to or watched a Patriots game on television knows who the Patriots End Zone Militia is. Every time LeGarrette Blount scores a touchdown at home, he rushes to take a photo with the group. They are instantly recognizable in their Colonial garb but much of the background information on them is still cloaked in the shadows.

We were able to sit down with one of the senior members of the militia, Bob Elliott this week. Bob and his wife Katherine are a wonderful couple who are actively involved in Millbury’s Asa Waters Mansion. Not surprisingly, it is a Colonial-era mansion that maintains the look and feel of that era. Katherine, until recently was the Executive Director there until retiring. Bob and members of the militia have appeared at events there as well.

I asked Bob how the militia got started and was surprised to learn it wasn’t with the Pats. “No, it wasn’t,” he said. “The group originally got started with the New England Revolution (soccer team). It wasn’t until later the group starting attending Patriots games in the old stadium.”

Bob has been with the group since 1998 and has seen plenty of Patriots games with the best standing spot (they don’t sit) in the stadium. So…I asked, ‘How does one become a member of the Militia?’ Bob laughed, “it is a question we get asked a lot,” he said. “You have to be a regular Revolutionary War reenactor for about 5-years, and have to own all of your own gear.”

“And if there is an opening, we’ll bring someone on board.”  But don’t hold your breath. Bob has seen only about 3-4 additions in his 18 years there as some members move away or retire. There are 37 members of the End Zone Militia but only 20 work each game, 10 in each end zone. When members have family or other commitments, they’ll pass off a certain game to the backups. The senior members, like Elliott, get to pick which games they can work.

They were strictly unpaid volunteers until the 2012 season. “The NFL was cracking down on the number of volunteers on the field, so Mr. Kraft immediately put us on the payroll.” Is it a lot I asked? He laughed again, “no it isn’t a Tom Brady type contract. But it does cover the cost of our black powder but not much else.” But to a man or woman, that isn’t why they are here.

What was the most magical or special moment in your 18 years here I asked him? He didn’t hesitate. “The final game in the old stadium, the Snow-Bowl, Tuck Rule Game. It was really special. The near blizzard conditions, fans throwing snow in the air, I will never forget that night,” he said.

“It was so dramatic and then we fired a shot after the Patriots won and a few days later a friend of mine called my wife and said, ‘did you know that your husband is in Sports Illustrated?’ What a great time that was.”

Finally, I asked him if the End Zone Militia would travel to Houston this year if the Patriots make the trip. “We’ve never been asked,” he said. “But we’d all go in a heartbeat.” You get that Mr. Kraft?

Patriots End Zone Militia, Bob Elliott, third from the left. (Bob Elliott Facebook page)

Goodell and the NFL Show Their Bias with the Deflategate II and Walkie-Talkie Issue with the Giants:
Just when you thought that the Deflategate sorry saga was finally over and done with, it raises its ugly head and more questions about the NFL and Roger Goodell. Jay Glazer broke this story on Fox’s pregame show last week.

Two weeks ago, the Giants were playing the Steelers and intercepted two of Ben Roethlisberger’s passes. When the footballs were on the sidelines, the Giants thought that the footballs were feeling soft and measured them on the sidelines. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported that the two footballs in question measured 11.4 and 11.8 PSI which is below the league mandated 12.5 PSI. The Giants alerted league officials about it but did not make a formal complaint. Ben McAdoo the Giants coach admitted, that this is how they found out about the air pressure. There were two things that needed to be addressed about this incident by the league.

First, why were the Giants in possession of a gauge or measuring device on the sideline when those are expressly forbidden by the NFL? Second, where was the leaks of this information by the league office to selected media members. Where was Mike Kensil rushing to the Pittsburgh sideline and yelling at the Steelers’ coaches that “you’re in big f**king trouble.” Where was Ted Wells hiring a junk science firm that will say whatever you want them to, so long as you’re the one footing the bill?

After all, this Commissioner stated that air deflated from a football was akin to performance enhancing drugs. And the rules would be applied EVENLY and enforced as such across the board. And where the hell was that dreaded word that Goodell shoved down New England’s collective throats for 15 months? What about the “Integrity of the Game” Roger?

The league would have never mentioned it, had not Glazer done so in the pregame of last week’s games. But did the NFL leak out erroneous BS data to media members to enrage the populace? Nope…silence. For a week. And then about an hour after Glazer’s report, they released a statement that effectively ended any further discussion.

“The officiating game ball procedures were followed and there was no chain of command (sic… custody) issues,” the league’s statement read. “All footballs were in compliance and no formal complaint was filed by the Giants with our office.” No, they weren’t because no one is supposed to have a gauge on the sideline. But Goodell pooh-poohed that off as well, “You have to go by the league’s gauges? Really?

What does this tell you? That the league’s little data collection exercise of 2015 with the air pressure in the footballs showed what any smart sixth grader already knew. That the Ideal Gas Law, which the blowhards on Park Avenue never heard of before the 2014 AFC Championship, showed that air pressure will drop in footballs in cold weather.

Did we want Ben Roethlisberger punished with a suspension and the Steelers to lose a million bucks and multiple draft picks? No, because the air deflation happens naturally in every football in cold weather.

Except if your name is Tom Brady and you play for the Patriots. It shows that this was a set-up from the jump and Goodell caved to teams and owners that were sick of seeing the Patriots win too consistently. Not even the most die-hard fan would expect to ever see the league recompense the Pats the draft picks, but this latest NFL fiasco should clear the Patriots name in this bogus generated mess. Not that they’d ever say so.

But one has to consider this… if the Giants were playing New England two weeks ago, would the Mara Family, the owners of the Giants have made a complaint?

The second issue also had to do with McAdoo and the Giants. During Sunday night’s game in the Meadowlands against Dallas, Eli Manning was having consistent problems hearing the play call from the sidelines. During the 4th quarter, it stopped completely.

But in plain view of the television audience, McAdoo was calling the plays to Manning on a walkie-talkie which is expressly verboten by the league as well. As I watched this unfold, I grabbed my phone and was monitoring Twitter as I assumed (you know what happens there) that the national media would be screaming for a pound of flesh from the Giants. Nada, nicht, nothing.

Peter King in his MMQB, didn’t even mention it although he talked about the game at length. From the league? Deafening silence. On Friday, the NFL issued a statement that they were “looking into the Giants use of a walkie talkie,” McAdoo mentioned in his Friday presser that he and the team were cooperating with the league’s investigation. The Cowboys, it has been reported had NOT made a formal complaint. Now imagine this was Belichick. Would the media be so quiet? Would the Jones? Or the league?

Floyd Signing Draws the Ire of Two Former Colts:
After a disappointing season with rumors of a work ethic problem, the Arizona Cardinals released wide receiver Michael Floyd after being arrested for DUI on Monday morning. After passing thru waivers, the Patriots claimed him on Thursday.

He practiced on Friday and traveled with the team to Denver although it is unsure whether he’ll be active. It was a low-cost, possible high reward move as the Pats are only on the hook for Floyd’s remaining salary, about $1.2 million dollars.

But two former members of the Colts organization, General Manager Bill Polian, and C Jeff Saturday, lambasted the move. Polian, stated that Colts fans would never approve of such a move and Saturday, went even further stating, “What is this? A win at all costs mentality?

I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of this signing either, but for different reasons and these two ring of sour grapes. Please don’t throw stones at a guy who, no doubt was driving intoxicated but you were strangely silent when the owner of the Colts was arrested with cocaine and a load of cash in the trunk.

Nobody from the Colts talked about winning at all costs when WR Marvin Harrison shot a man in 2010. And the same man was later found shot to death just blocks from a bar Harrison owned. The only surveillance video of the shooting death was ironically from Harrison’s own bar, but….had three minutes of video erased when the shooter approached the man’s car and could have been identified.

Who Do You Like This Week:
Last week’s picks were 8-8 putting me at 112-84-2 on the year. So, who do you like today?

I am going with Seattle (Thursday Night Football picked last Sunday), Miami on Saturday night and for the games today, GB, Buffalo, Baltimore, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, NYG, Minnesota, Houston, Arizona, Atlanta, Oakland, NE, Dallas, and Washington.

Early pick for Thursday Night Football, NYG over the Philly. Saturday’s Christmas Eve slate …Buffalo, NE, Tenn, GB, Cleveland, Washington, Atlanta, Oakland, TB, Seattle, LA, and the Texans.

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Bills Offer $10 an hour and a free ticket for shoveling snow:
The Buffalo Bills’ playoff hopes are barely hanging on but today, they face the Cleveland Browns and a chance to get untracked, both offensively and defensively. With the snow that fell over the stadium this weekend, the Bills were making an attractive offer to those who would help with the snow removal.

Bills management made an offer of $10 and hour to anyone 18-years old or older who agreed to shovel snow out of the stadium, but there were perks. If you shoveled for four hours or more, you got a free ticket to the game. Or if you couldn’t make four hours, you could purchase a ticket to the game for just $8.

Granted the Browns are winless but the Bills are still in the hunt for a playoff spot. That is a pretty cheap ticket. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. and the temps are scheduled to be around 30 degrees with scattered snow showers.

Moore, Maxwell Are the Focus Players for Saturday Night Game:
The Miami Dolphins will have completed their Saturday night game against the Jets when this hits the airwaves. But the story of the game going into the Meadowlands this week center around QB Matt Moore and CB Byron Maxwell.

Moore is getting the start, his first in five years and will have to play well if the Dolphins want to keep their playoff hopes alive with Ryan Tannehill out with a knee injury. How will the perennial backup fare against their hated rivals? Fair or not, he’ll be judged by how well the offense played in a cold, stadium, something that they’re not accustomed to.

Maxwell is a great story himself, after a disastrous campaign in Philly in 2015, he ended up with Miami and his season didn’t exactly light the world on fire. He was benched briefly but since returning to the starting lineup, he’s performed excellently and now is one of the bright spots for the Miami defense.

In a hidden chess match of this game, Jets WR Brandon Marshall has been involved in a war of words with Maxwell all season, prior to the November meeting, he claimed that Maxwell held on every play, back in 2015 and this week said he was bringing his own flag to the game …ostensibly to help the referees out.

Are Petty and Hackenberg the Future for the Jets? They Better Be:
The New York Jets have had a nightmarish 2016 after Coach Todd Bowles first year had them filled with such hope. Injuries, poor play, and some questionable decisions have derailed the year that the team hoped would result in a playoff spot. But the most glaring position this year was one, they’d hoped they were prepared for. The quarterback position.

The team went out and signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a big one-year deal with options and the hope was that Fitzy could recreate more of the magic from 2015 where he led the Jets to an improbable 10-6 record. But that hasn’t materialized. Fitzpatrick has been a turnover machine throwing14 interceptions against just 10 touchdowns this season. He was benched for Bryce Petty.

Petty was drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft and in a perfect world, would become the Jets backup quarterback. The team may let him finish out this season to see what they have in him but here lies the crux of the matter. Many Jets fans and some media think the team will jump into the 2017 NFL Draft for the fifth straight season looking for a franchise quarterback. That would be a big mistake.

The Jets spent a 2nd round pick this season on Christian Hackenberg. He hasn’t even taken the field yet. Washing your hands from this young QB this soon would be disastrous for Gang Green. But we’ve seen this before and there are some who are clamoring for the Jets to draft either DeShone Kizer from Notre Dame or DeShaun Watson from Clemson.

Will they do it again and go high for another young QB? Smart money says no because none of the QBs in this draft stand out so far. But time will tell.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

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About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at, as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Posted Under: NFL Commentary
Tags: 2016 NFL Season 2016 Patriots season Bill Belichick Brandon LaFell Buffalo Bills Chris Hogan Danny Amendola DeflateGate Denver Broncos Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower Jabaal Sheard Jimmy Garoppolo Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Malcolm Butler Martellus Bennett Miami Dolphins New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Pats Rex Ryan Rob Gronkowski Rob Ninkovich Social Media Tom Brady Trey Flowers

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