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New England Patriots News 8-2, Belichick Respects Opt-Outs

Steve Balestrieri
1 week ago at 5:00 am ET

New England Patriots News 8-2, Belichick Respects Opt-OutsGeoff Burke - USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 08-02 and AFC East notes this week. 

We’d be remiss if we didn’t wish a (belated) Happy Birthday to one of our biggest supporters from across the pond today. We hope you had a great day Clare…

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL:

AB Suspended for 8 Games: Former Steelers and Patriots (for 1 game) wide receiver Antonio Brown can return to the NFL this season, but first he’s going to sit for at least eight games. The NFL suspended the mercurial Brown for “multiple violations of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy.”The league added…

“If he is signed before the start of the 2020 season, Brown would be eligible to participate in all of his club’s preseason activities. Brown’s suspension would take effect as of the final roster reduction on September 5. He would be eligible to return after the team’s eighth game… As part of the discipline, Brown was directed to continue his program of counseling and treatment, and that he is expected fully to cooperate with his clinicians.”

Bill Belichick: The coach during his virtual press conference was asked by ESPN’s Mike Reiss about the sandwich he ate while filming a recent commercial… Belichick, never one to reveal much said, “(The sandwich) was pretty good,” Belichick said. “I think it’s one of their super dupers or whatever, but I have never done anything like that. I think we mentioned it on the BBF website, but it’s kind of a difficult environment to raise funds now for charities, foundations, and so forth for a number of reasons.

“So I appreciate the opportunity that Subway gave me and the foundation, the support they gave us, and that was a fun commercial to do. Everybody loves sandwiches, so hopefully, they’ll be OK with it.” More of Belichick’s presser below.

Brian Lewerke: After being released last weekend, the Patriots made the curious decision of re-signing QB Brian Lewerke, the UDFA from Michigan State. Why is it curious? We thought they’d bring back J’Mar Smith, the more mobile QB, but they have other ideas.

Facing a slate of mobile QBs this year, we thought Smith would be an ideal practice squad candidate as he’d give the defense a better look at some of the opposing QBs they’ll see this year. 

Patriots Salary Cap: Here is your Public Service Announcement (PSA) for the week/season. When it comes to the Patriots salary cap and trying to make sense of all of the nuances of it, there is Miguel (@PatsCap) and there is everyone else. Any questions about it are usually right on his timeline. And one of the great guys out there too. 

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit (and yes we’re way overdue for a new one), please check it out. We recorded a video podcast recently about the QB position and how we see different scenarios playing out.  Please give it a listen. And we promise to get off our fourth point of contact and record another soon.

Russ Francis/ Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.

Troy Brown Full-Time Coach And Other Staff Changes in 2020:

Former Patriot wide receiver Brown spent last summer at training camp working with the wide receivers but wasn’t fully recognized as a member of the staff last year. But this year, Brown is listed as an assistant RBs and KRs coach. 

“Troy spent the year with us last year, and of course has a tremendous amount of experience here,” Bill Belichick said. “He’ll continue to work with other positions, as well – the returners and the slot receivers. But just given the conversations I’ve had with Troy, he’s very eager, he is a very instinctive football player and coach, I think that he was always great with the ball in his hands as a runner, he was obviously a great receiver, and I think that’s a big part of every running back’s job, and he was a strong player in the kicking game, as well. So, it was an opportunity for him to be involved with a little bit of a different group.”

Belichick, as always moves his young coaches around to different positions giving them more responsibility as they earn it as it makes them more well-rounded coaches. The team is doing that again this season. 

“Cole (Popovich) was with the running backs last year and this year will work with the offensive line. Stephen (Belichick) was with the safeties and will be with the outside linebackers. So, there’s I think a lot of benefit to that. Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia, we could go on and on about all the coaches that have switched spots around here.

“But, I think Troy has done a great job with them (wide receivers) and he’ll certainly be involved in other things besides that, besides just the running backs.”

Players Opting Out Have Belichick’s Respect: 

With six players opting out for the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, if you think that Belichick would be upset with them for missing out on the season, you’d be wrong. He told the media on Friday that he respects their choices. 

“I respect all of them,” Belichick said. “I respect all the players on our team. We all have to make decisions. And I talked to those guys, and they explained their situations. They had to make the decision that was best for them, and I totally respect and support it 100 percent.”

With linebacker Dont’a Hightower, tackle Marcus Cannon, safety Patrick Chung, fullback Danny Vitale, guard Najee Toran, and running back Brandon Bolden all opting out, the coach understands their reasoning and supports it. 

“I think everybody’s got to make their own individual decisions on that, and they have to weigh their own situation,” he said. “Each one of us is unique and we all have different lives, situations, families, environments, and so forth and so on. So, there are no two situations that are the same. Everybody will have to make their own decision on that.” Then with some classic Belichick tongue-in-cheek humor, he added:

“My crystal ball is kind of cloudy right now, so I have no idea of what will happen along those lines. I think everybody in the league, every team in the league, every player, every coach, everybody in the league is involved in that to some degree. So we’ll just have to see how it turns out.”

Training Camp Primer – Quarterbacks: 

With the absence of Tom Brady for the first time in 20 years, the Patriots were mighty thin at the QB position until they signed Cam Newton. Now, the depth (if Newton is fully healthy and can learn the offense, is just fine, thank you. 

Current Roster: 

Cam Newton
Jarrett Stidham
Brian Hoyer
Brian Lewerke

Projected 53-man Roster:

Cam Newton
Jarrett Stidham
Brian Hoyer

The Patriots have four QBs heading into training camp and will probably try to keep three heading into the season to protect themselves against injury or COVID-19. But despite signing Newton and many fans and media already anointing him as the starter, Bill Belichick told everyone to slow their roll there, stating 

“We’ll give everyone an opportunity, and see what happens,” Belichick said Friday.

“I think that spot is the same as all the other spots on the team,” Belichick said. “We’ve got a long way to go, and we’ll see how things turn out. I can’t control how players perform. That’s up to them.”

Newton is obviously the most talented QB and the most accomplished on the roster. That isn’t up for debate. However, are his injuries to his foot and most importantly, to his throwing shoulder healed? His training videos certainly point to that, and he’s carrying a Tom Brady-sized chip on his shoulder. Those are good things. But can he learn the offense and get a comfort level with his new teammates in such a short period of time?

One thing in his favor, Evan Lazar of CLNS Media wrote that in 2018, before getting injured, Newton ran a similar offense to the Patriots and was having an outstanding year. 

Jarrett Stidham made a ton of progress from the beginning to the end of training camp. He picked up the offense quickly but still tended to hold the ball far too long, something that will have to improve in 2020. 

He possesses nice mobility but nowhere near to the level of Newton, but could still be the recipient of many of the roll-out RPO concepts with Josh McDaniels’ offense. 

Hoyer is who he is at this stage of his career. Due to the COVID-19 rules, he could still be stashed on the practice squad, but the Patriots don’t want him starting. They want him to be the veteran back-up/extra coach to help the starter (Newton/Stidham) when they are on the field. Lewerke is strictly a PS candidate. 

Admitting A Mistake is so Rare Today, But This Was Handled Well:

The world we live in today is driven by the ‘now, now, we have to have it first and right now’ mentality. And everyone gets caught up in it…everyone. And sometimes we say things, that come out wrong. If I could take back every time I said something in haste that I’d love to take back, there may have been years where I would have been mute. 

So, it was interesting this week, when NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran, who was a guest on the Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday. Patrick asked Curran about so many Patriots deciding to opt-out of the season. And while he explained his reasoning, his answer came off badly. 

“I think that a lot of those players are like, ‘Do I want to do that to go in there and go 7-9 with Jarrett Stidham or Cam Newton or whatever we’re trying to do?’” Curran said. “If Brady was there though, I don’t think 7-9 would be in the conversation, so no, I don’t think there would be this many players opting out because they would be… championship caliber.”

Pat Chung, took exception to those remarks and blasted back at Curran, respectfully telling him he was totally wrong. “Damn Mr. Curran. I say this with love…. you sound like an idiot. Doesn’t hurt the friendship, you’re not in the dog house. But don’t let your job corrupt your brain man. You know better than that.”

That’s when the unusual happened. Curran apologized to Chung and Hightower. “I’m sorry, Patrick. Offense was not intended. Reflecting more, I see why it is offensive to you. Spitballing theories about a person’s personal and private decision and why it MAY have been different is insensitive to the situation. I apologize.” 

It is unusual because, in today’s world, 99.9 percent of other writers would have doubled down on their comments and uttered some lame-ass crap. Curran, who has always had very good relationships with the players, while still calling it like it is, recognized it came off sounding bad and did what was right, and…remarkably rare in today’s age. 

Curran is paid to give his opinions on the team and writes columns, does podcasts, and has a television show to offer his take on things. That’s what he’s expected to do and give his opinion. And he does, and with a few other beat writers, has a great pulse on the team.

In this case, he recognized his take sounded like he was demeaning the players because, with Brady no longer there, there is little chance of a Super Bowl and that was the reason they opted out. And he made it right…there is far too little of that in the world today. TC has always been a great guy in our limited interactions with him down at Gillette.  And he did the right thing…that’s who he is. 

_______________

I know I’m going to get killed in the rookie shows on this,” Belichick joked with the media. “I know that’s going to happen, but I’ll just have to swallow it… “So I appreciate the opportunity that Subway gave me and the foundation (Bill Belichick Foundation), the support they gave us, and that was a fun commercial to do. Everybody loves sandwiches, so hopefully, they’ll be OK with it.”

Bill Belichick, during his video conference on Friday, joked that the Patriots’ rookies, who always put on skits during training camp (a league-wide tradition) are going to have a field day on his appearance in a Subway commercial. Subway has also entered into an agreement with the Bill Belichick Foundation. 

_______________

“So, how was your week?”

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

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Posted Under: 2020 Patriots Training Camp
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Cam Newton Dont'a Hightower Marcus Cannon New England Patriots NFL Pat Chung Patriots Tom Brady Tom Curran
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