Some news and notes for this morning:
1) The drama continues out in Green Bay, with Aaron Rodgers future with the team still in doubt as NFL training camps continue to loom closer.
NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico apparently caught up with Rodgers at the Kentucky Derby earlier this month and it sounds like what Tom Brady managed to do this past season is still fresh in Rodgers’ mind, and the Packers quarterback believes a fresh start might also be what he needs.
Tirico appeared on the Adam Schefter Podcast and said what Brady did is absolutely playing a part in what’s going on out there.
“I think they saw Tom Brady go somewhere and the people around him were placed there to maximize success, and said, ‘Look, that can be me.’ In both situations, that’s been some of the issue around both teams,” Tirico said via the NY Post about Green Bay and Seattle.
“The people around Aaron Rodgers… maybe they wanted to be in that mode. And maybe it hit home because it happened in their backyard,” he added.
The only problem is Brady remains in his conference. Brady beat Rodgers at home in the NFC Championship game, which also happened in a contest where the Green Bay QB went 4-of-11 in the final quarter of play during the loss.
Either way, it’s a situation that remains unresolved and whether or not Rodgers gets his way remains to be seen. He had just better hope they ship him out of the conference because unless Brady retires, that roadblock back to the Super Bowl still remains in the NFC until that happens.
2) It’s interesting to look at the list of players who opted out last season which, for some, has led to the end of their time with the team.
Najee Toran became the latest name from the group of eight players from last season who won’t be returning after the club waived him following two depth signings on the offensive line this week.
As for which Patriots sat out 2020, that list included Dont’a Hightower, Marcus Cannon, Patrick Chung, Matt LaCosse, Marqise Lee, Brandon Bolden, Danny Vitale and Toran among those who decided to play it safe and skip the 2020 campaign during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But aside from Hightower, the Patriots have already seemingly moved on from many of them and the trickle-down effect is already starting to set in. The team made a salary cap move and sent Cannon to Houston in a trade back on March 14th, which came not long after they acquired Trent Brown. From there, Chung announced his retirement not long after, ending his terrific tenure with the club.
LaCosse is in a tough spot because the momentum he started to build in 2019 has since seemingly been lost. With the signings of Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, LaCosse faces an uphill battle to make the roster among a crowded group that also includes last year’s draft picks Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi.
He was spotted in a video working out with teammates out in California this offseason and appears up for the challenge, but whether or not he’s able to carve out a role for himself remains to be seen.
Lee was released back in March and he landed in San Francisco after signing with the 49ers on Monday. He signed with New England last April and was the 7th player at the time for the Patriots last offseason to opt-out.
Bolden’s role on special teams and his ability to step in at running back as needed is well-known, but that stable of backs is crowded and we’ve seen a couple of additional players added who are also standouts on special teams. One would think Bolden will resume his role, but that’s not necessarily a guarantee if it comes down to a numbers game.
Vitale skipped last season and at the time he opted out, he was just the third NFL player to even do so. He also faces a tough battle as Jakob Johnson settled in fairly well and it’s possible that we could see other players compete for a role there.
I haven’t looked at other players who opted out on other rosters for various teams to see if there’s a trend but at least here in New England, once they’ve seemingly forgotten about you, unless you’re someone like Hightower, the page seems to get turned fairly quickly.
3) Meanwhile, Chung might no longer be with the team but he made a lasting impression on linebacker Josh Uche, who talked about some things the veteran safety said to him that he’s taken to heart.
The thing that stood out to Uche was the fact Chung encouraged him to keep learning and to never stop trying to get better.
“I was talking to Patrick Chung the other day and he said something that stuck with me, which was ‘learn ’til you die’” Uche said. “The moment that you think that you know everything is the moment that you’ve lost, so I’m just trying to learn every day and get better every day.”
The two spent some time together this offseason while Chung was working out at the facility prior to his retirement and Uche was apparently also there rehabbing from his season-ending foot injury and that was when he was able to finally talk to the long-time veteran.
But Uche says it’s a conversation he definitely took to heart and he plans on continuing to try and grow as a player.
“I got the honor to actually talk to him briefly and ask him some words of advice and words of wisdom, and that was one of the things that he said was you’ve got to compete continue to learn,” said Uche. “You don’t know it all. You should never go in thinking you already have all the answers. So that’s where it came out, that’s where he said “learn ’til you die’ and it stuck with me ever since.”
4) The Patriots are at least in a good position to weather Chung’s retirement, primarily thanks to the emergence of Kyle Dugger, who settled into Chung’s role surprisingly well last season.
The 2020 second-round pick appeared in 14 games last season and finished with 61 tackles, including a season-high 11 against the Ravens, 6 of which were solo tackles (also a season-high).
Dugger said that as the season went on things started slowing down for him and he’s much more comfortable as he heads into his second season.
“I feel way more comfortable, just in general, in the defense. I feel much more comfortable,” Dugger said. “I’m seeing things a little slower and a little easier. So I’m definitely feeling more comfortable already.”
The second-year player admitted that he’s spent this offseason working on his technique and feels healthy heading into 2021. As a result, it should be fun to see his growth this season, which will come at a pivotal time as he looks to continue establishing himself in this defense.
5) Some fans may have heard Brady’s quote this offseason after the former Patriots quarterback said he would have traded multiple Super Bowl rings in exchange for beating the Giants and finishing 19-0 but apparently, he’s not the only one who feels that way.
In a recent interview, former tight end Ben Watson texted Brady after hearing that revelation and admitted, he’d also be willing to make a similar deal.
“I texted Tom,” Watson told USA TODAY. “I was like, ‘I might trade one of my twins, whichever is the bad one of the day — I might trade one of them.’ … I only have one Super Bowl, so I can’t speak for someone who has that many to trade, but if I had that many, I would trade them, too.”
That season remains one of the craziest because that one loss completely erased everything they did that year. They set all kinds of records, Brady set what (at the time) was a new touchdown record, but none of it matters. Even now, no one ever talks about it because they came up just short when it came to winning that final game.
It’s something we’ll probably never see again in our lifetimes, especially with the league having added one more game to the schedule beginning this season. Watson admitted that winning it all would have cemented their place in history and that’s why it still stings.
“That is something that is so special, something that would have cemented us as the greatest and kudos to the Giants for what they did,” said Watson. “To go 18 games in a row and lose the last one, it still hurts.”
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: 2007 Patriot Season Aaron Rodgers Ben Watson Brandon Bolden Danny Vitale Dont'a Hightower Green Bay Packers Josh Uche Kyle Dugger Marcus Cannon Marqise Lee Matt Lacosse Mike Tirico Najee Toran New England Patriots New York Giants Patrick Chung Tom Brady