Good morning, and a very Happy Valentine’s Day to our friends and readers. Here are Sunday’s Patriots news notes and what’s happening around the division.
Brady Takes the High Road and Gets Booed: Well the NFL had a nice little ceremony prior to Super Bowl L honoring the prior MVPs from the previous 49 before this one got underway between Denver and Carolina.
Much was made of whether or not Tom Brady would show up for the festivities considering the slander job that the league and Roger Goodell threw on his doorstep in the Deflategate saga. “Take the high road” was the mantra heard all week when the media was discussing Brady. “Show respect for the game” was another.
Brady did go and taking the high road got him not a loud ovation of cheers like the other MVPs but a loud chorus of boos as he was introduced unlike any other of the 43 players introduced.
Pats owner Bob Kraft did an interview with WCVB’s Maria Stephanos this week and had this to say, “All the social media chatter, and I think there were a lot of Denver fans and Raider fans in the audience since it was so close. I don’t know. I think they see us as a big rival.
“He is such a classy, wonderful guy. He went there representing our team, our coaches, our fans.”
Hometown Son: Kraft did add later, “I happened to see Archie [Manning] there. He has two sons now who have won two Super Bowls, but with all due respect, we’ve got one son who has won four.”
Brady took the high road also before the game telling Westwood One Radio’s Jim Gray, ““It’s really a celebration of the great teams that I have been a part of and for me I am really proud to represent all those teams that won these great championships. They are hard to win. Any number of guys could have won this award, any number of years that we’ve won it. I stand up here representing all those other guys too,” he said.
NFL Combine Bans Players Convicted of Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence: In an attempt to clean up their image, the NFL will no longer allow players with convictions for domestic violence, sexual assault or weapons offenses to attend the annual scouting combine in Indianapolis.
The league came to this decision about a month ago and let teams be aware of this change. The NFL’s executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent wrote that invited prospects would be barred from “any league-related event” if a background check turns up a felony or misdemeanor conviction. Players that refuse to submit to a background check are also to be uninvited. This ban will include the NFL Draft as well.
Players who are barred from the combine will have no restrictions from attending other private team workouts, pro days and regional combines according to the league, and of course they’ll still be eligible to be drafted.
In related news, the Patriots wasted little time in jettisoning running back Montee Ball after he was arrested in a dispute with his girlfriend in a disturbance at a Madison, WI hotel last week. Ball was charged after reportedly striking his girlfriend in the face. He spent time on the Patriots practice squad in 2015 and signed a future’s contract with NE on Feb. 1.
Teaser for a Guy with the “Right Stuff”: Unlike the players that could be listed in the above paragraphs, check back with us soon for an interview with small school linebacker Larry Butler III. Butler was the 2nd ranked linebacker coming out of JUCO and although had a commitment at Tennessee, opted for Div. 2 due to a technicality.
We sat down with this impressive young man and spoke to him, his head coach and defensive coordinator. He’s a small school stud that could find himself a home being a MLB/ILB in the NFL if given a shot.
Patriots WRs Need an influx of Youth, Speed: The Patriots are once again facing a lot of questions around their wide receiving core. The only players that are a definite for the 2016 roster is Julian Edelman and Keshawn Martin. Edelman was on pace for career highs in catches, yards and touchdowns before breaking his foot. Edelman turns 30 in May and isn’t alone as the team needs to be upgraded with a dose of youth and speed.
Danny Amendola had career highs in catches (65) but he too had injury woes of his own (knee) during the second half of the season. Amendola who will turn 31 in November has a $6.8 million-dollar cap hit this season and will probably have to restructure to remain a Patriot.
Brandon LaFell will turn 30 in November and had a forgettable season where he began on PUP and never caught on as his season was filled with drops, misrun routes and where 12 months after a 1000-yard season found himself replaced as the 4th option and had zero touchdowns in 2015. He may find himself cut if the team feels his $3.7 million-dollar cap hit can be replaced via free agency and/or the draft.
Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce were injured again in 2015 and have done little to justify confidence that they can ever be viable to this offense. Brian Tyms and Brandon Gibson were on their way to securing roster spots last season before injuries derailed them in preseason. DeAndre Carter signed a future’s deal, Chris Harper flashed in training camp and Martin showed to be a valued kick returner and has some upside as a wide receiver.
There is room for a lot of turnover here and the team desperately needs a wide receiver with size and speed. That is not to mean a “deep threat” that every season the fans clamor for. That isn’t the Patriots offense; but they do need a guy who with players like Edelman and Rob Gronkowski who open up large tracts of terrain for them underneath, can catch the ball and use his speed to make yards after catch (YAC).
Mexico City game a tipping point? The NFL’s latest foray into the league’s “International Series in 2016 will include three games in London and one in Mexico City.
On October 2, the Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Indianapolis Colts at Wembley Stadium. On October 23, the Los Angeles Rams will host the New York Giants at Twickenham Stadium, and finally, on October 30, the Cincinnati Bengals will host the Washington Redskins at Wembley Stadium. All three of those games will take place in London.
On February 5, 2016, the league also announced that the Oakland Raiders will host the Houston Texans on Monday November 21, 2016 at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. This will be the first time Monday Night Football has been held outside the US.
Having traveled extensively I can speak first hand for the passion that the people of both cities have for the sport. I lived in Mexico City a couple of different times and the NFL there is hugely popular.
But without trying to insult our overseas friends, how much is too much. The four games already going outside the US will be four home games, that NFL fans of those teams lose out on. I have no problem with growing the game in overseas’ markets but the last thing you want is to alienate your own fan bases while doing so.
Perhaps have some preseason games and training camp practices in each location would be an alternative. Those aren’t traditionally sold out anyway and wouldn’t be a drain on the USA’s fans.
That way then the fans in outside the US markets could see the players up close and get to interact with them much more for about a week rather than just a Sunday game.
East Bound and Down, AFC East Notes:
Bills McCoy involved in club assault with off-duty cops: Philadelphia police have confirmed that Bills RB LeSean McCoy was definitely involved in a scuffle in a nightclub where two policemen were injured, one seriously.
McCoy is one of four individuals under investigation for allegedly assaulting two off-duty police officers early Sunday at the Recess Lounge, reportedly over a bottle of champagne.
Police reports stated that “pushing and shoving” over the bottle led to one of the off-duty officers being knocked down, and while he was on the ground, he was “punched, kicked and stomped about his body and head multiple times by all four suspects.”
The officer knocked to the ground, Roland Butler, went to a hospital, where he was treated and released for a cuts, a broken nose, broken ribs and a sprained thumb. The officer who broke up the fight was more seriously injured and was admitted to the hospital, where he received eight stitches over his left eye and a possible skull fracture, police said.
No charges have been filed as of yet, but some are expected as early as Wednesday.
Kerley on the outs in NJ could mean a release: Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley may quickly find himself out of a job, and if I’m the Patriots, I am paying close attention.
Kerley was phased out of the Jets offense in 2015 as the team moved Eric Decker into the slot with the addition of Brandon Marshall. That left Kerley out of mix and into the cold. This could that mean his time with the Jets is over, and the management cutting him loose. Kerley has always been an intriguing if underwhelming receiver.
His best season came in 2012 with 56 receptions for 827 yards and two touchdowns. He only had 16 receptions in 2016, but is a solid and dependable punt returner. He returned 48 punts in 2015 for 411 yards with a long of 58.
If the Jets do decide to cut ties with him, he could be an intriguing option working with Tom Brady especially out of the slot.
Dolphins Cut Coples, Brice McCain: Miami wasted no time in getting the new regime situated before cutting two of their players this week. The team axed former Jets first round pick Quinton Coples and CB Brice McCain.
McCain played in the slot for Miami and had a generally forgettable season. His cutting saves the team $2.5 million in salary cap space. Coples had a bloated cap hit of $7.8 million and was trying to catch on as an edge rusher with the Fins.
There should be a few teams interested in Coples, seeing if he can jump start his career but it will be far less than his current cap hit. The 6’6, 290-pound Coples had a career high 6.5 sacks for the Jets in 2014 but had zero and only eight tackles in 15 games for the Dolphins and Jets this season.
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