Belichick gives rookie Francis a nod Wednesday

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Belichick gives rookie Francis a nod Wednesday

FOXBORO -- You've heard about the Patriots ''Next Man Up'' philosophy before.
If one guy gets suspended, injured -- whatever it is that takes him out of the equation -- the next guy in line is expected to step up, fill in, and play well. There's no excuse for any drop-off in production; everyone should be ready.
Rookie Justin Francis is learning how it all works right now.
The undrafted defensive end was inactive for the first four games of the season, sometimes a healthy scratch, and sometimes on the injury report with a bad ankle. Week 11 was the last time Francis was healthy but inactive.
He's earned 74 snaps for the defense since.
"I think hes definitely improved," head coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday. "Hes a competitive player, he works hard. Hes got some good ability and hes, like any young player hes learning through sometimes trial an error. Sometimes experience, sometimes the hard way.
"But he works hard to get better and I have a lot of respect for that. There arent many people that work harder than he does. He competes every day in practice, both in the classroom and out on the field to learn and improve and hes definitely improved a lot, no question."
His opportunities increased further after defensive end Jermaine Cunningham was suspended four games on November 26.
Francis played a career-high 21 snaps against Houston. At times, the Patriots used him in Cunningham's role as an interior rusher.
Were the coaches impressed with his 'Next Man Up' effort? Enough to still give Francis snaps when Cunningham returns after Sunday's game in Jacksonville?
"I dont know. I cant really answer that question," Belichick admitted. "I think well just have to wait and see where things are whenever all those things, if they take place, when they take place and make the best decisions we can at that point in time."

Brown apologizes for 'distraction' caused by Facebook Live video

Brown apologizes for 'distraction' caused by Facebook Live video

Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Antonio Brown posted an apology on social media Tuesday night for his Facebook Live video that has caused a stir over the last few days.

"I let my emotions and genuine excitement get the best of me, and I wanted to share that moment with our fans," said Brown in a statement on his Twitter. ""It was wrong of me to do, against team and NFL policy, and I have apologized to Coach Tomlin and my teammates for my actions.

"I'm sorry to them for letting it become a distraction and something that they've had to answer questions about while we're preparing for a big game on Sunday."

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday that he has “absolutely no worries on the video's effect" on Sunday's game against the Patriots, but it was "selfish and inconsiderate" of his star wide receiver.

Brown could still be fined for violating the league's social-media policy. The policy states that players, coaches and football operations personnel are banned from using social media on game days 90 minutes before kickoff, during games, and before "traditional media interviews."

Koppen: Antonio Brown should know locker room isn’t time for Facebook posts

Koppen: Antonio Brown should know locker room isn’t time for Facebook posts

Former NFL player Dan Koppen says the team locker room after a win is a sacred place and that Steelers WR Antonio Brown should know not to be posting on Facebook.