Belichick salutes NFL Films' Sabol

Belichick salutes NFL Films' Sabol

By Tom E. Curran

The passing this week of Steve Sabol moved people in all parts of the NFL - owners, coaches, players and the media - to say nothing of what Sabol and his work meant to fans.

I didn't know Steve well but I did speak with him in person or by phone several times. Warm, sincere, interested in listening, and just a deep, intelligent guy whose passion was applied to this game we all love.

In the artist's statement on his website, "Steve Sabol Art", he wrote, "Norman Mailer remarked that all artists tend to be governed by a ruling passion. I regard myself as luck to have been able to discover mine. "

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick - a football historian as well as a decorated coach - trusted Sabol implicitly.

"You cant say enough about Steve and what he has meant tothe National Football League, NFL Films and the game of football," Belichick said on a conference call with the Baltimore media on Wednesday. "I think hehas presented the game in a way that all fans, all of us, enjoy. You can see theexcitement, the entertainment and can laugh at, depending on how its beingpresented. He has done a tremendous job of gaining the trust and confidence ofthe people that he has worked with, which isnt the easiest thing to do, to dowhat he does and get that kind of cooperation.

"I think over the years he hasdeveloped a great level of respect and trust and that says a lot," Belichick added. "I dont thinkthat piece Bill Belichick: A FootballLife would have ever happened without Steve Sabol, to be honest with you.Hes a special man, and he did so much for our game, for the NFL and for thegame of football. Its a sad day. Hes a great man.Belichick granted NFL Films incredible access to do the much-celebrated documentary that was released last year. Normally pretty reserved (to say the least), Belichick explained that, "Once we understood whatwe were doing and everybody was on the same page, we had good lines ofcommunication, so it wasnt really a problem. I think the respect and trust andmutual respect that we had for each other made that a relatively easyundertaking.Sabol made things easy in a difficult line of work

Belichick: Dion Lewis is ‘on to the the next step’

Belichick: Dion Lewis is ‘on to the the next step’

FOXBORO - Dion Lewis was on the practice field for the first time on Thursday afternoon. The running back, who tore his ACL last season then sustained a patella stress fracture over the summer, will now have a maximum of three weeks to work out with the team before the Patriots decide whether to activate him or put him on injured reserve. 

Predictably, Bill Belichick was not particularly revealing when asked about Lewis' re-entry. 

"Well, he's been out there doing things with the training staff for a long time, so now it's on to the next step," Belichick explained, adding, "Dion works really hard. No one works harder than Dion."

It's a 53-man tie for the title of "Patriot Who Works Hardest" between Lewis and every other player on the roster who's been described as having nobody ahead of him in the "Works Harder" category. 

Anyway, Lewis will not be listed on the injury report until he's activated and that would seem an extreme longshot for this week, though the team would have until Saturday to make that move. 

Haggerty: Bruins sinking fast with nothing to hang on to

Haggerty: Bruins sinking fast with nothing to hang on to

So, what do the Bruins do now amidst a three-game tailspin that could easily devolve into a six- or seven-game losing stretch if they’re not too careful?

The goaltending has been predictably porous with Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin out of commission with injuries. The Black and Gold allowed 11 goals in the past two games despite Zane McIntyre battling in tough conditions at Madison Square Garden. The bottom line is McIntyre and Malcolm Subban don’t look ready for NHL prime time and there are legitimate questions as to whether Subban ever will become an NHL goalie.

Beyond that, the Bruins defense has been downright atrocious just as the goaltending situation has deteriorated. Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug have struggled individually and as a pairing that the B’s coaching staff had hoped would complement Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo in Boston’s top-four. McQuaid is a minus-3 in his first two games back from an upper body injury and Krug is a minus-4 with a surprising zero points in his first seven games this season.

In fact, every Bruins defenseman not named Chara or Carlo is a combined minus-16 on the season and, of that group, only currently-in-the-AHL rookie Rob O’Gara has a positive plus/minus for the season. Both the defensive zone coverage and the compromised ability to break the puck out of their own end have been problematic and Boston’s opponents have enjoyed way too easy of a time getting into the slot area for juicy scoring chances.

In other words, the defense looks very much like last season for the Bruins with – surprise, surprise – nearly the same cast of characters returning from that subpar crew.

Then there’s the forward group, which has enjoyed great production from David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand in the early going and from David Backes before his elbow injury that was at least partially caused by the hard miles the 32-year-old brawny center has logged over the years. 

Patrice Bergeron has just one point in four games since returning from a lower body injury and opposing defenses in recent games have been able to key on that top line of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak while mostly neutralizing them. 

That’s because the other Bruins forward lines are doing nothing offensively from a production or puck possession standpoint. Sure, Austin Czarnik had his first NHL goal Wednesday night against the Rangers and Dominic Moore has a couple of goals for a fourth line that’s been decent for Boston this season.

But David Krejci has no goals and three points in seven games with a minus-4 rating while looking slow and tentative coming back from hip surgery, Ryan Spooner is off to a slow start bouncing between wing and center and the third line winger combo of Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes have zero points and a ghastly combined minus-14 rating on the season.

So, basically the Black and Gold have nothing to hang their hat on with the goaltending, the defensemen and the forwards all working at far less than full capacity right now, and that’s making them hockey road kill for opponents. To make matters worse, the Bruins find themselves in the middle of a six-game stretch where they’re playing quality teams that made the playoffs last season, and can expose all of their weak spots.

A prolonged losing streak could knock the Bruins far out of the playoff picture over the next few weeks and leave them more than a handful of points out of the postseason cut by Thanksgiving. Once that happens, the odds would be against the Bruins turning things around and there would zero margin of error for a team that needs leeway based on the glaring roster weaknesses.

So, what are the Bruins to do right now?

There’s not much they can do aside from simply play better, hope that Backes and Rask can return rather quickly and avoid buckling and quitting in games like they did against the Wild and Rangers over the past few days. The Bruins will try to ramp Rask up potentially for this weekend against the Red Wings in Detroit and perhaps that will be enough time for his reported hamstring and groin issues to have healed up.

But if not, the Bruins will need to look on the goaltending market for possible answers rather than asking rookie goalies to thrive behind a struggling, substandard defensive group. Ondrej Pavelec out in Winnipeg would be too expensive in terms of cap hit and there may not be a chance to snag Mike Condon on waivers from Pittsburgh as the Penguins look like they want to hold onto the Massachusetts native with Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury also in the fold.

That leaves the Bruins with a number of retread goalie options like Kari Ramo, Kevin Poulin, Ray Emery, Dan Ellis and Yann Danis, who might have to become a reality if Rask suffers a dreaded setback in the coming days. Bringing in a veteran goalie with NHL experience certainly makes some sense on paper if things are left to Subban and McIntyre, but the bottom line is that Boston will continue to resemble an imploding hockey club until some of their other deep-seated issues are fully addressed.

Gerry Cheevers isn’t walking through that door anytime soon, and if he did, he’d smartly walk back out rather than get hung out to dry by a Bruins team that’s playing embarrassingly poorly in front of a couple of young goalies that need their best.