What Boston did on its summer vacation

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What Boston did on its summer vacation

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

I realize that there are a lot of people out there who love the fall.

They love everything about it the cooler air, the warmer clothes, the foliage. In fact, the only thing these people love more than fall is talking about how much they love it. Seriously, at least 37 of my Facebook friends have declared their affection for fall since I started typing this sentence.

I get it. Everyone loves fall.

Everyone but me, that is. For me, the end of summer only means one thing winter's right around the corner. It means that before we know it the sidewalks will be slush, the traffic will suck (even more), and I'll look out my window at 4:30 p.m. to the glare of headlights. Get ready. Here it comes.

And here we are. The end of summer; the first day of fall. I think the only person in Boston more depressed than I am right now is the dude who wears the big Scal face to the Garden.

But as much as I hate the change, I won't mind turning the page on what was a uninspiring summer for Boston sports.

Sure, there were highlights. The Bruins drafted Tyler Seguin. David Ortiz won the Derby. Clay Buchholz figured it out. Wes Welker defied modern medicine. The Celtics brought back Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, and signed Shaquille O'Neal. I mean, this isn't Cleveland, we were bound to have some good news. But for the most part, the summer was subpar at best.

We had the Red Sox disintegrate right before our eyes, and they didn't even get a fair fight, thanks to a rash of debilitating injuries that you wouldn't wish upon the Jets (OK, you would). The Sox spent the summer slowly dying. They toyed with our emotions, consistently showing just enough life to stop us from pulling the plug, and despite all the glaring clues that this wasn't the year, we kept giving them second, third and fourth chances to make something of the season. We looked at the schedule and saw opportunity. We continued to hope that John Lackey or Josh Beckett, or God forbid, both would show up down the stretch. We married ourselves to the "Hey, who knows? Anything can happen" mentality and convinced ourselves they had a chance. But without Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis or Jacoby Ellsbury, not to mention the real Beckett and Lackey, they never did.

By the middle of summer, the Ellsbury saga became a dark cloud over an already overcast season. I still can't believe how that all played out. Really, could you have ever imagined that collision with Adrian Beltre would create such a domino effect of disaster? Ellsbury was one of the most likable, and certainly the most exciting player on that team. This was the year he made the leap. He should have been an All-Star. Instead he became a distraction. He pissed off his teammates. He pissed off the organization. He was pissed at the organization. He played in a total of 18 games!

It was a lost season for Ellsbury; a lost season for the Sox. And without them, the Boston summer can't reach its full potential.

But that wasn't all we dealt with.

There was Rajon Rondo's divorce from Team USA, which in the long run won't be a bad thing, but was an unsettling story from start to finish.

Was it really his choice to leave? If not, why didn't he make the team? Was it his ability or his attitude? A combination?

I don't think many Celtics fans have a problem with Rondo not playing in Turkey. There's no question that he'll be fresher for the start of the season than he would've been after three extra weeks overseas. But, at the same time, once Rondo made the commitment to play, don't you wish he could've just gotten along with everyone?

That's not to say he should've gone, become best friends with all the guys and then spent next season playing kissy face on the court. That's not the case at all. The no-nonsense approach Rondo takes to his life in the NBA is one of his greatest attributes. None of that should change.

But still, it would have been nice to see Rondo fit in with Team USA. To have him go over, play his ass off, be a great teammate, learn from Chauncey Billups or even Kevin Durant, and then listen to Coach K and Jerry Colangelo gush over him all year. But it never clicked. For one reason or another it wasn't meant to be.

There's no doubt that Rondo's maturity has sky-rocketed over the past four years, but this summer showed us that whether it's his game, his attitude or a combination he still has some work to do. I'm not judging that on the scale of your average NBA player. I'm talking about for an NBA star. That's the expectation now.

In other basketball news, the Miami Heat picked up LeBron James and Chris Bosh. That still hurts to type.

We spent the entire summer dealing with rumors about Tom Brady's less-than-cordial contract negotiations, and then Brady was nearly run over on Comm. Ave.

Subject: Brady car accident. Holy @

That's not an e-mail you ever want to wake up to. (Unless you enjoy having to change your sheets.)

Yeah, the contract eventually got done, and that's obviously the most important thing to remember. They figured it out, and Brady's here for another four years. But from far, far away, those negotiations felt off. It was strange to see Brady passive-aggressively voice his displeasure with the way everything was going. There was genuine emotion behind what he was saying. He was clearly upset.

We'd never really seen that before, and that weird tension played out for all of training camppreseason. At no point over the summer did you truly believe that Brady would leave, but for the first time, you could envision a day when he might leave. It's ridiculous to worry about that now, but it's still interesting. There was a time when you'd have bet your life that Tom Brady retires as a Patriot. I don't think you'd make that bet today.

Anyway, Brady's contract was followed by Moss' tirade, giving up on Maroney and the Jets game.

Oh, and did I mention that we spent the whole summer getting familiar with the impending NBA and NFL lockouts? Is that wearing on your conscious at all? It should be. And yesterday, summer bowed out quietly, by delivering the news that Kevin Faulk tore his ACL, Marc Savard might be out for the season and Brian Scalabrine's headed to Chicago.

It was one, or I guess, three swift gut punches from a season that never really panned out in Boston. And now it's finally dead.

The summer of 2010 is gone, and I can't believe I'm saying this thank God fall's finally here.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

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PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

He may have been left off of the NFL Network's Top 100 list, but Jamie Collins isn't flying under the radar at Pro Football Focus.

On PFF's list of the top 10 defensive players in the AFC, the Patriots linebacker came in at No. 8 and was given the description as the top linebacker in the conference.

Collins' versatility within the confines of the Patriots defense is what makes him so valuable, PFF's John Kosko explains: 

"He doesn’t dominate in any one role like Luke Kuechly does in pass coverage and run defense, but he is very good at all facets of the game. Collins has the athleticism to cover TEs and HBs effectively, the explosiveness to rush the passer, and the size and strength to defend the run. 

"The former Southern Mississippi linebacker is arguably the most versatile player in the NFL, and allows Bill Belichick to employ a defense that confuses opposing quarterbacks. With the only knock against Collins being his 34 missed tackles the past two seasons, the Patriot is the best linebacker in the AFC."

Collins graded out as the No. 5 linebacker in football last year, per PFF's numbers. He ranked behind only Carolina's Luke Kuechly, Minnesota's Anthony Barr, Indianapolis' Jerrell Freeman and Seattle's KJ Wright. 

Fellow Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower earned the 10th-highest grade for linebackers last season, according to PFF -- a grade that likely would have been higher had his snap-count (602 in 2015) approached that of Collins (792).

While Collins is a rare physical talent, the argument could be made that it's Hightower who is the more important player to the Patriots defense given his prowess as a pass-rusher and run-defender. He also has myriad responsibilities as the extension of the team's coaching staff in the defensive huddle. 

In order to slow down opposing passing games, many Patriots defensive packages employ either five or six defensive backs and just two linebackers. Lucky for them, they have two of the best in the conference.

Both Collins and Hightower are entering contract years this year, and finding a way to keep them in-house figures to be near the top of the list of priorities for the Patriots front office.