Why this is a 'critical' time for Drew Brees

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Why this is a 'critical' time for Drew Brees

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Drew Brees wants a long-term extension with the Saints completed before the club's offseason training program begins in April. The quarterback also says he is concerned about how New Orleans is being portrayed in the wake of the NFL's bounty investigation The Saints' more pressing concern is not perception, but the reality that Brees may not practice or play under his current franchise tag designation. "I'd say that this is a very critical period here over the next short while until we start April 16th," Brees said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. "What I'm really focused on is continuing to negotiate toward a long-term deal and I really am not going to look too far down the road other than just what's right in front of me. "I want to make sure that this is done the right way." In addition to his disappointment with the pace of contract talks with New Orleans, Brees discussed his concerns about the NFL's bounty investigation of the Saints. Brees said he has been on a "fact-finding mission" since the NFL released some of the findings of its bounty probe on March 2. The quarterback said he doesn't know all the fact about the bounty scandal. He said, however, he is under the impression some current and former defensive teammates are worried they'll be punished, and have their reputations tarnished, primarily because of bravado and tough talk that is not meant to be taken literally, but which is common in football locker rooms. "I feel like the perception might not match up with reality in this thing," Brees said. "I think the perception is that we have our entire team, our entire coaching staff, our entire organization involved in this bounty thing where we're actually going out with malicious intent to hurt people and end their careers, and that's so far from the truth. "I know the NFL staged a two-year long investigation and that they have documentation that proves certain things," Brees continued. "There are still some unanswered questions and things that we don't know, so it's hard to speculate. All I can do is speak on behalf of my teammates, knowing who they are and what they represent, and our organization, how we pride ourselves on professionalism and doing things the right way and treating people the right way." Brees said what bothers him most about the bounty probe is that the Saints are being portrayed as a bunch of "hit men." "That we're a bunch of guys out with malicious intent to seriously injure people and end guys' careers, that we take pride in that, that we compensate guys for that, we incentivize guys for that," Brees said. "That's really disheartening for me when I look at all that we've been able to accomplish over the last six years. ... It's somewhat of a black eye for the organization right now and I would just hope that people would reserve their judgment until all the facts come out, until the truth is known, instead of speculation." Since the Saints were eliminated by San Francisco in the divisional round of the 2011-12 NFL playoffs in January, Brees has been splitting most of his time between homes in San Diego and New Orleans with his two young sons and wife, Brittany, who is expecting a third boy in a little under five months. Brees spoke to the AP by phone from California. He is conducting interviews this week as part of his promotional work with Dick's Sporting Goods, which is offering the chance for a sweepstakes winner to go on a shopping spree with the quarterback. Although he hopes not to miss any work with the Saints, Brees made it clear that he is uncomfortable working under the franchise tag. He noted that the only time he has done so was his final season in San Diego, which ended with a career-threatening injury that left him with few suitors in free agency. The Saints were one of those suitors, and Brees said he intends to end his career in New Orleans, albeit under a contractual agreement that he sees fit. However, Brees declined to answer directly whether he would practice or play if a new extension is not complete by the time next season arrives. "I won't give an answer other than that was never my intent when I entered into these discussions with the Saints," Brees said. "It was to extend the deal and to sign long term and finish my career in New Orleans. ... That's what I'm working wholeheartedly toward and that's really all I can say." Brees is the reigning AP Offensive Player of the Year. In 2001, he set NFL single-season records with 468 completions, 5,476 yards passing and a completion percentage of 71.2. The quarterback is expected to receive a contract paying in the range of, if not more than, the 18 million-per-year deals that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning had signed in recent seasons. Manning, however, was released by Indianapolis after missing all of last season with a neck injury and is back on the free-agent market. When Brees eventually returns to the field, he'll rejoin one of his favorite targets, wide receiver Marques Colston. The Saints re-signed Colston to a five-year deal. But Brees will be without free agent All-Pro guard Carl Nicks, who signed with Tampa Bay. "That's tough. Tough to lose him, period -- even tougher to watch him go to a divisional opponent in Tampa," Brees said. "He's been a mainstay for four years on the offensive line, a huge part of that Super Bowl run and you're happy for a guy like that who's certainly worked hard. You hate to see him go, but that's the nature of our league and this business, and when you draft guys and they become great players, I guess it's impossible to keep them all." Brees added he is confident general manager Mickey Loomis, Saints scouts and coaches, who took a chance on Nicks in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, would find a way to make up for his departure. "We've been very competent at drafting. ... That's a big tribute to Mickey and the scouting department and coaching staff," Brees said. "We've done a great job of finding free agents to fill spots."

OFFSEASON

A closer look at the five signings by the Boston Celtics

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A closer look at the five signings by the Boston Celtics

BOSTON – It’s official.

The Boston Celtics announced the signings of what should be the last moves made of significance between now and training camp.

All five players bring different strengths to the table, as well as areas of concern.

But more than anything else, they provide depth for a team that has made depth a calling card of sorts.

Here we’ll break down each of the newest Celtics, what they bring to the table this season, as well as do a little crystal-ball watching as to what their role should be for this upcoming season.

Gerald Green

Career stats: A nine-year veteran, Green has appeared in 497 games while averaging 10.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists while shooting 36.1 percent on 3s.

Last season (in Miami): Green averaged 8.9 points in 22.4 minutes per game while shooting 39.2 percent from the field and 32.3 percent on 3s.

The former Celtics draft pick returns to where his NBA dream began, albeit in a much different role. When he arrived as the 18th pick in the 2005 draft, Green was an athletic, above-the-rim freak of nature. Not too soon after that, he won the league’s Slam Dunk competition. From there, Green’s game showed little growth, which led to a two-plus seasons (2009-2012) in which he played overseas and in the D-League. The time away didn’t do much for him financially, but it did result in his game becoming more complete. His time in the NBA over the past five seasons has shown him to be more than just a human highlight waiting to happen. The 6-7 forward has become a more consistent 3-point shooter as he now boosts a career average of 36.1 percent. And he returns in a more humble state than when he arrived. His role is yet to be defined, but the need to add him became a necessity with James Young still not displaying the kind of growth that makes Boston feel comfortable with putting him on the floor to play meaningful minutes. Green won’t play huge minutes, but he’s the kind of X-factor that could help Boston win four or five games this season. And that could be the difference between a tough first-round playoff matchup that begins on the road, or a postseason that starts off at the TD Garden.

TYLER ZELLER

Career stats: Zeller has appeared in 289 games, averaging 7.6 points, 4.7 rebounds while shooting 50.1 percent from the field.

Last season (in Boston): Saw his role diminish significantly from the previous season, averaging 6.1 points and a career-low 3.0 rebounds per game in 11.8 minutes – also a career-low mark.

Throughout the year, Zeller’s patience was rewarded with an unexpected rush of minutes and more often than not, he came through. Having a player who does more than just buy into the concept of always staying ready but proves it time and time again, has tremendous value on this team. The 26-year-old center has shown flashes of being a reliable rotation player for Boston. Even with the changes, Zeller remains arguably their best finisher at the basket among the team’s centers. He will come into camp and just as it has been in the past, will compete for playing time. But most likely he’ll find himself in a similar situation where his minutes will be infrequent. But having said that, Zeller knows his chance to play will come and the Celtics know there will be games where Zeller’s activity, rebounding and scoring at the basket will be needed. And when that time comes, they know he’ll be ready.

Jaylen Brown

Career stats (at Cal): In his lone season at Cal, Brown averaged 14.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting 43.1 percent from the field and 27.4 percent on 3s.

Taken by Boston with the third overall pick in last month’s NBA draft, expectations for a player selected so high are usually well, really high. Brown won’t have the pressure that most high lottery (top-14) picks have when they come into the NBA. As it was laid out to CSNNE.com by Brown’s mental skills coach Graham Betchart, Brown’s focus is on controlling what he can control and not getting overly caught up in results. You never want to put too much stock in what happens during summer league, but Brown showed certain strengths during summer league that typically translate well against better competition which he will face during the regular season. He averaged 10.2 free throw attempts per game, which is impressive, summer league or no summer league. He won’t live at the line nearly as much this season, but the aggressive nature of his play was a positive. And like signing Green, Brown also provides a high level of athleticism that has been in short supply on this team in recent years. As for his role this season, look for Brown to be used at both small forward and power forward for Boston as Jae Crowder’s backup.

Demetrius Jackson

Career stats (at Notre Dame): 11.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists while shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 38.1 percent on 3s.

Last season (at Notre Dame): 15.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and 33.1 percent on 3s.

After talking with scouts shortly after last month’s draft, many were stunned that Jackson fell as far as he did (No. 45 overall, 15th pick in second round) on draft night. There’s no consensus as to why that happened, either. Winding up in Boston while may not necessarily be the best fit for Jackson in terms of getting on the court immediately, but it should do wonders for his growth and longevity in the NBA. He will see first-hand the work ethic of Avery Bradley, a first-team all-NBA defender as well as Bradley’s backcourt mate, All-Star Isaiah Thomas. The growth in Terry Rozier’s game provides Jackson with tangible proof of what can happen by watching and absorbing the teachings of more seasoned players at your position. But don’t think for a minute that he’s just going to stand idly by, folks. Jackson is a good player who will not back down from any of his more accomplished backcourt mates. He will eventually develop into a decent scorer in this league who has the kind of lateral quickness and instincts (he averaged better than one steal per game in three seasons at Notre Dame) that should serve him well in the NBA. But barring a Celtics trade, Boston’s backcourt depth will likely result in him spending most of his rookie season with the team’s Development league affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.

Ben Bentil

Career stats (at Providence College): 13.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game.

Last season (at Providence College): 21.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.

Another player who was projected to go higher than he did (51st overall, No. 21 pick in the second round) on draft night, Bentil is an intriguing prospect. The 6-foot-8 forward led the Big East in scoring last season, doing so with Kris Dunn – arguably the nation’s top point guard and the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft – getting him the ball a lot. Bentil has the kind of build and inside-outside game that more and more teams are looking to add to their roster. He showed flashes of that during summer league, but not enough to where you feel he can come in and contribute immediately. Barring trades or injuries to the frontcourt, Bentil will spend a large chunk of this season with the Red Claws.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be followed on Twitter: @SherrodbCSN

Curran: Jimmy G. Era is a reminder of what NFL did to Brady

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Curran: Jimmy G. Era is a reminder of what NFL did to Brady

FOXBORO -- So I guess this would be the official start of the Jimmy Garoppolo Era?

It is -- by Belichickian decree -- his team from now until October 3. He’s the lead dog, the head honcho, the big chief, the alpha male, head cheese, capo di tutti capi. For 67 days -- that’s from now until October 3, when Tom Brady can legally walk back into Gillette Stadium after his four-game banishment -- Garoppolo gets his dry run as The Man.

Brady, obviously, will be out there and -- especially during the early stages of training camp -- there will be an effort to make sure there’s no toe-stepping. Proper deference will shown to the future Hall of Famer.

But that will start to fade as the games draw closer and the urgency to be ready for Arizona grows. Believe it or not, the bus for Arizona is already idling (figuratively) and if you ain’t gonna be on it when it pulls out of town, you’ll need to step aside for the ones who will be.

That includes Brady, the greatest quarterback of all-time. We really don’t have to plumb the details of how absurd, unfair, unethical and flat-out wrong Brady’s suspension is. It’s pretty well-established. The reality is, Brady is the clipboard-holder for the first time since September 2001.

Enter Diamond Jimmy.

And watch New Englanders now stagger into an awkward embrace of the third-year quarterback. This process has actually been going on for a little while now. A lot of it was -- aside from the maniac radio callers -- done in hushed tones with a hand cupped over the mouth. “Ya know, I actually am looking forward to watching Garoppolo. See what we got there.”

On the face of it, I understand the sentiment. There’s a second-round pick with a lightning release, good feet, excellent touch and impressive accuracy. If you like football, you like watching football players play football to see if they are good at it.

But it’s gone beyond that, I sense. There is a swath of the populace looking forward to four regular-season games of Jimmy. Some want to see him showcased and turned into a pick. Others think the four games rest will be beneficial for Brady. Others are simply bored by regular-season games and the Patriots' annual inexorable march to the playoffs and so this adds a little spice.

You idiots.

I don’t care what your excuse is, every snap that Garoppolo takes in 2016 should be taken as a personal affront. A flick in the tender region from the NFL, the 31 other “Roger has a tough job” owners and Goodell himself.

But besides that, we’re talking about one-quarter of an NFL season that will be missed by the best player the Patriots will ever have. Would you people have wished away 20 more games from Bill Russell, Larry Bird or Bobby Orr in the '60s, '70s and '80s just to see what Satch Sanders, Kevin Gamble or Mike Milbury could do?

So -- for football’s sake -- I say go ahead and enjoy the Garoppolo administration. But don’t get too carried away trying to put a buff-and-shine on the turd the NFL dropped on Foxboro.

Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?

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Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after a pretty amazing, on-point succession of speeches by Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention last night. It was quite a contrast to the absolute circus sideshow that went on in Cleveland last week.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Greg Wyshynksi chronicles the Jimmy Vesey Sweepstakes, and the late entry of the Chicago Blackhawks as a suitor. Wysh still feels, as I do, that the Bruins end up getting this talented player at the end of the day.

*The details of the charges levied against Evander Kane paint an ugly picture of a hockey player doing a lot of the wrong things.

*PHT writer Mike Halford says that the Carolina Hurricanes might be ready to snap their playoff drought after extending head coach Bill Peters.

*John Tavares tells the Toronto media not to count on him ever pulling over a Maple Leafs jersey amid post-Stamkos speculation.

*Well, would you look at this? The Nashville Predators are providing salary cap and contract info on their own team website. What a concept!

*The Edmonton Oilers say they will have a new captain in place by opening night, and it will be interesting to see if they go the Connor McDavid route.

*Brian Elliott is thrilled at the opportunity to be “the man” between the pipes for the Calgary Flames this season after splitting time in St. Louis.

*For something completely different: a great feature on Howard Stern, and his transformation from shock jock to master interviewer.

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs