Belichick: Cunningham suspension 'unfortunate'


Belichick: Cunningham suspension 'unfortunate'

Patriots coach Bill Belichick gave the expected answer when asked about his latest suspended player.

"It's a league matter," he said on Tuesday's conference call. "It's really out of our hands."

Belichick's reaction to the ban of defensive lineman Jermaine Cunningham is nearly identical to the one he had less than three weeks ago, when running back Brandon Bolden was suspended.

Both players broke the same NFL rule by violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances.

Both players received the same punishment: Four games off without pay.

If Belichick fears a trend, he wouldn't say. Though that doesn't mean the coach hid his displeasure entirely.

"Unfortunately, sometimes on these things people make mistakes," Belichick said. "But everybody's accountable for them. I think those situations are unfortunate. Neither one of them needed to happen, they weren't that important. But they were violations, so they are what they are."

As the league is dealing with Cunningham, Belichick has the rest of his roster to manage. New England travels to Miami this weekend for its first of two divisional battles with the Dolphins. The Patriots can not only improve to nine wins this Sunday, but in doing so, clinch the AFC East's top spot.

The defensive line needs to be patched up in a hurry.

"We'll have to take a look at our options here," Belichick said of replacing Cunningham's presence. "Basically, there's two options: We could bring somebody in from outside and sign them to the roster, or we could do something with a player on the practice squad. We'll see. We'll take a look at our options, talk to Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio, get his thoughts and input on it relative to the personnel that's available like the way we usually do."

Cunningham's loss could mean gains for Trevor Scott.

Scott, a fifth-year defensive end, has played on the line sparingly this season, spending more time on special teams instead. But when starter Chandler Jones injured his ankle two weeks ago against Indianapolis, Scott stepped up. Against the Colts and Jets, he's added 51 snaps on the 'D'-line in addition to the usual duties on kickoff, punt coverage, and punt return.

Belichick lauded Scott's versatility Tuesday.

"Trevor's smart. He works hard," Belichick said. "He's in very good condition and he's a good athlete. He can run, he's quick, and he's long, he's got good length at the end of the line of scrimmage. He can handle some of those bigger tackles and tight ends, the 6-5, 6-6 tight ends with long arms. I think he's done a solid job when he's had the opportunity. We've had a lot of competition at those positions with Rob Ninkovich, and Chandler of course, Jermaine, Justin Francis . . .

"It's been a very competitive position, but he's done well when he's had the opportunity and he's contributed well for us in the kicking game."

Jones, seen Monday without a walking boot or limp, could come back this weekend. Cunningham, however, isn't eligible to return to the active roster until Monday, December 24. Someone -- Scott, or some rotation of players -- will need to make up for the 48-percent of snaps the latter defensive end played through New England's first eight games. And the coaching staff has to figure it out quietly, efficiently.

Belichick won't abide anything but business as usual.

"We'll handle it the same way we usually handle those types of situations," he said. "We'll try to make the best decision for the team we can for this week, for the remaining five games."

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Dustin Pedroia is out of the lineup again tonight after leaving the Red Sox game Thursday night with knee pain in the fifth inning.

Josh Rutledge will start at second base as the Sox open a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.  

The weather and sloppy field conditions were a factor in John Farrell deciding to get Pedroia out of the game Thursday and conditions haven’t improved significantly Friday. 

Pedroia (.288, two homers, 21 RBI) had surgery on that knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked the plunking war between the Orioles and Red Sox.

The full lineups: 

Jean Segura SS
Guillermo Heredia CF
Robinson Canó 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Danny Valencia 1B
Taylor Motter LF
Ben Gamel RF
Mike Zunino C

Yovanni Gallardo RHP

Mookie Betts RF
Andrew Benintendi LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Josh Rutledge 2B
Jackie Bradley Jr CF
Christian Vazquez C
Deven Marrero 3B

Eduardo Rodriguez LHP


Source: Celtics offseason focus is an All-Star frontcourt addition

Source: Celtics offseason focus is an All-Star frontcourt addition

WALTHAM, Mass. – No matter how an NBA team’s season ends, change is inevitable.
And while there’s no doubt that the Celtics are on the right track in terms of their ascension in the NBA, it's too soon to tell how many players on the Celtics’ 15-man roster that Danny Ainge, the president of basketball operations, will bring back next season.


“One thing I do know. He’ll make the best decisions for the team and if players don’t end up being back here, I wish the best for them,” said Avery Bradley.  “Those are my brothers. We all had a special year. I appreciate everything, all the time I had with them. I’d love for all those guys to be back. We’ll see.”
And with Boston coming off its first trip to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012, adding just any player won’t cut it.
The Celtics’ mindset now isn’t just to improve, but get good enough to where they can better compete with the likes of Cleveland, which just ended the Celtics’ season with a Game 5 thumping.
The most significant move made by the Celtics last offseason was the signing of Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract.
Like most of his Boston teammates this season, Horford is eager to see what changes are in store this summer.
“We just have to wait and see,” Horford said. “We had such a good year. A lot of positive things. It’ll be interesting to see what Danny, the organization feels is going to be the next step.”
Multiple league sources have told in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.
That makes sense when you consider how guard-dominant the Celtics were this season and how that had a negative impact on the team’s rebounding and, to a lesser degree, their defense as a whole.
Gordon Hayward has emerged as a target, but all indications – for now at least – point toward him returning to Utah.
The Celtics may pursue Los Angeles Clippers big man Blake Griffin. Although like Hayward, he too is expected to re-sign with his current team for a max contract (for Griffin that would be five years, $175 million).
While trades are certainly in the cards for Boston, at this point the Celtics seem more inclined to improve their overall talent base via the draft and free agency.
“It’s always a good thing when you have the opportunity to add value to your team and don’t have to change your team too much,” said Celtics’ reserve Gerald Green, who will be a free agent this summer. “I’m going to be very interested to see what they do as far as building a team. We’re in a good place right now as far as being where we want to be organization-wise. I feel like we’re one or two steps away from actually being at the Finals. I think Danny has some things to think about, but I’m sure he’s going to do the job. I’ve seen Danny go to work in these situations. He always makes the team better. I’m pretty sure he’s got something planned that, at the end of the day, is going to make this organization better.”
Indeed, the Celtics could very well strengthen their position for next season by simply locking up some of their core players who may hit the free agent market soon.
Boston may look to work out an extension with Isaiah Thomas before the start of this season. Because if he hits free agency in the summer of 2018, he will be poised to command a salary that in year one would be worth more than the entire four-year, $27 million deal he signed with Phoenix in 2014.
“Boston’s changed my career, changed my life,” Thomas said. “I would love to be here long-term and win championships here. But as you guys know, it’s a business and anything can happen. I know that and understand that. But I would love to be here. This has been everything to me. This city, this organization … it’s been good.”