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."

WR Brandon Marshall provides player's perspective to owners on Day 2 of meetings

WR Brandon Marshall provides player's perspective to owners on Day 2 of meetings

PHOENIX - When league owners, coaches and executives come together for the NFL's annual meetings, those meetings are often devoid of those who have the biggest say in making the product what it is. 

The guys who play.

Brandon Marshall, newly-acquired wide receiver of the Giants, had an opportunity to provide the meetings with a player's perspective on Monday morning. 

The focus, he told reporters after addressing owners, was to highlight the importance of continuing to foster stronger relationships between the league and its players. 

It seemed to go over well, judging by a tweet sent out from Niners owner Jed York. 

"I think it's important for us to continue to do things like we did last year giving the players more of a voice," Marshall said. "You saw the campaign during Week 13 last year, My Cause My Cleats. That was super successful. It gave the world and our fans and the NFL the opportunity to see that we are people,  we're not just gladiators. It humanized us. 

"It not only gave people outside of the game that opportunity to see who we really were but also people in the game like owners, executives and even players. . .We want to continue to do more of that. If we want our game to continue to be on this track that it's on, being super successful, as far as being a pillar in the community, then we need to make sure that our relationships between players and owners is healthy."

Day 2 of the owners meetings will be highlighted by a decision on the fate of the Raiders franchise. The team is expected to have enough support from owners around the league to uproot and head to Las Vegas. 

Around midday in Phoenix, Patriots owner Robert Kraft is expected to speak to reporters about league affairs as well as his team's offseason activity. 

Jaylen Brown steps away from social media to prepare for playoffs

Jaylen Brown steps away from social media to prepare for playoffs

BOSTON –  Like most of the NBA’s Millennials, Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown is active on social media.

But if you holla at him on Twitter or Instagram these days, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear back anytime soon.
 
That’s because Brown is stepping away from the social media game to better focus on his first postseason journey with the Celtics, which begins next month.
 
Brown said he isn’t the only player inside the Celtics locker room who has pledged to do things differently leading up to the playoffs.
 
More than anything, the changes Brown speaks of are symbolic to illustrate the need for everyone to make sacrifices critical for a team’s success.
 
“I’ve paid attention to that, how a lot of guys are making the sacrifices necessary to add to this team,” Brown said. “Some guys are only drinking water. Some guys are cutting out cursing or other aspects. Some guys have some personal stuff...Everybody is putting themselves in that mind frame to sacrifice for the betterment of the team.”
 
He added that taking a step back from social media was just one of a handful of changes he has made leading up to the playoffs.
 
“Some are personal, but some, just being a lot more focused and more locked in, eliminating distractions,” Brown told CSNNE.com. “This generation, we’re so social media dependent. So just eliminating that, filling that in with other stuff whether it’s gym time or film or just time to yourself instead of it being so predicated on the cell phone.”
 
Brown understands the battle Boston (48-26) is in for the top spot in the East heading into the playoffs and how important getting that would be to this team.
 
“It means a lot, especially being a rookie from my perspective, being on a team that’s number one seed in the East and being a contributor.” Brown said. “What more could you ask for, coming in to the league, coming into the NBA. It’s been great for me. It’s been a blessing.”
 
While Brown has had his share of ups and downs as a rookie, there’s no ignoring the fact that he’s progressing at a brisk rate.

“Offensively, I’m getting a little more comfortable scoring the ball; mid-range game, I’m developing,” he said. “Defensively, being in the right spot at the right time, stuff like that. I’ve come a long way and I still have a long way to go.”