Haggerty: Timmy needs to talk

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Haggerty: Timmy needs to talk

Tim Thomas made a point of ending his statement about skipping the White House with the emphatic point he was finished talking about it.

Good luck with that.

The 37-year-old netminder has been in the middle of a mediapolitical firestorm over the last three days after choosing an individual political decision over joining the rest of his teammates in Washington D.C.

Thomas strong desire to publicly express his Tea Party sensibilities kept him away from President Obamas White House on Monday afternoon, and that allowed the Vezina Trophy winner to stay true to his conservative beliefs.

The move was admirable on the level of standing up for ones belief system. That, after all, is what freedom is all about.

But it was also inherently selfish, given the predictable way it overshadowed that days celebration of the Bruins' Cup championship. Thomas has been painted in the past as a me-first guy, and there were big elements of that in deciding to go rogue while the rest of his teammates were with the President.

The Bruins knew about Thomas decision for months, but didnt announce it beforehand. They didnt want to compromise the enjoyment level of all the otherplayers visiting the White House by worrying about Thomas political inactivity.

The same line of thinking kept Thomas away from the Washington D.C. Boys and Girls club event on late Monday afternoon following the White House visit, and pushed the Bruins to request Thomas hold off on any Facebook message until the days events were over. The team seemed to have a good grasp on the major ripples Thomas choice would create across the waters of sports, government and all forms of news across North America. But one has to wonder if Thomas an intelligent if unsophisticated sort sometimes unsure of himself and reticentin the public eye truly understood how much chatter and vitriol his absence would generate. He finallyseemed to understand all this as he retreated into a side room following Tuesdays game against the Capitals, and avoided actually speaking about his choice.
But Thomas cant duck reporters forever.

Its been split 5050 pretty evenly between eye-rolling exasperation and unfettered support for the Bruins goalie, and that isnt likely to change given the half-and-half political split around the country. But tons of questions remain unanswered after Thomas short statement from Monday night:

Why did Thomas choose this moment to reveal his personal political beliefs in a very public way?
Why did Thomas feel it was okay to represent a broken government on Team USA during the Olympics, but then refuse to go to the White House?
Why not go to the White House and engage President Obama in a discussion about his governmental concerns?
How about attending the event and using it as a platform to publicly state his beliefs and concerns about the direction of the U.S. government?
Was he concerned about the backlash, and did he truly consider the distraction he could be creating with his personal decision at a team event?
Was he worried that his actions might embarrass the organization, and did he consider it could hasten his departure from Boston if ownership and management felt it was a disrespectful enough action?

Those are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to questions about his decision. The entire subject isnt going to go away for Thomas or the Bruins until he properly addresses it. The murkiness and uncertainty surrounding Thomas silence in the days since his White House absence have only encouraged the speculation and spit-balling when it comes to the Bs goaltender.That's a shame for the best goaltender in the world and the B'sStanley Cup hero.

The only way to end it is to face things head on and finally answer all of the questions once and for all. If Thomas is as proud and resolute in his beliefs as he purports to be, it shouldnt be a problem to use the media as a conduit to millions of inquiring hockey fans. Public Relations 101 explains it all: Answer questions honestly and openly and most controversies tend to fade away.

Thomas hasnt done that and he owes his teammates, an entire country of proud Americans and perhaps even the President of the United States more of an explanation than a post that somebody can give a thumbs up to on Facebook.

While the Bruins players simply roll their eyes and go on with their day -- as theyve always done with Thomas politics over the last five years -- its not the same thing with those higher in the organization. Bruins management and ownership are steamed at the goaltender for taking the spotlight away from the team on a day that should have been a crowning moment. It could become Thomas swan song with the organization if the home crowds at TD Garden begin turning on him, or if he slumps under the additional pressure brought upon by playing alchemist while mixing politics with sports.

He also runs the risk of turning the NHL All-Star game into a political spectacle given the large number of national hockey media descending upon Ottawa this weekend for the All-Star festivities.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli freely admitted Thomas could have a challenging time attempting to fend off a throng of reporters looking to corner him for a one-on-Tim interview. With an event as meaningless as the NHL All-Star game, the Thomas story has the kind of legs that many will be chasing after.

Im not going to regulate free speech, said Chiarelli, who confirmed he spoke with Thomas several times imploring him to change his mind about his White House absence. Tim is his own person. Hes been that way for the five or six years that Ive known him. That hasnt changed and it wont change. We won a Stanley Cup and were doing well this year. This is something Ive known about for three months. I know what his beliefs are and his political position is.

Its highly doubtful a large group of reporters from all over the world are going to gladly take a no comment from Thomas if tries to sidestep things when it comes to his political position.

That would be a mistake because the questions will keep popping up every day until he decides to talk. It would be a shame if the Bruins are brought down this season by Thomas solitary stance, or if things eventually facilitate the goalies exit from Boston.

One has to wonder if theres any regret in the mind of Thomas after his irreversible decision. One will continue to wonder about that until Thomas opens up his mouth and begins addressing something that could become career-altering if he doesnt do something about it.

Cooper carted off, reportedly dealing with plantar fascia injury

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Cooper carted off, reportedly dealing with plantar fascia injury

FOXBORO – There was some offensive line attrition this morning at the first full-contact practice of training camp.

Most notably, guard Jonathan Cooper left the field on a cart.

Cooper, acquired from the Cardinals in the Chandler Jones trade, went down during a drill when the offensive line was firing off and hitting bags and carrying the blocks out. It appeared to be his right foot that was afflicted. He was down for a few minutes and the team had to move the drill away from him as he stayed down. Quarterback Tom Brady went over to check on Cooper before Cooper was helped gingerly to a cart alongside trainer Jim Whalen and was carted away.

Ian Rapoport from NFL Media reported after Cooper went down that the former first-rounder is battling plantar fascia, a painful foot ailment.

That’s what led to him needing to be held off, according to Rap.

Meanwhile, center Bryan Stork kinda just slipped out of practice. He was first noticed missing when he did not take part in 1-on-1s which came early in practice. He was out there for the beginning of practice so whether he was hurt, sent off for whacking people or had a dentist’s appointment isn’t known.

Bill Belichick wasn’t available after practice. Otherwise we’d have the full scoop.

We’ll keep an eye on that for Sunday.

Running back D.J. Foster and guard Shaq Mason meanwhile didn’t take part in 1-on-1s and retired to a lower field for some conditioning. Guard Josh Kline’s workload is also a bit limited while guard Tre Jackson and tackle Sebastian Vollmer are on the PUP list still.

The Patriots have practice Sunday and are in the stadium for a night practice on Monday before getting Tuesday off.

Tom E. Curran can be followed on Twitter: @tomecurran

Patriots happy to experience 'real football' on first day with pads

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Patriots happy to experience 'real football' on first day with pads

FOXBORO -- With pads on the docket to be introduced for the first time during Saturday's practice, it gave Patriots coaches an opportunity to put together a plan that focused on the running game. 

Early in practice, defensive ends worked on setting an edge, while receivers practiced sealing off defensive backs on the outside. Linemen got to go at each other in one-on-one drills, and running backs got to lower their shoulders and try to run through contact. 

While the session featured fewer passes at which the thousands of fans in attendance could marvel, it did set the table for some hitting that elicited oohs and ahhs from the crowd. 

Though some players were on the receiving end of a forceful hits, the consensus at the end of practice seemed to be that players on both sides of the football were pleased with the summer's first truly physical session. 

"You see a run game, finally, not just passing every play," Devin McCourty said. "I just think it’s real football. We come out here and we get to work on fundamentals and all of those things. We’re seeing guys’ mentalities, being able to play violently. That’s what football is all about."

For players on the offensive and defensive lines in particular, padded sessions provide them with an opportunity to shine. When practices are held in shorts and t-shirts, there's only so much those big bodies can do. But on Saturday, they were focused on opening up and clogging holes in the running game. 

Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said he's been waiting for Saturday for some time.

"Training camp started today," he said. "Yesterday, the day before, [that] was preliminary. It was all about seeing who came back in good condition, getting back to their playbook. Real football is with a helmet on and shoulder pads. 

"There's just something about putting on these pads and thudding up, and coach giving us one period today to go live, see who [can] really man up. That's what it's about with the pads on. See who's gonna show up. See who are the real men out here. See who can play 11-on-11."

The first big collision of the day came between LeGarrette Blount and Jamie Collins. During a run-specific drill, Blount got through a hole and put his head down. He hit Collins hard, knocking the linebacker backwards, but he lost his feet and fell to the turf. That started a steady stream of solid "thuds" -- not wrapping up or tackling to the ground -- throughout the afternoon.

With contact, often comes some chatter, and Saturday was no different. 

"You got the offense bickering back at us and we're bickering back at them," Knighton said. "They make plays, we make plays. All day, it's a competition. If everyone was out here quiet, going through the motions, it would be boring. You won't get nothing out of it. You try to be competitive. At the same time you also try to work on your fundamentals and do what you gotta do." 

"It was fun," said Chris Hogan of the contact. "We were looking forward to it. We're playing football now. There's no more with the shells on or just helmets. This is real football now. We look forward to this. We kind of had our minds right for the one-on-ones with the DBs and the blocking drills and all that kind of stuff. It was a lot of fun today." 

Later on Saturday, players and coaches will go back over the tape of their first day of hitting. That's where, Knighton said, the rubber will meet the road for some players who talked a big game leading up to this day. 

"Guys always talk about what they'll do when the pads come on," he said. "We'll watch the tape today, and the eye in the sky won't lie."

Postcard From Camp, Day 3: Patriots in pads for physical practice

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Postcard From Camp, Day 3: Patriots in pads for physical practice

FOXBORO -- Every day from Patriots training camp, we'll be providing you news and observations from what occurred on the field with Bill Belichick's club. Day 3 of on-the-field work was the team's first day of work in pads. Here's what we saw...

* The Patriots had a few new absences on Saturday. Rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell was not present, nor was rookie defensive lineman Vincent Valentine, who traveled to Nebraska for a friend's funeral. Running back Brandon Bolden was also a new absence. 

Running back Dion Lewis (on the physically unable to perform list) was not present, though other players on PUP (Sebastian Vollmer, Tre' Jackson, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Clay Harbor) were around as spectators. Defensive lineman Alan Branch (on the non-football injury list) was also not spotted. Nate Washington, who became ill at the end of the first day of practice of camp, did not participate for the second consecutive day, but he was present. 

* Soon after the start of practice, offensive lineman Shaq Mason and running back DJ Foster went to a lower practice field for some conditioning. 

* Guard Jonathan Cooper went down about an hour into practice during a drill where offensive linemen worked on finding their blocking assignments and hit other offensive linemen carrying foam pads. Trainers tended to what appeared to be his right foot. He walked slowly off the field with the help of the training staff. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Cooper is battling plantar fascia.

* The first contact drills of camp appeared to focus on the running game. While at one end of the field tight ends and fullback James Develin blocked defensive ends setting the edge, at the other end, corners tried to get by run-blocking receivers. Edge defender Chris Long put a good pop on tight end Bear Pascoe to start the drill. 

* After a set of one-on-ones between receivers, corners and safeties, Tom Brady congratulated Aaron Dobson for an impressive grab. Chris Hogan went airborne to give Dobson a congratulatory bump, and Matthew Slater went out of his way to give both Dobson and Hogan a fist-bump. 

* The first good collision of camp came when LeGarrette Blount took a handoff from Tom Brady and ran hard into Jamie Collins. Collins felt the brunt of the impact, but Blount fell down. One snap later, Dont'a Hightower filled a running lane and pushed rookie guard Joe Thuney back behind the line of scrimmage. Later, during the same drill, Long had another noticeable rep where he set a firm edge and ripped rookie tight end Steven Scheu to the ground. 

* During a kickoff period, Brady and Garoppolo worked a side session with Rob Gronknowski, Martellus Bennett and Aaron Dobson. Nate Washington and Julian Edelman watched closely. 

* During a half-field period, Keshawn Martin had a perfectly-placed deep ball from Jimmy Garoppolo slip through his hands with Justin Coleman in coverage. Martin, who beat Coleman in a one-on-one drill earlier in the day, had a step on his defender but couldn't convert. 

* Joe Thuney stood out as one of the top performers in one-on-ones between offensive linemen and defensive linemen. He appeared to win matchups with Malcom Brown, Frank Kearse and Trey Flowers. Fellow rookie lineman Ted Karras also held his own in that period. 

* Rob Ninkovich looked quick in one-on-ones. Now in his 11th season, he ripped by Marcus Cannon twice relatively easily. 

* During a non-competitive 7-on-7 hurry-up period, Brady had a pass deflected by a paddle. It was the second straight day Brady had a pass blocked by a ball boy, and he was audibly displeased. Fans may want to pull out the earmuffs next time that happens. 

* Jacoby Brissett was picked off by Vinnie Sunseri later in that non-competitive 7-on-7 drill. 

11-ON-11s

* During 11-on-11s, James Develin put a sound block on Dont'a Hightower to clear a hole for LeGarrette Blount. 

* Garoppolo (who took the first reps), made a high throw to Chris Hogan that was dropped. Hogan said later that it was a pass he should have caught, and one that he probably didn't need to jump for. On that rep, Jabaal Sheard got around Marcus Cannon and would have put a hit on Garoppolo.

* Terrance Knighton showed good mobility down the line of scrimmage to put a thud on James White for no gain. He's more than just a space-eating tackle, he said following the session.

* Chris Harper, who had a good day catching the football on Friday, showed up as a blocker at one point Saturday. He sealed off Jordan Richards to open a running lane for Blount. Harper later beat Cyrus Jones over the middle for a diving catch on a Brady throw. Jones made what may be considered a rookie mistake, running by Harper without touching him down while Harper was on the turf. Harper alertly got up and ran for extra yardage. That may be a teaching point for the rookie second-round pick later in meetings. 

* Cre'von LeBlanc came up with a nice pass breakup on a Jacoby Brissett pass to Harper.

* During the 11-on-11 period, Blount fumbled, and the ball was recovered by Ninkovich. Hard to tell who forced the fumble, but Blount was sent for a lap after his turnover. 

* Perhaps the play of the day came on a well-thrown corner route from Brady to Gronkowski. The big tight end reached in the back corner of the end zone, reeled in the pass, and fell to the turf. Patrick Chung, perhaps the team's top defender of tight ends, was in coverage. Brady went out of his way to give Gronkowski an attaboy after the play, which had fans roaring. 

* Malcolm Butler couldn't believe it when Hogan caught a touchdown in the back of the end zone. It looked like Butler had a hand on the ball as Hogan brought it in, but the Pro Bowl corner couldn't knock it out. 

* Call it a draw between the offense and the defense during goal line work at the end of practice. Blount got in the end zone twice for offensive wins. Shea McLellin showed up with a run stuff on the goal line, and Long was held by tight end Bryce Williams on the final rep, giving the defense the win there, in my opinion. 

Phil Perry can be followed on Twitter: @PhilAPerry