Return of the two-sport athlete

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Return of the two-sport athlete

Theres nothing cooler than a two-sport professional athlete.

I dont present this as opinion, but as an irrefutable scientific fact.

Bo Jackson. Deion Sanders. Brian Jordan. Danny Ainge . . .

They all accomplished something that most of us could only dream of except they did it twice. And there's an undeniable aura of awesomeness that comes with that.

Sadly, its been a while since America was blessed with the greatness of a two-sport star, but it looks like one member of the New England Patriots might be ready to throw his name into the ring.

Christopher Price has the full story over at WEEI, but apparently Julian Edelman put on a show in Toronto last weekend during an impromptu workout with the Blue Jays. This, according to Toronto coach (and Maine-native) Brian Butterfield, who tells Price that . . .

Edelman was great at shortstop: "Kelly Johnson took balls alongside him, and said he was amazing."

And in the outfield: Dwayne Murphy, who won seven Gold Gloves, was watching him take fly balls and said he was impressive.

And that he was also dynamic at the dish: In his first round or two, he struggled a little, but you could see the bat speed and the athleticism. And then, he got hot he hit two balls into the middle deck and five home runs total. The two in the middle deck were absolute bombs. When he hit them, the guys were just screaming and yelling and telling each other, Look at that! He just wowed all of our guys. Im a huge fan of his to begin with, and he was just even better than I thought. A great athlete.

It's a fun idea, but for some reason, I doubt that Edelman will join the ranks of the two-sport star anytime soon. But it got me thinking: Which other Boston athletes should take a crack at expanding their athletic identity?

Here are a few suggestions:

Rajon Rondo: Wide receiver or secondary? Thats the only question.

As a receiver, Rondos the same height as Anquan Boldin, with the speed and shiftiness of DeSean Jackson and hands the size of Danny Woodhead. Hed be a serious deep threat, a nightmare after the catch and no matter where the balls thrown you know hell get it. Theres a question of durability, but theres no doubting his toughness. (Not to mention, its hard to get complacent under the NFL spotlight.)

As a free safety, Rondo might struggle with the physicality, but can you imagine the mental stranglehold hed have on these quarterbacks? Hed know where the balls going before the QB made his first read and can probably go from sideline to sideline in four strides.
Avery Bradley: Unless Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand leave hockey for competitive MILF Hunting, Im not sure theres a duo in Boston that naturally fits into another sport better than BradleyRondo do with football. Isnt Bradley the perfect strong safety to complement Rondo? Or what if you played Avery at corner? Receivers would lose their minds trying to shake him in the open field.

Honestly, if the Pats stick Bradley on Randy Moss when the Niners come to town in Week 15, Moss will quit before halftime. (Just kidding, he'll be released by Week 6.;)

Vince Wilfork: No Timmy? No problem. Throw some pads on Big 75, push him in front of the net, and the net no longer exists. Have at it, Ovechkin.

Rob Gronkowski: Get Gronk a speedo and a swim cap, and hes a dead ringer for just about any European water polo player. In an unrelated story: Ill be shocked and disappointed if at some point this summer a picture doesnt surface of Gronk out partying in nothing but a speedo and a swim cap.

Ray Allen: First of all, theres no question that Allen has the focus and discipline to become a reliable NFL kicker. He could have an entire second career if he wants. But I could also see him as maybe more in his younger years a solid middle reliever, or a crafty starter. Nothing too overpowering but a more cerebral guy like Greg Maddux or Bronson Arroyo and Im sorry for using those two guys in the same sentence.

Also, it goes without saying that Allen has potential as a professional golfer. Only 13 years until he's eligible for the Senior PGA.

Alfredo Aceves: They call special teams the Kamikaze Corps and theres no athlete in Boston who embodies the Kamikaze state of mind better than Aceves. He'd be perfect out there alongside Matthew Slater and Co. Good luck getting him to wear a helmet, though.

Jacoby Ellsbury: Maybe its because he reminds me of Apolo Ohno, but Ellsbury may have missed his calling as a speed skater. Come on, would you be shocked to learn that he has a full-body spandex suit hanging somewhere in his closet?

Zdeno Chara: This might be a little obvious, but I'd love to see Big Z take a shot on the jockey circuit.

Tom Brady: Hed start his career as a catcher, then make a seamless transition to first base before becoming a manager, commissioner and then the President of the United States.
Sasha Pavlovic: Pavlovic has a very "Olympic gymnast" look and feel to him. Cant you see him wearing a leotard, double wristbands and delivering a killer routine on the uneven bars? Oh, just me? K.

JaJuan Johnson: Hed make the ideal "left upright" at Gillette.

Nate Solder: How many time this postseason did you wish the Celtics had an enforcer? A Charles OakleyKendrick Perkins kind of guy who could strike fear into opponents? Well, nothing says fear like a 6-foot-8, 319-pound monster. And it doesn't hurt Solder averaged 15 points and and eight rebounds a game in high school for the Colorado state champs. (What's really scary though? 6-8, 319 pounds probably isn't far off from LeBron's actual measurements.)

Tim Thomas: Olympic archery. He's doesn't have to worry about teammates, and gets to shoot things.

Dustin Pedroia: The PedroiaMarchand comparison has been beaten to death these past few years, but not without reason. These guys are the same. Throw Pedroia on some skates and he's every bitter the grinder and instigator that Marchand is. Plus, I'd love to see the reaction if Pedey called out Claude Julien the way he did Bobby V.

Danny Woodhead: Just for fun, the Sox should trot Woodhead out to second base in a No. 15 jersey and see how long it takes someone to notice. Im guessing the first ground ball.
Shawn Thornton: Seeing how he turns 35 next month, Thornton probably missed the window to join the ranks of the MMA elite, but he definitely has the make-up. Even now, I bet he could go out there and just take hit after hit until the other guy tires out like the second coming of Homer Simpson's boxing career.

Wes Welker: Welker gives off that dirt dog vibe. I can see him making it as a gritty, scrappy outfielder like Darin Erstad or Darren Bragg, or some other guy not named Darren. Trot Nixon?

Brandon Spikes: I'm not sure if Spikes knows how to skate, but he should learn. Can you imagine what this guy would do for hockey? He'd revolutionize the game! And in the process, shatter more glass than Darryl Dawkins.

And that's all for now. But seriously, Julian. We need this as sports fans. Just give it a try. I'm sure Bill will understand. He always understands.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Mingo, Branch among the Patriots sitting out of preseason game No. 3

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Mingo, Branch among the Patriots sitting out of preseason game No. 3

Barkevious Mingo has made his way to Charlotte to join the Patriots, but he will not take the field with his new club about 24 hours after being traded by the Browns. 

The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder that the Patriots acquired for a fifth-round pick on Thursday went through a workout long before Friday night's preseason game, but he was not in uniform with his teammates leading up to kickoff. 

Along with Mingo, Rob Gronkowski, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Jonathan Cooper, Shaq Mason, Malcolm Mitchell, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Shea McClellin and Alan Branch were not on the field for warmups. All four players who are still on the physically unable to perform list -- Sebastian Vollmer, Danny Amendola, Tre' Jackson and Dion Lewis -- were also missing. 

Branch has been reinstated by the Patriots and re-joined the team after serving a team-imposted week-long suspension, but it appears as though he will not take the field Friday night. 

Ninkovich (triceps), Mitchell (elbow), Cooper (foot), Mason (hand, reportedly), Sheard (knee) and McClellin (undisclosed) have been dealing with injuries and were not expected to play. Grugier-Hill is a bit of a surprise absence given that he practiced for the Patriots this week. 

Keep an eye on running back DJ Foster and receiver Keshawn Martin, both of whom will see preseason game action for the first time this summer and could make late runs at roster spots. Patriots receiver Julian Edelman may also see some game action for the first time this preseason as he was on the field with the team and in uniform before the game. Logan Ryan, Nate Ebner and undrafted rookie tight end Bryce Williams may see their first game action as well. 

As Tom E. Curran reported, Tom Brady will play, though Jimmy Garoppolo will start. Brady and the team's other quarterbacks took the field together for warmups in the lead-up to kickoff. 

Curran: In Brown case, NFL -- again -- asleep at the investigatory switch

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Curran: In Brown case, NFL -- again -- asleep at the investigatory switch

The problem isn’t that the people running the NFL are stupid. They think everyone else is stupid. That’s the problem.  

Latest evidence submitted to the already existing mountain of proof that the NFL thinks we’re all a bunch of drooling dolts? Deciding to give Giants kicker Josh Brown a one-game suspension for violating the domestic-violence policy instead of the mandated six. 

Did they not think people would find out Brown’s suspension stemmed from allegedly putting hands on his ex-wife? And that questions would naturally arise as to why Brown’s suspension was 85 percent shorter than what the NFL JUST mandated? And that, given the NFL’s brutally inept investigations and jaundiced rulings in Bountygate, Deflategate and the Ray Rice case meant that “Hey, take our word for it, we know what we’re doing here . . . ” wasn’t sufficient. 

Apparently. 

Because here the NFL is, softshoeing around the topic, suggesting without stating that Brown’s ex-wife might be given to exaggeration and expecting that to be enough. It isn’t. 

We discussed this Tuesday afternoon on WEEI and that day I said about 44 times that the NFL owes transparency to the American public that misplaced its trust in it being able to do the right thing. 
Hell, if a member Roger Goodell’s newly minted Star Chamber was saying just a year ago that he was “wrong to put his faith in the league” why should we feel okay accepting “Because we said so . . . ” as a reasonable explanation?

My friend Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk wrote on this topic as well on Friday:

But for the bounty scandal and the Ray Rice second suspension and #Deflategate, maybe folks would be inclined to give the league the benefit of the doubt and accept the notion that full transparency would undermine privacy interests of the player involved and his family. Given those past incidents and in consideration of the current circumstances, it’s difficult to not wonder whether the facts as collected by the team and the league fairly led to a decision to suspend Brown for only one game, or whether that’s simply the outcome the league and the team wanted, regardless of whether the facts (including a claim by Brown’s ex-wife of 20 prior incidents of violence) suggest that the punishment should have been more severe.

Would I like to be able to accept the NFL at face value on this issue and others like it? Absolutely. It’s not my fault that I can’t, and it’s the responsibility of the NFL and the Giants to properly balance player privacy interests against loudly-stated proclamations from 2014 about no excuses and no tolerance for domestic violence in a way that doesn’t require the benefit of the doubt or any other courtesy to be extended by a public whose confidence in the game is supposedly of paramount importance to the league.

If only the league would hire a Senior Vice President of Investigations to ensure that the league neither bungles its detective work nor loses the public and player’s faith that it’s not bending the rules. 

SURPRISE! It did hire one. And she’s a yooooooge! Giants fan. 

Here’s a couple of snippets from the fawning New York Times piece written in February about Lisa Friel:

“The stated option chosen by the N.F.L., … is no longer to defer to law enforcement but rather to conduct professional internal investigations that are not designed to please the head office, yet dispel the impression that its biggest stars seem above reproach.

"This option largely comes down to a woman named Lisa Friel, whose league office is adorned with portraits of giants: the former Giants quarterback Phil Simms, the current Giants quarterback Eli Manning — and, most tellingly, Robert M. Morgenthau, the august former Manhattan district attorney.

"Friel spent nearly three decades working for Morgenthau, serving for many years as the chief of his Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit. She said he had instilled in her a prosecutorial code of conduct: 'You investigate every allegation that comes in; you investigate it objectively, sensitively and thoroughly. And when you get to the end of your investigation, you make an objective decision about what happened. That’s your job.'

"Friel said she was applying those principles as the N.F.L.’s senior vice president for investigations — a position created in the wake of the league’s mishandling of the case of Ray Rice, then a Baltimore Ravens running back, whose chilling assault of his future wife was captured on surveillance video and became, among other things, a public relations disaster for the N.F.L.

"Friel is responsible for investigating alleged violations of the league’s personal conduct code: domestic violence, sexual assault, animal cruelty, blackmail, extortion, racketeering, disorderly conduct, you name it. She emphasizes that the adjudications or dismissals of court cases do not dictate the outcomes of her own inquiries, which some officials in the players’ union find at times to be overzealous."

So within a year of the NFL hiring someone because the Ray Rice investigation yielded an embarrassingly, distressingly insufficient suspension, the NFL has handed down what seems to be an insufficient suspension.

In an investigation ostensibly headed by Friel. Of a player who plays for the team she adores. 

"Her job, which is intended to establish much-needed consistency in the league’s handling of misconduct cases, is at the center of a decidedly alpha-male environment. But Friel, 58, sees it as a twinning of passions, 'a perfect fit.'

"To begin with, she is a devout Giants fan, a season-ticket holder whose basement in her Brooklyn apartment is, as The Daily Beast once reported, a blue-and-red shrine to the Jints. Among her earliest memories of growing up in New Jersey is watching a Giants game on a black-and-white television and asking her father: 'Who are we rooting for, Daddy? The ones in the black uniforms or the ones in the white uniforms?' "

Now, circling back to my original point. I don’t think Lisa Friel -- accomplished prosecutor -- is going to go easy on a wife-beater in her new job just because she’s sat in the owner’s box a few times and had a crush on Phil Simms. 

Nor do I think John Mara -- another member of Goodell’s Star Chamber and a particularly beloved owner on 345 Park Avenue -- is going to want Brown on his team if his actions were truly as revolting as they seem without context. 

But that neither Friel nor Mara are made to uncomfortably stand and explain the is a kind of favoritism. And it’s the type of wrong-headed PR move that only an arrogant monolith like the NFL would embrace. 

Friel addressed in the Times story her vigilance at being used by the NFL as a puppet. 

"But Friel also rejects any story line that she is a co-opted cog in a public relations effort to stem an image crisis.

" 'I am a professional at what I do, and I take what I do so seriously, and the repercussions are so important, that I would never not do the right thing,'  she said.

"She added, 'If I felt the pressure to do something other than that, I would go look for another job.' "

The only thing the NFL’s offered as a reason for Brown’s light suspension is that neither his ex-wife nor authorities cooperated in the investigation the NFL tried to conduct. Whether that’s the whole truth or not, folding their tent and not offering an explanation for it flies in the face of this statement made by Friel six months ago talking to the Times. 

"The only issue (she declined even to call it a frustration) is the expectation by some of instant investigative findings following an allegation. Friel said that she was no longer in law enforcement, had no subpoena power and must pursue these cases more like a reporter or private investigator.

"This means asking the local police department for incident reports, transcripts of 911 calls, photographs, interviews with responding officers. This means wading through redacted documents, being rebuffed by witnesses and alleged victims, waiting for the processing of freedom-of-information requests. This means hitting walls, putting together a to-do list, then waiting for the case to be adjudicated, dismissed or closed.

"Then, Friel said, 'we’re going to circle back and go through the whole list again.' "

The NFL had two choices when it how to package Brown’s suspension. Either leave people to presume it was trying to bury an infraction and save face for the beloved owner or a precious New York city franchise. Or demonstrate that there really was a new way of doing business by being painfully transparent. 

It chose the former. And they now deal with the fallout of mistrust. Again. Still.