Belichick considers Kaepernick's impact

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Belichick considers Kaepernick's impact

FOXBORO - For four-plus games, Colin Kaepernick has been the 49ers starter.

San Francisco won three, lost one and tied the one game in which Kaepernick relieved an injured Alex Smith.

Good start. But listening to Bill Belichick on Wednesday, it seemed as if the Patriots head coach wasn't comfortable sending too much adulation to Kaepernick just yet. Not enough evidence submitted.

For instance, asked if Kaepernick is "reading the field well," which is something Niners coach Jim Harbaugh credited Kaepernick with, Belichick said, "Hes had limited opportunities. I think you certainly see it at times. Im sure if Coach Harbaugh said it, Im sure its right. Hes with him every day. Hes really started the last what, four games? Weve seen him have opportunities to do it but not as many as theyve seen. I think hes done it to a degree. Hes a young, improving quarterback. It looks like he gets better each week and probably plays with more confidence and does things a little bit better each week. But, I wouldnt disagree with (Coach Harbaugh)."
There's no doubt Kaepernick brings a dynamic to the Niners that Smith didn't. Kaepernick is an electric athlete (with a bold, classical music soundtrack). He's able to test a defense both with his arm and his legs and he's a hard player to tackle. Smith, a former No. 1 overall pick, has mobility, but not to the same degree Kaepernick does.

Above all that, though, Kaepernick has shown two of the qualities Belichick stresses.

Kaepernick is accurate (completing 67 percent of his passes) and has made good decisions routinely (three touchdowns, one interception).

"I could probably go out there and read the field decently but I dont think youd want me playing quarterback," said Belichick. "There are other guys that can thread a needle but maybe not see as well. I think the combination of seeing the field, making good decisions and accuracy is really what it comes down to more than some other qualities. Not that those arent important, but I would put those at the top of the list."

With Kaepernick, the Niners are running with a full-house backfield, pressuring defenses to defend multiple potential ballcarriers in addition to receivers.

"They attack you everywhere; everybody has to do a good job (defensively)," said Belichick. "They can run inside, they can run outside, they can keep it, they play-action off it. Really, everybody has to be at the point of attack. No one player can stop it, no one guy can. Eleven guys have to play good team defense. Im sure thats why theyre doing it is to try to put stress on every player on the defense and they do." Belichick was asked if Kaepernick was unique in that he not only runs fast, but also runs with strength.

"I think we saw that with Tim Tebow last year. He was a guy that broke a lot of tackles, ran the ball inside, he was more like a running back," Belichick countered. "I think each player has their own individual style. Guys do some things, other guys there are a lot of different ways to be effective. But it looks like he can certainly out-run the defense. He has good speed, he has some quickness, he has some running skill. Its not just speed."

Belichick didn't opine on whether he believed the move from Smith to Kaepernick was the right one. No surprise there. But he did reveal his bottom-line philosophy when he was asked what a coach takes into consideration when making a quarterback switch.

"To win. There are no other considerations. ... Thats the only thing were really here for is to win. What else is there? I dont know. What else is there to talk about?"

Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

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Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

Malcolm Butler was one of many not spotted during OTAs on Thursday when the media got a looksee at one of the practices.

Butler wasn’t the only one. But he did stand out as a missing player who hadn’t (to my knowledge) had a surgery but did have a contract that needs addressing. Another one? Rob Gronkowski. If we really want to extend it out, throw in Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan.

This is the point where it’s important to point out that these workouts are voluntary – VAW-LUN-TERR-EEEE! Players don’t have to be there. Additionally, I’m not even sure Butler or Gronkowski (or Ryan and Harmon) weren’t at the facility. All I know is they weren’t on the field. And, per usual, nobody’s tipping his hand as to why.

But we do have this, relative to Butler. ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote Sunday that he “wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to his contract status.” Reiss said that Butler “told teammates and friends he plans to push for an adjustment to his contract before the 2016 season, and staying off the field in voluntary workouts would be a decision that limits injury risk and also could be viewed as a statement to the organization that he's unhappy with the status quo and/or the movement/specifics of contract talks.”

In the same vein, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gronkowski opted out as well for the same reason, especially since he threw out a tweet that signaled dissatisfaction with his pact in March.

But in terms of a statement, not going to OTAs is more of a throat-clearing than a noisy proclamation.

Not to minimize the move if Butler, Gronkowski or anybody else is actually staying away because of business. The Patriots usually enjoy almost perfect OTA attendance. Also, there hasn’t been much contract strife around here for the past five seasons.

Money matters were an annual issue for the Patriots from about 2003 through 2010. Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Ty Warren, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Randy Moss, Adam Vinatieri, Mike Vrabel and – quietly – Tom Brady all had their contract dances back then. But the only one that got hairy in the recent past was Wes Welker.

It’s still too soon to know if any of these will get contentious. When will we know? When either a player or his agent spouts off. Or, when someone’s a no-show at mandatory minicamp beginning June 7.

That would amount to a shot across the bow. Of all the players likely to take that shot, Butler seems a reasonable bet. His base pay this season is $600K after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2015 that saw him check the opposition’s best wideout on a weekly basis. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year. He deserves longer-term security than he currently has. Gronkowski has a lot less to kick about. He may make less than lesser players, but he also was the league’s highest paid tight end when he was missing scads of games due to injury.

After Butler, Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower would figure to have the strongest cases to want new deals and want them snappy. Ryan and Harmon would be right behind those two. Then Jabaal Sheard.

Sheard, Hightower and Collins were all on the field Thursday. 

Can the Patriots get all these guys reupped? Will they even try? How do they have them prioritized? If the guy who howls loudest gets to the front of the line, the time to make some noise is close.

But we have yet to hear any of these players loud and clear.