Curran: Belichick does things his way, like it or not

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Curran: Belichick does things his way, like it or not

We have another snit. Panties are twisted. Egos are bruised. Fingers are being wagged. The arrogant Patriots are at it again. Bill Belichick didnt talk to Steve Tasker after the AFC Championship game. And all the prominent Patriots have pulled out of the Pro Bowl.

Its funny. Our truck commercials tell us real Americans are independent, hard-working iconoclasts who march to their own beat. Our erectile dysfunction commercials insinuate that men of a certain age can manage just fine on their own with a wrench and a little blue pill.

But when a 60-something head coach tells The Man to screw again its a tsunami of indignation.

The great Charlie Pierce last year described Belichick as the last anarchist and it is so true. Hes going to do whatever he wants. Yet even the edgy, wacky morning radio guys will take Belichick to task for not reporting to Steve Taskers side when summoned.

Shannon Sharpe of CBS believes that Belichick not talking to Tasker is unacceptable.

"You can't be a poor sport all the time," Shannon schoolmarmed in Sundays postgame telecast. "You're not going to win every time. And he does this every time he loses. It is unacceptable."

Shannons brother, Sterling, spent an NFL career shunning the mic until he needed to make a real-world paycheck, but forget that, Shannon was on a roll. Especially telling was this observation by Sharpe, "Bill Belichick makes it very easy for you to root against the Patriots."

First of all, three grunts, two shrugs and a snort were not going to make the nation draw Belichick close to its protective bosom.

Second of all, that bit about Belichick making it easy to root against the Patriots? Thats the crux of why Belichick isnt interested in seeking out Steve Tasker for a 2012 postscript.

If you do what the suits league, corporate or media expect, they will then bestow upon you their support. If you do not? The suits will endeavor to make your life more difficult.

You see it on Park Avenue in New York and Morrissey Boulevard in Boston. Contingent objectivity. Quid pro quo coverage.

But Belichick has it sussed. As long as he does well what he is paid handsomely for coaching the Patriots he can perform for the cameras or not perform at his own whim.

If he doesnt want to talk to Steve Tasker or dress nicely on the sidelines or loan his image to EA Sports or speak at the NFL Combine or at the Coaches Breakfast at the owners meetings, whats anyone going to do about it?

Generally, he knows the rules better than the people who make them. And its only after the Patriots appear to be benefiting from something shrewd that the NFL moves to add a point of emphasis.

For entertainment purposes, the league would take 32 Rex Ryans. Pre-sell the games, carnival bark all week, make great TV. Rex wants to be loved and even though hes losing consistently he is. And hes been allowed to overstay his usefulness as a result.

Belichick couldnt care less whether hes loved or loathed. And if the football results ever dip, well see how radioactive he becomes.

Another irony worth noting. At about the same time Shannon Sharpe was tearing Belichick a new one for not performing for the cameras, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was processing a postgame conversation with Belichick he said hell treasure forever.

So classy, so gracious, is how Harbaugh described Belichick to Peter King of NBC and Sports Illustrated. Complimentary about how we played, about our game plan, about how tough it is to play us.

In the end, CBS was just fine without 90 seconds of Belichick. That meant more time for them to devote to Ray Lewis. Ray Ray would never miss a chance to speak to the masses. Would never bring the league into disrepute. Would never be slow to produce evidence like Belichick was back in 2007. Hes accessible, win or lose. And thats why its easy to root for Ray Lewis, right Shannon Sharpe?

Slater missing from start of Patriots practice

Slater missing from start of Patriots practice

FOXBORO -- The Patriots were without two key members of their special teams units at Friday's practice. 

Both Matthew Slater (foot) and Jordan Richards (knee) were not spotted at the start of the team's most recent workout. Defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton (illness) was also missing. 

Hamilton and Richards did not participate in Thursday's practice. Slater was present on Wednesday and Thursday after missing Sunday's game against the Jets. 

The Patriots did have a Gronkowski back on the field Friday, but it wasn't Rob, who was expected to undergo back surgery in Los Angeles. It was fullback Glenn Gronkowski, who has apparently been re-signed to the Patriots practice squad for his fourth go-round on New England's 10-man unit. Practice-squad tight end Kennard Backman, who has not been at Patriots practice since Wednesday, has likely been released in order to make room for Gronkowski. 

 

Curran: Patriots holding all the cards with Gronkowski contract

Curran: Patriots holding all the cards with Gronkowski contract

FOXBORO – If the Patriots ever do file for divorce from Rob Gronkowski, it’s not going to be because they don’t like what they are paying him.

When the team picked up the $10 million option on Gronk’s contract in March, activating the back half of his six-year, $54M contract, the Patriots got the upper hand business-wise.

Gronk is signed through the 2019 season – same as Tom Brady. His salaries from 2017 to 2019 are $4.25M, $8M and $9M. His cap hits are $7M, $11M and $12M.

The salary cap for 2016 is $153M. Between now and 2019, it could balloon to more than $170M. 

Gronk fits neatly under it. The franchise tag for tight ends in 2016 was $9M. Gronk is on the books to play for less than half of that in salary in 2017.

That explains why Gronk sent that tweet back in March,  passive aggressively kicking rocks about the “pay cut” he took when the Patriots picked up his option. And it’s why, throughout the summer, his agent Drew Rosenhaus was trying to get the Patriots to the table to work out a new deal for his client.

This back injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for Gronkowski business-wise.

Even if the Patriots tore up the final three years of the deal and gave him a new contract without knowing how he’ll come out of this latest back surgery, the new deal would have to be performance-based and loaded with playing-time clauses.

In that case, as opposed to self-preservation to ensure he can walk fairly well at 50, Gronk, now 27, may feel compelled to play even when he’s not “right.” And, if he’s playing while less than 100 percent, will he be able to play with the abandon that made him the transcendent player he’s been?

That’s if Gronkowski and his Gronktourage would even agree to that kind of a contract, which I’m not sure they would.

They will want security. They may also feel they are owed security because of the physical sacrifices Gronk has made in his seven-year career. And that’s not even taking into consideration the windfall the franchise has realized both financially and in public perception because an inimitable player has been on their roster for seven years. The team should expect a request that they relax their generally hard-line bargaining

While the Patriots have had a strong relationship with Gronk’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, this contract is – on face value – embarrassing for Rosenhaus at this point.

That Gronk “won” for the first portion of the contract isn’t going to be recalled. But he did win. Gronk signed the deal on June 8, 2012. Within months, he fractured his arm on a PAT attempt against the Colts. Then – after having a plate inserted – he broke it again in the playoffs right where the plate ended. An infection ensued. Gronk also had back surgery that offseason. He very slowly returned to action in 2013, missing the first six games. He returned for Week 7, caught 39 balls for 592 yards over the next seven games, then had his season ended by an ACL blowout.

At that juncture, the security of the contract was a godsend. But the way those two years went – the rushing back to the field, the plate insertion, the infection – has shaped the entire relationship with the team since.  

And considering Gronk’s father, Gordie, was a successful businessman himself and sent four sons to the NFL, there may be no more well-informed family out there as to the harsh realities of the business of football.

Beyond just knowing how the sausage gets made, though, the Gronkowskis have been considering Rob’s football mortality and making sure to maximize his earnings since he was 19.

Not hypothetically either. After Gronk’s sophomore season, he declared for the draft despite having ruptured a disk for the first time. The reason? If he played another down of college football his $4M insurance policy was void. If he suffered a career-ending injury, he would realize no dough from the sport. So he entered the draft to start making as much as he could before the body gave out. 

Which is to their credit. The kid had a skill, he loved playing the sport, making sure he’s well-compensated for plying that skill for as long as possible is what any parent should do.

But we’re approaching a crossroads now. Will Gronk want to continue playing? Will his family encourage him to? Will he even be cleared?

And even if those answers all came back in the affirmative, would the Gronkowskis sign off on Rob playing for relative peanuts compared to what lesser tight ends are receiving?

The Patriots have the favorable hand right now. The young man may well be on an operating table still, so this would not be the time to play it.

But the hard realities of that contract are impossible to ignore. And at some point, they’ll come to a head.