It’s game day in Atlanta. Flew in Saturday night and checked in to the luxurious Gateway Marriott Atlanta Airport International For Sleeping And Conventions, spending about an hour staring at this before calling it a night.
Got a full day ahead of me, so let’s start it with an airing of observations, grievances, information and things I happened upon that have been out there a while.
SIGNAL FIRE FROM CAMP GRONK?
At Camp Gronkowski they aren’t comfortable with the Patriots timetable for Gronk’s return, according to a Boston Herald report. Let’s think on this for a minute. When people refer to a player’s “camp” what’s that usually mean? Agent or family. Or both.
Given Drew Rosenhaus’ generally comfortable relationship with the Patriots front office and the fact that he’s not in a position to be pissing teams off, I’m betting on this camp being a family camp.
In addition to Rob, two other Gronkowskis -- Chris and Dan -- have played in the league. Gordy Gronkowski, their father, is an involved parent. With all that in mind, rumblings from Camp Gronk about how the reckless 24-year-old is handled aren’t a shock. The family understands the post-injury dynamic and the importance of making sure the player is advocated for.
Rob spent a college season inactive with a back injury; played in the Super Bowl in 2011 on a very messed-up ankle; made a fast return from his broken arm last season, and - in general – has shown with his playing style that he’s not inclined to protect himself very well. Said “camp” wants to err on the side of caution. Given the Patriots’ investment in Gronkowski and their need for his presence, of course they want him back as soon as possible. But the report last week that Gronkowski’s arm, and not his back, was the concern smelled weird. The arm was last operated on in May. Something wasn’t adding up and, while my understanding has been that this was the week Gronkowski would return, the weirdness continued into the weekend with all kinds of different takes on Gronk’s availability. With the Herald report, things crystallized a bit.
Meanwhile, Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk reported throughout the week Gronkowski probably wouldn’t play. On Saturday, he reported as well that the Patriots and Camp Gronk were fine.
The health dynamic between player and team is more scrutinized than ever. And the Patriots are arguably the most scrutinized team in the NFL. Bill Belichick knows that better than anyone. That’s why he’ll never intimate he’s involved in medical discussions. The medical and training staff tells him when a player is ready, he explains. It’s not his call.
So whether it’s Gronkowski or Danny Amendola, the discussion of when a player is ready or whether he should go back on the field is – purportedly – out of the football people’s hands.
The sticky part comes when the medical staff says a player seems ready and the player – or his camp – still has reservations. Health isn’t a black and white issue. And projecting how a player will fare with in a collision sport is educated guesswork. Given Gronk’s injury history, it’s not a stretch to think his camp is urging the team to err on the side of caution.
QUICK HIT STUFF
- I have nothing against fantasy football. Play it casually, kinda fun. But there is no doubt in my mind that unceasing media speculation about players’ Sunday availability beginning early in the week is fed by fan interest in whether or not to start, sit or release a player in fantasy. Three words a fantasy player can’t abide by? “Game. Time. Decision.”
- Von Miller bribed the piss guy. Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers put the health of a 24-year-old kid secondary to his playing in a game last Sunday. Sean Payton’s return from a season-long suspension for his team taking out bounties on opposing players was framed as “triumphant.” And the Patriots’ use of video to record the opposition’s defensive hand signals after a league memo asking teams to stop the practice remains an INDELIBLE STAIN ON THE LEGACY OF BILL BELICHICK!! Just wanted to make sure I had that right.
SELECTIVE SCRUTINY BY THE GLOBE
In 2009, The Boston Globe was vigorous in shining a light on the Patriots’ desire for a pedestrian footbridge over Route 1 that would use stimulus funds. Robert Kraft’s ranking on Forbes’ list of billionaires (468 at the time) was deemed pertinent enough to include in the first paragraph of the article.
On Friday, the Red Sox’ sweetheart deal giving them the right to use two public streets – and the air above it – was written about in the Globe. No mention of John Henry’s current standing on the Forbes’ list (he’s scuffling along at 327).
I kinda knew it would unfold this way last May. That’s when the Globe was busy burying the Sox’ early machinations to purchase streets that they’d rented for $186,000 a year. It was a deal the Sox used to make $45 million in profit. So now, the Sox have spent $7.3 million to officially purchase something that profited them more than $50 million in the past decade. And that $7.3 investment will net them how much over succeeding decades?
One would think that, given the fact Henry is in the process of buying the Globe, he and the people with editorial control would stress the importance of appearing even-handed. One would be naïve to presume that.
My personal view is that, if the Krafts want a bridge over Route 1 linking Patriot Place to the parking lots across the street, the $9 million can probably be cobbled together. Even though they built their stadium without public funds and the bridge would help promote non-Kraft industry, ya know, they can afford it. But for the Globe to be as inciting as they were about that relatively benign proposal while ho-humming through the Sox’ purchase is laughable.