Day 1: Touch down in Buffalo (Gronk's town)

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Day 1: Touch down in Buffalo (Gronk's town)

BUFFALO, NY When we last spoke, I was getting out of the car in Williamsville and heading over to the field where Rob Gronkowski played his first three years of high school football.

Why? I don't know. I was in the neighborhood.

So I walked off into the snow, across the field and took some video.

Before you watch this you should know that I was intentionally impersonating Fatty McGee in between sentences.

Also, not really.

After making it back to the car, I headed into the high school to see if there was anyone around in the athletic department. Once I got there, the AD was gone but the girls basketball team was at practice, and there were a few coaches and parents more than willing to talk about Gronk. With one major theme being that him winning a Super Bowl might be a bittersweet moment for the town.

One one hand, they're happy to see a local boy make it big, but on the other:

A) There's still a little bit of ill will surrounding Gronk's decision to leave the school for his senior year.

"He was in another league," one coach said, "and he wanted to play at a higher level. So he went to Pittsburgh. They do it a little different than we do in Western New York.

It was the right move, but didn't sit well with everyone."

B) Everyone there hates the Patriots.

"James Starks grew up around here and won a Super Bowl last year," said the coach, "and that was a pretty big deal. People were very kind about it.

But James Starks doesn't play the Bills twice a year."

On that note, I'm settled down in Buffalo for the night. Tomorrow morning, I'm heading back to Willamsville North at 8 am to meet with Gronk's old AD, before heading down to Canton, Ohio and the Football Hall Of Fame.

It was a hectic first day, and the blog hasn't quite found it's rhythm, but now that the longest leg of the trip (It was seven hours from Boston to here) is in the books, things should settle down and we'll get a little more cohesive action.

Until tomorrow.

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

Young Bruins ‘acquitted themselves well’ in preseason debut

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Young Bruins ‘acquitted themselves well’ in preseason debut

BOSTON – It was an excellent night for the many varied Bruins prospects in the preseason opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The B’s eventually dropped the game in a 3-2 shootout loss at TD Garden, but not before some of their young players showed exactly what they can do.

“For sure it’s a lot of fun. Coming in here everybody’s a little nervous, but it was, once you’re out there, it’s just fun. It was good to see the young guys out there,” said former University of Denver standout Danton Heinen, who scored the tying strike in the third period on a redirect. “It was definitely adjusting. You don’t totally know what to expect and then once the game went on I kind of felt a little more comfortable. We started playing better as a team.”

Former first-round pick Jake DeBrusk set up the B’s first goal with Jimmy Hayes by executing a nifty give-and-go at the Columbus net, and young skaters Jakub Zboril and Austin Czarnik made the initial transition passes that led up to the goal. In the third period Danton Heinen redirected a Brandon Carlo point shot from the slot area, and scored in his first career game played at TD Garden in an impressive show of hand-eye coordination.

Carlo, Czarnik, DeBrusk, Zboril and Heinen all had strong performances on the score sheet and at both ends of the ice, and that’s exactly what the Bruins coaching staff wanted to see with NHL jobs potentially up for grabs in main camp.

“A lot of young players in the lineup, I won’t go through all of them, but I thought quite a few of them acquitted themselves well,” said Bruins assistant coach Bruce Cassidy. “They were given opportunities to do that. I think some of them certainly took advantage of it, and did a nice job.”

It was good that the young players stepped up and made a nice impression in the preseason debut because the veteran players will cut into their opportunities once the World Cup of Hockey crew gets sprinkled into the mix starting this week. 

Tom Brady explains why he thinks Bill Belichick is the best of all time

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Tom Brady explains why he thinks Bill Belichick is the best of all time

Tom Brady may be biased, but he believes that Patriots coach Bill Belichick is the best to ever walk a sideline. 

That's what Brady told Westwood One's Jim Gray in an interview before the radio broadcast of Monday night's game between the Falcons and Saints. After Belichick helped cook up a game plan for the Patriots to beat the Texans on short rest with rookie third-round quarterback Jacoby Brissett behind center, Brady may not have many people argue with him. 

"I definitely think so," Brady answered when he was asked if Belichick was "the best coach to have ever done this."

"I think whatever hand he's been dealt, he finds a way to win. That's the mark of a great coach. Sitting in those meetings for the last 16 years and watching him prepare the team, there's no [other] coach I'd ever want to play for. He's just remarkable in every aspect. It's a privilege to play for him. I look forward to going back out there and, you know, getting yelled at by him. He's tough on the players and he expects the very best out of each of us every day. That ends up getting the best out of players. He's so consistent with his approach, and it's paid of for our team for a long time."

Brady said it's that consistency that stands out to him and separates Belichick from any of his peers.

"I think his consistency is just what's remarkable," Brady explained. "It's so much of what you don't see on these Sunday afternoons. But it's the way the offseason program is run in April. It's his urgency and enthusiasm at that time of year when no one's watching. His OTA schedule and his emphasis over the course of those practices in May and June when no one's really watching. There's no scoreboard to compete against. But we always feel like we're in competing against the other teams, even when there is no scoreboard.

"You go to training camp, and you can't waste days in training camp because you don't get those days back. Those days in training camp are going to prepare you for what's going to happen in Septmeber. There's urgency throughout the entire offseason to get us to the month of September, and then once September comes it's all about winning games and making improvements towards October.

"Then once you make improvements toward October, you can be in a really good position to really capitalize come November. That's when the playoff races start to shape up and you really see where you're at and there's a lot of scouting done at that point. That's whenn you really see the team develop and how the depth of the team really takes place. Coach Belichick is always understanding where the roster needs to be at and which positions we may need a little more depth at based on injuries over the course of the season.

"Then comes December when it's the last stretch of the season when you need to be at your best. He prepares us all the way throughout the season. His consistency has been remarkable. It's been fun to see from this point obvously for the last four weeks, but I've experienced that every day. That part of it doesn't really surprise me, but to see the way that my teammates have come out and played and performed under pressure on a Sunday night game, and the first home game, and a Thursday national TV game, it's just been so much fun to watch."