Gaffney hoping WR competition brings out his best


Gaffney hoping WR competition brings out his best

FOXBORO -- It seemed everywhere you looked Thursday afternoon, there was a target for Tom Brady.

Aaron Hernandez snatched passes out of the air, Rob Gronkowski lumbered down field as he does, Deion Branch toed the sideline, Wes Welker lit up the seam.

And then there was Donte' Stallworth, who still has bursting speed. Brandon Lloyd was even faster.

Jabar Gaffney? He looked brilliant on the receiving end of a 55-yard bomb from Brady.

"I know the competition that we have definitely at the receiver position there's a lot of guys that can play," said Gaffney. "It'll bring the best out of us each and every day, which is what you need to become a better player and a better team."

There are 10 on the current roster. Bill Belichick likely won't keep more than six. Is this a camp equation that equals desperation for a guy like Gaffney?

"There's just a sense of coming out here and doing my job best that I can and everything else will play out. I'm confident in my abilities."

Two things -- or rather, people -- are on his side.

Tom Brady is the first.

"Hes still the same: full of energy, loves to compete, wants to win on every play," Gaffney said. "That helps us out, when you see a quarterback like that who wants to win every play in practice."

After one dropped pass, the pair recovered their chemistry quickly -- something that could help Gaffney secure a roster spot.

Another ally is offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Gaffney's and McDaniels' careers have overlapped both in New England (2006-2008) and in Denver (2009-2010). That they've returned to the Patriots at the same time is nothing but good news.

"Josh is a great coach. He's a guy that players love to play for. He gets us ready to get onto the field and gets us coached up, puts us in position. In my opinion, hes one of the best offensive coordinators out there. And hes a good person.

Funny how old faces could spark a new fire to the receiving corps.

Did Gaffney ever dream he'd come back to New England? Maybe when the Patriots visited Washington.

"I was talking to Brady about it before the game, 'One more game together'" Gaffney joked. "It never really felt like, during that time, it was going to happen, but things worked out and I'm here."

Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: A nice pair of kicks


Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: A nice pair of kicks

We're into the Top 10 now.

These are the plays of the Bill Belichick Era you best never forget. And probably can't. They're the ones that led directly to championships -- most for New England, a couple for the other guys. Or they're plays that signified a sea change in the way the New England Patriots under Belichick would be behaving from there on out.

I did my best to stack them in order of importance. You got a problem with that? Good. Let us know what's too high, too low or just plain wrong. And thanks for keeping up!


THE YEAR: 2001 (actually Feb. 3, 2002)

THE GAME: Patriots 20, Rams 17

THE PLAY: Vinatieri 48-yarder in Superdome delivers SB36 win

WHY IT’S HERE: When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, it was viewed nationally and locally as a cathartic moment for a long-suffering region. Deliverance for a fanbase that resolutely suffered through 90 years of star-crossed heartbreak with a mix of stoicism and fatalism. “Long-suffering Red Sox fan” was a badge of honor, an identity. And New Englanders – baseball fans or not - would self-identify with the hideous notion of Red Sox Nation. There was no “Patriots Nation.” To drag out the forced metaphor, Patriots fans were living in tents and cabins in the wilderness, recluses. Reluctant to be seen in town where they’d be mocked. And suddenly, they cobbled together one of the most improbable, magical seasons in American professional sports, a year which gave birth to a dynasty which was first celebrated, now reviled but always respected. And while so many games and plays led to this 48-yarder – ones we’ve mentioned 12 times on this list – Adam Vinatieri kicking a 48-yarder right down the f****** middle to win the Super Bowl was an orgasmic moment for the recluses and pariahs that had been Patriots fans when nobody would admit to such a thing.


THE YEAR: 2001 (actually Jan. 19, 2002)

THE GAME: Patriots 16, Raiders 13

THE PLAY: Vinatieri from 45 through a blizzard to tie Snow Bowl

WHY IT’S HERE: Two thoughts traveling on parallel tracks were running through the mind while Adam Vinatieri trotted onto the field and lined up his 45-yarder to tie Oakland in the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff Game, the final one at Foxboro Stadium. “There’s no way he can make this kick in this weather,” was the first. “The way this season’s gone, I bet he makes this kick. It can’t end here. It can’t end now.” From where I was sitting in the press box I couldn’t see the ball clearly, probably because I was looking for it on a higher trajectory than Vinatieri used. So I remember Vinatieri going through the ball, my being unable to locate it in the air and then looking for the refs under the goalposts to see their signal. And when I located them, I saw the ball scuttle past. Then I saw the officials’ arms rise. Twenty-five years earlier, the first team I ever followed passionately – the ’76 Patriots – left me in tears when they lost to the Raiders in the playoffs. Now, at 33, I was covering that team and it had gotten a measure of retribution for the 8-year-old me.

Buy or Sell: Should NFL not test for marijuana?

Buy or Sell: Should NFL not test for marijuana?

Greg Dickerson and Mike Giardi give their take on whether the NFL should not test for marijuana.

Buy or Sell: Patriots will not lose at home even without Tom Brady

Buy or Sell: Patriots will not lose at home even without Tom Brady

Greg Dickerson and Mike Giardi give their take on whether they think the Patriots will be not lose a home game during Brady’s suspension.