Gostkowski: My confidence will always be high

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Gostkowski: My confidence will always be high

FOXBORO -- The answers weren't in the film. There were no bad snaps or shaky holds.

Try as one might to find a reason for why Stephen Gostkowski has gone into a bit of a slump, the Patriots kicker kept coming up with the same simple response: He has just plain missed.

"It's just a cycle and you go through the ups and downs," Gostkowski said. "You gotta ride the wave. I've got knocked off the board a couple times this year and I'm going to get right back up there, and go out there with confidence and self belief. I've made way more kicks than I've missed in this career. And you see other guys that you respect and think are really good and the same thing happens to them at some point in their career, and it's not the end of the world. It's four games into the year and you just look forward to the next game and the next kick."

Gostkowski missed his first two kicks against the Bills in New England's Week 4 win, 52-28. Though his misses didn't have a negative impact on the game's outcome for the Patriots, they extended the conversation surrounding Gostkowski that began after he missed a game-winning field goal at home against the Cardinals in Week 2.

Why had a guy who had made 84 percent of his kicks in his career missed three of his first 13 this season?

Gostkowski preferred to focus on the positive.

"The kicks I did miss weren't by much," he said. "It's just a little fine-tuning. My leg strength feels great. I'm crushing the ball in kickoffs. I just gotta pay a little more attention to detail. Things will work out. I've been working hard, I wouldn't change any way that I've prepared, I just gotta focus and execute better."

Gostkowski went on to make his third field goal attempt of the Bills game -- a 30-yarder in the fourth quarter -- but he said he was still fuming afterwards because of his misses.

"I'm pissed off no matter what after that game," Gostkowski said. "Even if I'd made seven field goals after that. I'm always hard on myself, but I also keep a good perspective and I move on. If I wasn't working hard and I wasn't giving it my all and I hadn't had success before, maybe I could look back and say I wish I'd have done something different. That's not the case. I feel good with the way I came in this season and I'm just gonna keep the same approach and keep kicking and that's all I can do."

Earlier this week coach Bill Belichick threw his support behind Gostkowski, who is in his seventh year with the Patriots and has the ninth-best field goal percentage in the history of the league.

"Steve, again, had some real good plays (Sunday)," Belichick said. "Again, thats an operation that involves more than one guy. Its not a pitcher taking the ball on the mound or a golfer teeing a ball up. Its a snap, a hold, a kick -- a whole process. Well keep working hard at it."

Gostkowski was asked about that three-man operation -- Danny Aiken is the team's long-snapper, while punter Zoltan Mesko holds for field goals -- and how it was functioning.

"It's good," he said simply.

All of Gostkowski's misses have been from beyond 40 yards. Though they were kicks he expects to make, they weren't chip shots. And until his miss as time wound down against the Cardinals, Gostkowski's Week 2 performance may have been the best of his career as he knocked down kicks from 46, 34, 51 and 53 yards so his physical skills certainly aren't waning. Just look at his kickoffs -- he's second in the league with 18 touchbacks.

But where does he go from here? What does he do to get back to looking like one of the league's most reliable kickers?

"Just go back to work," Gostkowski said. "Focus a little harder. It's not that I'm not kicking enough, I'm kicking plenty. It's not that I'm not practicing good. I'm practicing very good. It's just a matter of execution. I just have to do a better job of executing. I've been here before. I've missed two kicks in a row maybe twice in my career, but it has happened. Missed big kicks in my career going back to high school and I've moved on from that. There's no reason why I don't think that I could run off 10 or 15 in a row."

Gostkowski will have until Sunday before he has a chance to get on a roll, but he can deal with the wait. As a college baseball pitcher at the University of Memphis, he was used to playing and then having to live with the result until taking the mound again a week later.

Just as it was then from start to start, what happened last week is behind him, and he says he is ready -- physically and mentally -- to do his job against the Broncos.

"My confidence will always be high," Gostkowski said. "I've been doing this for so long and I've had so many ups and downs. Things have a way of working themselves out whether good or bad. I don't worry about things I can't control, I just control how hard I work and how hard I concentrate."

Report: NFL paid Goodell over $31 million in 2015

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Report: NFL paid Goodell over $31 million in 2015

Roger Goodell's salary has reportedly fallen in recent years, but he's still paid handsomely for his work as NFL commissioner.

According to the Associated Press, Goodell earned just over $31 million for 2015. That's a seven percent decrease from the $34 million he received for 2014. 

The NFL's last tax return served as an indicator of Goodell's 2015 salary. The league's tax returns no longer have to be made public since it has changed its status from exempt to taxable, per the AP.

The next-highest paid executive at the NFL offices on Park Avenue? General counsel Jeff Pash, one of the most prominent players in the Deflategate sage, who earned $6.5 million in 2015, down from $7.5 million in 2014. 

Richardson suspended one game for violating personal conduct policy

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Richardson suspended one game for violating personal conduct policy

The NFL announced this week that Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson has been suspended without pay for Week 1 of the 2016 regular season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. 

Richardson will miss his team's season-opener against the Bengals and will be eligible to return to the Jets active roster on Sep. 12. The Jets and the Patriots meet for the first of their two division games on Nov. 27. 

Richardson responded to the news of suspension on Thursday. 

In July of 2015, Richardson led police on a high-speed chase -- hitting speeds as high as 143 miles per hour -- in suburban St. Louis. Police reported a strong odor of marijuana in the car and inside found a loaded, semiautomatic handgun that was possessed legally. Richardson had a 12-year-old relative riding with him in his Bentley at the time of the incident.

In January, Richardson pleaded guilty to resisting arrest. Though he avoided jail time, he was sentenced to two years probation and 100 hours of community service. 

Richardson has been one of the league's best defensive linemen since entering the league as a first-rounder in 2013. He served a four-game suspension to start last season after violating the league's substance abuse policy.

PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

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PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

He may have been left off of the NFL Network's Top 100 list, but Jamie Collins isn't flying under the radar at Pro Football Focus.

On PFF's list of the top 10 defensive players in the AFC, the Patriots linebacker came in at No. 8 and was given the description as the top linebacker in the conference.

Collins' versatility within the confines of the Patriots defense is what makes him so valuable, PFF's John Kosko explains: 

"He doesn’t dominate in any one role like Luke Kuechly does in pass coverage and run defense, but he is very good at all facets of the game. Collins has the athleticism to cover TEs and HBs effectively, the explosiveness to rush the passer, and the size and strength to defend the run. 

"The former Southern Mississippi linebacker is arguably the most versatile player in the NFL, and allows Bill Belichick to employ a defense that confuses opposing quarterbacks. With the only knock against Collins being his 34 missed tackles the past two seasons, the Patriot is the best linebacker in the AFC."

Collins graded out as the No. 5 linebacker in football last year, per PFF's numbers. He ranked behind only Carolina's Luke Kuechly, Minnesota's Anthony Barr, Indianapolis' Jerrell Freeman and Seattle's KJ Wright. 

Fellow Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower earned the 10th-highest grade for linebackers last season, according to PFF -- a grade that likely would have been higher had his snap-count (602 in 2015) approached that of Collins (792).

While Collins is a rare physical talent, the argument could be made that it's Hightower who is the more important player to the Patriots defense given his prowess as a pass-rusher and run-defender. He also has myriad responsibilities as the extension of the team's coaching staff in the defensive huddle. 

In order to slow down opposing passing games, many Patriots defensive packages employ either five or six defensive backs and just two linebackers. Lucky for them, they have two of the best in the conference.

Both Collins and Hightower are entering contract years this year, and finding a way to keep them in-house figures to be near the top of the list of priorities for the Patriots front office.