Gregory could be part of the answer at safety


Gregory could be part of the answer at safety

After playing "Safety of the Week" during the latter half of the 2011 season, the Patriots have begun addressing the position with the signing of Steve Gregory.The 29-year-old, formerly with the Chargers, has signed a three-year deal, according to his agent David Canter. Speed is an attribute of Gregory's and that's something that's been lacking on the back end of the Patriots defense. But not the only thing. Angles and a little better comprehension of the fits and responsibilities in the secondary are needed as well. When you consider the moves made at the end of training camp -- the release of bad angle expert Brandon Meriweather and the not-so-speedy James Sanders -- it's clear the Patriots thought Josh Barrett and Sergio Brown could fill the void next to Patrick Chung. But Barrett got hurt and Brown underwhelmed. The Patriots got good work from James Ihedigbo back there but he's a hitter more than a centerfielder and that really overlaps the work of Chung, who is generally better in a strong safety role. Devin McCourty and Matt Slater also got reps back there but Slater was duct tape while McCourty should be able to go back to corner. The free agent class at safety -- and the draft class, for that matter -- is weak. We'll see what Gregory brings. A three-year deal does show a level of confidence that he can contribute. And he has special teams value as well so that makes him appealing. Gregory played 782 snaps in 2011 according to Pro Football Focus. According to their stats, 19 of the 30 balls in which he had primary coverage were completed during the course of the season. According to the PFF grading system, Gregory had a positive impact in half of San Diego's 16 games. He had a negative impact -- sizably so -- in the final three games of the Chargers season. In other words, Gregory is a possible answer to the Patriots travails at safety. But New England isn't counting on him as a definite. LaRon Landry, the injury-plagued big hitter from Washington, is still a possibility as well and we hope to update the Patriots' interest on him soon.

Bruins coaches: Czarnik a ‘Belichick-type hockey player’


Bruins coaches: Czarnik a ‘Belichick-type hockey player’

BOSTON – Austin Czarnik is off to a good start at Bruins training camp.

He’s got points in each of the first two exhibition games and just the fact that he’s cracked the B’s lineup in both games tells you that the coaching staff wants to get a long, good look at the undersized forward.

But the 5-foot-9, 167-pound Czarnik brings more than simply a touch of the Napoleon complex after always being told that he was too small to make it to the elite levels of hockey. The 23-year-old clearly can score after posting 20 goals and 61 points in his first pro season in the AHL in Providence last season. He plays with heart, energy and a dogged determination when he’s hunting pucks on the fore-check.

But former P-Bruins head coach and current B’s assistant coach Bruce Cassidy says that Czarnik also brings something a little extra that New England Patriots fans will certainly appreciate.

“As far as being a player goes, he would be, to me, that [Bill] Belichick-type player that you could use in a lot of different situations,” said Cassidy, in clear reference to intelligent utility guys Troy Brown, Danny Woodhead, Julian Edelman and others that all filled different roles in their time with New England.

“He’s got a very, very high IQ, he’s a quick learner and very coachable,” Cassidy said. “So, he’s a guy you can move around, and he can play with different players. He can play on the penalty kill, he’s good on the power play and especially on the point.

“So there are a lot of different things. I think from night-to-night if you wanted to, you could move him around in your lineup and he could be effective for you. I know he’s a center, but it would be interesting to see if he could play the wing and be effective. That’s something we haven’t really seen. Is that something we maybe attempt down the road? I don’t know. I don’t want to speak out of turn, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he could handle it. He even played for us 6-on-5 as a defenseman with the goalie out. He’s just a smart player, and he understands the game very, very well.”

So, Czarnik is off to a good start in training camp with the Bruins, but we also saw the same thing from him last year as a rookie to pro hockey. 

Now, it’s about seeing whether a smaller player can finish strong as the competition heightens deeper into the preseason, and perhaps he can bring that versatility and feistiness to the NHL level in Boston. 



A Pierce-Doc-Garnett reunion with Clippers - if only for a day


A Pierce-Doc-Garnett reunion with Clippers - if only for a day

Less than a week after announcing his retirement on Instagram, Kevin Garnett was back in the gym with old friends Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers.

Cue the comeback rumors? "Anything is possible!"

The tweet from the Clippers called Garnett a “special guest” at the team’s practice on Thursday. 

Rivers, the current Clippers and ex-Celtics coach, told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan last week he was willing to bring Garnett, who has a home in Malibu, to Los Angeles for one last season but KG, 40, chose to retire. So, apparently, the reunion Thursday with Doc, Pierce and Garnett was only temporary.

The Akron Beacon Journal reported that Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, a former Celtics assistant under Rivers, wants Garnett to join his staff.