FOXBORO - Patriots owner Robert Kraft now has his historic tight ends sewn up practically through the end of the decade. And he likes that fact."We're privileged to have two of the best young players on this team we know are gonna be here for quite some time," Kraft said after signing Aaron Hernandez to a five-year extension on Monday. Earlier this offseason, the team signed Rob Gronkowski to a six-year deal in excess of 50 million. Kraft took a verbal victory lap over the fact the Patriots got the two players at lower costs in the 2010 draft. Gronkowski was a second-rounder who dropped because of back issues. Hernandez was a fourth-rounder who dropped because of failed drug tests at Florida. "We know that both players had issues coming out so where we drafted them was really not indicative of how good they really are and both of them have really shined here," Kraft said. Kraft revealed that Hernandez made a 50,000 contribution to the Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund after agreeing to his deal. "I said, 'Aaron you don't have to do this.' He said, 'It makes me feel good and I want to do it,' " Kraft recounted."That makes me feel good because part of what we learned early on, we have a lot of young men who come into this business and come from humble financial homes and part of what we've tried is make them understand is that the psychic income involved in giving back your time and your resources." Kraft opined that it's incumbent on the team to shepherd players into affluence. "To flip the switch from living modestly to all of a sudden having a lot of income, I think we have to work very hard to help these young men adjust to that," Kraft said. "I just think he's a super player and a first-class guy. Some people might see all the tattoos on him and think ...10 years ago, I was in that class (and I would) think, 'Wow.' But this guy's a good guy."Meanwhile, with the season looming and the league and its officials still at an impasse, it appears the season will open with replacement officials. Asked about the threat this poses to the integrity of the game, "Yeah, well. I'm gonna let the league office deal with that."Kraft was asked why, given the time, effort and billions expended during the past few years to get a new CBA in place, this reality would be tolerated. "I'm sure you're intelligent to know you don't make judgments until you know all the facts and all the sides," Kraft admitted."So I'm gonna respectfully stay out of that issue.
After four wins in a row, Rex Ryan’s employment status had been taken off life support in Buffalo and was -- almost -- good as new.
But a Sunday toe-stub in Miami in which Buffalo suffered a 28-25 loss to the Dolphins set the Bills back a bit. Now, instead of hosting the Patriots this Sunday with a chance to secure a season sweep and move into a first-place tie in the AFC East, Buffalo’s back there at 4-3 just trying to get close.
“Sure we have to learn from things, there’s no question about it, but the more we dwell on (the loss to Miami), it doesn’t help us. We’ve got a bigger task in front of us,” said Ryan.
There is a myriad of differences between Ryan and Bill Belichick but one of the starkest is Ryan’s inability to treat ‘em all the same.
While Belichick will acknowledge that some games carry more import than others -- division games, conference games, etc -- he’s not going to allow his team to poke its head up and look down the road at what’s coming next.
Ryan lets it all hang right out there.
“I don’t know how much more important it could be than this one,” Ryan said when asked about Sunday’s matchup with the 6-1 Pats. “I mean, I could lie to you and say that it’s not important, but yeah, this is a critical game for us. There’s no doubt about it. Does it break your season if you lose? I hope I don’t have to worry about that. We’ve got to find a way to win this game.”
The Bills reveled modestly after their 16-0 win at Foxboro when Jacoby Brissett scuffled in the final week of Tom Brady’s suspension. The gloating was mild. Ryan acknowledged plainly that shutting out the Patriots without Brady wasn’t really shutting out the Patriots.
But there’s no question that game at the start of this month was one the Bills approached with a helluva lot more swagger than normal. The “Where’s your big brother now?” vibe of the pregame scuffle in which the Bills jostled rookies Brissett and Malcolm Mitchell as the two players took the same sideline jog Brady and the Patriots quarterbacks have done at Gillette for a decade set the tone.
And then the Bills went out and had their way. Asked about that scuffle, which resulted in fines for some Jets players, Ryan said, “Well, these two teams don’t like each other. There’s no question about that, but I don’t think there was a real fight, you know? A real fight would be outside in the parking lot. You know what I mean? Then you’ve really got something to write about, but that thing was hardly a fight, I think.”
The blanking and the bullying may be talking points in Foxboro this week but they probably won’t rallying cries. Odd as it sounds, the Patriots don’t merely compete against opponents when they play but measure the day’s success on how well they performed relative to perfection. You could see after the 11-point win in Pittsburgh that there was dissatisfaction on both sides of the ball with how things went.
That fact alone will make it an arduous week of practice as much as the reality that the Patriots are playing the team right behind them in the division.
Ryan knows it’s a much different team he’ll face Sunday.
“It’s not about validating ourselves,” he said. “We’ve just got to find a way to win. In regards to who we’re playing, you know, [Brady] looks great. He’s got those two great tight ends -- they’re big. They’ve still got [Julian] Edelman out there. They’ve got everybody they had out there last time, but they’ve got their player back. So we know the challenge in front of us.”