Mesko wins Ron Burton Community Service Award

832363.jpg

Mesko wins Ron Burton Community Service Award

FOXBORO -- Zoltan Mesko is your winner of the 2012 Patriots Ron Burton Community Service Award.
The third-year punter addressed reporters Monday night at Charitable Foundation's Kickoff Gala at Gillette Stadium.
"Mr. Kraft pulled me aside during practice and told me. It's just a very humbling experience to be a part of such a lot of guys that have been we have Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo and the things they stand for. They're leaders in themselves. The Kraft family -- I can't thank them enough for putting forth that platform for us to be able to serve the community and to make a positive difference. Mr. Kraft, Myra Kraft -- exemplars in the community. I'm very, very humbled to be even a little grain of salt in the deal."
Kraft praised his player, saying the honor was well-deserved.
Zoltan is one of the best punters in the league, but he may be the leagues current MVP for his contributions in the community, said Kraft. In the 18 years since we established the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, perhaps no player has accomplished more in the community in such a short amount of time.
From the team's press release:
Last season, Mesko was one of the Patriots players who spearheaded the season-long Celebrate Volunteerism campaign, visiting Boys & Girls Clubs, hospitals, veterans homes, home makeover events and more to promote the benefits of volunteering. In October 2011, he joined several of his teammates in a one-day playground build for a Providence, R.I. community. Mesko also granted wishes for eleven youth from across the country who chose to meet Patriots players as part of the Make-A-Wish program.
During the holidays, Mekso was determined to make the season special for as many children possible by participating in every Patriots holiday activity. He helped children from homeless shelter programs select gifts during Patriots Gifts from the Gridiron and played games with more than 250 children from Massachusetts and Rhode Island during the Patriots Community Holiday Party. During the offseason, Mesko took it upon himself to organize a karaoke fundraiser, called Zolioke, where more than a dozen of his teammates sang karaoke, participated in live and silent auctions and interacted with pediatric patients to benefit Childrens Hospital Boston.
To Mesko, there's really nothing to it.
"I just feel like, the stage we're put on, we have this social responsibility to give back. Because when you look at it, there's a lot of good people out there that do a tremendous amount of things, but if I don't do it now, when am I going to start? If I don't do it, then who's going to do it? You've got to have that mentality, to be the first one to take action."

Garoppolo: Get the little things corrected, or they'll bite us in the butt

Garoppolo: Get the little things corrected, or they'll bite us in the butt

This felt like a step backward for Jimmy Garoppolo. 

The preseason had been shaping up so nicely for him, too. He'd be able to ride the wave of momentum following his strong performance last week against the Bears, and carry that into Carolina, where he would take on a very good defense on the road. What better way to simulate what he'll see in Week 1 of the regular season in Arizona?

Then something happened. Garoppolo, who looked cool last week at Gillette Stadium, seemed rattled by the Panthers defense. The quarterback who hadn't turned the ball over all preseason very nearly gave it away twice. Whereas he made calculated risks in the red zone last week, this week there were head-scratchers in the same area. 

"Ups and downs," said Garoppolo, who beat the Panthers, 19-17, and finished the game 9-for-15 for 57 yards. "Just little things here and there we need to get corrected. We’ll take care of it."

Garoppolo's first third-down throw foreshadowed what was to come for the Patriots on third down Friday night. He threw what should have been an easy interception for linebacker Luke Kuechly when there was a miscommunication between him and receiver Julian Edelman. 

Edelman stopped and turned for a pass a few yards off the line of scrimmage. Garoppolo targeted him as though he was still moving, hitting Kuechly between the numbers at the Carolina 12-yard line.

The team started the night 0-for-7 on third down.

"It’s my fault. I can’t put it in the linebacker’s hands like that," said Garoppolo, who insisted splitting reps in practice wasn't to his detriment. "It’s just bottom line. Just got to be smart. It’s tight windows, tight throws. Just got to finish with touchdowns."

Later in the game, Garoppolo didn't recognize a Panthers pressure, he took a glancing blow from a defender and escaped the pocket. Rather than throw the football away, he tried to make a positive play and was stripped from behind by linebacker Thomas Davis. 

Patriots running back James White was there to pounce on the ball, and Garoppolo was fortunate to escape with his turnover column clean.  

Still, Garoppolo knows there are adjustments to make. In order to give the Patriots a chance to beat the Cardinals in Week 1, he'll probably have to play better than he did on Friday. 

“We’ll do our best to get in there,” Garoppolo said. “We have two weeks until then and we’ll work. There’s little things here and there. Overall, there’s some good things that we did tonight. 

"We just have to get the little things corrected or they’re going to bite us in the butt. We’re going to work our tails off to get to that point. We’ll get there.”

Running back D.J. Foster making a late push for Patriots roster spot

patriots_dj_foster_082616.jpg

Running back D.J. Foster making a late push for Patriots roster spot

CHARLOTTE – D.J. Foster began making his case to stick on the Patriots’ 53-man roster Friday night against the Panthers.

An undrafted pass-catching back from Arizona State who’d missed almost all of training camp with an unknown injury was pretty persuasive. He caught three passes for 33 yards, showing nice burst, carried twice for 9 and returned a punt for 16. He saw his action late in the third with fellow rookie Jacoby Brissett in at quarterback.

Foster punctuated his first reception – an 11-yard screen that Brissett (9-for-9 for 85 yards and a touchdown) – by lowering his shoulder and delivering a blow that Foster said he wanted to “get that adrenaline going.”

“It felt great,” said Foster. “It had been a long time. I was telling some guys, that was the first time I’d gotten hit since college. It felt good to get back out there. The coaches gave me a chance to get out there and show what I could do.”

James White will be the Patriots sub-back (or third down back or pass-catching back or whatever you want to call him) until Dion Lewis returns from his knee malady. But Foster showed the acceleration and quickness that made him such a productive player for the Sun Devils. With 222 receptions for 2,458 yards and another 2,355 on the ground, Foster would fit nicely in an offense like the Patriots that uses the short and intermediate passing game so well.  

He hasn’t had much chance to make a case to stick and the Patriots – with White, LeGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney, Brandon Bolden and Joey Iosefa all in the mix – may have to take their chances with releasing Foster and hoping he goes unclaimed so New England can bring him back for their practice squad. It’s a risk, but other teams are encountering the same issues at cutdown time. Do they pluck a player they passed on in the draft and put him on their roster ahead of players they’ve been working with since the spring?

Bill Belichick wasn’t effusive in his praise for Foster but did indicate it was a good opportunity to at least see him in game action.

“We played a couple of guys that haven’t gotten much playing time so we got a chance to look at them,” he explained. “D.J. is one of those so we wanted to give him a few opportunities to handle the ball because he hasn’t done it this year. I thought he did some good things. There are a couple of things that he could do a little better but we’ll look at the film and see how it goes. He did a couple of things with his chances out there.”

To make the most of those chances, Foster said he avoided getting too hyped before getting on the field.  
 
“Just keeping my calm and hearing the playcall and just doing the mechanics and all the fundamentals of being in the backfield (was the focus),” said Foster. "Coach Ivan (Fears, running backs coach) did a great job of keeping me mellow. I felt healthy, I felt really good. I got some punt returns, some kick returns, some special teams. I was seeking contact to get that adrenaline going.

“It’s a long process,” he acknowledged. “Talking to the veteran guys, they said it’s a long process. I knew battling my injury and come back healthy, I came back strong and I felt ready.”

We’ll see if it’s enough to carve out a niche on the roster. The cutdown to 75 players comes Tuesday.