Mike from Attleboro: Give me Pollard on the Pats any day

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Mike from Attleboro: Give me Pollard on the Pats any day

Mike from Attleboro -- the leading contributor to Michael Felger's old mailbag and one of Felger's favorite callers to his radio show -- is now contributing occasional pieces to CSNNE.com. Today he gives his take on Public Enemy Number One: Bernard Pollard.

Now that the sting of the Patriots' loss to the Ravens has subsided a bit, its time for me to put down the navy-and-silver pom-poms and admit something that maybe just as surprising but that I simply cant hide anymore: I love Bernard Pollard.

You can call me insane, or not a true Patriots fan but I would take Bernard Pollard on my team in a nano-second, even after the reign of devastation he has unleashed on my team. He is everything the Ravens needs when crunch time rolls around. Pollard is a relentless competitor. He is apparently unaffected by the spotlight of the postseason. He remains unafraid to issue game-changing violence to his team's benefit in a day and age where that type of play is no longer glorified on postgame shows or NFL DVDs. And, on a roster full of big-name defensive players, Pollards big play -- the hit on Stevan Ridley that forced the fumble that Baltimore turned into a game-clinching touchdown -- overshadowed them all.

Terrell Suggs got lots of pub for his smack talk following the Raven win, but his mouth was cashing the checks Bernard Pollard wrote during the game. Ray Lewis was mugging for the media, praising the Lord for another chance to play in the Super Bowl, when he should have just thanked Pollard. Patriots fans salivating at the thought of an aging Ed Reed coming to play in New England next season should lament that the 28-year-old Pollard isnt the one hitting free agency.

Some of you might say, How could you be a fan of such a dirty player?

The same way we were all fans of Rodney Harrison or are fans of Brandon Spikes. If you loved the way those two changed games with big hits and borderline legal play, then youre either a hypocrite or a hopeless homer for not at least respecting Pollard. Pollard is no different than those two and, in fact, a look at the plays that have made him such a hated figure hereabouts actually show that his reputation in New England as a dirty player is largely an overblown myth:

Pollards hit that ended Tom Bradys season in 2008 was a product of Kevin Faulk being suspended, Sammy Morris not finishing his block and Pollard, who was knocked to the ground, not giving up on a play. That play is now illegal not because it was dirty, but because in Roger Goodells NFL, quarterbacks are treated like spotted owls, not football players.

The legendarily terrible playing surface in Reliant Stadium was almost certainly responsible for Wes Welkers 2009 knee injury. All Pollard did was play his position correctly and attempt to make a tackle, as the damage was done before Pollard even touched Welker.

The high ankle sprain that Rob Gronkowski suffered at the hands of Pollard in last year's AFC championship game was the fluke result of Pollard trying to do something that would give most members of the secondary in todays NFL an explosive case of the Rokers: Trying to tackle Gronk singlehandedly.

And the concussion Pollard inflicted on Ridley two Sundays ago was just old-school football. It was a vicious, game changing hit resulting from both a running back and a safety, both lowering their heads at the point of impact. If Brandon Spikes had put Ray Rice on Dream Street with a similar hit, Pats fans would have been jumping out of their seats, lauding the play of the Sandman. John Harbaugh was one hundred percent correct when he called it Football at its finest.

Yes, Pollard was also flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Wes Welker that some of you may call dirty. And, technically, youre correct. Those hits have recently -- and, in my opinion erroneously -- been made personal fouls. I simply call those collisions making a receiver play for a catch in the postseason. Every inch of that 15-yard penalty the Ravens gave up was worth the message it sent. The fine Pollard paid was money well spent, as Welker dropped a game-changing third-down pass shortly thereafter. The NFLs sanitized propagandists and their legal department wont admit it, but that hit was the turning point in the game.

In spite of these facts and his play on the field, there are some of you that would still call me crazy for wanting Pollard on the Pats. I think its crazier to have watched season after season of Brandon Meriweather, Sergio Brown, James Ihedigbo, Steve Gregory, Brandon McGowan, James Sanders and Patrick Chung and not lust after someone who embraces the way football was meant to be played and approaches every play with the kind of informed ill intent that causes turnovers and creates a legend.

I think Bernard Pollard is a player that deserves respect, not vilification. I think Pollard is the kind of throwback that would go a long way to making the Patriots defense the force it once was. I think Pollard playing next to Devon McCourty would be a Foxboro favorite for years.

But unfortunately, Bernard Pollard plays for the Ravens. And God help you if you dont see him coming.

Whalen, part of Colts' infamous fake punt play, settles in with Patriots

Whalen, part of Colts' infamous fake punt play, settles in with Patriots

FOXBORO – Griff Whalen was at the epicenter of one of the stupidest, funniest, most “did that just happen?!” plays in NFL history.

So indescribable it never even really earned a name, it was the fourth-down gadget play the Colts tried to run against the Patriots on Sunday Night Football in the first meeting between the teams after Indy ran to the principal’s office to start Deflategate. 

Whalen was the center on that play (I tried to call it “Fourth-and-Wrong” but it didn’t take) and the millisecond between him snapping the ball and the three players processing that the ball had indeed been snapped is perhaps my favorite moment of the past several seasons. 

Whalen is a Patriot now, brought in this week in the wake of Danny Amendola’s knee injury presumably to fill Amendola’s role as a punt returner and wideout. The Colts released him last January, the Dolphins picked him up and cut him at the end of training camp and the Chargers had him on their roster from mid-September until releasing him last month after eight games, two catches and 22 yards. He returned kickoffs for San Diego but no punts since 2015.

The primary area of need for the Patriots is on punt returns. Rookie Cyrus Jones’ transition to appearing comfortable remains glacially slow. It was Jones’ muff last week that brought on Amendola in relief. When Amendola hurt his ankle on a late-game return, the Patriots were forced to decide between Jones, wideout Julian Edelman (who doesn’t need extra work) and making a move.

Whalen is a move they made.

The slight and baby-faced Whalen indicated he had fielded some punts in practice, saying it went, “Fine.” Punt returns are something he’s done “since I was a kid.”

His first impression of the team was, "A lot of what I expected to see. A lot of detail. A lot of effort in practice. Good coaching all-around. I am excited to be here. I was excited to come into a good team that I’d gone against a few times. Hopefully come in and help out the team with whatever I can.”

I asked Whalen if he saw much of the commentary or creativity last year’s failed play spawned.

“I wasn’t paying too much attention,” he said. “When it’s during the season guys are pretty locked in on what they’re doing inside the building. But I heard more about it later on afterwards.”

Asked if he’d heard anything about the play since being here, Whalen replied, “I haven’t. Kinda was [expecting it].”

The Patriots will be hoping Whalen remains as productive for them on fourth down this year as he was in 2015.

 

PFT: Belichick can still diagram his dad’s Navy plays from 1959

PFT: Belichick can still diagram his dad’s Navy plays from 1959

CBS interviewed Patriots coach Bill Belichick and 1960 Heisman winner Joe Bellino from Navy as part of its Army-Navy Game coverage Saturday.

Belichick's father, Steve, was an assistant coach at Navy when Bellino played there, and little Bill, then 7, took it all in. So much so, that 57 years later, Belichick can still diagram the 27 F Trap play that his dad used to drew up in the 1959 season for Bellino.

More from NBC Sports' Pro Football Talk here.