Mike from Attleboro: Protecting the shield

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Mike from Attleboro: Protecting the shield

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.

Its not often that a New England Patriots fan is in full agreement with the living embodiment of Patriot anti-matter, Bernard Pollard. But after two weeks of terrible scab officiating, you couldnt help but agree with him. Pollard, on 98.5s Toucher and Rich show, stated (at great risk to his checkbook) that These guys need to be out and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell needs to do more to fix the problem:

My issue is we have a commissioner that is jumping on board to hammer every other issue down in the NFL. He is jumping on board to get meetings with players when things are happening, but we have something on hand that is messing up the integrity of the league and nothing is being done about it.

Pollard is 100 percent correct and should be commended for saying so. The fact that the league is still locking out the officials at this point is an absolute joke. Allowing the best sports product in North America, and arguably the world, to suffer for the price of some benefits and pension plans is so myopic and foolish it defies logic.

When you realize that Roger Goodell is at the helm of the most moronic replacement plan since Coy and Vance took over for Bo and Luke Duke, it all starts to make a little more sense.

If there is one thing that the reign of the NFLs most despotic commissioner has shown us, its that there isnt a person, place or thing that Opie Goodell wont try to crush under foot if given the opportunity. In the past, the NFLs commissioners duty has been to Protect the Shield. Roger Goodell, on the other hand, isnt down with protecting it as much as he is with using it like Captain America to beat his foes into submission.

Protecting the shield is exactly what this situation requires. The game itself needs to be protected from a group of owners who think the officials are just another bunch of employees they can exploit and short change in negotiations. These arent run-of-the-mill, part-time employees. These are battle-tested arbiters of a fast-moving, violent, multibillion dollar product. They deserve to be compensated as such. If the uniform Narc who ratted out 49ers QB Alex Smith for wearing a San Francisco Giants hat at a press conference is important enough to get full benefits, giving them to the refs is a no-brainer, part-time or not.

Even more so, the on-field product needs to be protected from the type of doubt and skepticism that shadow the NBAs every move. The biggest officiating controversy the NFL has had in the last decade was due to Walt Coleman correctly enforcing the tuck rule in a Patriots-Raiders game during the divisional round of the 2001 NFL playoffs. David Stern would move the Lakers back to Minneapolis in exchange for that kind of officiating competence.

Instead of giving up a fraction of a fraction of a 9 billion pie, Roger Goodell has led the owners down a path that may lead to irreparable damage. In the leadup to the season, Goodell said the replacements would do a very credible job and short-term sacrifices were needed to ensure long-term success. This statement on its own is delusional enough to have Goodell removed and committed. But when you consider that Goodell has had the leagues officials under his purview since 2001 and already witnessed one officiating lockout, it now becomes a case of deliberate and premeditated negligence.

During the 2001 referee lockout, the league was able to get a much better caliber of replacement official. During that lockout, the entire preseason and one regular-season week passed largely without incident. The events of September 11th helped to accelerate an agreement and this dispute became a minor footnote of commissioner Paul Tagliabues tenure.

This lockout, on the other hand, left the league skimming the bottom of the football officiating barrel. Instead of continuing with the lockout, Goodell should have seen the futility of trying to replace veteran NFL officials with Lingerie League rejects in the preseason and advised the owners to settle. Instead of being forced to send press releases reminding players and coaches to make nice with the scabs, Goodell should have seen that star-struck replacements would get intimidated and bullied into bad calls and reversals. Instead of letting these replacements take the field with little or no league vetting, Goodell should have pulled some of his gestapo off the Bountygate witchhunt and had them make sure that they arent in fantasy leagues. Or that a Saints fan isnt officiating a Saints game!!!

Given the way NFL football and gambling are indivisibly linked, Roger Goodell should be thanking John Facenda that his replacements have been outed only as star-struck fantasy players and not gridiron versions of Tim Donaghy. Spared such a disaster, he should have been hauling the owners back to the bargaining table yesterday.

But Goodell is too stubborn to swallow his pride and do whats right. Hes so obsessed with being the worlds toughest paper pusher that he refuses to see the crippling threat to his leagues credibility hovering right under his double chin. Opie thought the fallout from Spygate was a bad scene? The meltdown that would result from a Donaghy-level incident in the NFL would dwarf what a thousand Barnard Pollards could do to the Patriots.

Hopefully, the myriad of catastrophes that could fall upon the league finally become evident to Roger Goodell. Then he can stop using the Shield like his personal cudgel and actually protect it for once.

Seahawks taking their cues from Patriots on how to use Browner

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Seahawks taking their cues from Patriots on how to use Browner

Brandon Browner helped the Patriots win a Super Bowl with his physical play in the secondary, highlighting his one-year stint with the team by making one of the most important jams at the line of scrimmage in the history of the NFL, clearing space at the goal line for Malcolm Butler's championship-saving interception.

One season later, as a member of the Saints, he had a tough time. He committed 24 penalties (most in the league), allowed 17.2 yards per catch (second-most in the league among players who played at least 75 percent of their teams' snaps), and quarterbacks had a rating of 122.5 when throwing in his direction (worst in the league, according to Pro Football Focus). 

Browner was released after one year in New Orleans -- though he was happy to point out to Saints fans on Instagram that he made good money for that one year -- and has been since been signed by Seattle, where he was a member of their vaunted Legion of Boom secondary from 2011-13. 

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told ESPN that Browner will be used this season similarly to the way he was used at times in New England. Rather than forcing him to play on the outside in man-to-man coverage, he'll be in the box as a safety, where his physicality will be best served. He'll still be asked to cover from time to time, but those assignments will pit him primarily against tight ends -- something Patriots coach Bill Belichick liked to do in 2014 -- instead of quicker, smaller wideouts. 

"He was wide open to it," Carroll said of the positional change. "I had the chance to see him play in positions like he's being asked to play now when he was in New England, and we saw some really good things we thought we could mix into our stuff, and he's very much looked the part. But I really think it's about him; we like the guy so much."

How the shift will work remains to be seen. Working inside the box is something he's done before with the Patriots, but now it's a full-time gig. 

"Being on the outside, it’s more of a man-to-man concept: You’re a corner on an island," Browner said. "Being in that box, you’re accounted for from the linemen in the run. You’ll get some run keys from the end man on the line of scrimmage. Things are just a little different. But you’re a football player in there. Playing corner, it’s more of a one-on-one thing. We’re playing basketball out there on that island. When you’re in that box, that’s football, I think."

Ortiz: Deflategate is 'stupid', and he won't watch Pats if Brady isn't playing

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Ortiz: Deflategate is 'stupid', and he won't watch Pats if Brady isn't playing

Tom Brady and David Ortiz have shared the spotlight in this region for more than a decade now as the faces of their respective franchises. They have a unique perspective on what it takes to have the longevity that eludes most other athletes, and they know what it's like to be among the most recognizable faces in this part of the country. 

There seems to be a certain level of mutual respect between the two local stars, something that Ortiz made quite clear in an interview with SI.com. Asked about Brady and Deflategate, the Red Sox slugger pulled no punches. 

"I think it’s stupid, to be honest with you," Ortiz said. "Put it this way: You’re talking about the one player that everybody wants to watch play. We’re not just talking about any player. We’re talking about Tom Brady. If I turn on the TV on Sunday to watch a Patriots game and I know that Tom Brady is not playing, I would turn off the TV. I don’t want to watch that game."

Brady's four-game suspension was upheld by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this offseason, but the quarterback and the NFLPA recently filed a petition to request a rehearing. The Patriots organization submitted an amicus brief to the court last week that criticized the NFL's process and supported Brady's request to have his case heard once again.

Malcom Brown already considered a leader for Patriots in second year

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Malcom Brown already considered a leader for Patriots in second year

FOXBORO -- Late last year, Bill Belichick went out of his way to explain just how far then-rookie defensive lineman Malcom Brown had progressed over the course of his first professional season. 

From the sounds of it, the first-round defensive tackle's on-the-field growth was atypical. 

"I think he’s really come on through the season, which isn’t always the case with first-year players," Belichick said on Dec. 30. "It took him a while to get to that point through training camp and the early part of the season, but he’s become much better and more consistent in every phase of the game – running game, passing game, play recognition, communication, adjustments – just everything. It seems like every week he just builds on it.

"He’s really hit a good slope, good incline. He’s worked hard. There is a lot on every rookie’s plate. There’s a lot on his plate as a rookie in the different situations that he plays in and the number of things that we do on the front, so it’s not easy, but he’s improved his techniques, his fundamental play and he’s improved his communication and overall understanding of the multiples that are involved. It’s been good."

Brown finished the year as the Patriots interior defensive lineman with the most snaps played (his 517 snaps trailed only Jabaal Sheard, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich among defensive linemen), and he established himself as a trustworthy option in the team's steady rotation on the interior of its front. 

According to one of Brown's newest teammates, free-agent acquisition Terrance Knighton, Brown is now serving as a leader on the interior of the defensive line. Though he's only in his second season, Brown's understanding of the Patriots defense gives him a leg up on players who may have more experience in the league but are new to New England. 

"Malcom Brown has basically been leading the group," Knighton said after an OTA practice last Thursday. "Being in his second year, he's probably the most experienced guy in it right now as far as this team. I'm picking his brain to see how things are done around here."

 

Knighton acknowledged that once the Patriots have Alan Branch back on the field -- Branch was one of 17 players missing from Thursday's OTA -- they'll get another player with a sound understanding of the defense. But right now, Brown is looked to as a source of information for veterans like Knighton and Markus Kuhn as well as rookie fourth-rounder Vincent Valentine. 

"Young guy, obviously played at a high level last year and you can tell he's feeding off of that," Knighton said of Brown. "He's only continued, from what I've seen on tape to now. That's one of the things I try to talk to about with the young guys is being on the up, and not going up and down in your career. That's something I've been through in my career so I just try to share knowledge and help guys out."

Brown, who turned 22 in February, certainly ended last season "on the up." In the early going this offseason, it seems as though he's on track to continue that trajectory.