Much undue ado about Brian Waters

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Much undue ado about Brian Waters

There was an alarming amount of hand-wringing on Friday about the Patriots screwing over a guy who apparently can't decide whether he wants to play this year. Brian Waters, who was contracted to play for 1.4 million in 2012, hasn't shown up. Not for offseason training, not for minicamp, not for training camp, the preseason or - at the very least - the first regular season game. But the report by the Boston Herald that the Patriots want to shave Waters' salary down to 950,000 brought people out of the woodwork to decry this as another example of the Patriots squeezing a player.

Which is odd, because last week Aaron Hernandez got a fat new contract and people were hurtling over the barricades to salute the Patriots' generosity. But back to Waters. There's a lot of backstory to the situation that's unknown. For instance, a sourcetold me by text Friday night that "what was reported today is not true." Since the reports - or at least the details - have been foggy, I asked whether every report, including the Boston Globe saying it learned "months ago" that Waters agreed to a deal that would cut his salary but pay him bonuses for every time he was on the 46-man active gameday roster, was untrue as well. The source said he didn't know everything that's been reported. I've had multiple sources tell me the notion of a pay cut is inaccurate. But,perhaps contrary towidely held beliefs, solid sportswriters don't just say, "Maybe I'll make up a story about the Patriots requesting Waters take a pay cut" and go with it. The information was passed on in seemingly vague terms to Jeff Howe who reported it for the Herald. Is the "pay cut" Howe reported part of the deal Waters agreed to where he'd be paid for being on the 46? Seems plausible. Frankly, I'd never heard of that agreement nor was it reported locally although the Globe says it knew about it "for months." My take is that the team's been exceptionally accommodating to a player who has shown no inclination to return and has cold feet about leaving home. I also heard rumblings that, at some point in the offseason, Waters was offered much more to return than the 1.4M but he didn't budge. But there's been nothing concrete enough around that to build a story around. As it's been for much of this odd impasse. Additional reasons for Waters' not wanting to leave Texas have been quietly alluded to.As a result,I think it's wise to tread lightly on questioning his commitment to football too strongly because of that. Nobody's indicated if it's a family illness or some other dynamic but a wide berth has been given.

But the fact he's past the point where he was expected to come in - clearly - means the Patriots are at peace with moving on. They've gone through six weeks of work without him. Might the offensive line be best if Dan Connolly was at center and Waters was at right guard? Definitely, presuming Waters has kept himself in football shape. But Connolly is no slouch and he's shown that in subbing for Logan Mankins in 2010 and locking down the center spot after Dan Koppen went down last year.
The offensive line was nobody's idea of a dominant group in the preseason. But the interior wasn't a glaring problem, it was the edges - most troublingly the right edge when Marcus Cannon was over at right tackle. So where are we? There's a 35-year-old guard who can play for the Patriots if he chooses. The Patriots have moved on but they've left the light on for him. It comes down to this: the Patriots have addressed the position. They don't have aneed for Brian Waters. And he needs them even less.

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.

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