No Huddle: Brady comfortable in no-huddle

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No Huddle: Brady comfortable in no-huddle

BALTIMORE, MD -- From Tom Brady to Torrey Smith, there were plenty of players talking on both sides after Sunday night's 31-30 Baltimore win.
Here are some of the highlights.

Quarterback Tom Brady on if he was comfortable in New England's no huddle offense Sunday night:
"Yeah, I thought it put a lot of pressure on those guys. I don't think they fooled us very much with their different looks. They just played well when they needed to, especially in the red area."
The Patriots went 3-for-5 in the red zone (60 percent). On the first failed opportunity, New England got to the Baltimore 20 in a hurry after Brady connected with Wes Welker on a 59-yard bomb. But after that: Handoff to Stevan Ridley for no gain, handoff to Ridley for 1 yard, and on third-and-9 Brady went back into shotgun and tried to find Julian Edelman. No dice.
The next chance stretched from the end of the third quarter into the fourth. Score 27-21 Patriots, it was first-and-10 on the Baltimore 18. Ridley gained 14 on the carry. With just 4 yards to go, Brady went no huddle and Ridley got the ball again, but Bernard Pollard was ready. He stuffed Ridley for a huge 4-yard loss. Fourth quarter. Patriots again go no huddle. Woodhead gets the ball -- no gain. On third-and-8 Brady found Welker for 6 yards. The 20-yard field goal was good. Baltimore's defense was better.
Ravens cornerback Cary Williams on Brady having an active night:
"He's Tom Brady, man. He's not 'Joe Schmo.' He's a future Hall of Famer. He came out and did what he was supposed to do.
Ah, Williams should know.
Brady went 28-for-41 for 335 yards, one touchdown, and a 101.2 quarterback rating. His seventh drive was a 12 play, 80-yard monster that featured six first downs and some nifty passing: An 11-yard gain on first-and-10 for Brandon Lloyd (Williams on the tackle), 11-yard gain for Welker on third-and-5 (Williams), 10-yard gain for Lloyd on third-and-6 (yup, Williams), and 9 more yards to Lloyd on second-and-7 (Williams!).
Ravens running back Ray Rice on Justin Tucker's game-winning kick:
"I was already sending my farewells. I've seen him make those kicks in practice all the time."
True, the field goal was only 27-yards, but that's a lot of pressure on an undrafted rookie like Tucker. There was some controversy among Patriots regarding whether or not the kick was actually good. Vince Wilfork said, "A game like this, you have to" review such a close call. But it can't be done -- a ball that flies above the uprights cannot be reviewed because there's no reference point to measure against.
Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones on whether he watched brother, Patriots DL Chandler Jones, from the sideline:
"I checked him out a little bit and Baltimore tackle Michael Oher did a great job on him. Today wasn't one of his better days, but he's young and strong, and he's going to be one of the great ones."
More controversy -- and not just in the Jones family home this Thanksgiving. Where the Baltimore opinion may be that Oher "did a great job" on the dynamic rookie, there is another opinion out there that Oher "did a great job" of holding Jones all night. Unchecked holding was a problem with the replacement officials through the first two weeks of football and looked to be on Sunday as well.
Deion Branchon the number of controversial calls:
"It's not the first time we've played in a game with a lot of controversial calls. It was happening on both sides of the ball. I'm sure they were upset about some of those calls, too. But honestly, when we're doing what we do best, we take the game out of the referees' hands."
Leave it to Branch to be diplomatic. And he has a point -- of Baltimore's 28 first downs, just five came via penalty.
Former Patriot, current Raven, James Ihedigbo on playing against his former team:
"When you think about it, any time you get a chance to go against your former team, it's kind of personal. I went into this game with that kind of mentality, and when you put the history of these two teams on top of it, it just became a very personal and emotional thing. It was great the way it turned out. It couldn't be any sweeter."
Ihedigbo was picked up by Baltimore two days after being released from the Patriots on August 31. He served as a captain for Sunday night's coin toss. Jedi mind trick? Either way, he seems very happy with the Ravens.
Ravens receiver Torrey Smith, on his emotions of the day after losing his younger brother:
"I didn't know how I would hold up, but thanks to my teammates and coaches and all the support from really everyone around the league, just everyone, everwhere. You know, I was getting texts and people were telling me on my Twitter. I just thank everyone on behalf of my family."
Smith's brother, Tevin Jones, was just 19 when he died in a motorcycle accident Saturday. The Ravens held a moment of silence before the game to honor Jones' memory. Smith paid tribute on his own by pointing skyward after his first touchdown reception Sunday night.

Slater missing from start of Patriots practice

Slater missing from start of Patriots practice

FOXBORO -- The Patriots were without two key members of their special teams units at Friday's practice. 

Both Matthew Slater (foot) and Jordan Richards (knee) were not spotted at the start of the team's most recent workout. Defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton (illness) was also missing. 

Hamilton and Richards did not participate in Thursday's practice. Slater was present on Wednesday and Thursday after missing Sunday's game against the Jets. 

The Patriots did have a Gronkowski back on the field Friday, but it wasn't Rob, who was expected to undergo back surgery in Los Angeles. It was fullback Glenn Gronkowski, who has apparently been re-signed to the Patriots practice squad for his fourth go-round on New England's 10-man unit. Practice-squad tight end Kennard Backman, who has not been at Patriots practice since Wednesday, has likely been released in order to make room for Gronkowski. 

 

Curran: Patriots holding all the cards with Gronkowski contract

Curran: Patriots holding all the cards with Gronkowski contract

FOXBORO – If the Patriots ever do file for divorce from Rob Gronkowski, it’s not going to be because they don’t like what they are paying him.

When the team picked up the $10 million option on Gronk’s contract in March, activating the back half of his six-year, $54M contract, the Patriots got the upper hand business-wise.

Gronk is signed through the 2019 season – same as Tom Brady. His salaries from 2017 to 2019 are $4.25M, $8M and $9M. His cap hits are $7M, $11M and $12M.

The salary cap for 2016 is $153M. Between now and 2019, it could balloon to more than $170M. 

Gronk fits neatly under it. The franchise tag for tight ends in 2016 was $9M. Gronk is on the books to play for less than half of that in salary in 2017.

That explains why Gronk sent that tweet back in March,  passive aggressively kicking rocks about the “pay cut” he took when the Patriots picked up his option. And it’s why, throughout the summer, his agent Drew Rosenhaus was trying to get the Patriots to the table to work out a new deal for his client.

This back injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for Gronkowski business-wise.

Even if the Patriots tore up the final three years of the deal and gave him a new contract without knowing how he’ll come out of this latest back surgery, the new deal would have to be performance-based and loaded with playing-time clauses.

In that case, as opposed to self-preservation to ensure he can walk fairly well at 50, Gronk, now 27, may feel compelled to play even when he’s not “right.” And, if he’s playing while less than 100 percent, will he be able to play with the abandon that made him the transcendent player he’s been?

That’s if Gronkowski and his Gronktourage would even agree to that kind of a contract, which I’m not sure they would.

They will want security. They may also feel they are owed security because of the physical sacrifices Gronk has made in his seven-year career. And that’s not even taking into consideration the windfall the franchise has realized both financially and in public perception because an inimitable player has been on their roster for seven years. The team should expect a request that they relax their generally hard-line bargaining

While the Patriots have had a strong relationship with Gronk’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, this contract is – on face value – embarrassing for Rosenhaus at this point.

That Gronk “won” for the first portion of the contract isn’t going to be recalled. But he did win. Gronk signed the deal on June 8, 2012. Within months, he fractured his arm on a PAT attempt against the Colts. Then – after having a plate inserted – he broke it again in the playoffs right where the plate ended. An infection ensued. Gronk also had back surgery that offseason. He very slowly returned to action in 2013, missing the first six games. He returned for Week 7, caught 39 balls for 592 yards over the next seven games, then had his season ended by an ACL blowout.

At that juncture, the security of the contract was a godsend. But the way those two years went – the rushing back to the field, the plate insertion, the infection – has shaped the entire relationship with the team since.  

And considering Gronk’s father, Gordie, was a successful businessman himself and sent four sons to the NFL, there may be no more well-informed family out there as to the harsh realities of the business of football.

Beyond just knowing how the sausage gets made, though, the Gronkowskis have been considering Rob’s football mortality and making sure to maximize his earnings since he was 19.

Not hypothetically either. After Gronk’s sophomore season, he declared for the draft despite having ruptured a disk for the first time. The reason? If he played another down of college football his $4M insurance policy was void. If he suffered a career-ending injury, he would realize no dough from the sport. So he entered the draft to start making as much as he could before the body gave out. 

Which is to their credit. The kid had a skill, he loved playing the sport, making sure he’s well-compensated for plying that skill for as long as possible is what any parent should do.

But we’re approaching a crossroads now. Will Gronk want to continue playing? Will his family encourage him to? Will he even be cleared?

And even if those answers all came back in the affirmative, would the Gronkowskis sign off on Rob playing for relative peanuts compared to what lesser tight ends are receiving?

The Patriots have the favorable hand right now. The young man may well be on an operating table still, so this would not be the time to play it.

But the hard realities of that contract are impossible to ignore. And at some point, they’ll come to a head.