No Huddle: Brady, Welker, and more postgame sound

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No Huddle: Brady, Welker, and more postgame sound

FOXBORO -- There's plenty of post-game sound to digest following New England's 20-18 loss to the Cardinals.
Here are the highlights.
Rob Gronkowski on Stephen Gostkowski taking the blame (the kicker missed the game-winning 42-yard field goal) and if Gronk considers it a team loss:
"Definitely it's a team loss. Stephen does a great job. He kicked four great field goals to keep us in the game. The loss is not on him. The loss could be on me. I got that penalty at the end, holding the guy. You can't have things like that happen. It's definitely not on Stephen. He's a great kicker and a great guy."
Gronkowski was actually whistled for two penalties on New England's final drive. The first was a holding call that wiped out a 30-yard go-ahead touchdown run by Danny Woodhead. Gronk was livid, believing he was victim of just being bigger than the guy he grabbed. The second penalty -- a false start -- came two plays later.
Tom Brady on whether or not he feels this was a game where he needs to say something to Gostkowski after:
"No, I mean, you miss kicks, you throw interceptions, you fumble the ball, you miss tackles. Over the course of a long season those things happen. There's no one play that lost the game; we did a lot of things that allowed us to lose this game. We had a lot of opportunity out there to make more plays than we did. Hopefully it never comes down to a 42-yard field goal at the end. Hopefully we do a better job on offense so it's not that kind of game at the end.
Current Cardinals, former Patriots safety James Sanders on the Gillette Stadium crowd booing the home team... frequently:
"It didn't surprise me. I let the guys know that the Patriots have great fans, but sometimes they can be impatient. I knew if it was a tight game, there would be some boos. We took it to them early and got on top of them and the fans turned on them. That helped us out a lot today."
New England's offensive impotence rankled the fans from the start. Whether it was the team's decision to kick a field goal on fourth-and-2, or the election to have Danny Woodhead run it on third-and-32, Patriots fans didn't like the play calling and were noisy about it.
Sanders on how much losing Aaron Hernandez hurt the Patriots:
"They are a very potent offense, especially with him in the line-up. When he went down it took away a lot of things they are able to do. It's unfortunate for them, but, it helped us out as a unit. I just pray that he's healthy."
Hernandez suffered an ankle injury when teammate Julian Edelman, whom Hernandez was blocking for, landed on his ankle after being tackled. Was the fuss over his absence unwarranted? Not really. Only three players played every single snap in Week 1: Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Hernandez.
But reactions as to whether or not the team will thrive without the valuable tight end (literally -- he signed a five-year, 37.5 million extension a few weeks ago) varied depending on who was asked....
Brandon Lloyd on how much the game changed without Hernandez:
"I think we just pretty much adapted. I didn't think twice about the adjustments that we made and just figured that we'd step up and move on."
Lloyd ended up leading all receivers with eight catches on 13 targets for 60 yards.
Wes Welker on if he was surprised to not be as involved in the offense as in years past:
"You know, you want to be out there, I think as a competitor and everything else, especially on Sundays. It's what we play for and what we for for, and you want to be out there. At the same time, Coach felt like whatever was best for the team, and I'm for that and I totally understand that, and I'm just there to help out however I can.
Fascinating. Paranoia over the "Welker Phase-Out" was amped up when the receiver was replaced in the starting lineup by Edelman. He didn't really get a hand in things until Hernandez got hurt. Welker has somehow always managed to play the good soldier role and he did Sunday night, but not without expressing desire to be on the field instead of the bench.
Welker on if there's an injury reason behind his playing time being cut:
"No. No, I feel great."
Kyle Arrington on if he feels the team was focused Sunday:
"Credit the Cardinals; they deserved to win this game. It started in the week in practice. Everybody will probably tell you that everybody knew what they were doing and we still couldn't even get it done in some instances on the practice field -- blown calls, lack of communication or whatever the case is, and it showed up today in the game. We had our chances, but like I said, give all the credit to Arizona.
Hard to argue with Arrington. Welker and Logan Mankins also mentioned the Bad Week of Practice, saying guys weren't on top of their assignments and doing their jobs. In that regard, the miscues on game day were unfortunately not surprising.
Matthew Slater on whether or not the team can pick themselves up after a difficult loss:
"We have 14 games left; now is not the time to panic. Now is not the time to get down on ourselves because if we do it's going to be a long season for us. So we just need to take it one day at a time and continue to try and perfect our craft as we come in here and watch the film tomorrow, and learn from it, and come out on the practice field, and put together good days of practice. And hopefully it will transfer to the game field."
Slater is always good for perspective. That's why the guy is a captain. 12 of the 20 teams to have played two games (as of 8:00 PM Sunday) have split 1-1 like the Patriots, including the Ravens, Packers, and Giants.

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.

Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

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Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

Malcolm Butler was one of many not spotted during OTAs on Thursday when the media got a looksee at one of the practices.

Butler wasn’t the only one. But he did stand out as a missing player who hadn’t (to my knowledge) had a surgery but did have a contract that needs addressing. Another one? Rob Gronkowski. If we really want to extend it out, throw in Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan.

This is the point where it’s important to point out that these workouts are voluntary – VAW-LUN-TERR-EEEE! Players don’t have to be there. Additionally, I’m not even sure Butler or Gronkowski (or Ryan and Harmon) weren’t at the facility. All I know is they weren’t on the field. And, per usual, nobody’s tipping his hand as to why.

But we do have this, relative to Butler. ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote Sunday that he “wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to his contract status.” Reiss said that Butler “told teammates and friends he plans to push for an adjustment to his contract before the 2016 season, and staying off the field in voluntary workouts would be a decision that limits injury risk and also could be viewed as a statement to the organization that he's unhappy with the status quo and/or the movement/specifics of contract talks.”

In the same vein, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gronkowski opted out as well for the same reason, especially since he threw out a tweet that signaled dissatisfaction with his pact in March.

But in terms of a statement, not going to OTAs is more of a throat-clearing than a noisy proclamation.

Not to minimize the move if Butler, Gronkowski or anybody else is actually staying away because of business. The Patriots usually enjoy almost perfect OTA attendance. Also, there hasn’t been much contract strife around here for the past five seasons.

Money matters were an annual issue for the Patriots from about 2003 through 2010. Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Ty Warren, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Randy Moss, Adam Vinatieri, Mike Vrabel and – quietly – Tom Brady all had their contract dances back then. But the only one that got hairy in the recent past was Wes Welker.

It’s still too soon to know if any of these will get contentious. When will we know? When either a player or his agent spouts off. Or, when someone’s a no-show at mandatory minicamp beginning June 7.

That would amount to a shot across the bow. Of all the players likely to take that shot, Butler seems a reasonable bet. His base pay this season is $600K after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2015 that saw him check the opposition’s best wideout on a weekly basis. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year. He deserves longer-term security than he currently has. Gronkowski has a lot less to kick about. He may make less than lesser players, but he also was the league’s highest paid tight end when he was missing scads of games due to injury.

After Butler, Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower would figure to have the strongest cases to want new deals and want them snappy. Ryan and Harmon would be right behind those two. Then Jabaal Sheard.

Sheard, Hightower and Collins were all on the field Thursday. 

Can the Patriots get all these guys reupped? Will they even try? How do they have them prioritized? If the guy who howls loudest gets to the front of the line, the time to make some noise is close.

But we have yet to hear any of these players loud and clear.