Patriots offensive linemen work hard to be versatile

839289.jpg

Patriots offensive linemen work hard to be versatile

FOXBORO -- The numbers on the jerseys of Patriots offensive linemen have been a little like those on the ping pong balls that decide lottery winners. When lined up, their combinations are rarely the same.

Centers are playing guard. Guards are playing tackle. And tackles have been hard to find for the Patriots during training camp. They're all mixing and matching at different spots, and with different groups at different times.

It's a unit that has been hit hard by injury -- Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer, Kyle Hix, Dustin Waldron , Markus Zusevics and Matt Kopa all missed practice on Wednesday, and Brian Waters still hasn't reported -- leaving backups to fill in, and often at more than one spot.

Much in the way Vince Wilfork refuses to specify his position -- he'd rather give himself the more general title of "defensive lineman" -- the big men on the line for the Patriots' offense should not be held to positional designations. They are simply "offensive linemen."

Nick McDonald has been playing both right guard and left tackle for the Pats in the last two days against the Saints. He got a start at center for the Patriots last season so if there's an injury, he could end up there, too.

"It's very important," said McDonald of his versatility. "Most guys play multiple positions. That's what it takes to play in this league. Guys gotta know multiple spots, whether it's guard-center, guard-tackle, whatever. Everybody needs to know different spots."

McDonald played tackle at Grand Valley State University, but now he's backing up the man who has suddenly become one of the most indispensable players on the team, one of its few true, healthy tackles, Nate Solder.

McDonald says that he's always known tackle assignments because of all the communication that goes on between tackles and guards, but that doesn't mean he isn't studying up on his new job as the quarterback's blind-side protector.

"My head's always in a book, it's gotta be," McDonald said. "You always gotta keep working. You don't know everything so you always gotta be studying."

Ryan Wendell has played multiple spots on the line. Ditto for Dan Koppen. Dan Connolly has, too, seeing time at both guard and center.

"Every day it's a different unit, a different combination of guys," Connolly said. "Somebody new at center, somebody new at guard, and I think that's helped a lot. We all get used to playing with one another and we'll all build on that as the season goes along."

Tom Brady has had words with his lineman at different points during camp. And at times -- like in practice Wednesday when the team tried to run a screen -- it has looked out of sync.

The best thing for them would be to get Mankins, Vollmer and Waters back on the field. But until then, they'll make due with what they have, trying to get by as they all learn multiple spots.

"It's definitely not an easy job to do," Connolly said. "But it's what's expected of us and it's what we have to do to have a job on this team."

Affleck offers passionate Brady defense when asked about Deflategate

patriots-brady-2-120615.jpg

Affleck offers passionate Brady defense when asked about Deflategate

When the topic of Deflategate was broached on HBO's Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons, which debuted this week, Ben Affleck became all kinds of fired up.

"What they did was suspend Tom Brady for four days for not giving them his [expletive] cellphone," Affleck said. "I would never give an organization as leak-prone as the NFL my [expletive] cellphone . . . so you can just look through my emails and listen to my voicemails?"

Affleck grew up in Cambridge, Mass. and is a passionate Patriots fan. He made no attempts to hide his fandom, and his appreciation for Brady, as he and Simmons (also a Patriots fan) discussed the football-deflation controversy that has now lasted well over a year. 

Affleck, who said he would want to cast himself as Brady if ever a Deflategate movie was made, harped on the fact that the league wanted Brady to turn over his phone. 

"Maybe Tom Brady is so [expletive] classy and such a [expletive] gentleman," Affleck said, "that he doesn’t want people to know that he may have reflected on his real opinion on some of his co-workers."

Brady is waiting for the Second Circuit to make a decision as to whether or not it will rehear his case against the NFL. Earlier this offseason, the Second Circuit reinstated Brady's four-game suspension issued by the league when a three-judge panel ruled in favor of the NFL, 2-1. 

Pro Football Talk wrote on Thursday that a decision from the Second Circuit could come at any time. If the rehearding request is denied, Brady could then take the case to the Supreme Court. Should the Second Circuit grant Brady a rehearing, his suspension would be delaed until the court reached a decision. In that case, Brady could potentially play the entire 2016 season before a decision came to pass. 

Brady posts high school essay to Facebook on living in his sisters' shadow

newsletter-tom-brady-052016.jpg

Brady posts high school essay to Facebook on living in his sisters' shadow

Tom Brady wasn't always the most famous person in his family. Growing up, his sisters were the accomplished athletes in the household. 

For his latest Throwback Thursday style Facebook post, Brady published a pair of photos of an old high school essay that he wrote in the fall of his senior year in 1994. It was titled "The way my sisters influenced me."

I found an essay I wrote in 1994... I love my big sisters! #tbt. Thanks for the good grade Mr Stark!

Posted by Tom Brady on Thursday, June 23, 2016

In it, he discusses some of the difficulties of growing up with three older sisters and no brothers. Because Maureen, Julie and Nancy Brady had achieved so much in softball, basketball and soccer, Brady -- or "Tommy," as he signed his paper -- had trouble getting noticed. 

Of course, it wouldn't be long before Brady was headed from San Mateo, California to Ann Arbor, Michigan in order to play football for the Wolverines. He probably had no trouble garnering attention by then. Still, it's funny to read about how he felt overlooked in his youth. 

He closed the essay explaining that he knew his sisters would always provide him support throughout his life, adding, "hopefully, just maybe, one day people will walk up to them and say, 'Aren't you Tommy's sister?' or 'Hey where is your brother?' Maybe . . . "

If the Brady sisters didn't get those kinds of comments by the time the baby of the family was given an 'A' for his English assignment, it probably didn't take long before they did. About seven years later, he took over as the starting quarterback of the Patriots.