Pats tight ends could have gone to Baltimore

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Pats tight ends could have gone to Baltimore

Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will be two of New England's most dangerous weapons in Sunday's AFC Championship battle against Baltimore.

That gun was almost pointed at the Patriots.

Gronkowski missed his junior season at Arizona with a back injury. A rogue disk was bothering his spinal cord and needed to be shaved. The procedure required a six-month recovery, which made Gronkowski miss the NFL combine, and made pro player personnel heads worry about his future.

But Baltimore wanted tight ends.

Two-time Pro Bowler Todd Heap was 30 at the time of the 2010 NFL draft. He'd played through a myriad of injuries over his almost decade-long career and the talk that spring was that the Ravens would either bolster the position or start a succession plan.

Gronkowski was one of the players on the team's radar. To be more specific, he was a "medical case" the Ravens were researching.

"These are million-dollar decisions," Eric DeCosta, director of player personnel, told the Baltimore Sun. "When that much money is on the line, you have to exhaust every resource."

The concern kept Gronkowski waiting -- as he expected -- into the draft's second round. When the 42nd pick overall rolled up, it appeared the Oakland Raiders passed on their selection. A Ravens assistant quickly moved forward to turn in Baltimore's pick...

Too late. Roger Goodell announced the Patriots were on the clock.

New England hurdled the Ravens by swapping its 44th pick with Oakland's 42nd. Gronkowski was the ultimate prize.

"I really don't know what Baltimore was going to do," Gronkowski said that April evening. "Obviously, New England thought Baltimore was going to take me because New England was the next pick after Baltimore. Maybe that's why New England hopped one pick ahead of Baltimore.

"That's awesome that they traded up to get me. That means they really wanted me."

The Ravens selected defensive end Sergio Kindle at 43. Its first tight end, Ed Dickson, was quarried in the third round. The second was Dennis Pitta, a BYU product, taken at 114.

The previous pick? That would be Aaron Hernandez, selected at 113 by the New England Patriots.

Todd Heap had a decent 2010 season but was released by the Ravens in July. Dickson has started all 16 games this season, recording 528 yards and five touchdowns on 54 catches. Pitta's numbers (40 catches, 405 yards, three touchdowns) have come off the bench.

By contrast, here are the numbers for New England's two tight ends this season:

Gronkowski: 90 receptions for 1,327 yards, 18 total TD (one rushing).

Hernandez: 79 receptions for 910 yards, 7 TD.

Yeah. You could say the Patriots won the tight end fight. Ask Gronkowski and Hernandez and they'd probably say there's nothing more important than the larger landscape, than their team, than this weekend's AFC Championship.

Thing is, that landscape has been dramatically shaped by those two players and that 2010 draft.

And don't Baltimore know it.

Extended podcast with David Ortiz on his career, PED's, the Marathon bombing and more

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Extended podcast with David Ortiz on his career, PED's, the Marathon bombing and more

David Ortiz offers thoughtful answers and insight in this interview with Sean McAdam touching on his beginning with the Red Sox, the Boston Marathon bombings, showing up on a PED list, his impact in the dugout, and more.

You can also see pieces of the interview on CSN Friday at 6:30pm on a special Arbella Early Edition with Gary Tanguay and Lou Merloni.

RELATED Special Video Series - "Big Papi - An Oral History" from CSN

Thomas excited for reunion with Green

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Thomas excited for reunion with Green

WALTHAM, Mass. -- When the phone rang this summer, Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas had to do a double-take when he saw the name on the caller ID.

It was Gerald Green, his ex-teammate in Phoenix.

Although they only shared a locker room for 45 games in Phoenix, the two became quick friends.

On the court they developed instant chemistry while coming off the Suns bench. And that bond spilled off the court as Green would later spend time with Thomas in the Seattle-Tacoma, Wash. area in the summer months.

They were cool with each other, cool enough to where Thomas knew it wasn’t in Green’s nature to pick up the phone and call just to say hi.

“Gerald doesn’t call anybody,” Thomas said. “When he called I knew something was up.”

Green said Boston, the team that drafted him in 2006 straight out of high school, was interested in bringing him back for a second stint with the club.

“I tried to put my two cents in and he got here,” Thomas said.

There were several factors that led Green back to Boston, with a chance to reunite with Thomas being high on that list.

Green, already in Phoenix at the time the Suns signed Thomas in 2014, was impressed with the way the 5-9 guard carried himself.

“He was a genuine guy, came in really humble,” Green said. “I saw the talent was there. I knew he had the potential to be one of the best point guards in this league.”

Thomas certainly made a case for such lofty praise with how he performed last season, good enough to earn his first all-star selection.

What really stuck out to Green was that Thomas’ mentality and approach to the game was almost a carbon copy of his own.

“When we stepped on the court we had the same mentality,” Green said. “By any means necessary, get a bucket and play harder than the next team; just try and push the first team, make the first team better every day.”

Thomas was coming off the bench, showing lots of potential and promise that he could carry a heavier load if given an opportunity to do so.

He averaged 15.2 points, 3.7 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 25.7 minutes off the Suns bench in 46 games. Even more significant was that when Thomas did play for the Suns, they were 26-20.

In the games without him, they were just 13-23.

Green was admittedly disappointed they traded away Thomas, believing that season would have had a very different outcome had they not sent him to Boston.

And just like Green recognized Thomas’ skills and how much his team could have benefited from keeping him around, Thomas speaks in glowing terms about Green and what his return to Boston means for the team.

“We needed someone like him; a guy that could shoot the ball, a guy that could space the floor; instant scorer whether he starts or comes off the bench,” Thomas said. “Where the he starts or come off the bench. He’s going to really help us.”