Time will tell if play changes with regular referees


Time will tell if play changes with regular referees

FOXBORO -- The inconsistencies of the replacement referees seemed to break both ways during the NFL season's first three weeks. On one play, players might get away with an extra hold here, or a bump of a receiver there. On another, the slightest of infractions might get whistled.

Now that the league's referee lockout is over, the regular officials are back, and with them -- presumably -- more consistent rulings on certain penalties.

But how will the arrival of the league's regular officials change the way players play? Did players try to take advantage of the replacement officials who couldn't keep up with the game's pace? Or were players forced to try to cater to a new set of standards so that they wouldn't be flagged?

"I can't say that I did or didn't," Matthew Slater said when asked if he saw players trying to get away with more during the first three weeks.

"When you start thinking about the calls being made, and thinking that you're going to be jipped by a call then it affects the way you play the game. You live by the law of the land. If they're holding and grabbing, then you just gotta play through it. That's what we had to do and that's what we'll continue to have to do."

Rob Ninkovich said calls made by the replacement officials didn't change how he approached games.

"Everything's going at a real fast pace out there," he said. "You're just trying to play ball. Sometimes things happen. Sometimes the flag's thrown. Sometimes it's not, even when there was the old refs. What it comes down to at the end of the day is it's playing football. You can't really worry about the flags."

Slater said he'd be watching Thursday Night's game between the Ravens and the Browns, but not to see how the new officials change the game.

"I'll be watching the game to see the players play the game," he said. "I'm sure it'll be discussed by the commentators and other people, the networks and things like that. But like I said, nobody's to blame in this situation. It was a tough situation for all parties involved, and now that it's resolved we can move forward."

Amendola restructures his contract to stick with Patriots


Amendola restructures his contract to stick with Patriots

It's very clear Danny Amendola wants to remain a member of the Patriots. For the second time in two years, the veteran receiver has restructured his deal in order to remain with the team, according to Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran.

Amendola's deal will pay him $7.35 million over the next two years. Amendola's new contract also allows him an opportunity to make $750,000 more in roster and receptions bonuses.

Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports 1 was the first to report the news.

In 2015, Amendola put together what was his best season in a Patriots uniform, finishing with 65 catches on 87 targets for 648 yards and three touchdowns. He was scheduled to make $5 million in base salary this year and count $6.8 million against the salary cap. In 2017, he was due $6 million in base salary and would have counted $7.86 million against the cap. 

Amendola released a statement to Garafolo that said, "It's an honor to play for this franchise and with this group of guys. We have one goal -- to win another Championship and that's all we care about."

Amendola's original deal with the Patriots was set to pay him $4 million in base salary with a $5.7 million cap hit in 2015, but he re-worked it so that he was paid $1.25 million in base salary and his cap hit was knocked down to $3.11 million last year. 

The Patriots receiver group appears to be solid at the top with Amendola, Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan securely in the fold. The team also added a handful of pass-catchers this offseason -- including veteran Nate Washington and rookies Malcolm Mitchell and Devin Lucien -- who will compete for time alongside Keshawn Martin, Aaron Dobson, Chris Harper and DeAndre Carter. 

Five things to know about Cyrus Jones on the day of his Patriots introduction


Five things to know about Cyrus Jones on the day of his Patriots introduction

The Patriots will introduce corner Cyrus Jones as their first pick of the 2016 draft on Friday, presenting him with a jersey as he poses for pictures with team owner Robert Kraft and president Jonathan Kraft. 

Jones was taken with the No. 60 overall selection in the second round of last weekend's draft, providing coach Bill Belichick's cornerback group with some depth. The 5-foot-10, 197-pounder from Alabama is also an accomplished punt returner -- he brought four back for touchdowns last season -- giving him a variety of avenues by which he could contribute as a rookie. 

Here are five things to know about Jones on the day he's introduced . . .

1. He's fairly well prepared for the coaching he'll get in the NFL after playing under Nick Saban at Alabama: "Playing for Coach Saban – he’s a great coach, arguably one of the best, arguably the best in the country – and I’ve heard many things that he’s compared to Coach Belichick and that our program is ran similar to how the Patriots’ is run," Jones said after being drafted. "I feel as though I’m greatly prepared for the next level thanks to Coach Saban and the people I had around me for four years, just getting me ready both on and off the field." Before the draft, Jones had only met Belichick once. It was on the day before the Alabama pro day, and Jones watched film with the future Hall of Fame coach and some of his 'Bama teammates. Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower made the Saban-to-Belichick transition relatively smoothly back in 2012. Now that he's one of the leader's of Belichick's defense, perhaps Hightower can help Jones in that regard if he needs it. 

2. He's ready to play inside, outside and as a punt returner: At his height, some have Jones pegged for a nickel corner role, but he played outside in college against some top-tier receivers in the SEC, and he feels he can do the same as a pro. "I don’t think there’s anywhere I can’t line up and be successful on the football field," he said. "I played outside most of my career at Alabama and I had success. I don’t think there’s any reason why I can’t line up on Sundays and do the same thing, so I feel as though I’m very confident that I can play on the outside." But Jones knows his special teams abilities may give him the best shot at consistent playing time as a rookie. "I returned punts in high school and I was pretty good at it," he said. "I just had that knack for just finding creases and being able to see where to cut at and I had good vision always. That ability just increased in college, and as I got more comfortable I started to have more success over time and I had my best year my senior year. I think, like you said, that’s going to be a big way for me to get on the field early next season."

3. He was a highly-recruited receiver coming out of high school: Jones grew up in Baltimore (yes, he was a Ravens fans) and attended Gilman School where he became a four-star recruit. He actually began his career for the Crimson Tide as a wideout, catching four passes for 51 yards as a true freshman. He transitioned to corner as a sophomore. "Coach Saban, you know, we were losing a couple of defensive backs after my freshman year and coach knew that I could play DB," he said. "He asked me, would I be willing to try it out for the spring time? I bought in and I just wanted to help the team in any way possible and it worked out for me and the team."

4. His nickname on social media is Clam Clampington: If you follow Twitter, you've already seen Jones' handle. It's not an alter ego, exactly, just a nickname given to him by one of his friends after he had a good game. "My best friend actually watched one of my games and I had a good game. I forget which game it was, and he said that I played so well that it looked like my name should be Clamp Clampington, and I just thought it was pretty hilarious at the time and kind of catchy. I ended up changing it on all my social media pages and it just went on from there."

5. He used to be teased by his Alabama coaches for being so into film study: "I love watching film," he said. "I used to get teased a lot at ‘Bama by my coaches saying I should have an office where their offices were because I was in the film room so much and up there almost just as much as they were. I love watching film and think that’s the key to becoming a better player. There are a lot of players in this league that have physical gifts and talent but you know working hard off the field, I think that’s what separates you."