Welcome back, NFL


Welcome back, NFL

All things considered, theres never a bad time to welcome in the start of a new NFL season. Honestly, Ive done the research, and never in the history of professional American football, dating back to the first ever game between the Dayton Triangles and Columbus Panhandles (October 3, 1920), has a self-respecting fan woken up on the morning of the season opener and thought: No, no. This ALL wrong. Somebody make it stop!

Well, not including Bills fans.

Anyway, while theres never a bad time to kick off another NFL season, there are years here in Boston, at least when we undoubtedly need it more than others. For instance, lets say its been a particularly troubling summer for the Red Sox. Lets say, and Im just throwing out numbers here, that the Sox are in the midst of a stretch where theyve lost 13 of 17 games and find themselves much closer to the American League basement (6.5 games) than either of the two Wild Card spots (14 games). Lets say the Bruins are headed for a presumably lengthy lockout, the Celtics are still two months away and, just to sweeten the pot, its been raining nonstop for two days. In times like this times like NOW the NFL season turns from luxury to necessity. From a cold beer at the end of the work day to an 8 a.m. Irish coffee that an alcoholic needs to kick start the morning.

We get the shakes just thinking about it. About that moment when the opening kickoff takes flight tonight at MetLife Stadium (8:30 pm, NBC), as the bulbs start flashing and Al Michaels announces to the world: And the 2012 NFL season is officially underway . . .

Followed by the kick sailing out of the end zone for a touch back.

Wah. Wah.

Yeah, so the NFLs not perfect. Nothing is. And from now through February, well all be faced with our share of NFL-related pain. First and foremost, theres the fact that for the next 22 Sundays and Monday nights youll be able to look across the room at your wife or girlfriend and know that shes legitimately questioning your relationship. Theres also the anger that comes with every Patriots loss, and the emptiness that accompanies every bad fantasy week. On the hopefully rare occasion that the Pats and your fantasy team lose on the same week, the sky will get dark and youll question why you ever put yourself through this in the first place. Youll think: Holy crap, Im a grown man and still falling into a depression over a fake football team.

And then there are injuries. Theres nothing worse than watching one of these players go down, and knowing in a split second that you wont see him again until next year. Or the look on a guys face when hes got a towel over his head and one leg up on the back of a motorized cart like hes being ushered off to the glue factory.

(Quick note: Nows a good time to remind everyone that its very possible for a player with a torn ACL to walk off under his own power. Brady did it. Terrell Owens did it. Many players have done, and will do it again. I say this because theres nothing more infuriating than watching a guy clearly tear his ACL and then hearing the fan next to you yell: Wait! Hes walking off under his own power! Hes gonna be all right!! No, hes not. Youre just making it worse.)

There are ACLs and broken bones, and then there are concussions. And you know that will once again be in the spotlight. Current players will be knocked out, while others will be suspended. Former players will die in their 40s and 50s. The producers at Outside The Lines and Real Sports will be working overtime to expose all thats wrong with the system and why the NFL needs to be stopped. And there might be a few times when you actually believe them. When you see the research, think about the numbers, and wonder: Man, what the hell are we rooting for here?

But it wont last.

At the end of the day, you can never stay mad at the NFL.

Not even after tonight, when youre forced to sit through a three-hour tribute to one of Bostons two most painful post-"18-1" losses.

We all know its coming, right? It's going to be a celebration in New York. There will a banner and speeches and endless discussions about Eli Mannings place in history. If were lucky, theyll throw in a couple clips of Welkers drop just to eliminate any sense of self-worth.

It will be a bittersweet beginning to most exciting season in sports.

But here in Boston, it couldn't have come soon enough.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Wednesday's Patriots-Bills practice participation/injury report: Same names for Pats


Wednesday's Patriots-Bills practice participation/injury report: Same names for Pats

Wednesday's practice participation/injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Bills game:


TE Martellus Bennett (ankle)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Jamie Collins (hip)
WR Julian Edelman (foot)
DL Woodrow Hamilton (shoulder)
LB Shea McClellin (concussion)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring)
LB Elandon Roberts (ankle)
DL Vincent Valentine (back)


LB Lorenzo Alexander (non-injury related)
LB Zach Brown (illness)
DT Corbin Bryan (shoulder)
TE Charles Clay (knee)
TE Cordy Glenn (ankle)
WR Marquise Goodwin (concussion)
RB LeSean McCoy (hamstring)
LB Lerentee McCray (knee)
DT Adolphus Washington (illness)
S Aaron Williams (neck)

DT Marcell Dareus (hamstring)
RB Mike Gillislee (foot)
T Seantreal Henderson (back)
LB Jerry Hughes (hand)
G John Miller (shoulder)
WR Robert Woods (foot)

Will time off in September benefit Brady down the stretch?


Will time off in September benefit Brady down the stretch?

FOXBORO -- As far as Tom Brady is concerned, there were no silver linings to Deflategate or the month he spent in exile from his team. Don’t try to put whipped cream on that particular mound of fecal material.
Found that out Wednesday when I gingerly asked Brady whether he’s ever felt this good in mid-October.
“I feel good,” said Brady. “I felt good at this time last year though, too. From one year to the next, I’d say I’ve become pretty efficient with how I get ready to play.
So the missing of September?
“I always wish I could be out there playing,” he pointed out. “I’d much rather be playing than not playing, but it is what it is. I feel good at this point. But like I said, I felt good last year, I felt good the year before that, and I think every year at this time of year just based on the right routine and kind of doing the right things to get yourself feeling good.”
The line of questioning was prompted by two things.
First, Brady’s played 256 games -- regular season and playoffs -- since 2000. His 31 postseason starts are the most in NFL history and he’ll add to it this year. No quarterback’s ever had a schedule like Brady’s for as long as Brady and the punishment he takes (witness Denver last January) would have destroyed the Montanas and Mannings with whom he’s compared. The extended layoff had to do a body good. And the level at which Brady’s playing right now -- and may continue to because he’s fresher -- can only mean good things.
Second, all the band, resistance and quickness work Brady does will never make him fast. But it has seemed to make him more decisive and determined that -- when he does opt to run -- the body will cooperate and arrive at the appointed destination without disaster.
Sunday, Brady both bought time for completions and embarked on short-range scrambles that picked up key first downs.
When Brady talked last week about making Pittsburgh “defend every inch of the field,” Brady scooting into open areas was a perfect illustration of that.
“If there are two or three plays a game that you can make just moving the pocket, or sliding, or buying your receivers more time, or scrambling on third-and-two, it’s just one more thing that they have to defend,” said Brady. “We made – Jimmy [Garoppolo] made a bunch of those when he was in there early. Jacoby [Brissett] made some.
“It’s nice to be able to do that because I think it’s a little discouraging for a defense when they feel like they’ve got you covered or they’ve got the right call on it, and all of the sudden – I mean, I don’t think they’re preparing for me scrambling for first downs. I know they’re not working on that. They’re working on stopping Gronk [Rob Gronkowski], and stopping Julian [Edelman], and Danny, and Hogs [Chris Hogan], LeGarrette [Blount] and James [White]. That’s not one of their top 10 things on their hit list, so I think it’s pretty discouraging when it happens and hopefully we can keep it going.”
At this point, Brady’s running has to at least be in the scouting report.
Although Rex Ryan isn’t buying.
“I’d like to see him do it more often,” said Ryan when asked if the scrambling of Brady was becoming annoying. “Put him in the option, that’s one thing that doesn’t scare you much, you live with that. What scares you is when he lets the ball go. He’s able to pick up a few first downs, But I think we may have the edge in running ability this week. I may go out there and make that bold statement. They may be worried about (Tyrod Taylor) more than than we’ll be about Tom running.”