Welcome back, NFL

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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

Trump wishes Kraft good luck, says Brady called to congratulate him

Trump wishes Kraft good luck, says Brady called to congratulate him

President-elect Donald Trump made sure to thank a few of his supporters from New England -- particularly those at 1 Patriot Place -- during a speech on the eve of his inauguration to the nation's highest office. 

Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady all earned shout-outs from Trump. Kraft was one of many Trump donors present for a dinner at Washington, DC's Union Station, where he was singled out by the soon-to-be-president. 

"In the audience we have somebody that's under no pressure whatsoever because he's got a great quarterback named Tom Brady and a great coach named Belichick: Bob Kraft," Trump said. "Good luck, Bob.

"Your friend Tom Brady just called. He feels good. He called to congratulate us. He feels good. Good luck. You're going to do great."

Trump gave one extra nod to Belichick, who he says taught him to out-work his competition. 

"I out-worked everybody," Trump said. "I think I out-worked anyone who ever ran for office. I learned that from Belichick."

Patriots sign TE Rob Housler to future contract

Patriots sign TE Rob Housler to future contract

FOXBORO -- The Patriots have signed free-agent tight end Rob Housler to a future contract. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound target last played for the Bears but was released at the end of training camp.

Housler won't be eligible to participate with the Patriots during the postseason, but he will be available for the offseason program and training camp leading up to the 2017 campaign. 

Housler taken in the third round by the Cardinals with the 69th overall selection in 2011. In 65 career games, he has 109 catches for 1,166 yards and one touchdown. 

The Patriots may have been intrigued by Housler's skill set last summer when he caught one pass for 52 yards -- making two Patriots defenders miss in the process -- during a preseason game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots and Bears held joint training camp practices in August that would have given Patriots coaches and scouts a closer look at everything Housler has to offer as a player. 

Housler was one of the better athletes at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2011, running a 4.55-second 40-yard dash (fastest among tight ends), posting a 6.9-second three-cone drill, and recording a 37-inch vertical leap.

Bill Belichick and his staff hit big on a future-contract signing two years ago when a running back with a significant injury history was available to scoop up at the behest of then-assistant to the coaching staff Michael Lombardi. Since then, the Patriots still have never lost with Dion Lewis in uniform.