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

Felger: Sorry, Tom, but Jimmy G. and Brissett need to play Friday

Felger: Sorry, Tom, but Jimmy G. and Brissett need to play Friday

If there's any Patriots quarterback who should be getting meaningful time other than Jimmy Garoppolo on Friday in Carolina, it's not Tom Brady. It's Jacoby Brissett.

Brissett, obviously, will be the Patriots backup the first four games of the year, and the team has yet to go through the annual preseason exercise of subjecting him to the situation under which he's most likely to see time during the regular season. Typically, Bill Belichick will yank the starting QB out of the first half of an exhibition game unannounced and tell the backup to throw on his helmet and get out there. Brissett has yet to go through it, and you have to figure it's coming in the next two weeks.

Other than that, Garoppolo should see all the time while the starters are on the field. He's had little success going against the opposition's starters so far this month and needs every rep he can get. He needs to go through the routine of starting a prime-time game on the road, which will be the case Sept. 11 in Arizona.

Where does that leave Tom Brady? Stewing, probably. It's clear he wants to play. It's clear he wasn't happy missing last Thursday against Chicago and is pining for work Friday. If you were wondering how Brady would feel about losing time in training camp to Garoppolo as the Pats got ready for the regular season, you probably have your answer. He's not a fan.

There is a case to be made that the team and Belichick, in particular, owes Brady some love. Deflategate was dropped in Brady's lap from the start, and while the coach skated, the quarterback's sentence has finally become a reality. The Pats should want to make Brady happy. He deserves the respect.

But, ultimately, we ask the fallback Patriots question: What's best for the team? The answer isn't even close. Garoppolo deserves every snap, save for that potential emergency exercise with Brissett.

As for Brady's feelings? He'll get over it.

Email Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz week days, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 FM. Watch the simulcast daily on CSN.

Belichick impressed by rookie Thuney's work at left guard

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Belichick impressed by rookie Thuney's work at left guard

FOXBORO -- Joe Thuney may not have won the starting left guard job officially, but Bill Belichick says he's on the right track. And for a rookie, that's feat in and of itself.

The third-round pick out of North Carolina State -- you may remember it as the Kevin-Faulk-in-the-No.-12-jersey selection -- has been the first-team left guard since the start of training camp, and he hasn't moved since. Thuney has occasionally taken snaps at center, and the Patriots have him learning multiple spots behind the scenes. But every time Nate Solder has run on to the field as the left tackle, Thuney has been there by his side at guard. 

Even going back to OTAs, held not long after he was drafted, Thuney was the top choice at that position. 

"Joe has done a good job with what we’ve given him," Belichick said. "There was a point where we felt comfortable making that, I’d say temporary move, It wasn’t permanent. But he has handled it well. I think he’s certainly moving towards being able to lock something down at some point. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think he is certainly gaining on it. He has had a good preseason, had a good spring."

What once may have been deemed a temporary move back in the spring -- perhaps due to players like Shaq Mason, Tre' Jackson and Josh Kline dealing with injuries early in the offseason -- now seems like it should be a permanent one.

Thuney's run as the No. 1 left guard has been uninterrupted because his performance hasn't warranted a change. He's held his own against former first-round defensive tackle Malcom Brown in one-on-one practice drills, and he's been the highest-graded player on the Patriots offensive line through two preseason games, per Pro Football Focus. (The only players with higher grades on the team through two games are tight end AJ Derby and defensive end Trey Flowers.)

The man who went viral before the draft for his ability to solve a Rubik's cube in just over a minute has flashed an understanding of how quickly things move on the inside. Plus, playing under unretired offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, Thuney has been quick himself, both picking up pressures and working to the second level in the running game with aplomb.

Thuney will still have a preseason game or two to solidify his grasp on a starting role, but even for the brief period during which Mason and Kline were simultaneously healthy, Thuney was the choice on the left side of the interior offensive line. Now that Mason is dealing with what's been reported as a hand injury, Jackson remains on PUP, and Jonathan Cooper is still out after suffering a foot injury early in camp, the job seems like Thuney's to lose.

That Belichick even hinted Thuney is "gaining on it" is an indication of just how impressive he's been during his short time as a pro.