Brady's wary of more than just Reed

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Brady's wary of more than just Reed

FOXBORO- When a team prepares for the Baltimore Ravens defense, the primary attention is focused on the usual suspects: Reed, Lewis, Ngata and Suggs.

But ignore the rest of the Ravens defense at your own peril was the message Tom Brady gave me in the Patriots' locker room Wednesday.

The Ravens' outside defenders -- corners Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith -- are worth more than a passing glance, Brady pointed out.

"They're good there," Brady said. "That's become a real strength for them. You hear about so many of those other guys and you end up taking for granted the guys on the outside. We played against Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister and they were really good and I think these guys can cover. They feel good about their matchups."

Last week, in the Ravens' Divisional Round win over the Texans, Webb came up with two interceptions. He had five during the regular season to go along with 59 tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

"Webb has great hands, makes some plays on the ball -- he's a punt returner so that tells you how they feel about him -- he can make plays," said Brady. "If you throw to his side, he can make plays. He seems like he's on another level this year after playing him last year."

Brady extended the usual praise to Reed and Lewis, saying, "You always enjoy going up against the best because you can really measure where youre at. You cant take plays off against those guys. You cant take things for granted when youre out there against them. You have to see where theyre at on every play because theyre guys who change the game. Not only the games that we play them, but every single game that theyre in, theyre making plays."

There's little a quarterback can do to look off Reed and get him out of position. Even one of Brady's ability.

"You dont fool Ed too often," Brady said."Every once in a while you see him out of place but its very, very rare. When you break the huddle, you find where hes at and you make sure youre not lobbing the ball up in his zones, because as you saw in the Houston game, hes going to go up there and make the plays. Hes just an exceptional player. I dont think there is a weakness that he has."

According to Deion Branch, Reed's skill -- and Lewis' -- make the defenders around them that much better.

"They've been playing with Ray, they been playing with Reed, it's almost like playing with Tom," said the Patriots wideout. "They're guys who make playing out there a lot easier when you have confidence you know he'll be in a certain place on the defensive side of the ball. Webb and my man Cary Williams who has done a great job this year. Lardarius is doing a great job for those guys. And (strong safety Bernard) Pollard, he's a hitter. This guy is downhill. I remember playing against him in Kansas City."

There have been games when offenses have been able to beat the Ravens outside. San Diego for one. The difference is that San Diego is more of a downfield offense than New England. The Patriots are more of a horizontal, timing offense that spreads teams sideline-to-sideline instead of going over the top.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked about receivers opening things up for Wes Welker.

"Theyve always had somebody to open up for Wes, it seems like," said Harbaugh. "Whether it was all of the receivers . . . Randy Moss comes to mind. But, theyve always had guys to push the coverage up field and clear out space for Wes. Thats part of their plan all the time.

"Theyve got another guy in there, Hernandez, who they do the same thing with now. He runs some of those same routes underneath. Of course, between Danny Woodhead and just all their guys, its just amazing. They all do the same things underneath, and they all are built that way. But Wes Welker is the guy that leads the charge. Gronkowski is pushing the ball up the field, it seems. Hernandez is pushing the ball up the field, it seems. And then theyve got good receivers outside that can get over top. Its pretty much the same formula. There are a couple of different faces, but pretty much the same idea.

Interestingly, Harbaugh tried to make a point about someone running vertical routes to clear the underneath area for Welker but he didn't seem like he could really muster it.

It is an "underneath" offense primarily with some seam routes and some throws to the sideline but it is predominantly an offense that works from 0-20 yards downfield. And that means Webb, Williams and Smith will be able to sit a little bit in coverage and give tight coverage, especially knowing Reed may be behind them.

The counter-attack for New England would be if they can get Reed to suck up to help in the middle and get 1-on-1 outside and downfield with Branch, Chad Ochocinco or Tiquan Underwood. But that's something New England hasn't done an awful lot in 2011.

At some point on Sunday, they will. And whether the Patriots can win that battle with the Ravens' forgotten DBs could be a game-changer.

Trump says NFL should fire players who kneel during anthem

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Trump says NFL should fire players who kneel during anthem

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — President Donald Trump says National Football League owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem. And he’s encouraging spectators to walk out in protest.

In an extended riff during a freewheeling rally speech in Alabama Friday night, Trump also bemoaned that football games have become less violent.

“They’re ruining the game,” he complained.

Several athletes, including NFL players, have refused to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest of the treatment of blacks by police.

Trump says those players are disrespecting the flag and deserve to lose their jobs.

“That’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,” he said, encouraging owners to act.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ’Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,” Trump said to loud applause.

Trump also predicted that any owner who went through with his encouragement would become “the most popular person in this country” — at least for a week.

Trump, who was in Alabama campaigning for Sen. Luther Strange, also blamed a decline in NFL ratings on the nation’s interest in “yours truly” as well as what he described as a decline in violence in the game.

He said players are being thrown out for aggressive tackles, and it’s “not the same game.”

The NFL has made several efforts to reduce violence in the sport, particularly hits that may cause damage to the head. A July report on 202 former football players found evidence of a debilitating brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them. The league has agreed to pay $1 billion to retired players who claimed it misled them about the concussion dangers of playing football.

During his campaign, Trump often expressed nostalgia for the “old days” — claiming, for example, that protesters at his rallies would have been carried out on stretchers back then. He recently suggested police officers should be rougher with criminals and shouldn’t protect their heads when pushing them into quad cars.

It’s also not the first time he’s raised the kneeling issue. Earlier this year he took credit for the fact that former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the trend of kneeling during the anthem, hadn’t been signed by an NFL team.

Trump said the protest was the top reason NFL viewership had waned this season.

“You know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem,” he said.

Trump encouraged his supporters to pick up and leave the stadium next time they spot a player failing to stand.

“I guarantee things will stop,” he said.

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Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

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Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

BOSTON – It was probably only a matter of time before it happened, but it looks like Boston’s favorite Little Ball of Hate is stepping up his game on social media.

Brad Marchand is known as much for his rabble-rousing and trash-talking on the ice as he is for massive offensive production while serving as Boston’s top scorer in each of the last few seasons. So Marchand has the perfect mixture of good humor and clout as a star NHL player, and that usually combines for a pretty powerful voice on Twitter.

Marchand has been noticeably more active on Twitter in recent days with a wide-ranging group of tweets, and the big winner is the hockey fan that gets a little more exposure to some classic Nose Face Killah wit. Some of the tweets have been as a Bruins team leader where he’s praising the talented young crop of B’s prospects that he’s watching during training camp:

Some have been about chirping the NHL for their decision to skip the Olympics this winter where Marchand most certainly would have been primed for a chance at a Gold Medal:

Some have been engaging with “fans” and dropping classic pop culture references from children’s books while showing the nasty edge that routinely drives opponents up a wall:

The Charlotte’s Web reference is a devastating classic from Marchand, a noted longtime fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sometimes it’s just telling a quick story in a tweet that gives you an inside look at the kind of chirping that goes on when Marchand is on the ice:

A social media platform like Twitter was made for a personality like Marchand, and a stepped-up presence is good for him and good for hockey fans. So why all of a sudden is No. 63 tweeting with greater frequency over the last few days?

It sounds like it’s a combination of training camp boredom and a genuine interest in amplifying his voice on all manner of subjects.

“I’ve just been kind of lying around with nothing to do and I jumped on [twitter]…thought it was kind of funny,” said Marchand. “I thought I’d get a little more involved. I don’t know if I’m going to have enough time to do it every day, but it’s fun.”

As fun as it’s been for Marchand, it’s no doubt even more fun for the fans that might get a chance to interact with him even if it’s as the unwitting foil for one of his well-placed chirps. 

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