BOCA RATON – Somewhat buried in the avalanche of last week’s Patriots transactions was the pickup of free agent running back Donald Brown.
If you line up the other acquisitions made – Chris Hogan, Martellus Bennett, Shea McClellin, Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick – Brown created the smallest buzz. Probably because he’s had the slightest impact.
Over his past two seasons in San Diego, Brown accounted for 144 carries and 452 yards and a touchdown. The (almost) 29-year-old – a first-round pick in 2009 by the Colts – has started just 25 games in seven seasons.
But the team Brown leaves behind thinks that, in New England, Brown is going to find football Valhalla.
“He is such a perfect Patriots signing,” said John Spanos at the NFL Owner’s Meetings on Saturday night. “I would bet anything he’s going to be a productive player for them.”
Why didn’t it work out in San Diego?
“This past year, we drafted Melvin (Gordon) with the 15th pick and we had Woodhead and the opportunities just weren’t there. And before that we had Ryan Mathews. He’s a good player. It just didn’t work out here but I believe it will for him there. Perfect player for them. And he’s a guy who’ll be the first guy in, does his work, does whatever he’s asked and just keeps to himself. He’s one of the players you really root for after they leave.”
The financial outlay for Brown is minimal. It’s a one-year, $965K deal with $300K guaranteed. He’ll come in with the chance to compete for reps in a running back group that includes sub-back Dion Lewis, Brandon Bolden, James White and Tyler Gaffney. White figures to be the guy that will find himself in immediate and direct competition with Brown.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters last week that spending time with Bill Belichick can make you "feel pretty inadequate as a coach."
But Belichick raved about Stevens during a conference call on Sunday. The two spent time together on Friday night for the Hall of Fame Huddle fundraiser to benefit Belichick's foundation, and the Patriots coach explained that he's learned a lot from the Celtics boss.
"Got to know Brad ove the last couple of years," Belichick said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he's done, taking a young team, a team that we barely knew some of the players on the team, and in a couple of years has built them into a strong team last year and played very competitively in the playoffs. Fun to go over there and watch them.
"Brad and I have talked about a lot of things that are just coaching-related. Obviously the sports are different. I don't know anything about basketball, and he says he doesn't know much about football. It's really not about Xs and Os and that kind of thing. It's more the other parts of coaching: Prepartion, training, team work, team-building, confidence, communication, players and coaches relationships and so forth.
"Obviously we're in the same business in taking more people to training camp than we can keep on a roster, then managing a roster and dealing with things that happen during the year with that roster, whether it's bringing other guys onto the team, trades and so forth. We've chatted about a lot of those things. He's given me a lot of insight.
"I'd say some of the players they get are a little younger than the guys we get on average. Kids that are coming out of college after one year, we get them after three years or four. Just the trans from college to pro which he obviously has a lot of experience with. Coming to the New England area for most players, that's an adjustment, we don't get too many guys from this area. All of those things like that."
How do the Patriots handle Sundays after Thursday night games? Bill Belichick says he won't be glued to the television as New England's next opponent, Buffalo, takes on Arizona. But he will be watching and thinking through situations as they play out live.
"I think for today, we've done preparation work on the Bills in their first two games, so this is one of those rare opportunities where you can kind of watch the game with a little bit of an idea of how you would want to play it or what you would want to do in certain situations," Belichick said in a conference call on Sunday. "Then, obviously not knowing what they'll do, kind of see how that goes, see what they'll do in those situations compared to what you think they're going to do. Or have they come up with something else, or is this situation a little bit different and has that changed their strategy or play-calling or whatever that happens to be?"
One of the elements of the game that Belichick may give a little extra thought to is how the Bills run their offense under new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, who replaced Greg Roman after Roman was fired following Buffalo's Week 2 loss to the Jets.
"Obviously, with a new coordinator, defensively we'll have to pay attention and see what changes or modifications they will make this week," Belichick said. "That may be an ongoing process. I don't know if they do decide to change things whether they could get it all done this week or maybe it would take a period of time, but we'll kind of keep our eye on that.
"In the end, we'll have the film by the end of the day today so that'll answer a lot more questions than the live part of it will. But the live part of it, I'd say as we're working on the scouting report for Buffalo, you can kind of have that game on in the background, sort of keep your eye on it, and see how it goes. But I wouldn't say we're just glued to the TV because we'll see everything that we need to see in a matter of hours anyway."