Barrett, Brown provide safety in numbers for Pats

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Barrett, Brown provide safety in numbers for Pats

By Phil Perry
CSNNE.com

Yesterday it was reported, and then confirmed by our Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran, that Patrick Chung won't play on Sunday after undergoing right thumb surgery earlier in the week. Though the Patriots safety was present at the start of Friday's practice, he won't be playing against the Bills in two days.

That leaves Josh Barrett and Sergio Brown -- the next safeties on the Patriots depth chart -- as the two most likely to pick up the slack against Buffalo's spread offense, which ranks at the top of the league in points scored (39.5 points per game).

Brown grabbed his first interception of his career last week against the Chargers, and Barrett has made four tackles in each of the Patriots two games this season. But with Chung out, both will be asked to play a bigger role in the secondary.

"You always want to have the feeling you have something to prove," Barrett said. "This could be one of those occasions where guys are going to have to step up, me included, and prove that we're worthy of a spot on this team."

Chung has 14 tackles and a sack through two games and has been counted on to be a stabilizing force among a position in New England that has seen a lot of turnover lately. All-Pro safety Brandon Meriweather was released during the preseason, as was former starter James Sanders.

Now with Chung out, the Patriots turn to Barrett, who has a cast on his right hand and missed all of last season on injured reserve for the Broncos, and Brown, an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame in just his second season in the league. In terms of name recognition, Brown and Barrett aren't on the same level as the players the Patriots trotted out last season. Still, they believe they're prepared.

"You gotta be ready to play at all times," said Brown. "Every time we get out there and get a chance to play I'm excited. You just gotta pick up whoever is not in. You gotta pick up wherever the last person left off at."

As the longest-tenured safety on the Patriots, Chung was key in getting both Barrett and Brown accustomed to the Patriots system. Now they'll be making calls out on the field without him, coordinating between each other, the linebackers and cornerbacks on where they need to be. It's not clear who will fill into Chung's role specifically, but both Barrett and Brown -- as well as safety James Ihedigbo -- know how to play both safety spots.

"You can't not know both spots," Bill Belichick said. "Their responsibilities on the play are based on the defense we're in. If the formation changes or personnel groups change, they change with it. They have to have their responsibilities whether it's on their side of the field, or the middle of the field, or in combination with the linebackers or with the corners on their side of the field."

As the Patriots' last line of defense, Barrett and Brown will have to adjust on the fly to the formations Buffalo shows. It'll require communication, something they've worked on whenever they can.

"We're pretty comfortable with each other," Brown said. "We go through practice and we have our times when we do great and our times when we don't do great, but that's why we practice. We talk on every play to make sure we have everything straightened out."

Barrett added, "It goes beyond practice. It's in individual times, meetings rooms . . . so when we're on the field, it's seamless, it's smooth, it's quick."

They'll have to exhibit all of those qualities Sunday if they hope to stop one of the best offenses in the NFL without Chung.

Follow Phil Perry on Twitter at @PhilAPerry.

Rob Gronkowski appears to thoroughly enjoy himself at Daytona 500

Rob Gronkowski appears to thoroughly enjoy himself at Daytona 500

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski attended the Dayton 500 in true Gronkowski form.

He appeared to be there promoting Monster Energy drink, and was therefore hanging with the Monster Girls, who were also promoting the drink. Gronkowski's herniated disc injury, which required surgery in December 2016, does not seem to be slowing him down as he gets warmed up for the Summer of Gronk.

During the race coverage on FOX Sports, Gronk delivered a speed limit joke, which is sure to make the 13-year-old in you chuckle. (You can watch it here.)

[H/T NESN.com]

Curran: It's time to let the air out of Deflategate

Curran: It's time to let the air out of Deflategate

I think it’s time. Time to let the Deflategate wound scab over. Time to exit the active, raging, teeth-gnashing, petition-signing, lawsuit-filing portion of the program and let the hate follow its natural course into a slow-boil loathing.

If you are of Irish descent, you know how it works. Clear a big-ass space on the grudge shelf. Put Roger Goodell, Jeff Pash, Mike Kensil, Troy Vincent, Ryan Grigson, Jim Irsay, every shiv-wielding owner, all the cluck-clucking media and the legion of retired players and exiled GMs from Marshall Faulk to Joey Porter through Marty Hurney and into Bill Polian up there. Turn off light. Leave room.

When you need to piss yourself off -- in traffic, mowing the lawn, waiting for your coffee -- fetch ‘em down, blow the dust off and when you’re in a sufficiently foul mood, return grudge to shelf.

You rode the roller coaster. You’ve been there, done that and have all the T-shirts.

I came to this conclusion a few days ago, when ESPN’s Cari Champion interviewed Rob Gronkowski and asked about Goodell visiting Gillette. It was like playing “Get the Stick!” with a big goofy Lab. Champion threw the leading question, Gronk fetched -- tail-wagging --  and returned with a slobbery response that was completely implausible but still designed to dominate a four-hour news cycle.

"The fans are nuts, they’re wild, and they have the Patriots’ back no matter what,” said Gronkowski. “They have [Tom Brady’s] back. I’m telling you, he won’t get through the highway if the fans saw him. I don’t even think he can even land in the airport in Boston because Patriot fans are the best fans, they’re the most loyal fans. I’m telling you, they might just carry out Roger themselves. They couldn’t even get to the stadium in Foxboro if he landed in Boston."

Gronk’s just doing what he thinks he’s supposed to do. And Champion is, too. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Watch these mooks up in New England get all pissed off: “Hey, hey, Chowderhead . . . Roger Goodell . . . . ”

“F*** that guy, he better never show his face in Foxboro! But I want him to come to Foxboro so I can boo the ever-living s*** out of him and maybe barricade Route 1 like Gronk said we would!”

See? Works every time.

The irony is that the person mainly responsible for turning up the burner on this is Robert Kraft.

In May 2015, Kraft said at the owners meetings in San Francisco, “I don’t want to continue the rhetoric that’s gone on for the last four months. I’m going to accept, reluctantly, what he has given to us, and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric, and we won’t appeal.

“Now, I know that a lot of Patriots fans are going to be disappointed in that decision, but I hope they trust my judgment and know that I really feel at this point in time that taking this off the agenda, this is the best thing for the New England Patriots, our fans, and the NFL, and I hope you all can respect that.”

Well, that blew up like an ACME bomb. And -- from that moment on -- Kraft has tried to recoup the fanbase that believed he sold them out by issuing a succession of calls-to-arms that the region has dutifully responded to.

The most recent was throwing down the gauntlet to Goodell by expressly inviting him to the 2017 season opener.  I mean, it would have been a conversation point anyway, but now it’s metastasized into something that will be discussed throughout the offseason, ratcheting up in early September and hitting a crescendo on opening night.

There is appeal to seeing Goodell squirm while knowing the Maras, Rooneys and Irsays will be sipping highballs and lamenting the caddish treatment of Poor Roger. But I still like the football better.

Conversation about the historic import of SB51, the legacy of Brady and Belichick, prospects for the league in 2017? I’ll take those rather than an ESPN “personality” who spent a weekend in Newburyport at a friend’s wedding telling everyone what the mindset of the New England sports fan is.  

But that’s not what we’re going to get. There will instead be ever-escalating predictions of the terrors Goodell will be subjected to fueled by interviews with tatted-up kids from the mean streets of Marshfield who wanted “Hoodie” fired when he let Revis sign with the Jets.

Unless . . . unless the region en masse decides to let its loathing mature. Mature to the point that when the carrot gets dangled in its collective face it doesn’t leap at it with teeth bared but instead says, “No thanks. Already full.”

Yeah. I don’t think it’s gonna happen either.