Belichick, Brady: Playoffs no time for timid


Belichick, Brady: Playoffs no time for timid

FOXBORO -- Between the time the ball is snapped and the whistle blows to signal a play dead, hundreds of decisions get made by the 22 players on a football field.

The overwhelming majority are instinctive. The eyes see something and muscle memory kicks in -- open receiver, throw ball; cut block, jump over it; defender inside, go outside.

But every game also includes plays when players are forced to make conscious decisions that could decide the game. Suddenly, they may be in a situation they didn't expect -- a broken play, a missed assignment by a teammate, a decision to jump a route or lay back -- and they have to process how to react while also considering situations like down-and-distance, score and time remaining.

In the playoffs, those decisions decide games. And it's not always the future Hall of Fame quarterback who's in the spot to make them. Sometimes it's the rookie corner taken in the seventh round.

The Patriots are open about the enormity of every decision they may make Sunday against Houston. But Bill Belichick said they can't be paralyzed by that.

"You don't win a war by digging a foxhole and sitting in it," said Belichick. "You gotta go out there and attack. You gotta go out there and make the plays you need to make to win. It's a one-game season."

Yet, while bearing those brave words in mind, there's also the reality Brady spoke to in his press conference.

"You make one mistake, you're gonna be watching next weekend . . . we spend extra time talking about every little play and not that last week wasn't important but the ramifications are different and we have to be at our best," he said.

"It's always about risk-reward in football," Brady added. "There are calculated risks and judgments you make as a player on every single play whether it's my position or whether you're a defensive tackle. That's what you train yourself to do over a long season. That comes through experience, that comes through playing a lot of games and certainly against better competition you don't have as long to make the decision. The better players you face, the less margin you have to make those split-second decisions."

Brady sets a high bar. Given the number of big games in which he's played and the position he's at, he's made more big decisions than perhaps any quarterback. And his TD-INT ratio dwarfs the other quarterbacks regarded as the all-time greats.

"I don't think you can play so conservative that you're not able to go out and make plays," Brady stated. "Part of that is the mental toughness. In '06 against the Chargers (in the AFC Divisional Playoff), I threw three picks in that game (and the Patriots won 24-21). You've gotta be able to overcome mistakes. If you make 'em, you still gotta do whatever you gotta do to win and give yourself a chance to move on. The important thing is, if you do make a mistake, you gotta hope you don't make another one. Because if they capitalize on it, you're gonna have to dig yourself out of that hole and make a lot of good plays. The more mistakes you make, the harder it is to win. You can make mistakes and still win, but they gotta make mistakes too.

Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo explained it more succinctly.

"Those are calculated risks that you have to take," he explained. "Especially, I think the biggest thing for us is third down, getting off the field and getting that ball back in our offenses hands."

Third down plays. Red zone plays. Special teams plays. The team that makes them often wins the game, regardless of which team is superior. The team that missteps more often will lose.

"Every player, every coach, everybody that is involved in the game understands that's exactly what that is," said Belichick.

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski is a model citizen in the NFL. In fact, the NFL Players Association is advising rookies to be more like Gronk, according to The Boston Globe

The New England Patriots tight end has developed a name for himself on and off the football field. With that attention comes branding. And at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere from May 18 to 20, the NFLPA encouraged rookies to develop their own brand -- much like Gronkowski.

“Some people think he’s just this extension of a frat boy, and that it’s sort of accidental,” Ahmad Nassar said, via The Globe. Nassar is the president of NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA. “And that’s wrong. It’s not accidental, it’s very purposeful. So the message there is, really good branding is where you don’t even feel it. You think, ‘Oh, that’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ Actually, that’s his brand, but it’s so good and so ingrained and so authentic, you don’t even know it’s a brand or think it.”

Gronkowski's "Summer of Gronk" has indirectly become one of his streams of income. The tight end makes appearances for magazines and sponsors. Because of his earnings from branding and endorsements, he didn't touch his NFL salary during the early years of his career.

Gronk was one of three players who were the topics of discussion during the symposium. Dak Prescott and Odell Beckham were also used as examples of players who have been able to generate additional income from endorsements. Beckham, in particular, has been in the spotlight off the football field. He's appeared on the cover of Madden, and just signed a deal with NIke which is reportedly worth $25 million over five years with upwards of $48 million over eight years. His deal, which is a record for an NFL player, will pay him more than his contract with the Giants.

“A lot of people talk to the players about, ‘You should be careful with your money and you should treat your family this way and you should treat your girlfriend or your wife.’ Which is fine. I think that’s valuable,” Nassar said, via The Globe. “But we don’t often give them a chance to answer the question: How do you see yourself as a brand? Because Gronk, Odell, none of those guys accidentally ended up where they are from a branding and marketing standpoint.”

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL

Tom Brady delivered a video message last week at the funeral of Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, a Maine native and former UConn track athlete killed in Somalia on May 5.

Bill Speros of The Boston Herald, in a column this Memorial Day weekend, wrote about Milliken and Brady's message.   

Milliken ran track at Cheverus High School in Falmouth, Maine, and at UConn, where he graduated in 2001. Milliken lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Erin, and two children.  He other Navy SEALs participated in a training exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011 where he met and posed for pictures with Brady.

Speros wrote that at Milliken’s funeral in Virginia Beach, Va., Brady's video offered condolences and thanked Milliken’s family for its sacrifice and spoke of how Milliken was considered a “glue guy” by UConn track coach Greg Roy.

Milliken had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning four Bronze Star Medals and was based in Virginia since 2004.  He was killed in a nighttime firefight with Al-Shabaab militants near Barij, about 40 miles from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. He was 38.

The Pentagon said Milliken was the first American serviceman killed in combat in Somalia since the "Black Hawk Down" battle that killed 18 Americans in 1993. 

In a statement to the Herald, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said: “It was an honor to host Kyle and his team for an exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011. It gave new meaning to the stadium being known as home of the Patriots. We were deeply saddened to hear of Kyle’s death earlier this month.

“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by patriots like Kyle and so many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect our rights as Americans. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt appreciation are extended to the Milliken family and the many families who will be remembering lives lost this Memorial Day weekend.”