Belichick: New touchback rule didn't prevent a concussion last week

Belichick: New touchback rule didn't prevent a concussion last week

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick wondered aloud at his Friday morning press conferece if the new touchback rule is doing as much for player safety as the league hoped it would.

The reason? Last weekend he saw Denver's Kayvon Webster take a massive hit from Kansas City's Terrance Smith in the second quarter, knocking Webster from the game with a concussion. Webster was in the process of covering a kick that was kneeled for a Chiefs touchback. 

That's not the kind of play that the NFL Competition Committee was anticipating when it implemented a one-year experimental rule placing touchbacks at the 25-yard line following kickoffs. With five extra yards tacked on to kicks kneeled in the end zone, receiving teams were supposed to be encouraged to take fewer kicks out. Fewer returns was supposed to mean fewer high-impact collisions, meaning fewer devastating injuries, including concussions.

When Belichick was asked for his thoughts on the new rule after a 15-game sample size, he alluded to the Chiefs-Broncos game as an indicator of just how difficult it can be to predict which plays will lead to head injuries.

"I'd say last week was a good example, though, of some of the different proponents of 'we want more touchbacks,' " Belichick said. "We saw a pretty big concussed play with a touchback. Part of the touchback is, 'Well, we think it's a touchback so everybody's not playing the same speed. Because we think it's a touchback, it's going to be a no play.'

"But then, as a coverage team, you don't know for sure the guy isn't coming out or not so you're playing it at full speed. So some of the concussions and some of the injuries look to me like they come on touchbacks. If we want more touchbacks, is that really solving the problem here as it's been presented by the Competition Committee? You know how I feel about it. We'll see how smart some of that has really been to address the problems that we think are being addressed.

"It seems like, football, we got a pretty good game here. Been that way for a long time. Seems like the kicking game has been a great part of our game. But I guess we have a lot of people who feel like the game needs to be changed so I don't know. We'll just have to see how it all turns out."

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

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It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona.