Belichick rolls dice repeatedly in 2011 draft

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Belichick rolls dice repeatedly in 2011 draft

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO - The list of 2011 Patriots draft picks needs a parenthetical warning to other NFL coaches at the bottom.

(This draft was conducted by a trained professional with five Super Bowl rings, 10 consecutive seasons finishing in first place and job security equal to the pope. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS WITH YOUR DRAFT.)

On Friday and Saturday, Bill Belichick drafted a promising cornerback who hasn't been able to stay healthy, a promising quarterback with significant off-field concerns, a promising offensive lineman withcancer and prospects in the sixth and seventh rounds that left armchair draft watchers scrambling to identify.

Belichick put his chips on all the numbers every one else chose to stay away from and now he'll let the wheel spin. And ifwhen he hits onone or two of them, it was all worth it.

Belichick, his personnel people and scouting staff are able to take not just a chance or two in a draft. They can take multiple chances. The reason? They are good at this time of year. And they are even better when the games start as the 2010 season showed when - despite a young and often porous defense and an offense being reshaped on the fly - they went 14-2 and blew out a significant number of opponents.

After closing Friday by taking the radioactive Ryan Mallett, Belichick came back with his first pick on Saturday and took Marcus Cannon, a player who began treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma on Thursday.

"A lot of players have medical situations going into the draft and each one is different," Belichick said when asked if he'd ever made a draft decision quite like the one he did with Cannon. "Each of us is unique and not everybodys injury is the same or does it heal at the same rate or the same way. Guys play different positions with similar injuries, so forth and so on. We could drop up examples ad nauseam, but the bottom line is you have a situation, you evaluate it and you make a decision on it.

"Whether you decide to take that player or you decide to pass on that player, then you make the decision at that time based on all the information that you have," he continued. "Some of those decisions end up being right; some of them dont. Thats the way the process works. We did what we thought was right at that point. Well see how it works out."

There's a lot to admire about the selection of Cannon.

From a football standpoint, he's a 358-pound guard regarded as a top-50 pick until a biopsy this spring revealed his malady. So viewing it from a "football value" standpoint, getting a player like that at 139 is a bargain, especially if Cannon returns to full strength and the lymphoma is cured.

From a human standpoint, well, it shows some compassion as well. Here's a young man that wasn't only dealing with a serious illness but the reality that a professional dream he'd worked toward was slipping away.

Belichick would certainly be uncomfortable being canonized for picking Cannon for that reason. But still.

And the fact that another player who battled and beat back cancer - Boston College's Mark Herzlich - went undrafted despite being theACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 and playing at a decent level in 2010 makes the selection of Cannon seem that much more empathetic on the part of the Patriots.

There are a lot of unknowns in Cannon's future. The Patriots are willing to live with them.

The Patriots are willing to live with some risk, and that's not unique to Cannon. They are doing so with second-round pick Ras-I Dowling, a player who's been dogged by injuries. And they are doing so with Mallett. They've taken on a lot of question marks.

How, I asked Belichick, does he weigh the risk against the reward? At what point do the two match up?

"Historically, you can certainly look back at previous drafts and find somewhat comparable situations players coming off ACL injuries or players that missed the season the previous year and get an idea, maybe, of what the discount is on those players or players that have other issues that are somewhat similar," he explained. "Does that mean that somebody couldnt go away from that? Of course they could. Some players are off the board; Other players are in play on the exact same issue. Its just a question of what each team thinks.

"They have to make their own individual decision on that. I think you kind of get a sense of what the league-wide opinion on a player is and we certainly use that, although its very subjective," he continued. "Its no exact science . . . One team can do whatever they want to do. We see that. We saw it again over the last three days. Teams make picks that probably none of us expected, but based on what they want to do, they did it."

The Patriots wanted to roll the dice in 2011. They did. If they hit on all, some or none, Belichick isn't going to look back in anguish at what he should have done.

Belichick's father, Steve, once told me, "He's a very decisive person. When he's made a decision, he doesn't spend time second-guessing it."

There'snodoubtBelichick relishes doing things unconventionally. Whether that means running a defense with no defensive linemen, dressing like a hobo on the sidelines or taking players that other teams wouldn't touch with a 30-foot pole, if he believes it's the right thing to do, he does it.

Bill Belichick thought he could take on a ton of risk in the 2011 draft. And he did so. You and I might look back and cluck-cluck about mistakes made if they don't pan out.

He won't.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Does Butler want to be with Patriots beyond 2017? 'Whatever happens, happens'

Does Butler want to be with Patriots beyond 2017? 'Whatever happens, happens'

FOXBORO -- Malcolm Butler came off of the Gillette Stadium practice field to a gaggle of reporters who had been interested in speaking to him all offseason. There had been speculation not too long ago that he'd be traded. There was speculation he might sign elsewhere as a restrcited free agent.

What he would say on those topics might prove to be informative. People were eager to hear from him. But it was what he didn't say that may have been the most interesting part of his first back-and-forth with reporters since Super Bowl LI.

In the rain, in front of a dozen or more microphones, following his team's third organized team activity practice, Butler was asked if he would like to be in New England beyond the 2017 season, the final year of his contract. 

"Can't predict the future," he said. "Whatever happens, happens."

Butler was given several opportunities to say that he'd like to stick with the Patriots for the long term, but he was non-committal. Though his presence on the roster for this season gives the Patriots a supremely talented cornerback duo, the fact that the team gave Stephon Gilmore a lucrative long-term contract this offseason makes Butler's long-term future in New England a bit hazy.

Playing for a restricted free agent tender worth $3.91 million, Butler was asked if it was difficult to separate the business side of things from his on-field performance.

"Not really," he insisted. "Just gotta come here and just play football. You gotta earn everything you want. Gotta come here, work hard each and every day. Nobody's gonna give you nothing."

He added: "Just gotta keep working. Ignore the noise, and just keep working. No matter what. You got a job to do no matter where you're at. Glad to be here to do this job."

Butler received significant interest from the Saints during the offseason, and he made a trip to New Orleans to visit the organization's facilities there. Unwilling to provide Butler with a big-money contract offer and turn over their first-round pick to the Patriots, the Saints decided to cease in their pursuit of the 27-year-old Super Bowl XLIX hero. 

Butler said he didn't wasn't always sure he was going to be in New England for 2017.

"You never know what's gonna happen, I was just sitting back patiently waiting," he explained. "Just doing what I can do, control only what I can control. I'm here now and that's what it is."

That Butler has been at Patriots workouts and OTA practices since signing his tender is an indication that he's ready to throw himself into the upcoming season with his sights set on performing as well as possible in order to put himself in the best position possible when he's scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency at the end of the year. 

"Wasn't gonna hurt nobody but myself if I missed this," he admitted. "This is extra time to get better, and that's what I'm out here to do. To get better and have another great year. Anything to help the team. Present a positive image."