Bleak week at SB45 will be saved by game

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Bleak week at SB45 will be saved by game

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

DALLAS - One team joined the NFL in 1921. Its name - Packers - was derived from a local meat-packing company that sponsored them. The other team joined the NFL in 1933. Its name - Steelers - came from the industry that was the lifeblood of the city of Pittsburgh for so many years. Both teams have basic, no-frills uniforms. The Packers are a community-owned franchise. The Steelers are owned by the Rooney family, a crew that so well represents the sensibilities of Western Pennsylvania that they may as well be community-owned as well. The Steelers led the league in rock-ribbed defense this season, allowing 232 points. The Packers were second, allowing 240. There will be, for the first time in the 45-year history of the Super Bowl, no cheerleaders on the sidelines Sunday when the Packers and Steelers get it on. It will be about football. It will be glorious. And it will be a beautiful departure from what Super Bowl week has been about so far. The runup to the planet's biggest one-day sporting event has been somewhat joyless. The threat of this being the final NFL game for a while has cast a pall on the proceedings, as owners and players wrangle over how to divide 9 billion or so in annual revenues between the 32 teams and 1,800 players. Beyond that, the locale's been a bit of a disaster. Temperatures most of the week have made it feel more like North Dakota than North Dallas and the whole region's response to several inches of snow and sheets of ice has been criminally negligent - "Wow, snow! AND ice! Hope it all melts soon!" On Friday, six people were injured when ice slid off the roof of Cowboys Stadium. A billion dollars spent on a building and nobody wondered what would happen if snow got stuck on the top?To be frank, the way good, old-fashioned American capitalism gets bastardized by a guy like Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the schlock, schtick and look-at-me attitude that pervades every Super Bowl is a turnoff. But then the game finally gets here. And this one could not be any more football-based. The only distractions the two teams provided were ones that would never have occurred pre-Internet. Two injured Packers players whined on Twitter about not being included in the team Super Bowl photo (a decision later rescinded) and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sang and drank at a piano bar (video courtesy TMZ)Now it's about two of the best young coaches in the NFL. The Steelers' Mike Tomlin is trying at 38 to become the youngest coach to ever win two Super Bowls; the Packers' Mike McCarthy, a man who had 15 players land on injured reserve, guided his team to a 10-6 record and has won three road games in the playoffs to get the Pack in here. Neither man received a single one of the 50 votes for NFL Coach of the Year. Neither man cares right now. It's also about the quarterbacks - Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger. Rodgers is more technically refined and fundamentally sound. He's a discreet smartass who seems eminently likable. Roethlisberger plays quarterback like a tight end, is trying hard to bury the loutish image he cultivated in his first seven seasons in the league and could win his third Super Bowl title Sunday. Your friends who come over and watch one football game all year will remember the wonderful hair of Troy Polamalu and will be enthralled by the almost-equally wonderful mane of Clay Matthews. You can also tell them they were the best two defensive players in football this year. In the end, those two and their 'dos are a kind of weird metaphor for this game. The packaging is outrageous, over-the-top and distracting. But at their core, they are brilliant football players. The game will save us all. Bart Scott, what say you?
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

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.