By Phil Perry
Tom Brady knows that his connection with Chad Ochocinco isn't where he would like it to be for the start of regular season games, but he says their on-the-field rapport is improving steadily.
"I think every day we're out there together, the two of us, working, and him working with Deion Branch and Wes Welker, it gets better every day," Brady said during his weekly segment with WEEI. "We're very much an abbreviated schedule this year with practices, lack of OTAs organized team activities in the offseason. Every team is at the same point, every team has new players. I'm sure it's more challenging this year than it's been in the past. Our offense, for receivers, is a challenging offense. He's a very competitive person and he wants to be out there learning it, he wants to compete, he wants to understand the nuances of what we're doing. Every single day we're out there it gets better."
Though Ochocinco caught a touchdown pass in last week's preseason game with the Buccaneers, Ochocinco seemed disappointed in himself because he was not as in-sync as he hoped to be with the rest of the offense. For Brady's part, he's had a good time trying to get Ochocinco up to speed.
"I enjoy being on the practice field with him, I enjoy sitting there on the sidelines of the games communicating with him. Being out there on the field with him in the games was a great experience for us. Those are the things we need to build on. ... We're working every day to try to speed up the learning curve, so by the time the regular season starts we're where we need to be."
Brady also hit on what has been one of the Patriots' key talking points, especially since last week's preseason game with the Buccaneers: their attacking defense.
"When you put pressure on the quarterback, that's No. 1," Brady said. "Any time you talk to a defensive coach at the beginning of the week, they say 'We have to get after the quarterback.' It was really fun to see from our sideline. Those guys are really teeing off on the quarterback. I love to see that. From another quarterback's perspective, to stand there on the sidelines and watch them attack the quarterback -- force them into quick decisions, force them into throws that you don't want to make but have to make because you don't have time to see the coverages -- that's good for any defensive football team."
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 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.”