Brady sets tone for Ochocinco, Haynesworth

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Brady sets tone for Ochocinco, Haynesworth

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran

FOXBORO - The assimilation of Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco into the Patriots way of doing things began in earnest Friday. The underlying message delivered by the most important Patriots player there's ever been?

No playeris more remarkable than anyone else. And nobody individual player is ever more remarkable than the team.

"You have to put the team first," Tom Brady said to a throng of media after Friday morning's practice. "The Troy Browns, the Tedy Bruschis and the Rodney Harrisons, those guys set a great example and it's an example that I learned from over the years. That's really what the veterans have tried to do here."

There's anidea that NFL players "take care of"rogue players in the locker room by threat of force. Alpha male crap. It's a myth. At least in this NFL.

A team's culture is diffused through incoming players not by injection but in an ooze. It's the tenor of teammates' comments, practice habits, locker room comportment and meeting room posture. It's the tempo of practice and the speed with which players move from drill-to-drill. More than anything else, does a team let things slide if they are "good enough" or do they freak with less than perfection?

Don't abide and you'll be minimized.

When a two-time league MVP and three-time Super Bowl champion works as hard as an undrafted free agent, the message is sent and often gets through. Bill Belichick has said that things are easier for the coaches when your best players are your hardest workers. Between Brady, Jerod Mayo, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Wes Welker and Devin McCourty, there are several messengers.

And the message to the new guys is, "Great to have you. Get comfortable. Don't act like you're more important than everyone else."

Theres been a lot of trades and a lot of transactions over the course of my career, so guys have come and gone, and Im always excited to get great players," said Brady. "Were all trying to find our role. Chads trying to find a role, the rookies are trying to find a role. The only way that were going to have a successful year, is if were out on the field practicing and executing at a high level."

Let's be honest here: it doesn't always work. Doesn't matter if it's Ocho or Steve Martin, or Monty Beisel or Chad Jackson, Donald Hayes or Johnathan Sullivan. Some guys don't get the operation or don't want to be a part of it.

Rarely does that player latch on somewhere else and find great success. Still, the point is that there are guys who just don't work out.

The chance exists that Ocho might be unable to accept the challenge of toning down his personal stuff. Or that he'll outwardly cry about touches. There's an even better chance that Haynesworth's conditioning will never catch up and he'll play like a dog when he does play.

But the best chance is that these players - liberated from being seen as "stars" and having someone tell them what to do - will accept it for a while.

I think coach Belichick sets an expectation for everybody," Brady pointed out. "He doesnt treat me any different than he treats a rookie whos coming out here for his second day of practice. Every time we walk in the building, theres four things listed. And every time we walk out, theres four things listed. The most important one is, doing our job."

So when I come in, its actually pretty easy," Brady admitted. "I follow the game plan that he puts up there. I think for each guy that comes in, they have to do the same thing. Its not, Hey, Toms got a different set of rules, Wes has a different set of rules. Everyone has the same set of rules.

There is no way to predict. It's really all guessing.

"Every player is different," Belichick said Friday. "There are no two players that are the same. There are no two players circumstances that are the same. There are no two of us that exist that are the same. Everything is different with each guy."

Ocho will tweet his love for Brady and act as if he's wandered into the NFL's Garden of Eden. Brady appreciates that and likes the enthusiasm. But it comes back to one thing, he said.

Hes just fun to be around. He loves football," Brady said of his new target. "I think thats why guys do well here. Because they love the game. They love to compete. They show up, and they want to win. To be a good player on this team, you have to put the team first."

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

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

Rob Gronkowski's contract looked like one of the NFL's best bargains not too long ago. Now, after agreeing to a contract restructure, he could be paid as the top tight end in the league if he stays healthy.

Granted, it's a gargantuan "if."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski's restructured deal will bump his salary for this upcoming season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million should he hit certain statistical thresholds or be named an All-Pro.

Per Schefter, Gronkowski earns $10.75 million if he plays 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or makes 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gains 1,200 yards receiving (once), or is named an All-Pro (three times). 

Those seem like lofty goals for the 28-year-old who's entering his eighth year as a pro. But history shows that if he stays on the field for a full season or thereabouts -- 15 games to be specific -- he'll get to where he wants to be. 

If you take out his rookie year, before he had established himself as a go-to option in the Patriots offense, Gronkowski has played in three seasons during which he's reached at least 15 games. In each of those three seasons, he's been named an All-Pro. In 2011, he hit all three statistical markers. In 2014, he hit one. In 2015, he hit none. 

The lesson? When Gronkowski stays relatively healthy throughout a given season, even if he doesn't reach the astronomical statistical heights he reached in his second year, there's a very good chance he's considered the best tight end in the NFL. 

And if that's the case again in 2017, he'll be paid like the best tight end in the NFL.

To hit the second tier of his restructured deal -- which would pay him $8.75 million, per Schefter -- Gronkowski needs to play 80 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done twice), or make 70 catches (three times), or gain 1,000 receiving yards (three times), or catch 12 touchdowns (twice). 

To hit the third tier of his new deal and get $6.75 million, Gronkowski needs to play 70 percent of the snaps (which he's done four times), or make 60 catches (three times), or gain 800 receiving yards (three times), or score 10 touchdowns (five times). 

According to Spotrac, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks is currently scheduled to be the tight end position's top earner next season at $10 million. Odds are that if Gronkowski avoids disaster and stays on the field, he'll eclipse that.

But the odds of him staying on the field are what they are: He's played in 15 games in four of seven pro seasons. 

The restructured deal seems to be the ultimate incentive for Gronkowski to get healthy and stay that way following last year's season-ending back surgery. If he can, the Patriots will reap the benefits of having the game's most dynamic offensive weapon on the field, and the player will be paid a far cry from what he was scheduled to make when the week began.