Cardona focused on Navy commitment after rookie campaign


Cardona focused on Navy commitment after rookie campaign

FOXBORO -- Joe Cardona cleaned out his locker at Gillette Stadium on Monday, the top of his blue Navy working uniform hanging in his stall, and he thought about what was ahead. 

After finishing his rookie season, the Patriots long-snapper will head to Newport, Rhode Island to work full-time at the Naval Preparatory Academy, where he spent his days off during the season, helping to mentor students there.

Later, he'll make his way down to Norfolk, Virginia where he'll spend about two months and participate in Navy's Basic Division Officer Course, or "BDOC," which is required before he can report to his ship as a Surface Warfare Officer. From there, he'll travel to Bath, Maine, to work on the USS Zumwalt. 

"I'll get to work there and figure out a schedule that doesn't interfere with either of my jobs," Cardona said, "and hopefully be back on the field next year."

Since being drafted by the Patriots in the fifth round, Cardona has maintained that his job as an active member of the Navy is his his top priority. He knows that whether or not he's able to pursue his NFL career rests in the hands of those up the chain of command, and he's thankful for the support he's received from both the Navy and the Patriots as he's fulfilled his duties for both jobs.

Cardona said that the sailors and Marines he has worked with closely have been especially supportive throughout his first NFL season, and he's looking forward to seeing them more now that the season is over.

"They'll be mostly proud," he said. "They've been excited for me all year. You have all these people who are probably fans of other teams from all over the country, and I think they all converted to New England fans with me down there. They'll be proud, and they've been supportive all year. It's something I'll look forward to, getting down there."

Given his commitment to the Navy, there remains the possibility that Cardona could be kept away from the field next season, but for now he'll look toward improving himself for the 2016 campaign while focusing on his service to the country. 

"There's always room for improvement," Cardona said. "As a specialist, your main goal is perfection in your job and your duty. There's always room for improvement in that."

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

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 delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL

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.”