Connection between Brady, Lloyd requires bit of 'blind faith'

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Connection between Brady, Lloyd requires bit of 'blind faith'

FOXBORO -- When Brandon Lloyd walked away from New England's Week 1 win with five catches for 69 yards, nobody was looking to throw the guy a parade. He was, as the Patriots are so fond of saying, only doing his job. An expectation for success was born of his talent, catalyzed by Tom Brady's, and seemingly solidified each time the pair completed a downfield pass in training camp.
Which is why the preseason was underwhelming.
Lloyd caught one ball, for all of 12 yards, in two games. The Patriots first game of the 2012 season consequently seemed to roll up fast.
Did he and Brady get enough on-field reps together? How could they possibly have?
The quarterback's take, on the first Wednesday in September, was essentially a shrug and a smile.
"You dont know, but you have confidence that you can do it when it matters. Like I said, everything needs to be proven; its not like the predictions you make on Wednesday all come true. You go out and every play is designed to score a touchdown.
"It doesnt necessarily mean thats whats going to be the case in the case in the game, but if you put together enough good plays and not negative plays and penalties and turnovers and things that play into complementary football, and thats getting everybody involved, whether its Wes or the running backs or tight ends."
Or Lloyd.
Because he played for Josh McDaniels in Denver when the current Patriots offensive coordinator was the Broncos' head coach, it was understood Lloyd would have familiarity with certain concepts of New England's offense.
But he and Brady had to form a relationship all their own. And in light of the failed 2011 experiment that was Chad Ochocinco, there were no guarantees in place.
Both players had to accept 'not knowing' how, or if, it would come together. They had to submit to trust.
Actually, Lloyd calls it something else.
"I guess we should use the word faith. Because it's blind," he said, unleashing one of his booming, rolling laughs into the locker room. "That's pretty much what it is. We're trusting each other that we're prepared and we're seeing the same thing, we're in shape, we're capable, we're available. So you have to have faith that we're all doing our part, and when you go out there on Sunday it's going to come together.
"We're all here to win. The coaches aren't guessing -- they know what they're doing, they know what defenses to expect, we know what to expect; so when they call the play, I'm expecting that we're going to get the desired coverage and we're going to get a positive outcome."
When it does work? No, no parades quite yet. But it's certainly a start.
"It's exciting. Because it's like, this is just the beginning. And if we continue to have success then our confidence goes up, our timing works better it's just the beginning. We're trying to take it a day at a time."

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.