Curran: 48 lines on 24 football issues


Curran: 48 lines on 24 football issues

By Tom E. Curran

Twenty-four thoughts in 48 lines:

1. This Sunday is the two-year anniversary of the 59-0 blizzard blowout of the Tennessee Titans. If it snows Sunday, I will stab myself in the forehead.

2. The last time the Patriots scored fewer than 30 points in a regular-season game was last November 7 in Cleveland. Sundays output of 30 was the closest call for them to go sub-30 since the streak began.

3. Kyle Arrington was dumbfounded after the game at how Mark Sanchez stayed upright on Arringtons second-half blitz. The corner pound-for-pound one of the Patriots' strongest players vowed that wouldnt happen again.

4. It was kinda funny to hear Albert Haynesworth say that the media didnt give the Patriots a chance to win after Jerod Mayo got hurt. Somewhere, Rodney Harrison was smiling at the contrived slight.

5. Everything Rex Ryan says needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Still, requesting other teams give it their all to beat New England (The quote: "Don't focus on playing us. Take that preparation that you would have in playing us, and put it on beating New England. I think that would be a better thing. See if you can beat the big, bad Patriots and we'll see what happens.") and then barely showing up leaves Rex wide open for heckling.

6. Not that he seems to mind in the least. He walked off the field Sunday staring straight up into the stands with a smirk and a couple of mouthed expletives.

7. There is no better example of how highly evolved the Patriots offense is than the speed with which it is run. They stole a 13-yard completion in the red zone at the end of the third quarter of a 17-14 game against a hated division rival because the Jets . . . werent . . . ready.

8. To me, that shows the difference between guys like Tom Brady and maybe two or three other guys in the league (Brees, Rodgers, Manning the Elder) and everybody else. Court awareness.

9. And I hate to remind everyone of this but the day will come when Billy and Tommy are in Canton and we are seeing someone else doing that to the Patriots. And we will mutter, Are you bleeping bleeping me?

10. That play stands in contrast to the Drive to Nowhere from last January, the Patriots 14-play, eight-minute drive during the fourth quarter of the playoff loss to the Jets that yielded no points. That wasnt awesome.

11. Another week, another amateurish mistake from Chad Ochocinco. You might not have noticed it because CBS was showing a Rex Ryan sideline shot, but with less than four minutes remaining and the Patriots facing a third-and-4 from the Jets 46, Ocho made the Patriots have to burn their final timeout by heading to the wrong side of the formation.

12. And while the Patriots came back from that timeout and ran a successful direct-snap play to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the fact that Ocho left New England without a necessary timeout in case it needed to make a challenge is the little inside-the-game stuff that sometimes slips by unnoticed. But he does have nine catches so far, which is seven fewer than undrafted Bears rookie Dane Sanzenbacher.

13. I thought the biggest play in Sundays game was the 17-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski on third-and-13 from the Patriots 20 late in the third. It was 17-14 at the time and New England hadnt put together a sustained march in some time.

14. It was enjoyable to see Bill Belichick a little upbeat during Mondays press conference. Hes been tough this year, less willing to engage than at almost any time since Ive been covering him.

15. Always fun to when he makes the innocuous interesting, like when he discussed crowd noise (65,000 people just talking at the same time is loud) on Monday. The first appreciation I had for the mind-blowing noise at field level was in the Patriots' 1997 playoff loss at Three Rivers Stadium the roar of the crowd as Drew Bledsoe tried to mount a late-game drive seemed to swirl around the enclosed stadium and it felt as if I was standing in a washing machine.

16. All that said, its always strangely silent during the opening drives of the biggest games at Gillette Stadium. Everyones standing and seemingly leaned forward waiting for something to happen.

17. The Patriots appreciated the Bruins taking them up on their offer to bring the Stanley Cup over for the pregame Sunday. If the Bruins ever make a similar in-season request for some Patriots to swing by with the Lombardi Trophy for a ceremonial puck drop, Im not sure Belichick will agree to that.

18. I joked on Michael Felgers Sunday evening sports program that the Boston Cannons should come out next if the Patriots are having all these hack teams from middling professional sports trying to parade themselves in front of a packed house. I was kidding and, since I was quickly stuffing my face before kickoff, I didnt see how cool the ceremony actually was.

19. Watching the game in the press box puts writers at a decided disadvantage to those watching at home in many instances. One is the ability to pause, rewind and slo-mo replays to see what really happens thanks to my Twitter followers for helping me out when Im dying for a more detailed look.

20. I also didnt get to the great new Volkswagen commercial until late Monday night (Rocket man, burning up this fuse up here alone). Thought it was Burning up the feels so very long . . .

21. Lotta fun seeing Jets corner Kyle Wilson pose down after a pedestrian tackle of Rob Gronkowski. Even more fun when he practically assaulted Aaron Hernandez on the next play and got flagged for pass interference, defensive holding and crimes against nature.

22. Nobody really hates Tim Tebow for being a good guy whos proud of his upbringing, passion and faith. Its the reverence media outlets and large swaths of America have for him that makes people queasy.

23. Even if Matt Schaub was wearing a rocket pack, he wasnt going to score on any end-of-game-scramble against the Raiders on Sunday. Not at all.

24. Brandon Meriweather. Not making anyone rue the day he was released.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

Patriots LB Ellis 'all in' on football before giving medical school a shot

Patriots LB Ellis 'all in' on football before giving medical school a shot

FOXBORO -- When a new player arrives to the Patriots, there's a familiar refrain that's recited from behind the podium at Gillette Stadium: "Football is important to him."

Whether the subject is a rookie or an established veteran, those five words can serve as Bill Belichick's stamp of approval. It means the player cares. It means the player is willing to put in time.

Belichick hasn't gone on the record on any of the members of this year's class of undrafted free agents just yet, but linebacker Brooks Ellis seems to fall into that category of players to whom football is important.

If it wasn't, he would probably be putting all of his energy into getting accepted into medical school right now.  

Ellis was a two-year captain at Arkansas and one of 12 finalists for the Campbell Trophy, also known as the "Academic Heisman." He maintained a 3.82 grade point average as a pre-professional exercise science major with a minor in biology, he was the first two-time Academic All-American in program history, and he was the SEC's Scholar-Athlete of the year for 2016.

All that is to say, Ellis had options upon graduation.

Football won out. He agreed to a deal with the Patriots soon after the draft, and he's spent the better part of the last month trying to learn defensive terminology and special-teams techniques. 

But eventually Ellis hopes to be an orthopedic surgeon, and later this summer he'll submit his applications to medical schools in order to kick-start that process for whenever it's time to pursue his next plan full-throttle.

"I'm putting my all into this right now," Ellis said, wearing Patriots gear while standing on the Gillette Stadium turf last week. "But when I get some spare time, I'm finishing applications, and then when I get back in July I'm sending those in.

"If I get accepted somewhere, I'm going to tell them I need to defer until I know for sure what the football situation is going to be. So I'm all in on football, and just in case, I'm going to have that ready to go when I get out of it."

If all goes well for Ellis this spring and summer, it could be a while before he's taking the Hippocratic Oath. The Patriots have a long history of giving worthy undrafted players a shot at the 53-man roster, and Ellis plays one of the few positions on New England's loaded roster that might have room for a newcomer or two.

On paper, he certainly looks like their type.

The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder was his team's leading tackler for two seasons. He played all three linebacker positions in Arkansas' defense -- strong-side, middle and weak-side -- and he started 31 consecutive games to finish his career. Ellis also has extensive special teams experience, and he recorded one of the quickest three-cone drills among linebackers at this year's NFL Scouting Combine.

That he learned under Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema can't hurt his chances, either.

Bielema began his coaching career at Iowa under former Belichick assistant Kirk Ferentz, and Belichick has dipped into Bielema's programs at Wisconsin and Arkansas several times over the course of the last few seasons. Running back James White, defensive end Trey Flowers and former tight end AJ Derby all played for Bielema, and Ellis joins fellow Arkansas rookies Deatrich Wise (fourth-round pick) and Cody Hollister (undrafted) on this year's squad.  

"He came in, started about halfway through his true freshman year -- we weren't a really good football team, we were 3-9 -- threw him in the middle of it, didn't bat an eye, and he got better every game," Bielema said of Ellis on Quick Slants the Podcast. "Sophomore year, [he] really began to mature, develop. He's another guy that the potential -- because we never redshirted him -- to grow in this year is going to be huge . . .

"He's just truly very, very intelligent, compassionate. And the value that he brings is he could be an unbelievable role player. I'm not saying he's going to be a four-time All-Pro or anything like that, but he'll be reliable, dependable, in every phase of the game."

Robb Smith, Arkansas defensive coordinator from 2014-16, believes Ellis landed in the perfect spot. Prior to his time at Arkansas, he worked under Greg Schiano at Rutgers, where he coached Patriots safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon, former Patriots corner Logan Ryan, Patriots linebacker Jonathan Freeny and safeties coach Steve Belichick.

"He's one of those guys that's not only going to know his job, but what the other 10 guys around him are supposed to do," Smith said of Ellis. "He'll be able to be a leader from that standpoint in terms of helping guys with the system and the scheme. He's very good instinctively . . ."

"This guy's going to be replacing my knee someday. I'm serious. He's going to be an orthopedic surgeon that's outstanding. I know that's what his goals are. But hopefully he gets to play a lot of football between now and then."

There's one more Patriots link connecting Ellis to New England. His agent, Neil Cornrich, has counted Belichick as a client and also represents Bielema, Ferentz, Flowers, Derby, undrafted Patriots rookies Cole Croston and LeShun Daniels (both of whom played under Ferentz at Iowa) and Patriots running back Rex Burkhead. 

It may come as no surprise then that when Ellis signed with the Patriots, no one knew. He didn't announce it on Twitter, as is the norm for undrafted players when they come to an agreement with a team. And the news wasn't leaked. Instead, he waited for the team to announce it, which his new employers probably appreciated.

Ellis, who according to the Boston Globe received the fifth-most guaranteed money of the 19 undrafted rookies the Patriots signed, said he received some simplie advice from Cornrich before making his way to New England.

"He just said that you'll fit in well there," Ellis said. "You're the type of guy they like, and you're the type of guy that succeeds in that organization. Don't do anything special. Just go out there and work like you do every day, and it'll turn out for the best."

Even if it doesn't, Ellis will have medical school. But he acknowledges there's some unpredictability with that path, just as there is being an undrafted player in the NFL. He still has to be accepted. His application, including personal statements, interviews and MCAT results -- "It was horrible, I don't want to take that ever again," Ellis said -- still has to be deemed up-to-snuff.  

Whenever Ellis starts, it will be the beginning of almost a decade of training between schooling and residency. It will be a challenge, he knows, and it's one that he looks forward to. But he's hoping it can wait because football is important to him. 

"It just makes you work harder," he said of his uncertain future. "It makes you really focus on right now, and make sure that you're doing all you can in this area because even the next area might not be there.

"That's what I've done. I'm just working as hard as I can on this, and if that doesn't work out, then I've got the next thing, and I'm going to work as hard as I can in that area."

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.”