Curran: Kraft downplays owners' part in lockout

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Curran: Kraft downplays owners' part in lockout

By TomE. Curran
CSNNE.com

On Sunday, Patriots owner Robert Kraft continued to sound more like a dove than a hawk on the labor front. Kraft, appearing at Gillette Stadium for Raytheon's "Science of Sports" Science Fair, told the media, "One of my concerns is that we not aggravate our fan base, and we have to be very careful. I think we're coming to that point now where we start to hurt ourselves collectively in the eyes of our fans. In the end, the fans just want football. They don't want to hear about all this meaningless squabbling."Kraft's words are genuine. I asked him on the Friday before the Super Bowl if he would take it as a personal failing if a labor stoppage actually happened.
"I think I will have failed if I can't help get . . . I've never seen the health of a business be as bright as this one,"he said then. He later added, "There's no reason for us to have a lockout, I'll say it again. There's enough elements there that we can do a deal and everyone's going to come out a winner. We've just got to get the lawyers away from the table."Kraft reiterated that Sunday. "I don't think there is another industry in America that's in the court system," Kraft said. "I always believe that you don't solve things through litigation, you solve things by people who have a long-term vested interest in the game sitting down and finding ways to build it."Right now, unfortunately what's going on is that we have union attorneys who are controlling a litigation process, and three-to-five years from now they'll be working on other cases and we'll be sitting with the players and agents and people who care about the game, and trying to figure out how to grow it and make it better. So I think people with a vested interest in the game, and growing the game, should be the people dealing with how to solve the problem of our current dispute."Who can disagree with Kraft's call for getting the lawyers out of the room and having the principals on both sides get a deal done? But persistently alleging the players unilaterally brought this on with litigation is dubious. The owners had their fist back and aimed at the players' faces for about two years preparing for the lockout. Yet when the players threw the first punch - one they had to throw or risk having their hands tied for six months - the owners acted injured. And ever since the owners have alleged the players caused the work stoppage. It's a lockout. And the willingness of the players to work was really, really evident when the lockout was temporarily lifted last month.The convenient argument made time and again is that the players decertified and brought on the litigation. Then the owners locked them out. The fact is, the sand was falling out of the hourglass on the final day of negotitations. The CBA was set to expire at midnight. The owners brought an offer to the players thatafternoon that lowballed projections for revenue increases. If the revenue numbers they "pegged" were exceeded, owners wanted to take 100 percent of the profits above that. The players had to make a decision. Continue to negotiate to the 11th hour and pass on decertifying - a tactic they would have had to wait an additional six months to use again - and risk the certainty that the owners would lock them out at midnight absent a new CBA deal being reached. So they acted. But the owners had their lockout strategy in place long before the players decertified. They forced the players' hand. So when Robert Kraft laments union lawyers being involved or Jonathan Kraft says players were the ones who walked away from negotiations, they're not being forthright about the landscape on that day. The lockout was coming at midnight.Decertification was the players' only option aside from trusting the owners and, at that point, their capacity to do that was gone. So the players fired the one bullet they had. And the owners - backed by their superstar legal team - joined the battle on that front very, very prepared for battle. There's little doubt neither side wants to be in court. But they're both to blame for being there. Tom E. Curran canbe reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Patriots To-Do List: Figure out what’s up with Cyrus Jones

Patriots To-Do List: Figure out what’s up with Cyrus Jones

Personally, I would buy a crapload of stock in Cyrus Jones. In part because – after his nightmarish rookie season – stock can be bought on the cheap. But also because he’s too talented, too committed and too smart to suck like he did in 2016 when he handled punts like they were coated in uranium and never made a big contribution in the secondary.

Because of his disappointing year, Jones is an overlooked player on the Patriots roster, but he’s in a pivotal spot. With Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon approaching free agency, Malcolm Butler’s contract expiring after 2017, Pat Chung on the edge of 30 and a free agent after 2018 and the other corners being Justin Coleman, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones is going to get his shot.

The reason I included safeties Harmon and Chung in the discussion is that when the Patriots go to six DBs, roles are less stringently defined. And because of Jones’ size (5-10, 200), powerful build and short-area quickness, he can be the kind of versatile player who covers inside against quicker slot receivers as well as being on the outside if necessary. Kind of like Chung can cover on the back end or drop down to cover tight ends.

The Patriots are confident that Jones will get it right. His teammates in the secondary are unanimous in saying he’s got all the talent he needs.  

PATRIOTS TO-DO LIST:

But as 2016 wore on, it was apparent that Jones was miserable and let his failures consume him. Jones muffed or fumbled five kicks in the 2016 season.
 
By the time the Patriots played the Ravens on a Monday night in December, he was so inside his own head that he stalked a bouncing punt he had no business being near (for the second time that game) and had it bounce off his foot setting up a Ravens touchdown. That night, Jones exited the Patriots locker room and made his way to the players parking lot before the field was even clear of equipment.

Jones either expected things to come as easily in the NFL as they did at Alabama and wasn’t prepared to deal with adversity. Or the mistakes he made caused him to wonder if he really was good enough to play in the league.

Either way, Cyrus Jones was all about Cyrus Jones in 2016. And his comments to the Baltimore Sun over the weekend were evidence that the world he’s concerned with ends at the end of his nose. 

"I honestly felt cursed," he said. "I reached a point where I didn't even want to play. I just didn't have it...What I did this year was not me," he said. "I don't care how anybody tries to sugarcoat it. Yes, I was a rookie. But I feel I should always be one of the best players on the field, no matter where I am.
 
"But honestly, it was hell for me," he said. "That's the only way I can describe it. I didn't feel I deserved to be part of anything that was happening with the team. I felt embarrassed that these people probably thought they wasted a pick on me."

The first thing Jones needs to do this offseason is get over himself. He can look one locker down and talk to Devin McCourty about getting crushed for shaky play in 2012, battling through it and then turning into a Pro Bowl-level safety. He can talk to fellow Alabama product Dont'a Hightower about Hightower’s being benched in the 2013 season against the Broncos and labeled a bust before flipping his season around and being the team’s best defender by the end of that year.

But he’s going to have to figure it out. Draft status means nothing to New England and, as it now stands, undrafted corner Jonathan Jones out of Auburn has more demonstrated value to the team that Cyrus Jones does. In two months, the Patriots are damn sure going to add more secondary players.

This offseason, Jones needs to check his ego, simplify his game and simply ban outside perceptions from fans, media or coaches from infect his on-field decision-making.

His conversation with the Sun didn’t really indicate he’s ready to do that. Asked about criticism, Jones said, “It pisses me off. You can say shut it out or don't listen, but I know people are talking, and it's negative. I'm not a dumb guy. It definitely affects me. What it should do is piss me off in a way that I want to shut them all up."

From the limited number of times I spoke with him and from his teammates regard for him, I can confirm Jones isn’t a dumb guy. That doesn’t necessarily make life easier though. In 2016, Cyrus Jones’ brain got in the way. The Patriots need him to shut that thing off in 2017. 

Brady lists suspects in jersey theft: Edelman, Lady Gaga, Game of Thrones villain

Brady lists suspects in jersey theft: Edelman, Lady Gaga, Game of Thrones villain

The case of Tom Brady's missing Super Bowl jersey got a tad more serious on Tuesday as the Houston Police Department's report on the stolen No. 12 was published by TMZ. In it, police estimate the value of the jersey at a cool half-million dollars

Brady clearly took notice. 

Though he'd probably like to have the jersey back in short order, he took to Instagram on Wednesday to make light of the search. 

His investigation seemed to lead him toward a familiar face, Julian Edelman, who he describes as a "sneaky lil squirrel." 

To let his teammate know he means business, Brady pulled a quote from Good Will Hunting.

"Ya suspect, yeah you! I don't know what your reputation is in this town, but after that s@?# you pulled, you can bet l'll be looking into you!"