Curran: Pats-Bills engaged in old school shootout


Curran: Pats-Bills engaged in old school shootout

By Tom E. Curran Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
ORCHARD PARK, New York -- Another week, another old AFL shootout underway. The Patriots and Bills combined for 528 yards of first-half offense in this semi-showdown in the AFC East between 2-0 teams. Nothing much has changed for the Patriots on Sunday from the first two weeks. Offensively, they stayed as absurdly efficient early in the game as they have been. Tom Brady went 7-for-7 on the Patriots' opening drive and New England went 80 yards to go up 7-0 on a 14-yard throw to Wes Welker who took a thrown in the left flat and motored in. On the Bills' second play from scrimmage, Ryan Fitzpatrick's pass ricocheted off an intended receiver and was picked by Kyle Arrington (who had two first-half picks). Brady this time hit tight end Rob Gronkowski with a 1-yard pass that was perfectly placed. The Bills' second drive ended with another Arrington pick on a fourth-and-14 from the Patriots 35. New England did nothing with that or its next possession. But with 7:33 left in the half, a 5-play drive covering 65 yards took just 1:33 before Gronkowski again was on the receiving end of a terrific throw by Brady from 26 yards out. Gronkowski (5 catches for 71 yards in the first half) more than made up for the absent Aaron Hernandez' absence, splitting out in a flex position like Hernandez as opposed to being an on-the-line tight end. The Bills finally got going just before half. After being backed up to their 4 yard line by penalty, the combo of Fitzpatrick, Stevie Johnson, David Nelson and Fred Jackson plowed downfield. With the Patriots continuing to play mostly man-to-man in the secondary and getting limited pass rush up front, corner Devin McCourty's life remained difficult. He got beat by Johnson for an 11-yard score with two minutes left on a fade to the right when he appeared to fail in jamming the Bills wideout. That touchdown made it 21-7 Patriots. A penalty-aided drive took the Patriots into the Bills' red zone with 1:09 left in the half, but a throw to Danny Woodhead in the right flat, bounced off Woodhead's hands and Bills DB Bryan Scott came up with the pick. The Bills turned that into three points just before the half on a 42-yard Rian Lindell field goal. Brady finished the half 16 for 22 for 222 yards and three touchdowns; Fitzpatrick was 20 for 29 for 224. The Patriots didn't get any pressure on Fitzpatrick with their front-seven. Were it not for the Bills committing seven penalties for 67 yards things may have been different.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

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.”