Curran: A series of lost gambles for Patriots


Curran: A series of lost gambles for Patriots

By Tom E. Curran Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
The New England Patriots had a weekend filled with calculated risks gone bad. Not crushers. Not anything they can't dust off their shoulders. But setbacks just the same. There's risk in every decision made. Walking out the door in the morning, buying a vacuum cleaner, or drafting a free safety who seems smart and talented but needs to grow up. The Patriots did the latter with Brandon Meriweather and the clock struck midnight for their patience with him on Saturday. The Patriots got some good performances from Meriweather. But in the end, the total package of on-field inconsistency and off-field refusal to be the professional they wanted caused them to pull the plug on the former first-rounder. They took a risk and - overall - it didn't work out. You want more than four middling seasons from a first-rounder. That's all they got. Everybody has their own treasured Meriweather moment from the past four seasons. The forehead slapper that I'll never forget was in Super Bowl 42. It was a stealth reason they lost the freakin' game. On third-and-11 from the Patriots 25 with 45 seconds left in the game, Meriweather chose to jam a Giants receiver who was already covered by Asante Samuel. Steve Smith crossed from the inside to the flat where Meriweather should have been and turned a 5-yard reception into a 12-yard gain to set up the Giants' game-winning touchdown. Oop. Another risk gone bad for the Patriots? Spending a third-round pick on Brandon Tate in the 2009 draft. After missing the final seven games of his senior season at North Carolina with a blown knee, the Patriots bought low on the still-rehabbing Tate. He played in two games in 2009 before blowing his other knee. He played all 16 games in 2010 and had modest success as a receiver and kick returner. Didn't fit. Next? The Patriots did well last spring and late this summer to find two big, strapping tight ends in Will Yeatman and Lee Smith, both of whom could block, run and catch. On Saturday, they released the undrafted Yeatman and the fifth-rounder Smith. Both were claimed by AFC East foes and added to rosters. Yeatman by the Dolphins; Smith by the Jets. Finally, the long-snapper situation continues to be a low-level concern going into this season. The Patriots signed undrafted rookie Danny Aiken out of Virginia on Sunday. He's the third guy this season to hold the job, replacing James Dearth who briefly replaced Matt Katula. Katula replaced Jake Ingram last year. All have been replacements for Lonie Paxton, whom the Patriots opted to allow to go to Denver when Josh McDaniels made Paxton a Godfather offer. Hard to blame the Patriots for not giving the moon to a long snapper. That's why this is the final "risk gone bad" I'll mention. Still, this weekend was a reminder that - even though there's been no team in recent memory that's done better with personnel dice rolls - sometimes they can come up snake eyes too.

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

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

LeGarrette Blount knows where he wants to be for 2017. Ever since he re-joined the Patriots in 2014 following a short stay in Pittsburgh, the 250-pound back has been very open about how he wants to play out the rest of his career in New England. 

Those feelings haven't changed, even as he faces free-agency after having recorded the best season of his seven-year career.

"I just want to make sure that I go to this free agency with an open mind, knowing that I definitely want to go back to New England," he told NFL Total Access on Monday. "I love it there. I love the culture. I love the players. I've become close with a lot of the guys. Obviously you know how my running back group is.

"We'll cross that bridge whenever we cross it. On that point, I feel great. I'm in amazing shape. I feel like I could play 100 more years if I have to."

Blount finished 2016 with career-highs in attempts (299) yards (1,161) and touchowns (18). His ability to help the Patriots close games in the fourth quarter was notable throughout the course of the season, and he was among the most effective goal-line backs in the league. His 18 rushing scores are a franchise record.

Toward the end of the season, as Dion Lewis worked his way back into the Patriots offense, Blount had his workload cut into, and his fumble in the Super Bowl was a near-catastrophic moment -- his devastated reaction to which was caught expertly by NFL Films. But a big-picture view of Blount's year would reveal that he  posted the most prodictive "big back" season the Patriots have had in more than a decade.

Blount signed a one-year deal with the Patriots last offseason after seeing his 2015 prematurely ended by way of a hip injury. He turned 30 in December.

Garoppolo's mom keeps him apprised of trade rumors: 'She's all over that stuff'

Garoppolo's mom keeps him apprised of trade rumors: 'She's all over that stuff'

Jimmy Garoppolo can't help but hear trade rumors that involve his name. He heard all about them during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Now his mom's keeping him up to date. 

"My mom loves telling me the news updates," Garoppolo told ESPN's Adam Schefter, "so she’s all over that stuff, but it’s been working really well . . . 

"I’m telling you, she could be your assistant. She’s all over the place. Her and my dad on Twitter and stuff like that. I don’t even think they know how to tweet, but they always have something going on . . .

"They know what to hit me with and what to keep quiet. They know me so well that they know what I’d like to hear and what I don’t need to hear. There’s a couple slip-ups here and there, I’m not going to lie to you, but they’re just so excited about it. It’s an exciting time, and they’re loving it."

Garoppolo tried his best to deflect questions about his future as he prepared for Super Bowl LI, but he could only insulate himself so much from those conversations. After six quarters of well-played football, he's chummed the waters for quarterback-starved franchises. As the draft nears, offers are expected to hit the Gillette Stadium offices, and it will be up to Bill Belichick and his staff to determine whether they should part ways with Tom Brady's backup. 

Schefter asked Garoppolo about one team in particular that could be interested: the Chicago Bears. Their general manager Ryan Pace is an Eastern Illinois alum, like Garoppolo, and Garoppolo is a Chicago-area kid. 

"I get asked about [that possibility] all the time from my friends and family back in Chicago," Garoppolo said. "They’re good reporters, my family. But I keep telling them I really don’t know how it would feel until . . . if it was to happen, I wouldn’t know how I’d feel until it did, you know? So it’s kind of one of those things, it’s hard to say right now."

Garoppolo added: "For the most part I am just trying to stay level-headed, trying not to think about it, over think it too much because at the end of the day I am still under contract. It is not my decision if I get traded or if I don’t, so I am just trying to take it all in stride. At the end of the day, you just have to enjoy it. The NFL, it is a hard place to be, hard place to succeed and when you get an opportunity you have to go and take advantage of it."

The idea of getting an opportunity, though, is an enticing one. Before the 2016 season, Garoppolo was very open about how he looked forward to his opportunity to start with Brady suspended for the first four weeks of the season. And with Schefter, he acknowledged that there are times when it's hard not to be impatient when you're the guy behind the guy.

"There’s times," Garoppolo said. "Obviously the kickoff happens and you are ready to roll. The juices get flowing again. You get the adrenaline, the butterflies. It’s football, you have to love the atmosphere . . . 

"We all play the game. We all want to be out there on the field and get an opportunity to play. I guess we will cross that bridge when we get there is probably the best way to put it. We’re competitors at the end of the day. We want to be out there, I want to be out there competing and playing with my teammates.”