Curran: A thought-filled drive


Curran: A thought-filled drive

By Tom E. Curran

BUFFALO - The black Reebok baseball hat on Bill Belichick's head didn't quite go with the tan overcoat he was wearing.So kill him, the guy's not a fashion plate.What the lid said meant more than how it looked: 2010 AFC East Champions, New England Patriots. It's only a step. And while the Patriots weren't popping corks ("mellow" is how Deion Branch described the locker room), the fact the Commandant would see fit to pop it on his head before boarding the bus to go to Rochester announced to his team that it meant something. With the win comes decisions. And that leads off five things to chew on for today.
(I'm writing this while riding in the back of a Chevy HHR rolling back from Buffalo with the great Mike Reiss and soon-to-be-great Mike Rodek, both of I freakin' love my wireless card.) 1. PLAY OR NAY THIS SUNDAY, HEY!It will be this week's debate. Should the Patriots - with nothing to play for against Miami - sit their stars or roll 'em out there? Let's squish the drama now. The eight words we'll be hearing in relation to this will be: "Everyone will prepare to play the entire game." There is no advantage to tapping anybody on the shoulder and telling them they don't have to prepare this week. After Miami there will be no opponent to prepare for. It will be a week of fundamentals, self-scouting and long-term preparation. You don't want consecutive weeks of not being on game plans. Get 'em all ready, then shut 'em down after two series. 2. BRADY LOVES STUPID ROOKIESHere's yet another flip-flop from 2009. While the veterans dotting last year's roster may have eye-rolled at Bill Belichick's instructions and not given the necessary buy-in, that's not the case this year with a much younger team. "The rookies don't really know anything," said Tom Brady. "Really, what you tell them is what they believe. They don't look two weeks ahead. They're just not smart enough or experienced enough to do that. The veterans are just like, 'This is what you do.' And that's what they do. Having those guys like Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Devin McCourty, they just think this is just the way it is. They've really listened to the veterans, listened to the guys at their positions and listened to our coach."3. YO, RANDOM QUESTION!!Hey Tom, Enjoy reading your work. Relocated Pats fan (and everything Boston for that matter as I grew up in Lexington, MA) hoping to see the Pats in Arlington this year. Love your "Quick Slants" work as well.Two quick questions:1) Is Hernadez's injury serious?2) Will Taylor Price ever get on the field? Is he in the chateau bow wow as Bob Ryan is known to say?Safe travels home.
Gene IsottiGene, Thanks for the kind words. I'm tremendously talented. I don't think Aaron Hernandez' injury is a big deal. He practiced a couple of times last week and was in the locker room. Those guys are under lock-and-key if they're really messed up. He'll be good to go for the playoffs. As for Price, this year appears to be an apprenticeship. The time he missed during mini-camp because of the college graduation rule really set him back. He'll be a factor at some point. 4. WRIGHT MUST REALLY BE WRONGThe fact we haven't seen Mike Wright on the field in more than a month is becoming a big concern. Out a month with a concussion? You have to start wondering about his long-term health. He's their best interior pass-rusher when healthy and his playoff status would seem to be in serious jeopardy. 5. HAVE TO DRIVE NOWReiss has to take a call for ESPN at 3:30 and now I have to drive. So you get four. Sorry.

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.”