Curran: A thought-filled drive

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Curran: A thought-filled drive

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

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 ESPNBoston.com. 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 tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Tom Brady on Donald Trump: 'I certainly disagree with what he said'

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Tom Brady on Donald Trump: 'I certainly disagree with what he said'

After beating the Texans on Sunday, 36-33, Tom Brady didn't want to delve too deeply into what went into his locking arms with teammates during the national anthem. 

"I just think," Brady said, "there's just a great love for my teammates."

He didn't want to get into Donald Trump's comments about players kneeling for the anthem, but he was willing to go there during Monday's Kirk and Callahan Show on WEEI.

"Yeah, I certainly disagree with what he said," Brady explained. "I thought it was just divisive. Like I said, I just want to support my teammates. I am never one to say, ‘Oh, that is wrong. That is right.’ I do believe in what I believe in. I believe in bringing people together and respect and love and trust. Those are the values that my parents instilled in me. That is how I try and live every day.

"I have been blessed to be in locker rooms with guys all over the United States over the course of my career. Some of my great friends are from Florida, Virginia, New York, Montana, Colorado, Texas. The one thing about football is it brings so many guys together -- guys you would never have the opportunity to be around. Whether it was in college, and all the way into the pros. We’re all different, we’re all unique. That is what makes us all special."

Brady was one of several players locking arms on the Patriots sideline for the anthem. More than a dozen others, including Devin McCourty, took a knee. Just before and immediately after the anthem, fans booed the demonstration.

"I think everyone has the right to do whatever they want to do," Brady said of the response. "If you don’t agree, that is fine. You can voice your disagreement, I think that is great. It’s part of our democracy. As long as it is done in a peaceful, respectful way, that is what our country has been all about."

Curran: In the end, everyone stood because of the game

Curran: In the end, everyone stood because of the game

FOXBORO – The boos and demands to “Stand up!” rained down just as the Star Spangled Banner began. The players on the Patriots sideline who knelt – the ones boos and invective was directed at – stayed down. Others stood, locking arms with teammates while others stood with their hands over their hearts.

By game’s end, everyone was on their feet. Players. Coaches. Fans. Together.

Unless they left early because of traffic and a late Patriots deficit. Or because they couldn’t bear the thought of watching an NFL game on a beautiful September Sunday because the entertainers didn’t do what they wanted them to do before the performance began.

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The whole thing’s complicated. I understand why people take offense at those who don’t stand for the anthem.

I understand why others want to deliver a symbolic message about their American experience.

I completely understand why, two days after President Trump thought it appropriate to use the phrase “son of a bitch” to refer to someone making a silent, reflective statement, many NFL players felt challenged, backed into a corner and somewhat dehumanized. The message delivered was, in essence, “Shut up and dance.”

Personally, I prefer to stick to sports. I don’t think I’m equipped to talk politics because I don’t know policy, legislation, constituencies and special interests – all the things that I define as politics – well enough to drone on at anybody.

As for sociology – which is what this is about rather than politics – I have my experiences and others have theirs. I’m trying to mow my own lawn over here. You do you. I’ll do me. As long as you don’t encroach on me doing me while you do you, I’m fine. When I’m not completely self-absorbed, a respectful exchange of ideas can make me see things in a different light.

It didn’t surprise me some people at Gillette Stadium had a visceral and vocal reaction to players kneeling. The pot was brought to a boil all weekend, the lid was just lifted and it bubbled over.

But the irony of how the afternoon played out – that Brandin Cooks, a player booing fans were screaming at to stand three hours earlier brought them to their feet with his toe-tapping last-minute touchdown – was perfectly symbolic.

Ultimately, everyone was there for the football – the players, coaches, media and fans – and in the end it was the football that brought the unified response that stood in contrast to the divided reactions in the stands and on the field before the game.

“That’s what sports is,” said Patriots safety Devin McCourty. “That’s what sports does. That’s what makes them great. They bring out what we have in common.

“I don’t think people look at us as human,” McCourty said. “I don’t think they ever have. We’re just the entertainment. They don’t understand that there’s a human behind it. People want to shake your hand or have their picture taken with you but they don’t want to know you. That’s reality.”

Maybe. Or maybe people feel their voices aren’t heard. They don’t have a column they can write or a TV or radio show to spout off on. They don’t have the chance to demonstrate their individual feelings at their cubicle before the workday starts.

All they know is they spent $500 or more to get to and into with a belly full of steak tips and beer and they don’t need to feel like being reminded about somebody else’s societal oppression on their day off, thank you very much.

It’s not so much about who does what during the Star Spangled Banner as much as it is that a lot of people don’t appreciate the intrusion. That, and they’re tired of hearing how bad everyone else has it when it’s really no damn picnic for most people these days.

Believe me, there’s not unanimity of opinion in the Patriots locker room any more than there is in your office, home, dorm or neighborhood. Players of different races, backgrounds, economic circumstances and ways of expressing themselves are thrown in a pot together and told to work for a common goal and rely on each other.

The mish-mash of ways in which players responded during the anthem on the Patriots sideline, the reticence of some players to dip a toe in the conversation, McCourty’s opening statement at the podium and then his declining to take questions and Bill Belichick’s comment that he would “deal with that later” all seemed to indicate that the team itself is still working through how it expresses itself as a whole.

It’s complicated for them too.

But in the end, it was the football that bound them together. It was the game that left them jumping on each other and the fans standing and screaming and nobody thinking at all about who did what when the song played before the game.

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