Curran: Tire-kicking time for Patriots, rest of NFL

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Curran: Tire-kicking time for Patriots, rest of NFL

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
On August 30, more than 450 players will be released across the NFL as teams cut down from 90 players to 75. That's a lot of names for NFL personnel men to wade through but wade they will. Through every one of them. One team's trash, another team's treasure and all that. Between now and then, it's vital that front offices get versed on the players currently "unattached." The ones who have been proven players in the league but aren't signed currently because of age, injury or having not found the right opportunity. On Monday, the Patriots will host three veteran players for workouts that fall into this category. Wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh and safeties Darren Sharper and Renaldo Hill. Sharper is 35 and two seasons removed from a spectacular season of playmaking with the Saints when he was an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate with nine picks and three TD returns. He played in eight games for the Saints last year. Housmandzadeh will be 34 in September. He's a precise route-runner with good hands and would be depth for a player like Deion Branch. Hill is 32 and, like Sharper, is a free safety. He had 67 tackles with Denver last year. Unlike the mass of mostly young players who will be released league-wide on the 30th, these veterans would be "plug-and-play" type replacements that - most likely - would be summoned if a veteran goes down at some point in the season.Understand that there's every possibility the Patriots could go bring one of them in this week and put him on the roster. But more likely, these workouts are a matter of finding out if all parts are in working order and that nobody is woefully out of shape. Personnel men don't want to be walking into the head coach's office on the Monday after the season opener saying they have no idea who can come in and replace awideout who suffered a high ankle sprain in the third quarter. The idea that Bill Belichick is writing up pink slips for safeties tonight because he's having some 30-something safeties work out on Monday is a little simplistic. This isn't a matter of turning up the heat on players on August 15 after one preseason game. It's making sure that you know what's out there if worse comes to worse with injuries or performance. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. 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.”