Dowling's upside intrigues Patriots

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Dowling's upside intrigues Patriots

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO - Ras-I Dowling was projected as a second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft but he decided to go back to Virginia for one more season. It was an on-field disaster.But in the end, the potential, old tape and character of Dowling seems to have carried the day as he wound up the 33rd overall pick in the 2011 draft. The Patriots selected the 6-1, 198 pound corner with the first pick in the second round. The final straw for Dowling's final season came in the third-to-last game of the year. "He was on the field for six snaps, one of them resulting in a penalty," wrote Doug Doughty of The Roanoke Timesbefore he fell to the ground in front of UVa's bench. He was helped to the locker room, only to return on crutches and with his left foot in an orthopedic boot.Virginia coach, Mike London said that Dowling's injury was unrelated to the knee and hamstring injuries that have plagued him all season."I don't know if it's the same leg or not," London said, "but, it's bizarre."Dowling had played in five games for the Cavaliers (4-6, 1-5 ACC) and started twice. In one of his appearances, he was on the field for three plays against Eastern Michigan.London left the impression that Dowling's hamstring was more of an issue than the knee, which "bothered him a little bit, but he felt he could play through some things," London said.Dowling, who went to Deep Creek High School and spent a postgraduate year at Hargrave Military Academy, was projected as a possible second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft before deciding he would return for a fourth season at UVa."Obviously, that's probably the biggest recruit we'll get this year," said London, newly named as head coach when Dowling made his decision.Dowling finished this season with 15 tackles and one pass break-up."It's unfortunate because he's such a great young man, great captain, great leader," London said. "I just saw him a few minutes ago and Ras-I was upbeat. Ras-I is prayerful and his faith is very meaningful to him."Here's some video of Dowling in which Virginia defensive coordinator Jim Reid pledges undying love and respect to the young man. (Caution...hyperbole). So why Dowling? Look at the league and the competition, I guess. It's a passing league with every team owning long receivers. Between Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden and Dowling, the Patriots have corners who go 5-10, 6-1 and 6-1. Add in Kyle Arrington and Darius Butler - both in the 5-9 range - and you have guys that can cover outside and in the slot. A good tackler, a good special teams guy, it's like Devin McCourty out of the bargain bin. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. 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.”