Fanene remembers 2010 injury vs. Patriots

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Fanene remembers 2010 injury vs. Patriots

Call it irony that Jonathan Fanene is a member of the New England Patriots.

It started back in 2010, when Fanene was due to have a breakout season. He had just come off the best season of his career in 2009 16 games, 10 starts, 36 combined tackles, six sacks, and one interception and was due a new contract at the end of this one.

Unfortunately for Fanene, it ended almost as soon as it began.

The Bengals played the Patriots in Week 1 of the regular season. It was early in the second quarter when Tom Brady dropped back looking for Randy Moss deep down the sideline. Fanene, though, was trying to get to Brady first but had to get past Matt Light. He made his move, his last one of the game.

I remember it was like the third series, Fanene said. I was going against Matt Light. When I came around the corner I felt something strained. I knew something was wrong, so I just stopped and I came out.

It was his hamstring. Fanene didnt return to that game, or any game, until Week 7 against the Falcons, where he re-aggravated the same injury. Three weeks later, he landed on the IR, his season over.

Because of the injury, Fanene didnt get a ton of offers after the season, and ended up signing back with the Bengals on a one-year deal. After a healthy season, but one in which his playing time was reduced, Fanene found a new home with the very same team that essentially ruined his 2010 campaign, the Patriots.

Its funny. I never expected to be here, Fanene said. But like I said, Im going to be the best I can be to help out and win games this year.

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

Rob Gronkowski's contract looked like one of the NFL's best bargains not too long ago. Now, after agreeing to a contract restructure, he could be paid as the top tight end in the league if he stays healthy.

Granted, it's a gargantuan "if."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski's restructured deal will bump his salary for this upcoming season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million should he hit certain statistical thresholds or be named an All-Pro.

Per Schefter, Gronkowski earns $10.75 million if he plays 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or makes 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gains 1,200 yards receiving (once), or is named an All-Pro (three times). 

Those seem like lofty goals for the 28-year-old who's entering his eighth year as a pro. But history shows that if he stays on the field for a full season or thereabouts -- 15 games to be specific -- he'll get to where he wants to be. 

If you take out his rookie year, before he had established himself as a go-to option in the Patriots offense, Gronkowski has played in three seasons during which he's reached at least 15 games. In each of those three seasons, he's been named an All-Pro. In 2011, he hit all three statistical markers. In 2014, he hit one. In 2015, he hit none. 

The lesson? When Gronkowski stays relatively healthy throughout a given season, even if he doesn't reach the astronomical statistical heights he reached in his second year, there's a very good chance he's considered the best tight end in the NFL. 

And if that's the case again in 2017, he'll be paid like the best tight end in the NFL.

To hit the second tier of his restructured deal -- which would pay him $8.75 million, per Schefter -- Gronkowski needs to play 80 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done twice), or make 70 catches (three times), or gain 1,000 receiving yards (three times), or catch 12 touchdowns (twice). 

To hit the third tier of his new deal and get $6.75 million, Gronkowski needs to play 70 percent of the snaps (which he's done four times), or make 60 catches (three times), or gain 800 receiving yards (three times), or score 10 touchdowns (five times). 

According to Spotrac, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks is currently scheduled to be the tight end position's top earner next season at $10 million. Odds are that if Gronkowski avoids disaster and stays on the field, he'll eclipse that.

But the odds of him staying on the field are what they are: He's played in 15 games in four of seven pro seasons. 

The restructured deal seems to be the ultimate incentive for Gronkowski to get healthy and stay that way following last year's season-ending back surgery. If he can, the Patriots will reap the benefits of having the game's most dynamic offensive weapon on the field, and the player will be paid a far cry from what he was scheduled to make when the week began.