Kraft goes to bat for embattled Panthers owner

191543.jpg

Kraft goes to bat for embattled Panthers owner

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

With Panthers' owner Jerry Richardson taking heat for his conduct in the pre-Super Bowl sitdown between owners and players, Patriots' owner Robert Kraft -- a longtime friend of Richardson's -- hasdefended Richardson to the Rock Hill Herald"Since the Panthers joined the NFL, Jerry Richardson has been one of the league's most influential owners, frequently bridging any gaps among the ownership groups on various issues," said Kraft in a statement published Wednesday. "His unique background as a former NFL player and successful businessman helps form a perfect personality to co-chair the owner's negotiating committee. Anyone who has ever heard Jerry speak at the owners' meetings knows that he has reverent regard for the players in this league."There were plenty who heard Richardson speak to both Peyton Manning and Drew Brees at thatnegotiating session who did not describe Richardson's tone as "reverent."Our Quick Slants buddy Michael Silver from Yahoo! (via ProFootballTalk.com) said Richardson started out with a bad attitude and got worse from there.He was condescending to Peyton, a player who was at the meeting told Silver. "He tried to talk about P&L profit and loss statements and all these other risks that the owners assume, as if Peyton didnt know anything. Drew Brees interrupted and said, All were doing is just asking you to show us your books. We want to negotiate in good faith.Former Patriots Sean Morey, a Marshfield native, tried to bring up concussions and Richardson reportedly shot back, "You guys made so much expletive money -- if you played three years in the NFL, you should own your own expletive team."Silver reported that Kraft, Giants owner John Mara andChiefs owner Clark Hunt apologized to playersduring a break. If Kraft went to Richardson's defense, that's understandable. It's in contrast to the lack of solidarity seen when guys like Antonio Cromartie leans on his favorite pejorativeand someone like Kevin Mawae fires back. But if Kraft is going to be a bridge-builder in this, he needs to be careful to make sure his support of Richardson isn't seen as a defense of what -- if the fleet of reports are true -- is pretty indefensible for a group that should be interested in deal-making.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

browns-collins-jamie-collins-012017x.jpg

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona.