FOXBORO - Patriots owner Robert Kraft now has his historic tight ends sewn up practically through the end of the decade. And he likes that fact."We're privileged to have two of the best young players on this team we know are gonna be here for quite some time," Kraft said after signing Aaron Hernandez to a five-year extension on Monday. Earlier this offseason, the team signed Rob Gronkowski to a six-year deal in excess of 50 million. Kraft took a verbal victory lap over the fact the Patriots got the two players at lower costs in the 2010 draft. Gronkowski was a second-rounder who dropped because of back issues. Hernandez was a fourth-rounder who dropped because of failed drug tests at Florida. "We know that both players had issues coming out so where we drafted them was really not indicative of how good they really are and both of them have really shined here," Kraft said. Kraft revealed that Hernandez made a 50,000 contribution to the Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund after agreeing to his deal. "I said, 'Aaron you don't have to do this.' He said, 'It makes me feel good and I want to do it,' " Kraft recounted."That makes me feel good because part of what we learned early on, we have a lot of young men who come into this business and come from humble financial homes and part of what we've tried is make them understand is that the psychic income involved in giving back your time and your resources." Kraft opined that it's incumbent on the team to shepherd players into affluence. "To flip the switch from living modestly to all of a sudden having a lot of income, I think we have to work very hard to help these young men adjust to that," Kraft said. "I just think he's a super player and a first-class guy. Some people might see all the tattoos on him and think ...10 years ago, I was in that class (and I would) think, 'Wow.' But this guy's a good guy."Meanwhile, with the season looming and the league and its officials still at an impasse, it appears the season will open with replacement officials. Asked about the threat this poses to the integrity of the game, "Yeah, well. I'm gonna let the league office deal with that."Kraft was asked why, given the time, effort and billions expended during the past few years to get a new CBA in place, this reality would be tolerated. "I'm sure you're intelligent to know you don't make judgments until you know all the facts and all the sides," Kraft admitted."So I'm gonna respectfully stay out of that issue.
FOXBORO -- Cyrus Jones knows he's been criticized. He said on Tuesday that he doesn't care where the criticism is coming from so long as his coaches and teammates are happy with him.
"That's life," he said. "It is what it is. I know what I play the game for. I know who I play the game for. The people out there saying this and that, they're not important to me. They're not out there on the field, they're not my teammates. They're not my coaches. They're not my family. They really don't mean anything. They're fair weather fans. They're going to be with you when you're doing good, and as soon as you do something bad, they're on to the next. I've been dealing with that all my life . . .
"That goes far beyond football. You know who's in your corner. You know who's not. I don't really dwell on the people that really mean nothing to me. I don't know them and they don't know me. All they're doing is watching, spectating, criticizing. They're not Bill Belichick. They're not guys in this locker room. So those are the only people that matter when it comes to critiquing my play or whatever you want to call it."
- PHIL PERRY'S 53-man roster projection: Opportunity for Ealy?
- TOM E. CURRAN: A new approach for Gronk
- Healthy RB Mike Gillislee finally practices with Patriots
- Dont'a Hightower off PUP list, back at practice
Jones returned four punts for 58 yards against the Texans on Saturday, including a 32-yarder and a 15-yarder that required him to elude multiple defenders early on. He also chose to field one punt deep in Patriots territory that resulted in a loss of three.
"That's one of those gray-area plays you just gotta use your instincts," he said. "It was a deeper punt than we anticipated . . . You just gotta use your better judgment. If it bounced and it's a dead ball right there, they still get the ball inside the 10. If I don't field it, it could bounce in the end zone. You really don't know. Just gotta judge it the best you can. The most important thing is possession."
Jones said that overall he felt like it was a positive outing. Though he has fielded kicks cleanly since the beginning of training camp -- an issue that plagued him during his rookie season -- he was in coverage for two long completions against the Jags in his team's preseason opener. Saturday against the Texans, Jones explained, was a good opportunity to build himself back up.
"It's better than negative stuff," he said. "Just using this preseason to kind of get my feet wet, get that comfort back there and gain confidence. I think that's what anybody's trying to do when they get on the field at this time . . .
"I got confidence in myself and my teammates have confidence in me, coaches got confidence in me. They know what I can do. It's just a matter of taking it day by day, focusing on the details and the little things, and going out there and getting it done and making it happen."
After Jones made his 32-yard return in Houston, he was mobbed by teammates and coach Joe Judge, picking up a player who'd experienced his share of down moments over the course of the last year.
"It just shows just how unselfish everybody is," he said. "Guys are more happy when somebody else makes a play than the person who made the play. That's just the culture of this team. Everybody wants to see each other succeed because that's only going to make the team better."
Jones insisted he's not worried about making the team when final cutdowns are made before Week 1. Under Belichick, the Patriots have never released a first or second-round pick going into his second season.
"I know what I can do, and I know what I can bring to this team," he said.
Tom Curran and Phil Perry give their first impressions from Patriots preseason games. Jerod Mayo discusses the most talented roster he had with Patriots.
Here's a rundown of the episode.
3:00 Dont’a Hightower returning to Patriots off the PUP list, will he be ready to be ‘all systems go’ going forward.
6:20 Was the eclipse worth all the hype?
10:40 Should the Patriots poor offensive line performance against Houston worry fans?
15:50 What were our impressions of Cyrus Jones against Texans
19:00 impressions of Jimmy Garoppolo so far during preseason
20:00 Which players are in danger of being cut?
36:00 Jerod Mayo tells Tom E. Curran that he needs to meditate
38:30 Jerod weighs in on whether the hit on Odell Beckham was a ‘dirty hit’
42:30 Does Jerod think that the 2013 TJ Ward hit on Rob Gronkowski was a ‘dirty hit’
43:30 Should there be an etiquette for how physical preseason games should be in the NFL?
47:00 Jerod breaks down how Bill Belichick does a different technique that most NFL teams during the draft, and how it has paid off.
51:00 Who was the most talented roster the patriots had while Jerod Mayo was playing?
54:00 Will the NFL ever turn back into the ‘old style’ of football?