Mankins isn't Pats' first front officefootball squabble

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Mankins isn't Pats' first front officefootball squabble

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

In March of 2001, the Patriots called a press conference at Robert Kraft's downtown offices to announce a 10-year, 103 million contract extension for Drew Bledsoe. That day, Kraft suggested Bledsoe would follow in the footsteps of Ted Williams, Bill Russell and Larry Bird. He'dspend his entire career in Boston. He'dbe an icon. Alittle more than a year later, he wasa Buffalo Bill. Bill Belichick wasn't at the Bledsoe photo-op that day. None of the Patriots football brass was. It was a Kraft production, a dog-and-pony show Belichick didn't carve out time to be a part of. (CORRECTION: Ohhhh, yes he was. The CSNNE regrets the error. DAMN!)Bledsoe was too inaccurate, too indecisive, too unaware of pocket pressure for Belichick's tastes. The coach had rarely had difficulty defending Bledsoe when he was an opponent and nothing Bledsoe showed during the 2000 season or the first two games of 2001 changed his mind. But Belichick knew that with CMGi Field (later to be renamed Gillette Stadium) being built and Foxboro Stadium being torn down, keeping Bledsoe -- the franchise hood ornament -- was a business decision as much as a football decision. Would people buy luxury suites if Michael Bishop were the starter? Or Tom Brady? Even though the Patriots were 7-17 in Bledsoe's previous 24 starts, and the fact that Bledsoe had thrown 31 interceptions and been sacked 90 times in the previous 32 games, Belichick had to roll with it. By the end of the preseason, Bledsoe and his 103 million contract were on thin ice because he was playing so poorly. Belichick considered starting Brady in the third preseason game against Carolinathat August. And Bledsoe was so ineffective throughout the summer, Belichick made him play significant time in the fourth preseason game. A serious showdown between coach and quarterback loomed and when quarterback got benched, he would have headed straight for the owner. Then Mo Lewis intervened. We bring you this moment in Patriots' contractual history because of something Greg Bedard wrote in Sunday's Boston Globe. In discussing the ongoing Logan Mankins Affair, Bedard fires in a paragraph that reads, "And for those wondering whether there's a disconnect between the football staff and ownership on Mankins, there isn't. The two have been in agreement for 11 years on contracts, and now there might be a rift over a guard (albeit a darn good one)?"Eleven years of contractual bliss, huh? Head nods and high fives for better than a decade? Remarkable. Even more remarkable if it were true which, it isn't. Who's been talking about a disconnect, anyway? Well, me. Right here.Bedard, who was in Washington last week, said he hadn't seen my story when I asked him if his passage was a veiled rebuttal to me. I believe him because A) I'm not required reading and B) Bedard's a good guy and a writer I respect. But I predicted at the end ofmyarticle that my observation of a business-football disconnect would be pooh-poohed and here's the pooh-poohing. Which doesn't change the reality. The Mankins issue hasn't been strictly a football one. It did get personal when Mankins questioned Robert Kraft's honor. And the dislike for Mankins' agent Frank Bauer remains. I believe Bauer when he says Bill Belichick has worked extremely hard to facilitate a deal. So for those wondering if there's a disconnect between the football staff and ownership on Mankins?There is. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Butler earns praise from Belichick, Patricia after wire-to-wire performance

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Butler earns praise from Belichick, Patricia after wire-to-wire performance

FOXBORO -- Malcolm Butler left Sunday's win over the Texans feeling pretty good about himself. One week after being relegated to the No. 3 corner role on the Patriots defense, he played every snap and allowed just two catches for 10 yards.

“I think I’m building,” Butler said afterward. “I think I’m taking it a step at a time. There’s a lot of football to be played, so whatever you see, judge me.”

And we have. There was the pass-interference penalty in Week 1. There was the botched pick-play coverage with Patrick Chung in Week 2. But even with those mishaps mixed in, Butler's energy and effort did not seem to wane on film.

He caught Chiefs speedster Tyreek Hill for a tackle from behind to prevent a first down in the season-opener. Against the Saints, his hard pass breakup on top Saints wideout Michael Thomas was a bright spot for the Patriots secondary.

In Week 3, that effort was there again. Targeted twice while in coverage on DeAndre Hopkins, Butler did well to jam Hopkins at the line of scrimmage and then limit the game's highest-paid receiver to zero yards after the catch.

When asked about Butler on Tuesday's conference calls, both Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia struck tones that were strikingly different than the ones that made headlines when discussing Butler the week prior.

"Yeah, I think Malcolm did a good job," Belichick said. "I mean, all of our defensive backs I thought were pretty competitive. We had some scramble yardage and loose plays and things like that. But I mean, the normal passing game we were pretty competitive on. But like anything else, there are certainly a lot of things we can do better."

That goes for Butler, too, who admitted last week that he hadn't been playing up to his standards.

On one of those scramble-drill plays Belichick referenced, Deshaun Watson found tight end Ryan Griffin for a 35-yard gain, which included several yards after the catch when Butler was among the defenders who missed the chance to try to wrestle Griffin to the ground.

There were occasions though -- like Watson's first-quarter third-down scramble that Butler helped to stop, forcing the Texans to kick a field goal -- when Butler's want-to was evident.

"I thought Malcolm played really well," Patricia said. "We certainly didn’t play great at all as a defense. I’m not saying that but I think the guy really tried to go out and play extremely hard. 

"This is a very competitive guy. Malcolm steps up to the challenges that you place in front of him. He goes out and competes, he works hard, he tries to do it the right way and he really tries to get better every week. Look, we had a productive week last week for him and working through. But it’s a new week and we’re going to try to get the same consistency every single week and that’s what we’re trying to do."

A week ago, when asked about Butler's performance, Belichick and Patricia weren't quite as glowing.

"I don’t think anybody’s performance this season is really where it needs to be or where it will be," Belichick said at the time. "We all need to do a better job."

"I think with Malcolm, he’s kind of in a boat with everybody else," Patricia said. "We’re trying to get better."

Part of the reason Butler may have been relied upon as much as he was could have been due to the fact that fellow corner Eric Rowe -- who started in Week 2 opposite Stephon Gilmore -- was inactive with a groin injury. 

How Butler will factor in against the Panthers in Week 4 remains to be seen, but if his work against the Texans improved his confidence, then that would seem benefit the Patriots defense as a whole. 

"Things that we're confident in," Belichick said, "we do more aggressively, we do quicker, we do with probably better overall execution than things we're not confident in . . . 

"It’s a fine line there between confidence and overconfidence and taking it for granted, as opposed to just being right in that sweet spot of having an edge, having confidence, being alert and aggressive."