Mesko ready to take on his second season

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Mesko ready to take on his second season

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
FOXBORO Zoltan Mesko is a man of many talents. He speaks five different languages. He has not one, but two college degrees. But the NFL is a completely different subject, one that he's picking up quite nicely.

The 6-foot-5 punter had a solid rookie year with the New England Patriots last season. A year older and wiser, Mesko has shown signs of being even better.

The only major difference now, Mesko says, is he knows what to expect.

"The workload is the same," he said. "The pressure for success never decreases. It's definitely a better experience the second time around just knowing what challenges are ahead of us, ahead of me. That's basically it -- knowing what to expect."

With the Patriots having an offense with even more weapons than last season -- or in 2007 when Brady and company set a number of offensive benchmarks -- opportunities for Mesko to get on the field are likely to be down from a year ago.

You would think that the pressure to perform would be even greater when called upon this season. But Mesko doesn't see it that way.

"You just imagine the consequences of a bad performance," he said. "That keeps you on edge."

Poor play has not been an issue with Mesko thus far in the preseason.

In New England's 31-14 win at Tampa Bay, Mesko averaged 41.4 yards on five punts, one of which was a booming 57-yarder.

With Saturday's game at Detroit's enclosed Ford Field, Mesko doesn't have to worry about the elements being a factor in his kicking game.

"That's the thing you can't rely on," Mesko said of playing indoors. "Sometimes your concentration level goes down as far as, 'everything is perfect so I can relax now.' You still have to be on edge, have that same concentration level as before."

Mesko, who was born and raised in Timisoara, Romania, until he was 10 -- that was when his parents hit the green card lottery which allowed them to come to the United States -- is still relatively new to the business side of the NFL.

But he's wise enough to know that punters and kickers, maybe more than any other positions, are dispensable if you don't produce when the opportunity presents itself.

"The motivation has to be internal as far as that goes," he said. "I'm a competitive person. I don't like to lose, even in a spitting game. It's just me wanting to do the best for the team and myself."

So far, so good.

"It's been definitely an organization where you see the fruits of your labor," said Mesko, who has an undergraduate business degree and a master's degree in sports management -- both from Michigan. "You reap those once you put in the work. There's definitely a good sense of accountability at this organization that makes you, kind of forces you to be successful because of the work that's required of you."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Mike Giardi: Don’t think Patriots will use franchise tag on Dont'a Hightower

Mike Giardi: Don’t think Patriots will use franchise tag on Dont'a Hightower

Mike Giardi discusses the odds that the New England Patriots franchise tag Dont'a Hightower and what he expects the Pats to get if they were to trade Jimmy Garoppolo.

Arizona Cardinals place franchise tag on Chandler Jones

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Arizona Cardinals place franchise tag on Chandler Jones

PHOENIX - The Arizona Cardinals, in an anticipated move, have placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on outside linebacker Chandler Jones after failing to reach a long-term deal with the player.

The non-exclusive tag allows the Cardinals to continue negotiating with Jones through July 15. If another team makes him an offer, Arizona can either match it or receive two first-round draft picks.

It's unlikely that any team would express interest in Jones, however, given what it would cost.

Under the franchise tag, Jones would receive about $15 million for the coming season.

Acquired in a trade with New England a year ago, Jones had 11 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 15 tackles for loss last season

Jones has 25 1-2 sacks over the past two seasons, third-most in the NFL over that span.

The Cardinals' move came two days before the NFL deadline for making franchise designations.

It also came on Jones' 27th birthday, prompting teammate David Johnson to tweet "Happy BDay to `The Man,' `Mr. Franchise' himself.....The one and only."

The franchise tag move came as no surprise.

Club President Michael Bidwill has stated all along that Jones would not be going anywhere, that the team didn't make the trade - sending guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round draft pick to New England - to keep him just for one season.

"We're not going to mess around with that," Bidwill said in a recent interview on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "He's a great pass rusher, but if we can't agree to terms that work for us, we're just going to franchise him, and his people know that."

Jones immediately upgraded what had been an average Cardinals pass rush at best. His fellow outside linebacker Markus Golden had 12 1-2 sacks and seven tackles for loss. Together they form one of the better outside pass rush combinations in the NFL.

By all accounts, the contract talks with Jones have been cordial and Jones has said he wants to stay in Arizona.

"I love it here," he said near the end of last season. "I love the vibe that the people give off and I can see myself being here for a long time."

Chandler heads a long list of free agents that the Cardinals must either re-sign or let go. That group includes starters defensive tackle Calais Campbell, safety Tony Jefferson and inside linebacker Kevin Minter.