Brady's mother's illness was a weight for him to bear this season

Brady's mother's illness was a weight for him to bear this season

HOUSTON -- Tom Brady’s eyes moistened Monday night when asked who is his hero. “My Dad,” Brady replied.

Asked on Tuesday what elicited that emotion, Brady acknowledged, “It's been a challenging year for my family, just for some personal reasons. It'll just be nice having everyone here watching us this weekend. That's my mom and dad. They've been so supportive my entire life, it's nice to be able to show them . . . to try to make them proud . . . My mom hasn't been to a game this season. My dad has been to [only] one. It's very atypical.”

A Brady family source told me Tuesday that Brady’s mother, Galynn, has been dealing with health issues for the past 18 months. She’s been doing much better recently, but her illness has been a major source of concern for the family, including Tom Brady Sr., and Brady’s sisters, Julie, Maureen and Nancy.

The family is very close. In early 2012, on the Saturday before Super Bowl 46, the team held its walkthrough and took team pictures at Lucas Oil Stadium with their families in attendance. At the end, Brady left the field with the rest of the team. He hadn’t spent much time with his family, it seemed. A few minutes later, he returned to the field in regular clothes and spent another 15 minutes with his parents, sisters and their husbands in a scene that really demonstrated the family’s closeness. It’s a closeness they’ve been able to maintain even as Tom reached the heights of stardom in the NFL and had myriad more pulls on his time and attention.  

Mrs. Brady has been cited through the years as the source of the family’s athletic prowess – all three Brady daughters were outstanding softball players. While the illness curtailed Mrs. Brady’s golf game over the summer, she was able to get back out and play nine holes recently. Back in October, when it was mentioned to Brady that’s he’s not the fastest player on the field, Brady countered that his Mom thinks he’s the fastest player in the NFL

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Brady’s decision to drop further appeals in the Deflategate saga was, in part, informed by his mother’s condition. There were much bigger fish to fry than battling all the way to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Brady was able to spend time with his family during September that he may not have been able to otherwise.

It’s been interesting to watch Brady this season remain very positive and stoic about the “hand he was dealt” by the NFL in Deflategate. The serenity maybe was caused in part by the knowledge that there really were much more important things going on for him than lamenting his own situation in football. Much more important.

 

Rob Gronkowski to Bruins: 'Keep your heads up'

Rob Gronkowski to Bruins: 'Keep your heads up'

Rob Gronkowski tweeted some consolation for the Boston Bruins Sunday.

The Bruins lost, 3-2, to the Ottawa Senators in Game 6 of their playoff series.

The game ended the Bruins' season, as Ottawa advanced to face off against the New York Rangers in the next round.

"Hats off to the @NHLBruins . Played there tails off. Keep your heads up. Playoff hockey is the best," Gronkowski wrote.

The New England Patriots tight end attended the game. He appeared on the NBC Sports broadcast in a box with friends just before the Bruins tied up the game, 2-2, in the third period.

However, the Bruins let up a power play goal from Clarke MacArthur in overtime, which put the Senators past the Bruins.

Prototypical Patriots: Garcia an athletic option at offensive tackle

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Prototypical Patriots: Garcia an athletic option at offensive tackle

No one's clamoring for additions to the Patriots offense in this year's draft class. They had the third-best scoring unit in the NFL last season, and they were fourth-best in the league in terms of yards per game in the regular season. 

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There's not a whole heck of a lot of room for improvement, and most of last year's group is back for another run. With a major upgrade sprinkled in.

The quarterbacks and the starting offensive line seem set to return. The tight ends lost Martellus Bennett but added Dwayne Allen via trade. The running backs lost LeGarrette Blount but added Rex Burkhead and are primed to add Mike Gillislee. The receivers lost Michael Floyd but picked up one of the most explosive receivers in the league with the addition of Brandin Cooks.

On paper, this is among the best supporting casts Tom Brady has ever had. 

When it comes to this year's draft class, then, any picks made on the offensive side of the ball will seem like they're made with an eye toward 2018 and beyond. We covered a series of those types of contingency-plan picks in this week's mock draft, and in the third round we had the Patriots taking a offensive tackle.

The reasoning? With Nate Solder headed into a contract year, and with only LaAdrian Waddle behind Solder and Marcus Cannon as the team's backup tackle, having a high-upside edge-protector added to the mix could prove beneficial. 

So what do the Patriots typically look for at that position? 

Length, for one. Just looking at their last four early-to-mid-round tackles selected -- Solder, Cannon, Cameron Fleming and Sebastian Vollmer -- all measured 6-foot-5 or taller with 33-inch arms or longer. Weight seems to be less of a factor at this spot as the members of the above foursome ranged from 358 pounds (Cannon) to 312 pounds (Vollmer). 

Athleticism matters, too. All four ran sub-5.3-second 40-yard dashes, while Solder and Vollmer ran three-cones in the 7.5-second range. Cannon, Solder and Vollmer each broad-jumped over 107 inches and surpassed the 30-inch mark in the vertical at their respective combines. 

Taking all of those measurements into account, and keeping in mind some of the other factors the Patriots might appreciate -- college level of competition, experience in a diverse offensive scheme, intelligence, toughness -- here are a few of the names of offensive tackles we'll be keeping an eye on next weekend. 

Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin, 6-foot-6, 310 pounds: This was one of the more head-scratching visits made to the Patriots facilities during the pre-draft process. Ramczyk is widely considered a first-round prospect and arguably the top tackle in the draft . . . yet the Patriots aren't scheduled to pick until the third round. One reason for the extra homework done on the former Badger may have been that he was forced to have hip surgery after last season. He wasn't able to test at the combine, but he's considered one of the better athletes at the position in this draft class. 

Taylor Moton, Western Michigan, 6-foot-5, 319 pounds: Some experts have Moton pegged as a guard moving forward but his arm length (34 inches), hand size (10.5 inches) and athleticism (30.5-inch vertical, 109-inch broad jump, 4.58-second three-cone drill) could make him a fit on the outside. Regardless of where he ends up at the NFL level, the Patriots may need a second-round pick in order to have the opportunity to draft him. 

Antonio Garcia, Troy, 6-foot-6, 300 pounds: The Patriots have taken projects at tackle in the past. Vollmer entered college as a 250-pound tight end who eventually made the move to tackle, but even then rarely had his hand on the ground in Houston's pass-happy offense. Garcia may be seen in a similar light as showed great athleticism to mirror pass-rushers in college -- he did not allow a sack in 2016, per Pro Football Focus -- but is still raw as a run-blocker. Athletically he seems to meet New England's requirements with a 5.15 40-yard dash, a 31-inch vertical and a 108-inch broad jump. He visited the Patriots late in the run-up to the draft, and we highlighted him in our most recent mock.

Julie'n Davenport, Bucknell, 6-foot-7, 318 pounds: In what's thought to be a weak draft class at the position, Davenport's long arms (36.5 inches) and agility (7.57 seconds) may get him selected early on Day 3. If the Patriots feel comfortable giving him what amounts to a red-shirt year in order to clean up his technique and get him acclimated to a new level of competition, they may be willing to bite in the fourth or fifth round. 

Roderick Johnson, Florida State, 6-foot-7, 298 pounds: A durable full-time starter since the middle of the 2014 season, Johnson's tremendous length (36-inch arms) and power allowed him to be named a first-team All-ACC selection each of the last two years. The Patriots have long held an affinity for Seminoles who've worked under offensive line coach Rick Trickett (Bryan Stork, Tre' Jackson), and Johnson could be the latest to make his way to Foxboro if he's available in the middle rounds.

Conor McDermott, UCLA, 6-foot-8, 307 pounds: Maybe the ideal candidate to man one of the edges when it comes to his physical profile, McDermott has nearly 35-inch arms and 11-inch hands. He also ran a 5.18-second 40 and clocked standout times in the three-cone drill (7.52 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.58 seconds). He could afford to get stronger, but in an offense where he won't be pressed into action as a rookie unless there's an injury, he could spend his first pro season focusing his time on developing his power.