Neal: Patriots are 'a better team without me'

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Neal: Patriots are 'a better team without me'

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

Stephen Neal, who suffered his first shoulder injury in 2002 and had recurring problems that caused him miss time in all but two of his nine seasons with New England, says deterioration of his shoulders caused him to decide to retire.

"Ive always tried to put the team first in everything Ive done and I think the team will be better without me," Neal said on a conference call today. "Definitely I think this is the time to step down. For my own health and my family, I think this is the best decision."

Neal said he's retiring because of a combination of factors. At age 34, the NFL's current, tumultuous labor situation and personal health concerns pushed the Patriots guard toward putting away the pads.

"The next injury will be significant, if there is another injury -- that kind of scares you a little bit," Neal admitted. "Ive been kind of limited the last four or five years."

"I think we have a great group of guys who can go on and have great success. Its great being on a team with so much young talent. Theres so much potential. You want to try to stick around for as long as you can, but realistically its really not fair to stick around when you cant pull your own weight."

There were plenty of memories to indulge in from almost a decade of gridiron time. Two in particular have stayed with Neal over the years. The first is from his first regular-season start, a 28-10 Patriots loss to Green Bay in 2002.

"I just look at Tom Brady, the returning Super Bowl MVP, sitting there, and he has confidence in each and every one of us in that huddle. Im like, Why should you believe in me? Im just some wrestler who is here, " Neal recalled.

"The confidence he showed in me truly shows the leadership qualities he possesses because you cant do it alone. That moment right there made me feel like this was really happening and the start of something special."

Neal also recalled the surreality of playing in New England's 2005 Super Bowl win over Philadelphia.

As for his future, he plans to go back to where he started as an athlete.

"Id really like to help the sport of wrestling," he said. "It has taught me so much stuff hard work, dedication. And Id love to give back to the sport anyway. I have so much passion in my heart for wrestling that I dont want to see the sport die. I want to see it change the lives of other young athletes the way it changed mine. Thats one thing I want to do right off the bat."

The Patriots wish him well. Coach Bill Belichick lauded Neal in a statement released by the team:

"They don't come any better than Steve Neal. In terms of improvement and development as a player, Steve may have accomplished more than any player I have ever been around. His toughness, intelligence and competitiveness were at rare levels and all contributed to him going from being a champion in an individual sport to being an integral part of championship teams. I congratulate Steve for an incredible career and thank him for everything he did for me personally, our team and organization."

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

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Three weeks removed from his team blowing a 25-point, second-half lead in the Super Bowl, Mohamed Sanu offered a possible explanation for the Atlanta Falcons losing their edge against the Patriots.

Lady Gaga.

More specifically, it was the half-hour-plus halftime show that interrupted the Falcons' rhythm, the receiver said Friday on the NFL Network's "Good Morning Football."

“Usually, halftime is only like 15 minutes, and when you’re not on the field for like an hour, it’s just like going to work out, like a great workout, and you go sit on the couch for an hour and then try to start working out again,” Sanu said.

Sanu was asked if the delay was something you can simulate in practice. 

"It's really the energy [you can't duplicate]," he said. "I don't know if you can simulate something like that. That was my first time experiencing something like that."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick did simulate it. In his Super Bowl practices, he had his team take long breaks in the middle.

Sanu also addressed the Falcons' pass-first play-calling that didn't eat up clock while the Patriots came back.

"The thought [that they weren't running the ball more] crossed your mind, but as a player, you're going to do what the coach [Dan Quinn] wants you to do." Sanu said. "He's called plays like that all the time."


 

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

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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.