With Neal stepping down, who's stepping in?

191543.jpg

With Neal stepping down, who's stepping in?

By TomE. Curran
CSNNE.com
Stephen Neal was a nice NFL player. And, given where he started from, he had a tremendous career. But at this point, the shoulders he used to pile-drive wrestling opponents and drive-block defensive tackles just couldn't be asked to do it anymore. So, after 10 seasons and almost as many shoulder surgeries, he's wrapping it up. Nealnever played college football, instead preferring to twist the hell out of opposing heavyweight wrestlers while at Cal State-Bakersfield. He won two NCAA Division I national titles and kicked Brock Lesnar's ass while wrestling in college. The Patriots worked him out in 2001, signed him as a rookie free agent, cut him and then signed him off the Eagles practice squad a few months later. In his first career start, he suffered a season-ending wrist injury. And that was kind of his luck. Maybe he was susceptible to injury because he didn't come of age in the game and wasn't natural at knowing how to engage without hurting himself. Maybe he was just unlucky. But he hasn't played a full 16-game season since 2005 and missed 28 games over the past five years, including the final eight this season. He mulled retirement after last year and came back for one more round. When I spoke to him in December of this year, he told me he was rehabbing with an eye on continuing to play. With Neal due a 3 million salary this year, there's a very good chance the Patriots asked him to jump from their roster before they had to push him. So where's that leave the right guard position? Likely in the hands of Dan Connolly. He stepped in for Neal and played well after Neal went down. Earlier in the season, when Logan Mankins was holding out, Connolly held that left guard position down without event. Mankins is, of course, a wild card. If he doesn't sign his franchise tag, the Patriots will need Connolly and someone else to step up to fill their guard void. Other candidates on the roster include: Thomas Austin, a 6-4, 310-pounder from Clemson the Patriots signed to their practice squad last September. Ryan Wendell, a 6-2, 290-pounder who played right guard in place of Connolly (who was playing in place of Neal) when Connolly got concussed in December. Rich Ohrnberger, a 6-2, 300-pounder the Patriots took in the fourth round in 2009. Guardtackle Nick Kaczur has reportedly been asked to take a salary cut if he wants to stick around. The Boston Herald reported he'd be cut if he didn't agree to do so. If he doesn't get lopped, he's in the mix as well. The Patriots' approach at guard has been all over the board. A first-round pick on one side (Mankins), undrafted guys on the other (Connolly, Wendell, Neal). Baylor's 26-year-old former firefighter Danny Watkins, Georgia's 6-5, 315-pound Clint Boling and Wisconsin's nasty-edged John Moffitt are all possible draft targets for the Patriots if they decide to hire from outside the company. Tom E. Curran canbe reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Tom Brady adds sumo wrestling to offseason training regimen

brady.jpg

Tom Brady adds sumo wrestling to offseason training regimen

Tom Brady's off-the-field workout habits are the subject of serious curiosity for those in New England and beyond. Thanks to Under Armour's Instagram account, followers got a brief glimpse of what Brady does to stay in shape. 

OK. It was more like a glimpse at what he did one day in Tokyo.

@tombrady always fighting for that extra yard. 😂😂 #TBAsiaTour #IWILL

A post shared by Under Armour (@underarmour) on

The video of Brady in the dohyo ring was shot at the Sakaigawa sumo stable in Tokyo on Thursday. According to Kyodo News, leading the training session was ozeki Goeido, who won last year's Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.

"For them to welcome me means very much to me. It's hard to describe in words how special that was," Brady said.

Brady bounced around China before heading to Japan to continue to help promote Under Armour and in particular its "recovery sleepwear" line. He threw a pass on the Great Wall, and he explained that it was his "dream" to play a game on the continent. 

Arigatōgozaimashita 🇯🇵🙏

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

Brady vs Brady #therecanonlybeone 🏆

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

Brady comes in ahead of Rodgers, Ryan, Carr as early favorite for MVP

Brady comes in ahead of Rodgers, Ryan, Carr as early favorite for MVP

According to Bovada, Tom Brady is the favorite to win this year's MVP award. Just as a reminder: He'll be 40 when the season begins. 

Brady was in the running for last season's MVP but he was beaten out for the award by Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Brady said before Super Bowl LI that Ryan deserved to be deemed "most valuable" for his performance in 2016. 

Days later, Brady took home Super Bowl MVP for the fourth time.

Behind Brady (4-to-1 odds) on Bovada's list of MVP favorites for 2017 are Aaron Rodgers (7-to-1), Derek Carr (9-to-1), Dak Prescott, Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson (all 12-to-1). Ryan's odds at repeating as MVP, per Bovada, are 16-to-1. 

Brady has won two regular-season MVP awards over the course of his career (2007, 2010).