NFL lockout hits practice squadders hard

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NFL lockout hits practice squadders hard

By TomE. Curran
CSNNE.com

For a practice squad wideout, Darnell Jenkins did all right in 2010. He made 125,000 -- about 37,000 more than the 88,400 that most practice squad guys around the league are making. But the 28-year-old Patriot, who has shuffled through four different practice squads since coming out of the University of Miami in 2008, is itching to get going. With a wife and three young daughters (soon to be 10, 9 and 4), the uncertainty he faces is far different than the players who have spent even a season or two at the end of an active roster. Mr. Jenkins and family are not exactly well-to-do. "It's very difficult," admitted Jenkins. "It's a good thing I'm not a big spender or anything like that.I tell my family all the time, we have to be careful here. But we put some money away . . .
"But budgeting is very important. I make my money through the season. When the season is here, the money is here. With no season, there's no income."Players that spent 34 weeks on an active roster in 2009 and 2010 are entitled to a 60,000 stipend from the lockout fund the NFLPA set aside. The stipend for practice squad players, however, was a fraction of that. But there are programs in place to help players like Jenkins pay their bills. After a few phone calls and conversations with teammates, Jenkins got himself pointed in the right direction and was able to get some assistance to tide his family over. "I pay for my own training and the bills, andI saved up a good amount of money to make it," he explained. "We knew we would go through this problem soI did my best to save. And I'm a homeboy. Every now and then, you'll see me out getting something to eat if my wife doesn't cook, but other than that, I'm in the house playing Xbox."Only Patriots fans who pay attention to the preseason will remember Jenkins. He actually led the Patriots in receiving yards during the 2010 practice games, catching 6 balls for 145 yards and a score. At 5-10, 198 pounds, he's solidly built and he has excellent speed. He's a good prospect and a good man, which explains why teams remain interested in having him on their practice squads, just an injury away from real relevance. During this offseason, Jenkins has been working out in Foxboro at the training organized by Jerod Mayo. He dutifully runs routes for backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, working at all the receiver spots because he needs to be ready if any one of them opens up. It was a different vibe last week when about 25 more Patriots came to town to work at Boston College in workouts organized by Tom Brady."Brady is more of a coach to us younger guys," said Jenkins. "Brady works at a very fast pace and likes to get the feel of Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Julian Edelman and Brandon Tate and working a lot with them. When we did our camp with Brady, wegot a feeling of what it will be like when we come back from the lockout, but we got a lot of work done with all three quarterbacks (Brady, Hoyer and Jonathan Crompton). Our bond on this team is strong. We have positive leaders and we got a lot of great chemistry."I'm just waiting on the opportunity," said Jenkins. "Me getting older, it makes me just work harder.I feel I'm ready to go and can do anything the team asks me to do. I understand I have to know all the positions because I'm fighting for a spot on the team. I know physically and mentally I'm ready to step in when mynumber is called."Tom E. Curran canbe reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

LeGarrette Blount knows where he wants to be for 2017. Ever since he re-joined the Patriots in 2014 following a short stay in Pittsburgh, the 250-pound back has been very open about how he wants to play out the rest of his career in New England. 

Those feelings haven't changed, even as he faces free-agency after having recorded the best season of his seven-year career.

"I just want to make sure that I go to this free agency with an open mind, knowing that I definitely want to go back to New England," he told NFL Total Access on Monday. "I love it there. I love the culture. I love the players. I've become close with a lot of the guys. Obviously you know how my running back group is.

"We'll cross that bridge whenever we cross it. On that point, I feel great. I'm in amazing shape. I feel like I could play 100 more years if I have to."

Blount finished 2016 with career-highs in attempts (299) yards (1,161) and touchowns (18). His ability to help the Patriots close games in the fourth quarter was notable throughout the course of the season, and he was among the most effective goal-line backs in the league. His 18 rushing scores are a franchise record.

Toward the end of the season, as Dion Lewis worked his way back into the Patriots offense, Blount had his workload cut into, and his fumble in the Super Bowl was a near-catastrophic moment -- his devastated reaction to which was caught expertly by NFL Films. But a big-picture view of Blount's year would reveal that he  posted the most prodictive "big back" season the Patriots have had in more than a decade.

Blount signed a one-year deal with the Patriots last offseason after seeing his 2015 prematurely ended by way of a hip injury. He turned 30 in December.

Garoppolo's mom keeps him apprised of trade rumors: 'She's all over that stuff'

Garoppolo's mom keeps him apprised of trade rumors: 'She's all over that stuff'

Jimmy Garoppolo can't help but hear trade rumors that involve his name. He heard all about them during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Now his mom's keeping him up to date. 

"My mom loves telling me the news updates," Garoppolo told ESPN's Adam Schefter, "so she’s all over that stuff, but it’s been working really well . . . 

"I’m telling you, she could be your assistant. She’s all over the place. Her and my dad on Twitter and stuff like that. I don’t even think they know how to tweet, but they always have something going on . . .

"They know what to hit me with and what to keep quiet. They know me so well that they know what I’d like to hear and what I don’t need to hear. There’s a couple slip-ups here and there, I’m not going to lie to you, but they’re just so excited about it. It’s an exciting time, and they’re loving it."

Garoppolo tried his best to deflect questions about his future as he prepared for Super Bowl LI, but he could only insulate himself so much from those conversations. After six quarters of well-played football, he's chummed the waters for quarterback-starved franchises. As the draft nears, offers are expected to hit the Gillette Stadium offices, and it will be up to Bill Belichick and his staff to determine whether they should part ways with Tom Brady's backup. 

Schefter asked Garoppolo about one team in particular that could be interested: the Chicago Bears. Their general manager Ryan Pace is an Eastern Illinois alum, like Garoppolo, and Garoppolo is a Chicago-area kid. 

"I get asked about [that possibility] all the time from my friends and family back in Chicago," Garoppolo said. "They’re good reporters, my family. But I keep telling them I really don’t know how it would feel until . . . if it was to happen, I wouldn’t know how I’d feel until it did, you know? So it’s kind of one of those things, it’s hard to say right now."

Garoppolo added: "For the most part I am just trying to stay level-headed, trying not to think about it, over think it too much because at the end of the day I am still under contract. It is not my decision if I get traded or if I don’t, so I am just trying to take it all in stride. At the end of the day, you just have to enjoy it. The NFL, it is a hard place to be, hard place to succeed and when you get an opportunity you have to go and take advantage of it."

The idea of getting an opportunity, though, is an enticing one. Before the 2016 season, Garoppolo was very open about how he looked forward to his opportunity to start with Brady suspended for the first four weeks of the season. And with Schefter, he acknowledged that there are times when it's hard not to be impatient when you're the guy behind the guy.

"There’s times," Garoppolo said. "Obviously the kickoff happens and you are ready to roll. The juices get flowing again. You get the adrenaline, the butterflies. It’s football, you have to love the atmosphere . . . 

"We all play the game. We all want to be out there on the field and get an opportunity to play. I guess we will cross that bridge when we get there is probably the best way to put it. We’re competitors at the end of the day. We want to be out there, I want to be out there competing and playing with my teammates.”