O'Brien talks of 'professional' relationship with Brady

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O'Brien talks of 'professional' relationship with Brady

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Bill O'Brien doesn't know anything about the house under construction in Cali, how things went in Rio or why Tom Brady shaves his armpits. The relationship between O'Brien, the Patriots' offensive coordinator, and the future Hall of Fame quarterback is about the business of football. Asked Saturday afternoon how the two men get on, O'Brien said, "I'm going into my fifth year here. It's a good relationship. It's a professional relationship. It's a relationship (where) there's a lot of communication. It's all football. We talk all the time. I think there's a lot of trust and -- again -- you're talking about a guy that works really hard, it's important to him. (He's) a prideful guy so there's just a bunch of trust there and good communication and I think it's been a good relationship."It has. After a somewhat rocky 2009 when O'Brien was in his first year as OC after Josh McDaniels left and Brady was coming back from a blown left knee, 2010 was brilliant for both guys. The Patriots led the NFL in scoring and Brady was the league's first unanimous MVP. O'Brien pulled the levers on an offense that incorporated three new tight ends (two of them rookies), two undrafted running backs and a returning wideout (Deion Branch) that took over for another future Hall of Famer (Randy Moss). O'Brien didn't hold the OC title though. He was just the "de facto." Now he gets to put it on his business card if he wants. But he doesn't want. "We have a really strong staff as a whole that works very well together," said O'Brien in explaining that the title really means nothing. "We're all in it together, we each have different roles. I'm the guy that collects the paper and puts it in the right stack. It's a collaborative effort."With this compressed camp and another new wide receiver -- Chad Ochocinco -- to roll into the offense, O'Brien's got a plateful. Fortunately for the Patriots, their new OC (same as the old OC) has shown he can get it all covered.

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

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

Rob Gronkowski's contract looked like one of the NFL's best bargains not too long ago. Now, after agreeing to a contract restructure, he could be paid as the top tight end in the league if he stays healthy.

Granted, it's a gargantuan "if."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski's restructured deal will bump his salary for this upcoming season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million should he hit certain statistical thresholds or be named an All-Pro.

Per Schefter, Gronkowski earns $10.75 million if he plays 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or makes 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gains 1,200 yards receiving (once), or is named an All-Pro (three times). 

Those seem like lofty goals for the 28-year-old who's entering his eighth year as a pro. But history shows that if he stays on the field for a full season or thereabouts -- 15 games to be specific -- he'll get to where he wants to be. 

If you take out his rookie year, before he had established himself as a go-to option in the Patriots offense, Gronkowski has played in three seasons during which he's reached at least 15 games. In each of those three seasons, he's been named an All-Pro. In 2011, he hit all three statistical markers. In 2014, he hit one. In 2015, he hit none. 

The lesson? When Gronkowski stays relatively healthy throughout a given season, even if he doesn't reach the astronomical statistical heights he reached in his second year, there's a very good chance he's considered the best tight end in the NFL. 

And if that's the case again in 2017, he'll be paid like the best tight end in the NFL.

To hit the second tier of his restructured deal -- which would pay him $8.75 million, per Schefter -- Gronkowski needs to play 80 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done twice), or make 70 catches (three times), or gain 1,000 receiving yards (three times), or catch 12 touchdowns (twice). 

To hit the third tier of his new deal and get $6.75 million, Gronkowski needs to play 70 percent of the snaps (which he's done four times), or make 60 catches (three times), or gain 800 receiving yards (three times), or score 10 touchdowns (five times). 

According to Spotrac, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks is currently scheduled to be the tight end position's top earner next season at $10 million. Odds are that if Gronkowski avoids disaster and stays on the field, he'll eclipse that.

But the odds of him staying on the field are what they are: He's played in 15 games in four of seven pro seasons. 

The restructured deal seems to be the ultimate incentive for Gronkowski to get healthy and stay that way following last year's season-ending back surgery. If he can, the Patriots will reap the benefits of having the game's most dynamic offensive weapon on the field, and the player will be paid a far cry from what he was scheduled to make when the week began.