Pace of play key as NFL players return from lockout


Pace of play key as NFL players return from lockout

By Tom E. Curran Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
The suits and briefcases portion of this offseason should end in about 10 days. That will bring on the whistles and shoulder pads stage. And that's when the 2011 season will get very interesting and a possible war of attrition begins. Coaches haven't had hands on their players in nearly five months. Thesmoking desire to cram knowledge, technique and conditioning into men who ensure the coaches' continued employment and professional success can finally be released. But will the players be ready? "It's important that players have the proper time to prepare mentally for what they're about to go into with training camp," former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel saidFriday on WEEI's Big Show."And by that I mean, 'What's expected of them? What plays that are going to be run? What's the packages? What's the installation?' and then go out there and execute it in practice. But I think to just go suit up and throw pads on and go play isgoing tobe a detriment to the players and one that will probably get some guys injured."Consider the various dynamics coaching staffs face once the owner-player battle ends. Physical evaluations: The fact that players could visit team doctors during the lockout will help smooth the return of guys coming back from injuries in 2010. Still, who's gotten stronger? Faster? Who is woefully out of shape and simply won't be suited to be on the field? Scheme tweaks: For the last few months, coaches have had little else to do other than self-scout -- throwing out plays that didn't work or weren't used and installing improvements. How do you get the new stuff in to the established players in this compressed time? How do you get the rookies and new acquisitions versed in every single thing that your team is about? Practice adjustments: Two-a-days as we've known them are going away. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, teams will be allowed a helmet-less, non-contact practice in place of a second full-pads workout. Bill Belichick alters his schedule every year. The past two, he's been heavy with two-a-days and having the players in pads often. That'sprobably been because of the team's relative youth. There's little doubt that Belichick is going to hate having the standard physicality legislated out of camp. Health concerns: Between dehydration, muscle pulls and the inevitable contact injuries, the attrition is going to come early. There's talk of expanded training camp rosters which will give teams more cannon-fodder and allow principal players to take fewer reps. For instance, the Patriots are going to have to add a kicker or two immediately because Stephen Gostkowski -- coming off quad surgery last season -- is not going to be in a position to kick all day long. Time management and delegation: Head coaches who also wear a personnel hat -- like the Patriots -- are going to see their leader splitting his time between free agent negotiation and acquisition, rookie contract progress, assistant coach oversight, scheme implementation, planning, and so on. This could be one of the most challenging seasons ever for coaches. Vrabel said that the move from negotiation to actual football has been a topic discussed. "It's been called it the 'transition phase' into the season," he explained. "You have to have time for a new league year to begin. And with a new league year comes free agency. Then there's a learning process from the players that are on your roster before training camp. There's a lot that goes into it and guys like (Chiefs GM and former Patriots personnel man) Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick that are used to being general managers are going to feel the crunch of this process. But they'll live and they'll be able to survive."Survive? No question. Thrive? It will be fascinating to watch unfold. Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Rob Gronkowski appears to thoroughly enjoy himself at Daytona 500

Rob Gronkowski appears to thoroughly enjoy himself at Daytona 500

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski attended the Dayton 500 in true Gronkowski form.

He appeared to be there promoting Monster Energy drink, and was therefore hanging with the Monster Girls, who were also promoting the drink. Gronkowski's herniated disc injury, which required surgery in December 2016, does not seem to be slowing him down as he gets warmed up for the Summer of Gronk.

During the race coverage on FOX Sports, Gronk delivered a speed limit joke, which is sure to make the 13-year-old in you chuckle. (You can watch it here.)


Curran: It's time to let the air out of Deflategate

Curran: It's time to let the air out of Deflategate

I think it’s time. Time to let the Deflategate wound scab over. Time to exit the active, raging, teeth-gnashing, petition-signing, lawsuit-filing portion of the program and let the hate follow its natural course into a slow-boil loathing.

If you are of Irish descent, you know how it works. Clear a big-ass space on the grudge shelf. Put Roger Goodell, Jeff Pash, Mike Kensil, Troy Vincent, Ryan Grigson, Jim Irsay, every shiv-wielding owner, all the cluck-clucking media and the legion of retired players and exiled GMs from Marshall Faulk to Joey Porter through Marty Hurney and into Bill Polian up there. Turn off light. Leave room.

When you need to piss yourself off -- in traffic, mowing the lawn, waiting for your coffee -- fetch ‘em down, blow the dust off and when you’re in a sufficiently foul mood, return grudge to shelf.

You rode the roller coaster. You’ve been there, done that and have all the T-shirts.

I came to this conclusion a few days ago, when ESPN’s Cari Champion interviewed Rob Gronkowski and asked about Goodell visiting Gillette. It was like playing “Get the Stick!” with a big goofy Lab. Champion threw the leading question, Gronk fetched -- tail-wagging --  and returned with a slobbery response that was completely implausible but still designed to dominate a four-hour news cycle.

"The fans are nuts, they’re wild, and they have the Patriots’ back no matter what,” said Gronkowski. “They have [Tom Brady’s] back. I’m telling you, he won’t get through the highway if the fans saw him. I don’t even think he can even land in the airport in Boston because Patriot fans are the best fans, they’re the most loyal fans. I’m telling you, they might just carry out Roger themselves. They couldn’t even get to the stadium in Foxboro if he landed in Boston."

Gronk’s just doing what he thinks he’s supposed to do. And Champion is, too. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Watch these mooks up in New England get all pissed off: “Hey, hey, Chowderhead . . . Roger Goodell . . . . ”

“F*** that guy, he better never show his face in Foxboro! But I want him to come to Foxboro so I can boo the ever-living s*** out of him and maybe barricade Route 1 like Gronk said we would!”

See? Works every time.

The irony is that the person mainly responsible for turning up the burner on this is Robert Kraft.

In May 2015, Kraft said at the owners meetings in San Francisco, “I don’t want to continue the rhetoric that’s gone on for the last four months. I’m going to accept, reluctantly, what he has given to us, and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric, and we won’t appeal.

“Now, I know that a lot of Patriots fans are going to be disappointed in that decision, but I hope they trust my judgment and know that I really feel at this point in time that taking this off the agenda, this is the best thing for the New England Patriots, our fans, and the NFL, and I hope you all can respect that.”

Well, that blew up like an ACME bomb. And -- from that moment on -- Kraft has tried to recoup the fanbase that believed he sold them out by issuing a succession of calls-to-arms that the region has dutifully responded to.

The most recent was throwing down the gauntlet to Goodell by expressly inviting him to the 2017 season opener.  I mean, it would have been a conversation point anyway, but now it’s metastasized into something that will be discussed throughout the offseason, ratcheting up in early September and hitting a crescendo on opening night.

There is appeal to seeing Goodell squirm while knowing the Maras, Rooneys and Irsays will be sipping highballs and lamenting the caddish treatment of Poor Roger. But I still like the football better.

Conversation about the historic import of SB51, the legacy of Brady and Belichick, prospects for the league in 2017? I’ll take those rather than an ESPN “personality” who spent a weekend in Newburyport at a friend’s wedding telling everyone what the mindset of the New England sports fan is.  

But that’s not what we’re going to get. There will instead be ever-escalating predictions of the terrors Goodell will be subjected to fueled by interviews with tatted-up kids from the mean streets of Marshfield who wanted “Hoodie” fired when he let Revis sign with the Jets.

Unless . . . unless the region en masse decides to let its loathing mature. Mature to the point that when the carrot gets dangled in its collective face it doesn’t leap at it with teeth bared but instead says, “No thanks. Already full.”

Yeah. I don’t think it’s gonna happen either.