Patriots continue their Week 1 dominance

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Patriots continue their Week 1 dominance

File this under Stats That Mean Nothing: With yesterdays victory in Nashville, the Patriots have won nine straight Week 1 match-ups.

It all started in September of 2004, when Mike Vanderjagt went Scott Norwood at Gillette. The next year, the Pats took down Randy Gene and the Raiders. The year after that, they needed a late-game safety to squeak by the Bills.

In 2007, they destroyed the Jets. In 2008, they beat the Chiefs on an afternoon that defined bittersweet. It was the Bills again in 2009, the Bengals in 2010 and, last year, the Pats jump-started their run to the Super Bowl by embarrassing the Dolphins on Monday Night Football.

Of course, as earlier stated, it really doesnt matter. Around these parts, we know better than to get too hopped up on anything we see in Week 1.

Today, Stevan Ridleys a hero, the kid whos ready to revolutionize the Pats offense. However, one big fumble next week against Arizona, or two weeks from now in Baltimore or at any point over the next few months, and its Panic at the Disco. You can already hear the callers on Felger and Mazz: They cant count on this guy, fellas . . . bring back Sammy Morris!

Today, Wes Welkers the forgotten man. Hes splitting snaps with Julian Edelman. Hes no longer integral to the offense. Over the next five months, his value will diminish so abruptly that hell be begging the Pats to slap him with another franchise tag.

Or, maybe it was just one bad game.

Hell, maybe he wasnt feeling well? Whatever it is, heres a question: Would you bet your next paycheck against Welker having another 100-catch season? Would it absolutely blow your mind if he rips off nine catches for 90 yards and a TD next week? Seriously. If the Pats planned on simply phasing No. 83 out this year, why even franchise him? Dont you think Belichick could have come up with a few better ways to spend 9.5M?

Today, the rag tag offensive line that could do no right in the pre-season and nearly cost Tom Brady his nose in yesterday's first quarter might not be so bad. According to Greg Bedard at the Globe, Brady was only hit three times all game, and was hurried only five times on top of that. Today, the notion that the Pats are screwed without Brian Waters has been replaced by: "Waters? Who needs him!?"

But we all know that it only takes one hit in one game to change the entire narrative. That the entire offensive line is perpetually one play away from being remembered as a failure. Regardless of how unfair that might be.

OK, you get it. When it comes to Week 1 of the NFL season, nothing is real. Its the prologue to an 800-page novel, the opening credits in a four-hour action film and any grand statement made in its aftermath will likely leave you feeling stupid.

At the end of the day, you can only hope for two things:

1. No major injuries.

2. A win and even that's taken with a grain of salt the size of Vince Wilforks belly button.

But of course, it beats the alternative. And for the ninth straight year, the Pats have done just that. Save for 2008, when Brady's injury left all of New England paralyzed by depression, they've emerged from the NFL's opening weekend on the right foot, with no ceiling on what they can achieve. The sky's the limit, and even that feels a little restrictive.

Then again, the jury's still out on how crazy that last line will look come January.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski is a model citizen in the NFL. In fact, the NFL Players Association is advising rookies to be more like Gronk, according to The Boston Globe

The New England Patriots tight end has developed a name for himself on and off the football field. With that attention comes branding. And at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere from May 18 to 20, the NFLPA encouraged rookies to develop their own brand -- much like Gronkowski.

“Some people think he’s just this extension of a frat boy, and that it’s sort of accidental,” Ahmad Nassar said, via The Globe. Nassar is the president of NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA. “And that’s wrong. It’s not accidental, it’s very purposeful. So the message there is, really good branding is where you don’t even feel it. You think, ‘Oh, that’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ Actually, that’s his brand, but it’s so good and so ingrained and so authentic, you don’t even know it’s a brand or think it.”

Gronkowski's "Summer of Gronk" has indirectly become one of his streams of income. The tight end makes appearances for magazines and sponsors. Because of his earnings from branding and endorsements, he didn't touch his NFL salary during the early years of his career.

Gronk was one of three players who were the topics of discussion during the symposium. Dak Prescott and Odell Beckham were also used as examples of players who have been able to generate additional income from endorsements. Beckham, in particular, has been in the spotlight off the football field. He's appeared on the cover of Madden, and just signed a deal with NIke which is reportedly worth $25 million over five years with upwards of $48 million over eight years. His deal, which is a record for an NFL player, will pay him more than his contract with the Giants.

“A lot of people talk to the players about, ‘You should be careful with your money and you should treat your family this way and you should treat your girlfriend or your wife.’ Which is fine. I think that’s valuable,” Nassar said, via The Globe. “But we don’t often give them a chance to answer the question: How do you see yourself as a brand? Because Gronk, Odell, none of those guys accidentally ended up where they are from a branding and marketing standpoint.”

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL


Tom Brady delivered a video message last week at the funeral of Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, a Maine native and former UConn track athlete killed in Somalia on May 5.

Bill Speros of The Boston Herald, in a column this Memorial Day weekend, wrote about Milliken and Brady's message.   

Milliken ran track at Cheverus High School in Falmouth, Maine, and at UConn, where he graduated in 2001. Milliken lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Erin, and two children.  He other Navy SEALs participated in a training exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011 where he met and posed for pictures with Brady.

Speros wrote that at Milliken’s funeral in Virginia Beach, Va., Brady's video offered condolences and thanked Milliken’s family for its sacrifice and spoke of how Milliken was considered a “glue guy” by UConn track coach Greg Roy.

Milliken had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning four Bronze Star Medals and was based in Virginia since 2004.  He was killed in a nighttime firefight with Al-Shabaab militants near Barij, about 40 miles from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. He was 38.

The Pentagon said Milliken was the first American serviceman killed in combat in Somalia since the "Black Hawk Down" battle that killed 18 Americans in 1993. 

In a statement to the Herald, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said: “It was an honor to host Kyle and his team for an exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011. It gave new meaning to the stadium being known as home of the Patriots. We were deeply saddened to hear of Kyle’s death earlier this month.

“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by patriots like Kyle and so many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect our rights as Americans. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt appreciation are extended to the Milliken family and the many families who will be remembering lives lost this Memorial Day weekend.”