On Tuesday, Patriots personnel chief Nick Caserio uttered one of the great lines of the season. Asked about Chad Ochocinco -- he of the 9 catches and 6 million in compensation -- Caserio said on a conference call, "We're happy with what Chad's done for us. He's probably one of our best practice players."Blink. Blink blink. It's one thing to want to deflect scrutiny and go to bat for a player that the coaching staff and front office is clearly fond of. But this bizarro world insistence that everything's clicking and this is what the Patriots expected a day after Ocho was held catchless and played a grand total of seven snaps is embarrassing. "One of our best practice players..." That's like lauding Jon Lester for shagging flies, praising Glen Davis for rebounding during shootaround. The guy wasn't hired to be a practice player. He was hired to do what Bill Belichick has so often stated is the wide receiver job description. "Get open. Catch the ball."If he was good at doing it, he'd be out there more than seven snaps and he'd have more than nine catches. Patriots' offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, also on a conference call, said, "Ocho's progressing every week. He's done really well in practice and when he's been in games he's produced. Two minute drives at the end of the half. We're happy with where Ocho is."O'Brien and Caserio are sensible guys. They know how goofy it sounds to ask everyone to suspend reality and grade Ocho on some newly-invented curve that makes practice effort and likability prime considerations. O'Brien at least seemed to temper his praise when he said, "Again, guys, we got a lot of guys that contribute. This is a unique place. Some guys in certain games are contributing more than others and at some point in time we'll need everybody to contribute."It's the same "just wait" promise Ocho himself has been making since he got here.Or was making. Now his promises to be endlessly entertaining once he gets the offense downare laughable. He's in a position where he needs to make himself relevant orfind himself out of the league. The Patriots' "trophies for everyone" attitude with Ocho is so counter to what they've been about that -- even though he's about the 40th most important player on the team -- it's compelling to watch. "He goes out there and works hard, practices hard, he's out there on the field, he competes," insisted Caserio. "He's made plays when he's had an opportunity. We're six games in, it's a long season, we're happy that Chad's on the team."Whatever they say.
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.)
Catching up with Rob Gronkowski, who is at his first Daytona 500, and is, of course, hanging with the Monster Girls. pic.twitter.com/KtcfIMLr1n— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) February 26, 2017
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.