Patriots-Giants: What to look for


Patriots-Giants: What to look for

By Tom E. Curran Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Last Saturday in Detroit, the Patriots put up an end-to-end stinker. Thursday night, they have a chance to get that taste of ineffectiveness out of their collective mouth in the team's final preseason game against the Giants. Some things to watch for as New England hosts a Giants team that played just three nights ago against the Jets. END ALL BE ALLThe Patriots have rotated their defensive ends and edge rushers to get a look at the personnel there. Andre Carter appears to have locked down a roster spot. That leaves Mark Anderson and Eric Moore trying to make a play for the other rush-end spot. Both may certainly make it, but Anderson wasn't too solid last week against Detroit. He may need a substantial night to make the team. Jermaine Cunningham, a second-round pick in 2010, is in this mix as well. He hasn't shown much in limited preseason action. SPIKES HIGHLinebacker Brandon Spikes missed the final four games of the 2010 regular season after testing positive for a banned performance-enhancer. He's missed the past two preseason games as well. Given he projects as a starter at one of the linebacker spots, it's vital for him to show he's on point and in shape in this game. RIGHT GUARD ISSUESDan Connolly has missed practice this week with a leg injury suffered against Detroit. After he went down, backup Rich Ohrnberger struggled to hold off Ndamukong Suh. If Connolly, who was limping badly as he left the locker room last Saturday, is going to be down for an extended period, Ohrnberger has to perform much better in front of Tom Brady. START 'EM UP?The Patriots starters played most of the first quarter in last year's preseason finale. With the opener against Miami 11 days away and last week's ineffectiveness still fresh, there's a very good chance Bill Belichick will wheel the starters out on both sides of the ball Thursday night against New York. GOING OUTSIDE?The Patriots' outside receivers - Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch, Taylor Price and Brandon Tate - have seen few balls this preseason. Branch, in fact, hasn't caught any. The Patriots intended to work the ball to the outside last week but the Lions pass rush ruined that plan. It will be interesting to see if the Patriots again try to go outside again this week. SAFETY CHANCEIt appears Brandon Meriweather and Patrick Chung will be your starting safeties. But what about the rest of the rotation now that James Sanders has been released. At first glance, James Ihedigbo playing back there made you realize how solid he must be as a special teamer. Josh Barrett is a player who hasn't really established his role. Sergio Brown has been solid enough to make the release of Sanders possible. We'll see if it's a three-man rotation back there with Chung, Meriweather and Brown or if the Patriots go a little deeper. LEARNING FROM WHO DOESN'T DRESSSometimes, the guys who don't play are the safest ones. The coaching staff doesn't need to see any more from them. That's why we'll be looking at the sidelines and substitutions to see who's on ice for the night. RETURN GAMESCan Julian Edelman supplant Brandon Tate as the top kickoff return guy? Edelman needs more touches. Tate hasn't done much with his chances. Being the primary kickoff and punt return guy - which Edelman may be headed toward - is a significant workload. We'll see what special teams coach Scott O'Brien does for indications of which way he might be leaning.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

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.”