Patriots have quick turnaround for Chargers


Patriots have quick turnaround for Chargers

By Mary Paoletti Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti
FOXBORO -- The Patriots have a short week going into Sunday's game versus San Diego. And they've got to buckle down quickly; Tom Brady believes he and his teammates will be tested.

"Guys in here are kind of walking around a little stiff, a little tight," he said Wednesday. "But we've got to move on from last week's game and really get working hard on these guys."

The Chargers' 2010 record (9-7) almost had another in the 'W' column, as New England just barely escaped a 17-point fourth-quarter San Diego surge last October. The 23-20 Patriots win wasn't pretty. And, if anything, Brady thinks the opponent has improved since then.

"They were pretty good last year," Brady said. "They lead the league in defense. That was our fewest production of the season when we played them. We had, like, 200 yards of offense 128 net passing, 179 total. Didn't really do well in the red area, didn't run it great -- certainly didn't throw it great. Didn't protect as well as we were capable. We were pretty fortunate last year when we played them. Hopefully we can execute better.

"They've got a good team, they've got a good defense," Brady added. "They've got veterans, they're tough, they're aggressive, they can tackle, they're experienced. They've got a very good offense that can put up points and do it quickly. Special teams are much improved from last seasons. It's one of the best teams in the AFC -- always has been. Got a great quarterback. It's going to be a big challenge for us."

The compliments are thrown wide but not contrived. Brady was sacked four times in San Diego last season, twice by linebacker Antwan Barnes, and once each by tackle Antonio Garay and explosive LB Shaun Phillips. That was Week 7, when Chargers were weighed down by five early losses.

This season is starting better for Norv Turner's club. Last week the Chargers overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to beat Minnesota, 24-17. The game became a grab bag of highlights: Shaun Phillips tipping a screen pass to himself for an interception, 243-pound running back Mike Tolbert rushed for three touchdowns, Mike Scifres scored on his first NFL field goal attempt (40-yards).

Brady saw it all on the tape.

"San Diego is one of the most talented teams in the league every year," he said. "I think they've gotten off to some slow starts the last few years, but it doesn't look like they're starting slow this year. I think that's really been a point of emphasis for them. You can really see it on film. It's an attacking defense. They've got great players at every position."

The Patriots don't look so bad themselves. A Week 1 win in Miami is no small prize and Brady was positive in retrospect. The foundation has been laid, he said, and now there's work to be done. It's time to get back to practice, clean things up and build off of it.

"I thought we got off to a decent start," he said. "I think there was a lot of three-and-outs, we had penalties, we had a turnover. It wasn't a perfect performance by any stretch. I think we were fishing, I think we took advantage of the opportunities that we had, but there were certainly more plays out ther for us to be made. There are some games where you can't make any mistakes and I think that's what we've got to strive toward.

"It's been one week. I know there's not much to go on other than one game, but we're trying to string it together for a very, very long season. We got off to a decent start. I wouldn't say it was our best performance I've ever seen around here. It was one game and now we've got to move on to the next one."

The rebound rate will have to be good; it's a hurry-up week.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade


It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona.