Patriots prepare to face Fitzpatrick

Patriots prepare to face Fitzpatrick

By A. Sherrod Blakely Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
FOXBORO A Harvard graduate making a name for himself comes as a shock to uh nobody, really.

But when you're talking about the NFL and its glamorpretty boy position -- quarterback -- it's clear that Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and his Crimson pedigree don't exactly come to mind.

It doesn't matter.

Fitzpatrick's game has said more than enough about his place among this season's quarterbacks.

And although the NFL season is still young, Fitzpatrick's play has been one of the early feel-good stories of the season.

If he has his way, it'll only get better on Sunday when the Bills host the New England Patriots in a battle of AFC East powers -- powers? Buffalo? Sounds weird, I know.

Fitzpatrick, in his sixth season with his third different team, is living the dream, folks.

He comes into Sunday's game with a 7:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, an impressive start that is only matched by some dude named Tom Brady.

Fitzpatrick has completed more than 63 percent of his passes and comes into Sunday's game having led the Bills to scoring drives in all five of their possessions in the second half of their 38-35 come-from-behind win over the Oakland Raiders.

Buffalo's early success has certainly fueled the interest level of those in Fitzpatrick, who threw for 3,000 yards with 23 touchdowns to 15 picks a year ago for the Bills.

Nice numbers, right?

When it came to the Bills, the only numbers that folks really cared about was four -- as in, the number of wins they had all season.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick had seen enough from the 28-year-old last season to know he's a pretty good quarterback.

"He's accurate, he gets rid of the ball quickly and he's smart," Belichick said. "He's doing a good job and so are all the other 10 guys that are out there."

Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty was impressed with Fitzpatrick last season, especially after he put a major scare in the Pats before New England eventually squeaked out a 38-30 win.

"He's better this year, but I felt he made a lot of really good plays last year, too," McCourty said. "I think he's just steady improving his game."

Patriots defensive end Shaun Ellis was with the New York Jets last season, so he, too, is familiar with Fitzpatrick.

Even though the Jets drubbed the Bills 38-14 -- that was the week after New England's eight-point win -- Ellis recalls how Fitzpatrick continued to battle, despite the score getting out of hand.

And like Belichick and McCourty, one of the first words Ellis used to describe Fitzpatrick was, 'smart.'

"He went to Harvard, right?" Ellis said. "So you know he's a pretty smart guy. He understands his offense, his keys, where to go with the ball and they do a great job of getting open, his receivers."

And with a comeback win already under his belt this season, Ellis sees him picking up where he left off a year ago.

"He's one of those quarterbacks, when you're playing against, you know he's going to make a lot of plays. He's heady, tough and he's smart. For us, we have to go in with our game plan, try to execute and make plays."

And with most up-and-coming quarterbacks, there's always the inevitable comparisons.

The way Ellis sees it, Fitzpatrick is an original.

"He has his own style," Ellis said. "With that being said, it's good to have your own style. You're only compared to yourself. With this guy, he's going to compete for 60 minutes, regardless of how the game is going. We have to be ready to fight the whole way."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

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.”