Patriots ready for Gabbert in exhibition opener


Patriots ready for Gabbert in exhibition opener

By A. Sherrod Blakely Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn FOXBORO The New England Patriots are playing it cool heading into Thursday's preseason opener against Jacksonville.

But if a puddle of drool forms in front of the Patriot defenders, it probably has something to do with the Jaguars trotting out their top pick in this past spring's draft, quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio has indicated that Gabbert, a player Jacksonville moved up six spots to select, will start against the Patriots.

The team's usual starter, David Garrard, re-aggravated a back injury and will not travel with the team to New England.

While the Jaguars have said they plan to bring Gabbert along slowly, that might change with a strong preseason showing.

"He's got a great skillset in terms of arm and size and speed, those things," Del Rio told reporters. "We think he's got a bright upside. He's got a lot of work to do. He's doing some things now off natural ability."

Even with the kind of skills and talent to justify him being the 10th overall pick in the draft, Gabbert's lack of experience surely makes him an easier target than a more seasoned quarterback.

Regardless of the sport, talent trumps experience most of the time.

But when it comes to quarterback, there are so many nuances to the game that a lack of experience at the most critical position can be major hurdle.

"The only position that I would put that, where experience is really something you have to consider, is quarterback," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "I think all the other positions, of course it's good to have more experience than less, but I think we've seen a lot of players play all those positions . . . there's so much happening at that position, having gone through it from an experience standpoint, playing in games in the NFL with the rules and situations and the way the game is played, having control of a team that a quarterback needs to have, there's a lot to be said for experience at that position."

Maybe so, but Patriot players refuse to take Gabbert -- or any other young quarterback -- for granted.

"Rookie, 15-year vet, it's all the same," said Pats defensive lineman Gerard Warren. "It doesn't matter. It's a quarterback."

Even if a quarterback has no history of success in the NFL, New England safety Patrick Chung tells that you still have to view all signal-callers as a great challenge.

"They wouldn't be in the NFL starting, getting drafted, if they couldn't make good throws," Chung said. "You have to go into the game with the mentality, 'this guy's an all-star, he can make all the throws.' And then, you just play your game."

Chung added, "You never know what can happen."

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

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.”