Pocket rocket Demps could be weapon

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Pocket rocket Demps could be weapon

FOXBORO - If Jeff Demps wasn't heading to London for the Olympics, he probably would have been a fourth or fifth-round pick back in April, an AFC personnel man told me Friday.

But Demps, who has reached agreement with the Patriots according to his agent, went to London, won a silver medal for the 4x100 team (he didn't race in the final; just the qualifying) and is now resuming his football career.

What do we know?

That the University of Florida product he is breathtakingly fast. Perhaps the fastest player to ever enter the NFL at 100 meters. That he set the world junior record in the 100 in 2008 (10.01). That he only returned 21 kickoffs in four years at Florida. That he is short (5-8) and built like the proverbial brick outhouse (180 pounds). That he's a gadget guy at this point.

"He's a little shrimp but he had a ton of production at Florida," an AFC personnel man told me Friday. "He can maybe be a third running back, a specialist. He can maybe be a fourth wide receiver. You don't know. But he's had production and he's ridiculously fast."

If Demps were in the 2012 draft, he would have projected as a "fourth or fifth-round pick" according to my source. Pro Football Weekly, one of my go-to sources on college prospects, said Demps merited late-round consideration despite the track plans. They agreed he graded as a "middle-round pick on talent alone."

The need for a dedicated kickoff returner in a league that's trying its best to make the play obsolete is questionable. And punt returning is an art that Demps has no background in while at Florida. He's also not known for his hands.

So if the Patriots are going to get bang for having Demps around, they'll need to find a way to make him relevant in the offense.

With the return of Josh McDaniels and the offense's revival of the screen pass, that could be the spot we see Demps in first. Get him the ball on the perimeter and see if he can crease the defense. The mere threat of it would be a distraction.

Currently, the Patriots have their third-down back in Danny Woodhead. They have a fleet of receivers and - candidly - Demps wouldn't pick up what the hell the Patriots are doing in two weeks.

He will - if he sticks - have a specific role. And it will be one that extends beyond kickoff returns. He can fire off the edge on punt block. He can be a gunner on punts and kickoff team.

How things proceed will be interesting. If the Patriots want to get him to their practice squad, they'll need to release him at some point and hope nobody else claims him. Although Demps could pass on being claimed to another team's roster and choose the Patriots practice squad, that's a risk. So if the Patriots don't want to take that risk, they'll have to use a roster spot on him at the end of camp.

The Jets, Bucs and Colts all had interest.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is Rob Gronkowski good to go?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is Rob Gronkowski good to go?

00:43 - Rob Gronkowski says he's ready to go against the Texans. Michael Holley, Tom Giles and Kayce Smith talk about this risks of him playing while injured.

05:47 - Phil A.Perry follows up the Gronk discussion with a deeper breakdown of Gronk’s decision to play this Sunday.

10:02 - David Price appears to be easing back into baseball after pitching Friday night. Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Price’s outing in Cincinnati. 

16:12 - The BST crew recaps the Red Sox win over Reds. Drellich returns to analyze how the pitchers performed and how that will impact the Red Sox postseason stretch.  

Trump says NFL should fire players who kneel during anthem

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Trump says NFL should fire players who kneel during anthem

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — President Donald Trump says National Football League owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem. And he’s encouraging spectators to walk out in protest.

In an extended riff during a freewheeling rally speech in Alabama Friday night, Trump also bemoaned that football games have become less violent.

“They’re ruining the game,” he complained.

Several athletes, including NFL players, have refused to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest of the treatment of blacks by police.

Trump says those players are disrespecting the flag and deserve to lose their jobs.

“That’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,” he said, encouraging owners to act.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ’Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,” Trump said to loud applause.

Trump also predicted that any owner who went through with his encouragement would become “the most popular person in this country” — at least for a week.

Trump, who was in Alabama campaigning for Sen. Luther Strange, also blamed a decline in NFL ratings on the nation’s interest in “yours truly” as well as what he described as a decline in violence in the game.

He said players are being thrown out for aggressive tackles, and it’s “not the same game.”

The NFL has made several efforts to reduce violence in the sport, particularly hits that may cause damage to the head. A July report on 202 former football players found evidence of a debilitating brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them. The league has agreed to pay $1 billion to retired players who claimed it misled them about the concussion dangers of playing football.

During his campaign, Trump often expressed nostalgia for the “old days” — claiming, for example, that protesters at his rallies would have been carried out on stretchers back then. He recently suggested police officers should be rougher with criminals and shouldn’t protect their heads when pushing them into quad cars.

It’s also not the first time he’s raised the kneeling issue. Earlier this year he took credit for the fact that former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the trend of kneeling during the anthem, hadn’t been signed by an NFL team.

Trump said the protest was the top reason NFL viewership had waned this season.

“You know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem,” he said.

Trump encouraged his supporters to pick up and leave the stadium next time they spot a player failing to stand.

“I guarantee things will stop,” he said.

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