Ridley shoulders rushing load

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Ridley shoulders rushing load

FOXBORO -- When the Patriots needed crucial yards on the ground in the second half on Saturday, rookie Stevan Ridley was Bill Belichick's running back of choice.

Ridley finished Saturday's 27-24 win over the Miami Dolphins with a career-high 13 carries. Eleven of those came in the second half. He finished the game with 64 rushing yards. Sixty of those came in the second half.

It marked the second straight week that Ridley led the Patriots in rushing, and had more carries than any other back on the team. Last weekend, Ridley had 11 rushes for 65 yards. And if Saturday showed anything at all, it was that Ridley's speed and improvement has taken carries away from BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, who combined for seven carries and 30 yards on Saturday.

"I think Stevan has run well for us all year," said Belichick after the win. "He had really a couple strong runs today, ran through a couple tackles. There are still a lot of things he could do better, but he made some plays and there are other plays that could have been better. But he runs hard with the ball."

The third-round pick out of LSU has also impressed his offensive linemen.

"He's a great runner," said Donald Thomas, who made his first NFL start since 2009 on Saturday. "Young, energetic, he's going to fight for those yards. And as you saw today, once he gets going, once he gets that little head bobbing, he's trying to get the crowd going, you know he's join got run real good. You've just got to get on your guy, make some guys miss for you. And you saw today, the second half, he showed up.

"There's a reason why he's here. It just says that, when his number's called, he's ready to go. And I think today, he really showed up. He did a great job today.

"Man, that's not the first time," said veteran offensive lineman Brian Waters. "When he's gotten opportunities this season, he's done a really good job. And it doesn't surprise me. There's a reason why they invested a high-quality draft pick in a running back. And he's played some big-time football at LSU. So he knows how to perform. It's just a matter of being consistent with it, and coming back next week and having just the same week of preparation, and being ready to do it again."

So now, the Patriots are getting a better feel for what they have in Ridley. But nobody's ever doubted his talent level. They just hope he continues to improve in his preparation during the week.

"He's definitely improved," said Waters. "But the improvement will come during the week, more than it does on Sunday. I think we all know what type of talent he has on Sunday. But his preparation, as he continues to improve during the week, he's going to be an even better football player."

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.”