Ryan beats Brady for All-Pro honor; Slater gets First-Team nod


Ryan beats Brady for All-Pro honor; Slater gets First-Team nod

Matthew Slater is having himself a nice little week. 

He was honored as the league's Athletes in Action Bart Starr Award winner back on Monday, something that caused Slater's "seasonal allergies" to act up on him during a Patriots Bible study session. Then on Friday it was announced that Slater had earned a First-Team All-Pro nod for his performance throughout the 2016 season. 

It's the first time in Slater's nine-year career that he's been named an All-Pro. The six-time special-teams captain has also been selected to the Pro Bowl six times, including this year. 

Slater is still one of the best in the league when it comes to covering kicks, serving as a gunner on the punt team where he regularly sees multiple blockers as he engages in what he has called "hand-to-hand combat."

There are others in the league who have posted better special-teams numbers than Slater this year -- including Slater's teammate Nate Ebner, who led the league in special-teams tackles -- but he is consistently praised by others in the Patriots locker room for his kicking-game IQ and his ability to draw attention of opposing teams' return units.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan edged Tom Brady for First-Team honors after throwing for 38 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 117.1. Brady finished the year with the best touchdown-to-interception ratio of all time (28-to-2) and a rating of 112.2, but he missed the first four games of the season to serve his Deflategate suspension.

Brady headlined the Second-Team All-Pro offense that also featured Patriots right tackle Marcus Cannon. 

The Patriots defense, which ranked first in the league in points allowed, was well represented on the Second Team. Linebacker Dont'a Hightower, corner Malcolm Butler and safety Devin McCourty were all listed as Second Team honorees.

Ebner, who missed the majority of training camp in order to compete for the U.S Men's Rugby team in the Rio Olympics, also landed on the Second Team for his efforts on special teams.

Steelers show up to training camp with ridiculous cars


Steelers show up to training camp with ridiculous cars

The most annoying logic in sports is the “Look at the silly things this team is doing; that’s why they STINK!” logic.

Let people do what they're going to do. The Texans didn’t lose because they were wearing letterman jackets and the Dolphins haven’t failed to reach the playoffs because T-Pain re-did their fight song. Teams win and lose because of what they do on the field. 

Anyway, the Steelers showed up at training camp in some bonkers vehicles. That’s why they stink. 

This will factor in 0.00 percent to how the Steelers fare this season, but it makes one kind of wish Adalius Thomas was still in the league because maybe he’d have that flying car by now.  

No Patriot more excited to return than Rob Gronkowski


No Patriot more excited to return than Rob Gronkowski

FOXBORO -- The most excitable player on the practice field on Day One of Patriots training camp wasn’t some young kid getting his first taste of the massive crowds at Foxboro for practice, or established veterans like Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks, or even Tom Brady, who lives for this.

The player who was bouncing from first step to last was none other than Rob Gronkowski. 

“I’ve definitely had a longer vacation than a lot of guys,” said Gronkowski. “I’d probably say I was the most eager to get going, to get rolling.”

Gronkowski hasn’t played in a game since he suffered a season-ending injury back in the Week 12 win over the Jets. Back surgery followed and while the imposing tight end has been ahead of schedule the entire time, seeing is believing.

Gronk made a handful of nice grabs, including three in the end zone. All resulted in an exuberant display from the 28-year old.

"It’s football," he said. "Just when you’re feeling good out there and making plays you just want to have fun. That’s the whole game of football. Have fun out there, enjoy it and have competition. Competition is huge. That’s what gets you better. That’s what makes you better as a player. That’s what makes the team better -- competition.”

Running around in shorts and shells is a continuation of a process that saw Gronk work with the team during both OTAs and mini-camp. This weekend, another milestone, practicing in full pads, not that there’s a rush.

“I don’t mind the first two days without pads,” he said. “I’m not going to lie. You wanna get acclimated to football and to the movements and everything. You want to get your body back to it. It’s been a while since you’ve been having competition like that . . . but then after that, you’re ready to roll.”

And when that time comes, Gronk will welcome this defense -- and any other -- taking their shots.

“I always want to take hits. When we put those pads on, I’m going to definitely be ready. I am going to be ready to take hits, ready to play ball.”

He’d better be. Gronk punctuated those scores with spikes and dancing and some other nonsense that will no doubt be filed away by the defensive player. Of course, they can’t light up their own tight end, and who would want to extinguish that passion anyway?

"I don’t even notice know what I did,” he said. “It wasn’t like a real spike, it was just like tossing it to the ground. Juiced up, just trying to make plays out there.”