Silvestro taking position change in stride

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Silvestro taking position change in stride

FOXBORO -- Alex Silvestro, defensive end, got the call about his position change in the offseason. After the shock wore off, he figured he should get to work.

"Okay," he had said to himself. "Now I gotta work on tight end things."

Easy, right?

Not even close.

Silvestro last played offense while at Paulsboro High School in New Jersey. Though to recall the fact is almost unfair -- it's not like that experience gave the now 23-year-old any advantage in the NFL.

"It's completely different," he laughed. "That's the thing. I think of things I did in high school and it's just nowhere near this. It's high school!

"I guess you could say I felt like I was starting over. I felt like a rookie again. I came in, tried to learn the system, took the best notes possible, listened to my coach and tried to learn everything he was trying to teach me to do the best I can on the field."

It is, after all, his best shot at making the team.

Silvestro went through Patriots training camp last season at defensive end but got cut. Since then he's been inching his way toward another shot.

New England signed him to the practice squad a few weeks after camp, and he was brought up to the 53-man roster during the week of the Super Bowl. At the time, it was thought Silvestro could add D-line depth in Andre Carter's absence so the Patriots could keep fresh pressure against Eli Manning all night.

But in light of Monday's comments from Nick Caserio's, Silvestro could have provided insurance for someone else. The injured Rob Gronkowski, perhaps?

"Alex worked on both sides of the ball in practice on our practice squad," Caserio explained.

"He was a defensive player but he's tough, he's smart, he's got good size, he's got good playing strength. He actually did a pretty good job for us last year in practice on the scout teams in the tight end role so we thought that it was something that he'd be able to handle."

Though he may be handling the concept, Silvestro still has a long way to go on the field. When asked what the biggest challenge is to the transition, he heaved a sigh, shook his head, and was silent for several moments.

"Honestly, just everything."

Caserio and the rest of the coaching staff knows its a tall order.

"There's so much that goes into that position blocking, receiving, catching, splits, alignments, blocking a certain technique, whether it's a six-technique, whether it's a seven-technique, whether it's a nine-technique," Caserio said. "But you just try to establish your foundation through the spring in training camp and work on those techniques in a real live setting, whether it's in practice or whether it's in the game."

Silvestro went back to Rutgers this offseason and worked out with a group of players there. He practiced 1-on-1s, talked to linemen about blocking, and asked for pointers on technique.

After returning to Foxboro, he met with tight ends coach George Godsey whenever he had questions. Silvestro said he had "tons" of them.

He's committed to not making the same mistakes again and again. And some strides have been taken. Monday was one of his best days of practice. His hands look softer. His routes look a little crisper. Silvestro has made a couple of excellent catches recently, with quarterback Tom Brady getting so excited after a connection Sunday, he pulled his new tight end in a quick hug back at the line.

The focus isn't on a perceived inadequacy or failure at defensive end. Caserio said coaches felt the position change was best for both the player and the team, and Silvestro is okay with that.

"How I took it was just an opportunity. The more I can do, the more valuable I am to the team. Anything that can help us win."

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

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It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona.