A Troy Brown Tribute

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A Troy Brown Tribute

Congratulations to Troy Brown for making the Patriots Hall of Fame.

Not that anyone's surprised by the announcement. Brown's the epitome of everything the Patriots HOF stands for. But now that it's official, the least I can do is take one post to say thank you.

So, in honor of Brown's impending induction, I asked myself: What's your favorite play of Troy Brown's career? And obviously a ton of great options came flowing through my mind.

There was the catch on the last drive of Super Bowl XXXVI that helped set up Varitek's game-winner. There was the blocked field goal a week earlier in the AFC championship against the Steelers. There was the forced fumbled in San Diego to extend the 2006 season (this footage is bad, but the reactions are priceless). There was the overtime bomb on the road against the Dolphins in 2003. For some reason, I also thought about his 68-yard punt return against the 1-15 Panthers in the last game of the 2001 season.

But for all the greatness and memories that Troy Brown delivered over his 15 years in New England, nothing (for me) will ever match a play from very early in his career.

It was December 21, 1996. Week 17. The Patriots stood at 10-5 and had already clinched a playoff berth, but needed a victory over the 6-9 Giants to earn a first round bye and second round home game. Adding to the drama, this was also Bill Parcells first time coaching against the Giants since leaving in 1991 can you imagine the NFL taking so long to schedule that rematch these days?

Anyway, things got off to an awful start, when Drew Bledsoe was called for intentional grounding in the end zone on the Pats first possession (sound diarrheaingly familiar?) and New England went into halftime trailing 22-0.

In the third quarter, an Adam Vinatieri field goal made it 22-3. In the fourth, a Terry Glenn touchdown catch made it 22-10 and Dave Meggett's punt return cut the Giants lead to 22-17.

That was the score with less than four minutes left, when the Pats were faced with a 3rd and 13 at the Giants 43. Then, this happened:

I was sitting at the kitchen table of my parents old house, and remember thinking this was one of the greatest catches I'd ever seen. And at that point, Brown, who was relatively unknown, immediately became one of my favorite Patriots. I bought his jersey the next season and wore it to every game I went to for more than a decade including all three Super Bowl wins. (The jersey was retired after the loss in Arizona).

As for that Giants game, after Brown extended the action, Bledsoe continued to drive the Pats downfield, and with 1:32 left, they faced a fourth and 7 on the 14 yard-line.

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Ahhh, Bledsoe to Coates. The Pats held on for the win, earned a first round bye, (thanks to the Broncos) TWO home playoff games, and moved on to their second Super Bowl berth in franchise history.

They lost, but without Brown's catch you have to wonder if that Super Bowl would have ever happened. Without Troy Brown you have to wonder if any of this would have happened.

He was a lifetime Patriot. A legendary Patriot. And it's hard to imagine anyone more deserving of a spot in the Patriots Hall of Fame.

So, congrats again, Troy. And thanks for everything.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

Rob Gronkowski's contract looked like one of the NFL's best bargains not too long ago. Now, after agreeing to a contract restructure, he could be paid as the top tight end in the league if he stays healthy.

Granted, it's a gargantuan "if."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski's restructured deal will bump his salary for this upcoming season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million should he hit certain statistical thresholds or be named an All-Pro.

Per Schefter, Gronkowski earns $10.75 million if he plays 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or makes 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gains 1,200 yards receiving (once), or is named an All-Pro (three times). 

Those seem like lofty goals for the 28-year-old who's entering his eighth year as a pro. But history shows that if he stays on the field for a full season or thereabouts -- 15 games to be specific -- he'll get to where he wants to be. 

If you take out his rookie year, before he had established himself as a go-to option in the Patriots offense, Gronkowski has played in three seasons during which he's reached at least 15 games. In each of those three seasons, he's been named an All-Pro. In 2011, he hit all three statistical markers. In 2014, he hit one. In 2015, he hit none. 

The lesson? When Gronkowski stays relatively healthy throughout a given season, even if he doesn't reach the astronomical statistical heights he reached in his second year, there's a very good chance he's considered the best tight end in the NFL. 

And if that's the case again in 2017, he'll be paid like the best tight end in the NFL.

To hit the second tier of his restructured deal -- which would pay him $8.75 million, per Schefter -- Gronkowski needs to play 80 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done twice), or make 70 catches (three times), or gain 1,000 receiving yards (three times), or catch 12 touchdowns (twice). 

To hit the third tier of his new deal and get $6.75 million, Gronkowski needs to play 70 percent of the snaps (which he's done four times), or make 60 catches (three times), or gain 800 receiving yards (three times), or score 10 touchdowns (five times). 

According to Spotrac, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks is currently scheduled to be the tight end position's top earner next season at $10 million. Odds are that if Gronkowski avoids disaster and stays on the field, he'll eclipse that.

But the odds of him staying on the field are what they are: He's played in 15 games in four of seven pro seasons. 

The restructured deal seems to be the ultimate incentive for Gronkowski to get healthy and stay that way following last year's season-ending back surgery. If he can, the Patriots will reap the benefits of having the game's most dynamic offensive weapon on the field, and the player will be paid a far cry from what he was scheduled to make when the week began.

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski have restructured the tight end’s contract for the coming season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

The reworked deal can bump Gronkowski’s salary for the 2017 season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million, according to Schefter. 

Gronkowski was limited by injury to just eight games last season. He had 25 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were career lows. 

The 28-year-old is entering his eighth NFL season since being selected by the Pats in the second round of the 2010 draft. He has played played in at least 15 regular-season games in four of his first seven season, though he’s twice played fewer than 10.