Wakeup Call: Looks like Beyonce was lights out at the Super Bowl

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Wakeup Call: Looks like Beyonce was lights out at the Super Bowl

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Monday, February 4.

BASEBALL
Spring training's just around the corner and Dice-K is still job-hunting. But, apparently, the Astros and Mets are interested . .. kind of. (NBC's Hardball Talk)

Hanley Ramirez not doing what the team wants. Go figure. (Hardball Talk)

Evan Longoria's "leg is ready," and so is he. (Hardball Talk)

Torii Hunter certainly landed on his feet -- there are worse places to play than with the defending A.L. champions -- but he still sounds a bit chapped about his departure from the Angels. (Hardball Talk)

After 16 years, Kevin Millwood calls it quits. (Hardball Talk)

Not Brandon Lyon, though. (Hardball Talk)

The Orioles come to their senses. (Hardball Talk)

BOXING
Reports of Muhammad Ali's death are greatly exaggerated. (AP via nbcsports.com)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
As are reports of Louisville's. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
If it's the offseason, it must be police log time. First up: A freshman backup quarterback at Texas. (AP)

Next: Texas A&M defensive lineman Kirby Ennis. (AP)

Not in trouble with the cops, but with the school: Purdue wide receiver O.J. Ross. (AP)

GOLF
Lefty goes wire-to-wire at the Phoenix Open. (AP)

Your other weekend winners: Karrie Webb at the Australian Ladies Masters . . . (AP)

. . . and Stephen Gallacher at the Dubai Desert Classic. (AP)

HOCKEY
The Penguins continue their early season surge, and the Capitals their early season stumble, in Pittsburgh's 6-3 win over Washington. (AP)

But don't worry, Caps: Has Mike Gillis got a deal for you! (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

The miracles of modern medicine: Eight days after his appendectomy, Max Pacioretty leads the Canadiens to their fifth straight home victory. (AP)

Turns out that emotional win in Boston Thursday night was just a mirage for the Sabres. (AP)

PRO BASKETBALL
Erik Spoelstra gets to coach the East in the All-Star Game since the Heat -- thanks to Sunday's victory in Toronto -- compiled the best record in the conference as of the Feb. 3 deadline. (AP)

The Lakers make it five wins in six games -- barely -- by hanging on to beat Detroit. (AP)

Brandon Roy sure sounds like a guy who's calling it a day after this frustrating, injury-plagued season is over. (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

Good news for those who saw Michael Kidd-Gilchrist being carried off the court Saturday night in Houston: He was cleared to fly and traveled to Miami with the rest of the Bobcats. (CSN Houston)

PRO FOOTBALL
When all is said is done, what we'll really remember about Super Bowl XLVII is the lights going out . . . and, apparently, Beyonce's halftime show had something to do with it. (AP)

They sure had a good time with the whole thing on Twitter. (NBC's Off The Bench)

By the time the power failed, the 49ers had pretty much sealed their fate . . . (CSN Bay Area)

. . . though they came back and made a game of it once the lights returned. (CSN Bay Area)

And two of the biggest reasons why? Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. (Our very own Tom E. Curran via CSN Bay Area)

Not so much Randy Gene, a.k.a. The Self-Proclaimed Greatest Receiver Of All Time, as the final memory San Franciscans may have of him is an alligator-arm effort that drew some -- okay, a lot of -- scorn from Bill Romanowski. (CSN Bay Area)

Colin Kaepernick, though, blames himself. (CSN Bay Area)

Others, however, blame the referees . . . (CSN Bay Area)

. . . and Jim Harbaugh is one of them . . . (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

. . . though he seems to have forgotten that the 'Niners benefitted from some non-calls on the road to New Orleans. (Pro Football Talk)

Jim Harbaugh's sorrow took away -- a little -- from John Harbaugh's joy. (AP)

Who had the under on how long the postgame handshake would take? (Yahoo! Sports)

Still think he's not elite? (CSN Baltimore)

Hey, did you know this was Ray Lewis' last game? Yeah, I figured you might have missed it; he was kind of downplaying the whole thing. (CSN Baltimore)

Quite the homecoming for Jacoby Jones, wouldn't you say? (AP)

The whole thing was a throwback to the '70s. (Pro Football Talk)

Though some of the commercials -- particularly that one for godaddy.com -- were strictly new-millenium stuff. (the700level.com via CSN Philly)

If you're in Baltimore this week, clear your calendar for Tuesday. (CSN Baltimore)

So what did you expect him to say? (AP)

Now that it's over and the offseason has begun, look for the 49ers to try and trade Alex Smith. (Pro Football Talk)

Wait. Did anybody actually think Bill Parcells doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame? (CSN Philly)

TENNIS
Sam Querrey comes through in the deciding fifth match to lift the U.S. over Brazil and into the Davis Cup quarterfinals. (AP)

Canada's there, too, thanks to an upset of shorthanded Spain. (AP)

Poor Sloane Stephens: A week after being named to the U.S. Fed Cup, she has to pull out because of a strained abdominal muscle. (AP)

Maria Kirilenko wins the Pattaya Open for her first WTA victory since 2008. (AP)

Curran: Hard to believe Garoppolo's completely untouchable

Curran: Hard to believe Garoppolo's completely untouchable

Months ago, I was told by someone who’d know that it wasn’t a done deal the Patriots would trade Jimmy Garoppolo.

This was after Garoppolo got hurt and Tom Brady was in the midst of his didn’t-miss-a-beat return. At the time, it made all the sense in the world for the team to start listening to overtures. 

And it still does. 

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Despite having it reiterated to me recently that people shouldn’t “expect” Garoppolo to be dealt (and plenty of national media reporting the same thing), I’ve maintained that -- while it may not be likely -- that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. 

A recitation of the reasons why:

-- First, Garoppolo is a backup behind the best quarterback in NFL history who also happens to be one of its most durable. Regardless if he’s pushing 40, even compared to quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton, Brady is a less prone to injury. So the likelihood the team will need to summon Garoppolo to sub for Brady either because of performance or injury is tiny. 

-- Second, value. What good does it have to be in possession of a good player if he never plays? Brady is signed through 2019. The Patriots can control Garoppolo through 2018 if they franchise him, but they’ll have to spend close to $25 million on a one-year deal to do that. And what’s the plan there, spend $25 million to have him watch Brady play at a level Garoppolo still probably won’t be able to approach? When it comes to draft picks, Bill Belichick is like an old guy with a metal detector at the beach. He’ll pocket anything he can find. But he’s not going to flip Garoppolo into possible first-round currency and -- after almost two decades of saving for the future -- just sit on a tradeable asset that may never play?

-- Third, Jacoby Brissett’s ability to play is a helluva lot better demonstrated than Matt Cassel’s, Ryan Mallett’s, Brian Hoyer's and Matt Guttierez's. All those players were the lone backups to Brady at different junctures. The belief the Patriots don’t trust Brissett to back up Brady and need more security is inconsistent with what they’ve done in the past. Further, they seemingly groomed Brissett to be the backup in 2016 in little ways -- bringing him back from IR, taking him on the road when he was on IR. 

Finally, does this actually mean that Garoppolo is somehow the player without a price? Completely untouchable in a way Richard Seymour, Logan Mankins, Jamie Collins and whoever else we want to dredge up as a trade example were? 

So where’s this leave us? 

One of three possibilities. 1) The Patriots do indeed have an asking price and are driving up the market. 2) The Patriots are going to franchise and trade Garoppolo next year. 3) Or they are going to trade Brady before the 2018 season and give the job to Garoppolo. 

If the ultimate plan has even crystallized, it’s not going to be shared. Not now. So instead we need to look for bread crumbs to lead us to the team’s mindset. 

Perhaps the best insight Belichick gave into his approach was in November of 2009 in an interview with Jason Cole. The interview came a couple of months after the Seymour deal. in which the Patriots grabbed a 2011 first-rounder for the former All-Pro. 

“We gave up a significant player and we gained a significant asset,” Belichick told Cole. “There’s a balance of this year and years in the future. Do we consider that? Yes, but in the end you look at the level of compensation and you do it. Had it been for another level of compensation, would we do it? Maybe not. I don’t know. There’s a point where you say yes and a point where you say no and there’s a real fine line in the middle where it really depends on how bad you want to make the trade. It’s like anything else, if you really want to do it, you might take less. If you don’t, it probably would take more.” 

The link is dead so here I lean on Mike Florio of PFT, who aggregated the Cole interview from Yahoo!:

Belichick also said that “probably everybody is available at the right price,” but when Cole pressed him about whether he’d really trade Tom Brady, Belichick acknowledged that he’s building a team around a certain core group of players -- and he wouldn’t trade those guys. As an example of a player he wouldn’t trade, Belichick named linebacker Jerod Mayo, last year’s first-round draft pick.

“Now, is Jerod Mayo available? No, not really,” Belichick said. “But there are certain players who are young that have a certain number of years left on their contract that you want on your team, so you’re really not going to trade them. Those guys are realistically not available, no. But is everybody else available for a certain price on every team? I would say, for the most part, they probably are. Who’s willing to give that? What you want and what someone else is willing to give, that’s usually very different. In this case, it worked.”

Bearing that in mind, and understanding the amount of desperation around the league to find the right quarterback, I still believe there’s a price for Garoppolo. But unless someone pays it, we’ll never know what it is. 
 

Curran: Pats earn their success the hard way

Curran: Pats earn their success the hard way

In the afterglow of Super Bowl 49, Brandon LaFell gave all the insight you need in order to grasp why playing for the Patriots is an acquired taste.

A first-year Patriot in 2014, LaFell recounted a moment with Darrelle Revis, another player the Patriots signed before that season.

"Me and Darrelle were driving home one day in [organized team activities] and they must have worked us to death that day," LaFell recalled. "We said it at the time, 'If we don't win the Super Bowl this year after doing all this work, we're going upstairs to the front office and telling somebody something.' Man, just the way we worked, the way we worked in camp, I believe in this team.”

They grind.

Tuesday night, Revis was released by the Jets after two seasons that leave a smear on an otherwise brilliant career. Revis’ conditioning, effort and off-field decision-making all indicated a guy who -- after earning a ring in New England -- just didn’t give the same number of flocks that he did in 2014 when he chose to subject himself to a one-year, NFL boot camp.

Idle speculation has begun as to whether or not the Patriots might want Revis back. The better question would be whether Revis -- 32 in July -- would want to subject himself to New England.

Consider this: Belichick sent Revis home in October of 2014 for being late to meetings on a Tuesday morning. I don’t know for sure, but I highly doubt Revis had his knuckles rapped like that in his entire career.

The rules, the practices, the conditioning, The Hill, the not-good-enough, gotta-be-better mindset, the need to self-censor for fear of saying something that will get you browbeaten in a team meeting, all of it wears the players down to a nub mentally and physically. There’s no “star system” per se. The best players are subject to the same expectations the undrafted rookies are.

And if there’s pushback, then GTFO. Recent illustrations of that would be Jamie Collins being traded to Cleveland, Alan Branch being put in detention for a week during training camp or Malcolm Butler being kept off the field for OTAs months after sealing the Super Bowl.

Free agency starts in a week and, when players weigh where they will sign, the work environment matters. New England’s stands out as being both the most difficult but also the most professionally -- if not financially -- rewarding destination in the league.

Year after year, players choose to come to play in a program that will be recalled in 50 years the way Lombardi’s Packers are now.

And some players choose to leave because the opportunity dangled elsewhere -- whether it be financial, geographical or atmospheric -- trumps Foxboro.

Donta Hightower is the Patriots most important free agent. He’s been candid about how much the expectations for success in New England weigh on a player mentally and physically. Since 2008, he’s won two BCS National Championships with Nick Saban at Alabama and two Super Bowls with Belichick in New England. He was 17 when he committed to ‘Bama. He’ll be 27 this month. That’s a long time in the grind.

When he signs, wherever he signs, he’ll be choosing where he wants to end his playing career. For Hightower -- for any player -- deciding to play in New England is a lifestyle choice.  

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Why do NFL owners stand so united behind Roger Goodell even though he’s reviled by players, fans and media? He makes them soooo much money. The projected 2017 salary cap numbers came out this week and the $166 million-$169 million estimate is about $25 million higher than two years ago.. And since the yearly cap is a portion of total revenue (with a maximum to the players of 48.5 percent between 2015 and 2020) it stands to reason that if players are in line to make bushels more money, it’s because the owners are bringing in barrels more money.  It’s also worth remembering that, despite the windfall for everyone, the NFL still tried to bilk players out of money by hiding revenues and are in the process of paying back the $120 million they stole thanks to a court ruling just one year ago. 

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So bear that in mind when free agency starts and players with modest resumes sign for dough that dwarfs what elite players got just a couple of years ago. Last year, the Giants signed Janoris Jenkins to a $62 million deal, second in the league in guaranteed money behind only Revis. Collins, exiled to Cleveland by the Patriots with one Pro Bowl to his name, already signed for four years and $50 million and that would no doubt have been even more had he gone to the market. So prepare to have your chin hit your chest when Logan Ryan signs. He’s got the same agents as Jenkins (Neil Schwartz and Jon Feinsod, formerly Revis’ agents as well), he’s 26, he’s one of the three best corners in the free-agent class and he’s probably going to sign a deal that’s easily north of $10 million per season. And that might be light. Ryan has very good ball skills, is physical enough to match up with big receivers, can also play the slot and is a true professional. But he’s not yet been a Pro Bowl-level player and he’s going to get paid what we’ve come to expect All Pro-level players get.

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Which brings us to Gronk. That contract he signed which gave him great security when he was recouping from his string of injuries looks so awful right now. When the Patriots exercised their option on the back end of his contract, it was like signing him to a four-year, $36.51 deal with $10 million guaranteed. Coby Fleener signed a five-year, $36.5 million deal with $18 million guaranteed last year. Gronkowski is better than Fleener. Coming off another back surgery, Gronk isn’t in a position to agitate for having his deal reconfigured but he absolutely has his eye on the tight end market as he indicated in his comments about Martellus Bennett possibly breaking the bank. Gronk will be hoping for the trickledown effect from a player like Bennett. Weird, since it should be the inverse. My hunch is that Bennett won’t get an eye-popping deal but he’ll still decide against returning to New England in 2017. Absence may make the heart grow fonder in some cases but in the NFL, the warm camaraderie of the locker room fades a bit once March comes, visits are being made and offers are being slid across the table.