Wilfork: Pats know meaning of one-game season

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Wilfork: Pats know meaning of one-game season

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO --@font-face font-family: "Times New Roman";p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; table.MsoNormalTable font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; div.Section1 page: Section1; Vince Wilfork has been giving advice to his younger teammates all season. And now he has the biggest piece of advice of all:

Win or go home.

It's now a one-game season, and every tip he's passed along to his youngerdefensive teammates will have to pay off on Sunday against the New York Jets,or New Englands season will end just as quickly as it ended in last yearsplayoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

"You lose this one, you go home," said Wilforkprior to Thursdays practice at Gillette Stadium. "The emphasis has been,all this time, to just remember what we're here for. If we lose this game, wecan't go back and say, 'Next week we have to get ready for this,' because nextweek would be over. I think everybody understands that.

"When Sunday comes, we have to be ready to play. We've got to expect theirbest. We've got to prepare for everything. Like I said, with it being aone-game season, we're likely to see anything, things that we haven't seen,things that we've seen. We kind of know what they like to do, but on top ofthat, like I said, with it being a one-game season, you never know."

Still, the Patriots are approaching it the same way they've approached everygame this season: not too high, and not too low.

"We make sure we know what we're doing out there," said Wilfork."We make sure we know exactly what's going on. That's the key. If we can'tdo that, we're in trouble. I think you get a lot of people pumped up, morejacked, going through the pregame on game day, so as of right now, I thinkwe're even-keel.

"Right now, we're just relaxed, going through our stuff, making our rightpreparations, getting ready for this game. Come Sunday, I'm pretty sureeveryone is going to be jacked up, but we've got to make sure we controlourselves because we've got to play football games. You can get in troublesometimes like that."

Wilfork said he hasnt looked back at what got them introuble last year, when Ray Rice ran one up the middle for 83 yards and anearly seven-point lead. The Ravens took a 24-0 lead after the first quarter,and finished their 33-14 win over the Pats with 234 total rushing yards andfour rushing touchdowns.

New Englands rush defense has significantly improvedthroughout this season, and Wilfork said that came with more studying, morereps, and most importantly, more players understanding their job.

Early on in the year, our run phase was kind of crazy, said Wilfork. Justseeing guys not understand the defense the way it needed to be played. So, astime went on, we got better and better and better. I think now, were sittingback and can say, Okay, weve gotten better, we have to continue to getbetter. We just cant sit back and say, Oh, were good. I think its justeveryone knowing their role, knowing exactly where they need to be and whenthey need to be there and preparation. I think everything we do can revolvearound preparing. If you prepare well, if you do that, youll be okay.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

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.