By Tom E. CurranFOXBORO -On Friday night, Tom Brady took the bullet for a first quarter strip sack in Tampa, even though right tackle Marcus Cannon's effort on the play was embarrassing. Monday morning, Brady took the blame again. And Monday afternoon in the Patriots locker room, Brady assured me the offensive and the offensive line would be just fine. That's an assertion one will have to take on faith. Because, while the run blocking has been very good at times, the pass protection on the right edge behind Cannon has been scary for three games. On the left side behind Nate Solder, there's been one "good" performance. There's reason to believe they'll be better in the regular season. The middle-of-the-line shuffling will end. Tight ends may stay in longer to afford extra protection. Brady knows how to get rid of the ball quickly and fight another play. But until they're better...they're not better. It is what it is. Bill Belichick was asked during his Monday press conference whether he felt Brady's been getting hit too often. "You never want to see your quarterback get hit but its a function of a lot of things: not getting rid of the ball, protection, routes, so theres a lot of things come into play," said Belichick. "It needs to be better all the way around. I mean, we havent played very well offensively in any game, with anybody, for any length of time so weve got a lot of work to do."Belichick bristled a bit when asked when he'd settle on a clear-cut group of five linemen. "I would say were probably doing the best we can given the circumstances that we have," he stated. "I dont think all of our offensive linemen have been available. Weve had some guys on the roster that have been in different degrees ofhave worked in different ranges or stages and they havent been totally available for one reason or another. It is what it is."What it's beenwith Cannon is a disappointment. He's been fundamentally weak on someplays and - despite being athletic - his lack of fundamentals has put him in places that leave him looking awkward. There's not a lot of insight forthcoming when Cannon's asked how things are going. "We're all bonding together pretty good," he said." Working together and getting everything figured out.We're just out there doing our jobs to the best of our ability, um...there's uhhh, ya know...ummm...that's it." Yup. That about puts a bow on it.
The Eastern Conference playoff race, seemingly altered by the moves -- and non-moves (hello there, Celtics) -- of some of the contenders, just took another twist.
The Raptors, bolstered by the acquisition of Serge Ibaka and appearing poised to make a run toward the top of the standings after a come-from-behind victory over the Celtics on Friday, were hit with a body blow Monday when it was announced All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry needs surgery on his right wrist and may miss the remainder of the regular season.
ESPN reports Lowry is expected to be sidelined from four to eight weeks. Toronto hopes to have him back for the playoffs.
The Raptors are currently in fourth place in the conference at 35-24, trailing Cleveland (40-17), Boston (38-21) and Washington (34-23). Without Lowry, and facing a rough, six-of-their-next-seven-games-on-the-road stretch, Toronto may stop focusing on catching the Wizards and/or Celtics and focus on holding off Atlanta (32-26) in order to hold onto home-court in the first round.
Lowry, 30, who missed the last two games because of the injury, is averaging a career-best 22.8 points per game. He also is averaging 6.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds.
Another year, another injury concern for Hanley Ramirez. This time, though, it's a bit more complicated.
Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell told the media Monday that Ramirez hadn't played any first base during spring training yet due to discomfort in his right throwing shoulder.
“Well, we’re working through ramping up his throwing program,” Farrell said, via WEEI.com's Rob Bradford. “That has taken a little bit more time than anticipated coming in so we’ve got to kind of take that day to day how much we can increase the intensity with the throwing. He’s just working through some soreness with the throwing.”
As Bradford points out, Ramirez and the Red Sox went through the same process last year. Where it differs this time around is Ramirez's scheduled participation in the World Baseball Classic: He's expected to report to Team Domincan Republic on Friday, which means the Red Sox won't be monitoring his every move on the field (though the two training staffs will be communicating daily, also per Bradford).
Ramirez isn't the only first baseman on the roster, with the Cleveland Indians' Carlos Santana there as well. So will Ramirez be jumping into game action anytime soon?
“I don’t know what I’m going to do. They haven’t told me anything,” Ramirez told WEEI.com “I’m just going to go there and see.”