6 Quick Hits to start your NFL work stoppage

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6 Quick Hits to start your NFL work stoppage

By TomE. Curran
CSNNE.com
Welcome to the NFL Lockout, Day 1. Also known as...Saturday.1. THE OWNERS LOST MEWhen this issue was a speck on the horizon, I understood the owners' collective point. I believed they were right. The salary cap had risen from 84.5 million in 2006 before the CBA was extended to 130 million in 2009 under the new rules. With the cap shooting up like that, I understood the owners' interest in getting back to the table to tweak an agreement they hurried into back in 2006. I was OK with themopting out of the deal in the spring of 2008 - as both sides knew was very likely when the deal was signed -and I was more OK withthem backing outwhen the economy tanked in historic fashion in the fall of 2008. But they lost me in the last month. First, the truly rotten and unethical move to negotiate a TV deal that would pay them during the lockout and allow them to pocket 421 million they didn't have to share with the players if a lockout occurred. Then their evasiveness on exactly why they don't want to open their books. At the Super Bowl Robert Kraft offered up the dubious excuse that he didn't want to have his expenses shared because he didn't want someone telling him he's not paying enough to a marketing guy. Right. The half-assed participation by NFL owners in the negotiating process - deftly detailed by our Quick Slants buddy Mike Silver from Yahoo! - and their insistence on spin over substance has been stomach turning. As Drew Brees asked on Twitter Friday, "Would you trust them?" As a collective group? With their assortment of viper lawyers and mouthpieces and their talents for obfuscation? No.
2. CHECK THE NUMBERSI talked to Pete Kendall on Friday night and expect to talk to him a few more times as this lockout process goes on. The former Jet, Seahawk and Redskin (BC alum and Weymouth native, also)was there every step of the way during negotiations. Three weeks away from his family in Marshfield. That fact alone makes the NFL's claim that the NFLPA intended all along to decertify laughable.A guy like Kendall isn't going to be anyone's prop and he certainly wasn't in DC to make it seemlike he wanted to get it resolved when he knew the intention was decertification. Anyway, after the owners started flapping their arms Friday night about the deal the players walked away from, Kendall said, basically, read the fine print. The owners wanted to roll back the cap to 2007 levels. The Herald's Ian Rapoport posted this image of the NFL's proposal on Twitter. It was provided by NFLPA head De Smith. You'll see the 2011 cap was proposed to be 114 million. And while the paper says the cap in 2009 was 123 million, reports had it closer to 130 million. To get a gauge of how the owners operate, look at the benefits. In 2010, they dropped benefit payments to 15.6 million from 26.1 in 2009. And, with no cap, you can be sure their cap spending was way down as well. In other words, they saved a crapload in salary and benefits in 2010 relative to what they would have spent. And, as it stands now, they save more. 3. LEAVE JAPAN OUT OF ITI cringed every time I heard someone covering or involved with the labor staredown invoke the Japan earthquakeon Friday. Whether it was De Smith's obsequious mention of it as he entered Friday's negotiations or tsk-tsks about that tragedy putting the fight over billions into the proper perspective. Spare the maudlin tripe. It shouldn'ttake an 8.9 earthquake and a tsunami to remind everyone that this labor crapstrom pales in comparison to actual life. Professional football to the owners, the players and the people who cover it is merely a means to an end - and that end should be having the financial wherewithal to live a good and productive life. 4. GLOVES OFF WITH HEATH EVANSBoth the owners and players have been bristling for months about the "millionaires vs. billionaires" line. But efforts to paint themselves as not nearly as affluent as we perceive are a little tiring. On Friday, former Patriot and current Saint Heath Evans - a guy I get along with - went the "Most of us aren't millionaires" route. I disagreed. The gloves came off Twitter style for the next few hours. Then we patched things up. Which is good. If the Patriots re-sign him, I didn't want to have to tear a phone book in half or something and leave him a quivering puddle of terrified fullback in the corner of the locker room. 5. BRADY'S LATEST LEGACYForever more, the legal case the players are bringing against the NFL will be known as "Brady, et al vs. NFL, et al." Whether the future Hall of Fame quarterback ever strides into a courtroom and looks across as Patriots' owner Robert Kraft remains to be seen, but when this case is referred to - and depending how it goes, it may be referenced a lot - the Patriots' quarterback will be forever out front on it. 6. TICKET CRUNCHGot this email today. Hi Tom, I've got the Pats season ticket invoice in with the rest of my bills. Approximately 4700 due on 331. What are the chances of me paying that? ZERO! I'm not going to line Bob and Jonathan's pockets, so they can collect interest during labor strife.
Thanks,Kevin F.I think we're gonna be getting a lot of that. Tom E. Curran canbe reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Malcom Brown already considered a leader for Patriots in second year

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Malcom Brown already considered a leader for Patriots in second year

FOXBORO -- Late last year, Bill Belichick went out of his way to explain just how far then-rookie defensive lineman Malcom Brown had progressed over the course of his first professional season. 

From the sounds of it, the first-round defensive tackle's on-the-field growth was atypical. 

"I think he’s really come on through the season, which isn’t always the case with first-year players," Belichick said on Dec. 30. "It took him a while to get to that point through training camp and the early part of the season, but he’s become much better and more consistent in every phase of the game – running game, passing game, play recognition, communication, adjustments – just everything. It seems like every week he just builds on it.

"He’s really hit a good slope, good incline. He’s worked hard. There is a lot on every rookie’s plate. There’s a lot on his plate as a rookie in the different situations that he plays in and the number of things that we do on the front, so it’s not easy, but he’s improved his techniques, his fundamental play and he’s improved his communication and overall understanding of the multiples that are involved. It’s been good."

Brown finished the year as the Patriots interior defensive lineman with the most snaps played (his 517 snaps trailed only Jabaal Sheard, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich among defensive linemen), and he established himself as a trustworthy option in the team's steady rotation on the interior of its front. 

According to one of Brown's newest teammates, free-agent acquisition Terrance Knighton, Brown is now serving as a leader on the interior of the defensive line. Though he's only in his second season, Brown's understanding of the Patriots defense gives him a leg up on players who may have more experience in the league but are new to New England. 

"Malcom Brown has basically been leading the group," Knighton said after an OTA practice last Thursday. "Being in his second year, he's probably the most experienced guy in it right now as far as this team. I'm picking his brain to see how things are done around here."

 

Knighton acknowledged that once the Patriots have Alan Branch back on the field -- Branch was one of 17 players missing from Thursday's OTA -- they'll get another player with a sound understanding of the defense. But right now, Brown is looked to as a source of information for veterans like Knighton and Markus Kuhn as well as rookie fourth-rounder Vincent Valentine. 

"Young guy, obviously played at a high level last year and you can tell he's feeding off of that," Knighton said of Brown. "He's only continued, from what I've seen on tape to now. That's one of the things I try to talk to about with the young guys is being on the up, and not going up and down in your career. That's something I've been through in my career so I just try to share knowledge and help guys out."

Brown, who turned 22 in February, certainly ended last season "on the up." In the early going this offseason, it seems as though he's on track to continue that trajectory.

Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

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Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

Malcolm Butler was one of many not spotted during OTAs on Thursday when the media got a looksee at one of the practices.

Butler wasn’t the only one. But he did stand out as a missing player who hadn’t (to my knowledge) had a surgery but did have a contract that needs addressing. Another one? Rob Gronkowski. If we really want to extend it out, throw in Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan.

This is the point where it’s important to point out that these workouts are voluntary – VAW-LUN-TERR-EEEE! Players don’t have to be there. Additionally, I’m not even sure Butler or Gronkowski (or Ryan and Harmon) weren’t at the facility. All I know is they weren’t on the field. And, per usual, nobody’s tipping his hand as to why.

But we do have this, relative to Butler. ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote Sunday that he “wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to his contract status.” Reiss said that Butler “told teammates and friends he plans to push for an adjustment to his contract before the 2016 season, and staying off the field in voluntary workouts would be a decision that limits injury risk and also could be viewed as a statement to the organization that he's unhappy with the status quo and/or the movement/specifics of contract talks.”

In the same vein, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gronkowski opted out as well for the same reason, especially since he threw out a tweet that signaled dissatisfaction with his pact in March.

But in terms of a statement, not going to OTAs is more of a throat-clearing than a noisy proclamation.

Not to minimize the move if Butler, Gronkowski or anybody else is actually staying away because of business. The Patriots usually enjoy almost perfect OTA attendance. Also, there hasn’t been much contract strife around here for the past five seasons.

Money matters were an annual issue for the Patriots from about 2003 through 2010. Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Ty Warren, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Randy Moss, Adam Vinatieri, Mike Vrabel and – quietly – Tom Brady all had their contract dances back then. But the only one that got hairy in the recent past was Wes Welker.

It’s still too soon to know if any of these will get contentious. When will we know? When either a player or his agent spouts off. Or, when someone’s a no-show at mandatory minicamp beginning June 7.

That would amount to a shot across the bow. Of all the players likely to take that shot, Butler seems a reasonable bet. His base pay this season is $600K after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2015 that saw him check the opposition’s best wideout on a weekly basis. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year. He deserves longer-term security than he currently has. Gronkowski has a lot less to kick about. He may make less than lesser players, but he also was the league’s highest paid tight end when he was missing scads of games due to injury.

After Butler, Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower would figure to have the strongest cases to want new deals and want them snappy. Ryan and Harmon would be right behind those two. Then Jabaal Sheard.

Sheard, Hightower and Collins were all on the field Thursday. 

Can the Patriots get all these guys reupped? Will they even try? How do they have them prioritized? If the guy who howls loudest gets to the front of the line, the time to make some noise is close.

But we have yet to hear any of these players loud and clear.