Belichick rolls dice repeatedly in 2011 draft

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Belichick rolls dice repeatedly in 2011 draft

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO - The list of 2011 Patriots draft picks needs a parenthetical warning to other NFL coaches at the bottom.

(This draft was conducted by a trained professional with five Super Bowl rings, 10 consecutive seasons finishing in first place and job security equal to the pope. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS WITH YOUR DRAFT.)

On Friday and Saturday, Bill Belichick drafted a promising cornerback who hasn't been able to stay healthy, a promising quarterback with significant off-field concerns, a promising offensive lineman withcancer and prospects in the sixth and seventh rounds that left armchair draft watchers scrambling to identify.

Belichick put his chips on all the numbers every one else chose to stay away from and now he'll let the wheel spin. And ifwhen he hits onone or two of them, it was all worth it.

Belichick, his personnel people and scouting staff are able to take not just a chance or two in a draft. They can take multiple chances. The reason? They are good at this time of year. And they are even better when the games start as the 2010 season showed when - despite a young and often porous defense and an offense being reshaped on the fly - they went 14-2 and blew out a significant number of opponents.

After closing Friday by taking the radioactive Ryan Mallett, Belichick came back with his first pick on Saturday and took Marcus Cannon, a player who began treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma on Thursday.

"A lot of players have medical situations going into the draft and each one is different," Belichick said when asked if he'd ever made a draft decision quite like the one he did with Cannon. "Each of us is unique and not everybodys injury is the same or does it heal at the same rate or the same way. Guys play different positions with similar injuries, so forth and so on. We could drop up examples ad nauseam, but the bottom line is you have a situation, you evaluate it and you make a decision on it.

"Whether you decide to take that player or you decide to pass on that player, then you make the decision at that time based on all the information that you have," he continued. "Some of those decisions end up being right; some of them dont. Thats the way the process works. We did what we thought was right at that point. Well see how it works out."

There's a lot to admire about the selection of Cannon.

From a football standpoint, he's a 358-pound guard regarded as a top-50 pick until a biopsy this spring revealed his malady. So viewing it from a "football value" standpoint, getting a player like that at 139 is a bargain, especially if Cannon returns to full strength and the lymphoma is cured.

From a human standpoint, well, it shows some compassion as well. Here's a young man that wasn't only dealing with a serious illness but the reality that a professional dream he'd worked toward was slipping away.

Belichick would certainly be uncomfortable being canonized for picking Cannon for that reason. But still.

And the fact that another player who battled and beat back cancer - Boston College's Mark Herzlich - went undrafted despite being theACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 and playing at a decent level in 2010 makes the selection of Cannon seem that much more empathetic on the part of the Patriots.

There are a lot of unknowns in Cannon's future. The Patriots are willing to live with them.

The Patriots are willing to live with some risk, and that's not unique to Cannon. They are doing so with second-round pick Ras-I Dowling, a player who's been dogged by injuries. And they are doing so with Mallett. They've taken on a lot of question marks.

How, I asked Belichick, does he weigh the risk against the reward? At what point do the two match up?

"Historically, you can certainly look back at previous drafts and find somewhat comparable situations players coming off ACL injuries or players that missed the season the previous year and get an idea, maybe, of what the discount is on those players or players that have other issues that are somewhat similar," he explained. "Does that mean that somebody couldnt go away from that? Of course they could. Some players are off the board; Other players are in play on the exact same issue. Its just a question of what each team thinks.

"They have to make their own individual decision on that. I think you kind of get a sense of what the league-wide opinion on a player is and we certainly use that, although its very subjective," he continued. "Its no exact science . . . One team can do whatever they want to do. We see that. We saw it again over the last three days. Teams make picks that probably none of us expected, but based on what they want to do, they did it."

The Patriots wanted to roll the dice in 2011. They did. If they hit on all, some or none, Belichick isn't going to look back in anguish at what he should have done.

Belichick's father, Steve, once told me, "He's a very decisive person. When he's made a decision, he doesn't spend time second-guessing it."

There'snodoubtBelichick relishes doing things unconventionally. Whether that means running a defense with no defensive linemen, dressing like a hobo on the sidelines or taking players that other teams wouldn't touch with a 30-foot pole, if he believes it's the right thing to do, he does it.

Bill Belichick thought he could take on a ton of risk in the 2011 draft. And he did so. You and I might look back and cluck-cluck about mistakes made if they don't pan out.

He won't.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Brady says he hopes to play Thursday night vs. Giants

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Brady says he hopes to play Thursday night vs. Giants

FOXBORO -- All last week, leading up to the preseason game between the Patriots and the Panthers, sports talk radio (and television) debate raged: Should Tom Brady play? 

On one side of the argument were those who believed Jimmy Garoppolo should receive every last game rep as he prepares to be the starter for the first four weeks of the regular season. On the other side were those who believed Brady needed work at some point between New England's AFC title game loss to the Broncos and this season's Week 5 matchup with the Browns. 

Now we know how Bill Belichick and the Patriots felt: Brady played four series, completing three of his nine attempts, including one 33-yard touchdown to Chris Hogan.

But now, one week later, the debate may resurface. Brady has taken preseason game snaps. That can be checked off of the to-do list. Should he play again, though? If the goal is to keep him as sharp as possible for Cleveland, should he see time against the Giants?

He hopes to. 

"I mean, [it's] always up to coach Belichick," Brady said during a press conference on Tuesday. "I wish I'd play every game. I love playing. I love playing in practice. I love playing in preseason games, regular season games, postseason games. I love thinking about football. It's just the way it is. That part, I think, would be very challenging watching those games in September, but I'll find ways to preoccupy my mind."

Brady alluded to the fact that he had to make the most of every repetition he has with the team before his four-game ban kicks in. Whether those repetitions come in practice -- Tuesday's practice will be his last with the Patriots -- or on Thursday night, they all carry importance in his eyes.

"I've got a good day of practice [Tuesday]," Brady said. "I've tried to look at all these days of practice as ways to get better. I have access to the fields, and throwing to my receivers. [I] try to use those days the best that I can, just like I always would. I got another, hopefully, opportunity to play on Thursday night, be with the team Friday, and then try to do the best that I can over the next month."

If the team decides that it is within its best interest to play Brady against the Giants, the question would then become when? Because the fourth preseason game is typically a last chance for fringe players to make their cases for roster spots, if Brady were to play late in the game, he may be playing behind players who might not be on the team soon thereafter. If he starts, it takes away an opportunity for either Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett to make a start on the road and work against what will likely be more talented defensive players. 

It may be a difficult call, something that Belichick alluded to earlier this week. 

"I’m sure," Belichick said, "you could bring up a lot of ‘If we did this, if we did that,’ those would all be good, and they would be, and we do that in the staff meeting. ‘We’d like to do this, we’d like to do that,’ OK, but what’s most important? What is at the top of the list? Or, how can we maybe do two or three things if we do take a certain approach? So, that’s what we try to figure out, so we’ll see."

Brady on Garoppolo: ‘I love being with Jimmy’

Brady on Garoppolo: ‘I love being with Jimmy’

FOXBORO – Tom Brady offered strong support of Jimmy Garoppolo on Tuesday. In probably his last press conference until after his four-game Deflategate suspension, Brady was asked if his relationship with his backup is at all similar to Brady’s relationship to Drew Bledsoe back in 2000 and 2001, which Brady said was very much a mentoring atmosphere.

“I have no idea. We’re totally on different ends of the spectrum,” said Brady, referring to Garoppolo. “I love being with Jimmy. I’ve enjoyed every day that we’ve spent with him. I wish him the very best, obviously. For our team. For [him]. When you see people that it means a lot to, you always want them to succeed as well. It will be tough to watch but I will be excited to watch and excited to learn. And hopefully when I come back in October I’ll be a better player than I am today.”

The Brady-Garoppolo dynamic has deserved close observation in recent weeks because it gives fascinating insight into how the greatest quarterback of his generation deals with his own football mortality.

The four-game sabbatical is temporary. But Brady’s distress last week after missing the Bears game, saying he “only had so many games left” to play, his discomfort with not being able to physically lead the team that day and the unbridled practice intensity he’s shown (25-for-25 on a Friday in an intrasquad scrimmage), plus his apparent impatience to get into the damn game last week against Carolina all combined to show just how hard this is for Brady.

It’s not necessarily even about Garoppolo. It’s about someone other than Brady squatting in Brady’s huddle and leading his offense. So it was good that Brady articulated his support of Garoppolo both as a person and as a player.

Brady can be both beside himself about Garoppolo playing quarterback instead of him and still like the kid and hope for the best. Ignoring the former with “all is well” blinders on is missing out an opportunity to observe the mindset of one of the NFL’s all-time greatest players and what exactly made him great.

 

 

 

Brady mum on suspension plans: 'I don't want to give away all my secrets'

Brady mum on suspension plans: 'I don't want to give away all my secrets'

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady's smile at the Gillette Stadium podium belied his reluctance to divulge any information about his plans for his four-week suspension. He was, in essence, the feline pleasantly digesting the canary that the NFL had shoved down his throat.

Brady won't be allowed at the Patriots facilities, and he won't be allowed to be in contact with teammates or coaches for football-related matters. On Tuesday, in what will likely be his final meeting with reporters until after his suspension, Brady was asked what he'll do during his time away in order to remain sharp. 

"We'll see," he said.

Would he plan on staying in the area?

"We'll see," he repeated.

OK, well, did he plan on telling members of the media exactly what he planned on doing?

"No," Brady said. "I don't. In case anyone else is in this situation in the future, I don't want to give away all my secrets."

Brady will gladly share his thoughts on his nutrition plan and deliver it to your doorstep for a couple hundred bucks, but workouts like the ones he performs on his own in the offseason -- or the ones he'll take on for most of September -- he generally keeps close to the vest. 

Brady's business partner and friend Alex Guerrero, who along with Brady runs the TB12 Performance Center at Patriot Place, will be able to work with Brady during his time off. Guerrero is often on the Patriots sidelines or in the Patriots locker room, but he is not a team employee, meaning time with him would not violate the terms of Brady's suspension, an NFL spokesperson told CSN's Mike Giardi.

"That's nice of them," Brady said sarcastically. 

"We've been working together for over 12 years now," Brady added. "He's one of my best friends. We'll do what we always do. Work. We'll use all these days in the best way that's possible to stay prepared and stay sharp. I have ideas that I need to do. Based on the practices that we've had and the limited playing time that I've had. My goal is to come back and be the best I can be. Just like every other year. Just like every offseason, I'm gonna do the best I can do over these next however many days, 30 days or so, to do the same thing. 

"I've got a good day of practice. I've tried to look at all these days of practice as ways to get better. I have access to the fields, and throwing to my receivers. Try to use those days the best that I can, just like I always would. I got another hopefully opportunity to play on Thursday night, be with the team Friday, and then try to do the best that I can over the next month."

His plans for the next month, however, will remain secret for now.