The business-vs.-football battle over Mankins


The business-vs.-football battle over Mankins

By Tom E. Curran
On an Indianapolis sidewalk last week, the agent for Logan Mankins said he's never seen a head coach work harder to get a deal done than Bill Belichick has workedon Mankins. So if the head coach and de facto GM is working hard and wants it done, what's the holdup? Has to be somewhere else in the building, right?Frank Bauer, Mankins' agent,hasn't expertly managedhis client's effort to get a new contract, but the landscape in New England right now is a little bit confusing. On one hand, you have Belichick, Tom Brady and most every other person who doesn't wear a suit to the office squarely in support of the decorated left guard. Work ethic, commitment, skill, effort, importance to the team - all are buzzwords we've been hearing since last offseason. On the other hand,there's ownerRobert Kraft. He'ssaying all the right things publicly but the number of times Kraft has felt compelled to either address or inject himself into the public discussion of Mankins indicates a negotiation that's unique during the Belichick Era. Business and football are at loggerheads. Kraft seemed to deny involvement in negotiations on WEEI back in September when he said ownership will "bless" contracts but not embroil itself. If that's the case, this negotiation's been damned. Mankins threw the first public punch, that's for sure. He told Mike Reiss of back in June that ownership was unwilling to do an extension because of CBA uncertainty. He questioned Kraft's principles. A month later, vice chairman Jonathan Kraft told me Mankins "seriously misspoke" when challenging Kraft. In September, it was reported that a deal was close with Mankins until Robert Kraft requested a public apology from the player and that Mankins refused. Kraft took to EEI to deny. He didn't deny asking for the apology, only thata deal was close. "I also said, Logan, it would be nice if that (apology) was made public because Im hoping we do a deal with you and I dont want people to think that the way you do a deal is to say something that is not true or involve ownership," Kraft told 'EEIWhen Mankins reported, Kraft took a little victory lap saying, "Im happy hes with the team," adding, You can't always believe everything you read in the media."At the Super Bowl, Kraft again alleged the media was confusing matters when he said, "Logan Mankins is one of the best players on the team," Kraft said. "I think there has been a little misunderstanding about some things that have been written."When pressed about what was misunderstood, Kraft ignored the question. These oblique references to media misinformation are a little maddening since the Patriots control their ownflow of information. Something's messed up? Well, what is it? Because the guy who's laying it out there most regularly is Frank Bauer. And he paints a picture of a football team and a football coach that wants a certain bearded football player in the fold long term. But he says the business operation is bent on making Mankins grovel. We can debate the seeming propriety of a player turning his nose up to a 10 million franchise tag for a season of play. We can argue whether Mankins deserved to be paid top dollar at his position when he wasn't a free agent based on his talent.All good talk. But what's interesting here is thebehind-the-scenes tug of war (which will inevitably be pooh-poohed) that's exists between football and business.

Patriots sign TE Rob Housler to future contract


Patriots sign TE Rob Housler to future contract

FOXBORO -- The Patriots have signed free-agent tight end Rob Housler to a future contract. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound target last played for the Bears but was released at the end of training camp.

Housler won't be eligible to participate with the Patriots during the postseason, but he will be available for the offseason program and training camp leading up to the 2017 campaign. 

Housler taken in the third round by the Cardinals with the 69th overall selection in 2011. In 65 career games, he has 109 catches for 1,166 yards and one touchdown. 

The Patriots may have been intrigued by Housler's skill set last summer when he caught one pass for 52 yards -- making two Patriots defenders miss in the process -- during a preseason game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots and Bears held joint training camp practices in August that would have given Patriots coaches and scouts a closer look at everything Housler has to offer as a player. 

Housler was one of the better athletes at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2011, running a 4.55-second 40-yard dash (fastest among tight ends), posting a 6.9-second three-cone drill, and recording a 37-inch vertical leap.

Bill Belichick and his staff hit big on a future-contract signing two years ago when a running back with a significant injury history was available to scoop up at the behest of then-assistant to the coaching staff Michael Lombardi. Since then, the Patriots still have never lost with Dion Lewis in uniform. 

Edelman, Bennett marvel at Harrison's longevity


Edelman, Bennett marvel at Harrison's longevity

FOXBORO -- On a daily basis, Patriots players are in the presence of perhaps the best late-30s player to ever lace up cleats. That's why it's noteworthy when those who inhabit the same locker room as Tom Brady marvel at another player playing at a high level despite being one of the oldest in the league. 

That's exactly the case with Steelers linebacker James Harrison, 38, who is the oldest non-quarterback, non-kicker in the NFL. 

Since the Patriots last saw Harrison, he's become an every-down player for Pittsburgh's improving defense, missing just nine total defensive snaps for the Steelers since Week 14. He's saved his best football for the postseason -- three sacks, two quarterback hits and seven quarterback pressures in the last two weeks, per Pro Football Focus -- and the Patriots have noticed.

Julian Edelman, who wears the same Kent State t-shirt to every Patriots practice, raved about his "fellow Flash."

"He’s an unbelievable stud," Edelman said of Harrison, who went undrafted seven years before Edelman was taken in the seventh round. "The guy has been doing it consistently for a long time.

"I’ve been a huge fan of him before I got in the league, and just to see and kind of have an idea where he came from, it’s unbelievable to show how hard he’s worked to get to where he’s got. He’s a large man that is fast, explosive, and if he’s coming my way, it’s going to be a 'get down.' "

While Edelman will do his best to avoid the 6-foot, 242-pounder, Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett will likely be asked to block Harrison at some point. The Steelers defense will move Harrison to different spots at times, but he does much of his work on the outside where Bennett will be situated. 

"Harrison is playing well," Bennett said. "He’s almost as old as my pops, and he’s still playing like a beast out there."