Curran: Already, Patriots are gaining separation

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Curran: Already, Patriots are gaining separation

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Which teams might actually benefit from the lockout? One of them was on the field at Gillette Stadium Thursday night. And it wasn't the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Patriots beat the bejeesus out of Jacksonville. Of the Pats' presumed 2011 starters, only Aaron Hernandez, Gary Guyton, Patrick Chung and Brandon Meriweather were on the field at the start of the game. Throw in Kyle Arrington, Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham as guys who'll have big roles, and that's 7 regulars out of 22. The Jags played every player but backup quarterback Luke McCown and center John Estes. And they lost by 35. And the Patriots played poorly for most of the first quarter. This is not a league doormat. The Jaguars are a middle-class NFL team, as last season's 8-8 record will attest. Yet, after stopping the Patriots on their first two drives - an Aaron Hernandez fumble ended the first; the second was a three-and-out - New England scored on its next eight possessions. Asked what his biggest concern was after the game, Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio said, "We aren't going to play our backend people that much again this preseason. That is more of a relief than a concern because that was pretty ugly out there at the end."Actually, the final 50 minutes were pretty ugly for the Jags. If the Patriots' backend people are that much better than the Jaguars' - and I will allow the fact rookie Blaine Gabbert was running the Jacksonville show and that counts for something - than what would the starters look like?The point is this: bad or middle-class teams benefit from offseason work. OTAs, minicamps, passing camps and meetings. All are opportunities to coach up the backend guys Del Rio refers to. Without that, those players are left to their own devices. Which, in the case of the Jaguars, appears to have been XBox. The Patriots have an established program with arguably the most talented coach and teacher in the NFL. Bill Belichick stuck the green dot on the back of Dane Fletcher's helmet and the second-year, undrafted player set the defense. He went with a three-man line of Darryl Richard, Kyle Love and Eric Moore. Their defense came up with four sacks, allowed 120 passing yards and held Jacksonville to 3-of-13 on third down. On the offensive line, he went with rookie Nate Solder, Thomas Austin, Rich Ohrnberger, Mark Levoir and Steve Maneri. The Patriots put up 475 yards of offense behind those guys. Belichick's plan is to figure out the bottom of the roster first, then fine tune the starters and regulars in later preseason games. He was notably pleased with the result. "We looked at a lot of people here tonight, a lot of young players," he explained. "That was kind of the idea - to get them in there and let them play - and we let them play against some better people there in the beginning of the game, so we'll get a good evaluation of them."It was far from perfect. Two Hernandez fumbles, one by running back Danny Woodhead, a delay-of-game penalty, a formation penalty, a PAT snap that sailed over the holder's head, some missed tackles early in the game; there will be plenty of teaching points. But the difference between the Patriots' scrubs and a mix of the Jacksonville starters and scrubs was jaw-dropping. Jacksonville looked positively unschooled. In each of the past 13 seasons, the 12-team playoff field has had at least five teams qualify that didn't qualify the year before. I'm not sure you're going to see that kind of turnover this year. Some of the bad teams - the eight that got new head coaches - may be even worse because they haven't had necessary prep time in a new system. And middle-class teams like Jacksonville may not have stable enough situations at positions like quarterback or established programs that often equal success. The lockout hurt everybody. But because of the continuity and organization of the Patriots, it hurt them less. And that was obvious Thursday night. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

Colin Kaepernick will sit through anthem until there's change

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Colin Kaepernick will sit through anthem until there's change

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Defiant, and determined to be a conduit for U.S. change, Colin Kaepernick plans to sit through the national anthem for as long as he feels is appropriate and until he sees significant progress in America - specifically when it comes to race relations.

He knows he could be cut by San Francisco for this stand. Criticized, ostracized, and he'll go it all alone if need be.

The quarterback realizes he might be treated poorly in some road cities, and he's ready for that, too, saying he's not overly concerned about his safety, but "if something happens that's only proving my point."

"I'm going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed," Kaepernick said Sunday at his locker. "To me this is something that has to change. When there's significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it's supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it's supposed to, I'll stand."

Two days after he refused to stand for the "The Star Spangled Banner" before the 49ers' preseason loss to the Packers, Kaepernick insists whatever the consequences, he will know "I did what's right." He said he hasn't heard from the NFL or anyone else about his actions - and it won't matter if he does.

"No one's tried to quiet me and, to be honest, it's not something I'm going to be quiet about," he said. "I'm going to speak the truth when I'm asked about it. This isn't for look. This isn't for publicity or anything like that. This is for people that don't have the voice. And this is for people that are being oppressed and need to have equal opportunities to be successful. To provide for families and not live in poor circumstances."

Letting his hair go au natural and sprinting between drills as usual, Kaepernick took the field Sunday with the 49ers as his stance drew chatter across NFL camps.

He explained his viewpoints to teammates in the morning, some agreeing with his message but not necessarily his method. Some said they know he has offended his countrymen, others didn't even know what he had done.

"Every guy on this team is entitled to their opinion. We're all grown men," linebacker NaVorro Bowman said.

"I agree with what he did, but not in the way he did it," wideout Torrey Smith said. "That's not for me. He has that right. Soldiers have died for his right to do exactly what he did. ... I know he's taken a lot of heat for it. He understands that when you do something like that it does offend a lot of people."

Both Bowman and Smith are African American.

Kaepernick criticized presidential candidates Donald Trump ("openly racist") and Hillary Clinton;" called out police brutality against minorities; and pushed for accountability of public officials.

"You can become a cop in six months and don't have to have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist," Kaepernick said. "That's insane. Someone that's holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protect us."

In college at Nevada, Kaepernick said, police were called one day "because we were the only black people in that neighborhood." Officers entered without knocking and drew guns on him and his teammates and roommates as they were moving their belongings, he said.

He said his stand is not against men and women in the military fighting and losing their lives for Americans' rights and freedoms.

Kaepernick, whose hair had been in cornrows during training camp, sat on the bench during Friday's national anthem at Levi's Stadium. Giants wideout Victor Cruz and Bills coach Rex Ryan said standing for the anthem shows respect.

"There's a lot of things that need to change. One specifically? Police brutality," said Kaepernick, whose adoptive parents are Caucasian. "There's people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable. People are being given paid leave for killing people. That's not right. That's not right by anyone's standards."

On Sunday, he stopped briefly on a side field to talk with Dr. Harry Edwards and they shared a quick embrace before the quarterback grabbed his helmet and took the field. Edwards is a sociologist and African-American activist who helped plan the "Olympic Project for Human Rights" before the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, where U.S. sprinters and medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos bowed their heads through the anthem on the medal podium in their black power protest.

After swirling trade talks all offseason following Kaepernick's three surgeries and sub-par 2015 season, he has done everything so far but play good football - and he doesn't plan for this to be a distraction.

Coach Chip Kelly did not speak to the media Sunday. He said Saturday he still hasn't decided on his starting quarterback in a competition between Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert, who took over the job from Kaepernick last November and has vowed to be the No. 1 again.

Kaepernick hasn't stood for the anthem in any of the team's three preseason games "and I don't see it as going about it the wrong way."

"That's his right as a citizen," Kelly said. "We recognize his right as an individual to choose to participate or not participate in the national anthem."

Now, Kaepernick is prepared for whatever comes next.

"I think there's a lot of consequences that come along with this. There's a lot of people that don't want to have this conversation," he said. "They're scared they might lose their job. Or they might not get the endorsements. They might not to be treated the same way. Those are things I'm prepared to handle. ...

"At this point, I've been blessed to be able to get this far and have the privilege of being able to be in the NFL, making the kind of money I make and enjoy luxuries like that. I can't look in the mirror and see people dying on the street that should have the same opportunities that I've had."