Curran: Brady shocks 'Fins, awes Patriots

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Curran: Brady shocks 'Fins, awes Patriots

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
MIAMI - They ran them out of the gym. The belief (and I was one who held it) that the Patriots might be left gasping in the sticky air of South Florida Monday night was laughable by the end of New England's 38-24 win over the Dolphins. Instead of the Patriots being doubled over, it was the Dolphins. Exposed low by an up-tempo New England offense and the best quarterback of this generation, Miami wilted. And they were moving on. Veteran Miami linebacker Jason Taylor, being reminded one time too many about Brady throwing for 516 yards, finally said, "He hung 500 yards. Who gives a damn? There's next week. If you want to write a story about Tom Brady throwing for 500 yards, feel free. Congrats. He did a great job. We lost the game and we play again Sunday."The total was eye-popping and aided in large part by the 99-yard catch-and-run to Wes Welker in the fourth quarter. More impressive was the way the New England offense just kept crashing on the Dolphins in wave after wave. "Its a fine line between putting pressure on the defense and playing out of control," said Brady. "I thought at times we did both, and you never really want to play out of control on offense.It was a good pace at times, gave them some problems, and other times they adjusted to it."Asked how much he enjoys going quickly, Brady answered, "I enjoy scoring points. Whatever the hell we need to do to score points, thats what I enjoy doing. Sometimes we go fast, sometimes we go slow, its just a matter of what the point at the drive is, how were trying to execute, and ultimately trying to get the ball in the end zone."They did that seven times -- four times on passes from Brady. He made use of everybody except Chad Ochocinco, who had had one catch for 14 yards. Brady hit eight different receivers on the night and completed 28 to Wes Welker, Deion Branch and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. By the end, the Dolphins rising corner tandem of Vontae Davis and Sean Smith was cramping up. "That was phenomenal and there are plenty of things we can still get better on and that's kind of scary," said veteran guard Brian Waters who signed with the team late in the preseason. "The pace is just hard to keep up with for anybody, I don't care how good you are. The pace is hard for anybody."Brady wasn't interested in doing a victory lap or accepting bouquets after the win. There were plays that didn't look smooth, throws missed, choppy periods. His demeanor wasn't lost on Waters. "He's a great one. The fact that even at the end of the game, he was saying how it could have been better, that's phenomenal and that's a challenge for the rest of us, really," said Waters. "It makes you always concentrate on getting better and getting your job up."He is the reigning MVP coming off a 36-touchdown, four-pick season. The other time he won the MVP award in 2007, he threw 50 touchdown passes. Now add a 516-yard performance in the 2011 opener to his list. This is Bird. This is Teddy Ballgame. This is history, ladies and gentlemen. Said Matt Slater, who caught a 46-yard post from Brady in the first quarter, "I'm just happy to be a part of this effort tonight and part of this record-setting offense with this man tonight. He never ceases to amaze me. But the thing about him is he never gets complacent. He always is hungry to get better and that helps our team. We look to him and he sets the bar so high, even with a night like tonight where he goes for over 500 yards he's not like satisfied. He just says, 'All right, what do we got next week.' Just the way he approaches the game as a professional and I've learned a lot."It's astounding that this player who in the first portion of his career was the ultimate game-manager and clutch player, has now become one of the most prolific and efficient passers the game has seen. Enjoy the ride. And get yourself some oxygen. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

Slater missing from start of Patriots practice

Slater missing from start of Patriots practice

FOXBORO -- The Patriots were without two key members of their special teams units at Friday's practice. 

Both Matthew Slater (foot) and Jordan Richards (knee) were not spotted at the start of the team's most recent workout. Defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton (illness) was also missing. 

Hamilton and Richards did not participate in Thursday's practice. Slater was present on Wednesday and Thursday after missing Sunday's game against the Jets. 

The Patriots did have a Gronkowski back on the field Friday, but it wasn't Rob, who was expected to undergo back surgery in Los Angeles. It was fullback Glenn Gronkowski, who has apparently been re-signed to the Patriots practice squad for his fourth go-round on New England's 10-man unit. Practice-squad tight end Kennard Backman, who has not been at Patriots practice since Wednesday, has likely been released in order to make room for Gronkowski. 

 

Curran: Patriots holding all the cards with Gronkowski contract

Curran: Patriots holding all the cards with Gronkowski contract

FOXBORO – If the Patriots ever do file for divorce from Rob Gronkowski, it’s not going to be because they don’t like what they are paying him.

When the team picked up the $10 million option on Gronk’s contract in March, activating the back half of his six-year, $54M contract, the Patriots got the upper hand business-wise.

Gronk is signed through the 2019 season – same as Tom Brady. His salaries from 2017 to 2019 are $4.25M, $8M and $9M. His cap hits are $7M, $11M and $12M.

The salary cap for 2016 is $153M. Between now and 2019, it could balloon to more than $170M. 

Gronk fits neatly under it. The franchise tag for tight ends in 2016 was $9M. Gronk is on the books to play for less than half of that in salary in 2017.

That explains why Gronk sent that tweet back in March,  passive aggressively kicking rocks about the “pay cut” he took when the Patriots picked up his option. And it’s why, throughout the summer, his agent Drew Rosenhaus was trying to get the Patriots to the table to work out a new deal for his client.

This back injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for Gronkowski business-wise.

Even if the Patriots tore up the final three years of the deal and gave him a new contract without knowing how he’ll come out of this latest back surgery, the new deal would have to be performance-based and loaded with playing-time clauses.

In that case, as opposed to self-preservation to ensure he can walk fairly well at 50, Gronk, now 27, may feel compelled to play even when he’s not “right.” And, if he’s playing while less than 100 percent, will he be able to play with the abandon that made him the transcendent player he’s been?

That’s if Gronkowski and his Gronktourage would even agree to that kind of a contract, which I’m not sure they would.

They will want security. They may also feel they are owed security because of the physical sacrifices Gronk has made in his seven-year career. And that’s not even taking into consideration the windfall the franchise has realized both financially and in public perception because an inimitable player has been on their roster for seven years. The team should expect a request that they relax their generally hard-line bargaining

While the Patriots have had a strong relationship with Gronk’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, this contract is – on face value – embarrassing for Rosenhaus at this point.

That Gronk “won” for the first portion of the contract isn’t going to be recalled. But he did win. Gronk signed the deal on June 8, 2012. Within months, he fractured his arm on a PAT attempt against the Colts. Then – after having a plate inserted – he broke it again in the playoffs right where the plate ended. An infection ensued. Gronk also had back surgery that offseason. He very slowly returned to action in 2013, missing the first six games. He returned for Week 7, caught 39 balls for 592 yards over the next seven games, then had his season ended by an ACL blowout.

At that juncture, the security of the contract was a godsend. But the way those two years went – the rushing back to the field, the plate insertion, the infection – has shaped the entire relationship with the team since.  

And considering Gronk’s father, Gordie, was a successful businessman himself and sent four sons to the NFL, there may be no more well-informed family out there as to the harsh realities of the business of football.

Beyond just knowing how the sausage gets made, though, the Gronkowskis have been considering Rob’s football mortality and making sure to maximize his earnings since he was 19.

Not hypothetically either. After Gronk’s sophomore season, he declared for the draft despite having ruptured a disk for the first time. The reason? If he played another down of college football his $4M insurance policy was void. If he suffered a career-ending injury, he would realize no dough from the sport. So he entered the draft to start making as much as he could before the body gave out. 

Which is to their credit. The kid had a skill, he loved playing the sport, making sure he’s well-compensated for plying that skill for as long as possible is what any parent should do.

But we’re approaching a crossroads now. Will Gronk want to continue playing? Will his family encourage him to? Will he even be cleared?

And even if those answers all came back in the affirmative, would the Gronkowskis sign off on Rob playing for relative peanuts compared to what lesser tight ends are receiving?

The Patriots have the favorable hand right now. The young man may well be on an operating table still, so this would not be the time to play it.

But the hard realities of that contract are impossible to ignore. And at some point, they’ll come to a head.