Curran at the Combine: 5 from Day 3

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Curran at the Combine: 5 from Day 3

By Tom E. CurranCSNNE.com Patriots Insider

INDIANAPOLIS - It all starts with the quarterback, they say. Saturday, it all ended with the quarterbacks. All the head coaches and GMs finished their moments at the podium (except the Patriots, who took a pass on speaking to media) and that cleared the way for the star attractions of this week, quarterbacks Cam Newton and Ryan Mallett. Their local link is minor so we'll get to them a bit later in Saturday's edition of the 5. THE TROUBLE WITH TRADINGFormer Patriots GM Scott Pioli said that a lockout shouldn't be a big problem for teams trying to make pre-draft trades."It's one of those things I don't spend time worrying about or thinking about," said Pioli, who was part of the draft-happy Patriots' front office before going to the Chiefs. "Whatever the circumstances are, that's what they are. You can't spend time or energy on things you can't control."There are moving parts to consider though. For instance, the Patriots have so many early picks there will be a market for them. So what if they wanted todeal for the rights to a player? Would that trade hold up post-lockout? And wouldn't the team want to kick the tires or find out as much as possible about the player pre-trade? Surely deals are done without players being contacted all the time, butthe Patriots' draft weekend deal for Randy Moss required extensive conversations. Just another monkey wrench to lob into the works. OLD PATRIOTS DON'T FORGETOn Saturday, Pioli was asked what he remembered of assistant coach Brian Daboll whenDaboll was a Patriots' assistant. Daboll was part of the outflux of coaches that left with Eric Mangini when Mangini got the Jets job. Daboll then went with Mangini to Cleveland and is now the newly-hired offensive coordinator in Miami. Hard feelings over the way Mangini recruited Patriots coaches to go with him to New York and, of course, Spygate seemed to be close to the surface when Pioli answered. "I remember that he was part of a great deal of success there," Pioli said curtly. Pioli could have pulled a punch as well when he was asked about Charlie Weis leaving the Chiefs to go to the University of Florida and coordinate offense. I dont think you enter any relationship thinking its going to be a short-term relationship, especially when someone is under contract. It changes, theres nothing you can do about it, you adjust to it as you have to. Thats life, Pioli said.THE EXPERIENCE FACTOROne thing that may lurk in the back of teams' minds as they shop for players this April is how soon they'll be able to get those players in with their coaches. If, for instance, the situation between owners and players isn't resolved until August, it will be almost a lost year for the incoming group of rookies without much college experience. Those players will have missed out on minicamps, passing camps, etc. And by the time training camp starts, getting the veterans ready may trump the need to get rookies up to speed. So if you're a team looking at a third-year sophomore like defensive end Aldon Smith from Missouri or four-year senior Cameron Jordan from Cal who played twice as many games after high school, wouldn't it make sense to err on the side of experience? The ability of teams to self-start despite not being with coaches is going to be absolutely vital once football starts again if there's a protracted work stoppage. BIG DAY FOR CASTONZOBoston College offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo probably benefited as much as anybody when USC tackle Tyron Smith left the Combine early and passed on running in Indy. Castonzo ran a very respectable 5.23 in the 40 and word from two team sourcesis that Castonzo continues to impress in team interviews. "I'm having a blast," Castonzo told me Saturday afternoon outside the Indianapolis Convention Center. "These interviews are perfect for me. I love the grilling." Castonzo was an exceptional student at Boston College, a bio-chem major. It's no surprise he's killing it. GRILLED QUARTERBACKThere was really no way that Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett could win on Saturday when he stepped to the podium. Dealing with a flurry of rumors that he's been involved with drugs, he was bound to be questioned about it. And he was. Four times. After the last entreaty, he ended his interview and left the podium. He'll be criticized for that. People will use that moment to extrapolate he can't take pressure. But, as a quarterback, sometimes you have to know when to get out of a bad play, as it were, and I felt that's what Mallett did. When initially asked about the rumors, Mallett said, "When I saw that stuff, I laughed about it."He insinuated he's being sabotaged by saying, Obviously someone did that for a reason, right before the Combine.Mallett said he wasn't going to address anything in the press conference forum and that he'd speak to the teams in his personal interview. Which is perfectly reasonable. What college kid should be made to address a room full of strangers and possibly unveil drug use when that's only going to turn into headlines for the next two months? And nobody's going to say, "Oh. Thanks, we don't need to know anymore," if Mallett comes clean. As for Cam Newton, his problems were minor in comparison. He had to squish the perception he's a diva after saying he hopes to become "an entertainer and an icon."He tried to undo that by opening his time at the podium with a statement, saying, "First and foremost I understand that my obligation is to be the best possible football player that I can be. I know and believe that.He said he was speaking about an endorsement he'd signed when he said the words. I was making the point that I want to be the best possible ambassador for them just like I want to be the best possible ambassador for whatever team I am lucky enough to play for, Newton said. He's an eminently likable kid. He handled the questions about his readiness with aplomb. And by using the third-person. Obviously, everybody knows that Cam has been in a spread offense and I have been trying to work as much as possible on trying to be fluid, he explained. He was also asked about his father, Cecil Newton, who nearly cost his son his eligibility by allegedly demanding Mississippi State pay for Cam Newton's presence. "My father is just like any other father that wants the best for his son. He wants to see his son succeed in every way possible.He added that the experience brought he and his father closer together.
Tom E. Curran canbe reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Belichick asked if playing at home helps: 'Go ask Dallas and Kansas City'

Belichick asked if playing at home helps: 'Go ask Dallas and Kansas City'

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick knows that how you play, not where, is what matters most. 

That's why when he was asked on Wednesday about the advantage the Patriots will have by playing at Gillette Stadium in the AFC title game, he wasn't willing to go all-in on how a comfortable environment will positively impact his team.

"I don’t know," he said. "Go ask Dallas and Kansas City."

The Patriots apparently thought enough of home-field advantage that they played their starters throughout their regular-season finale win in Miami, exposing their best players to potential injury in order to maintain their positive momentum while simultaneously ensuring a better road to the Super Bowl. 

The Patriots fans in attendance on Sunday will help when the Patriots take on the Steelers, Belichick acknowledged. But there's much more to it than that. 

"Yeah, of course," he said, "but the game is won by the players on the field. That’s who wins football games – the players. And they’ll decide it Sunday night."

And if you needed any further proof, just ask the Cowboys and Chiefs how helpful their home crowds were in the Divisional Round. 

Tomlin not letting up on Brown after ill-advised Facebook Live video

Tomlin not letting up on Brown after ill-advised Facebook Live video

FOXBORO – Mike Tomlin didn’t sidestep questions related to Antonio Brown’s ill-advised locker room broadcast.

Instead, Tomlin actually seemed to up the ante during a conference call with New England media. Asked whether Brown seemed to get the message that Tomlin delivered and take it seriously, Tomlin said, “I think time always tells those stories.”

Tomlin easily could have used a “we’re moving on” message or talked about how Brown simply made a youthful mistake but he opted not to. Which isn’t surprising.

The number one criticism of Tomlin is that the Steelers head coach runs a loose ship and that the lack of discipline and accountability is a big issue.

Seeing Brown run a live broadcast from the locker room while Tomlin’s trying to make a point doesn’t just keep that perception afloat, it advances it to a place it’s never been.

It’s not a stretch to say that Brown’s actions imperiled Tomlin’s reputation. There’s no wonder he isn’t willing to let Brown off the hook.

Brown addressed the controversy on Wednesday saying, “I absolutely regret the Facebook Live situation. It’s a total distraction to the organization. A total distraction to my teammates. Obviously disrespect to my coach. I’ve got utmost respect to my coach so I totally regret that.”

Tomlin on Tuesday went as far as to suggest other players doing team-distracting things like Brown wind up getting passed around the league despite their great talent. “That's often why you see great players move from team to team,” said Tomlin. “Don't want that to happen to Antonio Brown.

Tomlin expressed embarrassment that the language he used in the postgame in the privacy of his locker room was served up for public consumption.

“As a parent, I’m not into public displays of that type of language so I was more embarrassed about that aspect of it not necessarily the content or the message of the video,” said Tomlin.

As to referring to the Patriots as “those a*******,” Tomlin said, “Man, you could have applied that sentiment to any opponent. You could have made that tape two weeks earlier and applied it to that opponent. It’s not about the nameless great faces that we play, it’s about our overall preparation and that was the sentiment of the message that I was sending to the guys not necessarily about the New England Patriots, they just happened to be who we’re playing this week.”

Tomlin also addressed the time element he referenced in his postgame speech when he said the Patriots had a day-and-a-half head start on his team. 

“I was just trying to instill a sense of urgency in our group regarding preparation and I wanted them to understand that we didn’t have a lot of time to pat ourselves on the back based on the performance of the last game,” he explained. “That we needed to transition and transition quickly and start the preparation, whether it was actual preparation or just from a mentality standpoint.”

Because of Brown’s decision, it’s probably been a lot harder to make that transition than Tomlin ever hoped.