Curran: Don't blame lockout for Banta-Cain surgery

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Curran: Don't blame lockout for Banta-Cain surgery

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
Troubled by a sports hernia throughout the 2010 season, Patriots outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain could have had surgery to repairit when the season ended. He chose not to, hoping that -- with core strengthening and training -- the injury would improve. It didn't. So last week, Banta-Cain underwent surgery to have a long-standing injury repaired that will keep him down for more than a month. The decision to repair the injury now as opposed to back in February (or March, April, May or June) won't likely fly well with the Patriots coaching staff. You can't blame this on the lockout. Players have had full access to their team medical staffs even during the shutdown. Players like Tom Brady (foot) and Deion Branch (knee) have been able to get their progress monitored. And a player with an existing injury -- like Banta-Cain -- should have made the effort to have his progress checked. It's just a sports hernia. It's a relatively quick fix. The excuse that "it just got worse" doesn't really float because sports hernias generally don't get better. There's no other way around it. This is a bad miscalculation by Banta-Cain. Signed to a three-year, 13.5 million deal in March 2010 after a 10-sack season in 2009, Banta-Cain had 50 tackles and five sacks in 2010 and lost standing on the depth chart. He's on the books to make 2.3 million in salary this season. The Patriots -- already hurting for pass rushers -- now have one of their best pass rushers (at least on reputation) on the shelf. Bad for business. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

NFL Draft picks No. 25-31: Broncos move up to grab QB Lynch

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NFL Draft picks No. 25-31: Broncos move up to grab QB Lynch

No access at Gillette? No first-round pick unless the Patriots make a swap into the latter stages of the round? No problem. We're all over it from the palatial offices here in Burlington. We go pick-by-pick through the first round.

Steelers: Artie Burns, CB, Miami

Mike Tomlin had to be a little bit miffed when he saw the Bengals take Williams Jackson III with the No. 24 pick. The Steelers needed a corner in the worst way, and their division rival took the top available player at that position one slot ahead of them. Credit Pittsburgh for sticking with its plan if it works out, though. Burns is a corner who has all the traits you could ever want -- length, athleticism, ball skills -- but he's going to need work on his technique if he wants to slow down AJ Green twice a year. 

Broncos: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

He may not be ready to start right away, but the Broncos knew what they were doing when they traded up. Lynch is a big-armed quarterback who at 6-foot-7 has enough athleticism to be able to roll out and make throws on the run -- something that will be asked of him in Gary Kubiak's offense. Mark Sanchez still may be Denver's best bet in Week 1, but if Lynch even approaches his potential in Year 1, he could see some starter's snaps. 

Packers: Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA

He's not built like BJ Raji, but Clark will help fill left the void Raji left behind when the veteran defensive tackle walked away from the game this offseason. A strong player who hasn't yet turned 21 years old, Clark has all kinds of upside to offer Mike McCarthy's defense. 

49ers: Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford

The Niners traded up to this spot, leading many to believe that they'd go after a quarterback. Connor Cook, perhaps? Instead they made the oh-so-flashy move to lock up a guard. Garnett had a lot of success in Stanford's pro-style offense playing alongside left tackle Kyle Murphy. Garnett is a machine in the running game and should be a longtime starter. 

Cardinals: Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss

Arizona came into the draft pretty well-set offensively so adding an explosive presence on the interior like Nkemdiche helps make them a more well-rounded roster. He has plenty of off-the-field concerns, but if he can keep his head on straight, this will represent great value for coach Bruce Arians and Co. The Patriots offensive line will have its hands full Week 1 with Nkemdiche, Chandler Jones and Calais Campbell to worry about. 

Panthers: Vernon Butler, DL, Louisiana Tech

The Panthers could've used a corner or a receiver. A defensive end might've made sense, too. Instead, they went after this big-bodied monster. Weighing in at over 320 pounds, Butler handles his weight well and should be able to help collapse opposing offensive lines at the next level. A defense that was already very good just got a little better up front. 

Seahawks: Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M

The Seahawks (and quarterback Russell Wilson) can breathe easy as they escape the first round with some much-needed offensive line help. There are some questions as to where Ifedi will play on the line -- is he a guard or a right tackle? -- but his length and overall athleticism should help him turn into a building block in the trenches.

Who could the Patriots have had at No. 29?

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Who could the Patriots have had at No. 29?

Had their first-round pick not been confiscated by Roger Goodell and Troy Vincent, who might the Patriots have selected with the 29th overall pick?

A very good football player. And that’s where the sting is. Yeah, it sucks if Tom Brady sits four games and that’s going to put the Patriots a couple steps back in 2016.

But players like Reggie Ragland, Myles Jack, Sterling Shepard, A’Shawn Robinson, Derrick Henry, Kevin Dodd or Jarron Reed all could have been Patriots and instead fall to the teams behind them

On the bright side, the Patriots can now partake in the 2016 NFL Draft.

On the down side, there were so many options. Jack, seen as a top-five talent, has injury concerns that caused his red-flagged posterior to slide tragically down the board. The UCLA linebacker is way, way, way deeper in his free-fall than anyone expected.

For safe picks, there were a fleet of Alabama players sitting there. The linebacker Ragland is a classic two-down inside linebacker who could thump. Kind of a better Brandon Spikes. Robinson’s a penetrating defensive lineman that gets the job done with power and athleticism. Henry was the Heisman Trophy winner at running back, Dodd is a destructive edge rusher from Clemson who is on the rise and Reed was a classic nose-tackle also from Alabama.

Then there was my guy, wide receiver Sterling Shepard. Plus a few good corners. None of whom will be in New England.

Said NFL Network host Rich Eisen as pick 29 came up and a picture of a cascading fountain was broadcast, “It would have been lit up Patriots colors. But we all know why it isn’t.”