Curran: Green-Ellis' milestone a credit to his team

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Curran: Green-Ellis' milestone a credit to his team

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO On Sunday, BenJarvus Green-Ellis became the 11th Patriot to run for more than 1,000 yards.

Now, lets play "one of these things is not like the others."

Antowain Smith, Robert Edwards, Leonard Russell, John Stephens and Sam Cunningham were first-round NFL picks. Jim Nance and Craig James were first-rounders in the AFL and USFL, respectively. Tony Collins and Corey Dillon were second-rounders. And Curtis Martin was a third-rounder.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis? Wasn't even drafted. And while 1,000 rushing yards isn't what it was when Cunningham was doing it in a 14-game season it's just 62.5 yards per game, for cry-eye Green-Ellis hitting that milestone was striking a blow for the legions of overlooked and underloved players that have made the Patriots great in the past and this year as well.

By the time he got to the podium after the game, Bill Belichick's poker face was perfectly in place and he said stoically that he cared not a bit for individual records set in Sunday's 38-7 beatdown.

He lied.

Green-Ellis needed 72 yards to get to 1,000. He carried 20 times for 80 yards including 11 times on 15 plays in the third and fourth quarters until on a fourth-and-16 he picked up the yardage necessary.

When he headed to the bench, he veered off and sought out Belichick. There was no chest bump or long, drawn out embrace. There was a handshake. A quick hug. And then Green-Ellis met a cavalcade of well-wishers on the bench.

Again, it must be said that 1,000 yards would be a hugely disappointing season for guys who live in the "elite back" category. The guys who don't just get drafted, but go in the first round. It's the road Green-Ellis traveled a road teammates like Kyle Arrington, Rob Ninkovich, Dane Fletcher, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, Eric Moore, Dan Koppen, Danny Woodhead, Wes Welker and Tom Brady know well that makes them so proud of him. And makes him want to share it with them.

"It's not really an individual accomplishment," said Green-Ellis. "For one person to say that they got 1,000 yards by themselves, they would be lying to you."

Green-Ellis is talking about the linemen, tight ends and wideouts who do the blocking. And the coaches who design the plays and the quarterback whose arm must be respected. And he's talking, no doubt, about the counsel he gets from teammates.

Like Fred Taylor, who's run for 1,000 or more yards seven times in his terrific career. During training camp, when I asked him about the limited role of Laurence Maroney, Taylor specifically said to "watch out for BenJarvus Green-Ellis." He's been a mentor to Green-Ellis but he refused a large share of credit Sunday.

"I don't want to take away his shine," said Taylor. "He works as hard as anyone without me grabbing him and saying, 'Hey, let's do this.' He's my motivation. The truth of it is, we have our days where we just don't feel like it. You roll out of bed and you're like, 'Aww, man.' But when I think of him, he's grabbing me to do extra abs or an extra set in the weight room or extra sprints. We kind of vibe off each other. But he works his ass off. He's been patiently waiting and he just wants it."

For the Patriots to go 14-2 this year, a lot of guys whod been patiently waiting needed to elevate their play. A lot of retreads and never-wasses. Green-Ellis' accomplishment was a concrete number, the 1,000-yard carry a moment to celebrate. But that's only because you cant celebrate the mere presence of a guy like Moore, a pass rusher who was in the UFL a month ago.

"You got to tip your hat to the coach for that," Taylor said when discussing the kind of unheralded players New England's made use of this year. "He sees something in these players other people don't see. Look at Eric Moore. He just came from the UFL. You should have seen the picture of the lockers from their championship game. That's humbling.

"These guys get here and buy into what's going on around here and the leaders take hold of them, then they're ready to go," said Taylor. "These are memories running backs coach Ivan Fears was talking about Saturday night. Benny'll never forget it. I had to remind him, make sure you keep your gloves and everything else . . . These memories are priceless."

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Goodell: 'Of course' he'd pick up the phone for Brady settlement talks

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Goodell: 'Of course' he'd pick up the phone for Brady settlement talks

While a settlement between the NFL and Tom Brady seems unlikely -- OK, highly unlikely -- commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN Radio on Friday that he would "of course" pick up the phone if the Patriots or their quarterback called to discuss an agreement. 

Still, Goodell didn't say whether or not he would be open to knocking down Brady's four-game suspension that was reinstated by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from earlier this week. 

"We had a lot of discussions last summer," Goodell said. "There were a lot of offers back and forth about what to do to settle the issue. They chose to pursue the issue and we chose to move forward and we are where we are."

There continue to be voices speaking out on how Goodell may wield too much power when it comes to player discipline, the latest of which being that of Saints quarterback Drew Brees. But Goodell defended his role, as he has most of this week, citing the importance of the "integrity of the game."

"I am not going to hand off the integrity of the NFL to somebody who does not understand our business," Goodell said. "That is what we're going to maintain when it comes to the integrity of the game. Maybe something as it relates to the drug program and whether proper protocol is followed? I get it. Go ahead. Somebody else can make that decision. But when it comes to integrity of the game, that is the commissioner's responsibilities and has been since the day the NFL was formed."

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.