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

Garoppolo on Kaepernick, anthem: 'To each his own, I guess'

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Garoppolo on Kaepernick, anthem: 'To each his own, I guess'

Jimmy Garoppolo joined WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show on Wednesday as the Patriots readied themselves to travel to New Jersey for their preseason finale against the Giants. During the interview, Garoppolo was asked for his thoughts on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who opted not to stand for the national anthem during a recent preseason game in order to express his political beliefs.

"It’s a touchy subject, but to each his own, I guess," Garoppolo said. "It’s not my idea of doing the right thing. But it’s his personal opinion, I guess. You’ve just got to let him stand by that. But I think we have a great thing going on in this country. Everything about America, it’s a great thing. We’re all very blessed to be here. And it’s good to realize that."

NFL teams have been required to be on the field for the anthem since 2009. Garoppolo said that he uses those moments as a time to soak in the chance he's been given to play football at the highest level.

"I can’t tell you what exactly is going through my mind, because it’s right before the game, you’ve got a lot of emotions rolling and everything," he said. "But it’s kind of one of those moments you get to sit back and really appreciate where you are and the opportunity that you have. The NFL is a tough gig to get into and a tough gig to stay in. I feel blessed to be in it. It’s a great opportunity. It’s one of those moments you get to just sit back and realize where you’re at -- then go kick some ass after that."

Belichick: Players don’t have time to be coaching each other

Belichick: Players don’t have time to be coaching each other

FOXBORO - It's been an ongoing conversation/fascination this summer. With Tom Brady's four-game suspension looming, how much knowledge, support and coaching was he going to give to Jimmy Garoppolo?

Bill Belichick was asked by Phil Perry on Thursday how much he expects from veteran players when it comes to coaching up teammates. 

The answer? Be an example, but let the coaches coach. 

"I think veteran players can be a good example for younger players in terms of their preparation, and their attitude, and their work ethic, and the way they go about things," said Belichick. "We have a lot of guys that I would put in that category that when you watch them do things they do them right and it’s easy to say to a younger player ‘Do what that guy does’, and you’d be off to a good start. 

"But you know, that being said, I think everybody on the team, really their number one focus is to get ready to play football. Our players aren’t coaches, they’re players, and they need to get ready to play, and as I said, I think every player needs to get ready to play. I don’t care how long you’ve been in the league, I don’t care what positon you play, I don’t care how long you’ve coached, I don’t care what position you coach. We haven’t done it for a long time, a number of months, and now we all need to sharpen those skills up. That’s every player, that’s every coach, so I don’t really think players have a lot of time to run around and be telling everybody else what to do."

The answer is not surprising. As much as the "Do Your Job" mantra is espoused in New England, to think Belichick or his mostly veteran staff of coaches would want players monkeying with the message is a little naive. Certainly, there are things players can impart to teammates who play the same position. Things coaches might not see from the sidelines or from upstairs. And Belichick's made a point of saying that in the past: there are things players on the field know and have experienced that the coaches may not be able to articulate as clearly. Junior Seau was a resource and touchstone for defensive teammates during his time in New England. 

But there's a difference between giving helpful pointers when they are sought or being a locker room sage and coaching. 

"Honestly, there is enough that all of them need to work on individually, and that would be every single player, that’s a full plate for them," added Belichick. "I don’t really think that’s their job, and I don’t think any player has enough time to do that because they all have things that they need to do to prepare for the season. But as far as being a good example and doing things right and all of that, I mean we have a lot of guys that fall into that category and that’s definitely a good thing. But, you know, that’s what they should be doing."

For two seasons and three offseasons, Garoppolo's had a chance to observe how Brady prepares, studies, interacts and leads. No doubt they've had countless conversations about the Patriots offensive philosophy and the throws and checks that need to be made in certain situations. But the job of actually coaching Garoppolo falls to Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. 

Any successes of failures Garoppolo has during the four weeks Brady is off campus will belong to him and his coaches. And that's how it should be. 

 

Slater signs one-year contract extension with Patriots

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Slater signs one-year contract extension with Patriots

The Patriots have their special-teams captain locked up through 2017.

Matthew Slater and the team have come to terms on a one-year contract extension that will keep him in New England for the next two seasons. He's due base salaries of $1 million and $900,000 in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Slater was made a fifth-round draft pick by the Patriots back in 2008, and since then he has established himself as one of the top soecial teams players in the NFL, making each of the last five Pro Bowls. He's also been a durable player, seeing action in all but nine games over the course of his eight-year career. 

The Patriots have a handful of young and talented special teams players on their roster, including Nate Ebner and Brandon King, but during training camp practices Slater continued to show his prowess when it comes to tracking down kick and punt returners. He's also taken on a well-defined leadership role in the Patriots locker room -- he's been a captain each year since 2011 -- and he serves as the team's NFLPA player representative.