Curran: Kicking around some kickoff strategy

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Curran: Kicking around some kickoff strategy

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - My name is Tom. And I'm way too interested in the new kickoff rule. (Hi Tom.) I think I will get over it. But for right now, in these nascent days of the ball being teed 15 feet closer to the opposing end zone, the possibilities seem endless. A cavalcade of onsides kicks? Scoring plunges? Soaring scoring? How will it all affect this game, this game, this game, this game? Lotta things. Lotta things. Bill Belichick is thinking about the kickoffs too. And the preseason game Thursday night against Tampa Bay will provide more data about how to best approach the normally routine play. Does a team simply have its kicker pound the ball out of the end zone? Or hang it high and let his coverage team try to pin the returner inside the 20? I asked Belichick about the "hang it high" approach.

"If you cant cover it very well, then youd probably take every touchback you can get," he said. "If you feel youve got a lot of confidence in your coverage team and your kickers ability to place the ball with both location and hang time, then you might feel differently about that. That might not be the same every game; the situation may change. Thats the thing about playing here that we have to be very aware of in the kicking game just how situations change every single week.

"If youre playing in a dome in St. Louis or Detroit or wherever, you know what its going to be every single week, so you can plan accordingly," he continued. "In our situation, because the elements affect the kicking game first before they affect even the passing game, we have a lot of situations that we have to deal with: weve got crosswinds, we kick into the wind, we kick with the wind, weve got weather conditions in addition to all the other variables of just the team youre playing and what they do and so forth. There are a lot of different options there and things that we have to consider. And the bad side of it is defensively, on the return team, we have to be ready for all of those different things, too: where theyre going to kick it and what theyre going to do and how the elements affect us. Its an interesting part of the game, it really is."

Oh, I agree. The main point of the new rule is to create more touchbacks and fewer collisions between 250-pounders going about 17 mph. But it also adds an opportunity for kicking teams to be experimental.

"I think part of it gets down to how you feel you match up against your opponent," Belichick offered. "My guess would be, with all other things being equal, Chicago would see more touchbacks than some other teams would (because of their explosive return game). But they may not because of the conditions that they play in that may not statistically show up. But I think if they played on the same field as the other 31 teams in the same conditions, if you had a chance to kick it out of the end zone or not kick it out of the end zone, you would probably choose to kick it out of the end zone, if your kicker could do that."

Of the 13 kickoffs in last week's preseason opener between the Pats and Jaguars, 10 sailed into the end zone. The Jaguars returned six kickoffs. Their starting field position was their own 11, New England's 18 and their own 17, 24, 13 and 6.

There are hidden yards in every game. And a team that is inside its own 20 after a kickoff return may be inclined to play-call more conservatively. If you have a kicker who can drop a kickoff at the goal line every time, the opportunity is there to get extra yards for the kicking team.

"Certainly, theres an opportunity for more momentum in the game, just like we saw last week in the Jacksonville game: score, kickoff, tackle them on the 11, bad punt, score again," Belichick agreed. "In two minutes, youve got a quick turn around. So, that can work both ways, too."

The guy in charge of serving up the kickoffs, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, is amenable to anything.

"If the coach wants to kick it high to the goal line, I'll do that," he said. "If he wants me to blast it and get a touchback, I'll try to do that too."

The possibilities? Endless.

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

Edelman says 'there was no maliciousness' to his Steelers comments

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Edelman says 'there was no maliciousness' to his Steelers comments

It's funny how during a week like this one, a singularly ridiculous act -- such as Antonio Brown's live stream of the Steelers postgame locker room celebration last weekend -- can lead to a series of brush fires that pop up only to be peed on and put out. 

That was the case yesterday as a comment Julian Edelman made to WEEI earlier this week about Brown's Facebook Live video was spun as a sort of vicious burn directed at the Steelers franchise. 

"That's how that team is run," Edelman said, a comment that read as a more serious indictment than it actually sounded. "I personally don't think that would be something that would happen in our locker room, but hey, whatever. Some people like red and some people like blue. Some people like tulips and some people like roses. Whatever."

That led to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger being asked about Edelman's comments, and defending the honor of the Rooney family, during a press conference on Wednesday.

"I don’t think I need to speak much," Roethlisberger said. "We’ve got our trophies out there. I’ve got owners that I think are the best in the business. They’re family to us, and I’m sure if he talked to his owner, he would say the same thing about the Rooneys. Anybody in here in the football world or the regular world that owns the Rooneys knows what they stand for. It’s a blessing to call them a family."

And on and on it went. Later in the day, Edelman was asked about his comments during a conference call with Pittsburgh reporters.

So just in case you're keeping score, a Steelers player streamed a video of coach Mike Tomlin calling the Patriots "a-holes," which prompted a response from Edelman. That response prompted a response from Roethlisberger, whose response to the response then led to a response to the response to the response from Edelman.

Got it?

"Yeah, I mean I think it was taken out of context," Edelman said. "I have nothing but respect for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’re an unbelievable franchise. It starts from the top with the Rooney Family, Coach Tomlin, I think they just mis[interpreted] – I mean, I don’t know, I may have said it, but I think more of that was that it’s not the way we would do it here. That’s just how that goes. There was no maliciousness about it, but it’s whatever. That’s what the media does, try to make stories."

Quick Slants Podcast: Antonio Brown’s betrayal; Matt Light; eyeing up Pittsburgh

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Quick Slants Podcast: Antonio Brown’s betrayal; Matt Light; eyeing up Pittsburgh

Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discuss the aftermath of Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live video. Curran interview Matt Light ahead of the AFC Championship. They dissect the press conferences of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and look at how to beat the Steelers.

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2:29 Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live aftermath

13:14 Stopping Le’Veon Bell

27:16 heywassyonumba? with Patrick Chung and Kyle Van Noy

32:30 Injury report updates for AFC Championship

36:51 Brady and Belichick’s press conferences

44:50 Matt Light interview