Curran: Twitter's got the NFL by the tail


Curran: Twitter's got the NFL by the tail

By TomE. Curran

DALLAS Beautiful, little 140 character (or less) missives. So tiny. So innocent. So useful. So explosive. Twitter and all its wonderful tweets. Its changed the way journalism is executed, bringing it ever closer to a game of telephone. One tweet, a few retweets, and anybody on the planet can break news. Or make news. Just 140 characters have the potential to launch 140 stories and 14 days of coverage. Its certainly changed the Super Bowl.

Remember the days when Big Game trouble came at the nightclubs, where guys like Darryl Talley were getting in dustups with Magic Johnsons entourage at The Roxbury (that would be 1993)? Stuff trickled out then, the full story never revealed until after the game had been played. Barret Robbins AWOL in Tijuana (2002) or Stanley Wilson coked to the bejeesus in 1989? Twitter would have melted. Just imagine how many twitpics we would have seen of Eugene Robinson getting cuffed and stuffed for trying to buy 40 worth of oral sex the night before the 1999 Super Bowl? Would Namath have issued his 1969 guarantee with a sarcasm?
TWITTER AND XLVThe first dustup of Super Bowl XLV started on Twitter last week. A couple of injured Packers, Nick Barnett and Jermichael Finley, tweeted their displeasure with the team's decision to keep players on injured reserve out of the Super Bowl picture. The next day the Packers reversed course and decided to include their IR guys. Barnett tweeted his regrets for making an issue. Then Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers took a swipe at IR players rehabbing away from the team. And Barnett and Finley took to Twitter once again to defend themselves. Which led to Steelers linebacker Lamarr Woodley laughing at the idiocy of a team picture. Woodley, of course, tweeted his delight. (The timeline of stories and tweets is most easily followed on PFT). Monday, Rodgers seemed to put a period on the end of the foolishness by saying during a media access period at the Packers hotel that he had "a lot of love and respect for those guys . . . It blew up bigger than anyone thought."(I didn't hear Rodgers say this nor was his quote on any of the NFL transcripts. I saw it on Twitter.)Of course it blew up, Aaron! Everything blows up on Twitter. And everybody knows that. Ask Jay Cutler, the guy your Packers disposed of in the NFC Championship game. He was reduced to the brink of tears when he heard theNFL's twitterati lambasted him for leaving that game. The entire NFL is by turns wrestling with and embracing the technology. COMING TO AN UNEASY TWITTER TRUCEBill Johnston is the Director of Public Relations for the Chargers. His team has jettisoned twitteriffic players like Shawne Merriman and Antonio Cromartie. Now the Bolts are fairly docile. How do the Chargers advise their players on using it?
"We just tell them that whatever they put out on Twitter is the same thing they would say in a live radio interview, a liveTV interview," said Johnston. "They gotta know that whatever they say, its out there and its not gonna go away. So they have to represent themselves the best way they want to be represented."You try to work with players and let them know they need to represent themselves in the way they want to be represented. The guys generally get it. I think they understand now that Twitter is not just a one-to-one communication now to just your followers. You put it out there, its out there for good. They see the upside and the value and how it can help them and they also see how not to use it. We had a couple issues early where guys spoke their mind and I think they didnt realize the reaction it can create."In August of 2009, Cromartie tweeted his displeasure with the Chargers training camp food.He got fined 2,500. A month later, Merriman and Tila Tequila's dustup exploded on Twitter. When the capo di tutti capi of Twitter, Chad Ochocinco, said he'd be posting in-game tweets, the NFL stepped in and put a moratorium on game-day tweets from players back in September of 2009. Ain't no thang. Twitter still dominates. Postgame tweets are treasure troves of glee and glumness pecked out on team buses or airport runways. Guys just need to be heard. "NO DISTORTING WHAT YOU PUT OUT THERE"Texans right tackle Eric Winston loves Twitter and all it does to bring him closer to fans and fellow players. "It's definitely a way for your message to get out there unfiltered," Winston said Monday at the Super Bowl media center. "You have players who sometimes say, 'Oh, they distorted what I was saying.' Theres no distorting what you put on your Twitter account."And there's inherent danger in that, right?"Sure its dangerous," he acknowledged. "Its also a good thing. You get to speak your mind and express your opinions. But at the same time, that is unfiltered stuff. I re-read every tweet I put up there. Whatever you put on Twitter, you should be willing to say that to a reporter. Or to the person youre tweeting about. Its not like only an unlimited amount of people are seeing this. Even if you have 5,000 followers, that doesnt mean it wont get retweeted somewhere else and it wont be retreated. A lot of people dont look at it like that." Winston, who does weekly radio in Houston, understands that one tweet can fill multiple news cycles. "And thats why it is dangerous," he said."It's definitelynot for careless people and Ithink the last two weeks have highlighted that to the nth degree. First with the Jay Cutler thing and now with the photo thing youve got to be careful with how you put things out there. Sarcasm is hard to get through. You better hashtag 'sarcasm' or 'joking' because people arent going to get it." I asked Winston if he talks to teammates about being careful with Twitter. "Sure, that's been said in the locker room," he admitted. "I say, 'Think about people that are reading your tweets. Is that how you want to come off? Some guys might curse or talk about being out. If someone wants to come off like that, thats their business. Thats their unfiltered access to the fans. But you dont ever want to start a controversy."'LOOK AT ME' MINDSETThe Internet is a wonderful place for the exchange of ideas. Whether it's commenting at the ends of stories, giving customer reviews, Facebook or Twitter, the need to share what YOU think is fulfilled. Inevitably, attention goes to those who shout the loudest, funniest or most profanely. Ed Bouchette, a venerable reporter for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and a friend of mine, just shook his head when asked whether he tweets or monitors the Steelers twitter accounts. "Me?" he said Monday."No. Im an old dog and I havent learned a lot of new tricks."When asking about the Finley-Barnett-Rodgers-Woodley conflagration, I described it as a"pissing match.""Thats what it is, a pissing match," he agreed. "Ill let somebody else cover the pissing match. I chat, I blog . . . I actually write newspaper stories sometimes, too. I do videos, I break news. Im sure Twitters in my future but its not in my present. Were getting into the TMZ type of world and maybe Im nave to just want to write football."It is, however, hard to ignore. Andit's changed notjust the way we cover the game but the way we report on it. As I sat down to write this story, Mike Garafolo of the Star-Ledger tweeted that Clay Matthews had won the AP Defensive Player of the Year award. Good reporter, Garafolo. As are Bob Glauber of Newsday and Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. All three ran with the same tweet. But Garafalo misheard. And, despite rapid conciliatory tweets by Garafalo, the toothpaste couldn't be put back in the tube. Especially when Troy Polamalu won the award. No harm done, though. Polamalu and Matthews both talked Monday night about all the deserving defensive players who should have won the award. Where'd they do it? Where else? Twitter. Tom E. Curran canbe reached at Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Evaluating a Gronk-less offense


Evaluating a Gronk-less offense

Episode 13 - "The Ex-Pats Podcast"

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Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen look back at a solid Patriots win against a bad team in the Los Angeles Rams. The guys were trying to figure out exactly what L.A.'s gameplan was going in.

The linebacker rotation seems to be more consistent a few weeks after the Jamie Collins trade. How much of an impact will the loss of Rob Gronkowski have on offense? Malcolm Mitchell continues to impress, but 3rd down was a problem.

Finally, we look ahead to Monday night's game against the Baltimore Ravens, who have been playing well and are never intimidated coming into Gillette Stadium.

Would Brady's training regimen help Gronkowski avoid injury?


Would Brady's training regimen help Gronkowski avoid injury?

There are times during Tom Brady's Monday morning interviews with WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show when he feels like opening up about some of the things that have helped him stay on the field as long as he has. In those moments, when his passion for nutrition and position-specific training comes through, he provides insight into an approach that he says he has tried to share with others. 

On this particular Monday, Brady was asked if one of his teammates might benefit from a similar focus on hydration and muscle pliability.

Rob Gronkowski has been the best tight end in football for several years due in part to his size and strength, but he had season-ending back surgery on Friday, making this the third year that he will finish on injured reserve since 2012.

"I think it’s always up to the individual," Brady said when asked if it would help Gronkowski to work more with Brady's body coach Alex Guerrero. "He’s dealt with certain things that are almost impossible to avoid on the football field. Sometimes it’s just bad luck. For me, I try and do all the things I can do to avoid as many things as possible and be as proactive as possible so that I can try to be out there every week. I believe that if you have a great foundation, it ends up being a lot harder to get hurt. That’s kind of where I focus my time and energy over the course of the week so that . . . you know you’re going to get hit, you know you’re going to sustain these impacts, and how can your body be prepared to withstand those things?

"I've definitely gone about it a different way than probably 99 percent of the people that have played in the NFL. And I have a lot of belief and conviction how I feel, and I try to instill that in the guys that I am with, but some guys definitely understand it, and work hard at it, and want to do the right thing. Sometimes when you’re young you don’t feel anything, so why do I need to put time and energy into something that I really don’t feel is a problem?

"It probably took for me to be 30 years old to really understand, ‘Wow I really notice a difference.’ I noticed it a little younger than that, but not on a really catastrophic scale. Guys are working hard at feeling as best they can. I think that is important. Every step of the way, every year you try and improve on different things."

Gronkowski has openly discussed that he likes to have fun off of the field, but he has also insisted that he understands when it is time to put in the work to prepare for an upcoming season. He spent part of last offseason training at Jay Glazer's Unbreakable Performance Center -- the same gym where fellow Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett worked out -- where improving mobility and flexibility are part of the regimen along with building strength, speed, power and explosiveness.

But might Gronkowski find himself avoiding some of the injuries he's experienced if he focused more of his time on pliability? Brady didn't want to take the conversation in that direction, acknowledging that Gronkowski works hard on staying in shape, but he did say that in his opinion there isn't enough focus on flexibility in athletics in general.

"I mean Gronk is so hard working, and Gronk has spent a lot of time with Alex at different points," Brady said. "Gronk has his rehab and he’s going to do it, and I have no doubt he’s going to come back stronger and better than ever. All of us learn every year about things that work and don’t work. And it’s really up to the individual. Gronk, it depends what all the . . . I don’t want to single out Gronk because he’s the only one that's injured. There's a lot of players that get injured over the course of the year, and then you go about changes in your routine because you think this may work and this may not work.

"To me, I feel like it’s very touch-and-feel with how you do take care of your body. Some weeks it is a little more strengthening. Some weeks it’s a little more conditioning. Some weeks it’s a little more pliability depending on how your body feels. I don’t think people spend enough time on pliability at all. I think that is the missing third leg to what athletes in high school should be learning and college athletes. We learn at a young age it’s all about strengthening and conditioning. And strengthening at the expense of pliability, to me, gets you injured. If you’re injured you can’t play. If your body is your asset and you’re injured, you’re not going to have much of a career for any athlete. Every team is trying to incorporate the things they see and they feel and they want to do a better job of. I think, I feel like that is part of what I want to teach people is how I've done it."

Brady said he has had conversations with Gronkowski about his training and that Gronkowski has been "committed." But one wonders if there's any more that a physically-gifted 27-year-old with a long injury history can learn from a 39-year-old who has withstood physical ailments over the course of his career and still seems to improve with age.

Brady admitted that the physical needs for a player at his position are different than the ones for someone who plays tight end and is expected to execute blocks or break tackles. Going with longer, softer muscles may not work when you have to block down on a 320-pound defensive tackle.

"It’s great to have that. It’s great to be a very strong physical person," he said. "That definitely helps you in your field, especially whatever your job is. For me, strengthening is really just to withstand the hits. I don't need . . . You guys saw me block last week, I don’t really strength train so I can go block people. It requires a different level of strength for certain positions, and a lot of people need to put a lot of strength for their positions.

"Whether it's baseball players or hockey players . . . so much of what you guys have seen me do is try to replicate playing quarterback when I work out. Over the offseason I work on my drops and my mechanics so that I can be the best quarterback. Those functional exercises are what's important for me. I don't want to do anything that's going to throw my timing off, and my throwing mechanics, by slowing down or densening certain parts of my body -- my hips or my core -- I need to be really pliable so I can maintain the timing and mechanics of my throwing motion so that I can throw the ball accurately because ultimately that's what my job is." 

Brady added: "You can't help the team if you're not out there. Different positions require different levels of strength and conditioning. I think that the key to sustaining the impacts is having your muscles pliable and that's soft and long and the ability to absorb the hits and really balance. That’s what I focus on. I’ve spent a lot of time with Alex keeping my muscles long and soft. Along with that goes the nutrition and feeling my inflammation rates down and keeping my muscles really hydrated. You go on these cross-country flights and you do a lot of things to dehydrate you. I stay very hydrated so it’s a combination of things that I feel put me in a great position to take those hits. Again, there are some that you can’t avoid and that is part of football. The ones I feel that you can avoid, those are the ones I want to avoid, and I think that's how I have stayed out there as long as I have."

The work he has put in with Guerrero, the changes to his diet, the commitment to rest and recovery -- it doesn't feel like a sacrifice to him, Brady went on.

Take Saturday's celebration of the 2001 Patriots that team owner Robert Kraft threw, for example. It sounded like the kind of thing any player would have built their schedule around, but Brady could only check in briefly before getting to bed. 

"I think there will be a time to sit back and reflect and enjoy those experiences," he said. "I take them for what they are . . . It's important for me to get my rest. It was nice to see a lot of the guys that I played with, but I couldn’t stay that long because my meetings finished at 8:30 at night, and I wanted to stop in because it’s important for me to see those guys. And Mr. Kraft, he put on a great event and I wanted to just make sure I was supportive of that. But I wanted to get home and to get to bed. Then to get up the next day and to be focused on the game, that’s where my energy was at.

"It’s not a sacrifice because I love it. At the end of the day I love what I do. I love the experiences that I’ve had. That is what I enjoy. I always feel my motivation is that I could have, should have done better.

"After every game that is what I think. 'God, I could have done this. I should have done this.' I think it’s a little maniacal because you do and you deal with so much stuff, sometimes the games, there’s a lot of imperfection in football, and there’s a lot of imperfection of what you do out there, especially when you’re making split-second decisions. It’s gratifying to come out of a game and go, 'Man, that was pretty good game.' And that’s happened, definitely. That is what you’re always trying to strive for. For me, I just want to try and put myself in that position every week to be the best I can be for my team."

As Brady said, some of the things Gronkowski has dealt with have been unavoidable. But one has to wonder, given everything he's been through, if he might not consider a real change in how he takes care of his body -- his "asset," as Brady put it -- in order to more consistently put himself in position every week to be the best he can be for himself and his team.