Curran's 48 lines on 24 issues after Detroit beating

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Curran's 48 lines on 24 issues after Detroit beating

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots InsiderFollow @tomecurran
DETROIT -- Waiting in the Detroit airport for a flight that will bring me to Washington D.C. Wondering if I'll get to Providence before the kids start school. Let's see how this little idea works. There were plenty of things to weigh in on. So let's do 'em all. Two lines each. 1. Sebastian Vollmer's never looked worse than he did Saturday night. The right tackle set a personal high for flailing misses and lost leverage. 2. A power outage at Gillette Stadium pre-empted Bill Belichick's "Uhhhh-a-thon" Sunday afternoon (aka his day after conference call). Seconds of awkward silence would have outnumbered words uttered anyway. 3. Dan Connolly left the locker room Saturday night with a compression wrap on his lower right leg. It was black. 4. Bad as Vollmer was, once Rich Ohrnberger came in to replace Connolly at right guard, it somehow got worse. He looked like a 4-year-old watching traffic pass while Lions blasted through him. 5. I don't care that Logan Mankins does dirty nasty stuff before the whistle that leads to stuff after the whistle. Good teams need players who play at the edge and sometimes go over it. 6. Same goes for Ndamukong Suh. He can be as dirty as he wants to be as far as I'm concerned in this emasculated NFL. 7. I'll need to get a look at the tape, but it seemed like Matt Light held up well at left tackle. The relative slenderness of Nate Solder was used against him during the bull rush that resulted in Tom Brady's pick as he got driven and discarded. 8. Aaron Hernandez is a remarkable weapon. Two or three times a game, he gets in an utter mismatch with room to run and just does stuff I don't think I've ever seen a tight end do for the Patriots. 9. Gronk need touches. Gronk need touches. 10. I'm all set with Brandon Tate. He's got no return imagination and he's not going to be better than Taylor Price or Julian Edelman. 11. When Edelman has the ball in his hands, positive things happen. Bill O'Brien has to make that happen. 12. To put it plainly, Chad Ochocinco's sucked this preseason.Yet because theguy has works his ass off, shows up every single day ready togo and is as disappointed in himself as everyone who wanted an Ocho explosion on arrival, I'm cutting him slack. 13. When Kevin Faulk was the Patriots' full-time third-down back he was so often the one guy who could shift momentum with a something-out-of-nothing play. Danny Woodhead has the same knack. 14. Even as the Patriots were befuddled up front in the first quarter and Tom Brady was under attack, they still managed to convert four consecutive third downs. That speaks to the number of weapons and diversity of the offense. 15. Deion Branch has quietly gone catchless so far this preseason. I think that's redundant. 16. After a breakout first game against the Jaguars second and third-teamers, it was important for Taylor Price to follow that performance up against starters. He was unable to get in the groove Saturday night either. 17. Unless things radically change, Will Yeatman - aptly described by the Globe's Shalise Manza-Young as looking like an investment banker - is going to make the club as an undrafted free agent at tight end. Lee Smith, a fifth-rounder from Marshall, may find himself released with the Patriots hoping they can get him through to their practice squad. 18. Gerard Warren needs to make this football team. He's HaynesworthEllis insurance, plays extremely hard and is a locker room Yoda. 19. The number of defensive miscommunications on Saturday night was disturbing. The amount of on-field finger-pointing and gesturing after the miscommunications was unseemly.20. Mike Reiss at ESPNBoston.com always does an outstanding job charting personnel all game long. He points out that the three players on four different special teams units Saturday night were Tracy White, James Ihedigbo and Sammy Morris, all on the kickoff and punt coverage and return teams. 21. Edelman left in the second half to get checked out by trainers. Not sure what the issue was but he said he was fine in the hallway after the game. 22. Somehow, someway Darius Butler finds a way to get beaten in a prominent fashion every game. Saturday night it was on a fourth-down, fourth-quarter touchdown pass. 23. Devin McCourty had passes completed on him Saturday night that were uncommon. For the most part, his coverage was there and the throws by Matthew Stafford or the catch by Calvin Johnson beat the coverage. 24. Center Andre Gurode appears to be on the outs in Dallas. Couldn't you just see Belichick signing him?Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Slater missing from start of Patriots practice

Slater missing from start of Patriots practice

FOXBORO -- The Patriots were without two key members of their special teams units at Friday's practice. 

Both Matthew Slater (foot) and Jordan Richards (knee) were not spotted at the start of the team's most recent workout. Defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton (illness) was also missing. 

Hamilton and Richards did not participate in Thursday's practice. Slater was present on Wednesday and Thursday after missing Sunday's game against the Jets. 

The Patriots did have a Gronkowski back on the field Friday, but it wasn't Rob, who was expected to undergo back surgery in Los Angeles. It was fullback Glenn Gronkowski, who has apparently been re-signed to the Patriots practice squad for his fourth go-round on New England's 10-man unit. Practice-squad tight end Kennard Backman, who has not been at Patriots practice since Wednesday, has likely been released in order to make room for Gronkowski. 

 

Curran: Patriots holding all the cards with Gronkowski contract

Curran: Patriots holding all the cards with Gronkowski contract

FOXBORO – If the Patriots ever do file for divorce from Rob Gronkowski, it’s not going to be because they don’t like what they are paying him.

When the team picked up the $10 million option on Gronk’s contract in March, activating the back half of his six-year, $54M contract, the Patriots got the upper hand business-wise.

Gronk is signed through the 2019 season – same as Tom Brady. His salaries from 2017 to 2019 are $4.25M, $8M and $9M. His cap hits are $7M, $11M and $12M.

The salary cap for 2016 is $153M. Between now and 2019, it could balloon to more than $170M. 

Gronk fits neatly under it. The franchise tag for tight ends in 2016 was $9M. Gronk is on the books to play for less than half of that in salary in 2017.

That explains why Gronk sent that tweet back in March,  passive aggressively kicking rocks about the “pay cut” he took when the Patriots picked up his option. And it’s why, throughout the summer, his agent Drew Rosenhaus was trying to get the Patriots to the table to work out a new deal for his client.

This back injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for Gronkowski business-wise.

Even if the Patriots tore up the final three years of the deal and gave him a new contract without knowing how he’ll come out of this latest back surgery, the new deal would have to be performance-based and loaded with playing-time clauses.

In that case, as opposed to self-preservation to ensure he can walk fairly well at 50, Gronk, now 27, may feel compelled to play even when he’s not “right.” And, if he’s playing while less than 100 percent, will he be able to play with the abandon that made him the transcendent player he’s been?

That’s if Gronkowski and his Gronktourage would even agree to that kind of a contract, which I’m not sure they would.

They will want security. They may also feel they are owed security because of the physical sacrifices Gronk has made in his seven-year career. And that’s not even taking into consideration the windfall the franchise has realized both financially and in public perception because an inimitable player has been on their roster for seven years. The team should expect a request that they relax their generally hard-line bargaining

While the Patriots have had a strong relationship with Gronk’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, this contract is – on face value – embarrassing for Rosenhaus at this point.

That Gronk “won” for the first portion of the contract isn’t going to be recalled. But he did win. Gronk signed the deal on June 8, 2012. Within months, he fractured his arm on a PAT attempt against the Colts. Then – after having a plate inserted – he broke it again in the playoffs right where the plate ended. An infection ensued. Gronk also had back surgery that offseason. He very slowly returned to action in 2013, missing the first six games. He returned for Week 7, caught 39 balls for 592 yards over the next seven games, then had his season ended by an ACL blowout.

At that juncture, the security of the contract was a godsend. But the way those two years went – the rushing back to the field, the plate insertion, the infection – has shaped the entire relationship with the team since.  

And considering Gronk’s father, Gordie, was a successful businessman himself and sent four sons to the NFL, there may be no more well-informed family out there as to the harsh realities of the business of football.

Beyond just knowing how the sausage gets made, though, the Gronkowskis have been considering Rob’s football mortality and making sure to maximize his earnings since he was 19.

Not hypothetically either. After Gronk’s sophomore season, he declared for the draft despite having ruptured a disk for the first time. The reason? If he played another down of college football his $4M insurance policy was void. If he suffered a career-ending injury, he would realize no dough from the sport. So he entered the draft to start making as much as he could before the body gave out. 

Which is to their credit. The kid had a skill, he loved playing the sport, making sure he’s well-compensated for plying that skill for as long as possible is what any parent should do.

But we’re approaching a crossroads now. Will Gronk want to continue playing? Will his family encourage him to? Will he even be cleared?

And even if those answers all came back in the affirmative, would the Gronkowskis sign off on Rob playing for relative peanuts compared to what lesser tight ends are receiving?

The Patriots have the favorable hand right now. The young man may well be on an operating table still, so this would not be the time to play it.

But the hard realities of that contract are impossible to ignore. And at some point, they’ll come to a head.