Dowling ready to put hamstring woes aside


Dowling ready to put hamstring woes aside

By A. Sherrod Blakely Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
FOXBORO Ras-I Dowling is back on the practice field with the New England Patriots, trying his best to put a familiar injury behind him.

Dowling, the Patriots' second-round pick in this past spring's NFL draft, has been out for most of training camp because of a hamstring injury.

The 6-foot-1 rookie from Virginia addressed the media on Wednesday, but was mum on the injury.

When asked about his goals for the next couple of weeks, he said, "just getting better everyday; taking one day at a time."

Having already suffered a similar injury, Dowling doesn't really have much of a choice.

After a strong junior season in 2009 at the University of Virginia, an assortment of injuries -- among them, a right hamstring injury -- kept Dowling sidelined for all but five games as a senior.

In March, Dowling reportedly pulled out of a workout early due to what described at the time as, a "strained right hamstring injury."

It is unclear if the hamstring that has been a problem in the past is the same hamstring that has limited his participation in practice with the Patriots thus far.

Fortunately for the Pats, Dowling is not a player that they came into the season counting on to make an impact other than as a contributor on special teams.

With a number of veteran cornerbacks in camp, Dowling has plenty of experienced players at his position to help him become better acclimated to the Patriots system.

When asked about what the veterans have told him thus far, Dowling replied, "I'm just trying to get better, day-by-day, to be out there."

He added, "just worry about myself; that's all I can worry about right now."

Spending time studying video or in the weight room are two of the more common ways for players to improve while being out with an injury.

When asked what he's doing most to prepare himself to be on the field, Dowling responded, "everything I can possibly do to get better; that's all I can do."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Curran: Goodell and NFL keep hiding behind The Shield


Curran: Goodell and NFL keep hiding behind The Shield

The NFL shield has taken on a whole new meaning.

The logo that Commissioner Roger Goodell made it his mission to protect when he took office a decade ago? It’s just something for the league’s owners and operatives to hide behind so no person or group of people ever has to face the music.

Behind The Shield, the men and women who talk publicly about doing the right thing and hiring the best and brightest cut shady deals, settle scores, scratch backs, twist arms and try to maximize every revenue trickle in pursuit of Roger Goodell’s promised $25 billion annual revenue goal.

Under Goodell the league and its owners have conducted themselves so poorly that we’re left to cynically scrutinize every bout of the NFL seeming to do the right thing with the question: “What’s their angle?” eye.

And almost without fail, the league lives down to our expectations.  

So, protect The Shield? You bet your ass. That’s fortification for the walled city that is 345 Park Avenue. It protects actual humans from facing the music and explaining how mind-numbing outcomes like the one we’re witnessing in the Josh Brown case came to pass.

Who decided to trim Brown’s suspension for domestic violence from the baseline of six games down to one?

The “NFL” – that nameless, faceless, three-letter monolith is usually the entity cited. When it gets personal, it becomes “Goodell” and for $30M a year, he’ll take the slings and arrows as the face of the league knowing that – cowering behind him – are 31 owners who pay him precisely for that reason.

Instead of understanding that real, genuine transparency is the best way to rebuild public trust, the league sits mum or dissembles.

We get some mealy-mouth Goodell explanation uttered to the BBC while the NFL is priming the pump for expansion in Europe that insinuates we’re boobs who can’t understand the rigorous process the NFL goes through in humiliating itself.

And we get what passes for a mea culpa from Giants owner John Mara about the team thinking it was doing the right thing but being misguided in that belief.

No specifics. No rationale. Just a shrug and a “We bleeped up…” with no outward signals at all of introspection.

And that’s it.

So, we never hear from the NFL’s senior advisor in charge of overseeing investigations, Lisa Friel. She was hired precisely to ensure there wasn’t a repeat of the Ray Rice case in which the NFL was unable (or unwilling) to uncover evidence that later surfaced and caused the league immeasurable embarrassment. We never hear from B. Todd Jones, who was reportedly put in charge of making “initial disciplinary ruling for off-field misconduct” in 2015.

We never hear from Kia Wright Roberts, reportedly installed a year ago as the NFL’s Director of Investigations.

We never hear from T&M Protection Resources, the Park Avenue security firm to which the NFL apparently farmed out the Brown investigation or the investigators there who kept calling and emailing the Kings County Sheriff’s Office regarding Brown but – hell – couldn’t get an answer.

We never get an explanation as to why Friel, Jones, Roberts, Mara or Goodell himself couldn’t hop a plane to Seattle to sit down across a desk from Sheriff John Urquhart and get guidance the Sheriff said he would have given.

“I would have said exactly the same thing, ‘We cannot release the case file.’ But since this is a hot-button item in the NFL, since it’s the NFL, we probably would have told them orally a little bit more about what we had.” Urquhart said last week after the NFL tried to scapegoat his office for not giving the NFL information. “But we don’t have them calling us here. We’ve got some goofus from Woodinville named Rob Agnew asking for the case file. We have no idea who he is.”

Who does? If the buck was really stopping with all the people the league hired to tighten up investigations and off-field conduct, wouldn’t one of them be running point not Rob Agnew?  Certainly, it would have been worth the time, effort and headache in hindsight, wouldn’t it?

One person has put up her hand and tried to give a little illumination as to the process. Natalie Ravitz, a Senior VP of Communications, who took to Twitter last week and defended the NFL’s investigative efforts. Briefly. And nothing since.

I wrote in August that the NFL needed to be transparent in explaining why they cut Brown’s suspension from six games to one.

What mitigating circumstances were there?

They didn’t explain then and that leads to cynical, presume-the-worst reactions like mine. They were hiding.

As in the Rice case when Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti lobbied on Rice’s behalf, Goodell and his operatives allowed one of their bosses – Mara – to hold sway. They all deferred and where are they now?

I imagine Friel, Jones and Wright are sick to their stomachs over how this played out. I have to believe these people – who built outstanding careers in law enforcement before the NFL glommed onto them and put them in their web – are humiliated this happened on their watch.

I’m sure they’ve got an explanation that may not make everything right but would at least be enlightening enough to somehow restore a little trust that there are capable people involved in the process that messed up.

Goodell and his operatives shouldn’t be explaining to the league’s owners behind closed doors and in hushed tones how this went wrong. They should be at a long table in front of microphones explaining to a public that’s lost faith in it what they’ll do to get it back.

Yet still they hide behind The Shield.

Felger: Broncos’ Elway and Kubiak the only NFL braintrust close to the Patriots


Felger: Broncos’ Elway and Kubiak the only NFL braintrust close to the Patriots

Before I make the following point, I'd like to make one thing clear to my sensitive readers: I do not believe the Denver Broncos are better than Patriots. I do not believe they have “passed'' the Pats. Please, Patriots fans, when New England goes into Denver and wins on Dec. 18 and/or the Pats beat them again in the playoffs, save your emails and calls. Don't get your panties in a bunch. You're still the best.

However, as we assess the pathetic state of brainpower across the NFL, the Broncos are one of only a few teams that deserve mention alongside the Pats. Perhaps they're the only one.  As their recent handling of their quarterback situation shows, especially from a coaching standpoint, Gary Kubiak and John Elway have proven they know what they're doing -- and how many teams in the league can you say that about?

In Denver, Brock Osweiler actually looked like a quarterback with a future. In Houston, he barely looks like he belongs in the league. That's about coaching, scheme and culture. It seems that somewhere between the silly letterman jackets in Houston and his second crack in Denver, Kubiak got a clue. Last year, he managed Osweiler to a 5-2 record before sitting him and somehow winning a Super Bowl behind the noodle-armed Peyton Manning. This year, he has another marginal talent, Trevor Siemian, off to a 5-1 start in his first season under center.

There are many NFL coaches who didn't hit their stride until their second job, and you have to wonder if Kubiak falls in this camp. I actually saw him put down his playsheet with his offense on the field the other night and thought, maybe he's starting to get it. He looked more like a head coach and just a little less like an offensive coordinator. 

Either way, Kubiak has displayed an excellent touch with a string of mediocre quarterbacks. And from the original decision to shut down Manning, to the insertion of Osweiler, to the reinstatement of Manning, and then the ultimate handing of the job to Siemian, he and Elway have pushed all the right buttons. If Paxton Lynch turns into a player down the road, look out.

Of course, Kubiak hasn't had much to do with his defense, which has been the domain of Elway, the architect, and to a lesser extent, Wade Phillips, the coordinator. Elway remains one of the few executives to build a championship team largely through free agency, and some of his moves have been so cold-hearted, so debated at the time, that only Bill Belichick could relate.

Who else fires a coach who led you to four division titles and a Super Bowl berth (John Fox), and then follows that up with a title? Who else lets go of BOTH quarterbacks who led you to a title and follows that up with a division lead?

It's moves like those that led ESPN to display a stat montage late in the game on Monday depicting Elway as ``the Don.'' (Wonder where they got that idea from?). Think about it.  Who else in the league -- what coach, executive or owner -- gets that kind of ``mastermind'' treatment? I don't think anyone else deserves it other than Belichick and, in second place, Elway. Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore would be a distant third; or perhaps Pete Carroll and John Schneider in Seattle deserve mention.

Regardless, as the ESPN graphic showed, the Broncos' record since Elway took over in 2011 is now 63-24, second in the league over that time only to the Pats (67-20). Denver is also one of just four teams to make the playoffs every year during his tenure (the Packers, Pats and Bengals are the others). Like the Pats and Seahawks, he's been to two Super Bowls and won one. And like the Pats, he has won his division five straight years.  

Perhaps that all comes to an end this year, and it sure looks like Denver will be fighting an uphill battle when it comes to earning home field over the Pats come December. But for now, in a league where there are no equals to Belichick, it's almost refreshing (to me, anyway) to consider someone who at least belongs in the conversation. 

Email Felger at Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 FM. The simulcast runs daily on CSN New England.