Mesko optimistic about playing Sunday

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Mesko optimistic about playing Sunday

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
FOXBORO New England Patriots punter Zelton Mesko is feeling a lot better now than he did on Sunday when a teammate was pushed into his leg in the third quarter of New England's 35-21 win.

Feeling better is one thing.

Good enough to play?

You can file that one under 'wait-and-see' as the Patriots put the finishing touches on their preparation for Sunday's game at Buffalo.

Mesko was limited in practice on Friday, but the Patriots say he's questionable for Sunday's game.

He may not have the high profile position of quarterback or star receiver, but his value to the Patriots can not be overlooked.

New England faces a Buffalo Bills squad that has the highest-scoring offense (39.5 points per game) in the league, blending an efficient spread offense that's equally challenging on the ground or through the air.

Dealing with a team that explosive, the battle for field position becomes even more vital to success.

That's where Mesko comes in.

Although he's only averaging 39.5 yards on six punts, the Patriots understand all too well the impact he can make on a game.

And while it's still unclear if he'll play Sunday, the Pats would likely have kicker Stephen Gostkowski pull double-duty as the team's kicker and punter.

"I don't know," was Bill Belichick's response when asked about having Gostkowski handle both duties. "Whatever we do, we'll do what we think is best for the team. Whether that's to bring in a punter or not bring in a punter. However we handle the situation, we'll look at our options and try to pick the best one. The best one would be Zoltan doing what he's here to do. But if he can't do it, then we'll have to figure something else out."

The fact that Mesko did practice with the team on Friday was encouraging, but the ultimate decision on whether he'll play will come from the Belichick and medical team.

"I'm looking forward to helping the team out," Mesko said. "I'm going to do what it takes to get out there, and give it all I got."

Not only does Mesko punt for the Patriots, but he's also the holder for kicker Gostkowski.

After the injury occurred, Mesko did not kick again, but he did resume his role as holder.

"It was a weird feeling," he said of the injury. "I knew I had a duty to Steve and try to make it a go."

That was Mesko's mindset on Friday, which is similar to his approach to Sunday's game.

Feeling more like himself certainly bodes well for his chances of playing.

But Mesko, much like Patriots fans, will enter Sunday's game in 'wait-and-see' mode.

"I'm the eternal optimist," Mesko said.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

Update: Stork contemplates retirement in wake of trade to Redskins

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Update: Stork contemplates retirement in wake of trade to Redskins

When word leaked this morning that the Patriots would release center Bryan Stork, the first question that popped to many people's minds was: "Couldn't they have traded him?"

Well, hours after the news broke, they apparently did:

And a few minutes later, Ian Rapoport came through with more information:

But now, as reported by CSN Mid-Atlantic's JP Finlay, the deal might not happen:

Stay tuned.

 

Curran: Does soon-to-be-sidelined Brady feel threatened?

Curran: Does soon-to-be-sidelined Brady feel threatened?

FOXBORO -- This sounds absurd, I understand. But Tom Brady isn’t taking for granted that teammates will regard him as the team’s unquestioned leader in this tumultuous 2016.

If he did, he wouldn’t have stated on FOUR different occasions Monday how crushing it was to miss last Thursday’s game because it prevented him from fulfilling what he sees as his duty.

His irritation wasn’t simply about missing out on reps and getting in rhythm. It circled back to leadership, responsibility, the sand draining from his NFL hourglasss and his teammates counting on him.

To wit:

I feel like that’s what my job is and responsibility is to go out there and be with my team, so it was tough not to be out there.”

I’ve always felt like the team is counting on me to be out there, and I’m going to do everything I can to be out there playing. I wanted to go the other night, but I think Coach [Bill Belichick] made a great decision.”

“I’d like to be out there every time I get a chance to play, so you only get so many opportunities a year. I’m getting so many opportunities left in my life, so I’d like to take advantage of any opportunity, any and all of them if possible. When you see your teammates out there in their uniforms and ready to go, you want to be out there with them.”

“I was just, like I said, bummed that I couldn’t be out there with my teammates and taking the practice field, I love practicing, so to have the chance to go out there, you like, as a guy who’s been here for a long time, to show your leadership through example and be out there whenever you can be out there because that’s what the team is counting on.”

Is he crazy? Is he being insecure? How could he be perceived as anything but the alpha dog for the Patriots? They don’t need to see him out there to feel led by him. His resume doesn’t just speak for itself, just run the film from the AFC Championship Game and see possibly the most courageous performance of Brady’s career in Denver.

Why the urgency to pee on his territory?

Maybe it’s because Brady got the quarterback job in the first place because his predecessor treated the position like his birthright.

Brady knows the threatening, would-be replacement won’t come right out and say, “I’m the captain now.”

No, the would-be replacement shows up early with sharpened pencils and open ears and does everything he’s asked until -- one day -- the guy who owns the job isn’t there. And then, slowly, life with would-be replacement gets to feeling . . . almost normal. Livable even.

Jimmy G. may not know “Art of War” from arts and crafts, but Brady will presume he does and that the passage “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy” is tattooed inside Jimmy’s lower lip.

And Brady, knowing another Sun Tzu trope states: “A leader leads by example, not force,” has immediate concerns about how he can lead by example when he’s down until October, for God’s sake.

I asked Garoppolo on Wednesday if he has to step gently in taking control of a team temporarily that is/has been and will be Brady’s.

"It’s a tough situation at times,” admitted Garoppolo, who doesn’t seem to have a mutinous cell in his body. “It’s one of those thing where, if you start worrying about that then you can’t worry about whatever it is you’re supposed to be focused on. Your reads, your checks, whatever it may be. You just have to go about your business the same way you always have. I’m not trying to do something crazy that I’ve never done before. I’m just trying to be myself and do what I do.”

I asked Garoppolo if Brady has flat-out said to him that Garoppolo should just do his thing and take control.

In replay, Garoppolo said, “We have a ton of conversations on a day-in, day-out basis. We’re together 24-7. But he’s been helpful this whole way. Whether it’s encouragement, helping me with little things, he’s been nothing but help and I thank him for that.”

Brady is 10 days away from being sent out into the NFL desert to wander for a month. This is uncharted territory for him. He’s 39 and has -- for 16 years -- seen older teammates taken out behind the stables and not come back.

Ludicrous as it is on the face of it -- especially since Brady is signed through 2019 and Jimmy is up in seven months -- adjusting to the reality of someone else squatting down in his huddle may be the hardest part of it all.