NFL players balking on recertifying union

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NFL players balking on recertifying union

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
ATLANTA -- And this is the part of the show where the players get painted into a corner. By late Thursday afternoon, the NFL owners will have shown beyond all reasonable doubt that they are all for the return of professional football. They will have either voted for the negotiated CBA or they will have declared an intention to vote in favor of it pending the players remove collective head from collective anus and vote. The players? Basically, their executive director DeMaurice Smith walked out on a Washington sidewalk and said, "Ohhhh, this is so harrrrrd to decide" back in the 3 o'clock hour. He then said he was going to take a walk "around the corner."The problem is this. The players don't want to re-form their union. Without it, they have greater latitude to bring litigation against the NFL and charge it with antitrust violations. With the union, that leverage vanishes. So now that the players know the owners' urgency is at an all-time, they are trying to drag their feet. Hence, Kevin Mawae saying on Wednesday the players would take their time. And Chester Pitts saying it may take two weeks. And Smith saying the decision to re-form is a difficult one. Meanwhile, the players are trying to make the actual process of voting to recertify their "trade association" seem like a Herculean chore. Again, their interest is in making the owners sweat the return of football. Maybe they can gain some concessions in the overall deal. Instead, the owners will blissfully cast their votes then cast the players as the villiains. "We're ready to go," will be their claim. "Not sure what the holdup with the players is."Public opinion will turn against the players. The owners -- who started the lockout to begin with -- will sit back and be seen as the sane ones. So that's where we are. On day 127 of the NFL Lockout. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

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Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

What goes through Dont'a Hightower’s mind in the minutes before he takes the field and lowers himself into a cauldron of collisions, pain and exultation?

Not a thing.

“I rest. I literally rest,” said the Patriots Pro Bowl inside linebacker. “I don’t do anything else. I sit at my locker, I don’t listen to music. I don’t do anything out of the ordinary. I don’t look at film, I don’t look at notes. I’m just relaxed. Calm before the storm. I’ve done enough preparing, I’ve done enough notes, I’ve done enough of that stuff during the week. If I don’t know it by now, I don’t know it. It’s not gonna help me last minute. It’s only gonna make me play slower.”

By the time an NFL team hits the field – in the Patriots case, runs out of a giant, inflatable helmet while Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” blares – they are primped, polished, taped and glistening.

But what is their day like leading up to that? I asked a few Patriots to take me through their game-day prep from wakeup to anthem to give me insight into what we don’t see.  

You can hear Hightower, Nate Solder, Alan Branch, Devin McCourty and Rob Ninkovich detail the steps they take to get game-ready. French toast is involved. So are naps. And sock preparation.

It all builds to that moment of theater that Ninkovich says is what players truly miss when they leave the game – that feeling of euphoria.

“When we finally get to run out, that’s the most exciting time in the world,” says Solder. “The crowd wasn’t there earlier when we went out there and all of a sudden, the crowd is there. Very exciting, very fun, especially with the guys you work so hard with.”

Says McCourty, “I always think when I run out of the tunnel to look up and say, ‘Thank you’ just to be able to play.”

Listen to them tell their stories here:

Belichick's game-day ritual: 'Try to coach and play good'

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Belichick's game-day ritual: 'Try to coach and play good'

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick was not in any mood to start revealing his behind-the-scenes pre-kickoff routine on game-days. The air of focus he's exhibited during his media-availability periods this week continued on Friday, particularly when he was asked about his Sunday rituals. 

When a reporter wondered if there was anything in particular Belichick does before a game, he initially said simply, "No."

A follow-up about superstitions was tossed Belichick's way next. He swatted that aside as well.

"Try to play and coach good," he explained. "Goes a long way."

There you have it. An easy-step-by-step guide on how to approach a game like a future Hall-of-Famer.