Notes: Lockout rock star Gronk back to business


Notes: Lockout rock star Gronk back to business

By Tom E. Curran Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Gronk took the lockout by the throat and wrung every bit of self-indulgent fun he could out of it. As least that appeared to be the case. Gronk was here dancing, Gronk was there singing, Gronk was shirtless and flipping girls into the air like a flat-topped majorette. Now? RoboGronk. The second-year tight end isn't what you'd call comfortable in front of the media. Great guy but not a gifted orator. For instance, here's the answer he rolled out when asked about wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. "He's a great receiver. It was the coach's decision to bring him in. It is what it is and we're all trying to get better out here and I'm just working on my own aspect of the game just concentrating on my job to go out there and focus what I gotta do, what I gotta do to help do whatever's best for the team."Blink. Blink. Blink. Asked about his lockout domination, Gronkowski said,"That's all in the past now. Really don't matter what it is. Now we're just here concentrating on football. We're in camp and just trying to get better every day now."But he did enjoy it, no? "Cool thing was I got to be with my family a lot," he smiled. "So that was cool."The onequestion Gronkowski did warm to was aboutrecently released tight end AlgeCrumpler. "Alge Crumpler's a great guy anddefinitely gonna be missed," said Gronkowski who would often look at Crumpler before answering questions last year as a rookie."I've already missed his presence. He's a great leader andI'm definitely gonna miss him. I hope thebest for him tooin the future. He wasn't just an awesome player but he was a great guy on and off the field."Despite the high intensity fun Gronk enjoyed before football returned, he looksfresh as a daisy. A brilliant one-handed catch in the seam on a seemingly overthrown ball by quarterback Jonathan Crompton on Saturday was evidence thatRob Gronkowski, tight endlives.Gronk? He's gone for now. Albert Haynesworth will be wearing No. 92. He spent most of the morning walkthrough hearing scheme talk on the field. The Patriots worked defensively on reading the running back in draw and screen situations for a few minutes and did so out of a 4-3 set. Logan Mankins was also on the field butjust observing, not participating. Any player signed to a new dealthis year, whether it be a re-signing or a tender, cannotpractice until August 4. Deion Branch was, as usual, upbeat and informative in his session with reporters. He said that second-year player Taylor Price went through a tough rookie season under the scrutiny of coaches as he transitioned to the NFL but that he expects big things from the player who seems much more at ease. Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio said he expects BenJarvus Green-Ellis in camp this week. He's a restricted free agent but will be back with the Patriots unless a team gives him an offer New England declines to match. On Haynesworth, Caserio said, "Alberts been a good football player in this league, hes big, hes strong, hes athletic and hes a disruptive player. I think weve always taken the approach that if the guys a good football player, well find a way to use him. In the end, its up to the player to determine what his role is going to be moving forward." Still unsigned among prominent draft choices are first-rounder Nate Solder, second-rounder Ras-I Dowling and running back Shane Vereen. Caserio was very positive about the physical and mental progress of Marcus Cannon who's coming back from lymphoma."Ithink hes still kind of going through his process. He looks great. Hes done everything hes been asked to do to this point. I think were all optimistic. I dont think were going to rush into anything. I think were going to let that timetable sort of run its course. Hes here. Hell be here. I think there are a few more steps along the way for him that hes going to have to take care of
Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Seahawks, Cardinals miss OT FGs, tie 6-6


SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Seahawks, Cardinals miss OT FGs, tie 6-6

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Seattle's Stephen Hauschka and Arizona's Chandler Catanzaro missed short field goals that would have won the game in overtime and the Seahawks and Cardinals settled for a 6-6 tie Sunday night.

Hauschka's 27-yard field goal was wide left with seven seconds left after Catanzaro's 24-yarder bounced off the left upright.

The tie was the Cardinals' first since Dec. 7, 1986, a 10-10 draw at Philadelphia when the franchise was based in St. Louis. It was the first for the Seattle since entering the NFL in 1976.

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Curran: End result vs. Steelers justifies Patriots 'bend but don't break' defense

Curran: End result vs. Steelers justifies Patriots 'bend but don't break' defense

PITTSBURGH – “This game isn’t about numbers,” said Rob Ninkovich. “Everyone thinks about sacks and all these things as huge markers for success but there are a lot of teams with a lot of sacks that aren’t winning. I’ll take the wins over the sacks any day.”

It was another win on Sunday for the Patriots – 27-16 over the Steelers in Pittsburgh. There were no sacks. There was no chaos, no befuddled young backup quarterback flushed and addled by a complex defense. In fact, Landry Jones looked real comfortable back there in throwing for 281 yards and a touchdown.

Like Carson Palmer lighting it up late or Ryan Tannehill throwing for 387 or Tyrod Taylor converting third downs with impunity, Jones on Sunday continued a trend of quarterbacks looking pretty good against a very talented defense that – nonetheless – walked away with a comfortable win.


The Patriots have allowed 107 points – the fewest in the AFC and fewer than all but three teams in the NFC and all three of those have played one fewer game.

But it’s hard to escape the feeling that they’re playing it too close to the bone.

Except, maybe, Bill Belichick who once said quite plainly, “Stats are for losers.”

Not all stats though. We hear it often – three stats matter more than the rest: red zone defense, turnovers and third-down efficiency.

And if you look at those numbers for the Patriots defense, they were all fairly gaudy.

Pittsburgh was in the Patriots’ red zone four times. They came away with 10 points. They were inside the Patriots’ 40 six times and finished with 16.

The Patriots yield yards but not points. And that’s by design, said Ninkovich.

“In an offense like that with a bunch of very explosive players, one slant can turn into a touchdown so you have to be really careful in your coverages,” said the veteran defensive end. "There’s not just one go-to guy. They got a running back that can catch it out of the backfield and make plays (Le’Veon Bell). (Antonio Brown) can catch it anywhere on the field and make plays. You just have to make sure with a guy like (Landry Jones) to have him make the throws. It’s hard in this league to be perfect. So to have him sit back there and try to make all the throws was what we chose and the secondary did a great job.”

The Patriots rushed three or four most of the game. When they ran a corner blitz with Malcolm Butler, he didn’t get home and Jones hit Bell for a decent gain.  

“You can’t just pin your ears back because that’s when you get in trouble,” Ninkovich explained. “And then next week, there’s a guy (Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor) who can move in the pocket so that’s another whole type of defense you run with a mobile quarterback.”

Last season’s game at Buffalo is a good example of why Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia don’t like the feeding frenzy approach to defense. New England had the game in hand, 37-13 entering the fourth. And then, with everyone wanting to get in on the rush, Buffalo scored 19 in the fourth quarter with Taylor breaking contain and making plays with his feet.

After that game (and really, for most of Belichick’s tenure here), the Patriots were more interested in seeing what a quarterback could do in terms of stringing plays together.

The Patriots like their chances in that realm.

“It’s 1-on-1 matchups, guys making plays on third down and in the red area,” said safety Devin McCourty. “Guys are gonna make great catches every once in a while. Guys are gonna make great throws. You gotta live with that. They’re in the NFL too. But if we’re consistent with how we’re playing we’ll make enough plays to do well.”

They certainly do that.  As unpleasant as it seemed when the Steelers made it 14-13 (and had skewered themselves in the first half with a missed field goal, an end zone pick and a hold that wiped out a touchdown), the Patriots walked out with another double-digit win.

It felt like the butt-kicking could have been more thorough, though.

How does McCourty think Bill Belichick, film critic, will view the performance?

“Honestly, you never know,” McCourty said. “There’s times we leave the field feeling like we played terrible and (Belichick says), ‘You fix a couple things and we’ll be all right.’ And there’s times where you feel like you played well and we go in there and get ripped.

“The things Bill focuses on and what he expects out of our defense is what he (keys on) every week,” McCourty stressed. “No matter what the media says, no matter what the stats say. If we don’t give up any points but there’s three third downs where we give up the wrong leverage, that’s a problem. Monday afternoon (after film breakdown) is always a mystery.”

The results for the Patriots haven’t been (with the exception of the opener) cliffhangers. But the feeling persists that one of these weeks, this defense that plays a style daring the opposing quarterback to not shoot himself in the foot will go up against a quarterback that actually doesn’t.