Patriots stay grounded, despite past success against Jets

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Patriots stay grounded, despite past success against Jets

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO The last time the Patriots and Jets met, it really wasn't much of a meeting.

Led by Tom Brady's 310 passing yards, Wes Welker's 15 catches for 192 yards, and, yes, Laurence Maroney's 77 yards rushing to go with two touchdowns, the Pats' offense made somewhat easy work of the vaunted Jets D on their way to a 31-14 win.

Before practice on Thursday, that game was, predictably, a topic of conversation in the New England locker room. And just as predictably, the Pats were quick to write off the possibility of that prior success having any effect on what happens this Sunday at the Meadowlands.

"Sometimes you have one of those days where you're able to just get into a zone and make some plays," Welker said of last season's dominating performance, "and I'm sure they're gonna be coming up with something to take that away this time around."

"This is a different team," said Julian Edelman, who had three catches for 26 yards last time the two team met. "They drafted a new corner, and they're going to have different schemes, probably, so we're just out there preparing our best and doing whatever we can."

Perhaps the bigger story than the new corner the Jets drafted (Kyle Wilson, out of Boise State), is the one who they traded for former All-Pro Antonio Cromartie.

Cromartie, who measures at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and is one of the stronger, more physically gifted cornerbacks in the league, is expected to line up against Welker on Sunday.

"He's super fast," said Welker, who admits he's still not back at 100 percent after offseason knee surgery. "I don't think there's anyone faster in the league than that guy. His speed and his range and recovery and everything like that. And his size, he's a big guy. He's a rare combination of size and speed and definitely somebody that you have to stay on top of your routes and not get sloppy."

But if there's one spot where Welker does have a leg up in the match-up, it's with his quickness (even he's not yet fully recovered).

"It's usually bigger guys have more problems with that," he said, "so I'll try to use that to my advantage for sure."

He'll also have a little more help on Sunday than he did last week, thanks to the return of Edelman, who missed the Bengals game, and much of the preseason, because of an injured ankle.

"I'm real anxious to get back out there, he said. "I love playing the game and anytime you don't get to play with your teammates that you've been training so hard with, going through double-days and going through camp with, it's a little disappointing. So I'm chomping at the bit."

When asked if he learned anything from the 31-14 win?

"I don't even remember that, really," Edelman said. "When our offense is clicking, we're pretty tough. That's what I learned. But this is a different team."

The addition of Edelman, combined with the emergence of Brandon Tate, should help Welker offset what is undoubtedly the most hyped match-up of the afternoon.

Randy Moss vs. Revis Island.

With cornerback Darrelle Revis back from his holdout and already slinging trash talk the way of Moss, you can expect the two to go at each other all day. And while the Patriots have complete confidence in their star getting the best of Revis, they'll be ready to pick up the slack if Moss does in fact find himself stranded.

"Obviously, Revis and Randy are great players, and they're going to go at it," said Welker. "It just means he's gonna battle and do what he needs to do, and at the same time every else has to battle and make sure they're doing their job."

The defense also had their way with the Jets last November, intercepting rookie Mark Sanchez four times including a first-quarter pick six by Leigh Bodden and holding New York to barely 200 yards of total offense.

You'd think that that, combined with Sanchez's poor showing on Monday night against Baltimore, might have the Pats feeling overconfident. Okay, actually, you know that wouldn't happen, but either way, the Patriots made sure to express that they aren't taking anything for granted against the Jets offense on Sunday.

"I'm sure Sanchez has a chip on his shoulder, but that's not going to change how we prepare for the game and execute," said Darius Butler. "We're ready for the challenge. I'm sure he's a different player than he was last year."

"They have a quarterback who can get the ball down the field," said Jonathan Wilhite, "and receivers who can go get it, so we have to be ready to go."

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Patriots may get help from Foster . . . but not the one you think

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Patriots may get help from Foster . . . but not the one you think

As Patriots fans across New England worked themselves into a fine lather at the sight of Arian Foster in Boston over the weekend, another running back of the same last name prepared himself for his first-ever week of OTAs. 

D.J. Foster may not have the resume that Arian Foster has racked up over the course of his seven-year career, but the undrafted rookie running back's skill set is intriguing nonetheless. And he's healthy, whereas the former Texans Pro Bowler is coming off of a season-ending Achilles ailment and hasn't played a full season since 2012. 

Foster could be considered one of the players on the Patriots roster who stands the most to gain from this phase of the team's offseason program. Not only will he be taught to put into practice that which he's learned during his brief time in Foxboro this far, but there could be valuable reps available to him as Dion Lewis works his way back from a season-ending ACL injury suffered last fall. 

Foster, who played receiver during his final collegiate season at Arizona State, may slot in behind veteran sub backs James White and Donald Brown, but he'll still have an opportunity to show what he can do this spring. This is considered a "teaching camp" by the Patriots, not a "competition camp," meaning the lines between first, second and third string are a bit more blurry than they might be during training camp. Everyone gets a shake. 

At 5-foot-10 and 193 pounds Foster may be considered slight to run between the tackles, but his quickness could help him make defenders miss in the hole. He ran a 6.75-second three-cone drill at this year's combine, which was fourth among wideouts. Had he been considered a back, he would've topped the list at that position for that drill. 

Foster worked primarily with running backs coach Ivan Fears when he first arrived at Gillette Stadium, making it sound as though he'll be in the mix as one of the team's pass-catching backs. But knowing the Patriots, they'll be open to splitting him out wide as well. 

Wherever he's used, Foster will have his work cut out for him as he learns the offense and tries to develop an on-the-field rapport with his quarterbacks. Slow going as his development may be, his ceiling is exciting. 

One thing's for certain: At this point, he's of more use to the club than a veteran back coming off of a major injury who isn't quite ready to pass a physical. 

Despite discord, Goodell's reign may not be nearing end

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Despite discord, Goodell's reign may not be nearing end

Monday may have marked a low point in the relationship between the NFL and its on-field employees.

The fight between the league and its best player of the past two decades was in the headlines again. Tom Brady, tied to the NFL’s bumper and dragged around for almost 500 days, had his NFLPA legal team baring its teeth again in the Deflategate mess. The eye-gouging and hair-pulling in that imbroglio over a puff of air allegedly being removed from footballs has cost the league and the PA about $25M so far.

Meanwhile, NFLPA President Eric Winston was saying the league "cannot be trusted to do the right thing when it involves players.” That comment flowed from a Congressional report alleging the NFL tried to exert influence over who would conduct studies regarding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the condition that’s been blamed for a myriad of former players winding up addled, incapacitated or dead.

I say “may have marked” because the relationship between the two sides has cratered so frequently over the past two years, it’s hard to know exactly what the low point has been. Or how much lower it can go.

And, with the 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement only half done, there is ample opportunity for things to get worse. Because, really, why would they get better?

With the NFL’s owners safe knowing that their emperor/puppet/human shield is still in place to take the hits and do their dirty work, there’s seemingly no groundswell among that group to relieve Roger Goodell of his duties. Despite reports of growing owner discontent over Deflategate, the Ray Rice investigation, and an appeal of a case in which the league was found to have withheld $100M from players, there is no Sword of Damocles dangling over the league to cut ties with Goodell.

He was able to oversee the league’s re-entry in Los Angeles (though that “triumph” was fraught with owner acrimony), is going to get a game played in China, keeps edging closer to getting a franchise based in Europe and may even land one in Las Vegas, has enhanced the league’s reach on social media (the announcement of some games being aired on Twitter) and keeps making billions hand over fist.

Goodell’s presence won’t be an impediment to a new labor deal getting done for another five years. By then, when the issues of Goodell’s role in player discipline, drug testing and his relationship with the union come to the fore, the owners might feel compelled to cut him loose after 15 seasons in charge.

But even then, the league’s owners will be in the business of pointing out to the players how good they’ve had it under the current CBA. The league’s salary cap structure – decried as a disaster in the first years of the deal – has seen the cap grow from $120M in 2011 to $155M this year. Players’ practice time and the wear and tear on their bodies has been reduced thanks to the new limits on contact enacted. Benefits are better. Retired players are getting better care. Players have more off-field marketing opportunities with companies that want to affix themselves to the most popular sport in the United States.

As bad as the headlines have been for Goodell, in five years (or probably fewer since negotiations on a new CBA will begin in 2020) who will remember the disaster that’s been Deflategate? How inspired will players be to miss games and paychecks for the satisfaction of knowing Goodell can’t be his own arbitrator anymore?

To sum it up, Goodell’s dark disciplinary reign may well continue unabated for a few more seasons. But as long as the league rains money on its players through the end of this decade, the clock isn’t ticking on Goodell and the owners in the form of labor strife.

Smith: Brady made an 'incredibly generous offer' to settle Deflategate

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Smith: Brady made an 'incredibly generous offer' to settle Deflategate

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith joined the Dan Patrick Show -- hosted by Ross Tucker on Monday -- to discuss the petition that was eventually filed to the Second Circuit requesting a rehearing for Tom Brady's case. 

During the discussion, Smith insisted that Brady made a settlement offer long ago that might've resolved things. But because the NFL wanted more, a deal was never struck. Now here we are, almost 500 days since the AFC Championship Game in January of 2015, and Deflategate is still a living, breathing thing. 

"Tom's a standup guy," Smith said. "And I think he made a settlement offer to resolve this. The league chose not to take it, and that's where we are . . . I don't want to go into details, but it was an incredibly generous offer to resolve this. The league asked for something that no man should agree to do."

Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran explained on Monday's episode of Quick Slants that Brady was willing to accept a one-game suspension for a lack of cooperation at the outset of the investigation. But the league was looking for a face to take the blame, Curran explained. 

Both Jim McNally and John Jastremski were willing to take the heat off of Brady, but Brady insisted that he would not throw anyone else under the bus because he believed that there was no wrongdoing on his part or anyone else's when it came to the preparation of game footballs. 

With no one offered up to shoulder the blame, the NFL declined to agree to any proposal from Brady's camp. At that point, it would have been almost impossible to predict that this case would one day be only a step or two from getting the US Supreme Court involved. 

Yet here we are.