Quick Hits: A wild day at Gillette

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Quick Hits: A wild day at Gillette

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran FOXBORO - Albert and Ocho. What's the worst that could happen? Well, for starters, say Ocho and the quarterback pile onto Albert's boat. And the head coach too. Of course he'll be there because he and Ocho are boys. Albert opens it up a little bit and the next thing you know they're going 145 when they T-bone Codzilla in Boston Harbor. While Ocho's water skiing. And Belichick's fishing. And Brady's sunning himself on the quarterdeck. And it doesn't work out so good for any of them. But aside from that? Not much, right? Here are some quick hits from a bizarre day to start the 2011 Patriots season.
1. INSIDE KNOWLEDGEWhen the Patriots decided to pull the trigger on Haynesworth, two things had to happen. The price had to be right - a fifth-round pick and a renegotiated deal with no guaranteed money was right. And there had to be people willing to vouch for him. One of them, no doubt, was Floyd Reese. The Patriots' Senior Football Adviser drafted Haynesworth out of Tennessee and was with Haynesworth for the entirety of the player's career in Tennessee. The other was likely Jim Schwartz, head coach of the Lions and Haynesworth's defensive coordinator with the Titans. Belichick is not shy about gathering and sharing information with people in the coaching fraternity, especially if they are far removed from New England. And with Schwartz as head coach of the Lions, there was sufficient buffer. A call to Schwartz hasn't yet been returned, but here's what he had to say about Haynesworth last year after one of the DTs rare productive games for the Redskins. "It's him playing in a 4-3. It's him being disruptive, attacking blockers, knocking them back, affecting the run and the pass," Schwartz said after watching tape of Haynesworth ruining the Bears offense last October. "I mean, he was hard to handle one-on-one. Those are the things I remember about Albert. He affected that game."When he gets moving, he's very difficult to block. He is a guy that's a very good athlete, he's a very smart football player, and he's tremendously big. And you combine all three of those, and it's very difficult to block him. That's one of the reasons, like I said, that he had so much success. That's one of the reasons he had so much success last week. And again, it's one of the reasons he was in such demand as a draft pick and also a free agent."2. See What Condition His Condition Is InGiven Haynesworth's disinterest in playing for Mike Shanahan in Washington last season, it's hard to imagine he's been working out like a fiend to get ready for 2011. That will be one of the biggest issues he'll face when joining the Patriots. You figure he won't be on the field until he passes his conditioning test, although if he does fail it, he may be out there for mental reps. As big as Vince Wilfork is, he is in tremendous cardiovascular shape and rarely misses practice. That hasn't been Haynesworth's modus operandi. We'll see if it changes. 3. Ocho's Barstool ExclusiveNews is news and one of the most revealing insights into the fact that Ochocinco gets the difference between his "brand" and being a football player was given to Dave Portnoy (aka El Presidente) at Barstool Sports. In Miami recently, Portnoy talked to Ochocinco at a Skyy Vodka party. The mostrelevant part was Ocho talking about assimilating into the system in New England. (It's kind of stream-of-consciousness, but what the hell . . . you get what he's saying). "A lot of people say my style of play would be weird in that system but the thing they dont realize is that I dont have to be Chad Johnson," he told Portnoy. "I dont have to be Ochocino in the media, because Im finally getting what Ive wanted. Winning. Winning."Listen, I create this party, I create this guy that loves football thats like a little kid out there. I know I get to camp July 26, when January gets here Im done. So Im trying to cram as much(flipping) fun as possible into the games as I can. Listen, Im just saying, yo, I wouldnt have to do that (stuff). I wouldnt have to celebrate. Celebrate for what? Ill score 30(flipping) times! They wouldnt have a(flipping) chance! You know? You understand what Im saying?Belichick knows me, see, this is what I love about the New England Patriots. Im close to that man on a personal level, they already know that behind the fun, behind the celebrations, they know how hard I work. Theyre the ones . . . theyre the ones ESPN wanna say, Oh he cant play no more. Ask the players there next time you see em. Ask Belichick next time you see him."We'll do that Friday. 4. Light's On?No word yet on whether the Patriots will retain Matt Light as they hope to. He hasn't been linked to any other teams and the Globe's Greg Bedard reported Thursday that the Patriots are nearing a deal. That's all for Thursday. We'll be back at it in the morning. We'll have Belichick around 9:30 and Brady after practice.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

Malcom Brown already considered a leader for Patriots in second year

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Malcom Brown already considered a leader for Patriots in second year

FOXBORO -- Late last year, Bill Belichick went out of his way to explain just how far then-rookie defensive lineman Malcom Brown had progressed over the course of his first professional season. 

From the sounds of it, the first-round defensive tackle's on-the-field growth was atypical. 

"I think he’s really come on through the season, which isn’t always the case with first-year players," Belichick said on Dec. 30. "It took him a while to get to that point through training camp and the early part of the season, but he’s become much better and more consistent in every phase of the game – running game, passing game, play recognition, communication, adjustments – just everything. It seems like every week he just builds on it.

"He’s really hit a good slope, good incline. He’s worked hard. There is a lot on every rookie’s plate. There’s a lot on his plate as a rookie in the different situations that he plays in and the number of things that we do on the front, so it’s not easy, but he’s improved his techniques, his fundamental play and he’s improved his communication and overall understanding of the multiples that are involved. It’s been good."

Brown finished the year as the Patriots interior defensive lineman with the most snaps played (his 517 snaps trailed only Jabaal Sheard, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich among defensive linemen), and he established himself as a trustworthy option in the team's steady rotation on the interior of its front. 

According to one of Brown's newest teammates, free-agent acquisition Terrance Knighton, Brown is now serving as a leader on the interior of the defensive line. Though he's only in his second season, Brown's understanding of the Patriots defense gives him a leg up on players who may have more experience in the league but are new to New England. 

"Malcom Brown has basically been leading the group," Knighton said after an OTA practice last Thursday. "Being in his second year, he's probably the most experienced guy in it right now as far as this team. I'm picking his brain to see how things are done around here."

 

Knighton acknowledged that once the Patriots have Alan Branch back on the field -- Branch was one of 17 players missing from Thursday's OTA -- they'll get another player with a sound understanding of the defense. But right now, Brown is looked to as a source of information for veterans like Knighton and Markus Kuhn as well as rookie fourth-rounder Vincent Valentine. 

"Young guy, obviously played at a high level last year and you can tell he's feeding off of that," Knighton said of Brown. "He's only continued, from what I've seen on tape to now. That's one of the things I try to talk to about with the young guys is being on the up, and not going up and down in your career. That's something I've been through in my career so I just try to share knowledge and help guys out."

Brown, who turned 22 in February, certainly ended last season "on the up." In the early going this offseason, it seems as though he's on track to continue that trajectory.

Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

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Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

Malcolm Butler was one of many not spotted during OTAs on Thursday when the media got a looksee at one of the practices.

Butler wasn’t the only one. But he did stand out as a missing player who hadn’t (to my knowledge) had a surgery but did have a contract that needs addressing. Another one? Rob Gronkowski. If we really want to extend it out, throw in Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan.

This is the point where it’s important to point out that these workouts are voluntary – VAW-LUN-TERR-EEEE! Players don’t have to be there. Additionally, I’m not even sure Butler or Gronkowski (or Ryan and Harmon) weren’t at the facility. All I know is they weren’t on the field. And, per usual, nobody’s tipping his hand as to why.

But we do have this, relative to Butler. ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote Sunday that he “wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to his contract status.” Reiss said that Butler “told teammates and friends he plans to push for an adjustment to his contract before the 2016 season, and staying off the field in voluntary workouts would be a decision that limits injury risk and also could be viewed as a statement to the organization that he's unhappy with the status quo and/or the movement/specifics of contract talks.”

In the same vein, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gronkowski opted out as well for the same reason, especially since he threw out a tweet that signaled dissatisfaction with his pact in March.

But in terms of a statement, not going to OTAs is more of a throat-clearing than a noisy proclamation.

Not to minimize the move if Butler, Gronkowski or anybody else is actually staying away because of business. The Patriots usually enjoy almost perfect OTA attendance. Also, there hasn’t been much contract strife around here for the past five seasons.

Money matters were an annual issue for the Patriots from about 2003 through 2010. Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Ty Warren, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Randy Moss, Adam Vinatieri, Mike Vrabel and – quietly – Tom Brady all had their contract dances back then. But the only one that got hairy in the recent past was Wes Welker.

It’s still too soon to know if any of these will get contentious. When will we know? When either a player or his agent spouts off. Or, when someone’s a no-show at mandatory minicamp beginning June 7.

That would amount to a shot across the bow. Of all the players likely to take that shot, Butler seems a reasonable bet. His base pay this season is $600K after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2015 that saw him check the opposition’s best wideout on a weekly basis. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year. He deserves longer-term security than he currently has. Gronkowski has a lot less to kick about. He may make less than lesser players, but he also was the league’s highest paid tight end when he was missing scads of games due to injury.

After Butler, Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower would figure to have the strongest cases to want new deals and want them snappy. Ryan and Harmon would be right behind those two. Then Jabaal Sheard.

Sheard, Hightower and Collins were all on the field Thursday. 

Can the Patriots get all these guys reupped? Will they even try? How do they have them prioritized? If the guy who howls loudest gets to the front of the line, the time to make some noise is close.

But we have yet to hear any of these players loud and clear.