Smart men making dumb points on 18-game season


Smart men making dumb points on 18-game season

By TomE. Curran
DALLAS - To describe NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as an intelligent man wouldbe a vast understatement. Yet this intelligent man, who's been solid and logical in so many difficult decisions since taking over, is losing credibility in trying to sell players and fans on an 18-game season. Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.comhad a post on this earlier on Sunday.In it, Florio detailed how fans responding toPFT posts on the 18-game season continually take exception to Goodell's assertion that thisis what they want done to address the shoddy level of play in two of the four preseason games."Please do not speak for me," wrote one commenter. "I dont need an 18-game season. I just dont WANT to pay regular-game prices for preseason." That comment got 1,050 nods of assent from readers and just 50 disagrees. A reduced preseason will strip down-the-roster players of valuable game reps to make an impression on coaches and improve. An expanded regular season will batter top-of-the-roster players' bodies for two more weeks of high-intensity play, taking out the twopreseason weeks (1 and 4) inwhich they can throttle it back. The aim is not to satiate fans desire for more football. It's to be able to sell two more games of import to the networks and pump up TV and game-day revenue accordingly. Yet Goodell- doing the owners' bidding - insists otherwise. To his own detriment."Fans have clearly stated that they dont like the quality of our preseason," said Goodell. "Our structure is a 20-game format. We have four preseason games and 16 regular-season games. Repeatedly, the fans have said the quality of the preseason doesnt meet NFL standards. That is one of the basis on which we started to look at the 18-and-two concept, by taking two of those low quality, non-competitive games and turn those into quality, competitive games that the fans want to see; they want to support. I talk to fans all the time. I get that feedback from them, including season-ticket holders who are the ones who are going to those preseason games and paying for those preseason games. I feel an obligation to make sure we are doing the best we can to present the best football, and that includes asking how do we make the preseason as effective as possible and the regular season as effective as possible, and I believe we are on the right track to get that done."But how can an NFL that's taking an interest in player health and safety possibly pretend that two more high-intensity games will not result in more injuries? Patriots' owner Robert Kraft was asked exactly that on Friday by the Boston Globe's Shalise Manza-Young"It makes sense if you think about it quickly, but if we were to have this longer season, it probably means we're going to . . . Ithink we're going to have to expand our rosters. you're going to have to have depth, have players who can play," Kraft sputtered."Half of the plays our team played last year were by first- and second-year players," said Kraft. "I like that. To be good in this league year-in and year-out, you have to grow some players. I think Coach Bill Belichick and the staff and the personnel people have developed a system where we do that. And I think what will happen is we'll expand the roster and more players will play for us."Sweet lord, what?!Here's Goodell taking a crack at the same question. "You always have to keep safety as a priority, under any format," he said. "Injuries occur in preseason games, including the four preseason games (aside: or walking on the icy sidewalks of Dallas for that matter), so you have to try to look to see what you can do in the offseason."Weve talked very extensively about - do you alter the OTA structure and what happens within the OTA structure?" Goodell asked."Do you alter the training camp period? Do we need extensive training camp periods, and how much contact should occur? What happens in the regular season? Do we really need to have players practicing in pads at some points during the season? I think all of those things have been addressed by the ownership for the last couple of years. Our committees have been focused on this. John Madden and Ronnie Lott and the safety committee are looking at these issues. All of this is going to help us make better decisions and the right decision to make the game as safe as possible.If you want the game as safe as possible - and as high quality as it is - you leave it alone and do your money-grab somewhere else. Tom E. Curran canbe reached at Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Felger: Sorry, Tom, but Jimmy G. and Brissett need to play Friday

Felger: Sorry, Tom, but Jimmy G. and Brissett need to play Friday

If there's any Patriots quarterback who should be getting meaningful time other than Jimmy Garoppolo on Friday in Carolina, it's not Tom Brady. It's Jacoby Brissett.

Brissett, obviously, will be the Patriots backup the first four games of the year, and the team has yet to go through the annual preseason exercise of subjecting him to the situation under which he's most likely to see time during the regular season. Typically, Bill Belichick will yank the starting QB out of the first half of an exhibition game unannounced and tell the backup to throw on his helmet and get out there. Brissett has yet to go through it, and you have to figure it's coming in the next two weeks.

Other than that, Garoppolo should see all the time while the starters are on the field. He's had little success going against the opposition's starters so far this month and needs every rep he can get. He needs to go through the routine of starting a prime-time game on the road, which will be the case Sept. 11 in Arizona.

Where does that leave Tom Brady? Stewing, probably. It's clear he wants to play. It's clear he wasn't happy missing last Thursday against Chicago and is pining for work Friday. If you were wondering how Brady would feel about losing time in training camp to Garoppolo as the Pats got ready for the regular season, you probably have your answer. He's not a fan.

There is a case to be made that the team and Belichick, in particular, owes Brady some love. Deflategate was dropped in Brady's lap from the start, and while the coach skated, the quarterback's sentence has finally become a reality. The Pats should want to make Brady happy. He deserves the respect.

But, ultimately, we ask the fallback Patriots question: What's best for the team? The answer isn't even close. Garoppolo deserves every snap, save for that potential emergency exercise with Brissett.

As for Brady's feelings? He'll get over it.

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Belichick impressed by rookie Thuney's work at left guard


Belichick impressed by rookie Thuney's work at left guard

FOXBORO -- Joe Thuney may not have won the starting left guard job officially, but Bill Belichick says he's on the right track. And for a rookie, that's feat in and of itself.

The third-round pick out of North Carolina State -- you may remember it as the Kevin-Faulk-in-the-No.-12-jersey selection -- has been the first-team left guard since the start of training camp, and he hasn't moved since. Thuney has occasionally taken snaps at center, and the Patriots have him learning multiple spots behind the scenes. But every time Nate Solder has run on to the field as the left tackle, Thuney has been there by his side at guard. 

Even going back to OTAs, held not long after he was drafted, Thuney was the top choice at that position. 

"Joe has done a good job with what we’ve given him," Belichick said. "There was a point where we felt comfortable making that, I’d say temporary move, It wasn’t permanent. But he has handled it well. I think he’s certainly moving towards being able to lock something down at some point. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think he is certainly gaining on it. He has had a good preseason, had a good spring."

What once may have been deemed a temporary move back in the spring -- perhaps due to players like Shaq Mason, Tre' Jackson and Josh Kline dealing with injuries early in the offseason -- now seems like it should be a permanent one.

Thuney's run as the No. 1 left guard has been uninterrupted because his performance hasn't warranted a change. He's held his own against former first-round defensive tackle Malcom Brown in one-on-one practice drills, and he's been the highest-graded player on the Patriots offensive line through two preseason games, per Pro Football Focus. (The only players with higher grades on the team through two games are tight end AJ Derby and defensive end Trey Flowers.)

The man who went viral before the draft for his ability to solve a Rubik's cube in just over a minute has flashed an understanding of how quickly things move on the inside. Plus, playing under unretired offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, Thuney has been quick himself, both picking up pressures and working to the second level in the running game with aplomb.

Thuney will still have a preseason game or two to solidify his grasp on a starting role, but even for the brief period during which Mason and Kline were simultaneously healthy, Thuney was the choice on the left side of the interior offensive line. Now that Mason is dealing with what's been reported as a hand injury, Jackson remains on PUP, and Jonathan Cooper is still out after suffering a foot injury early in camp, the job seems like Thuney's to lose.

That Belichick even hinted Thuney is "gaining on it" is an indication of just how impressive he's been during his short time as a pro.