The 'Why?' of Leigh Bodden's release


The 'Why?' of Leigh Bodden's release

FOXBORO - Just 19 months ago, Leigh Bodden was one of the two most sought-after free agents on the market. After a 2009 season in which he was one of the few bright spots in a shaky and immature Patriots secondary, Bodden was in a position to cash in. It came down to the Texans and Patriots and New England won out, signing Bodden to a four-year, 22 million deal. This season, he was due to make 3.9 million in base salary, a base that was second only to Tom Brady's 5.75 million.
How does a player go so quickly from being so highly-regarded, must-have pieceto castoff? And why would the Patriots just take a flamethrower to the reported 10 million investment in guaranteed money they gave him?Not surprisingly, the answer isn't a simple one. Bodden missed the 2010 season with a shoulder injury and has been battling nagging ailments including groin and thumb injuries this year. In his absence, Devin McCourty emerged as a Pro Bowler in his rookie year and underrated Kyle Arrington proved a solid NFL starter. Meanwhile, the Patriots took Ras-I Dowling in the second round last April and have been stockpiling little-known free agent corners like Phillip Adams and Antwaun Molden. The old saying, "You can't make the club from the tub..." might apply here. Too often, Bodden was injured or his effectiveness was compromised. And other players who played just as well or better for less money emerged. When Bodden was on the field he was nothing like the effective corner he'd been in 2009 when he had five picks. He was really just...there.And his playing time sometimes reflected that with several players cycling through the corner position opposite McCourty.There's also the entire roster to consider. With three players coming back from the PUP list and being eligible for activation this week, the Patriots may need to clear room for Brandon Deaderick, Ron Brace or Kevin Faulk. Certainly, they could have thrown overboard a player they had less invested in, but perhaps the situation with reduced time came to a head.Bodden's agent, Alvin Keels, indicated Bodden was ready to move on from the situation as well."He's enjoyed this time in New England, but after meeting with coach Belichick this morning, both parties agreed it was time to move on," Keels said to's Mike Reiss. "Leigh still has a strong desire to play football and welcomes his next opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl. Leigh is totally healthy and can contribute right away." Bodden will be placed on waivers. Any team that claims him will be responsible for the rest of his 2011 salary. If he's not claimed, the Patriots are on the hook for it. That's a lot of money to pay a player to NOT play for you. Bodden's teammates were a little stunned by the news which they said they were hearing for the first time from reporters. "Ya, it's football," said wide receiver Deion Branch. "That's what happens in the NFL. Guys get cut in college. Guys get cut in high school. It's the NFL, man. Those coaching decisions, we roll with it. I go out and do my job. And I'm pretty sure everybody else is doing the same thing."

Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett


Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett

PITTSBURGH – So far this season, Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski have combined for 39 catches, 644 yards and five touchdowns. Making the numbers that much more impressive is the fact the numbers were rolled up with Gronk inactive for two games and fairly useless in another thanks to his hamstring injury.

Will the Steelers slow the roll of Robellus Grennetski?

Hard to imagine. As Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out, Gronk alone has tuned up the Steelers with 26 receptions for 403 yards and seven touchdowns in six meetings.

Fittipaldo explored the strategies the Steelers defense may unveil Sunday afternoon when the Patriots and Steelers get going. He also pointed out that the return of linebacker Ryan Shazier after a three week layoff and injuries for safeties Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden may put Pittsburgh at a disadvantage.

Said Shazier: “They have the tandem they want at tight end. Now they can use tight ends the way they want. You have to respect everyone on the field. Both of them are good blockers, good pass threats and great at running after the catch.”

Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said Pittsburgh will alter its approaches.

“We have to be able to play more than one defense,” Butler said. “They’re very good and they’ll pick you apart if they can figure out what you’re doing. We just have to execute the defense more than anything else. If we can do that … that’s been our problem for the most part. Some of the things that went on last week, we missed some things we should have made mentally.”

What “went on last week” was a 30-15 loss to the Dolphins.

Pittsburgh hasn’t been a big-play group so far -- eight sacks and three picks -- nor have they seen a gauntlet of great quarterbacks in the first six games. 

Interestingly, their losses have been to Ryan Tannehill and rookie Carson Wentz, probably the two quarterbacks one would figure Pittsburgh would do best against.
Between a smoking hot Brady and a can’t-be-stopped tight end tandem, there’s probably not a lot Pittsburgh can do aside from hoping for an off day.

Said linebacker Arthur Moats hopefully: “You have to continue to mix it up against (Gronkowski). You can’t give him the same look over and over. He has success on guys like that. If we disrupt him, and rush Brady and speed up his clock, I definitely think that will help out.”

In theory, perhaps. In practice? We’ll see.

Game notes: Patriots vs. Steelers


Game notes: Patriots vs. Steelers

A quick look at the information you need to know about today's Patriots-Steelers game:

TEAM RECORDS: Patriots 5-1, Steelers 4- 2

GAME TIME: 4:25 p.m. EST


TV ANNOUNCERS: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson


NATIONAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Larry Kahn, Mark Carrier and Troy West

LOCAL RADIO NETWORK: Anchored by WBZ-FM (98.5 The Sports Hub)

LOCAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Bob Socci and Scott Zolak


LAST MEETING: Patriots 28, Steelers 21 on Sept. 10, 2015 at Gillette Stadium

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-- The Patriots are 8-11 against the Steelers in Pittsburgh in their history, but are 4-2 at Heinz Field. Included in those four Heinz Field victories are two in AFC Championship Games (in the 2001 and 2004 seasons).

-- Tom Brady is 8-2 against the Steelers in his career.

-- The last time Brady played the Steelers, in 2015, he set a Patriots franchise record with 19 consecutive pass completions.

-- The Patriots are 108-70 (.607) in road games since 1994, the best record in the NFL over that span. The Steelers (97- 82, .542) are second.

-- The Patriots have yet to throw an interception in 2016, setting a team record for consecutive games without an interception at the start of a season (6). The NFL record for consecutive games at the start of a season without a pick is 9, set by the 1960 Browns. The Patriots' franchise record for overall consecutive games with no interceptions is 8, set in 2010.

* * * *
-- Rob Gronkowski has 67 overall touchdowns and needs one to tie Stanley Morgan (68) for the franchise record.

-- Gronkowski has 66 receiving touchdowns and needs one to tie Morgan (67) for the franchise record.

-- Gronkowski has 22 100-yard receiving games, including two in 2016, and is tied with Jackie Smith for the third-most among all NFL tight ends. The only TEs who have more are Kellen Winslow (24) and Tony Gonzalez (31).