Rondo returns in gritty effort vs. Knicks

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Rondo returns in gritty effort vs. Knicks

WALTHAM -- With a brace on his right wrist and a bruise under his right eye, Rajon Rondo addressed the media following Saturdays practice for the first time since his return to action on Friday night against the New York Knicks.

The gritty match up against the Knicks was more than just his first game back since spraining his wrist on January 18. Limited by the injury as a right-handed player, it was the first time he had really shot the ball in over two weeks

I shot yesterday morning, he said. It wasnt really getting up shots because when I flick my wrist a lot, I didnt want it to start it to bother me or hurt again. So I got up shots when I took a couple shots in the game.

Rondo scored seven points off 3-for-8 shooting against the Knicks, compared to his season average of 14.4 points per game (5.6-for-10.9 FG). He also committed five turnovers.

I wouldnt say its like a mental block, but I took a jumpshot today and I hit it, so thats not an excuse, he said. I have to get back up to getting shots up, a lot more repetition, and getting my rhythm back.

Rondo expects to wear a brace on his wrist one or two more games. While it will help him heal, it is also a reminder of his injury.

I wouldnt say it bothers me mentally, but its really tight, he said. But I have to wear it for the support because I do hit the ground a lot. But yesterday I did a better job. I think I only hit it twice. If I can stay off the ground, my body feels a lot better the next day.

In addition to his wrist, Rondo also suffered a bruised right eye when he got hit on a play by Iman Shumpert, which he says did not affect him during the game. It was another unexpected bump in the road he ran into on his way back from injury.

You never know until youre in the game, he said. You can run, do cardio all you want, but when you get on the floor, you go through pick-and-rolls, you hit the floor, you get up, youre doing transition back and forth, its a different type of game.

Giardi: Butler's offseason may cut deep, but it's time for him to battle back

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Giardi: Butler's offseason may cut deep, but it's time for him to battle back

This hasn’t been easy for Malcolm Butler. None of it. He’s never been given anything. Hell, at times he’s pissed his future away. But with a tenacity that reminds you of a certain 199th pick in the 2000 draft, Butler has fought his way back, into college, into the pros and, in 2015 and 2016, into the upper echelon of NFL cornerbacks. He’s a two-time Super Bowl champ, making arguably the most memorable play in the history of that game.

He should be drinking in the adulation, savoring an incredible start to his career and a very lucrative future. Instead, he’s in both professional and Patriots purgatory. Free agency beckons but there’s a season to play, and as this is the only professional team he’s known, a burning desire to be recognized as an important piece, not just in the present, but the future of this organization as well.
 
One of his closest friends on the team, Dion Lewis, calls Butler a warrior. “The game means so much to him.”

Another teammate, fellow defensive back Devin McCourty said of Butler, “This is what he does. He competes.”

Duron Harmon insists that the 27-year-old corner has been the same guy he’s always been. Actually, they all say that. But clearly, the coaching staff sees something different, leading to Butler’s demotion Sunday in New Orleans. 
 
Bill Belichick has been short when talking about Butler dating all the way back to the spring. That hasn’t changed now that the games count. He’s dismissed past performance. All that matters is how you’re playing now. Butler has not established that same level. Why? There is no easy answer.
 
The lack of a new contract cuts deeply. The unsettling offseason -- was he going to be a Saint? -- left quite a mark as well. But Butler came back to Foxboro with purpose, reporting for voluntary workouts. He was hell-bent on proving to all -- Belichick included -- that he was still the lead dog, not Stephon Gillmore, despite the $31 million dollars in guaranteed money the organization forked over to the former Buffalo Bill.
 
That strategy worked for a time. Butler was one of the Pats best players in training camp, right up until the joint practices with the Texans midway through August. What happened? Butler doesn’t know. But one mistake became two. His play in the preseason game with Houston was poor. His confidence suffered. He started pressing. That didn’t help. Butler was just as bad at Detroit. The kid that had always answered a knockdown with one of his own, instead wobbled to his feet. The inconsistencies were evident in practice but the "he's-Malcolm-he'll-fix-it" thought process that teammates echoed didn’t prove true, at least not entirely.
 
According to Eric Rowe, the cornerbacks were informed of the role change at the beginning of last week. But other teammates said they didn’t realize Butler wasn’t starting until the walkthrough Saturday. The ensuing fallout wasn’t surprising -- HE’S MALCOLM BUTLER, SUPER BOWL HERO, DAMMIT -- but the worry around the team has been justified because Butler takes things to heart. His swagger comes from the game. That was stripped away prior to the game against the Saints, and even at the beginning of this week, leading into the Texans game. Butler had to get his head right. If his meeting with the media Thursday is an indication, he has.

But the proof is in the play. Butler has always known that. And while his play didn’t warrant a role reduction, another message has been sent by the powers that be in Foxboro. What happens next is all on Butler. His future depends on it.

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Patriots place Vincent Valentine on IR, promote Geneo Grissom

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Patriots place Vincent Valentine on IR, promote Geneo Grissom

FOXBORO -- Anyone hoping to see Vincent Valentine make his season debut got some bad news Friday. 

Valentine, who has been inactive for both of the Patriots' first two games with a knee injury, was placed on injured reserve. ESPN's Field Yates was first to report the news.

With Valentine on IR, Geneo Grissom was added to the roster from the practice squad. ESPN's Mike Reiss had that one first:

Valentine, whom the Pats chose 96th overall in 2016, has not been practicing with the team as he's dealt with the knee injury.

A third-round pick of the Pats in 2015, Grissom was released by the team in September and signed to the practice squad a day later.