Rutgers teammates McCourty and Rice ready to go at it

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Rutgers teammates McCourty and Rice ready to go at it

FOXBORO -- Devin McCourty knew all along that Ray Rice would have success at the professional level. The two arrived at Rutgers in 2005, and by the time Rice left almost three years later, McCourty knew he had played with a future NFL star.

"That was our guy in college," McCourty said. "He made a lot of big plays for us, and when we watched as he went into the NFL I think we were all excited for him. You never know whats going to happen, but I dont think there were many guys in college that doubted he was going to be a big success in the NFL."

Now as a captain and starting safety for the Patriots, McCourty is charged with trying to stop Rice in the AFC Championship Game.

The Ravens' lead running back grew up a short drive from McCourty in New Jersey and the two are still friendly. But that doesn't mean their collisions on Sunday will be any less forceful, McCourty said.

"We hang out a little bit in the offseason," McCourty explained. "There are a bunch of us that went to school together and came in at the same time at Rutgers and won a lot of games there. The biggest thing, I think, is that none of that will matter Sunday. Well be going at it just like every other time weve played in the NFL."

Rice is one of the most unique running backs in the NFL, given his agility, his hands and his size. At 5-foot-9, 195 pounds, Rice is a compact muscle mass who doesn't shy from contact, but can just as easily juke defenders and run around them. He rushed for 1,143 yards and 9 touchdowns during the regular season and caught 61 passes for another 478 yards and a touchdown.

McCourty described the things he noticed about Rice in college that still make him difficult to bring down.

"His balance," McCourty said. "I think it still shows in the NFL. Just maybe because he is so small, he has great balance and leg strength that allows him to break a lot of tackles."

The Patriots have been strong against the run all season. Last week they limited Texans running back Arian Foster to 90 yards and a touchdown in their Divisional Round win, 41-28. During the regular season, they allowed only 3.9 yards per rush -- sixth best in the league.

McCourty will try to help the Patriots continue that success on Sunday, even if it's at the expense of his old college buddy.

Brandin Cooks ready to bring back arrow celebration after NFL rule change

Brandin Cooks ready to bring back arrow celebration after NFL rule change

Tuesday’s announcement from Roger Goodell that the NFL is “relaxing” its rules on celebrations is good news for at least one Patriot. 

That would be Brandin Cooks, who began celebrating the rule change on Twitter not long after the league made its announcement. 

Cooks, whom the Patriots acquired from the Saints this offseason in a trade that sent first and third-round picks to New Orleans, lost his favorite celebration last season when it was made clear that miming archery was off-limits. Josh Norman was fined $10,000 last season for such a celebration. 

Following Norman’s fine, Cooks lamented the league’s decision to punish what Cooks had previously done in reference to a Bible verse (Psalms 144:6). 

"Send forth lightning and scatter your enemy, and shoot your arrows and rout them," Cooks told the New Orleans Advocate. "I just remember it sticking with me for such a long time, I remember thinking, maybe I can do something with this."

Added Cooks: ”I’ve been doing it for three years now, and there was never a complaint about it. Now, all of a sudden, there is. It just reminds me that, it's almost as if they try to take so much away from us, but for something like this, that means so much to someone that has nothing to do with violence, it's frustrating. I'll definitely continue to speak my opinion about it, and if they have a problem with it, so be it."

When Tuesday’s news emerged, Cooks and former Saints teammate Mark Ingram were quick to react. 

 

LeBron James hasn't always been dominant the game after a bad performance

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LeBron James hasn't always been dominant the game after a bad performance

Conventional wisdom has been spreading almost from the moment Avery Bradley's shot (finally) dropped through the cylinder in the closing seconds Sunday night, and it goes something like this:

LeBron James was so bad in Game 3 that, determined to exact revenge, he's going to come out like a force of nature and obliterate the Celtics in Game 4.

Makes sense. But, you know, LeBron has had other playoff games in which he's scored fewer than 12 points. He's always been good the next time out -- certainly better than >12 points -- but nothing sweeping or historic:

And amazingly enough, his teams lost two of those three games.

So if you were thinking the Celtics' Game 3 triumph virtually guaranteed a Cavalier victory and a dominant LeBron James performance in Game 4 . . . well, maybe not.