By Tom E. CurranFOXBORO - I understand - grudgingly - why Bill Belichick at times leans on his, "Just doing what's best for the football team..." crutch. To hold court on every personnel decision, to answer every question until all curiosity is exhausted holds no appeal for him. And if he does it once, well then, where's it end? Next thing, people will be asking if he understands the feelings of unsettledness the family's new guppy will experience when a player is let go. Makes my job harder. Makes the TV side's job harder. But I compreeeehend why he's Billy Tight Lips. But since last February, the Patriots have been in team-building mode through the draft, free agency, offseason workouts, minicamps and training camp. Interest in the team feels like it's at a crescendo. With the team people give a crap about now established after some hard decisions were made, "Just doing what's best for the football team..." is wholly unsatisfying. Belichick didn't want to give a little more during his first post-cut press conference. I asked him how Brian Hoyer did in his time with the team. Belichick's response? "Good."He eventually shared more. Not a lot. Not enough. But more."All the decisions we made were what we felt was best for the football team and that takes into consideration a lot of things," Belichick stated. "It takes into consideration some of the players that are involved and it also looks at other players on the team, where depth is or isn't. We'd be here all day talking about it. We do what's best for the team and there are several players that aren't on our team that are good football players. Nothing against them but in the end, we do what's best for the New England Patriots. It's not a negative commentary on anybody. It's a positive commentary on the players who've earned a position on the team. But more than usual. Here's a few scraps gathered. Belichick confirmed that right guard Brian Waters has not shown up yet. He would not bend on inquiries about players who might return that have been released (Deion Branch, Jabar Gaffney). The new IR rule was explained as it pertains to rookie Jeff Demps, mentioning that any player on the IR prior to this Tuesday is on IR for the year. For a player to be eligible for the reserve designation that would allow him to return, that player would have had to be on the Patriots' 53-man roster. Preparations for next Sunday's opponent, the Titans, began in the offseason according to Belichick. Specific work began after the final preseason game though. Sunday was a day for situational things and some specific "points of emphasis." On dealing for former Rams wideout Greg Salas, Belichick was curt. "Got some versatility, we put him out there, see how it goes. Lot of production, catches the ball well. He and (offensive coordinator) Josh (McDaniels) had some first-hand experience (from coaching Salas in St. Louis). We scouted him out of Hawaii. had a good feel for himbefore Josh was here."
On this episode of "The Best of Boston Sports Tonight Podcast", Tom Curran, Michael Holley, Kayce Smith and Tom Giles break down the Celtics closing out the Bulls and preview the next round against Washington with Chris Mannix, Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely. Also, Mike Giardi and Phil Perry break down the Patriots two picks on Friday.
- 0:41 - Tom Curran, Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith discuss the Celtics defeating the Bulls 105-83, beating Chicago in 6 games to advance in the 2nd round of the playoffs.
- 6:14 - Kyle Draper and Chris Mannix preview the upcoming series against the Washington Wizards and the bad blood between the two teams.
- 10:19 - Mike Giardi and Phil Perry break down the Patriots first drafts picks, selecting DE Derek Rivers from Youngstown and OT Antonio Garcia from Troy in the 3rd round.
- 15:45 - Hear what Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley had to say after the win. Also, A. Sherrod Blakely joins BST to discuss the feeling in the Celtics locker room after the win.
FOXBORO -- There was not much room for debate as far as this was concerned: Derek Rivers was among the most physically-impressive defensive ends in a draft class loaded at that position.
That begs the question, then, how did the Patriots have the opportunity to draft Rivers at No. 83 overall in the third round?
The short answer is that he went to Youngstown State, an FCS school, and those players usually don't come off the board early.
But that answer only leads to more questions, as in, how did someone with the athleticism Rivers possesses end up at Youngstown in the first place? And why did he stay?
At 6-foot-4, 248 pounds Rivers was among the top defensive line performers at this year's combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds, which was good for fourth at his position group. His 30 bench reps of 225 pounds were also fourth among defensive linemen, and tied him with Solomon Thomas (the No. 3 overall pick who weighed 273 pounds in Indy).
Rivers also checked in with the ninth-best broad jump for defensive linemen (123 inches), the fifth-best vertical (35 inches), and the third-best three-cone drill (6.94 seconds).
Those kinds of athletes don't typically end up at Youngstown State. They usually end up a couple hundred miles down the road in Columbus.
"Out of high school, I was a non-qualifier, so I didn’t get my SATs, and then I was just a late bloomer," said Rivers, who was 182 pounds near the end of his sophomore year in high school, according to Vindy.com. "I wasn’t very heavily recruited so I went to Fork Union [Military Academy] and then Youngstown came and they offered me. I was just ready to play ball."
Rivers may have been able to head to a bigger program after emerging for Youngstown as a sophomore with 14 sacks (fifth in FCS that year) and 17 tackles for a loss. But he stayed, and he continued to dominate. As a junior he had eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. As a senior he had 14 sacks and a whopping 19.5 tackles for loss.
Feeling devoted to the program that gave him a chance, Rivers remained and had the opportunity to work under coach Bo Pelini for each of the last two seasons.
Pelini, a former Nebraska head coach and former Patriots linebackers coach under Pete Carroll (1997-99), may have in a roundabout way helped Rivers land in New England. Pelini and Bill Belichick seem to have a good relationship -- Belichick is now coaching two of Pelini's former players in Vincent Valentine and Rex Burkhead -- and Belichick referenced the coaching Rivers received under Pelini as one of the reasons why Rivers is ready for the NFL.
When asked about Pelini during his conference call with Patriots reporters, Rivers seemed to agree.
"Bo was awesome, man. He was like another father to me as far as when he came to Youngstown," Rivers said. "I mean, he took our team to another level. Just the little things that he focused on as far as accountability, doing all the little things right. I mean, those were the things that Bo emphasized, and those were the things that Bo instilled in me."
Rivers added: "The first thing that Coach Bo said in his first meeting with us when he got to Youngstown was that he was like, ‘What you do off the field is going to reflect on how you play on the field.’
"I was a non-qualifier in high school. At Youngstown, I’m probably going to graduate with a 3.0, and it makes sense. If you’re lazy off the field, you’re going to be lazy on the field. If you miss assignments in class, you may miss assignments on the field, so they translate."
Even though even though he's not coming from Alabama or Florida State, even though he took a bit of a circuitous route to get there, in his first night with the team Rivers sure sounded like someone who's been on the fast track to Foxboro for years.