Wendell leads NFL in playing time statistic

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Wendell leads NFL in playing time statistic

FOXBORO -- Between quarterback Tom Brady, receiver Wes Welker, linebacker Jerod Mayo and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, the Patriots are loaded with star power. It's a team that possesses Pro Bowlers and future Hall of Famers. But there's one Patriot who was out on the field more than any other this season, and he's never been to Hawaii.

That distinction goes to Patriots center Ryan Wendell, who started all 16 games this season, and not only led his team in playing time, but the entire NFL as well.

The first-year starter played 1,231 offensive snaps and 148 special teams plays for a total of 1,379 plays. The mark is a tribute to Wendell's durability and toughness, but he praised teammates and team staff when asked about his ability to stay on the field.

"It says a lot about the organization as a whole," Wendell said. "The guys around us, our athletic trainers head athletic trainer Jim Whalen and assistant athletic trainer Joe Van Allen, along with the strength training coaches, head strength and conditioning coach Herald Nash, assistant strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera, who spend a lot of time and effort trying to make sure we're healthy and out on the field as much as we can."

The Patriots had the NFL's most productive offense (both in terms of points and total yards) this season and set an NFL record for first downs, which led to a few of their offensive players being among the league leaders in playing time. Nate Solder led all of the NFL in offensive snaps (three more than Wendell). His 105 special teams snaps and 1,339 total plays put him second overall in the league.

"I think we all feed off each other," Solder said. "Wendell's one of those guys who's always working hard. He's always taking care of his body, I think that's a big part of the reason he's been able to do that."

Both Solder and Wendell are playing in roles that have increased significantly since last season. Solder, a rookie last year, is in his first season as New England's full-time starting left tackle. Wendell was thrust into a starting role when longtime Patriots center Dan Koppen was released, and Brian Waters did not return to the team during training camp, shifting Dan Connolly to guard.

However, both explained that there was no trick to their durability.

"I work hard, as we all do to take care of our bodies," Solder explained. "We all work hard to take care of our bodies. That's part of our job. Proper nutrition, proper sleep. Staying in shape. Working in the weight room. All those things contribute to that."

"I think you try to keep doing all the things that got you to the point that you got those opportunities," Wendell said, "and you just have to make sure to keep your priorities in order that when you have any extra time or free time that you focus on whatever thing will help you personally stay healthy."

Wendell's extra effort has given the Patriots consistency at the position where every offensive play gets its start. His impact has not gone unnoticed by his teammates, most notably the teammate who's on the receiving end of Wendell's snaps.

"Hes done a great job," Brady said of his center. "Hes really done a great job since he got here. He fought for his opportunity and once he got it this year, he really took advantage. Hes been healthy and durable, consistent. Playing center on our team is not easy. There are a lot of adjustments and calls that we have, both the communication I have with him and what he relays on to the rest of the offensive linemen. Hes done a great job. Hes a tough, hard-nosed football player that loves the game and loves to compete."

The NFL released playing time numbers for the first time this season, and FootballOutsiders.com compiled those numbers into a list here.

Tatum 'can't wait' for new challenge with Celtics

Tatum 'can't wait' for new challenge with Celtics

BOSTON – While the newest Boston Celtics were scattered about while at a community service event, 19-year-old Jayson Tatum was sitting in a really comfortable-looking chair, resting. 

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind unlike any he had ever experienced, beginning with the pre-draft process, to workouts, to the draft itself and all the appearances and media engagements that have followed. 

“It’s a lot,” Tatum, grinning, told CSNNE.com. “But I’m taking it one day at a time.”

That steady-as-she-goes approach served him well during his lone season at Duke. 

Keeping an even-keeled approach will bode well for him as he gears up for his first taste of NBA basketball beginning with summer league practice this week in preparation for next week’s summer league action which begins in Salt Lake City. 

Boston’s summer league opener will be July 3 against Philadelphia and the top overall pick Markelle Fultz, at the University of Utah’s Jon M. Huntsman Center.

Tatum, who has not played in a five-on-five game since Duke’s loss to South Carolina in the NCAA tournament, is admittedly excited to get back on the floor this week. 

“I can’t wait,” he said. 

Celtics Nation feels the same way about Tatum, selected with the third overall pick in last week’s NBA draft. 

Although it’s only a preseason game, there will be expectations and with that, possibly some added pressure for Tatum to show he was such a coveted player by the Celtics. 

“That’s why Duke helped me a lot,” he told CSNNE.com. “Duke, the best program in college basketball, we were always on the national spotlight good or bad, whether we were winning or losing. That will help me a lot preparing for the Boston Celtics.”

And like Duke, Tatum will have to fight his way on to the court although he readily admits the challenge is much greater in the NBA. 

“Isaiah Thomas, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder … we didn’t have those guys at Duke,” Tatum said. “It’s gonna be tough; just try my best and get in where I fit in.”

Tatum said he will at times lean on his more experienced teammates, one of which was a former teammate of his – sort of – in Jaylen Brown. 

“I’ve known Jaylen for a while,” Tatum said. “We played with and against each other in high school at AAU camps. 

Tatum added, “at the AAU camps, sometimes we were on the same team and sometimes we were not.”

While much has been made about how the two are similar, Tatum sees both having strengths that complement, rather than compete, with each other. 

“He’s further along than Jaylen was skill-wise and he’s not as far along as Jaylen physically,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. “Again, he’s 19 years old. I don’t want to put any expectations … I want to give him time to grow. We’ll see. He’ll definitely have a role, get a chance to play. And how well he performs is up to him.”

Tatum’s assessment of his game and Brown’s goes as follows:

“He’s a lot stronger, bigger than me,” Tatum, who is 6-foot-8, 204 pounds, acknowledged. “He’s much more athletic. Offensively, I think that’s what I excel in, being smooth and my ability to score. I can just learn from him, the things that he went through last year.”

One of the things he has already picked up on, is that Brown is a pretty smart – and at times clever – dude. 

Not long after Tatum picked jersey number 11, Brown, who wears number 7, took to social media and came up with a 7-11 theme that has already lead to some pretty snazzy t-shirt designs. 

“I thought it was funny,” Tatum said. “It’s catchy; I like it.”

And the Celtics really like Tatum’s game which has been compared at times to former Celtic great Paul Pierce. 

“I hate to make those comparisons when kids are 19 and let his game evolve into whatever it is,” Ainge said. “The similarity is they have good footwork. They both have really good ways to create space for shots. But the similarity … they’re both very good defensive rebounders. Those are two things that stand out to me with Jayson that are Paul characteristics.”

Tatum knows he’s a long way from being in the same company as Celtic royalty such as Pierce. 

Before then he must first earn minutes on the floor which will not be an easy task. 

But Tatum’s demeanor, much like his game, has seemingly always been a bit more mature than most of his fellow basketball brethren. 

Tatum credits his parents, Justin Tatum and Brandy Cole.

“They raised me to be different, be more mature and stand out above the crowd and be my own person and be comfortable in my skin,” Tatum said. “That’s how I’ve always been.”

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: How does the Chris Paul trade affect the Celtics?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: How does the Chris Paul trade affect the Celtics?

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0:41 - Tom Curran, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith discuss the Rockets acquiring Chris Paul and how that trade can actually have an affect on the Celtics plans.

5:06 - Ian Thomsen joins BST to talk about if the Celtics are the front runners for Paul George, what would be too much to give up to the Pacers, and why it’s important to sign Hayward before trading for George.

11:21 - Evan Drellich joins from Fenway Park to discuss Rick Porcello getting his 10th loss of the season and if the struggling offense might be a season-long problem. 

14:58 - Tom Curran and Kayce Smith give their thoughts on Nate Burleson saying that Julian Edelman is the most under-appreciated receiver in the last 10 years.