When smoke clears, Woodhead's game will be appreciated

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When smoke clears, Woodhead's game will be appreciated

INDIANAPOLIS -- Among the wreckage of New England's 21-17 Super Bowl XLVI loss, there's at least one piece that should be salvaged and savored.

Danny Woodhead played one of his best NFL games this season.

The undersized running back caught four passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed seven times for another 18 yards.

Big-game pressure doesn't get any more oppressive than on Super Sunday. Woodhead embraced it. The touchdown -- New England's first of the game -- was just his second of 2011, his first since Week 15's score in Denver. The receiving yardage was the most he's managed this year; his 19-yard run was the longest he's ripped off.

Unfortunately, the numbers are no consolation to the man.

"I try, no matter the game, to be prepared, to go out there and play a good game," he reflected. "But we ended up losing so it's tough. It's really tough."

"The individual statistical touchdown isn't going to make me that happy'; it's about the score at the end of the game. This is a team game, it's not an individual game. I really haven't thought about it."

Perspective will have to come later. When interviewed, Woodhead was still too close to the loss to glean anything but pain.

"It's the last game of the year, it's the chance to play be world champions. So it's a great experience and it will last forever. Right now, it's tough to look at that. It was a tough game."
Woodhead should find some solace when he's finally able to zoom out.

Once the pride of North Platte High School, he's now a darling of the New England Patriots' rabid fan base. And he's easily the best thing out of Nebraska's Chadron State since Buffalo's Don Beebe (two career Super Bowl touchdowns during the team's three-year span of Big Show heartbreak).

Not bad for an undrafted free agent the Jets couldn't do anything with.

"I approach every week the same," Woodhead said in Monday's first hour. "And that is to be ready for whatever can be thrown at me. No matter how many carries or receptions I may get, I just feel like I need to stay ready all thetime."

It's true this season's totals -- 351 yards rushing, 157 yards receiving -- don't match those of 2010 (547 and 379, respectively). But the drop-off might have more to do with the October ankle injury he suffered in Oakland than a loss in standing with the Patriots.

Woodhead missed New England's game against the Jets; when he returned one week later, he didn't appear the same. Gone was the explosive ability to weave through the narrowest of gaps. The bravado he once flexed when pin-balling off larger defenders was replaced by reticence.

But Woodhead progressed each week. By the time Super Bowl XLVI rolled around, the Patriots asked a lot and he gave everything.

Quarterback Tom Brady went to Woodhead six times -- four consecutive -- on New England's first touchdown drive.

"It's as tough of a loss as I think I've ever had," Woodhead said after the game. "You get so close, and it doesn't end up the way you'd like it. It's a tough pill toswallow."

His signing by the Patriots has been a win and he reinforced his presence Sunday night.

Something to remember once the smoke clears.

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. 

 

Napoli: Red Sox and his agent only had 'small talk' about reunion

Napoli: Red Sox and his agent only had 'small talk' about reunion

BOSTON -- Of course, the Rangers' Mike Napoli didn't mind the idea of replacing David Ortiz. He loved playing in Boston.

There just was never much chatter that way last offseason, when Napoli was a free agent after his Indians took the Cubs to seven games in the World Series.

"I think my agent had maybe a small talk or something [with the Red Sox], but I don't think it ever would have happened," Napoli said Tuesday afternoon as he returned to Fenway Park with Texas. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I would have loved to come back. But, I mean, it all worked out. I'm glad to be where I'm at now. Because I knew everybody here [with the Rangers]. I didn't have to start over again."

Napoli played with the Rangers in 2011 and '12, and was traded by the Sox to Texas for the last few months of the 2015 season.

He was hopeful the Sox -- his team from 2013 to midseason 2015 -- would be among the clubs to come calling last winter.

"Oh, yeah," he said.

But he wasn't optimistic it was going to happen. And it didn't.

"To be honest with you . . . Cleveland was my first priority," he said. "I just had a World Series run [with the Indians] and we didn't win it. And then Texas was there [in the bidding, along with] Minnesota."

The Rangers wound up giving Napoli, 35, a one-year deal for 8.5 million with an $11 million club option for next season or a $2.5 million buyout. He's hitting just .188 entering Tuesday, a subpar figure, but has 10 home runs.

"We started off pretty slow, but winning 10 straight will help," Napoli said of the Rangers' recent tear. "[Winning] 11 of 12, we've been playing better. I think we kind of lost track of who we are. We got some guys struggling, still trying to find themselves and kind of got away from doing it together as a team, but we got back to doing that. It's been going pretty well."

Part of the World Series championship team of four years ago, Napoli loved being in Boston in 2013, and he enjoys being back now.

"What we were able to do in 2013, obviously, it's something I'l never forget and something I cherish," Napoli said. "I love coming back here to play."

When it was noted there's been so much turmoil since Napoli left -- the talk of Tuesday was manager John Farrell's job security -- he was unsurprised.

"You got to have thick skin to play here," Napoli said. "You're expected to win a championship every single year. But that's what I loved about playing here, is that people were on you. For me, I loved it. A lot of people probably couldn't do it.

"I knew it in my heart that I went out there and I played as hard as I possibly could every single time . . . I know you're not going to be perfect and live up to everyone."