WR Gonzalez puts injuries in the past

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WR Gonzalez puts injuries in the past

FOXBORO -- Anthony Gonzalez believes he's landed where he was meant to.

"This is my first time as a free agent; I didn't know what was going to happen, or how it worked," the 27-year old receiver said Tuesday at Gillette Stadium. "I've got some good friends who are very talented football players who still haven't signed on with anybody.

"It was somewhat surprising, but it was the one I was hoping to get, to be honest. When I evaluated free agency and different teams and how I thought I would fit culturally as well as from an offensive standpoint, this is one I targeted. To have the interest be mutual -- that worked out well."

A former first-round pick out of Ohio State, Gonzalez is entering his sixth season in the league. But what should have been a promising career has been ravaged by injury: a dislocated thumb; bruised foot; shoulder, hamstring, hip, knee, back, groin and "leg" ailments; a high ankle sprain; concussions. Consequently, Gonzalez has 99 catches for 1,307 yards and seven touchdowns in 40 games. He had zero receptions last season for the 2-14 Colts.

"Those seasons weren't how I would have hoped for them to go," he admitted. "I've learned a lot of things and going forward, that' s kind of in my past. It's a basic rule: I look forward as opposed to back. And that's the focus I'm putting on it these days."

Further prodding about his health -- from various angles -- produced little else. Gonzalez said he's one to outline his personal goals, and it seemed on Tuesday he'd already made up his mind to not discuss injury issues.

There's enough in the future to concern himself with anyway.

"I'm kind of sneaking around trying to learn as much as I can; there's kind of some goofy rules right now in terms of what you can and can't do," he smiled. "But that's kind of my focus right now with Tom, or Brian Hoyer, or anybody, is just to learn this offesne as quickly as humanly possible. I know just from watching that it's a pretty complex, pretty involved offense. The one in Indy was too so that part of it doesn't worry me.

"I want to make sure when it's time to go out on the field and do things there's no hesitancy mentally because I know if I don't know exactly what I'm doing, there's going to be problems for me. It's a lot harder to play when you don't know what you're doing."

Chad Ochocinco illustrated last season how unpreparedness plays out in New England: Badly. And what did the receiver say again and again, in the few times he talked? Patriots expectations are astronomical -- uniquely so -- and in the locker room it starts with quarterback Tom Brady.

The attitude of excellence is one Gonzalez had to have experienced playing with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis.

"I was joking with my friends I have a very strict "Hall of Famer only" policy and I have to stay within that group," Gonzalez laughed. "It's wonderful obviously. Quarterbacks make receivers look very good and hopefully I can get some opportunities with him."

It helps he knows Brady back-up Brian Hoyer very, very well; the pair played football together at Cleveland's St. Ignatius high school.

Though Gonzalez said it's "odd" to be reuinted with his high school quarterback, he's appreciates having a familiar face around Gillette. He described himself as a quiet guy who has appreciated getting to know his new teammates in the small waves currently are rolling into the facility.

And it's just the beginning, Gonzalez hopes.

"From my perspective, I have an opportunity with the best football program in the National Football League," he said. "I can't ask for anything more than that."

Celtics chasing down every opportunity Cavs will give them

Celtics chasing down every opportunity Cavs will give them

CLEVELAND -- Marcus Smart sat at his locker stall late Sunday night, soaking in the moment for all it was worth. 

The Celtics were just minutes removed from one of the biggest playoff upsets ever, knocking off Cleveland, 111-108, a game that Boston began the night as a 16.5-point underdog.
 
Smart’s play had a lot to do with the win as he scored a career-high 27 points which included a career-best seven made 3-pointers.
 
But this win was about more than Smart having the game of his life.
 
It was about opportunity, an unspoken rallying cry that has galvanized this Celtics team through what has been a season in which they defied the odds and naysayers time and time again.
 
Boston was supposed to be pretty good this season, but no one predicted they would finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference.
 
Isaiah Thomas had a breakout season in 2015-16, but few anticipated he would be even better a year later while putting up numbers that rank among the greatest single seasons in the storied franchise’s illustrious history.
 
Thomas goes down with a right hip injury that will keep him out of the remainder of the playoffs, and the Celtics hit the road while trailing the defending champion Cavaliers 2-0. 
 
So what do the Celtics do? Oh, not much. They just come up with the most epic playoff comeback win ever against a LeBron James-led team.
 
You can dissect what happened Sunday night all you want, but in the end, it came down to one thing: opportunity.
 
Which is why Boston’s Game 3 win was so sweet and for those of us who have followed the ups and downs of this team this season, it was the Celtics once again making the most of their opportunity to shock the world.
 
Look no further than Smart, a gritty physical defender whose shot-making isn’t exactly top-10 worthy.
 
No, I’m not talking about top 10 in the NBA. I’m talking top 10 on his team.
 
And yet there he was, delivering his usual strong play defensively while channeling his inner Isaiah Thomas to get big-time buckets in the second half which included 11 points during a 26-10 run to close out the third and bring Boston within 87-82 going into the fourth.
 
With the surge came more opportunities for other Celtics like Kelly Olynyk who gets the superstar treatment in Cleveland with more boos than any other Boston player (They have not forgotten about that Olynyk-Kevin Love incident a couple years ago, apparently).
 
Olynyk soaked in the boos while coming off the bench to splash the Cavs defense for 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
 
“Keep fighting, keep fighting,” Olynyk told me when I asked him about what Game 3’s win says about this team. “You can knock us down but we’ll keep getting back up. That’s what we did out there.”
 
Opportunity.
  
Boston had its moment on Sunday night, reminding us just how tough-minded a bunch they can be when they are boxed in a corner and left with two choices: fight or face inevitable elimination.
 
Because had they lost Game 3, they would have been down 3-0 in the series which is a series deficit no team has ever climbed their way out from under to move on to the next round.
 
Fortunately for them, that’s no longer an option.
 
Instead, they have a chance to even this series up and regain home court advantage if they can win Game 4 which much like Game 3, seems a long shot.
 
They don’t care.
 
It has never been about being the favorite or underdog. It’s about the opportunity, something the Celtics gave themselves with Sunday’s win.

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like we’ll be getting a Pittsburgh/Nashville Stanley Cup Final, which I suppose would be the best possible outcome at this point.

*You hear the name and it just gets you angry all over again if you grew up watching the Bruins. Ulf Samuelsson is in the running for an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a report.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston says it appears that the time is running out on a Cinderella season for the Ottawa Senators.

*A taste of winning at the world championships with Team Sweden could fuel Alex Edler’s desire for a change from the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks.

*Interesting piece on a former can’t miss goaltending prospect with the Nashville Predators that ended up totally missing, and what he’s been up to in life since then.

*Guy Boucher explains to Pro Hockey Talk why he kept changing goaltenders in the Game 5 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Don Cherry explains that he hates afternoon hockey during his Coach’s Corner from Hockey Night in Canada in the Game 5 blowout between the Penguins and Predators.

*A good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Alex Prewitt on the Nashville Predators, and the evolution of the franchise into a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

*For something completely different: What a win by the Boston Celtics in Game 3 in Cleveland, and quite an interesting, fired up interview with Al Horford afterward.