Patriots

Belichick, Patriots impressed with Jackson's career

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Belichick, Patriots impressed with Jackson's career

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick has spent this week scheming to stop Steven Jackson, but there was a point in time when he was interested in making the Rams leading rusher a Patriot.

Back in the spring of 2004, New England was coming off of a Super Bowl win over the Panthers and in the market for a running back. They had the 21st overall pick in the draft thanks to a trade with the Ravens, and Belichick's interest was piqued by a strong runner out of Oregon State University with a head full of dreadlocks.

"I went out to Las Vegas and met with Steven out there -- he's from Las Vegas," Belichick said Thursday. "I went out there and met with him and spent pretty much a whole day with him out there. He's a very impressive individual. Obviously he's a big strong kid that runs well, catches the ball very well, very good in the passing game. I think he's probably a little bit underrated in that area. Good in blitz pickup. Smart guy. Really he's had an outstanding career. He definitely was a guy we were very much interested in. Like I said, I personally spent quite a bit of time with him."

Taken as Belichick may have been, he never selected Jackson. Instead, days before the draft, the Patriots traded a second-round pick for Bengals running back Corey Dillon and then drafted University of Miami defensive lineman Vince Wilfork with the 21st pick.

That plan worked out OK. The Patriots went on to win their second-straight Super Bowl title that season, solidifying their place as one of the few dynasties in NFL history.

The Rams took Jackson with the 24th pick in 2004. Now in his ninth season, the 29-year-old has rushed for at least 1,000 yards every season except for his rookie season.

Years after pursuing him, Belichick still holds Jackson in high regard, especially his ability to remain relatively healthy despite the punishment he's taken as a result of the massive workload he's assumed in St. Louis.

"It's impressive," Belichick said. "It's real impressive. He's had 1000 yards it seems like every year, right? Close to it. But he dishes punishment out. I think he gives out probably about as much as he takes. It's not like that with all backs. He's got the quickness to be elusive on the second level, avoid guys. He's also got the power to put his shoulder down and run through guys. He's a hard guy to tackle. As I said, his production in the passing game is very good, too. Not just screens, but route running, getting out there, getting open, and beating linebackers. And he's a great target for the quarterback to throw to. He's not a little 5-(foot)-8 guy you're trying to find out there. He's a big, tall, strong guy that's got a lot of range and a big catch radius and big hands."

Though much has been made of the Patriots' struggles against the passing game, the focus of the defense this week is on slowing Jackson.

"They got a good running back there," Rob Ninkovich said. "He can make a few plays as well so as a defense we gotta do a good job of stopping him first . . . We pride ourselves on stopping the run first. As long as you do that and kind of make the game more one-dimensional, it's just going to help your defense in the long run."

The Patriots have made good on their efforts at stopping opposing rushers so far this season. They've seen some of the league's best -- Tennessee's Chris Johnson, Buffalo's CJ Spiller, Baltimore's Ray Rice and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch -- but they've allowed just 86 yards rushing per game on average, eighth best in the NFL.

"I prefer a team that loves to run the ball," Vince Wilfork said. "Especially a scheme running team, because, you know, you get a little dirty. You don't have to worry too much about cut blocks, zone runs and stuff, reading. That's a football team that wants to line up and smack you in the mouth . . . St. Louis is another team that wants to line up and run the ball three straight times, four straight times if they're successful doing it."

Jackson is averaging 3.8 yards per carry this season and has just one touchdown, but the Patriots know that he has the ability to be one of the few backs to hurt them to this point in the season.

"He's a big guy. He's strong. When you have some size and speed it definitely makes it a lot harder to tackle somebody," Ninkovich said. "You just gotta make sure you really get your hat on him."

Report: In threatening Goodell, Cowboys owner insults Kraft

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Report: In threatening Goodell, Cowboys owner insults Kraft

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, upset over the six-game suspension of his star running back Ezekiel Elliott, has been fighting against a contract extension for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

How hard has he been fighting? Enough to reportedly insult Patriots owner Robert Kraft in the process. 

ESPN reports that on a conference call in August with Goodell and NFL general counsel Jeff Pash when Jones was informed of Elliott’s suspension for domestic violence incidents, Jones told the commissioner, “I’m going to come after you with everything I have.” He then invoked Kraft’s response to Deflategate and Tom Brady’s four-game suspension.

“If you think Bob Kraft came after you hard, Bob Kraft is a p—-y compared to what I’m going to do,” Jones told Goodell, according to ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham.

Elliott, like Brady, abandoned his court fight this week and will serve his suspension. Kraft, of course, produced the Wells Report in context website, but grudgingly accepted the NFL’s penalty in the Deflategate case. Jones has threatened to sue the NFL if Goodell’s contract extension is approved.   

 

Blakely: Work in progress, but oh, what progress

Blakely: Work in progress, but oh, what progress

BOSTON – The words of Stephen Curry following the Celtics’ 92-88 win over his Golden State Warriors had an off-handed, end-of-the-night throwaway feel to them, a statement that would soon be forgotten after the Warriors reel off what should be a long string of victories going forward.
 
“They’re playing the best right now in the East,” Curry said of the Celtics, who now have a 3-2 edge in their past five meetings following Thursday night’s thriller. “And obviously until they beat Cleveland, who's done it three years in a row … so we’ll see.”

CELTICS 92, WARRIORS 88

We already have, folks.
 
The Celtics and the Warriors are both quick to remind us all that we are only a month into the season and that there’s still lots of basketball to be played.
 
But the big takeaway from Thursday was that the Celtics’ ascension to the top of the NBA mountain is a matter of when, not if, it’ll happen.
 
Because what we’re seeing now is a team that is very much a work in progress, yet one that still manages to win games on a lot of nights that they have no business winning.
 
Think about it.
 
They shot 32.9 percent against the Warriors, the best team in the NBA, and still managed to get the win. According to NBA stats guru Dick Lipe, it was only the second time in the past 35 years that the Celtics shot less than 33 percent from the field and still managed to win.
 
That speaks to how well Boston defended the Warriors, who came in averaging a league-best 119.6 points per game.
 
But more than that, it shows this team has a will to win that’s almost unheard of for a group whose pieces are so relatively new to one another.
 
Of the 14 Celtics with guaranteed contracts on the roster, all but four are in their first season in Boston.
 
But even with the new guys coming together quicker than anticipated, Boston should not all of a sudden be considered the favorites in the NBA.
 
Even with the victory, Boston still has some ground to make up if they are to be on the same level as Golden State, a franchise that has been to the NBA Finals each of the past three seasons and has emerged a champion twice.
 
“It takes a lot of basketball to get there,” said Warriors guard Klay Thompson. “They have a good, young, hungry team. You have to give them credit. They have a better record than us, so you can say they’re better now.”
 
And while Thompson didn’t place an emphasis on it, the last word in his comments, “now,” is why Thursday’s victory leaves the Celtics cautiously optimistic.
 
Because as we’ve seen time and time, regular-season success does not always travel well beyond that and into the playoffs.
 
Still, Thursday’s win provides something for Boston beyond hope and optimism.
 
They now have results to go with the work they’ve put in to be a better team and compete with the league’s best.
 
And they’ve done it under less-than-ideal circumstances.
 
Gordon Hayward went down with an ankle injury less than five minutes into the season and he’s expected to be lost for the rest of the season. Al Horford missed two games while recovering from a concussion while Kyrie Irving missed a game after suffering a facial fracture.
 
So in other words, the Big Three that Boston was set on unleashing to the rest of the world has logged less than five minutes together all season.
 
And yet there are the Celtics (14-2), tops in the NBA while riding a historic 14-game winning streak, and there's reason to believe that maybe, just maybe, these two will be the last teams standing when all is said and done and some of those customary throwaway lines uttered by Curry might have some value after all if these two wind up meeting in the NBA Finals.

“I hear the weather is great here in June,” Curry said.