Patriots

Jeff Green 'thankful for everything'

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Jeff Green 'thankful for everything'

WALTHAM Jeff Green was with his family for Thanksgiving a year ago, with the biggest care in the world being whether he and the rest of his NBA brethren would have a season to play.
Thanksgiving is a time of reflection for most and Green is no different.
But for him this holiday has a deeper, more significant meaning now.
That's what happens when life throws you the ultimate change-up that puts you in an Intensive Care Unit in Cleveland for a week for heart surgery and puts your life -- not just the game of basketball -- in jeopardy.
And as if that wasn't scary enough, Green told CSNNE.com that doctors had to go back inside a second time to repair some internal bleeding which extended his hospital stay.
"I didn't realize that (happened) until I left the hospital and I was talking to one of my good friends," Green told CSNNE.com. "What I had was bleeding internally. So they had to go back in and fix what it was."
Green added, "Everything that I have ever owned, everything that I have ever gained, everything I ever accomplished, was almost taken away from me in a matter of hours."
Jeff Green sits on one of the cushioned seats aligned against the wall at the Boston Celtics practice facility, his mind taking him yet again on a journey into his past, the present and what he and the C's hope will be a bright, promising future.
The 6-foot-9 forward will be the first to tell you that he has a lot to be thankful for today; first and foremost for being alive.
"To reflect on that makes me appreciate everything that I've done, everything that's coming towards me negative or positive, makes me appreciate it that much more," he said. "Who knows if I didn't find out? I might not be here. I might not ever play basketball again. I might not be alive. With the whole incident, it was a blessing. It opened my eyes and makes me appreciate a lot of things a lot more."

GETTING THE NEWS
After what had been a challenging adjustment period following the trade from Oklahoma City to Boston in the spring of 2011, Green was eager to prove his worth to Celtics fans heading into last season.
"I was feeling great," Green said. "I was ready."
During the lockout, Green still prepared himself as if there would be a season with workouts and pick-up games around his alma mater, Georgetown University. He participated in basketball charity events like the one hosted by Rajon Rondo at Harvard University, and wowed the crowd with electrifying dunks and a steady perimeter game.
All that remained was an NBA season and a new contract from the Celtics. Once the lockout was over, the C's inked Green to a one-year deal worth 9 million.
"We were very optimistic about Jeff and the role that he would play in our team heading into last season," Danny Ainge, Boston's president of Basketball Operations, told CSNNE.com in an earlier interview.
But a routine physical following the agreement changed everything.
"Like I said, I felt good, I felt ready," he said. "But that, obviously, wasn't meant to be."
There were some abnormalities detected involving his heart that prompted more tests.
Green initially shrugged it off, chalking it up to him being a bit more fatigued that day than usual and that with additional tests, it would work out fine.
But further tests only confirmed those initial findings.
Green left a preseason practice in December early to meet with doctors, as well Ainge, at Massachusetts General Hospital.
"They took me into a small room, just me, Danny, the doctors, and my agent (David Falk) on speaker phone," Green recalled. "And they ... they just told me. The measurements of your left valve ... you can either run the risk of not doing anything and it rupturing and being fatal, or get surgery."
There was no choice in Green's mind.
"'Surgery it is,'" he said.
Green was diagnosed with an aortic root aneurysm that would require immediate surgery.
And from there ... silence.
Like still waters that run deep, Green's silence masked a rush of emotions and concerns and fears that truth be told, Green simply could not express or put into words.
"I was in shock," said Green, visibly subdued as he recounts that day. "That's how I felt. It was like I just got shot, hit with a stun gun. Everything from my family, basketball career, my life ... I was seeing life flash before my eyes, that's what happened. You hear people talk about it, but you never believe it until it happens to you. I played back everything. Me getting drafted, going to Georgetown, me playing basketball ..."
And then it fades to black, bringing Green back to the reality that at this moment, all of those memories could be just that -- memories -- with no future add-ons unless this surgery works as planned.
"It was like boom ... that's all put on halt," Green said.

ANOTHER FIRST FOR GREEN ... SURGERY
While there have been questions about Green throughout his career, health has never been one of them.
Not including last year when his heart surgery kept him out for the entire season, Green has appeared in 327 out of a possible 340 regular season games between Oklahoma City and Boston.
"That's why the whole idea of me needing surgery, heart surgery at that, was so tough for me," Green said. "I had never had surgery before that; I had always been healthy, or at least I thought I was."
The surgery took more than five hours, with Green's heart stopped for about 90 minutes in between.
But even with his heart fixed, Green's thoughts immediately weren't on getting back to the court.
"There was so much I had to re-learn," Green said. "In a lot of ways, it was like being a baby all over again."

ROAD TO RECOVERY
After being released from Cleveland's Clinic, Green spent his first few weeks back home sleeping on the family couch.
"I couldn't lay in my bed," he said. "It's soft. I couldn't lay straight in my bed. I couldn't stretch out my chest or lay on my stomach for a while."
So Green essentially slept with his feet propped up on the couch, his body forming the shape of an 'L.'
"That sucked," he said. "I didn't get much sleep those first few weeks, months after surgery."
And when Green was able to sit up in his bed, he initially needed help getting out of it. From there, he progressed to getting himself out of bed by pulling on his shorts to lift one leg up, then the other.
It would be several weeks before he could do something as simple as turn to his left or right, and not feel pain.
For a player known for his athleticism, those initial days following surgery were a cruel reminder of just how special his set of skills are.
"Because by me being who I am," Green said. "Being able to run up and down the floor, being athletic, being able to move side to side as quick as I can, and all of sudden I can't sit up by myself? I can't move? I can't turn my torso to the left or right? It makes you appreciate those things a little more."
It also helps having a teammate like Chris Wilcox, who also underwent surgery for an aortic aneurysm just a few months after Green did.
Like Green, Wilcox sees this holiday from a different perspective as well.
"I definitely have a lot more to be thankful for this year," Wilcox told CSNNE.com.
And while the goal for both Green and Wilcox is to contribute as much as they can to help the C's, both understand that it's going to take time before they are able to contribute at a level each is accustomed to with the kind of consistency they would like.
Each player has had their share of critics for their slower-than-expected start which truth be told, doesn't make them all that different than the rest of the Celtics (6-6) who have collectively lost three of their last four games.
"A lot of people, they have a lot of stuff to say," Wilcox said. "But me and Jeff, we've been through a lot. For us to be at this point in our lives and doing what we love and we're just six, seven months, nine, 10 months out of heart surgery for Jeff, ... people expect you playing ball, you should be doing this, you should be doing that, but it takes time after something like what we've gone through."
Doctors told both players that it would likely be a year or so before they were completely back to full tilt.
"And we're out here just months out of surgery," Wilcox said. "That should tell you how much we both love this game, love being a Boston Celtic. This is the kind of dedication we have to this game we love."
Green's critics have been especially vocal in part because the C's signed him to a four year deal worth 36 million, which in the eyes of some is seen as excessive for a player who missed the previous season following heart surgery.
His agent David Falk said that there were avenues in which Green could have potentially landed a more lucrative deal elsewhere.
"But he made it clear that Boston is where he wanted to be," Falk told CSNNE.com. "And I give Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers and the entire Celtics organization a lot of credit. The way they handled Jeff's situation was first-class, all the way. There's a large reservoir of good will that exists between Jeff and the Celtics, and Danny and Doc, as well as myself.
Falk added, "there was a good bit of give-and-take on both sides. It wasn't like we were miles apart to start. I explained to Danny, Jeff was willing to take less money to return to Boston. It's where he wanted to be."
Green impressed many with a stronger-than-anticipated preseason in which he was arguably the Celtics' best player. He averaged 15.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and one blocked shot.
However, his play during the regular season has not been nearly as impressive.
In 12 games this season, Green has come off the bench and averaged 7.9 points in 21.3 minutes -- both career lows.
Green will be the first to tell you that he has to play better. But if there's one thing he has learned throughout his journey back to the court, it is patience.
Not only with his game, but also with people who expect him to contribute significantly right away.
"That's why you see me smiling everyday," he said. "I enjoy what I have, I enjoy what's going on whether it's good or bad. At the end of the day, through everything I've been through this whole year, as far as personally or with the surgery, I'm thankful for everything."

Hard to find a Patriots equal in soft AFC

Hard to find a Patriots equal in soft AFC

John Elway created a stir this week when he said his Broncos, after a 3-1 start, had “gotten a little bit soft." Elway, the Broncos GM, said that after five straight Denver losses – the last two by the combined score of 92-39

Denver’s head coach Vance Joseph said Elway’s remark bothered him. He talked to his players about it. On Sunday, the Broncos went out and did something about it. They lost by just three at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. Yay.

They’re pretty much all soft in the AFC this year. Check out the AFC West. There’s Denver. And the Raiders – who the Patriots handled with disturbing ease on Sunday, 33-8. The 5-4 Kansas City Chiefs, who lost on the road to the one-win Giants after starting the season 5-0.

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The AFC East is soft. Miami was 4-2. It’s lost four straight including a 40-0 loss to Baltimore. The Jets were 3-2, they’re now 4-6 (which is a minor miracle given how ragged their roster is). The Bills were 5-2, now they’re 5-5 having lost by a combined 101-34 the past two weeks as head coach Sean McDermott willingly stuck a butter knife in an electrical outlet and replaced Tyrod Taylor with a not-ready-for-preseason-Week-4 Nathan Peterman.

The AFC South is led by the Jaguars and Titans. Jacksonville – which can play some defense – isn’t as bad as the rest. The Jags have won four straight and play cutthroat defense, but they had their hands full with the 0-10 Browns on Sunday. During the week, running back Leonard Fournette complained about having to play in the cold in Cleveland. At least he showed up Sunday and ran for 111. The Titans are awful when they leave Tennessee, which was further proven last Thursday when they lost 40-17 at Pittsburgh. Since October began, they’ve been outscored 122-43 in four road games. Their one road win in that span was a 12-9 decision over Cleveland. 

The big, bad AFC North contingent led by the Steelers at 8-2? Talented. But led by a forever-whining, passive-aggressive quarterback who openly and annually mulls retirement and two “me first” skill guys in Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell. Their greatest strength may be in executing elaborate post-touchdown skits. Vital.

Meanwhile, here are the boring-ass Patriots. Yeah, they have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and continuity in the program and coaching staff, but the gap between them and everyone else in the conference is that they don’t worry about the cold or the road or the five-act plays after they score.

They stayed a week in Colorado Springs to get ready for the altitude. Two Patriots – Stephon Gilmore and Danny Amendola – had to be treated for dehydration in the second half. After five PLAYS, Raiders rookie Obi Melifonwu was asking out of the game saying he couldn’t breathe.

The Raiders – a team that went 12-4 last year - haven’t improved a bit defensively all season. They are – under head coach Jack Del Rio – one of those “we do what we do” defenses the Patriots love to face because it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Brady is now 8-1 against Del Rio-led teams/defenses and the numbers against Del Rio’s teams are absurd: 225 completions on 310 attempts for (73 percent) for 2,387 yards, 21 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

It just feels like the AFC is a collection of teams, with an overwhelming majority of them in turn-it-on, turn-it-off mode. Their coaches are just kind of casting about, constantly open to suggestion and willing to give anything a shot because, hell, they better try something to get hot or they’ll be passing out resumes at the Combine in four months.

The Patriots remaining schedule goes like this: Dolphins, Bills, Dolphins, Steelers, Bills, Jets. Shake me awake on December 17 when the Steelers game comes. And we have a mountain of data explaining how that one will go too.

I’m not weary of the team. It’s historic and fascinating, like watching a hooded Mozart compose and a helmeted Van Gogh paint every week. But the exercise of trying to conjure scenarios where the Patriots play November football with the exquisite ineptitude of their opponents is not easy.

They are doing this without Julian Edelman or Dont'a Hightower. They played Sunday without Chris Hogan, David Andrews, Marcus Cannon and Matt Slater.

Offenses can’t score against them. Defenses can’t stop them. They create points on special teams. They manage the game, the clock and their opponents like simple arithmetic while every other team’s doing trigonometry. What was broken in September has been long fixed.

The time will come again when the Patriots appear just as inept, clueless and mired in mediocrity as every other AFC team appears right now. But it won’t be this year.

So embrace the softness? I guess?

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Wentz, Eagles roll over Cowboys 37-9 after losing kicker

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Wentz, Eagles roll over Cowboys 37-9 after losing kicker

ARLINGTON, Texas - No kicker, no problem for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Carson Wentz threw for two touchdowns and three 2-point conversions after Philadelphia lost kicker Jake Elliott to a head injury, and the Eagles all but wrapped up the NFC East with a 37-9 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.

The Eagles (9-1) outscored the Cowboys 30-0 in the second half while extending their winning streak to eight games, their longest since 2003-04 and tied with New Orleans for the best current run in the NFL.

Philadelphia leads the second-place and defending division champion Cowboys (5-5) by four games with six to play after handing Dallas its worst home loss at 8-year-old AT&T Stadium.

Dallas' Dak Prescott threw a career-high three interceptions and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown in his second straight loss without star running back Ezekiel Elliott, serving a six-game suspension for alleged domestic violence.

Jake Elliott's injury wasn't a factor for nearly a half because the NFL-leading Eagles couldn't get in scoring position. They failed to get a first down on five straight first-half drives, starting with one at the Dallas 15 when Elliott missed a 34-yard attempt and soon after left the field.

Trailing 9-7 at halftime, Wentz led the Eagles on scoring drives of 75, 90 and 85 yards, the middle one boosted by Jay Ajayi's 71-yard run against his hometown team in his second game since getting traded by Miami.

"The biggest thing was sticking with the game plan," said Wentz, who is up to 25 touchdown passes with just five interceptions. "The big boys up front kind of came out angry. We ran the ball the second half really effectively."

Ajayi had 91 yards on seven carries and LeGarrette Blount added 57 on 13 carries, including a 30-yarder leading to the last offensive touchdown.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson declared at halftime that he would go for every fourth down and try 2-point conversions after every touchdown.

It came into play right away when Corey Clement scored on an 11-yard run to open the second half and ran in a screen pass behind three blockers for the 2-pointer.

The first fourth-down try was Wentz's 17-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery for a 29-9 lead. That 2-point pass failed. Torrey Smith had the other TD catch, an 11-yarder.

After Derek Barnett hit Prescott's leg and arm as he was throwing, Nigel Bradham picked up the loose ball and ran it 37 yards for a touchdown. Wentz's 2-point pass to Trey Burton provided the final margin.

"We got some nice 2-point conversions," said Wentz, who was 14 of 27 for 168 yards. "Now we've got to go back to the drawing board with our 2-point plays."

The Cowboys appeared to have fixed the problems of missing injured left tackle Tyron Smith and 2016 All-Pro linebacker Sean Lee from a week earlier, when they allowed eight sacks of Prescott along with three Atlanta scoring drives following Lee's injury in a 27-7 loss to the Falcons.

But after protecting Prescott fairly well before halftime, Dallas allowed three sacks and 180 of Philadelphia's season-high 215 yards rushing in the second half. Lee's replacement at weakside linebacker, Anthony Hitchens, left with a groin injury after halftime.

Prescott was 18 of 31 for 145 yards for a career-worst 30.4 passer rating before backup Cooper Rush took mop-up duty.

"It's no excuses," said Prescott, who teamed with Elliott in a remarkable rookie season that is now a distant memory with already two more losses and three more interceptions than Prescott had a year ago. Elliott won't be back until the final two games of the regular season.

"We're not saying injuries or any of that's bothering us. We're not saying it's the reason we're not winning is because of those guys."

NO RUST THIS TIME

The Eagles had a focus on being better following the bye after losing nine of 11 last season after a 3-0 start going into the break. Now Philadelphia will take a shot at the best record in the NFL with history on its side when starting this strong. The Eagles have two NFL championships (1949, 1960) and two trips to the Super Bowl (1980, 2004, both losses) following 9-1 starts.

SECOND-HALF MELTDOWNS

The Cowboys have been outscored 47-0 in the second half the past two weeks following a three-game winning streak that seemed to have Dallas back on track following an NFC-best 13-3 record last season.

"It would be pretty tough not to panic, but I don't think we are panicking," said running back Alfred Morris, who had 91 yards filling in for Ezekiel Elliott. "It's been two tough losses, ugly losses on top of that. But at the same time, I know the character of this team and the fight we have."

EMERGENCY KICKER

Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill is the emergency kicker for the Eagles. But he completely missed the safety net on a practice try on the sidelines, sending the ball into the stands. He did reach the goal line with his first kickoff, though.

UP NEXT

Eagles: Home against Chicago next Sunday.

Cowboys: Los Angeles Chargers visiting for annual Thanksgiving game.

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