Red Sox

Maroney runs out of time


Maroney runs out of time

By Rich Levine

Ive got a pretty clear memory of the first drive of Laurence Maroneys career.

It was Week 1 of the 2006 season, against the Bills, and thanks to the mess that is Gillette security, I was a little late getting into the stadium.

I was actually still running through the concourse during the kick off, but thankfully got to my seats, grossly out breath, just in time for the first snap of the season. Just in time to see Tom Brady get drilled by Takeo Spikes, the ball hit the ground, London Fletcher pick it up and the Bills go up 7-0. It also didnt help that at this point I was basically dry-heaving from my 30-second sprint.

Anyway, the offense comes back onto the field, and on the fourth play from scrimmage (confession: I had to look that part up), No. 39 trots into the huddle. Hes built more like a strong safety than a running back. He has Whoopi Goldberg dreadlocks hanging out the back of his helmet. He takes that first carry and bursts up the middle.

And this wasnt just any burst. This was like dropping Mentos into a two-liter bottle of Coke burst. It was an explosion. He broke through the middle, picking up speed as he went, inviting contact, destroying anything in his path. Twenty-seven yards later he was finally pushed out of bounds.

I started laughing.

Two plays later, and its third-and-five; Brady's in the shotgun and No. 39's back in the game. This time he takes the ball on a draw, runs off-guard and into daylight. Twenty-two yards later and New England not only had its running back of the future, but its future, in general.

Again, I started laughing. And this wasnt just a little chuckle. It was hilarious, borderline maniacal laughter. I couldnt believe that this was the Patriots' new running back. That this high-speed, 220-pound bull dozer was now in New England. How great was this going to be? I was in awe. I was giddy.

Typically, you wouldnt jump to such conclusions after the first two carries of an NFL career. But back in 2006, it was easy. Back then, if you were the first pick of the New England Patriots, you were going to be somebody. Before Maroney, the Pats had selected (in reverse order) Logan Mankins, Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Daniel Graham and Richard Seymour with their first pick. So when Maroney went No. 21 in 2006, we were ready for the next star, and it wouldnt take much convincing. Two carries for 49 yards just about did the trick.

And it wasn't just the yards, it was also how he got them. Like I mentioned, the guy loved contact. He got more joy out of stiff-arming a cornerback into the ground than breaking ankles with a juke move (although he could do that, too). With every step, he became fast and harder to take down. He had an unmatched determination, one that would leave him primed to lead the rushing attack once Corey Dillon hung them up.

And it didn't hurt that he had a personality to match. He had the braids. He had more bling inside his mouth than Bill Russell has on his fingers. He had an amazing nickname: Kool Aid, and wore a Kool Aid Man chain the size of Wes Welker around his neck. He was just cool. Ridiculous cool.

The first year played out pretty much as planned. Of course he didnt average 20 yards a carry, but he showed us he was ready. He was the perfect compliment to Dillon, a beast in the return game, and gave us no reason to worry about his future.

In 2007, he was the lead back in the greatest offense in NFL history. He played in 13 games, ran for 885 yards, six touchdowns, and didnt fumble once. In all honesty, we probably expected a little more out of him that second season, but how could you find fault in the Patriots offense? How could Maroney have really made them any better than they were? As the Pats moved into playoff mode, Maroney followed suit, with back-to-back, bruising 125-yard games in wins over the Jaguar and Chargers. His Super Bowl performance was forgettable, but, hey, so was that whole Super Bowl.

This time, 2008 was supposed to be the year he made it, until a shoulder injury ended "it" after three games. Meanwhile, by this time, a trio of running backs who were drafted behind Maroney were leaving their mark on the league. Deangelo Williams (drafted five spots after) ran for 1,500 yard and an NFL-leading 18 touchdowns. Joseph Addai (drafted nine spots after) was slightly off in 2008, but had already amassed two 1,000-yard seasons and a Super Bowl ring. Maurice Jones Drew (drafted 39 spots after) had scored a combined 40 touchdowns by the time his third season was over, and was even better in 2009. Theyd all graduated to the upper echelon of NFL running backs, but the Kool Aid Man was still stuck in 10th grade. He just couldnt get it right. He never joined the rest of the class.

Thats not to say that Maroney didnt have his chances. Sure, he was never handed the role of "featured back," but he was given every opportunity to earn it. Partly because he was a first-round pick, and you want to give those guys every chance in the world to prove their worth. But it was also because the Patriots still believed that he might turn it around. They saw the same potential we all did. The potential was unquestionable (unlike the man himself, who seemed to always be listed as questionable).

If he could just put it all together, then . . .

Then, I dont know.

Well never know. At least not here in New England. At least not the way we all envisioned it would be, with Laurence Maroney bridging the gap to another chapter of the Patriots Dynasty and with that beastly figure and those Whoopi Goldberg braids becoming a fixture in the Gillette Stadium end zone.

Its the end of an era. The "God, whens Maroney finally going to figure this out?" Era.

In a way, its a relief. But you also have to feel bad that he'll probably never reach the expectations we once dreamed of. And maybe a little stupid, or at least I do, for jumping to such lofty conclusions in the first place.

Blame it injuries. Blame it on Belichick. Blame it on whatever.

I'll blame it on the most memorable first two touches in Patriots history. It was only downhill from there.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall


HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press

Ray Allen tells court he was 'catfished'


Ray Allen tells court he was 'catfished'

ORLANDO, Fla. — Retired NBA star Ray Allen said he is a victim of “catfishing,” and has asked a court to throw out a case where he is accused of stalking someone he met online.

Allen filed an emergency motion in Orange County, Florida, on Tuesday, one day after Bryant Coleman told the court he is being stalked by the 10-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion.

Allen said Coleman is the one who is stalking.

“Coleman pretended to be a number of attractive women interested in Ray Allen,” read the motion filed on Allen’s behalf. “Ray believed he was speaking with these women and communicated with them.”

Attorney David Oscar Markus released a statement saying Allen took legal action in an effort to put an end to threats against him and his family, and that Allen was the victim “of an online scheme to extract money and embarrass him by someone who appears to be troubled.”

In the filing, Allen said Coleman threatened to reveal details of their conversations, and that the sides eventually struck a deal to keep everything private. Allen said that deal has been violated and that Coleman has continued to harass him and his family through several social-media accounts.

“He posted about Ray’s wife, Ray’s children, Ray’s dog, Ray’s homes, Ray’s wife’s restaurant, and numerous other personal items,” read the motion. “Coleman not only posted about these things, he would actually post while physically located inside Ray’s wife’s restaurant in Orlando. And he would make sure they knew it, tagging Ray and his wife on those posts.”

Allen asked the court to stop Coleman from “cyber-stalking.” It was not clear if Coleman has an attorney, and a working phone number for him could not be found.

“Ray regrets ever engaging with this person online and is thankful they never met in person,” Markus said. “This experience has negatively impacted Ray, and he hopes that others might use his mistake to learn the dangers of communicating online with strangers.”

Allen is the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made. He starred in college at UConn and won championships with the Celtics in 2008 and Miami in 2013, the second title coming after he made one of the most dramatic shots in playoff history — a game-tying 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left in regulation of Game 6 of The Finals against San Antonio, a game that the Heat would win in overtime to extend the series to a seventh game.

Allen also played for Milwaukee and Seattle, and last appeared in the league in 2014. He and his family have lived in the Miami area since.

© 2017 by The Associated Press