“It still hasn’t totally sunk in yet.”
It’s been a little more than a week since Patriots running back James White powered into the end zone, then made a mad dash toward the goalpost while cannons shot off red, white and blue confetti, all done in the shape of the Lombardi Trophy. White didn’t win the MVP, but his record-setting performance, one that included 14 receptions and 20 points, is still drawing rave reviews.
“I’m not surprised,” Dion Lewis told me. “He’s a playmaker. That’s what he does.”
“I’d say it was unreal but that wouldn’t be giving James enough credit,” said LeGarrette Blount. “He’s made plays for us every single week.”
When Lewis injured his hamstring in the fourth quarter, it helped pave the way for White to get the overtime winner. That TD run would gone to Lewis under normal circumstances, but a popped hamstring meant more White. Safe to say, the Pats benefitted.
“Surreal. Just surreal,” said White, looking back on his career night. “I was just doing whatever it took to get a victory. Had to leave it all out there.”
Said special teams captain Matthew Slater in the immediate aftermath of the win: “James is a professional. He’s put in so much work to become the player that he is.We trust him. Tom obviously trusts him.”
That Tom is Tom Brady, of course, and on Peter King’s MMQB podcast, King pointed out to the Pats QB that he targeted White 16 times in the Super Bowl, a year after throwing the same amount of passes to the running back in the AFC Championship game at Denver.
“It’s because of him,” gushed Brady. “I said this to someone earlier in the season, he’s like my oldest son. He never does anything wrong, so it’s hard to get mad at him. And even if he does something wrong, he didn’t really mean it and he feels worse about it than you do. That’s how James is. He never does anything anything wrong.”
Brady continued, “If it’s blitz pickup, it’s blitz pickup. If it’s run the route and catch the ball, that’s what he does. Make a tough decision, he makes it. He’s just been such a dependable, consistent player, so much in the mold of Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, just guys I’ve been in the backfield with who can just do it all. And James has been phenomenal in what he’s been asked to do, from the time he took over for Dion Lewis when he got hurt [against] Washington last year, to this year. He’s just made every play he’s been asked to make.”
When those comments were relayed to him, White chuckled and said, “Tom is the best of all-time so I’ll take it,” before adding, “but there’s still room to get better.” More laughs, but knowing how hard White has worked to get here, he’s not joking.
PHILADELPHIA - Chris Long is donating the rest of his year's salary to increase educational equality.
The Philadelphia Eagles' defensive end already gave up his first six game checks to provide two scholarships for students in Charlottesville, Virginia. Now, he's using the next 10 to launch the Pledge 10 for Tomorrow campaign.
"My wife and I have been passionate about education being a gateway for upward mobility and equality," Long told The Associated Press. "I think we can all agree that equity in education can help affect change that we all want to see in this country."
Long signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Eagles, including a $500,000 signing bonus and $1.5 million guaranteed. His base salary in 2017 is $1 million.
The charitable initiative encourages people to make donations to improve equal education opportunities. Long began his career in St. Louis in 2008 and played for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots last season. Long's foundation has selected four organizations whose missions focus on making education easily accessible to underserved youth while also providing students the support they need to develop strong social and emotional character.
The four organizations are based in the three communities in which Long has played during his NFL career. The city that raises the most money during the season will receive an additional $50,000 donation.
"There's a lot of opportunities to help out and they're wonderful organizations," Long said. "We have such a great platform as football players and hopefully fans get behind it."
Long grew up in Charlottesville and starred in high school at St. Anne's-Belfield before going to the University of Virginia. He was moved to start the scholarship program following the violent protests in Charlottesville in August.
"Our hometown is a wonderful place and I feel like people got the wrong idea about what the residents of Charlottesville are all about," he said.
FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski's never suffered a break like the one Gordon Hayward did on Tuesday night, but he has been through enough to know what lies ahead as the Celtics forward stares at a lengthy recovery period.
"I saw it. I mean, I wish him nothing but wellness," Gronkowski said on Wednesday. "Hopefully he heals ASAP. You never want to see that with a player in any sport. When my friend showed me that last night, you get that feeling in your body, like, your heart drops. I wish him well.
"I can't wait to see him back. I know he's going to bounce back. Being here in Boston, he's going to be a hard worker it feels like. I can't wait to see him back."
Multiple back surgeries, a plate in his arm, a surgically-repaired ACL . . . Gronkowski has put in his share of rehabilitation work. Asked if he'd give Hayward any advice as he embarks on his road back to normalcy, Gronkowski's message was simple.
"Just go into rehab just like you go into anything else. Dominate it," Gronkowski said. "Come back when you feel ready. Come back when you're 100 percent . . . He wouldn't be where he is now if he wasn't a hard worker. I don't know the guy. Never met him. But it's not something you want to see as an athlete happen to anyone else."
Gronkowski acknowledged that in his experience, one of the biggest hurdles following an injury like that is the mental one. You quickly go from being a powerful athlete to a patient in need of help with even the smallest of tasks.
"There is a big mental challenge, definitely, with that," Gronkowski explained. "It's not just not being able to be with your teammates and all that. It's outside of football, too. Because it takes away your whole life, going out like that . . . You can't do anything. You can't walk. You gotta have people do [things for you]. You get really frustrated. You just want the people around you to help you out and keep you in the best mindset throughout the whole process."