Patriots

Curran: If Tebow stays, it won't be for football

new_england_patriots_tim_tebow_061213.jpg

Curran: If Tebow stays, it won't be for football

The Tebow Issue remains for the New England Patriots.

 


With all teams cutting to 75 players by Tuesday at 4 p.m. and 53 by 6 p.m. on Saturday, interminable speculation about whether Tebow would make the Patriots will -- mercifully -- terminate.

 


The Tebow Conundrum (like the Bourne Conspiracy, but with less subterfuge and more overthrows) has only grown more mystifying. Creating a role for him in the Patriots offense is like giving up your car so that it can get an 8-track installed.

 


Don’t need it. Won’t use it. And not very good at its job (in the 8-track’s case, playing music; in Tebow’s case, playing quarterback).

 


Everybody’s got an opinion on Tebow’s future. Some are delivered as fact.

 


But since camp began, virtually all evidence submitted by Tebow himself proves he doesn’t belong on the Patriots roster.

 


He’s gone 5 for 19 in his two appearances. Only one -- ONE OUT OF 19 PASSES -- could be classified as too difficult for a middle school quarterback to execute. That was a 17-yarder to Aaron Dobson against the Eagles. Of the four other completions, all traveled less than 5 yards. Thirty-two of his 54 preseason passing yards came on middle screens to Leon Washington and Bolden against Philadelphia.

 


Tebow’s run for 61 yards on 10 carries, but he’s also been sacked three times and thrown a pick in limited action. When trying to read defenses, he’s been decisive as a stoned Price Is Right contestant relying on the studio audience. Not a single aspect of anything related to playing the position has been done consistently enough in practice or games to allow a reasonable person to say, “You know, on football merits, Tebow deserves a spot on the Patriots.”

 


When I consider Tebow, I keep thinking of players who could conceivably go if Tebow stays. Like Brandon Bolden. Bolden is a second-year player signed as an undrafted free agent out of Ole Miss in 2012.

 


Bolden absolutely has NFL talent as a running back. He presents as very smart, engaging and diligent. He’s made mistakes -- a four-game PED suspension last year being a primary one. And he’s not been outstanding in this preseason -- a running-into-the-kicker call against the Eagles that extended a drive; a fumble inside the 15 last week against the Lions.

 


But he’s also had positive plays, with 11 carries for 58 yards and a presence on multiple special teams units.  

 


Brandon Bolden deserves to be on the Patriots more than Tim Tebow. I hate to begrudge a person who is so unfailingly decent, upright and spiritually blessed his opportunity to keep chasing his NFL dream, but I’m doing it with Tebow. And I’m not pretty sure about it, I’m convinced. Tebow hasn’t earned it.

 


If I know that, one can imagine Brandon Bolden does as well. And running backs coach Ivan Fears. And special teams coach Scott O’Brien. And Bolden’s teammates in the running backs room.


If Bolden goes and Tebow stays (please note, I’m using Bolden as a “for instance” -- this could be any player on the bubble), it has to be viewed through the lens of who would have made a bigger contribution for the team,



Belichick’s mantra -- his fallback and his shield -- has always been “I do what’s best for the football team…”

 


On football merit alone, Tebow is currently the worst Patriot.

 


One square inch of Belichick’s brain carries more football knowledge than my whole noggin. So, if Tebow is on the team past Saturday at 6 p.m., a non-football reason will be the driving force. And Tebow’s values, work ethic and off-field example could be the reason.

 


The Patriots’ locker room bottomed out in 2009. Players were selfish, cliquish, immature and the chemistry sucked. After fumigating the locker room prior to the 2010 season, New England was a less talented team but wound up going 14-2. Chemistry and attitude had a lot to do with that.

 


The 2012 Patriots were nowhere near as bad as the 2009 edition, but there was an immaturity and an entitled air seeping into their locker room. The pursuit of individual attention became a focus (Rob Gronkowski is the best example but he’s not been the lone one). Average guys acted like Pro Bowlers (hellooo, Brandon Deaderick) and other guys were just jerks (Brandon Lloyd). Even before Aaron Hernandez was arrested for murder, you could see the Patriots addressing the personality deficiencies with the players they drafted (who all presented very professionally) and the ones they released.

 


Nothing is absolute -- LeGarrette Blount doesn’t have the resume of a Boy Scout and the Patriots traded for him -- but in general, you could sense a different type of person being imported.

 


Less conspicuous than the signing of Tebow has been the presence this year of a team chaplain. I first noticed him in Philly on the sidelines during practices and have seen him with the team frequently since. That’s not unprecedented for the team but this chaplain has been more visible. Whether that’s his particular style or he’s been asked to be a visible presence is unknown. It’s just noteworthy in the context of Tebow’s role.

 


To me, if Tebow ends up on the 53, it won’t be because he’s a valuable football player. It will be because he’s a valuable presence. Doing what’s best for the football team doesn’t have to mean keeping the best players -- Brandon Lloyd and Adalius Thomas are proof of that. But if Tebow remains because he’s a good person, hard worker and spiritual example, the fact he plays badly will be a cross for him -- and the Patriots -- to bear.

'Twinkle Toes' Gronkowski? In Belichick's eyes, anyway

cp-gronkowski-belichick-101917x.jpg

'Twinkle Toes' Gronkowski? In Belichick's eyes, anyway

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski has plenty of nicknames. There's the obvious abbreviation of his last name. There's what Tom Brady calls him, borrowing from Marshawn Lynch: "Beast Mode."

Bill Belichick has also gotten in on the nickname game for his massive tight end, apparently. What it lacks in intimidation it makes up for with . . . sparkle?

Gronkowski was told on Wednesday afternoon that when Belichick broke down his 33-yard touchdown against the Jets, he made a point to highlight Gronkowski's high-stepping into the end zone.

MORE PATRIOTS


"Oh, he liked that? It didn’t seem like he liked it," Gronkowski said with a smile. "He says I've got twinkle toes, so I’ll take Twinkle Toes. I like when I have twinkle toes -- that means I’m feeling good. I’m feeling it."

Gronkowski finished the game with 6 catches for 83 yards and two scores, and if he stays healthy he's on pace for 78 catches for 1,203 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. Those numbers would put him in contention for a first-team All-Pro nod, which would earn him the max $10.75 million for 2017 that's been written into his incentive-laden contract for this season.

Even if he isn't an All-Pro, 1,200 receiving yards would also trigger the max value of the deal. Seventy catches, 1,000 receiving yards or 12 touchdowns would trigger the second tier of Gronkowski's incentives, paying him $8.75 million. Sixty catches, 800 yards or 10 touchdowns would pay him $6.75 million -- up from the minimum of $5.25 million he's  guaranteed for this season.

Numbers aside, part of what has made Gronkowski's season so impressive is that he's been an impactful run-blocker and pass-protector when asked. On Dion Lewis' first carry of the game against the Jets, Gronkowski sealed a defensive lineman and allowed Lewis to bounce outside for nine yards. On a goal-line run in the second quarter, Lewis ran right behind Gronkowski to get into the end zone. 

During training camp, as Gronkowski returned to the field after season-ending back surgery, the physical aspect of the game didn't necessarily look like one of his strong suits. He was on the ground more than reporters are used to seeing, and there were questions as to whether or not at this stage of his career he would be able to be the well-rounded tight end that has made him such a dynamic weapon in years past. 

After five games, it's clear he has his feet under him. 

"It's definitely part of the game, a big part of the game," he said. "You want to be able to block. It helps in the play-action passes big time to get open. It just helps overall. It helps with the running game to be able to block and you want a run game. You don't just want a pass game. 

"It takes time. When you get to training camp you've got to build your foundation. You’ve got to build that base and taking all of those hits in training camp and it progresses throughout the season. Just building the base throughout training camp and you just want to be the best blocker that you can be to help out the team."

A hard-nosed blocker who occasionally flashes twinkle toes? Though he may poke fun, Belichick's no doubt pleased he has himself a tight end who can do both.

"Yeah, he said I had twinkle toes," Gronkowski said. "I took it as a compliment . . . I like twinkle toes."

You can watch Belichick's breakdown of Gronkowski's celebration -- he also looked at his team's execution against a two-man Jets rush, its hustle on kickoffs, and a 58-yard net punt by Ryan Allen -- on Patriots.com.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Ex-Patriot Chris Long donating his salary to educational equality program

new-england-patriots-chris-long-110516.jpg

Ex-Patriot Chris Long donating his salary to educational equality program

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE