Curran: On Newton, Moon, Brady and more . . .


Curran: On Newton, Moon, Brady and more . . .

By Tom E. Curran

"Operation Beer Liberation 2011" didn't go as planned for Mike Vrabel. And at some point, he's going to be sitting across the table from NFL owners figuring how to divvy up 10 billion while both sides know he got pinched for trying to abscond with 10 worth of sauce. Let he who has never made a sketchy beer-related decision at 5 a.m. cast the first stone. Still, that dustup is bad for business. Meanwhile . . .MOON RAKERWarren Moon is doing Cam Newton more harm than good. Hired as a mentor for the Auburn Heisman Trophy winner, Moon has been ever-available to share his opinions -- biased though they may be -- on all things Cam. Last week, he alleged racism after Pro Football Weekly's Nolan Nawrocki offered a scathing review of Newton's off-field persona. That ignored the fact that Nawrocki's hammered plenty of white prospects in similar fashion. This week, he told USA Today's Jim Corbett that the Panthers are sold on Newton with the No. 1 pick as a player but thatthe Panthers "just need to talk to him more about who he is and get to know him a little bit better." Actually, they probably need to know just how often guys like Moon or Newton's agent Bus Cook (advisor to prima donnas Brett Favre, Jay Cutler and Adalius Thomas) are going to get their hands in the soup and stir things up. Here's a media conundrum. It's great for us when there's an oracle like Moon who'll spout off. But in considering whether a team or a player is well-served by guys who'll make our jobs easier . . . they usually aren't. Moon isn't under the Panthers' control. And will Newton be in a position to ask him to quiet down? Moon's the mentor, right? The layers of hangers-on and people whose interests are served by seeing Newton succeed are going to make teams wary. Consider a scenario. It's Week 10. Newton hasn't mastered the playbook enough to unseat Jimmy Clausen, yet the Panthers are 3-6. Someone asks Moon what he thinks of Newton sitting behind Clausen. Moonexplains that Newton's getting a raw deal. Maybe he plays the race card again. Media chaos, the Rev. Al Sharptonpicketing in Charlotte and a week of wall-to-wall analysis ensues. Do the Panthers want or need that? It's already proven that Cecil Newton is a wild card; now there's a braying Moon in the mix? Proceed. With. Caution. HOW WILL 'BRADY vs. NFL' SUIT QUARTERBACKNice idea by Ian Rapoport at The Boston Herald to track down some sports business folk and ask them how the players suit against the NFL will impact Tom Brady's popularity. The general consensus is, not much. Brady has been under radio silence since well before the lockout began. So we haven't heard from him on why he put his name to the suit, whether he felt "conflicted," as Jonathan Kraft hoped, or how he felt about Robert Kraft describing his playoff pick as a "lazy" play. When it comes to the suit, it's hard to imagine having his name as the lead plaintiff will have any lasting damage. Tom Glavine and Patrick Ewing were two luminaries in baseball and basketball, respectively, who were at the forefront of player causes during work stoppages and they came through fine. Just as long as he steers clear of telling fans who think NFL players are spoiled to kiss his behind. That's what Jeremy Roenick did during the 2004-04 NHL lockout and the taint remains. OWNERS SERIOUS ON HGH?I'm not sure I'm buying NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's insistence that HGH testing be a part of the next CBA. The players have long insisted they won't submit to blood tests for HGH, maintaining that they are too invasive. And -- despite progress -- no reliable urine test for HGH has yet been released. My take? Goodell is insisting onHGH testingpubliclynow so that when the two sides get back to the table and negotiate, it will appear to be a major concession if the NFLlets the players skate without it. TELL IT TO THE JUDGEI was an English major. Yessiree, Saint Anselm College, 1989. One of three males in a program with 30 students in it. Good number. So even though I've tried really, really hard to keep up with the legalities involved in the current labor situation, I know when I'm over my head. By a lot. Hence, may I recommend reading Michael McCann's piece on It's a FAQ style thing and goes through a lot of what you may be wondering about. The only thing it doesn't answer is the question I keep getting from everyone I see: "How long?"PFT LIVE ON TUESDAYI'll be on PFT Live with Brother Florio Tuesday around 12:20 p.m. We'll be talking draft, labor, a little Cam Newton and trying to suss out what Vrabel was thinking. Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Patriots-Falcons practice report: Gilmore (concussion/ankle) still out with Falcons, Jones on deck


Patriots-Falcons practice report: Gilmore (concussion/ankle) still out with Falcons, Jones on deck

FOXBORO -- The Patriots are looking thin in the secondary as they head into their third and final day of practice before Sunday's matchup with the Falcons. 

Both Stephon Gilmore (concussion/ankle) and Eric Rowe (groin) sat out the session, as did linebacker Elandon Roberts (ankle). Undrafted rookie defensive end Harvey Langi was also a non-participant as he recovers from injuries sustained in a car crash last week. 

Asked if Friday's practice was a possibility, Gilmore said, "We'll see." He did not give any indications that his symptoms had improved or that he had been cleared for practice as he works through the league's concussion protocol. 

Rowe was spotted in the locker room on Thursday, but he has not practiced since aggravating his groin injury in Week 4. He was injured initially during a Week 2 win over the Saints. 

Roberts suffered an ankle injury when teammate Alan Branch landed on his lower leg during a loss to the Panthers in Week 4. However, he was healthy enough to play in Weeks 5 and 6. It's unclear as to whether or not his current ailment is related to what knocked him from that Week 4 loss to Carolina. 

Here is Thursday's practice participation/injury report for Sunday's game between the Patriots and Falcons:


CB Stephon Gilmore (concussion/ankle)
LB Harvey Langi (back)
LB Elandon Roberts (ankle)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)

RB Rex Burkhead (ribs)
WR Chris Hogan (ribs)
G Shaq Mason (shoulder)


LB Jordan Tripp

OLB Vic Beasley Jr. (hamstring)
K Matt Bryant (back)
LB Jermaine Grace (hamstring)
LB Deion Jones (quadricep)
DE Takk McKinley (shoulder)
LB Duke Riley (knee)
WR Mohamed Sanu (hamstring)
DL Courtney Upshaw (ankle/knee)

Patriots' team personality changed by offseason moves, and not for better


Patriots' team personality changed by offseason moves, and not for better

Bill Belichick has long been a proponent of altering his team's DNA from season to season. It cuts down on complacency, and also allows the head coach to be correct when he says last year doesn't matter to this year's Patriots. It can't, after all. What can players like Stephon Gilmore, Brandin Cooks or Lawrence Guy, who were on other rosters in other cities and -- in some cases -- other divisions or other conferences, know about last year's Pats? The answer is nothing, or next to nothing. Just the way Belichick prefers.

But last offseason's turnover may have done more harm than good, at least to this point in the year. Yes, the Pats have shown a toughness and an ability to overcome adversity -- see the start versus the Jets and the comeback against the Texans -- but there are clear indicators this group isn't gelling like Belichick believed it would. 


Much of that points to the unusual approach taken by the coach and the front office in free agency. Whether it was the quick-strike signing of Gilmore to an expensive contract, to the surrendering of another first-rounder -- this time by choice -- in the trade for Cooks, or even the decision to walk away from fan favorite LeGarrette Blount in favor of younger, less proven backs Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead, much of what Belichick was trying to do has yet to bear the necesssary fruit. And it's not just on the field where the Pats have shown deficiencies; it's in the locker room and meeting rooms as well.

Start with the bold move to get an in-his-prime Gilmore. Signing a player considered in some circles to be a No. 1 corner makes all the sense in the world. But what perplexed many was the decision to pay an outsider over Malcolm Butler, a proven player not only in this system, but in the biggest of games. Gilmore doesn't have that pedigree because his former team, the Bills, never made the playoffs, let alone a Super Bowl. 

Butler's anger at the decision and the way the rest of his offseason played out has been well-documented in this space {}. But what hasn't in many other spaces is the acknowledgement that it still wears on Butler to this day. 

His play is back on the uptick after a reduction of snaps in Week 2, but Butler has always been a player to whom the team has devoted extra attention to get ready week to week. That may have factored in the Pats' decision to only go so far in contract talks. Why then would Belichick assume Butler would be the perfect professional when Gilmore gets what Butler believes is his money? The thought seems to run counter with the argument against keeping Butler longterm in the first place. 

Butler says his relationship with Gilmore is good, that he's glad to have him as a teammate. Perhaps the 28-year-old has come to that now. Perhaps. 

As for Gilmore, he's soft-spoken. That has occasionally come off as though he's a player lacking confidence. His performance against Tampa Bay was a step in the right direction, but it was immediately followed by a day-before-the-game scratch against the Jets because of a concussion that was either suffered late in the week or was unreported until Saturday. His sudden absence put the Patriots in a bind. The fact that Gilmore spoke up was the right thing to do, but if it could have been communicated earlier it should have been, for the good of both player and team. Now he must reassert himself, whenever that opportunity comes.

"[You] grow together as team based on those experiences; some good, some bad, but learning from all of them," Belichick said when I asked him about a team's personality evolving over the course of the year. "I mean, we've only had one roster change since the start of the season but that's certainly on the low side. I would anticipate that there would be roster changes during the course of the year like there always are for every team and so that affects the makeup of the team, the interactions of the team. Maybe that's the personality you're talking about."

Belichick has a tendency to not only remember your last game, but -- if warranted -- hold it against you. Blount would be a prime example. He rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and 18 touchdowns last year but his play in the Super Bowl was poor. So despite his production on the field and his popularity off, the Pats had no inclination to offer LGB a raise. In fact, they were fine with him walking away, and that's exactly what he did. Gillislee and Burkhead were tabbed as replacement parts, and on paper it looked great. It still may end that way. But neither player has provided a) a level of play equivalent to Blount's and b) the energy that Blount brought. And that latter part of the equation is incredibly important. Just ask the Eagles, who get a jolt from Blount every time he lowers his shoulder and runs over a defender. 

The same could hold true for others who fled, were allowed to leave, or never got the chance to come back: 

-- Martellus Bennett could be a pain in the ass but there was never a dull moment around him, and no one can deny the loquacious tight end was an energy player both on and off the field. 

-- Logan Ryan had been through so much with the Pats, both good and bad. He had no problem talking, not just to his teammates but to the other side as well. He had earned his teammates' trust. 

-- Chris Long had an excellent relationship with so many guys on the team, and while he wouldn't be considered a "personality" in the same mold as Blount, he was incredibly well-respected for his professionalism and for his sacrifice, many times playing out of position. 

Then throw in the retirement of old standby Rob Ninkovich and, of course, the season-ending injury to Julian Edelman. If you didn't understand before, you should know now just how much each player is missed. 

It's now up to the newcomers, and some of the holdovers, to elevate their level and find their voice, both on the field and in that room. And that may also be a part of the early issue. These "new" players -- Cooks, Gilmore, Gillislee, Burkhead, Guy -- are, for the moment, quiet. Perhaps they're concerned about stepping on toes, but at some point that may be needed.

"Look, everybody's a shareholder on the team," Belichick said. "It's not one person's team. It belongs to all of us and we try to make it as functional, as effective and as competitive as we possibly can. So, that's what the goal is, to win every game that we play and to have a good season and to make the most out of every day and every opportunity that we have. 

"I don't know if that answers the question or not, but I'm trying."