Patriots

Curran: Why NFLPA has a point on draft boycott

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Curran: Why NFLPA has a point on draft boycott

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

Last night, I got in a joust with a friend named Aaron Nagler on the Twitter. Nagler, a pretty funny entity who works at Cheesehead TVand tweets (@Aaron_Nagler) wondered why it was cool for players like Pats tight end Rob Gronkowski to go on NFL Network as a guestwhen incoming rookies are being discouraged from going to the NFL Draft which the NFL Network is (obviously) televising.
Actually, this brings up a fascinating (to me) conversation. You know the 1 billion credit the players give the owners every year from total league revenue? The money the owners are supposed to pump into ventures that grow the game? The NFL Network is a primary recipient of that money. So, in essence, the players have invested deeply in the NFL Network and are very much partners in that enterprise. They own it, too. Which is why on the Friday before the Super Bowl, the network didn't just televise the address by commissioner Roger Goodell but also the address by NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. Further, the players - near as I can tell - haven't really been censored when they've been on. They are allowed to speak their peace on whatever topic arises. It behooves them to get on there and make their message heard. OK, fine. So why - as Nagler was asking - should rookies be discouraged from attending the NFL Draft and be televised on NFLN?This is where the legal stuff comes in. The players have a pending lawsuit accusing the NFL of antitrust violations.When theywere a trade association, the now-disbanded NFLPA agreed to allow things that went against fair trade practices as long as the owners and players bargained collectively in good faith. Now that the NFLPA is no more and the CBA's expired, a draft telling players where they will work is not a fair trade practice. It's unconstitutional, a violation of antitrust law. Sohow's it look if the players are arguing in court that the NFL is violating antitrust law, yet showing up gleefully forthe draft?So far, the players' talking point on discouraging rookies from going to the draft is that the man with whom they shake hands - Goodell - is the one locking them out. As with so many things, the players havewhiffedon an opportunityto deliver a clearer message. The draft is a violation of their rights as American workers. And without a CBA, they can't rightfully participate. What they should do is point this fact out and then magnanimously agree to attend, not for Goodell and not for the NFL Network but for the fans. The people who want to see their team's jersey held up. That would win the players a helluva lot more points with the public (where they're getting killed, by the way), thenboycotting or intimating that some rookie is going to have a hard time with veterans because he went to New York. But, to me at least, veterans have every right to appear on NFLN. They own a stake. (Read Florio's opposite viewpoint at PFT right here.)

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady is on pace for 5,224 yards passing in 2017, just a shade under his total from his career-high in 2011. He's on track to have 34 touchdowns and just five picks. Barring a continued run of ridiculous efficiency from Kansas City's Alex Smith, those numbers would be MVP-caliber in all likelihood.

But Brady's not thrilled with the way he's played of late. What gives? 

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In his past two games, he hasn't thrown the football as consistently as he would have liked. After starting the season with a 10-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he's 3-to-2 in the last couple of weeks. His accuracy has been at times pinpoint (as it was on his 42-yard completion to Brandin Cooks to help set up a Rob Gronkowski score against the Jets), but it has also been uncharacteristically erratic.

He was picked deep down the middle of the field by Buster Skrine last week, but the more concerning throw may have been the quick out-route to Gronkowski that Skrine dropped for what should have been an easy interception. Brady missed Phillip Dorsett on what looked like it could have been a long touchdown with Dorsett running free behind the defense. He threw behind Chris Hogan twice in the game, one of which opened up Hogan to a rib-shot that landed him on the injury report this week.

Against the Jets, Brady was not sacked and he was hit only four times -- a light day for him compared to other weeks this season when he's been battered. Yet he still completed just under 53 percent of his passes for 257 yards and a season-low 6.76 yards per attempt. 

"Well, I've got to hit the open . . . If the throws are there I've got to be able to make them," he said on Friday. "It's disappointing when I don't. To me, it just comes back to technique and fundamentals and making sure everything is working and that's the consistent daily thing that you're working on. I'm always working on my accuracy.

"I wish I hit them all. I'm capable of hitting them all and I need to be able to do that. I said last week that some of these games wouldn't be as close if I was playing better in the red area. I think some of those missed opportunities in the pass game with me hitting guys would really help our team. Hopefully, I can do a better job for this team."

Brady is no longer listed on the Patriots injury report, but he dealt with a left shoulder injury against both the Bucs and the Jets, and it's worth wondering if that somehow impacted how his passes traveled in those games. Balance is key in Brady's world, and even though he can make flat-footed throws look easy, perhaps an injury to his front side limited his ability to place the ball where he wanted. 

Keeping Brady upright could go a long way in helping the 40-year-old regain his form from Weeks 2-4 when he didn't dip below a 104 quarterback rating. Bill Belichick said earlier this week that part of the reason the Jets pass-rush wasn't quite as effective as others they'd faced this year was his team's ability to run the ball. Productive rushing attempts on first and second down mean manageable third downs, which mean shorter pass attempts. Those of course, in theory, lead to less time standing in the pocket and a healthier quarterback.

"It's great," Brady said of his team's recent surge running the football. "I mean, to be able to run the ball consistently in the NFL is important for every offense. It does take a lot of . . . I wouldn't say pressure, it's just production. If 400 yards of offense is what you're looking for and you can get 150 from your running game, the 250 has got to come in the passing game. If you're getting 50 yards in the rushing game then it means you've got to throw for more.

"I don't think it's pressure it's just overall you're going to get production in different areas and the backs are a big part of our offense and handing the ball off to them is an easy way for us to gain yards if we're all coordinated and doing the right thing. But those guys are running hard. The line is doing a great job up front finishing blocks and so forth."

Against the Falcons and their talented -- though underperforming -- offense this weekend, the running game could be key. First, it could help the Patriots defense by controlling possession and keeping Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman off the field. Next are the obvious advantages for the signal-caller who could use a stress-free day in the pocket to help him solve his recent accuracy issues. 

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