Patriots

Devin McCourty believes crazy offseason 'hasn't bothered' Malcolm Butler

Devin McCourty believes crazy offseason 'hasn't bothered' Malcolm Butler

Dare I say, it’s not been easy being Malcolm Butler this offseason, despite what a vocal minority of the Twitter mob thinks. Not only couldn’t Butler get a long-term extension from the Patriots, but his hopes of another cornerback-needy team swooping in and offering him unrestricted free agent dollars when he was, in fact, a restricted free agent didn’t come to fruition either, though not without a fair amount of effort from the New Orleans Saints.

That left Butler with limited options, report to the Pats under the one-year tender, or hold out and risk not getting a new deal and also not getting a year of service time on the road to UFA status. So Butler showed up for voluntary workouts, intent on putting his best foot forward, no matter how much it stings.

“Past is the past,” said Butler when asked about the offseason and his contract.

Yesterday, Bill Belichick wouldn’t delve deep either when asked about what he’s seen from Butler this spring.

“He’s been here,” said the Pats head coach, who always manages to take questions as literal as possible when it best suits his interest.

But Butler’s secondary-mate Devin McCourty was more than willing to elaborate on Malcolm’s approach, after what has been a long, strange and - at times - difficult offseason for the 27-year old cornerback.

“This is what he does” said McCourty after mini-camp practice Wednesday. “I think you go back to ’14 when he got here, he kind of made a name for himself going out there and competing, picking off passes, making plays. Now it's the same thing. Once he got back, whether it was a conditioning run, it was competing, getting out here playing football. That's what Malcolm does. I think that's natural for any football player. Once you get out here, you're just competing. No matter what happened off the field. It hasn't bothered him to me, that I've seen, in any way.”

When you consider how contract issues sent Jamie Collins down a path that eventually led to him being traded during the season a year ago, this is welcome news for the Pats. Of course, it bears watching, especially as Butler will be reminded often about how the Pats gave number one cornerback money to former Bills first rounder, Stephon Gilmore, but not to a player that’s grown up and flourished in their system. 

Yes, it was the Pats' right to wield the hammer if those chose, courtesy of the current rules of the CBA, but there was some surprise within the locker room that Butler didn’t get paid, at least not yet. But instead of wallowing in that disappointment, Butler has been a driving force throughout the spring program, trying to remain one of the guys, if not "the guy."

“I think the beauty of playing in the secondary is that stuff doesn't matter because, at the end of the day, it's all about how we play as a unit,” said McCourty. “To me, that's been the cool thing, to see guys talking more, to see guys laughing and joking, Steph (Gilmore) fitting into the group like he's been here for years. To me, that's the key, and that's what I've seen so far.  Which we've tried to do every year no matter if we had three new guys or one new guy, even with the rookies, trying to get them in and not feel as much like rookies, but as guys that can contribute and play. Because I think that's the key. Some of those guys every year are going to go out there, we're going to need them in games. We want them to feel together and a part of the group as much as anybody else. “

Said Butler a couple of weeks ago, “I’m here. I’m here. This is my team.”

A team that, for this season, is most certainly better with Butler here, being the same player he’s developed into. If he can maintain that level, the money will eventually come.c

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

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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.

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Gronkowski advises Hayward to treat rehab like anything else -- dominate

Gronkowski advises Hayward to treat rehab like anything else -- dominate

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."

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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."

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