Patriots

McCourty explains what went into decision for Patriots to kneel during anthem

McCourty explains what went into decision for Patriots to kneel during anthem

FOXBORO -- Devin McCourty stepped to the Gillette Stadium podium in a t-shirt that read: "No place for racism, sexism, fascism, hate." What followed was his explanation why he and his Patriots teammates felt like a silent demonstration during the national anthem was the best way to convey a message of unity following president Donald Trump's remarks during a rally Friday night. 

McCourty was one of more than a dozen players on the Patriots sideline to kneel for the anthem. Others, including Tom Brady, stood and linked arms during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.

McCourty explained that Saturday was an emotional day for him and his teammates as they tried to determine how best to react to Trump's comments, which referred to players kneeling during the anthem as "sons of bitches" who should lose their jobs.

It was a complicated decision, McCourty said.

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"We were obviously very conflicted," he said. "We knew our message would be perceived by a lot of people in a way that wasn’t what we were trying to put out. A lot of guys felt, I mean, all over the place about the comments by the President Friday night. As a leader on the team, a lot of guys came to me and they didn’t know what to do. They just were kind of angry.

"It was good Saturday. We all kind of talked as a group of releasing that anger and not being angry. We were in chapel and a lot of guys talked about that in our faith, God is first. We wanted to come together."

The difficulty was to find a way to do that knowing that kneeling during the anthem would be construed as a sign of disrespect for those in the armed services.

"First and foremost, we hate that people are going to see it as that we don’t respect the military and the men and women that are way braver than us that go and put their life on the line every day for us to have the right to play football, and we know people are going to see it that way," McCourty said. "Guys have family members, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters that serve, and they were really conflicted about it.

"But, we just wanted to send a message of unity and being together and not standing for the disrespect and different ways guys felt. [There were] so many different things going through a lot of guys heads, and it was unique to see guys kind of come together and bond together as a group before the game and do that. But, I think all of us want a message that goes out of unity, being together, obviously as a team, and also as a fraternity of NFL players.

"Guys talk throughout the league about that, and it was great to be a part of a lot of guys trying to do the right thing. Obviously, it won’t be seen as the right thing to everybody, but I think in our hearts, what we focus on the most was that we were trying to do the right thing today. I’m proud of our guys and I’m proud of the group and the guys I get to go out there and play football with. They’re all great guys. They’re better people than they are football players." 

McCourty and his teammates were right in that their demonstration was viewed as a sign of disrespect by some. Fans booed immediately before the anthem and immediately after, presumably in response to seeing players kneel. 

McCourty wasn't the only player trying to clarify the message after the game.

"You want to stand with your brothers, in a sense, kneel with your brothers, and be by their side," said Brandin Cooks. "One statement I would just like to make: A lot of people think we're disrespecting the flag or the military, but my father was a Marine. My uncle was a Marine. My family fought in the Vietnam War. I have the utmost respect for the men and women that are fighting for our freedom.

"That's the first statement that I want to make. I feel [conflicted] in a sense because I have no courage to be able to do something like that. So I understand the magnitude. They're fighting across the world for our freedom. That's not the message. The message is more respect and unity and there's only so many ways that you can do it."

Phillip Dorsett was one of several players standing and linking arms on the Patriots sideline during the game.

"It's been an emotional past day-and-a-half. There's obviously been a lot of things going on," he said. "We just wanted to show unity with everybody and what everyone's going through. It has nothing to do with the military, obviously. I have the utmost respect for everybody in the military. I have family members in the military. They know. They understand. It's just about unity for us."

Nate Solder stood for the anthem, as did the majority of his Patriots teammates.

"People come from all different backgrounds and I believe they do what they believe is right," he said. "And I totally support them. There’s a lot of craziness outside of this locker room, but inside this locker room, we truly lock arms. We love each other. This is a great, great environment."

Newly-acquired Patriots defensive end Cassius Marsh linked arms with Matthew Slater, Dwayne Allen, David Harris, Brady and Dorsett, and he did so to promote a certain message -- but also to support his teammates. Marsh tweeted earlier in the day on Sunday, "We all most definitely deserve to play the game we love and exercise ALL our rights as citizens of this amazing, beautiful country that I love."

"I think it’s important to support your teammates," he said. "Lot of guys have been through stuff, and so they’re excercising their rights as citizens of this great country. I respect the military in a huge way. I have family in the military. My girlfriend’s father served in the military for a long time and retired. I have nothing but respect for the flag . . . I love my country, but I I just wanted to support my teammates and what I tweeted is what I believe in and whatever people think about that,  that’s fine.

"I tweeted it so people know how I feel about it because the platform was there for me to say something and be there for my teammates and support not only my guys here but my guys all across the league. I’m not trying to be too controversial, but I support my teammates and all the players in the NFL."

Added Danny Amendola: "We’re solid in here, I know that. White, black, Puerto Rican, don’t matter. We’re good in here, and we have a really solid group. Excited to play together, and work together. It’s awesome to be a part of."

Brady was asked about the message he was hoping to send by linking one arm with Dorsett and placing his right hand over his chest. He reiterated the theme of togetherness and explained that it was important for him to show support for teammates.

"I just think," Brady said, "there's just a great love for my teammates . . . We go through a lot together. There's a lot of blood, sweat and tears. I don't think it's easy to play this sport. I mean, there's a lot of guys that sacrifice a lot. I think you have a lot of respect for the guys who play, not only your own teammates but guys you play against. I mean, without them, it's not a great game. So, it's like I said. I believe in all of us coming together."

Asked about Trump's comments on players kneeling for the anthem, Brady replied, "I'm not getting into any of that. Like I said, I speak for myself. I believe what I believe. You guys know me. I'm a very positive person, so I try to just live by example and say positive things about people. I try to control my own emotions, and no matter what anyone says, I'm going to have a positive outlook, certainly with my teammates. We all go through ups and downs and there's struggles and it's life and we're all trying to navigate it as best we can. So, I believe that love is the greatest thing we have that overcomes a lot of things."

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Patriots will be without Kyle Van Noy for showdown against Steelers

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Patriots will be without Kyle Van Noy for showdown against Steelers

The Patriots' defense won't be at full strength Sunday as linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who's been battling a calf injury for weeks, is ruled out against the Steelers:

And NBC Sports Boston's Mike Giardi wonders if it could have been avoided:

And what will it mean this afternoon? Giardi has an idea:

There is some good injury news for the Patriots, however:

As for the Steelers, they're getting nothing but good news:

 

Chiefs rout Chargers 30-13 to seize control of AFC West race

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Chiefs rout Chargers 30-13 to seize control of AFC West race

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Kansas City Chiefs saw their bandwagon empty during a midseason swoon, fans jumping ship almost as quickly as Kareem Hunt hitting a hole or Tyreek Hill speeding to the end zone.

They never lost faith in each other, though.

The Chiefs instead rallied to beat the Oakland Raiders last week, setting up a crucial AFC West showdown with the Los Angeles Chargers. And in a dominant performance reminiscent of earlier this season, the Chiefs rolled to a 30-13 victory Saturday night to seize control of the divisional race.

"It feels good to be back in this position," said Chiefs safety Ron Parker, who had one of the three interceptions thrown by the Chargers' Philip Rivers. "We stuck it out as a family the last couple weeks, did a good job of staying together. It would have been easy to fall apart."

The only way the Chiefs can squander the division and automatic playoff berth is by losing their last two games and the Chargers or Oakland Raiders winning out.

"It felt like a playoff game," Parker said. "This is the closest thing it gets to a playoff game."

The Chiefs (8-6) got production from their biggest stars: Alex Smith threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns, Kareem Hunt ran for 155 yards and accounted for two touchdowns, Tyreek Hill hauled in a 64-yard touchdown pass and Marcus Peters had a hand in forcing three turnovers.

It all added up to an eighth straight win over the Chargers.

"I didn't think we played our best. We have to look at ourselves and ask why," Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. "We missed tackles. We didn't execute well on offense. We went back to some dumb penalties we had early in the year. We made this game bigger than it really was."

The Chargers (7-7) led 13-10 early in the second half, but Rivers threw three interceptions - two of them to Peters - and Austin Ekeler coughed up a fumble down the stretch.

That ended their four-game win streak and quite possibly their playoff hopes.

Rivers finished with 221 yards passing and a touchdown, but has thrown 13 interceptions during the Chargers' losing streak to the Chiefs. Melvin Gordon added 78 yards rushing and a score.

"We took a step back today," Lynn said.

The game shaped up as a matchup of teams going in opposite directions: The Chiefs were 5-0 before watching their division lead waste away, while the Chargers started out 0-4 but won seven of their next nine to forge a near-winner-take-all divisional showdown at Arrowhead Stadium.

Instead, the Chiefs looked like they did in their Week 3 win over the Chargers.

So did the Chargers, for that matter.

The Chiefs' defense, which played so salty last week against Oakland, was buoyed by the return of Peters from a one-game disciplinary suspension in helping to build a 10-6 halftime lead.

Rivers eventually got on track, going 5 for 5 for 88 yards on his first drive of the second half, and his 10-yard touchdown pass to trusty tight end Antonio Gates gave Los Angeles its only lead.

One that didn't last very long.

The Chiefs answered with a methodical, 69-yard scoring drive of their own. Hunt supplied most of the work, and he capped the drive by catching Smith's short TD toss to give the Chiefs a 17-13 lead.

"He's such a well-rounded football player," Smith said. "He's so good in the passing game, has such a good feel, which is so important for a running back."

Two plays later, Rivers floated a pass downfield and Peters leaped up to make an easy interception, and his long return set up first-and-goal at the Chargers 6. The Chiefs nearly turned it into another TD when Smith found Hunt again, but the tip of the ball hit the turf for an incompletion.

The Chiefs' challenge failed and Harrison Butker knocked through a field goal for a 20-13 lead.

The Chargers' offense, which had committed just six giveaways over the last nine games, coughed it up again three plays later. Peters helped to pry loose the ball from Ekeler, and Butker tacked on a 51-yard field goal a short while for a comfortable cushion.

Rivers threw two more picks in the fourth quarter, giving him six in two games against Kansas City this season, and ending any hopes of Los Angeles mounting a comeback.

"We definitely wanted to put pressure on Philip. We know he's a gunslinger," Chiefs cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "He does take risks in the passing game. We just happened to put pressure on him in the front seven, guys did a great job and we came out with a lot of turnovers."

The Chiefs came out with a crucial victory, too.

STATS AND STREAKS

Chiefs coach Andy Reid is 10-3 against the Chargers. Smith is 7-1. ... The Chiefs also won eight straight against the Chargers from 1990-93. ... Chargers WR Keenan Allen had 58 yards receiving, ending a streak of four straight 100-yard games.

AILING BUT ACTIVE

Chargers CB Casey Hayward was active despite missing practice with a calf injury this week. That may have contributed to the star cover man getting burned by Tyreek Hill on his 64-yard first-half TD catch.

INJURIES NOTES

Chargers LB Denzel Perryman left with a hamstring injury late in the first half. S Adrian Phillips left with an ankle injury early in the second. DT Corey Liuget (knee) and LT Russell Okung (groin) also went down in the second half. ... Chiefs LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (shoulder) and DL Jarvis Jenkins (elbow) left with injuries in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Chargers visit the New York Jets next Sunday with fading postseason hopes.

Chiefs try to clinch the AFC West against the Dolphins next Sunday.

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