Giardi: Amendola morphs into critical playmaker for Brady


Giardi: Amendola morphs into critical playmaker for Brady

FOXBORO - Noted this on Twitter, but maybe the best under-the-radar move the Patriots made this offseason was reworking Danny Amendola's contract. He has become a reliable target for Tom Brady. Trusted. That's no easy task. Ask any of the veteran receivers who came from elsewhere, tried and failed.

Amendola has also morphed into a playmaker, usually in critical moments. It was his his fourth-quarter touchdown Sunday versus the Jets that provided the go-ahead score, and his brilliant climbing the ladder catch on the following drive, that put the Pats on the Jets side of the 50 in a drive that eventually ended with Rob Gronkowski waltzing in the end zone yet another score.

I asked Gronk about the impact Amendola had. The All-Everything tight end go all wide-eyed before saying, “Amendola’s always making those crazy, acrobatic catches. He looks like a gymnast half the time...He’s super athletic. He’s that freaky athletic, where he can jump, he’s super quick, and he makes those kinds of catches, which look awesome.”

Bill Belichick couldn't hide his happiness with Amendola's performance either, which resuled in eight catches on nine targets, good for 86 yards, “Danny made some great plays, like he always does for us - big catches over the middle, big catch on the sideline."

Amendola has adhered to the Patriot Way, even when he lost his job to Julian Edelman. He spouts cliches, sometimes with a knowing grin on his face. But it's hard not to notice how much he enjoys playing, and in the postgame, I had a fun exchange with him, starting with that sideline catch that - as you just read - had everyone raving.

I said, “What's your vertical leap? Didn't see that coming out of Texas Tech."

He laughed, then said, "it's game jump. That's it."

"Okay, how do you prepare yourself for not only falling on your back like you did on that catch, but for getting smacked solidly twice on your touchdown?,” I asked. "I mean, no way that doesn't leave a mark."

"I practice every day as a hard as I can," he said, leaning on his cliches. "Offseason too. It comes down to one play on Sunday, and you know you gotta make it [Editor's note: That's what I was looking for]."

Amendola, 5-11, 188, is lean but solid, however he's not a big guy, not by any stretch of the imagination. Yet he often makes his living going over the middle and sacrificing his body to make catches like he did for the TD. Is it simply no fear?

With a smile, Amendola repeated those two words, "no fear," smiled again and then, no doubt, started thinking about the Dolphins, because that's what he's been coached to do. Good player. Good teammate. Good decision to bring him back, and for him to want to come back. All sides are benefiting.




Former Patriots defensive end Chris Long is donating his salary


Former Patriots defensive end Chris Long is donating his salary

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.


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."


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."