Kuechly admits mauling Gronkowski in 2013: 'I might've got away with one there'


Kuechly admits mauling Gronkowski in 2013: 'I might've got away with one there'

FOXBORO -- Lost in the chaos immediately following the Patriots-Panthers regular-season matchup in November of 2013 was the fact that it was one of the best games of the year. About four years later, that reality has been largely lost to history as well. All because of how it ended.

Late in Carolina's 24-20 victory, referee Clete Blakeman's crew picked up a flag issued for pass interference called on Luke Kuechly. The former Boston College linebacker was on Rob Gronkowski in the end zone, defending against a potential game-winning pass when he hugged the 6-foot-6 tight end before the football arrived. 


No penalty. That was the officiating crew's decision. Tom Brady chased them off the field, irate. Bill Belichick said after the game that, "There was no explanation given to me. The officials ran off the field. I didn't see anything."

Judging by the replays, the Patriots had plenty to be unhappy about. Even now, Kuechly's willing to admit that. 

"I might have got away with one there," he said during a conference call on Wednesday. "I'm not even going to act like I didn't. I might have got away with one."

Though the Patriots have won two Super Bowls since then, Kuechly expects to hear from fans at Gillette Stadium about the non-call when the Panthers visit to play the Patriots in Week 4. 

"I'm sure somebody will say something to me," he said. "I've spent some time up there and I know what those fans are like. They love football and it'll be fun. We'll see what happens."

Panthers coach Ron Rivera says that game has been all but cast aside as his team readies for Sunday. Too much turnover between then and now. Though many of the key figures -- Brady, Cam Newton, Kuechly, Gronkowski -- are still involved, there's been too much change since then.

"There's not enough carryover," Rivera said. "Some of the things we've done, obviously, we've transitioned to some different things. And I imagine preparing some of the things that we've seen, they're different as well."

The one lesson that carries over from 2013 to 2017 for Rivera? Don't give Brady the opportunity to attempt a comeback in the fourth quarter. It was a lesson the Texans learned first-hand last weekend.

"I just remember," Rivera said, "we left too much time on the clock for Tom Brady . . . He's an experienced guy. The biggest thing you really don't want to do is let him on the field too early."


Search continues: Scarnecchia pops up at Notre Dame for look at McGlinchey

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Search continues: Scarnecchia pops up at Notre Dame for look at McGlinchey

The effort to replenish the tackle depth the Patriots boasted last year will not stop with the re-signing of LaAdrian Waddle. That much was clear when Dante Scarnecchia was spotted at Notre Dame's pro day on Thursday.

The Fighting Irish offense featured two of the top offensive linemen in the country last season in guard Quenton Nelson and tackle Mike McGlinchey.

Nelson is expected to be a top-10 selection and some believe him to be the best player in this year's class regardless of position. The Patriots probably won't have a shot at him. And they're OK at guard. Scarnecchia (and national scout DuJuan Daniels) were in all likelihood there to scout McGlinchey more thoroughly. 


The 6-foot-8, 312-pounder is considered by many to be the top tackle in this year's draft. McGlinchey spent two seasons on the right side, backing up current Ravens tackle Ronnie Stanley, and he spent the last two seaons on the left. He's thought to be a very good athlete for his size, but he may have some issues with "bull rushers and power at the point of attack," according's Lance Zierlein. 

But even with the blemishes that may show up on his tape, McGlinchey could go in the top half of the first round if a team gets desperate. Or he could slide. It seems a slide to the Patriots would be unlikely but not impossible. That's why the Patriots did their due diligence on the player who may be the only NFL-ready tackle in the draft.

Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage made that very point on Quick Slants the Podcast soon after the NFL Scouting Combine finished up. 

"It's definitely become a challenge," Savage said of finding pro-ready tackles. "We've always focused and talked about how the spread offenses in college have affected the quarterbacks, but in reality, it's impacted all of the positions, quite frankly. 

"You look at the offensive line nowadays and most schools are building what I call a five-man unit where there's no real distinction between the left tackle versus the right tackle versus the right guard versus the left guard. They're all kind of the same because they play as a unit. There's not as much of a premium placed on that left tackle as a standalone pass-protector...

"This year, amazingly enough, I really only had one tackle [with a first-round grade following the combine, and that's [Notre Dame's] Mike McGlinchey. There's a couple of interior linemen like Will Hernandez from UTEP and Quenton Nelson from Notre Dame that are likely to go in the first round. But as far as just a tackle. Wow. It's staggering to think that there could only be really one tackle to go in the first round this year."

The Patriots have a variety of routes they could take in filling the left tackle void filled by Nate Solder. They could try to figure out a way to get McGlinchey in house. They could go with Waddle. They could flip Marcus Cannon to the left side and use Waddle on the right. Maybe a second-year player -- Antonio Garcia? Cole Croston? -- will surprise and force the team's hand.

Whatever they choose, the search for tackles isn't over. And given how difficult it seems to be for teams around the league to find serviceable ones, it could last a while.



Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

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Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

Johnny Manziel said 10 days ago, "I'd go to New England in a heartbeat," when asked about the Patriots as a potential landing spot.

That seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but they're taking a look at him...along with 12 other NFL teams, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. 

Tom Brady's current backup Brian Hoyer is, like Manziel, an ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback. Manziel would again be competing with Hoyer for the Pats' No. 2 job should New England take a chance on "Johnny Football", the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman had it at 12 teams watching Manziel work out at the University of San Diego and said the Patriots gave Manziel a weigh-in.