Patriots

Light on Ninkovich: 'He earned everything he got and a lot more'

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Light on Ninkovich: 'He earned everything he got and a lot more'

FOXBORO -- Matt Light couldn't refute the story. He remembered it the same way. 

During Rob Ninkovich's retirement press conference on Sunday, he recalled his first practice in New England. It was 2009. He felt like his NFL career was hanging by a thread. He knew he had to turn some heads, and he got the opportunity to do just that when he lined up across from Matt Light during three consecutive one-on-one pass-rush drills. 

Ninkovich happily recalled winning three consecutive reps against the team's longtime starter at left tackle, which caught the eye of both Dante Scarnecchia and Bill Belichick. Calling during a break from some early-morning work in rural Ohio, Light said the story was 100 percent accurate -- but he jokingly added a wrinkle of his own. 

"Rob was a guy I respected and admired," Light said. "He tells that story of the first day, and it happened exactly like that. First rep of one-on-ones in pass pro, he smokes me. Second rep? Smokes me. Third rep? Smokes me. But he made the team, and as a fellow Purdue guy, we needed as many of those guys -- intelligent, good-looking -- that we could possibly get on our team. So of course I let him have those."

Light added: "I'm going to tell you this much, man. He showed up that day and of course I knew of Rob. I never got to spend much time with him. We were kind of two ships passing with respect to Purdue. But I sure as heck wasn't awake that morning. I quickly started paying a lot more attention after that first day. I tell you, he came in loaded for bear, and there's times in practice where you're not ready and you're not dialed up, and he definitely caught me on those.

"He's a great player, man. He's the kind of guy, he can lull you to sleep sometimes, and when he needs to make a big play, he makes them. I think that was kind of his MO for the team. Bill felt very comfortable knowing that when he needed a play out of somebody on defense that he was gonna get one. He knew he was going to get it consistently form Rob, but he knew when [the situation] was dialed up, he was gonna get a big play from Rob. That's just the way that guy played. He prepared. Somebody told me that Belichick noted that [Ninkovich] earned everything he got. I'd say he earned everything he got and a lot more."

Light and Ninkovich spent three years together as teammates and are still close, and Light said that they had occasional conversations about retirement as Ninkovich considered it even dating back to last year.

"I know that he wrestled with the idea before last season a little bit," Light said. "When do I hang it up? How's my body going to hold up? Just in talking with Rob earlier last week, and just kind of over the last year, I definitely get the sense that he was placing a lot more value and spending time with his family and what the future kind of holds for him with respect to life outside of football. Every guy struggles with that and every guy thinks about it. But when you can get to a point in your career where those conversations start coming up, and your mindset starts going to places like that, you're in a good spot. Not a lot of guys get that opportunity. Not a lot of guys earn the right to do that, but he did.

"I think that your body tells you the most in those kind of situations. I can remember thinking to myself, I've ben pretty fortunate. I've had 13 major surgeries before I retire and I thought no need to get off this awesome number . . . When you start thinking that way, it's definitely time to take the next step and have that conversation with your wife and your family and your friends. Talking with Rob, I said, 'Man, you're gonna make the best decision, you're thinking about it, you're dealing with it, whatever it is.' It's just a very unique time in any player's life, but for him to do it on his terms, having felt great about his career, what he put into the game, what he got back from it, that's the note every guy who plays the game wants to go out on."

Light fondly looked back on Ninkovich's career, he said, because he understood the work that Ninkovich put in behind the scenes. And when that work led to success, there wasn't much in the way of look-at-me associated with Ninkovich's game, Light pointed out. 

"It's hard to put Ninkovich into words," Light said, noting that Ninkovich's humility was in some ways outlier relative to other highly-productive players in the league. "Probably for most of his career, I wouldn't say he was overlooked but probably undervalued."

Before signing off, Light did have one thing he wanted to get off of his chest. But it wasn't about the one-on-ones with Ninkovich. 

"One thing I would like to correct, what I did hear is that Mr. [Robert] Kraft noted that [Ninkovich] had the best beard in franchise history," Light said. "And I would just like to say this: While Rob did beat me in our first practice, and I will clearly acknowledge that, I cannot acknowledge that his Croatian beard surpasses my German beard. I mean, c'mon. Listen, man. It's never been about stats for a fat guy. It's been about my overall facial features, my upper-lip plumage, and the fact that I can sprout some gnarly growth on my face, and that's honestly where I take most of my satisfaction in life.

"No, the thing with Ninkovich, man, he'll be missed," Light said, "but oddly enough they keep finding ways to win even when you're not there so they'll find the next one I'm sure."

Patriots-Dolphins injury report: Tom Brady sits out with Achilles injury

Patriots-Dolphins injury report: Tom Brady sits out with Achilles injury

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski both sat out of the entirety of Wednesday's practice at Gillette Stadium. 

Brady is dealing with an Achilles injury, per the injury report released by the Patriots. The Boston Herald has reported that Brady will play despite the issue. It's unclear when exactly Brady suffered the injury, but Brady was hit low by Raiders pass-rusher Khalil Mack in the fourth quarter on Sunday, and Mack was called for a roughing-the-passer penalty.

Gronkowski, like teammate David Andrews, is dealing with an illness. Patrick Chung, who left Sunday's game briefly, has an ankle issue. 

Here's the full injury report for both the Patriots and Dolphins . . . 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
C David Andrews (illness)
QB Tom Brady (Achilles)
OT Marcus Cannon (ankle)
S Patrick Chung (ankle)
TE Rob Gronkowski (illness)
WR Chris Hogan (shoulder)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
WR Danny Amendola (knee)
TE Marellus Bennett (shoulder/hamstring)
DT Malcom Brown (ankle)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)
WR Matthew Slater (hamstring)

MIAMI DOLPHINS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
LB Stephone Anthony (quadriceps)
G Jermon Bushrod (foot)
QB Jay Cutler (concussion)
DE William Hayes (back)
T Laremy Tunsill (illness)

FULL PARTICIPATION
RB Senorise Perry (knee)
S Michael Thomas (knee)

 

Curran: Randy Moss better not have to wait for Hall call

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Curran: Randy Moss better not have to wait for Hall call

If you’re a Hall of Famer, you’re a Hall of Famer. The notion that a great player’s candidacy has to have some kind of gestation period before it can be deemed induction-worthy is just plain cruel.

And if you think “cruel” is an overstatement, consider Ken Stabler. Three times a Hall of Fame finalist, Snake had to croak before Pro Football Hall of Fame voters decided it was time to put him in Canton.

There are borderline guys whose candidacies need to marinate. There are players whose contributions to an era take on greater meaning as time passes. You could make the case Stabler was one of those.

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You could also make the case that too many HOF voters in each of the major sports get caught up in a “guardian at the gate” mentality, puffing out birdlike chests until they align with swollen stomachs and declaring an athlete’s not getting inducted on HIS watch.

Or until said athlete’s served time in purgatory and either begs for induction or says, “F--- it, I don’t care if I get in at this point anyway.

Which brings me to Terrell Owens and how his HOF candidacy will impact Randy Moss.

Moss was a better player than T.O. Historic. The second he entered the league in 1998, he was probably one of the five best players in the league at any position. Owens took a while. He didn’t make a Pro Bowl until his fifth NFL season.

Moss was a technician and a savant. Owens just wrestled the game to the ground with brute force.

When measuring what a player “means” to the NFL and its fans, a reasonable Moss comp is Allen Iverson. They were iconic. Owens? Dwight Howard. Where T.O. felt needy, desperate and narcissistic. Moss just didn’t GAF.

And that’s where some voters start to rub their hands together and scheme.

How can we exact revenge for perceived crimes against football and propriety? Make 'em sweat. Use incidents, moments and comments as cudgels and pound penance out of them.

Even though Moss was better than T.O., that doesn’t mean Owens is borderline. Owens is second in all-time yards (Moss is third), eighth in receptions (Moss is 15th), third in touchdowns (Moss is second) and was a five-time All-Pro (Moss was a four-time All-Pro).

The only justification for voters keeping T.O. out the past two years was that he was a prick.

Few – if any - of his ex-teammates say that he should be kept out of the HOF for that. But scores of people in the media, ex-players and league lobbyists do think he should be kept out. At least until he learns his lesson, or whatever.

Owens’ narcissism chewed at the fabric of franchises he was a part of, is the contention. That’s why he played for five teams. That’s why he only played in one Super Bowl. That’s why tears weren’t shed when he signed someplace else.

Moss also played for five teams. He also played in just one Super Bowl (like Owens, Moss’ ’07 Patriots lost though Moss – like Owens – did his part to win). And tears weren’t shed too often when Moss left either.

Check this Tom Brady quote from September 2010. It came just days before Moss began shooting his way out of New England because he was unhappy the team wouldn’t extend his deal.

"There's only one Randy Moss that will ever play this game," Brady said. "He's the greatest, probably, downfield receiver in the history of the NFL. Those catches that he makes, where you guys see he runs 65 yards down the field, you throw it and he just runs and catches it. That's impossible to do.And I ask him, 'How did you do that?' And he says, 'I don't know, man. I've been doing it for a long time.' He has some special skills that nobody's really gifted with." 

That weekend, Moss gave his “This probably will be my last year here as a Patriot…” press conference after a season-opening win over the Bengals. The next week, he caught two of 10 passes that Brady threw his way in a loss to the Jets. One of the passes was a touchdown pass where he blew past Darrelle Revis and made a one-handed pull. Two of the other passes were picked off and Moss was non-competitive. After that, he was effectively frozen out of the offense and was traded after Week 4, less than a month after Brady accurately described him as the greatest downfield receiver in the history of the NFL.

Stuff like that, nudging a traffic cop for a half-block with his car stating “I’ll play when I want to play…,” fake-mooning the Lambeau Stadium crowd, saying he still smoked weed “once in a blue moon” – all those occasions will be aggregated and used as cudgels used to beat down Moss’ candidacy just as the driveway situps are used to beat down T.O.’s.

Whole bunch of voters will hand-wring about what it all meeeaaaannnnnsssss if they sweep Moss in on the first ballot after keeping T.O. out. And then wonder if T.O. should go in before Moss, after Moss or with him. Meanwhile, they’ll rush to get Ray Lewis in line for his gold jacket with nary a word about disappearing white suits 

The whole “between the lines is all that matters” defense.

Randy Moss belongs in the Hall of Fame. ASAP.