Patriots

Giardi: Brissett's development a work in progress

Giardi: Brissett's development a work in progress

FOXBORO -- If you were hoping for Jacoby Brissett to make a strong case at the start of training camp that he, not Jimmy Garoppolo, is the quarterback in waiting, sorry to disappoint. Brissett’s camp has been more uneven than fourth-year man Garoppolo's . . . and as we’ve detailed with number 10, it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for him, either.

How does Brissett feel he’s performed to this point?

MORE PATRIOTS

"I don't do evaluations. You have to ask [coach Bill Belichick] that,” he said following Wednesday’s lengthy walkthrough with the Jaguars. 

Well, we did do that, Jacoby. But unlike his radio appearance on SiriusXM last week, when Belichick called Brissett’s situation both “unique” and “interesting,” this time the coach wasn’t exactly expansive.

"Well, it’s a work in progress,” he said. “We’ll see. We’re a little over a week into training camp -- 10, 11 practices -- so we’ve got a long way to go. We’ll see.”

What we’ve seen so far is a second-year quarterback showing some signs of improvement: Brissett now is willing to try and put the ball into tighter windows, and clearly has a better grasp of the system. However, the former North Carolina State standout still has a long delivery, a penchant for staring down his target and a reluctance to come off that target, a lack of touch and a propensity to deliver many of his throws high, sometimes endangering support staff and fans with his 107 mile-per-hour fastball.  

“Being in the NFL is a challenge,” said Brissett. “Every day, you’re going against the best in the world.”

Brissett did rise up to the challenge last year when thrown into the fire, subbing for the injured Garoppolo midway through the Dolphins game in Week 2, then holding down the fort in Week 3 versus the Texans before being exposed in his final outing of the year against the Bills. His stint on injured reserve following that game certainly “took the wind out of the sails” as Belichick noted on Sirius, but Brissett insists the mental gymnastics he subjected himself to were -- like they are now -- critical to his growth.

“The most important part is the reps I don’t get,” he said. “The times I get to sit down and watch and learn from those guys, so I think [being] able to sit back and watch helped me a lot.”

Brissett believes it was those reps, even when he “didn’t know what I was doing,” that helped him prepare for what life is like now, when there are many days where the young signal caller doesn’t get much work in 11-on-11 situations until sometimes right at the very end of practice.

“It’s just like a game,” he said when I asked him. “It’s like the Dolphins game. I wasn’t playing the whole game then unfortunately the injury happened to Jimmy so you get thrown into the fire so you just gotta be ready to go whenever the time comes.”

He wasn’t all that ready at the end of Tuesday’s joint practice with the Jags, leading to an amusing scenario in which the entire group he was working with had to do pushups. Even Belichick joined in.

“I was impressed he did ‘em,” smiled Brissett. When he was asked if he had an idea of how many pushups Belichick could muster, Brissett did the smartest thing he could do: “I don’t want to say the wrong number to offend him so I’m gonna leave that for him. He can tell you how many.”

Then he was off, with a smile, presumably to get as many mental reps as possible and, hopefully, improve.

'Twinkle Toes' Gronkowski? In Belichick's eyes, anyway

cp-gronkowski-belichick-101917x.jpg

'Twinkle Toes' Gronkowski? In Belichick's eyes, anyway

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski has plenty of nicknames. There's the obvious abbreviation of his last name. There's what Tom Brady calls him, borrowing from Marshawn Lynch: "Beast Mode."

Bill Belichick has also gotten in on the nickname game for his massive tight end, apparently. What it lacks in intimidation it makes up for with . . . sparkle?

Gronkowski was told on Wednesday afternoon that when Belichick broke down his 33-yard touchdown against the Jets, he made a point to highlight Gronkowski's high-stepping into the end zone.

MORE PATRIOTS


"Oh, he liked that? It didn’t seem like he liked it," Gronkowski said with a smile. "He says I've got twinkle toes, so I’ll take Twinkle Toes. I like when I have twinkle toes -- that means I’m feeling good. I’m feeling it."

Gronkowski finished the game with 6 catches for 83 yards and two scores, and if he stays healthy he's on pace for 78 catches for 1,203 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. Those numbers would put him in contention for a first-team All-Pro nod, which would earn him the max $10.75 million for 2017 that's been written into his incentive-laden contract for this season.

Even if he isn't an All-Pro, 1,200 receiving yards would also trigger the max value of the deal. Seventy catches, 1,000 receiving yards or 12 touchdowns would trigger the second tier of Gronkowski's incentives, paying him $8.75 million. Sixty catches, 800 yards or 10 touchdowns would pay him $6.75 million -- up from the minimum of $5.25 million he's  guaranteed for this season.

Numbers aside, part of what has made Gronkowski's season so impressive is that he's been an impactful run-blocker and pass-protector when asked. On Dion Lewis' first carry of the game against the Jets, Gronkowski sealed a defensive lineman and allowed Lewis to bounce outside for nine yards. On a goal-line run in the second quarter, Lewis ran right behind Gronkowski to get into the end zone. 

During training camp, as Gronkowski returned to the field after season-ending back surgery, the physical aspect of the game didn't necessarily look like one of his strong suits. He was on the ground more than reporters are used to seeing, and there were questions as to whether or not at this stage of his career he would be able to be the well-rounded tight end that has made him such a dynamic weapon in years past. 

After five games, it's clear he has his feet under him. 

"It's definitely part of the game, a big part of the game," he said. "You want to be able to block. It helps in the play-action passes big time to get open. It just helps overall. It helps with the running game to be able to block and you want a run game. You don't just want a pass game. 

"It takes time. When you get to training camp you've got to build your foundation. You’ve got to build that base and taking all of those hits in training camp and it progresses throughout the season. Just building the base throughout training camp and you just want to be the best blocker that you can be to help out the team."

A hard-nosed blocker who occasionally flashes twinkle toes? Though he may poke fun, Belichick's no doubt pleased he has himself a tight end who can do both.

"Yeah, he said I had twinkle toes," Gronkowski said. "I took it as a compliment . . . I like twinkle toes."

You can watch Belichick's breakdown of Gronkowski's celebration -- he also looked at his team's execution against a two-man Jets rush, its hustle on kickoffs, and a 58-yard net punt by Ryan Allen -- on Patriots.com.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

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

new-england-patriots-chris-long-110516.jpg

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE