Patriots

Giardi: Patriots have some players besides Brady they can't afford to lose

Giardi: Patriots have some players besides Brady they can't afford to lose

Covering the NFL for almost 20 years allows you to make relationships with a bunch of people. So I thought I'd tap into some of those people for a series of topics we've been kicking around.

OTHER TOPICS

The panel consists of one former Pats player still in the game, two scouts of AFC teams, one front-office member in the AFC, and one NFC scout. They all requested anonymity for obvious reasons (as the player said, "Hey, I might want to end up back there!"). I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I had talking to these guys.

Today's topic: Which player (besides Tom Brady) can the Patriots least afford to lose?

Scout 1: Before I answer, I think they can win with [Jimmy] Garoppolo [at quarterback if Brady were injured]. But to your question, it’s Julian Edelman. He’s the little engine that could, the player that makes that offense go. He turns good slot corners into slappys. Slappies. I don’t think he runs quite as well after the catch as he did, say, in 2014, but it’s not this dramatic drop off. His football instincts are as good as [Brady's]. Even if he’s not reading it the same way as Brady, his feel for where a defender is, trying to leverage him, puts him where he’s suppose to be. He’s also a money player. Him, [Danny] Amendola, [James] White. You saw it in the Super Bowl. That catch was ridiculous. The catch and run in the Seattle Super Bowl (when he nearly got beheaded) was ridiculous. I’ll take him on my side any day.

Scout 2: I think this one is a slam dunk. It’s [Dont’a] Hightower. And I think Bill [Belichick] knows it too. That’s why you pay him what they did despite all the talk about injuries and the fact that Hightower always seems to be dealing with something. He’s kind of a freak, right? A massive ‘backer with the ability to move from the middle to the edge with ease. His power at the point of attack makes sense when you look at his size, but it’s the translation of that power into speed and quickness that seems to give the offense such a hard time. I’ve seen him split 650 pounds of offensive linemen in a double, but then accelerate and haul a back down from a bad angle. That’s something.

Scout 3: Can I pick [Nate] Solder again? Ok, ok. I’ll say Trey Flowers. He and Hightower are the only two that can get to the passer consistently in that front seven, and that’s not something they usually let Hightower do. Flowers was on our radar prior to that draft [in 2015]. We weren’t quite sure what to do with him. Leave it to Bill and [Matt] Patricia to figure it out. He was a bitch the couple of times I watched him late in the year. Found my eyes being drawn to him. Watch his hands. So quick. He’s a keeper.

Current NFL exec: The moose at tight end (Rob Gronkowski). You can’t duplicate what he brings to the field on Sundays. You just can’t. One of the better blocking tight ends in the game and an impossible cover. Edelman may be Brady’s favorite target, but Gronkowski is the better target. (In what sense?) His size. Put it somewhere in the ballpark and he’s going to win. You can’t say that about Edelman, even though he’ll win more 50/50 balls than 99 percent of the players his size. I don’t mean that as a slight on Julian, but it’s pretty cut and dried for me

Former Patriot/current player: Gronk. It’s gotta be Gronk. I know what just happened last year (Pats winning a Super Bowl with Gronkowski on IR), but [Martellus Bennett] is [bleeping] good, too. Now it’s Dwayne Allen as the backup? Yeah, I’m not a big Allen guy. They certainly can’t ask him to do what Gronk does if anything happens. They could do some of that with Marty. Besides, Gronk is one of the toughest covers in the league. Crazy catch radius. Physicality. Yeah, give me Gronk.

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."

MORE: 

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."

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Patriots-Falcons practice report: Gilmore, Rowe absent; Hogan added

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Patriots-Falcons practice report: Gilmore, Rowe absent; Hogan added

FOXBORO -- Chris Hogan only had one catch for 19 yards against the Jets. He very nearly had a second grab in the second quarter, but Tom Brady's throw was off the mark, and Hogan's ribs were exposed for rookie safety Marcus Maye to hammer. The pass fell incomplete and Hogan crumpled to the turf. 

He didn't leave the game, but Hogan did end up on Wednesday's injury report as a limited participant in practice due to a ribs injury. He was one of three players added to this week's injury report. Linebacker Elandon Roberts has an ankle injury and did not participate in Wednesday's workout. Guard Shaq Mason has a shoulder issue and was limited. 

Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore, neither of whom were spotted at the start of the session, did not participate.

Here's Wednesday's full practice participation/injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Falcons game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
CB Stephon Gilmore (concussion/ankle)
LB Harvey Langi (back)
LB Elandon Roberts (ankle)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
RB Rex Burkhead (ribs)
WR Chris Hogan (ribs)
G Shaq Mason (shoulder)

ATLANTA FALCONS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
K Matt Bryant (back)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
OLB Vic Beasley Jr. (hamstring)
LB Jermaine Grace (hamstring)
LB Deion Jones (quadricep)
DE Takk McKinley (shoulder)
LB Duke Riley (knee)
WR Mohamed Sanu (hamstring)
DL Courtney Upshaw (ankle/knee)