Patriots

The future isn't now for Patriots backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo

The future isn't now for Patriots backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo

HOUSTON -- Ever since Tom Brady took Father Time over his knee and gave him a dose of corporal punishment, Jimmy Garoppolo's future with the Patriots has been dissected more times than those damn frogs in sixth-grade science class (and yes, I'm convinced it was the same 25 every year). To his credit, Garoppolo has tried to downplay all talk, especially this week with Super Bowl Sunday looming.

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"There's a lot of talk about it," he told me earlier in the week. "People have been asking me about it but right now and for the rest of the week, it's all Falcons. There are just so many things going on. It's a hectic week. Just to focus on that [the Falcons] alone is all I can do."

But the latest batch of rumors for NFL insiders continues to bubble to the surface. Cleveland is reportedly interested. Now Chicago.

"Yeah, I mean I've heard those. Lot of things going on, rumors, but that's all they are, rumors."

I repeated Chicago though, his hometown team. I got a big smile but nothing more. Another reporter asked if that was important to him? Playing close to home?

"It's not really my call. We'll see what happens."

Instead, Garoppolo is choosing to remain locked in on preparing for the speedy Falcons defense and the knowledge that he could find himself in the game as quick as you can snap your fingers.

"I have to prepare. And I'm working hard every day to do that."

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, a big advocate of Garoppolo's dating all the way back to his draft year, has no doubt the 25-year-old would be ready to go.

"He's a professional now," said McDaniels. "He's not a rookie anymore. He understands what that means, to go through a practice week and know that you're not starting but you're going in after the first series depending on what happens. I think he approached it the right way, had a great mindset, great attitude, worked extremely hard to be ready to go and tried to go out there and do his job."

Falcons backup quarterback Matt Schaub was once in the very position Garoppolo finds himself in now, a young, promising backup playing behind a franchise quarterback (or at least what Atlanta thought was a franchise QB in Michael Vick).

"Having been in similar shoes of his way back in my career, you can only control what you can control and that's your job, your process -- getting yourself as ready as you can for that next game regardless of whether it's a regular-season game, a playoff game or the Super Bowl," he told me. "You've just got to be in the moment and concentrate on that. The rest will take care of itself down the road. You can't control where you're going to be in the future. You just need to focus on what you can do to get better that day."

McDaniels thinks Garoppolo has been in the right headspace and has the right approach, one born of nearly three full seasons with the Pats.

"He's learned over the course of a few years," McDaniels said. "He's been in our room for three years, He's seen Tom prepare for games. We've coached him the same way we coached every other guy in that room, and he just had an opportunity to do it and you know I think he represented himself well when he was out there. He helped us win a couple football games."

Seems more and more likely that Garoppolo will get a chance to win more than just a couple games elsewhere, if not next season then certainly the year after that when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. That's what he wants, the opportunity to be the number one guy, be it here or somewhere else.

"That's why we play the game, to be the one out there playing," he said. "You know, it's tough not being out there, but it's an opportunity -- a great opportunity -- to come here, learn everything I can, play when I could and hopefully it will help going forward."

Former Patriots defensive end Chris Long is donating his salary

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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.

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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."

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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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