Curran: Brady reached the end of the line . . . in more ways than one

Curran: Brady reached the end of the line . . . in more ways than one

If this were a war movie, this would be the part where the wounded hero, face caked in mud and blood and breathing from a sucking chest wound, tells his crying friend, “Go on without me . . . there’s nothing more you can do . . . (cough) . . . save yourself . . . "

Eh, maybe I overdramatize. Maybe this “No mas” from Tom Brady is less about fighting the good fight for his union brothers on behalf of the NFLPA and more about making sure that the rug doesn’t get pulled out from under his 2016 season sometime after week four. Maybe it’s more about him deciding he doesn’t want to be the pawn in the NFL vs. NFLPA battle anymore and -- for the first time in 18 months -- getting some professional certainty. If he misses four, he misses four. He’s got a wife, kids, parents, sisters, extended family. The grind and strain that’s been on them needs to end. 

However you feel about the decision -- and I was stunned -- you’d have to be a moron to think he had a chance in hell at this point of winning. The jig was up. Party was over. The fat lady had indeed sung. 

The rock-kicking around here is going to be because people feel abandoned. Will Brady be decried in the same way Robert Kraft was when he stood down in May of 2015? I doubt it, but hell hath no fury like a Pats fan who thinks he's been left in the trenches during his fight to defend the wall. 

The upside for Brady and the Patriots is simply certitude. The Patriots now know what their depth chart will look like in early September. They know that Brady will be back a little more rested and healthy in October than he's ever been. You also get a grip on what Jimmy G can do, as does the rest of the NFL. Maybe you can turn that into something next offseason. 

But really, that's whipped cream on a massive turd. We're talking about the greatest quarterback of his or perhaps any generation being lost to his team for four games. We're talking about a guy who deserves to be celebrated, who the NFL should have had a sanctified relationship with, being tied to the league’s bumper and dragged along for 18 months until he finally let go. 

This gives the NFL the ability to cluck, cluck and say, “Hey, he knew what he did all along and that’s why he stood down . . . ” It gives the anti-Patriot archers around the country 10 million new arrows to pull from their quiver and shoot right in the heart of the argument of the greatest dynasty and the greatest quarterback in league history. 

It seems these days that we are, in general, talking about injustices quite a bit. This doesn't rise to anything close to what we're seeing nationally and internationally, and the level of indignation shouldn’t rise to a level of letting it ruin your day. 

But I believe we’d all like to think that a game that has become America’s most popular wouldn’t be bastardized by the people lucky enough to find themselves in positions of power. Before this, I think we were all certain the owners, the commissioner, the league VPs and attorneys, were above conjuring evidence. Above leaking. Smearing. Lying to settle old scores or to gain a competitive advantage. 

Nobody thinks that way now. 

They all got their way. They broke Brady. They got their advantage. Now let's see what they do with it.

Patriots release Shea McClellin

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Patriots release Shea McClellin

Shea McClellin will be blocking kicks for somebody else next season. 

The Patriots announced Monday they've released the veteran linebacker, ending his tenure with the team after two seasons.  ESPN's Field Yates broke the news.

The Pats signed McClellin to a three-year deal prior to the 2016 season, but that was the only season in which he played for the team. McClellin missed all of last season due to injury. Prior to coming to New England, McClellin played four seasons with the Bears, who chose him 19th overall in 2012. 

McClellin's biggest contribution with the Pats came when he blocked a Justin Tucker kick in Week 14 of the 2016 season against the Ravens.

Pinning down the best lesson Vince Wilfork could teach Danny Shelton

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Pinning down the best lesson Vince Wilfork could teach Danny Shelton

When the Patriots traded for Danny Shelton earlier this offseason, sending a 2019 third-rounder to Cleveland in exchange for the defensive tackle, they traded for a player who was already being mentored by one of their own. 

In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Shelton explained that one of his agents put him in touch with former Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork so that Shelton could pick up some tips from one of the best defensive tackles in football of the past 15 years. 

"For me, he’s someone that I still look up to even when he was with the Texans," Shelton said. "I got the opportunity to reach out to him and kind of pick his brain and just learn a couple of tips from him. He’s been really responsive. He’s been a guy that has been really helpful this offseason and I’m looking forward to reaching out more and learning some more from him."

When Shelton was coming out of the University of Washington in 2015,'s Lance Zierlein's "NFL comparison" was Wilfork. Both carried similar builds -- Shelton is now listed at 335 pounds -- and both were viewed as surprisingly good athletes for their body types. Shelton was also viewed as the top two-gapping tackle in the draft that year, which is exactly what the Patriots ask their interior linemen to do. 

Shelton has made good on those projections over the last couple of years. Last season, he was a key part of a Browns defense that ranked fourth against the run by Football Outsiders in terms of DVOA. In 2016, Shelton was ranked by Pro Football Focus as its eighth-best interior lineman against the run. Per PFF, he was second that year -- behind only Damon Harrison -- in terms of the number of run stops he recorded from the interior.

It's clear that Shelton, the No. 12 overall pick three years ago, understands what his strengths are. 

"Honestly, I’m just going to go with whatever Coach [Bill Belichick] wants me to do," Shelton said. "My best feature is stopping the run, so if he wants me to play at a specific position I’ll do it, and I’ll make sure I do my job for the team’s success."

So how can Wilfork help? If he has any tips on how to be a consistent player from the inside in Belichick's system, that could go a long way. Over the course of Wilfork's 13-year career, few defensive tackles were as effective from week to week and year to year. Wilfork played at least 830 snaps in four of his last five seasons with the Patriots (he was injured in 2013), and even during his two seasons with the Texans, he averaged about 600 snaps per year. He made five Pro Bowls with the Patriots and was named a First or Second-Team All-Pro four times.

In what form might Wilfork's advice on consistency be delivered? Would it be nutritional, which was an aspect of his preparation he embraced later in his career? Would it be technique-based? Would it be simply how to take the coaching dispensed inside the walls of Gillette Stadium? 

Shelton, who missed two games last season and played in 469 snaps, doesn't have a long-term contract with the Patriots to be able to prove his worth over multiple years the way Wilfork did. And he may not be asked to take on the myriad roles Wilfork was during his time under Belichick. But if Shelton can pick up some advice from Wilfork on how to stay on the field and how to help the Patriots win on first and second downs, that might make him the team's most valuable offseason addition. 

New England finished the season 20th in rush yards allowed per game, and they were 31st in yards per attempt allowed. In the Super Bowl, with run-stuffing defensive tackle Alan Branch a healthy scratch, the Patriots allowed 6.1 yards per carry to the Eagles on their way to 164 yards rushing. 

Shelton is in the final year of his rookie contract and scheduled to make $2.03 million this season. The Patriots may not be willing to pick up his hefty $11.7 million fifth-year option for 2019, but if he can continue his upward trajectory then maybe the Patriots will work to extend him before the end of the year. 

How Wilfork impacts that trajectory, if at all, remains to be seen. But he's certainly not a bad guy for Shelton to have in his corner as the 24-year-old embarks on life with the Patriots.