Patriots ready for Gabbert in exhibition opener


Patriots ready for Gabbert in exhibition opener

By A. Sherrod Blakely Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn FOXBORO The New England Patriots are playing it cool heading into Thursday's preseason opener against Jacksonville.

But if a puddle of drool forms in front of the Patriot defenders, it probably has something to do with the Jaguars trotting out their top pick in this past spring's draft, quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio has indicated that Gabbert, a player Jacksonville moved up six spots to select, will start against the Patriots.

The team's usual starter, David Garrard, re-aggravated a back injury and will not travel with the team to New England.

While the Jaguars have said they plan to bring Gabbert along slowly, that might change with a strong preseason showing.

"He's got a great skillset in terms of arm and size and speed, those things," Del Rio told reporters. "We think he's got a bright upside. He's got a lot of work to do. He's doing some things now off natural ability."

Even with the kind of skills and talent to justify him being the 10th overall pick in the draft, Gabbert's lack of experience surely makes him an easier target than a more seasoned quarterback.

Regardless of the sport, talent trumps experience most of the time.

But when it comes to quarterback, there are so many nuances to the game that a lack of experience at the most critical position can be major hurdle.

"The only position that I would put that, where experience is really something you have to consider, is quarterback," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "I think all the other positions, of course it's good to have more experience than less, but I think we've seen a lot of players play all those positions . . . there's so much happening at that position, having gone through it from an experience standpoint, playing in games in the NFL with the rules and situations and the way the game is played, having control of a team that a quarterback needs to have, there's a lot to be said for experience at that position."

Maybe so, but Patriot players refuse to take Gabbert -- or any other young quarterback -- for granted.

"Rookie, 15-year vet, it's all the same," said Pats defensive lineman Gerard Warren. "It doesn't matter. It's a quarterback."

Even if a quarterback has no history of success in the NFL, New England safety Patrick Chung tells that you still have to view all signal-callers as a great challenge.

"They wouldn't be in the NFL starting, getting drafted, if they couldn't make good throws," Chung said. "You have to go into the game with the mentality, 'this guy's an all-star, he can make all the throws.' And then, you just play your game."

Chung added, "You never know what can happen."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Former Patriots defensive end Chris Long is donating his salary


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.


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."


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."