Patriots

Romo a wild card for Patriots defense

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Romo a wild card for Patriots defense

FOXBORO The Dallas Cowboys' much-maligned quarterback Tony Romo will remain a polarizing fixture in Big 'D' until he wins a Super Bowl or gets run out of town -- whichever comes first.

He has shown the ability to dominate a game, then completely disappear when he's most needed in another.

Love him or hate him, one thing most agree on -- Romo's play will have a major impact on the outcome of Sunday's game against New England.

While watching him on video certainly helps the Pats in their preparation, Romo's unpredictability on any given play only adds to the challenge.

"He's very mobile. No play is really ever dead with Romo," said New England cornerback Devin McCourty. "Even when guys get to him, he can escape."

But unlike most mobile quarterbacks, Romo has the ability to still hurt teams in the passing game even with a 300-plus pound defensive behemoth breathing down his neck.

"He has that ability, no matter what side of the field he's on, left or right," McCourty added. "He can turn his shoulders and throw the ball vertical. In the secondary, we have to stay on our guys and stay ready no matter what he does back there."

The decision on whether to scramble or stick tight in the pocket varies from one opponent to another, from one play to another.

"If they have a great front-four, you want to move around and help your protection by sliding the front, things like that," Romo said. "If you feel comfortable with the matchups you might stay in the pocket. It's just relative to the opponent. Each week we kind of do things differently. We're not the same team every week."

And Romo, good or bad, is definitely not the same quarterback.

In a 27-24 season-opening road loss to the New York Jets, Romo was at his worst when the game mattered most.

A week later, playing with a fractured rib, he rallied the Cowboys to a 27-24 overtime win over San Francisco.

The first two weeks of the Cowboys season provided further proof that when it comes to Romo, you never really know what you're going to get from one game to the next.

While Romo's scrambling ability certainly puts stress on the secondary, New England's defensive line could make their jobs a lot easier.

Shaun Ellis said the key for the Pats defensively will be to "execute the game plan, make it hard on him, put pressure on him and hopefully he'll make a mistake."

Ellis added, "he's different. He has his own style, the way he goes about his operation. We'll definitely have our hands full. They have great receivers, and are well balanced. And they have him throwing to them."

And when it comes to the up and down play, Romo will be the first to acknowledge that this season -- so far at least -- has been one with equal highs and lows for him and the Cowboys (2-2).

"For every game that's the other way, there's another one the other side," Romo said. "Everyone is good in this league. You have to minimize turnovers in key situations. We did that for two of the games and two of the games we didn't. That's really what it comes down to."

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

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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.

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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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