Patriots

Back at the scene of the crime, Gostkowski can use Denver to continue way out of skid

Back at the scene of the crime, Gostkowski can use Denver to continue way out of skid

Stephen Gostkowski has been good, often not great, with some bad mixed in this season. That’s not quite what folks have come to expect from Gostkowski.

Kickers have bad seasons and bounce back, and great teams often aren’t held back by mediocre kicking seasons. So, perhaps Gostkowski’s struggles won’t be a major factor when all is said and done. 

Yet, when you look at Gostkowski’s dip, it started before this season began, and it was very costly. The four-time Pro Bowler missed his first extra point in nine years when he pushed a first-quarter point-after attempt wide right in last season’s AFC Championship in Denver. Though he would make both of his field-goal attempts in that game, that missed point forced the Pats to go for two in order to tie the scorer after a Rob Gronkowski touchdown with 12 seconds to play. The conversion failed, the Broncos went to the Super Bowl and Peyton Manning got his fairy tale ending. 

Sunday sees Gostkowski and the Patriots return to the scene of the crime. Fortunately for them, things have been looking up of late. After missing three of his first 12 field-goal attempts and two of his first 21 point-after attempts, Gostkowski has been 11-for-12 on field goals and 18-for-19 on PATs since Week 8. He was given AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his Week 13 performance, a distinction he was also given in Week 1. 

On the season, his numbers are starting to balance out. His four missed field goals are the most he’s had in a season since 2012, when he missed six. That season tied his 2006 rookie season for most misses. 

The three missed extra points are obviously the worst of his career, but last season’s tule change to move such kicks to the 15-yard line was bound to make that happen for a lot of kickers. 

Heading into Sunday, Gostkowski has been perfect (4-for-4 on field goals, 6-for-6 on PATs) the last two games. Denver wasn’t so friendly to him last time around, but perhaps it can be where he continues to regain his footing. 

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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