Why Belichick says this has been a 'special' year for Ebner

Why Belichick says this has been a 'special' year for Ebner

FOXBORO -- It's been an annual rite for Matthew Slater to be named to the Pro Bowl as one of the game's top special teams players. The Patriots special teams captain has earned that honor at the end of each of the last five seasons. But there could be another Patriots kicking-game standout joining him in that regard this year? Or there might there be a changing of the guard?

Patriots safety Nate Ebner is tied for the the league lead in special teams tackles (16) this season. He's also forced one fumble and recovered one as one of Bill Belichick's core special-teamers. 

From inside the Patriots locker room on Tuesday, Slater advocated for his teammate to be named to the Pro Bowl this season. He'll find out one way or another when Pro Bowlers are announced Tuesday at 8 p.m.

"I think Nate deserves it," Slater said. "The way he’s played this year, I haven’t really seen anybody playing the way he’s played. I’m definitely pulling for him, and we’ll see how it goes."

Slater is in the running himself, but he missed two games after suffering a foot injury against the 49ers in Week 11 and thinks this may not be his year.

"I know what type of year it’s been for me, dealing with injuries and things like that," he said. "I'm always happy to see my teammates have success, and ultimately for the team goal. I think that’s what matters most for all of us. When a guy works hard, and he deserves it, you definitely pull for him."

Belichick seems to be in the same boat. He sang Ebner's praises during a conversation with WEEI's Dale and Holley Show with Rich Keefe on Monday, noting that Ebner put in a tremendous amount of work in order to get up to speed after missing most of training camp to participate in the Summer Olympics as a member of Team USA's rugby sevens squad. 

"I'd say the thing about this year that has been really special about Nate," Belichick said, "was that, first of all, he wasn't here at all during the spring. He wasn't here for the majority of training camp. But when he got here, he attacked his job and his role on the team with a great deal of urgency. He felt that he'd fallen behind.

"He had a great experience at the Olympics. It's something he wanted to do. It's something he and I talked about. And I was 100 percent behind it and our team was 100 percent behind him doing that. But once that was over and he shifted his gears and his attention to our football team, he had just a tremendous urgency to, in his mind, make up for the ground he was behind on from the Olympic experience. He worked very hard and was very dedicated to making that up."

Martellus Bennett: NFL players just want to smoke weed and play video games

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Martellus Bennett: NFL players just want to smoke weed and play video games

Martelllus Bennett was released by the Patriots earlier this month after reappearing for a two-game cameo following his controversial exit from Green Bay last season.

As he ponders whether to play again, it's probably to safe to guess what he's been spending his time doing. It's what he says all NFL players want to do in the offseason. 

The outspoken tight end talked about the goals of every NFL player in an interview with Complex's "Out of Bounds". 

"You hand the guy a book and they're like...get that thing away from me!" Bennett said, laughing as he fumbled a book. "That thing is the devil. A book? That's the devil!"

Change to pass-interference rule is WAY overdue

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Change to pass-interference rule is WAY overdue

Yes, please, on the proposed adjustment to defensive pass interference. No, thank you on the revised catch rule.

And I know I'm going to have my dreams crushed on both counts.

Despite all the arm-flapping and breath wasted that "NOBODY KNOWS WHAT A CATCH IS ANYMORE!!!!", long-distance pass interference has been a bigger bugaboo for the league for a much longer time.

In 2017, there were 129 pass interference calls longer than 15 yards. The proposed rule change that will be debated at next week's NFL Annual Meeting will make pass interference a 15-yard penalty unless it's egregious and intentional. In those cases, it will continue to be a spot foul

So overdue. For too long offenses have been rewarded by officials on 50-50 balls where DBs and receivers engage in subtle handfighting. It's absolutely illogical to expect middle-aged officials in okay (or worse) shape to keep pace with Gronk-sized receivers and whippet-quick defenders, then make calls on plays 40 yards downfield.

If you're going to throw a flag that gives the offense 40 yards, there should be an extreme degree of certainty accompanies that flag. And too often, the officials are forced to make educated guesses. Next thing you know, Joe Flacco and Rex Grossman are in the Super Bowl.

It's probably the most difficult penalty to call in football, yet it carries the greatest punishment for a defense? What sense does that make? 

I actually think the NFL should go a step beyond and make pass interference reviewable. I'll even make this concession -- it's reviewable only for DPI that puts the ball inside the 10 and is longer than 15 yards. How's that?

"More reviews?!?!? We don't need more reviews?!?!?!"

Okay, but you'll accept them when a dimwit coach argues a spot on a three-yard run that may or may not mean a first down, but not on a play that hands the offense half the field? Come on. Forward thinking.

As for the contention corners are going to begin bludgeoning receivers once they realize they're being beaten deep -- BAM! -- that's where you get the aggravated pass interference (API . . . trademarked 2018) that can be dropped on their heads.

A DB that doesn't turn to face the ball and runs through a receiver? An arm bar all the way downfield preventing a receiver from getting his hands up? A way-too-early arrival? That's API and it's a spot foul. What are the possible negative consequences?

It will now spawn debate as to what's aggravated PI and just garden variety PI. And it asks officials to make another judgment call.

But the truth is, it already is -- in many cases -- a judgment call. And if I were an official reaching for my flag on a Hail Mary from the 43 at the end of the game where there was jostling, I'd sure as hell be happy that I have the option to call garden variety PI and put the ball at the 28 rather than put the ball at the 1.

It's a rule change that makes the game better. That way you don't have calls like this or this. This 55-yarder would be an API (defender hugs Crabtree).

Tellingly, there's no outcry about the need to reform pass interference NOW like there is about the catch rule. You know what needs to happen? A few more plays like this where the Patriots profit. Then you'll see a damn MOVEMENT!