Patriots

After Gronk play, Belichick makes another pitch for goal-line cameras

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After Gronk play, Belichick makes another pitch for goal-line cameras

DENVER -- Rob Gronkowski was hot after his team's win Sunday night at Sports Authority Field. The reason? He thought he had a touchdown -- or a "tug," as he calls it -- wiped off the board because of a missed call.

Late in the second quarter, it looked as though Gronkowski made a diving grab near the goal line, but it was immediately called incomplete. After the Patriots called a timeout, and after Gronkowski did some serious lobbying to Bill Belichick to challenge the ruling, the coach opted to toss his red challenge flag.

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"I went up to Coach, and he’s like, ‘Are you sure?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m sure, man.’ I would never say that if I wasn’t 100 percent sure, because you don’t want to lose that kind of trust," Gronkowski said after the game. "And I thought I caught it, man. I know I caught it. My fingers were underneath it.”

Yet after review, the call on the field stood. There was not enough video evidence to overturn. 

"I mean, I didn’t see any replays or anything like that, but did you guys see any time where the ball hit the ground? Because it didn’t, that’s why,” Gronkowski said. ”I put my hand underneath the ball. I know for sure I caught it. I just don’t understand why it wasn’t a tug. It didn’t show any evidence of it hitting the ground. I know it didn’t. My fingers were underneath it. It tilted up the ball, and I knew it was right there. And I brought it in, and it landed on my forearm when I brought it in, and I knew exactly."

Belichick said during a conference call on Monday that he wouldn't hold it against Gronkowski. Most players like to think they catch every pass sent their way, he explained. And it even after review, Belichick said, it looked like an incredibly close call. 

Because the topic of replay and goal-line calls was brought up, Belichick used the opportunity to once again make it known that he believes there should be more cameras in order to provide more angles for plays like that Gronkowski's. 

The play ended up not mattering because one snap later Dwayne Allen was in the end zone for an 11-yard score, but what if that was an end-of-the-game play? What if the score was tighter? Wouldn't you want more angles to know you got the call right? 

That's Belichick's point. It's one he's made before.

"It went the way it did and I understand that," Belichick said. "Again, not that it made any difference on that play, but again, I’ll take this opportunity to say that I just am all for trying to get these plays right. I think that would have been a good example of where a goal-line camera or a pylon camera would have been given a good opportunity. 

"I think we saw in the Kansas City-Oakland game a couple weeks ago the great shot that that camera gave, so again, I think this would be just another example. In the end, it didn’t make any difference in the game last night, but had that been the final play of the game or one of the final plays of the game in a close game, whichever side it was on, just want it to be right. Whether he caught it or didn’t catch it, just make sure that we make the right call."

The play Belichick was referencing occurred last month during a Thursday night game between the Chiefs and Raiders. Oakland tight end Jared Cooks appeared to get into the end zone for a game-tying touchdown, but thanks to a review, he was marked down at the 1. 

The Raiders eventually scored and won the game, but it was a good example of how a camera in that area of the field can be helpful. 

"It’s a tough call," Belichick said of Gronkowski's near-grab. "The official made the call. It’s a tough call. The official that made the call was standing pretty close to me on the sideline. He was probably 30 yards away. It was a close play. I saw it the same way he did. 

"It was really close, so maybe the league can find a way to finance that project and get a good quality shot of some of those goal line plays, like they had in the Oakland-Kansas City game."

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Prototypical Patriots: Daniels, Wynn would build on interior strength

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Prototypical Patriots: Daniels, Wynn would build on interior strength

The outlook for the Patriots on the interior of their offensive line is good. They have three young players who have played a lot of football together all set to return in 2018: guard Joe Thuney, guard Shaq Mason and center David Andrews. Their depth looks solid as well. Ted Karras has two years in the system under his belt, and Cole Croston -- who has some versatility to play tackle or guard -- enters his second year in the program after spending all of his rookie season protected on the active roster.

So why even look at the incoming class of centers and guards?

ESPN's Mike Reiss reported that the Patriots were interested in drafting an interior offensive lineman -- almost a Logan Mankins clone from a size and athleticism perspective -- at pick No. 72 in last year's draft: Dan Feeney of Indiana. Instead, he was drafted at No. 71 by the Chargers. The Patriots ended up trading out of the pick when Feeney was gone.

Even with three young starters set to return last spring, Bill Belichick and his staff weren't afraid to add depth on the inside. The same has to be assumed once again this year, especially with Mason scheduled to hit free agency after the season.

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For this exercise, we'll assume Quenton Nelson is out of New England's reach. He'd be a clear fit at guard, and he's one of the cleanest prospects in the class regardless of position. He should be gone inside the top 10 picks. We also won't include Oregon's Tyrell Crosby, Texas' Connor Williams or Auburn's Braden Smith, who some have projected to make the move inside. We included that trio in our tackles edition, but the Patriots could take any of them with the idea in mind that they should shift to guard. 

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JAMES DANIELS, IOWA, 6-3, 306 POUNDS
There may not be a better offensive line fit for New England in this draft. He's big enough, and his athleticism is eye-opening (30.5-inch vertical, 108-inch broad jump). He also happened to play under Kirk Ferentz in college so Daniels' transition to New England's scheme and style of play should be a relatively smooth one. Factor in the play Daniels showed on tape, and the Patriots will be interested. Unfortunately for them, there's a good chance another club is just as interested and willing to spend an early pick on the player widely considered the top center in the draft. Daniels' college teammate Sean Welsh could be a late-round (or undrafted) choice if he's deemed athletic enough. 

ISAIAH WYNN, GEORGIA, 6-3, 313 POUNDS

Wynn's hand size might be an issue since it's a full inch smaller (8 1/2 inches) than what the Patriots have typically sought in their interior line draft picks. But his arm length is 33 1/2 inches, which is more than good enough. And most importantly, his tape his tremendous. To do what he did in the SEC, small hands or not, should get him drafted in the first round. Some even believe he could stick at his last college position (he played guard and, most recently, tackle for the Bulldogs) and stick on the outside at his size. He was that good. 

FRANK RAGNOW, ARKANSAS, 6-5, 312 POUNDS

Former Arkansas coach Brett Bielema has been spotted wearing Patriots gear during the pre-draft process as he's been helping Belichick's staff with their scouting. One player he already knows very well would be Ragnow, who is considered by some to be one of the most underrated players in the draft. He's in the conversation with Daniels and Price as the best center in the class, and Pro Football Focus would argue that he is the best. His three-cone was oddly slow, but otherwise he's a good athlete who's had a lot of experience against top-notch competition in the SEC.

BILLY PRICE, OHIO STATE, 6-4, 305 POUNDS
Another very good center here. Another coaching connection for the Patriots. Price might've had a shot at being the first pivot off the board in this draft, but he injured his pec doing the bench press at this year's combine. If that injury forces him to slide to the Patriots in the second round, he could be deemed a value pick there.



AUSTIN CORBETT, NEVADA, 6-4, 306 POUNDS
Good length, big mitts, very solid athlete. Corbett is one of the best fits for the Patriots on the interior if they want to go in that direction. His 5.15-second 40 and 28-inch vertical will more than meet the mark for the Patriots, as will his 106-inch broad jump. His three-cone time (7.87 seconds) won't blow Belichick away, but it won't be enough to take him off of the board, either. 

WILL HERNANDEZ, UTEP, 6-2, 327 POUNDS
Hernandez is a little undersized, but he's a mauler in an age where linemen are generally more experienced in the pass game than the run game. When it comes to the measurables, his height (an inch shorter than what the Patriots usually like) and his vertical (24 inches) are less than ideal, but he's considered by many experts to be a first-round talent.

WYATT TELLER, VIRGINIA TECH, 6-4, 314 POUNDS

Teller is another fit from an athletic standpoint since his 40 time (5.24 seconds), vertical (29 inches), broad (114 inches) and three-cone (7.45 seconds) were all good. His play dipped in 2017, according to some experts, but if the Patriots believe he's a good option late on Day 2 or early on Day 3, he could be available. 

SCOTT QUESSENBERRY, UCLA, 6-4, 310 POUNDS

Everyone is talking about UCLA tackle Kolton Miller as the draft approaches, but Quessenberry deserves a little pub himself. He checks all the athletic markers the Patriots look for, and he started for almost four full years in a Power 5 conference. His experience, his versatility to play guard or center, and his movement skills could have the Patriots interested on Day 3. 

MASON COLE, MICHIGAN, 6-4, 305 POUNDS

Cole may not be as explosive as some others in this draft class (23.5-inch vertical), but he's coming from a pro style offense where he was a starter for four years at both left tackle and center. He's not the kind of specimen that will be drafted in the top-100, in all likelihood, but he's an interesting Day 3 option. 

ROD TAYLOR, OLE MISS, 6-3, 320 POUNDS

Taylor is on the heavy side compared to interior linemen the Patriots have drafted in the past, but he's an explosive athlete for his size (30.5-inch vertical, 99-inch broad), and he has experience at tackle. If the Patriots feel like Taylor can play multiple spots, or if they feel like he'd be an even better athlete if he loses some weight, they may be intrigued enough to spend a pick on the SEC product late.  

KJ MALONE, LSU, 6-4, 303 POUNDS

No surprise that NBA Hall of Famer Karl Malone's son would meet the athletic testing numbers to compete at the next level. He was by no means a dominant tackle for the Tigers, but he could be a late-round interior option for the Patriots if they like his potential. Malone's teammate at LSU, Will Clapp, might be an even better fit given his size (6-5, 314), his position flexibility, and his reputation as a player with very strong intangibles.  Q1

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Gronkowski says 'no' to optional workouts in strange press conference

Gronkowski says 'no' to optional workouts in strange press conference

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski held a strange press conference on Saturday, which he attended in full Supercross gear. Even for the goofy Patriots tight end, that's a little odd.

But what made it even more head-scratching is that the presser occurred inside Gillette Stadium, about a 15-second walk away from the Patriots weight room, which Gronkowski steered clear of last week during the team's first few voluntary workouts of the offseason. 

Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran described Tom Brady and Gronkowski's absence from the workouts as part of an "open revolt" earlier this week. Gronkowski's presence in the building Saturday didn't have the feel of a peace offering. 

Told that fans would wonder why Gronkowski was able to make it to One Patriot Place for a Supercross event and not for workouts -- workouts which are traditionally extremely well-attended in Foxboro -- he cracked, "Training for this dirt-biking."

Asked if he planned on attending optional workouts that are upcoming, he answered, "No." He then added, "I've got dirt-biking skills to work on."

After avoiding a few questions on the topic of whether or not he would return to the Patriots in 2018, Gronkowski did seem to hint that he planned to play football next season, drawing laughter from a crowd that included Gronkowski's father, one of his brothers and multiple friends, including former Patriots Stevan Ridley and Rob Ninkovich.

How much weight should be put into comments made by Gronkowski during a press conference that was, essentially, one long promotional joke? Debatable. But the fact that he was willing to show up to the place he avoided during the week, then have a good laugh about his future with the team that he's captained the last two seasons? That might not sit very well with those who are looking ahead to the upcoming season and wondering about the All-Pro tight end's plans.

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