Patriots awed by Air Force stories of survival training

Patriots awed by Air Force stories of survival training

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. - Do you think of yourself as tough? As self-sufficient? Well has Air Force Academy football coach Troy Calhoun got a story for you. 

Calhoun spoke to the Patriots earlier this week as the team trains at high altitude in Colorado Springs preparing for Sunday’s game in Mexico City against the Raiders. Calhoun's players have to check a lot more boxes than running a good 40-yard dash and completing a certain number of reps on the bench press.


“He told us a story about them going into the mountains and living for like two or three weeks,” said a wide-eyed Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

As part of their curriculum, students at the Air Force Academy must take survival training. So, not only do they get dropped in the middle of nowhere with no shelter but also have to hunt for their own meals. Ah fellas, do you think you could handle that?

“This is obviously not for me,” said Duron Harmon before laughter overtook him. 

“I don’t know if it works for me either,” added James White, shaking his head.

Gilmore continued to be amazed at what he heard, even days later, “They got to kill stuff and eat it. I don’t know if I could that. I don’t know where I’d sleep. I don’t know what I’d kill. That’s a hard situation.”

Only Rob Gronkowski appeared ready to accept the challenge. Do you think you could live in the mountains and kill animals to survive?
“If I had to, I would have to.”
Ok, but what animals would you hunt?
“I like animals, so I don't know.”

I’m not sure that bears want to be scratched behind the ear, Gronk. Call me crazy. Anyway...

Calhoun spoke to the team at the behest of Patriots coach Bill Belichick. We know about Belichick’s love for the service academies and one of the points behind Calhoun's speech was to give his players a much greater understanding of just how difficult life can be for this select group of student-athletes.

“It was a super-strong message,” acknowledged Gronkowski. “Knowing what they go through, it just shows how strong they are and shows what type of person it takes to be able to make it here in the Air Force Academy, which takes a lot – a lot of dedication for sure.

“There’s only a certain type of guys that they recruit and you have to be a certain type of person to do what they do, “ said Gilmore. “You’ve got to respect them for what they do.”

Said Harmon: “All those guys go out there and play football but we don’t see their basic training they have to do when they first come in, the survival training and still going to all these classes, still playing football. You just have a real respect for them because those are the guys that are going to be protecting us, keeping the country safe.”

That resonated among the players, who understand while what they do is important to a lot of people, and they can impact the happiness of an entire region, it’s just a game, not life and death like the men and women who go to the Academy and know they could find themselves at war one day.

“It makes you appreciate what you have for sure,” said Gronkowski, while Gilmore added, “anytime I think I’m going through something, I need to appreciate it looking at their situation and not complaining, just doing what needs to be done.”

When Belichick reads that, he’ll smile. That’s part of what the coach always wants from his players and coaches - just do what needs to be done. Perhaps hearing it from someone else - Coach Calhoun - will keep the message fresh as the Patriots press on through the second half the season and what they hope will be a long postseason run as well. 



What are the Patriots getting in Cordarrelle Patterson?

What are the Patriots getting in Cordarrelle Patterson?

The Patriots have made a trade with the Raiders to acquire receiver and special teamer Cordarrelle Patterson, according to a source. The deal, first reported by Pardon My Take, is an interesting one because it lands Patterson with the team that passed on the opportunity to draft him back in 2013. 


Bill Belichick dealt the No. 29 overall pick to the Vikings that year in exchange for four selections, including a second-rounder and a third-rounder. The second-rounder became Jamie Collins, and the third became Logan Ryan. The Patriots also took Josh Boyce with a fourth they received in the trade, and the fourth pick (a seventh) was traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for LeGarrette Blount. The Vikings took Patterson. 

Patterson's career to this point has been a mixed bag. One of the top athletes in the 2013 draft, the Tennessee product never quite panned out as a go-to No. 1 receiver. He has not missed a game in five seasons, but he has never cracked 600 offensive snaps in a single season. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has turned himself into more of a gadget receiver as well as one of the game's best special teamers. 

Here's what the Patriots are getting in Patterson . . . 

TOP-TIER SPECIAL TEAMER: Patterson has solidified himself as one of the NFL's best kick-returners. In five seasons, he's ranked as the top returner in terms of average yards per return three times. He's never been outside of the top 10 in the league in that category. Last year he was sixth in the NFL with a 28.3 yards per return average. Patterson has also become a highly-effective gunner on punt units, a role he thrived in once he embraced it, and he has kick coverage experience. Patterson has not been a punt-returner. He has just one punt return under his belt compared to 153 kick returns. Patterson has been named a First-Team All-Pro twice for his work in the kicking game. 

INCONSISTENT RECEIVER: Patterson has never been able to take his explosiveness and translate that into consistent production offensively. He's not thought of as a precise route-runner, and he has a reputation as a "body-catcher." Yet, because he's so dynamic with the ball in his hands, offenses in Oakland and Minnesota have found ways to get the ball in his hands. He'll align in the backfield, take reverses and catch screens just to try to get him the ball in space where he can let his natural abilities take over. If he gets a crease, he can create a chunk play in a blink. 

THE COST: Patterson is in the second year of a two-year deal he signed with the Raiders last offseason. He has a base salary of $3 million and a cap hit of $3.25 million. The Patriots will be sending a fifth-rounder to the Raiders and getting a sixth-rounder back. (As an aside . . . The Patriots have used one fifth-round pick in the last six drafts. It was spent on long-snapper Joe Cardona. Why are they constantly dealing fifths away? Inside the Pylon's Dave Archibald did an interesting piece on that topic about a year and a half ago. The gist is that a) there's a significant drop-off in your chances of finding a star in the fifth compared to the fourth, and b) the talent in the fifth round, by some metrics, hasn't proven to be all that different from the sixth or seventh rounds.) 

THE FIT: Patterson is a relatively low-risk acquisition because of his cap hit (which on the Patriots slots him in between Shea McClellin and Chris Hogan) and because of the draft capital required to nab him. Trading for a player like Patterson as opposed to signing another team's free agent has the added benefit of not impacting the compensatory-pick formula. Patterson also fills a few needs. His abilities as a kick-returner will be more than suitable with last year's primary kick returner for the Patriots, Dion Lewis, out of the mix. What Patterson can do as a gunner and in kick coverage will also be useful with Johnson Bademosi now elsewhere. There's also a chance Matthew Slater plays in a different city in 2017, in which case Patterson's contributions as a gunner and in kick coverage could be critical. With Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman and Hogan all established in the Patriots offense, Patterson won't be expected to take on a heavy role in the Patriots offense. However, if he can pick up a new system, perhaps he could take on a role as a No. 4 or 5 wideout who benefits from plays designed to get him touches in space. Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett and Kenny Britt -- now alongside Patterson -- will all be competing for time in New England's offense. Former Patriots coaching assistant Mike Lombardi seems to believe it's unlikely Patterson contributes offensively


Patriots acquire WR Cordarrelle Patterson in trade with Raiders

Patriots acquire WR Cordarrelle Patterson in trade with Raiders

The Patriots have acquired wide receiver and kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson in a trade with the Raiders, NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry confirms.

Pardon My Take, a podcast by Barstool Sports, first reported the news.

Ian Rapaport of NFL Network reports the Patriots sent a fifth-round pick to Oakland and received a Raiders' sixth-rounder along with Patterson.

More to come...