Patriots

Gilmore's situation with Patriots 'getting better all the time'

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Gilmore's situation with Patriots 'getting better all the time'

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Being the new guy isn’t easy, especially when you consider the circumstances Stephon Gilmore found himself in after signing with the Patriots this offseason. 

For starters, there’s the whole Malcolm Butler dynamic. It was a rare mistake by Bill Belichick, not predicting an unforeseen tension, and Gilmore has had to try and navigate through a difficult situation that only recently seems to have calmed down.

Then there’s the other aspect of the cornerback’s insertion into the lineup and locker room. Gilmore joined a group that has been together for a long time, at least in NFL terms. So while the holdovers all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, never mind personalities, Gilmore had to adjust to that part of the switch as well.

“It’s been about learning one another,” Gilmore told me. “It’s been a process. Sometimes the communication suffered but I was never worried about it from a physical standpoint. It was mental, not physical.”

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As a group, the Patriots felt like Butler deserved to get paid so it came as a bit of a shock that the money was spent on an outsider and not a home-grown product. But Gilmore has worked to smooth over any friction or doubt by doing his best to seamlessly fit in, earning respect from his teammates for his handling of the situation and for his easygoing, soft-spoken nature.

“The good thing is Steph makes it easy for us all to be close,” said Duron Harmon. “He’s a good guy. He’s quiet, but he has a great heart, always around, always talking, whether it’s not even about football, talking about his family, asking how my family is doing, how his family is doing. So I think he’s fit in well. I think we’re all close. We’re still learning each other and I think eventually this week (in Colorado Springs) will help us.”

Gilmore agrees with Harmon’s assessment of the time spent together in Colorado. There's no family here. It’s just football and each other.

“I like it. I like it being with the guys every day, staying in the same hotel, getting to know each other,” said Gilmore. “It’s good.”

Not sure how this would have looked had it come on the heels of Gilmore’s rocky first month in uniform. During that stretch, a fair amount of the chunk plays allowed by the defense came with Gilmore in the area and after several members of the secondary called the group’s play embarrassing following the 33-30 loss to Carolina. The Harmon quote “it can’t get no more simpler than it is” was read in some circles as being directed at the newcomer. Imagine the tension in the meeting rooms in the days that followed.

But Gilmore answered with a strong performance the following Thursday night in Tampa and then -- after dealing with a concussion that sidelined him for three games -- had another solid outing in Denver. That showed a little something…

“He’s competitive,” said Pat Chung. “He’s a good player. He’s back out there and he’s better. He wasn’t bad to begin with there’s certainly some things you have to get used to on a new team and he got used to them. Hopefully he keeps getting better.”

“Steph is a tough guy, a tough player,” said Devin McCourty. “We knew he’d be fine.”

“He’s a fighter,” said Harmon. “He’s not going to go into the tank. He’s not going to let anybody dictate how he feels, how he approaches going into a game. He just continues to work, continues to keep grinding, and all you can do is respect that because a lot people would go into the tank but you can see he’s mentally tough to go out there and fix what he needs to fix and start playing productive.”

Gilmore wasn’t perfect against the Broncos. He allowed four catches on seven targets to his man, Demaryius Thomas, but with strong hands and an occasional flash of physicality, he kept Brock Osweiler’s favorite wide receiver relatively quiet, save for a third-quarter touchdown. After the play, it appeared Harmon got a little heated with Gilmore, who told us following the game he thought he had help underneath.

Maybe the players wouldn’t have joked about that earlier in the year, but Harmon had no problem laughing when I asked if the discussion was just about getting Gilmore to speak up and use his outside voice.

“Nah man, nah,” Harmon laughed. “It was just us talking about the play and making sure we’re on the same page,” adding, “I’ve never heard Steph raise his voice. Not sure he has one. It’s all good. We got enough people that yell in this building. We don’t need any more.”

“It’s just part of the process,” said Gilmore “We’ll get there. It’s getting better all the time.”

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Dolphins' Wake promises pain for Patriots on Monday night

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Dolphins' Wake promises pain for Patriots on Monday night

Monday night, Cameron Wake will be trying to hurt Tom Brady. Pain – inflicting it, enduring it, the specter of it – is a football fact of life.

And no matter how hard the NFL tries to legislate out the danger of the game, it will always be inherent. Brady gets that better than Wake does. He’s been on the receiving end of it a lot longer than Wake’s been dishing it out. And while Brady’s gets to do his job with plenty of protections, he spends a lot more time prone and vulnerable than Wake does.

The Dolphins defensive end went deep last week talking about the nature of the game, the protections afforded, the risks players take and what he sees as the inconsistencies.

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Asked about the injury suffered by Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier last week, Wake said, “I’ve seen a lot of injuries so, unfortunately, that comes along with. This is my thing: I want to hurt everybody I play. I don’t want to injure anybody.

“I want you to be able to get up and go to the next play or feed your family and play next week but I want you to say ‘Man, Cameron Wake …’ ” Wake continued. “I don’t want you to be off the team or like not playing. I want you to obviously be physically defeated. I want to intimidate. I don’t want you to be harmed beyond tomorrow at all. It doesn’t always work that way.”

Continuing, Wake did a little math to make a very good point.

“We have 10 guys on IR or whatever? I’m sure every team has about that with 50 players on a team and then when you think about a 90-man roster … That’s a 20 percent chance every time you’re on the field, a 20 percent chance that whatever happens to you, you’re not going to play football this year.”

As appetizing as the NFL tries to make its product for the masses, the truth is that every single one of the players in the league has reconciled himself to the brutal, primitive nature of the game in which an opponent isn’t just defeated but beaten – literally.

Which means you will see a quarterback exhibit the fencing response as Tom Savage did Sunday, a linebacker unable to walk off the field because he can’t feel his legs as Shazier did last Monday or a well-liked tight end go barbaric on an opponent who made him mad as Rob Gronkowski did last Sunday.

Consumers, advertisers, social media and fans recoil. But violence is as much a part of the game as the football.

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Eagles announce Wentz has torn ACL, out for rest of year

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Eagles announce Wentz has torn ACL, out for rest of year

PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles star quarterback Carson Wentz has a torn left ACL and will miss rest of the season and playoffs, coach Doug Pederson confirmed.

Wentz, a favorite in the NFL MVP race, had an MRI on Monday that revealed the severity of the injury. Wentz was hurt late in the third quarter Sunday at Los Angeles. Backup Nick Foles rallied the Eagles (11-2) to a 43-35 win over the Rams that secured the NFC East title and put them in first place in the conference with three games remaining.

The Eagles have overcome several key injuries and now have to move forward without their most indispensable player. Nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, return specialist/running back Darren Sproles, star linebacker Jordan Hicksand special teams captain Chris Maragos already went down for the season.

"If there's ever an opportunity for me to rally the troops as the football coach, now might be the time," Pederson said. "You can't lose faith. This has been a resilient football team all season long."

After starting all 16 games as a rookie, Wentz made a giant leap this year. He passed for 3,296 yards and set a franchise single-season record with 33 touchdown passes while only tossing seven interceptions.

Foles led the Eagles to a pair of field goals on consecutive drives against the Rams. He is 20-17 as a starter in six seasons with the Eagles, Rams and Chiefs.

Pederson insisted the offense won't change with Foles.

"He's a highly intelligent football player," Pederson said.

A third-round pick by former Eagles coach Andy Reid in 2012, Foles in his second stint in Philadelphia. He replaced an injured Michael Vick in 2013 and led the Eagles to an NFC East title during Chip Kelly's first season as coach. Foles tied an NFL record with seven TD passes in a game at Oakland in November 2013 and finished that season with 27 TDs and only two picks. The Eagles lost at home to New Orleans in the playoffs. Foles went to the Pro Bowl and was the offensive MVP.

But Kelly traded Foles to St. Louis for Sam Bradford after the 2014 season. Foles spent a year with the Rams, a season with the Chiefs and returned to Philadelphia as a free agent this season.

Second-year pro Nate Sudfeld is Philadelphia's No. 3 quarterback. Pederson said he hasn't spoken to personnel boss Howie Roseman about adding a third quarterback yet.

"I'm absolutely ready to go - need be," Foles said after the win over the Rams. "I prepare every day."