Patriots

Why the Martellus Bennett-Patriots reunion made too much sense

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Why the Martellus Bennett-Patriots reunion made too much sense

FOXBORO -- It just made too much sense. 

Because the Patriots needed another tight end since Dwayne Allen's stay in New England hasn't worked out as planned. Because it opens up the Patriots playbook when there are two threats at that position. And because Rob Gronkowski's injury history is what it is, and depth is important. 

It just so happened that the player who filled that role last season became available to do the same in 2017, and the Patriots jumped at the chance to bring him back to New England.

The Patriots put in a claim for tight end Martellus Bennett after he was waived by the Packers, and they got the Harry Potter-loving, 6-foot-6, 275-pounder, according to ESPN. The team released defensive lineman Geneo Grissom, who still has practice-squad eligibility, to make room for Bennett. 

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There are questions surrounding Bennett as he makes his way back to the team that he helped to win a Super Bowl last season. First and foremost, is he healthy? He was released with a failure to disclose a medical condition designation. He did not play in Week 9 due to a shoulder injury. And does he even want to play? He's already announced that he would like to retire after this season. Was that him venting frustration after the Packers lost Aaron Rodgers for the season? Or is he seriously contemplating the end of his career?

Even with those question marks surrounding him, it was the logical move for the Patriots to put in a claim on Bennett. 

The Fit: The Patriots have received very little from their backup tight ends in 2017. Allen does not have a catch this season, and he has not been targeted since a Week 4 loss to the Panthers. He has played 46 combined snaps in New England's last three games while Gronkowski has played all but five in that span (220). Though Gronkowski said on Thursday that he's feeling fresh coming off of the bye week, he seemed to acknowledge after a Week 8 win over the Chargers that he was feeling fatigued. Bennett's understanding of the system should be enough to make him the immediate No. 2 option at tight end if healthy. Undrafted rookie Jacob Hollister has had brief spurts of productivity this season, but he has played 40 total snaps this season, including just six in the last three games.

Trust Factor: Perhaps more important than Bennett's understanding of the Patriots offense is the trust level he established with Tom Brady during their one season together. Bennett caught 24 passes for 233 yards through seven games with Green Bay. Through his first seven weeks with the Patriots last season, he'd caught 27 passes for 367 yards, and he finished with 66 grabs for 799 yards (including playoffs). And don't forget: Bennett was targeted by Brady for the potential game-winning pass in overtime of Super Bowl LI. It went incomplete, but the fact that Brady was willing to look Bennett's way in that moment was telling. 

The Money: Bennett is a cost-effective move at a critical position for the Patriots. He will count a max of $723,529 against the cap this season, which is a combination of his remaining base salary ($423, 529) and the max in per-game roster bonuses that he could receiver ($300,000). The Patriots have over $4 million in cap space remaining. Bennett has $13 million remaining for 2018 and 2019 on his contract, but it is not guaranteed.

The Personality: Were there occasional eye-rolls in the locker room when Bennett was around? Did the loud Harry Potter music blaring from a speaker at his locker coax a double-take or two from his teammates? Yes and yes. But he was widely regarded as a fun presence that kept things light. His willingness to play through injury when the team needed him -- particularly after Rob Gronkowski underwent season-ending back surgery -- quickly earned him the respect of his new teammates. "I don’t have a word to describe his personality but I can guarantee that every person in that locker room loves Marty," Dont'a Hightower said last season. "The emotion and excitement that he brings in here is definitely much needed on a day-to-day basis because working here isn’t always the easiest thing or comfortable thing. So having guys in the locker room like that to make you smile and kind of get you through the day really helps."

Patriots-Dolphins injury report: Tom Brady sits out with Achilles injury

Patriots-Dolphins injury report: Tom Brady sits out with Achilles injury

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski both sat out of the entirety of Wednesday's practice at Gillette Stadium. 

Brady is dealing with an Achilles injury, per the injury report released by the Patriots. The Boston Herald has reported that Brady will play despite the issue. It's unclear when exactly Brady suffered the injury, but Brady was hit low by Raiders pass-rusher Khalil Mack in the fourth quarter on Sunday, and Mack was called for a roughing-the-passer penalty.

Gronkowski, like teammate David Andrews, is dealing with an illness. Patrick Chung, who left Sunday's game briefly, has an ankle issue. 

Here's the full injury report for both the Patriots and Dolphins . . . 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
C David Andrews (illness)
QB Tom Brady (Achilles)
OT Marcus Cannon (ankle)
S Patrick Chung (ankle)
TE Rob Gronkowski (illness)
WR Chris Hogan (shoulder)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
WR Danny Amendola (knee)
TE Marellus Bennett (shoulder/hamstring)
DT Malcom Brown (ankle)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)
WR Matthew Slater (hamstring)

MIAMI DOLPHINS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
LB Stephone Anthony (quadriceps)
G Jermon Bushrod (foot)
QB Jay Cutler (concussion)
DE William Hayes (back)
T Laremy Tunsill (illness)

FULL PARTICIPATION
RB Senorise Perry (knee)
S Michael Thomas (knee)

 

Curran: Randy Moss better not have to wait for Hall call

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Curran: Randy Moss better not have to wait for Hall call

If you’re a Hall of Famer, you’re a Hall of Famer. The notion that a great player’s candidacy has to have some kind of gestation period before it can be deemed induction-worthy is just plain cruel.

And if you think “cruel” is an overstatement, consider Ken Stabler. Three times a Hall of Fame finalist, Snake had to croak before Pro Football Hall of Fame voters decided it was time to put him in Canton.

There are borderline guys whose candidacies need to marinate. There are players whose contributions to an era take on greater meaning as time passes. You could make the case Stabler was one of those.

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You could also make the case that too many HOF voters in each of the major sports get caught up in a “guardian at the gate” mentality, puffing out birdlike chests until they align with swollen stomachs and declaring an athlete’s not getting inducted on HIS watch.

Or until said athlete’s served time in purgatory and either begs for induction or says, “F--- it, I don’t care if I get in at this point anyway.

Which brings me to Terrell Owens and how his HOF candidacy will impact Randy Moss.

Moss was a better player than T.O. Historic. The second he entered the league in 1998, he was probably one of the five best players in the league at any position. Owens took a while. He didn’t make a Pro Bowl until his fifth NFL season.

Moss was a technician and a savant. Owens just wrestled the game to the ground with brute force.

When measuring what a player “means” to the NFL and its fans, a reasonable Moss comp is Allen Iverson. They were iconic. Owens? Dwight Howard. Where T.O. felt needy, desperate and narcissistic. Moss just didn’t GAF.

And that’s where some voters start to rub their hands together and scheme.

How can we exact revenge for perceived crimes against football and propriety? Make 'em sweat. Use incidents, moments and comments as cudgels and pound penance out of them.

Even though Moss was better than T.O., that doesn’t mean Owens is borderline. Owens is second in all-time yards (Moss is third), eighth in receptions (Moss is 15th), third in touchdowns (Moss is second) and was a five-time All-Pro (Moss was a four-time All-Pro).

The only justification for voters keeping T.O. out the past two years was that he was a prick.

Few – if any - of his ex-teammates say that he should be kept out of the HOF for that. But scores of people in the media, ex-players and league lobbyists do think he should be kept out. At least until he learns his lesson, or whatever.

Owens’ narcissism chewed at the fabric of franchises he was a part of, is the contention. That’s why he played for five teams. That’s why he only played in one Super Bowl. That’s why tears weren’t shed when he signed someplace else.

Moss also played for five teams. He also played in just one Super Bowl (like Owens, Moss’ ’07 Patriots lost though Moss – like Owens – did his part to win). And tears weren’t shed too often when Moss left either.

Check this Tom Brady quote from September 2010. It came just days before Moss began shooting his way out of New England because he was unhappy the team wouldn’t extend his deal.

"There's only one Randy Moss that will ever play this game," Brady said. "He's the greatest, probably, downfield receiver in the history of the NFL. Those catches that he makes, where you guys see he runs 65 yards down the field, you throw it and he just runs and catches it. That's impossible to do.And I ask him, 'How did you do that?' And he says, 'I don't know, man. I've been doing it for a long time.' He has some special skills that nobody's really gifted with." 

That weekend, Moss gave his “This probably will be my last year here as a Patriot…” press conference after a season-opening win over the Bengals. The next week, he caught two of 10 passes that Brady threw his way in a loss to the Jets. One of the passes was a touchdown pass where he blew past Darrelle Revis and made a one-handed pull. Two of the other passes were picked off and Moss was non-competitive. After that, he was effectively frozen out of the offense and was traded after Week 4, less than a month after Brady accurately described him as the greatest downfield receiver in the history of the NFL.

Stuff like that, nudging a traffic cop for a half-block with his car stating “I’ll play when I want to play…,” fake-mooning the Lambeau Stadium crowd, saying he still smoked weed “once in a blue moon” – all those occasions will be aggregated and used as cudgels used to beat down Moss’ candidacy just as the driveway situps are used to beat down T.O.’s.

Whole bunch of voters will hand-wring about what it all meeeaaaannnnnsssss if they sweep Moss in on the first ballot after keeping T.O. out. And then wonder if T.O. should go in before Moss, after Moss or with him. Meanwhile, they’ll rush to get Ray Lewis in line for his gold jacket with nary a word about disappearing white suits 

The whole “between the lines is all that matters” defense.

Randy Moss belongs in the Hall of Fame. ASAP.