The thrill is gone


The thrill is gone

By Michael Felger

DALLAS -- I went and stood on the grassy knoll at Dealey Plaza this week.

Suffice it to say, I felt right at home.

Felger,As postseasons go, Ben Roethlisberger is right there with Brady if they win this year. Ben is not a better QB overall, he just isn't. It's just like Jeter isn't better than A-Rod as an overall player. But postseason discussions are a different animal altogether. If Brady had won in 2006 or 2007, he would have cemented himself in Montana's shoes. Now I think with all the competition in the AFC and Brady's age, there is a less than 50 percent chance he wins a Super Bowl again.Two plays for me speak volumes for Brady: The 2005 pick-6 against the Broncos, and the third-and-4 non-conversion to go to the Super Bowl against the Colts. Ben converted his third-and-4, and Tom didn't.As far as that Super Bowl in 2007 goes, while Brady didn't play well, he was just a part of complete choke that included coaching, offensive-line play, Pierre Woods, and the defense's inability to stop the Giants from driving the field against them, while missing a sack and dropping two interceptions. The Patriots did 100 things wrong in that game and lost by three. It shows you how much more talent that team had than the Giants. That Patriot loss was epic, right up with the '86 Red Sox. The only reason why people don't suffer through it every day is because the Pats had won three already.GeorgeWoburn

I agree with nearly everything you just said, George. And while it's not 100 percent, it's still a record. Let's not make this a habit, shall we?

The only part I disagree with is Brady's odds on winning another Super Bowl. I think it's better than 50-50. I'd be surprised if Brady, Belichick and the young defense fails to pull it together for at least one more title.

Hey, Felger,I saw what you wrote about Mankins, it was spot on. It should not have even come down to the end of his contract, and as you pointed out he is not the only Patriot that has been down this road before. I think he is priority number one this offseason. It doesn't take a genius to see how much he means to the offensive line. It wasn't a coincidence how much better the line got after he returned. The line is the key to the offense. If you can give Brady time to throw, 90 percent of the time he's going to find an open receiver. The line also made BJGE and Woodhead look like studs this year. They had gigantic holes to run though.Next priority is an OLBDE, pretty much anyone that can give them any sort of pass rush. Defensive line is a pretty clear need as well. Although Ty Warren was on IR all year and Mike Wright missed some time, the starting defensive line for the playoff game was Kyle Love, Eric Moore and Vince Wilfork. I'd say that needs help.I would like to see a running back added to the team. I would assume that Taylor is definitely retiring and Morris is close to it, so that leaves them with BJGE, Woodhead and Faulk (if he can return). That's two third-down backs and an average starter. I think the Patriots need to go and get a running back that can handle the majority of the carries on first and second down and be a physical back. Seems like the Patriots want to be more balanced on offense, but how can you be balanced when you don't have a fully dependable back?Thoughts? Do you think they will actually address these needs? Or do the usual and trade their two first-round picks for two firsts and a second in 2012?Ryan

I'd be surpriseddisappointed if they didn't stay in the first round with both of their picks this year. The front office has been pointing to this offseason for a while -- on a few different levels -- and I just get the sense they will execute their plan. Again, I think fans would have a right to be frustrated if they didn't. As for the needs to be filled, I agree it's all about o-line, d-line. It wouldn't devote a high pick to a running back or receiver. If they can upgrade those positions with veteran pickups, great. But build the trenches, particularly on defense, in this draft.

Michael,When Belichick took over the Patriots in 2000, he inherited a Parcells-stocked defense. He brought in his own coordinators, and lucked out bringing in a sixth-rounder named Brady, lucked into snatching up Rodney Harrison and a few others. Yes. He drafted a few good players (Seymour and Samuel), but lightning struck quickly. Before you knew it, they won three Super Bowls. Now another six years have gone by where the teams teases you into thinking they are good, until they lose somewhere in the playoffs. I think that the statute of limitations is over on the first five years of Belichick's tenure. The new precedent has been set. Belichick is Marty Schottenheimer now. I predict there will be no more Super Bowl wins under Belichick. The past six years reflects who Belichick really is. All you people who believe the hype need to change your perspective on just who this head coach is. A great regular-season coach and a mediocre playoff coach.RickWinthrop

Again, I'd be stunned if Belichick doesn't break through at least once more and claim another championship. But as of now, if you're just going by the scoreboard (and what else matters?), the record shows the Pats are 5-5 in their last five postseasons. That's not quite Schottenheimer (5-13 career in the postseason), but it's also not what you're looking for.

Hey, Felger,Do you think the Pats will go after Nnamdi Asomugha and Chad Johnson this offseason?PatrickBourne

No and maybe. In other words, forget Asomugha. That's huge, huge money. The Pats have surprised us before, so I'll never say never. But going after a player like that would truly surprise me.

As for Johnson, I can see it. It'd be on the Pats' terms, and they've usually thrived in those situations (the first seasons with Corey Dillon and Randy Moss, for example). Their problems with those kinds of players have usually come with the second contract. If they can be one-and-done with Johnson, I can see him being a great addition.

Felger,1. The Steelers prove that a so-so QB is all you need as long as you have a defense. Do you realize Belichick has NEVER really developed a good, aggressive defense? Oh, yeah, he's had good players, but never his own. You notice how BB will take chances on offense (fourth-down calls) and on special teams (fake punt vs. Jets), but NEVER seems to take chances on defense? I think Belichick is to defense as Brian Billick is to offense. Supposedly they're geniuses in their respective fields, but it never shows.Please put the heat on Belichick if we see that nothing changes next year defensively. It shouldn't take this long to rebuild, whether it's through the draft or free agency or trades.2. Brady has to stop moping ifwhen things aren't going well. RoethlisbergerManning can be down 21-3 in a playoff game and somehow get it together and pull out the win. Brady? I've told you before, Brady doesn't do comebacks. If his first quarter is lousy, you can count on it that his whole game will be lousy.3. This is a small point, but do ya think Matthew Slater can ever make a special-teams play? Let's try this drill, Matthew. I'll put the ball on the 1-yard line, you race down the field and try to touch it without going in to the end zone with it. Think he can handle that? Oh, and speaking of special teams, how come the other teams always successfully onside kick against us, but we can't do the same?Peter

Point by point:

1. Disagree on the so-so QB thing. Roethlisberger isn't average. He's a winner and a terrific competitor. He consistently makes the big play when he has to make it in big games. Don't get me wrong, I can't stand the guy. I don't even like his game. But, again, it's the about the scoreboard. He comes through. He just does. The last truly "mediocre" QB to win it all was Brad Johnson with Tampa in 2002. Other than that, they've all been studs. Okay, Eli Manning might not be a "stud," but he's well above average.

2. He certainly hasn't done it in the postseason in a while, that's true. I think coaching plays a role in this, too. Those magical halftime adjustments don't seem to be quite as prevalent recently.

3. I never saw the fascination with this player.

Felger,What do you think of the Pats making a bid for free agent WR Santonio Holmes? The guy makes plays at every level of the field. I know he's had some substance-abuse issues, but that didn't stop the team from signing Stallworth or Moss. They liked the hippie lettuce too!
P.S. Look at the first team All-Pro offensive line. Four of them are first-round picks. Do you think the Pats should draft a guard and tackle with two out of the first three picks? It seems to be a position teams don't miss on too often.
If it's between Holmes and Chad Johnson, I see the Pats definitely going in Johnson's direction. Again, money will be a factor. Holmes is a free agent and you'll have to sign him on his terms. The Pats won't do that with a player with his question marks. Belichick knows Johnson and is comfortable with him -- plus the contract would be in the Pats' favor. That's the guy.

Hey, Felger,What's not to understand about your take on the Welker situation? You want the team to regain their toughness, their discipline, their teamwork, their "soul," without enforcing team rules. Makes perfect sense to me.MarkMillis

Ah, sarcasm. I get it.

Look, I was all for Belichick getting his locker room back. It was an important story this season. But that doesn't mean you treat everyone the same. That doesn't mean you impose that kind of discipline in that kind of game for that kind of infraction. It was way too severe, and it hurt the team. It was also half-hearted, since Welker was allowed to start on special teams but not offense. How incredibly stupid. Wouldn't ''enforcing team rules'' entail him sitting out that punt return as well?

And having him called out on national television was just as bad, in my mind. Welker doesn't deserve that.

Mike,Wes Welker made a funny that was so subtle it took some hunchback Jets staffer nearly a week to "get it'' and then explain it to one of the Jets players, and then explain why they should be offended -- and in the end I didn't get the impression the "joke" really was the fire at the heart of the smoke show the Jets 'D'' put on.The Pats "benched" Welker and then had him apologize for it? Talk about being publicly fed salt-peter. That is so much worse than any haircut, shave, dress code or diet that kook Steinbrenner ever imposed.I keep asking the same question that I used to ask when I thought of Steinbrenner having Mattingly benched for facial hair.How did that help you win the game . . . ?Peace,JakeBoston

If you were here I'd kiss you on the lips, Jake. Exactly right. Didn't the Welker thing reek of a team that felt it didn't need to win every play to beat their opponent that day?

Hey, Felger,Savard takes a cheap shot from Cooke and it seems like the NHL doesn't care. Crosby gets hit in the head and the NHL may need to revisit rule. What's up with that? One player's health and career shouldn't be valued more than another's.JohnWorcester

No question. The Penguins have been particularly shameless. They didn't bat an eye when Cooke deliberately tried to hurt Savard last year, and now they're calling for the league to protect the players? Embarrassing.

Hey, Felger,Phil Kessel picked last. How perfect was that?StephenBoston

As I wrote this week, I'm torn on that one.

Kessel made his own bed. His lack of popularity among his peers is well-deserved. But it was still tough to watch.

Felger,Yes, the All-Star Games are useless, but they really are aimed and made for the kids. That said, as an adult I would take time to watch it if they would have Bird and Magic pick the squads and coach them and see what happens. After all, it's just for entertainment.JuanFitchburg

Good point on the kid thing. You're right.

As for the drafts, I hope the Kessel incident didn't ruin it. It worked. It was better than the game. And I think it'd be a huge hit if the NBA andor NFL did it.

Felger, You DB!So I heard you and Mazz talking about the most-hated players in the NFL, and you sounded shocked that Brady was listed third. Frankly I'm disappointed he wasn't listed higher. Because unlike Vick, Rothlisberger or Favre, the only thing Brady has really done to warrant hate is win. If Brady wasn't as good as he is or has been, would people even care about him? Probably not. An above-average QB with a trophy girlfriendwife and postseason failure doesn't inspire vitriol. Just ask Tony Romo. And I know you want to add "Spygate" to the conversation. But if there were no Super Bowl wins to theoretically discredit, would Spygate even matter? Forget the list. I'm more disappointed with the fact that guys like Ben Roethlisberger and Kobe Bryant get more of a public pass on allegations of sexual assault than Brady does on Spygate. My hate for Bryant is pretty much at mythic levels. I would like to think that having his fingerprints immortalized by the Eagle County, Colorado, authorities would preclude Bryant's hand and footprints from becoming Hollywood tourist attractions at Grauman's Chinese Theater. Unless you want to see if the marks on your neck match those on the sidewalk, I don't really see the value. I'm sure a "Room 35" commemorative furniture collection can't be far away. As much as things like this make no sense to you or me, the sad fact is most of the country would eagerly root for Kobe if he was facing LeBron in the finals because in today's sports media, making LeBron a villain for a perceived abuse of his home town is easier than making Bryant a villian for alledged abuse of women.And the same goes for Rothlisberger. Ben reportedly used hired goons to max protect a bathroom where he allegedly assaulted some college co-ed, but the general public hates him less than Brady? Now we're all being spoon feed this tripe about Ben being at inner peace and happily engaged to someone who he obviously met on I'm sure the diligent Pittsburgh media will expose any more Big Ben sexual slip ups just like they broke the news about him riding his motorcycle without a helmet after giving the windshield of a Chrysler New Yorker a facial. Make no mistake Mike, lists like these aren't about who the public hates, they are about who the media tells them to hate. Based on the way these stories are covered, I bet more people would rather have the Patriots caught with cameras than Kobe and Ben's crimes caught on them. MikeAttleboro
Give the people more credit, Mikey. If the public simply hated those players the media told them to hate -- then how do you explain Favre landing No. 1 on that list? Has anyone, ever, received more fawning coverage from the sports media than that fraud? It took a while, but people finally saw through it. And, trust me, anyone outside the Greg Dickerson NBA ball bag feels the same way about Kobe.

Hey Felger,When the hell is Tanguay's contract over? We've had ENOUGH. Talk about overkill.Paul

Signed up longterm, Paul. But what do you say we take a page from the NFL and lock him out?

Felger's weekly column appears on Mondays. E-mail him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Tom Brady: Achilles injury 'nothing to worry about'


Tom Brady: Achilles injury 'nothing to worry about'

FOXBORO — Within 30 seconds of his Friday press conference beginning, Tom Brady was talking about biscuits. That should tell you how small a deal he considers the Achilles tendon issue that kept him out of Wednesday’s practice. 

Brady practiced for the second straight day Friday, after which he confirmed that he will be good to go Sunday against the Dolphins. 

“I feel great. Ready to go, so I’ll be excited for Sunday and it feels good to get a little extra treatment,” Brady said. “I’m feeling great this time of year. It will be a fun week. Nothing to worry about.”

After that, Brady spoke about the aforementioned Thanksgiving biscuits of which he posted pictures on Instagram. He said they were good. Rob Gronkowski said he wanted some and that there would be “problems” if Brady didn’t bring any in for him. Everyone got a real kick out of it. 

It’s hard to imagine Brady’s status for Sunday having actually been up in the air. He has gone 134 consecutive regular-season games without missing time do to injury. His only absence in that span came in the form of last season’s four-game suspension for Deflategate. 

Friday Bag: By all accounts, Brady is well-heeled


Friday Bag: By all accounts, Brady is well-heeled

I'm going dark meat to start things off. Love all meats here -- other than tofurky, which I'm not positive is a real thing -- but dark meat is the best value on the board. Give me a whole turkey leg (should qualify) and not only am I satiated, but I all of a sudden have something on my plate that few others do. Value! For potatoes, have to go mashed and gravy. My value game plan is already out the window, but I can't go with anything else. This will come back to bite me. Give me the bread stuffing and brussels for my sides. Not even factoring in cost here. When done right, those are my No. 1 and 2. Plenty of cash left. Feeling good. I'll take dinner rolls for the bread because all of those breads listed are just gravy sponges for me. Biscuits aren't $1,500 better than dinner rolls when it comes to absorption. OK. Dessert. Don't have as much cash as I thought, but this is fine. It's fine. I'm not a gotta-have-pumpkin-pie-or-it's-not-Thanksgiving guy. Give me apple and I'm happy. If I do that, I've only got $5,000 left. I'll take banana pudding pie for my final selection and use the leftover $500 for a scoop of Brigham's vanilla ice cream for my apple slice. 

Why yes, Jim. There’s my karaoke go-to “Brandy” by Looking Glass.  I also can do a nice rendition of Iggy Pop’s “Candy”, “4th of July Asbury Park (aka, Sandy)” by Bruce Springsteen, “Handy Man” by James Taylor, “Some Kind of Wonderful” by Grand Funk Railroad, “Laid” by James, “Bluer than Blue” by Michael Johnson, “J’aurais Toujours Faim De Toi” by The Police and James McMurtry’s “Choctaw Bingo,” which is the greatest song in American music. IMHO!

If the canned stuff is in front of me, I'm eating it. Not necessarily seeking it out, but I'll never scoff at it. No place for elitism at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Yes, Dave. Sometimes I just look at the Twitter question and think, “Hmmm. Good question. I don’t think I definitively know the answer to it . . . ” and then just scroll on by. However, in this instance, because of the promise made, I must respond. The answer is: I don’t know. Brady rarely has soft-tissue injuries because that’s everything his training and conditioning is aimed at stopping. I don’t know if this is just soreness or exertion-related or if someone stepped on the thing. Honestly, you’d prefer the latter because then it’s a trauma that would be healing as opposed to the thing being stretched like a banjo string. Either way, it was related to me that it’s not a big deal.

Not a huge concern, Rich. He was back at practice Thursday. Something to keep an eye on moving forward, but nothing to lose sleep over at this point. 

Happy Thanksgiving, Giant Wally. Neither has started practicing so it’s tough to handicap. Mitchell, to me, would be the safer choice if it were one or the other. Danny Amendola’s been brilliant but he’s got a ton on his plate and needs his workload trimmed. Mitchell could help with that (even if they don’t necessarily play the same spot in the offense). And Giardi? It’s eight years this month that he and I have worked together. Long road for two guys who worked at rival weeklies back in 1992 and 1993 (Barnstable Patriots for me; Falmouth Enterprise for him). Love having him on our team. Nobody does the hockey, baseball, football combo better nor does anyone else get in the trenches in locker rooms and press conferences and formulate fact-based opinions and analysis like he does. Big value in talking to players and coaches directly then passing it on to the audience.

If I'm the Patriots, I'd hold out hope that Mitchell can get to the point where he's healthy enough to contribute. He's on the right track, but he's still not practicing so we're in a holding pattern at the moment. The reason I'd go Mitchell over Valentine is that the Patriots are relatively thin at wideout. We're expecting Chris Hogan to come back and be himself eventually, but it looks like he's going to miss another game this weekend. Another injury to that spot and things would look dire there. Though the Patriots run defense could use the kind of boost that Valentine would provide, the Patriots can make up for deficiencies at defensive tackle a little bit easier. 

Absolutely, JT. The simple fact that the Patriots are 10 games into what will be a 17-to-19-game season means that the likelihood someone gets compromised physically is still pretty high. His relevance as a bigger back is presumably coming along with the cold and the wind. The Patriots have been screwing with bad coverage linebackers the past two weeks with Denver and Oakland and every other back is a better pass-catcher than Gillislee. I don’t think he’s been exiled. 

It's probably between Waddle and Jonathan Jones. Waddle has been tremendous in Marcus Cannon's absence, and Jones may have an argument as the team's most consistent corner from Week 1 until now. That says a lot about how Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore have played this year, but Jones' coverage has been sound, and his timing to contest passes has been impeccable. Kyle Van Noy deserves an honorable mention here as well. He's taken on the hybrid end/linebacker role with Dont'a Hightower out and more than held his own. Danny Amendola's volume of production would've been deemed a surprise, but with Julian Edelman out, not sure he qualifies. Always had the skill and trust from Tom Brady to do what he's doing. Just needed good health and opportunity. 

I'm looking on the defensive side. I'm looking at the front-seven in particular. I'm inclined to add to the edge with someone like Khalil Mack, Von Miller or Cameron Jordan -- all of whom are dynamic pass-rushers but would also excel against the run in Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. They need bodies there. But Aaron Donald -- who plays on the interior -- is just so talented that I wouldn't be able to pass him up. He'd rush the passer. He'd help their run defense. And he'd garner enough attention that it would make the others around him better. That's my choice. 

Just don’t call me late for DINNER!!!! Know what I mean Bob-O, Bobby, Bob-a-loo!!!!!!????? Happy Thanksgiving errrrryone.