From Comcast SportsNetLAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) -- Brandon Marshall wishes he would have just stayed quiet. So he'll chalk up this spat with Warren Sapp as a learning experience.The Chicago Bears receiver apologized for retaliating with some harsh comments after being called a "retard" -- even though he wasn't backing off what he said."I really meant everything I said, but I think it would have helped (Sapp) more if I would have kept it private," Marshall said Thursday. "I apologize to Warren Sapp for saying that publicly. Like I said, I meant everything I said, but where I'm at in my life, you know, I need to learn from that and keep that privately."Marshall has acknowledged receiving treatment for borderline personality disorder and anger management, and after Sapp called him a "retard" in a radio interview, he didn't hold back.He said in an online video posted Monday that he couldn't discuss finances with Sapp "because he filed for bankruptcy" or marriage "because he filed for divorce." He also said in the video on that he couldn't speak to him about becoming a father some day because "he's not active in his children's life," and he posted on Twitter later that day that Sapp apparently challenged him to a fight.On Thursday, Marshall said he had exchanged emails with Sapp, an NFL Network analyst, before posting the video and that it didn't go well. All that stemmed from an interview with the syndicated "The Dan Patrick Show" in which Sapp ripped today's players in general for not respecting the past and teed off on Marshall in particular for "talking about Shannon Sharpe" for apparently not realizing this: "He's the first 100-catch receiver (tight end) back to back, retard."It appeared he actually confused Shannon Sharpe with his brother Sterling, an NFL Network analyst who had questioned Marshall's effort in the Dolphins' loss to the New York Jets a year ago. Marshall responded at the time, saying the commentators need to stop worrying about stuff they know nothing about.But the spat was just the latest round of drama for a player who just can't seem to avoid it. Marshall came to Chicago with a checkered history and found himself in the headlines when a woman accused him of punching her in the face at a New York City nightclub. His attorney said that was not true, and nothing ever came of the incident.Now, this."Some people say I have the talent to do that job when I'm maybe done, but it will be really tough for me because I know that when it is all said and done, I wasn't perfect," Marshall said. "I didn't play perfect football. You definitely have to criticize and give constructive criticism, but when you criticize guys like you've never made mistakes before, it just puts you in a bad position. I wish there was another way to do it. I know there is another way to do it, but would expect a lot from guys that have played the game before and understand how tough it is mentally and physically week in and week out. So like I said, we definitely need to use our words, whether you are a football player or not, to uplift and not to destroy because our tone is so powerful."
“We’re a blue-collar team…”
Devin McCourty didn’t hesitate when asked about the Patriots’ identity. Moments prior, McCourty and his teammates had just stomped the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City, 33-8, to run their win streak to a half-dozen games. The Pats are tied for the best record in the AFC with the Steelers
“We played at a high level,” said McCourty. “They made some plays, but I thought we executed our game plan and did exactly what we wanted to do today.”
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After surrendering a 100-points per game through the first month (ok, it was only 32), the Pats defense has flexed their muscle during this stretch, allowing 12.5 points per game, which would be the best in the NFL were this a season-long thing. We’re not looking at the same unit even though the personnel is largely the same. If anything, from a talent-level, this defense has less skill than it did when the season started. Their best player, Dont'a Hightower, is out for the year, lost during the first win of this 6-game streak. They’ve also survived three-game absences from $31-million cornerback Stephon Gilmore and their most consistent interior defender, tackle Malcom Brown. Yet the defense keeps showing up, keeps improving and its confidence is growing by leaps and bounds.
“We’re just playing together…we’re kind of figuring that out,” said McCourty. “We’re understanding how we need to prepare, how we need to practice, whether it’s a hard, full-padded practice, whether it’s a walkthrough, we know what we need to do on each of those days and when we do that, we give ourselves a chance. You’re seeing that on Sundays. Everyone running around, everyone knows their job and it’s all about execution.”
“I thought our players gave a great effort tonight,” said Bill Belichick. “We came out and performed well early, throughout the game and played really good situational football.”
The Pats were opportunistic, forcing three turnovers, including one in a huge spot, when Marquis Flowers stripped the ball from wideout Seth Roberts as the Raiders were knocking on the door. It was 14-0 at the time, and Oakland had life. Second-year cornerback Jon Jones battled Roberts, Flowers popped the ball free and safety Pat Chung pounced on it. Instead of milking the clock and heading into halftime up two scores, the Pats turned that fumble into points, driving to midfield before Steven Gostkowski kicked a career-long 62 yarder. That further energized a Pats team that was already surging.
“It’s something we talk about every week,” said McCourty. “We’re playing solid defense, executing the game plan, but changing the game with turnovers - you know, even Duron’s interception was a third down so it was kind of like a punt. The energy that brings - when the offense takes the field after we get a turnover - that’s huge. And then with them driving again in the red area before the half is what we talked about, getting that stop.”
“We had some real critical swings with those turnovers,” admired Tom Brady, a chief beneficiary of those change in possessions.
Earlier this week, I asked McCourty if he got a sense that the team was coming together at the tail end of their stay in Colorado Springs. He smiled and joked initially, but you could sense the veteran safety can see and feel what the rest of the league is now a witness to.
“I hope so. I mean, it’d probably be terrible if I say yeah and then we go on a five-game losing streak. I can see the headline: ‘McCourty was wrong.’ So, no, I think we understand how the season starts to pick up. You know, each game means more. We understand that seven wins (now 8) doesn’t mean anything. We have to continue to get better. So, I think why we end up usually improving is because it’s the understanding of there’s no tomorrow.”
The defense ordered that Code Red after losing to Carolina in Week 4, and since then, they have worked harder, worked longer and cleaned up so many of the issues that ailed them that opening month. It’s a credit to the players, “they won’ the game tonight,” said Belichick, and the coaching staff as well. if you’ve followed this team over the years, you know even now, they’re not satisfied. There are “things to work on” added Belichick and they’ll start that work on the flight home from Mexico City to Foxboro.
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What predictions did Tom E. Curran get right? What predictions did he get wrong? Find out in the preview/review of Sunday's game between the Patriots and Raiders