James Harrison on Patriots' culture: 'I didn't have a problem with it’

James Harrison on Patriots' culture: 'I didn't have a problem with it’

As adversaries and former players openly wonder if the football culture in Foxboro is "fun" enough, recently-retired Pittsburgh Steelers legend James Harrison is asking, why does it matter?

In an interview with CBS Sports Network earlier this week, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year reflected on the final stop of his 15-year career, the Patriots, who signed him late in the 2017 regular season after Pittsburgh released him, as insurance for New England as they geared up for their run to Super Bowl LII.

The biggest takeaway from his time with the Patriots?

"Discipline. That’s the big thing," the five-time Pro Bowler said. "They’re not going to ask you to do anything that is outside of what you’re capable of doing. And it’s, you learn the system and you go out there and you play it. And like I said, it's very regimented, so if you’re a guy that’s not used to discipline, you’re not going to like it there."

Harrison said it was even stricter than his years with former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, with whom he won his first Super Bowl in 2006.

"Cowher wasn't as regimented as Bill [Belichick] was," Harrison said. "Like I say, I didn’t have a problem with it. You know, I enjoyed my time there, you know, I thanked them for the opportunity they gave me to continue to play."

Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson has repeatedly mocked the Patriots since his team them in Super Bowl LII, calling them "arrogant" and a "fear-based organization", even telling the Pardon My Take podcast, "I'd much rather have fun and win a Super Bowl than be miserable and win five Super Bowls."

Meanwhile, 49ers defensive end Cassius Marsh, who was released after eight games with the Pats in 2017, says he hated his time in New England and didn't have fun, telling the San Francisco Chronicle, "I confronted [Belichick] about all the things that were going on. I won't get into detail, but it was B.S. things they were doing. It just wasn't a fan."

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Reports: Patriots give FB James Develin a 2-year extension

Reports: Patriots give FB James Develin a 2-year extension

The Patriots and fullback James Develin have agreed to a two-year contract extension worth $3.8 million, according to multiple reports.

Jeff Howe of the Athletic was first to report that a deal was close and Field Yates of ESPN was first with the terms of the deal. 

Devlin, who turns 30 in July, is in the final season of a two-year, $2.45 million deal, made the Pro Bowl last season. The former defensive end at Brown, who has been with the Pats since 2012, has consistently earned high praise from Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.  

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Patriots add depth behind Gronk, who's all in (for now)

Patriots add depth behind Gronk, who's all in (for now)

Previously in the series:

 

THE SITUATION
At least the Patriots know their All-Pro tight end is planning on playing this season. That wasn't always the case. Rob Gronkowski told the world following Super Bowl LII that he would have to think about his future...then he went quiet. Kind of. He was on social media. He met with reporters to promote a Monster Energy Motocross event. He just refused to commit to playing in 2018 until he and his agent met with Bill Belichick just before the draft. At that point, the Patriots, who'd done their due diligence on some of the top tight ends in the draft class, knew they wouldn't have to invest a top-end pick to try to replace their once-in-a-generation player. But they added depth to this position in the offseason, perhaps trying to upgrade their insurance plan for Gronkowski. They signed Troy Niklas (15 games, 11 catches for the Cardinals last season), drafted Ryan Izzo out of Florida State in the seventh round and signed an undrafted tight end-slash-fullback Shane Wimann out of Northern Illinois. Will Tye is back after spending last year on the Patriots practice squad. The two most likely options to see time behind Gronkowski, though, are two players with very different strengths: Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister. 

SPOTS CLAIMED
Gronkowski may have been the subject of trade talks earlier this season, but once he committed in late April, the Patriots committed to him. He's locked in. But he may be the only one. Allen would save the team $5 million on the cap if he were to be released, which isn't out of the realm of possibility given that his role boiled down to that of a blocking tight end by the end of last season. He was used as a run-blocker or in pass protection on about 63 percent of his snaps last season, catching 10 total passes in 538 snaps (including postseason). If the Patriots feel as though they can get similar production from Niklas for a fraction of the cost (about one-fifth of the cost), they may opt to move on from last year's No. 2. Hollister looked like one of the best offensive players on the field when reporters were allowed to watch spring practices. He was fluid in his routes, he caught just about everything thrown his way, and he more than held his own when matched up with safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon. He might not be a true lock, but he might be the next closest thing at this position. 

WHO'S DOING WHAT
The Patriots kept at least three tight ends on the active roster for the entirety of last season. (For a moment in time, they had four when Martellus Bennett returned.) Three seems like a safe number for them to keep once again. If that's the case, it looks like there are six players vying for two spots behind Gronkowski. But we can break down the battles for those two spots even further if the Patriots are looking for two different types of tight ends behind their do-it-all No. 1. If one spot is going to be dedicated to a forceful blocker who can play in short-yardage situations, understand protection schemes and see the occasional target, it feels like Allen and Niklas are jockeying for that one. If the other spot is going to be dedicated to a dependable receiver who has a grasp of the offense's third-down and hurry-up plans, the athleticism to get open and a good connection with Tom Brady, it feels like Hollister and Tye are in the running there. Barring any training camp surprises, Wimann and Izzo seem like potential practice-squad options at the moment.

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