Patriots

Long provides expansive, nuanced answer when asked about anthem protests

Long provides expansive, nuanced answer when asked about anthem protests

Chris Long has been reluctant to speak to reporters about what is happening in stadiums around the NFL, where players are using the playing of the national anthem to make political statements. He knows that sometimes, in the search for soundbites, there may be little context included wherever his words are used. 

But given a few minutes on the Russillo and Kanell Show on ESPN Radio to comment on the topic -- a relevant topic in the Patriots locker room as both Devin McCourty and Martellus Bennett chose to make statements of their own immediately after the playing of the Star Spangled Banner on Sunday night -- Long seized the opportunity. 

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"I’ve had a lot of thoughts about it," Long said. "It’s hard, because you want to talk to the media. You want to say something about it, but as you know with the media, it’s a long conversation, and if you talk about it for two minutes, they might take 10, 15 seconds out of your quote and take you out of context and run with the narrative. But I’ll make it pretty clear: I support my peers in exercising their right to protest.

"This is a wonderful country, and I think everybody agrees on that. There are things that in our country that can improve, and I don’t think that by acknowledging as a white male that America isn’t the same for me maybe as it is for everybody, the same great place, that we’re complicit in the problem or that we’re saying America isn’t a great place. If we’re saying there are incidents of oppression, systematically or individually, in this country, I don’t think saying, ‘Well in Country X, Y or Z it’s 10 times worse,’ is making things any better. I think that may be true, but why can’t we improve?

"I play in a league that’s 70 percent black, and my peers, guys that I come to work with, guys that I respect, who are very socially aware, intellectual guys, if they identify something that they think is worth putting their reputations on the line [for], creating controversy, I’m going to listen to those guys. And I respect the anthem, I would never kneel for it, and we all come from different walks of life, and we think differently about the anthem and the flag and what that means. But I think you can respect and find a lot of truth in what these guys are talking about and not kneel. Those aren’t mutually exclusive ideas.

"It’s been complicated. It’s brought out a lot of 'well, but.' It’s brought out a lot of what we as fans and players think about the anthem, a lot of strong feelings on both sides. But I think we can all agree we love our vets, we love the vast majority of our officers of law enforcement, but they’re human beings too, and there are isolated incidents that need to be better. I think all that guys are saying is, ‘Listen, most people might be great cops, great people that protect our community, but when there are injustices, let’s find justice for those situations.'

"I respect my peers, I respect Colin [Kaepernick]. Colin really put his reputation on the line, and he’s taking a beating. He’s also had support. I don’t think he did it for publicity. I’m just going to listen to my peers, because I respect those guys, and I can’t put myself in their shoes."

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When Long was asked if the Patriots met as a team to discuss how they would address what was happening, he echoed what McCourty said following Sunday's win over the Cardinals: There has been conversation among players around the league about the different ways to act if players felt the need to act.

"We talked," Long said. "A lot of guys in the leage talked about how we were going to address it. I think the depth of the conversation, guys from all walks of life, all ethnicities, shows that guys really are thoughtful about this thing. It's not just, 'Oh, we're going to do X and Y.' And there are a lot of differing opinions about how you want to do it, but at the end of the day, I'm proud of my teammates for standing up for what they believe in. They've articulated that they have the utmost respect for the men and women of our military.

"One of my good friends, Nate Boyer who was a Green Beret, went and stood with Colin and said, 'Hey, I wsh you would feel the same way I do about the flag and about the anthem, and I'll stand with you until you feel like you can stand.' I thought that was powerful. Coming from a guy who certainly could be very upset about Colin's protest, [he] had an open mind. That's the biggest thing. Just have an open mind.

"And we're concerned about the feeling of our vets, but let's treat our vets better on a daily basis. Why aren't we outraged about the lack of benefits that they get, PTSD being a big problem. How do we treat our vets when they come home? We should be outraged about those things on a daily basis. I think when an African American man makes stand on something like that, then we get upset on behalf of those great men and women, I think we need to just think about our patriotism in general as a country."

Next Pats Podcast: How Dalton Keene can transform Patriots offense

Next Pats Podcast: How Dalton Keene can transform Patriots offense

In the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots addressed their need at the tight end position by selecting Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene with back-to-back picks.

Keene, a Virginia Tech product, is a particularly intriguing rookie due to his versatility. Anyone who knows Bill Belichick knows that the Patriots head coach loves a player who can act a swiss army knife and can be effective no matter where you put them on the field, and Keene was exactly that during his college years.

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Brad Cornelson, Keene's offensive coordinator at Virginia Tech, believes Belichick and the Patriots will be pleased with everything the young tight end brings to the table as a player. On the latest Next Pats Podcast with Phil Perry, Cornelson explained how Keene excelled at multiple roles on offense and can translate that experience to the NFL.

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In high school he was a quarterback, I mean he did a little bit of everything so we knew there was some versatility when he came. But I think his natural spot when he showed up was kind of that hybrid guy for us between tight end and kind of back. And so, playing him in the backfield quite a bit in the run game, blocking, kicking out edges, getting on the perimeter, those were the ways we kind of used him initially. Certainly the prototypical guy that you can split out that can line up at slot ... great hands, great concentration, doesn't hardly drop anything ...

The swiss army knife. He can do it all and has done it all for us. It didn't surprise me when I saw the team that drafted him, just the reputation that the Patriots have for really placing such a huge value on tough, smart football players.

Obviously, Keene's primary responsibility to begin his NFL career will be to develop as a tight end. But Perry brings up the interesting scenario of Keene teaming up with Danny Vitale at the fullback position.

I look at the San Francisco 49ers and their usage of [Kyle] Juszczyk, an athletic fullback, and then I look at the two athletic the Patriots have at fullback themselves now in Vitale and Keene, and I wonder if we won't see something similar in New England in 2020. I would say of Vitale and Keene, both very different types of players from James Develin. James Develin was a sledgehammer ... I wouldn't look at Vitale or Keene as someone who's necessarily going to come right away and fill that same type of role ...  I think that these two guys that they have now, they're both a little bit lighter ... I would say both are more explosive athletes and both are probably more dynamic in terms of what they can provide a passing game as receivers themselves.

Also discussed on the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast are how Keene got the nickname "Rambo," how having an athletic fullback could help quarterback Jarrett Stidham, and much more.

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What will new QB coach Jedd Fisch bring to Patriots offense in 2020?

What will new QB coach Jedd Fisch bring to Patriots offense in 2020?

Editor’s note: In the coming weeks our Patriots insiders will be speaking with beat writers from around the NFL to get an outside view on what the future holds for the Patriots. Today’s team: The Los Angeles Rams with Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated.

One under-the-radar personnel move made by the New England Patriots after the 2019 season was the hiring of Jedd Fisch as quarterbacks coach in January.

Fisch spent 2018 and 2019 with the Los Angeles Rams as an assistant offensive coordinator. His experience as an offensive coach dates back to 2004, when he was an offensive assistant with the Baltimore Ravens.

Since then, Fisch has spent time with numerous teams including the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he served as an offensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014. Before joining the Rams, Fisch was an offensive coach at Michigan (2015-16) and UCLA (2017), where he also was named an interim head coach.

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On the latest edition of Patriots Opposing Views, Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated shed some light on what Fisch will bring to the Patriots in 2020.

"Very much a quarterbacks guy," Breer said about Fisch. "I'm sure [Bill] Belichick's connection to him at least to some degree came through Mike Shanahan. Mike Shanahan helped welcome Jedd Fisch into the league, and he's clearly been a part of the development of Jared Goff over the last couple of years, went to a Super Bowl with Jared Goff at the quarterback position. He was a part of that room.

"Everywhere he's been, he's been locked in on the quarterbacks. My feeling is [the Patriots] brought him in for very Jarrett Stidham-specific reasons. His experience, again, is working with young quarterbacks. He was a college coach both at UCLA and at Michigan. And so, I think part of the reason you bring him in is to give Jarrett Stidham one more resource to work with."

Considering Stidham's inexperience at the pro level, it makes sense to give the 2019 fourth-round draft pick every resource possible to help expedite his development. While Fisch may not be a household name, his role is tremendously important to Stidham and the Patriots' success in 2020.

Stidham will have plenty of coaches in his corner as he prepares to take over for Tom Brady. Along with Fisch, Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, and veteran QB Brian Hoyer each will play a major part in getting Stidham ready to lead the Patriots offense in Week 1.