Patriots

Ex-Patriot Easley still hasn't latched on anywhere

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Ex-Patriot Easley still hasn't latched on anywhere

The release of Dominique Easley last month was a shock and it was followed quickly by predictions Easley wouldn’t be without a team for long.

It’s been close to a month, though, and Easley still hasn’t latched on anywhere else. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported Easley did have recent a visit with the Bengals but the lack of serious interest even now, more than 10 days since the NFL Draft is surprising.

A first-round pick in 2014, Easley’s injury issues with the Patriots were part of the reason he was released. But he also had a temperamental streak and wanted to do things – practice, rehab, train – the way he wanted to do them.

In short, I heard from more than one source that he was a pain in the ass and wasn’t going to be a great locker-room influence going forward. But I also heard from sources that loved Easley’s on-field energy and playing style. There’s no debate about his ability. When healthy.

Would the Patriots have tolerated Easley longer if he wasn’t so injury prone? Maybe. Probably. And he probably would have been more with the program if he wasn’t away from the program due to injury.

But now that he’s unattached Easley has a few things against him in the short-term. First, teams just came through the draft. They added players there. They’ve been adding since March and the outset of free agency. Rosters are full to bursting.

Second, every team with real interest is going to give a hard look at Easley’s medical reports and will be evaluating not just where he is with his quad injury but how well his body is going to hold up going forward. Team medical staffs have their reps on the line with those reviews. Pass a guy who breaks down and a little confidence erodes. The best Easley can probably hope for will be a year-to-year, incentive-laden deal. Lastly, teams are going to have to decide if a player who got shown the gate by the Patriots have a strong enough locker room to bring in Easley and not be impacted if he’s remains a bit of a renegade.

Honestly, you know which team would be a perfect fit for Easley? A team with a strong room, demanding coaches and one that every player in the NFL knows can be a place where careers go to be revitalized of die?

New England. Whether the bridge was burned or not, I don’t know. But the bridge is most certainly “out” until further notice.

'What it's all about': McCourty twins donate to local Pop Warner team in need ahead of national championship

'What it's all about': McCourty twins donate to local Pop Warner team in need ahead of national championship

FOXBORO -- Devin McCourty and Jason McCourty get a number of requests throughout the course of a given year. They can't act on all of them, but one popped up on their shared Twitter account recently that caught their attention.

The Lawrence 10U Pop Warner team was on the verge of something special, but they needed a hand. They were one game away from having a chance to go to Orlando to compete for the Pop Warner national championship, but they were looking for help with funding.

"I looked into it and saw before the season they almost lost the team, I guess," Devin said. "They didn't have enough money. So they raised money for the team. If they lost [before going to Orlando], they were just going to put the money back into the organization. So we both sent checks to them figuring if they win, they go. If not, it'll help them going into next year. They won."

According to Bill Burt of The Eagle-Tribune, the McCourty's sent $5,000 apiece that would help the team cover expenses to go to Orlando.

"I was going back and forth with them on Twitter, and they offered to help," coach Ryan Mustapha told the Eagle-Tribune. "I was in shock . . . They loved our story, that we're a [urban] team in a struggling city. This really, really helps us going forward."

Devin McCourty, now in his 10th NFL season, has made a point to be involved in the community in a number of ways since his rookie season. Since Jason arrived to the team in the spring of 2018, he's been all-in on a number of local causes alongside his twin.

Their Tackle Sickle Cell campaign works to raise money, awareness and increase blood donations to fight against sickle cell disease. They helped head up the Social Justice Fund, established by Patriots players, which helped raise $450,000 in grants that went to five different organizations doing work in the areas of social justice and equality. The McCourtys were also very vocal in their support for the Student Opportunity Act, an overhaul of the state's funding formula for public education that was approved last month and promises to infuse $1.5 billion into school districts over the next seven years. 

For the McCourtys, their work away from the field has allowed them to become more familiar with a place like Lawrence.

"I thought it was cool. Just from all the stuff we've been doing, hearing about different areas of Massachusetts -- I've been here 10 years but I'm not from Massachusetts," Devin said. "Just hearing of different areas and knowing some of the struggles, the city of Lawrence. For some of these kids, this may be one of the best experiences of their childhood, to be able to go to Disney and compete for a national championship. And it's fitting because it's in Title Town . . .

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"To me, sometimes you hear things, and it just aligns with everything. I remember growing up and wanting to go to Disney and seeing that on TV. Soon as we saw it, we both screen-shotted it because that makes sense to us. I think that's what I've learned since I've been in the league. You gotta just do things that you're passionate about. A lot of requests that people give us are good things, but not everything is something you'd be passionate about."

Finding those passions and diving in head-first, Devin said, is "what it's all about."

"I think it's pretty sad if football only meant the games you played, the recognition you get from playing a sport," he said. "I think especially when you think about it growing up, I wasn't the best player growing up. I only had one offer coming out of high school. There were other guys in my area that were better and then obviously as you go, as you reach further out, kids get better. I think when you get blessed with an opportunity, it's for a reason. I think the reason is to make a difference off the field. 

"As professional athletes, it's sad, but we could say the same things that teachers, parents say to kids and they'll listen more because they'll think what we're saying means more. I think that's a responsibility that's very important. It's something you gotta take seriously. But I think it's also something you have to be proud of to have that opportunity to be a role model to kids who might have a similar background to you. Sometimes worse. You can be an inspiration, give them hope. 

"In a situation like this, you can bless them with funds. They don't care about the money, but they'll remember the memories and the fact that a professional football player took the time to invest in them. I hope means more to them as they get older and realize, 'I am important, I can accomplish things that I might not see people doing right outside my window, but I can accomplish things because there are people out there that care and want to invest in me and see me do good things.' "

The McCourtys played Pop Warner for the Valley Cottage Indians in Nyack, New York. They lost in the state championship as 12-year-olds, Devin told reporters earlier this season. "You don’t forget," he said at the time, "any time you play for a championship and you don’t win it." But the memory of playing on that team -- and competing against fellow future NFL players Ray Rice and Tyvon Branch -- remains a strong one. 

That's part of the reason why the McCourtys wanted to help the Lawrence 10U team. Devin, who tries to inspire Patriots defensive backs immediately before every game with a few words, even recorded a video to be played for the Lawrence players before their first game in Florida. 

"I basically told them to go have fun," he said. "That's what it's about. To have the opportunity to go out there and compete for a championship, but compete for a championship with guys that are your friends, guys you enjoy playing with. 

"So somewhat [like a Patriots pregame speech]. Just not yelling and screaming."

After beating Northbridge, New Jersey, and Proviso Township, Illinois, in the semifinal earlier this week, the Lawrence 10U team will compete for the national title against Palmetto, Florida, on Saturday at 9:30 a.m.

Bill Belichick shares amusing story about Rob Gronkowski after he makes NFL's All-Time team

Bill Belichick shares amusing story about Rob Gronkowski after he makes NFL's All-Time team

The New England Patriots selected Rob Gronkowski in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Little did they know that at the time that he would go on to become arguably the greatest tight end ever.

Over the course of his nine-year career with the Patriots, Gronkowski recorded 521 catches for 7,861 yards and a whopping 80 total touchdowns. He established himself as one of the best pass-catchers in the league and for a time, it seemed impossible for opposing defenses to tackle him.

Gronkowski is a shoo-in to be nominated to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was named to the NFL's All-Time team on Friday night. However, despite these honors, it wasn't always certain that he would be a success.

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As Bill Belichick detailed on the All-Time team special, Gronkowski was more of a "shot in the dark" than anything else, especially after a comically bad pre-draft visit.

"Rob was kind of a shot in the dark," Belichick said. "He came up on his pre-draft visit and had a bad visit. We put him in a room. Came back. He was asleep on the floor. He didn't make a very good impression."

Here's a look at Belichick's full story, via the NFL's official Twitter account.

Despite this, Belichick and the Patriots liked Gronkowski's skill set enough to trade up and select him in the second round of the draft. And it's safe to say that the decision paid off, as Gronk helped them to win three Super Bowls.

Gronkowski wasn't the only member of the Patriots to join the NFL's All-Time team on Friday. Offensive lineman John Hannah made the cut as well.

Hannah, a Hall of Famer, played in 183 games (all starts) at the guard position over the course of 13 years with the Patriots. He made seven All-Pro first-teams and nine Pro Bowls during his career.