Patriots

Pats petition Goodell for return of draft choices

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Pats petition Goodell for return of draft choices

Robert Kraft, saying "I pray and desire" that the National Football League restore to the Patriots the draft picks it took away as part of the Deflategate penalty, said he wrote a letter to commissioner Roger Goodell at the end of the season explaining why he feels the picks should be returned.

"I personally wrote a letter to the commissioner responding to his comment that if any new facts came up, he would take them into consideration," Kraft told reporters at the NFL Annual Meeting in Boca Raton, Fla.

"I personally believe that when the league made their decision they did not factor in the Ideal Gas Law. They admitted that publicly. They had a full year of observing Tom Brady play with all the rules of whatever the NFL was and make any judgments there. We have laid it out pretty pretty straight forward, and now it's up to them to decide."

Though Kraft hinted that there still could be a decision coming from the NFL, he chose not to comment much further on how the NFL responded to his letter, or if he's expecting any kind of response. 

When asked if Goodell replied to the letter, Kraft paused for a few seconds before saying, "I'm moving on from that as well."

Kraft insisted that he and the rest of the organization were trying to focus on the 2016 season. He was happy about having the opportunity to give Brady a two-year extension earlier this offseason, and he was excited to have made a trade to acquire tight end Martellus Bennett. 

Knowing that the topic du jour was the first-round pick he lost in this year's draft, the Patriots chairman and CEO did take a moment to relay to fans that he and his team had done all they could to retrieve it.

"We've done everything we can do," he said. "Actually, I want our fans to know that I empathize with the way they feel. There's no one who wants every edge and put this team in the best position we can do to win [more than me]. I just say, you think of the 34 years before we bought the team, and how we just finished 22 years, and we've had the privilege of going to 11 conference championship games. That's one every other year. I think eight teams in this period have never gone to a championship game."  

The NFL docked New England its first-round pick in 2016 and its fourth-round pick in 2017, and also slapped the franchise with a hefty fine, in the Deflategate case. The Patriots, while maintaining their innocence, at first reluctantly accepted the penalties; later, Kraft said he "was wrong" to do so.

Asked if there was any momentum among other league owners to help the Patriots earn their picks back, Kraft chuckled.

"I don't think you'll see any momentum among our peers," he said. "I wish they would because they could be in a similar position, but we have put our best case forward and that's in the league's hands now."

Patriots' Phillip Dorsett remembers former Colts QB Andrew Luck as an 'amazing teammate'

Patriots' Phillip Dorsett remembers former Colts QB Andrew Luck as an 'amazing teammate'

FOXBORO – Phillip Dorsett spent his first two NFL seasons with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis.

He, like the rest of the football-watching world, was left wide-eyed Saturday night when he learned Luck was retiring at 29.

“I was shocked,” said Dorsett, who said he fell asleep watching football then woke up to see the news on social media. “I thought it was a joke. But then I saw it come on the ticker and I said, ‘Wow, it’s serious.’ ”

The reverberations around the league from Luck’s retirement will be felt everywhere from the balance of power in the AFC to the fact that it’s another young player who’s been laid low by the mental and physical toll the game exacts. 

Beyond the timing of the announcement and the talent of the player is the fact that a smart, earnest and admirable person is leaving the game at an age we would all consider too young.

“He was an amazing teammate,” said Dorsett. “Great guy to be around. Always full of joy. Nothing but respect for Andrew. I love him. He’s a good dude. But it is what it is. It’s football. I can’t sit here and say I know what he was going through because nobody does. But I know it’s tough on him, I know he didn’t want to walk away but he had to do what he had to do for himself."

There are unmistakable parallels to be drawn between Luck and Rob Gronkowski. Both talked of the mental fatigue of trying to get their bodies tuned up just to be betrayed by them.

With both men, the conversation about whether or not they’ll stay retired quickly followed. There’s a presumption they’ll change their minds at some point when their bodies feel better.

Maybe they will. But in order for either player to come back, both will have to get to a point where they feel the competition, camaraderie, financial reward and everything else are worth the cost of playing again.

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Demaryius Thomas confident he can produce at a high level: "I still can go"

Demaryius Thomas confident he can produce at a high level: "I still can go"

FOXBORO – Demaryius Thomas and Tom Brady seem to have become fast friends, at least judging by the amount of time they were seen on the sidelines last week talking and laughing during the team’s preseason game with the Panthers.

To hear Thomas talk on Sunday, you can appreciate why Brady might be a fan.

Speaking for the first time since joining the Patriots as a free agent in April, Thomas stressed again and again that Job No. 1 is being someone Brady can trust.  

“Being dependable and consistent,” said Thomas when asked what he needed to provide the quarterback. “Those two things are the biggest things you can do for a quarterback. Being consistent and dependable.”

Which is precisely what Brady is looking for as a revamped fleet of receivers and tight ends keep trying to get up to speed with the Patriots before the opener September 8.

Thomas, who’s coming back from an Achilles tear suffered at the end of 2018, sounded very confident in his ability to play at the same level he always has.

“I still can go,” said Thomas, who took part in his first full practice last Tuesday. “I still can go. Like I said, knock a little rust off and just keep hitting the days.”

So the explosion is there?

“I can feel it,” he said. “I can feel it certain days and certain days I can’t. It’s a thing that I feel when I play and I still got it. I touched it here and there but some days some stuff it bothers (me).

“I don’t think it’s a crazy challenge (to get back to a high level),” he said. “I think it’s a challenge to me to keep going out and doing what I’ve done my whole career. It’s a tougher challenge because here they expect more and it’s a little different than where I’ve been but I’ll be all right.”

The 31-year-old Thomas said he still “getting the hang of” the Patriots offense but said his time with the Houston Texans and former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien last season helped him get a grasp on some of the concepts New England uses.

There’s still a couple of things I have to pick up but so far so good,” he said. “I’m just trying to fit in where I can and ask as many questions as I can.”

Thomas said he consults everyone – from Julian Edelman to the running backs to defensive players – for assistance on the little things that will help him be ready to contribute.

The essence of his job, he said, is “being in the right spot and catching the ball.”

“I still got some work to do but it’s getting better and better, I’m learning a lot,” he said. “Everything (Brady) tells me I’m taking in and same with Coach McDaniels. Everything they tell me I try to take the field.”

The Patriots wide receiver depth chart is a little murky. Edelman is at the top of it but rookie N’Keal Harry has been down for nearly two weeks. Undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers has had an outstanding camp and preseason but still has a ways to go before he’s got full command. Phillip Dorsett is dependable but is more a complementary piece. And Josh Gordon just took part in his first full practice Sunday.

Thomas appreciates what Brady needs and also the work the quarterback puts in.  Asked what surprised him about Brady, Thomas said, “Just being able to be around him and learn the game. Sit beside him and see him go through the things he does before practice and see him be able to do it at the age he is. He’s still got zip on the ball and still the best in the game at what he does.”

As for being in New England, Thomas said, “It’s different. The way they go about it, I see why they win so much. Everybody do their job. Nobody try to do too much.”

If Thomas can do the two things he mentioned – be in the right spot and catch the ball – that will be plenty for Brady.

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