Patriots

Rookie WR Mitchell impresses in return to practice

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Rookie WR Mitchell impresses in return to practice

FOXBORO - A day after missing practice for an undisclosed reason, Patriots rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell was back at it on Day 4 of training camp and made his presence known.

The former University of Georgia standout showed up in 1-on-1 drills near midfield, selling a go route before stopping on a dime to catch a laser from Jimmy Garoppolo. He followed that by snapping off a quick slant against Darryl Roberts, leaving the young cornerback in his wake as Garoppolo delivered another strike.

The group then progressed into the red area and Mitchell was at it again, shaking V’Angelo Bentley along the back line of the end zone for an easy pitch and catch from Tom Brady. A dozen snaps or so later, on his next opportunity, the 6-1, 200 pounder used his body well to shield Roberts and reel in a back shoulder throw from Brady, drawing praise from not just the quarterback, but coaching staff as well. Mitchell added another catch on 7-on-7 before absorbing more mental reps when the Pats did more 11-on-11 team work.

After practice, Mitchell smiled when asked about winning those individual battles.

“It’s all pride,” he said. “It’s man on man. Who’s better? And whoever ends up with the ball, or in their case, if no one ends up with the ball, they won.”

Mitchell is like a lot of players, especially the young ones, burying himself in this complex playbook, one that’s caused so many issues before.

“I haven’t heard that,” he joked.

But Mitchell admitted he’s immersed in the playbook so he can play at the tempo required to have success on this level.

“My mom always said you put as much into something that you want to. It’s only hard if you make it. Learning is just simply looking over information long enough so it becomes habit or instinctive. And that’s all you have to do. Now will that take an hour? Or five? I guess that depends on how well you learn.”

So to be clear, he’s not going home to watch Game of Thrones or read magazines.

“Well Game of Thrones season is actually over. I do love that show, but it ended right before training camp, so lucky me,” Mitchell said 

It being Mitchell’s first camp, and his first pro organization, he doesn’t have much to go on comparatively speaking, but the fourth-round pick (112th overall) is somewhat in awe over how everything he does has been analyzed and dissected, right down to the smallest thing.

“Everything matters. From what you eat, to how you hydrate, to the amount of rest you get, to the amount of time you spend doing plays. There’s not a single thing, the cleats you wear, the way you strap on your pads, to your mouthpiece, there’s not a piece that goes unnoticed. And that by far is the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen thus far in my young life. To see something so detailed and you immediately understand why the Patriots are who they are.”
 

Two years after clutch Super Bowl performance, Malcolm Mitchell retires from football

Two years after clutch Super Bowl performance, Malcolm Mitchell retires from football

The last time Malcolm Mitchell left the site of a game that mattered, he did so nonchalantly. He carried a to-go plate in one hand, a half-eaten wing in the other. 

He'd just caught six passes for 70 yards and helped the Patriots win Super Bowl LI. I spoke to him about how two weeks prior, on the fields behind Gillette Stadium, he hadn't been playing like a guy who would come up with some of the most critical plays in the last game of the season. He'd been dealing with some drops. He admitted they were probably the result of over-thinking his Super Bowl prep. 

Mitchell was thankful, remembering how he flipped the switch, that Tom Brady pulled him aside at the time and told him to focus on one play at a time. Mitchell smiled, strolling through the bowels of NRG Stadium in the direction of the team’s Super Bowl party as one of its most promising young players fresh off a championship.

At that point, who knew how many more big-game performances Mitchell would put together over the course of his career?

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As it turned out, he wouldn’t play in another game outside of a preseason contest in Houston the following summer. Mitchell announced at an event at the University of Georgia this week, more than two years after that clutch performance against the Falcons, that he was retiring from football. 

He followed up his announcement with an instagram post that read in part, “Everything will work out.”

Mitchell’s knees wouldn’t allow him to continue his career after spending a portion of last offseason with the Patriots. Though he’s been gone for almost a full calendar year, his absence is still felt at One Patriot Place. 

The fourth-round pick in 2016 — who fell that far in part because of injury concerns — was the most productive rookie receiver the Patriots had featured since Deion Branch in 2002. Receiver remains among the most glaring needs on the Patriots roster as they work to build around Julian Edelman. 

Mitchell’s football career was short-lived, but his one year in New England — and in particular that one night beating up on Falcons corners — has given him a platform to serve as a literacy advocate. He’s written children’s books and continues to speak about the importance of reading for kids from all walks of life. 

Mitchell may be done with the game for which he’s known, but his retirement announcement certainly won’t be the last we hear from him. 

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Robert Kraft trying to thread the needle with statement/apology

Robert Kraft trying to thread the needle with statement/apology

The septuagenarian speaketh. Or maketh a statement as the case may be.

Which was a good idea.

The stupidity exhibited by Patriots owner Robert Kraft leading to a month all of us gasbagging about multiple ill-fated visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa.

It needed input from the guy who made the decision to go there in the first place. Twice. On consecutive days.

Kraft made it clear in his statement that it wasn’t his choice to dummy up and not own his decisions. He said he wanted to do it a month ago. The lawyers wouldn’t let him.

What’s changed?

A few things.

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First, earlier this week, Florida prosecutors offered a plea deal only a drooling moron would agree to.

“We’ll drop the charges if you tell everyone you’re guilty and you know it, clap your hands…deal?”

Then Kraft let it be known that he wasn’t taking that deal and that he was still maintaining he “hadn’t done anything illegal” (a wise semantic dodge, keeping the word “innocent” out of this mess).

Then, Sheriff Buford T. Pusser 2.0 saber-rattled that video of Robert Kraft’s saber-rattling was inevitably going to get out there and that most folks might not like it.

Then, Kraft’s attorneys returned fire Friday intimating that the full legal fury of a multi-billionaire would visit upon the precinct house if that damn video – part of an investigation they allege was illegal – got out.

And of course, the NFL’s Annual Meeting convenes Sunday in Arizona and the image of Kraft scuttling from elevator to meeting room to limousine without comment for four days while his fellow owners had to answer for him was destined to be some of the worst optics since … well, since whatever’s on that video.

So what to make of the statement? I dunno.

Kraft was trying to threading the needle between apologizing without admitting guilt while saying, “I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a long time but couldn’t…” On that front, it worked.  

Also, without saying the women he interacted with were specifically disrespected by him, he at least acknowledged that transactional sex in general isn’t the highest form of love.

Personally, I loathe that he brought up Myra Kraft in the statement. Regardless how important she was in shaping your morals and respect for women and how deep your love for her continues to be, references to her in a statement regarding? What are we doing?

The last bit expecting to be judged by his words and not his actions and working to regain trust? Good. Fine. ‘Nuf said.

We are a long way from reaching the point of, “Remember when Kraft got pinched at the massage joint …” and having a good nostalgic laugh about it, though.

There’s a court date next Thursday. The ever-present specter of the video being released is dangling. The NFL has to decide how it proceeds with punishment.

There are miles to go before we sleep but at least Kraft’s head can hit the pillow tonight knowing he’s publicly acknowledged … something.

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