Patriots

Belichick calls Vinatieri 'Snow Bowl' kick the greatest he's ever seen

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Belichick calls Vinatieri 'Snow Bowl' kick the greatest he's ever seen

Any surprise that Bill Belichick would have fond memories of Adam Vinatieri's 45-yard "Snow Bowl" kick to tie the Divisional Playoff between the Patriots and Raiders during the 2001 season? It only helped spark one of the most successful dynasties in the history of professional sports. 

In a conference call with Colts reporters, Belichick was asked about Vinatieri -- who is 45 and now in his 13th year with the Colts -- and that kick in particular.

“I would say it was by far the greatest kick I have ever seen," Belichick said. "The conditions were very difficult. There were probably three to four inches of snow on the ground. It was a soft snow that kind of didn’t go away. I mean, there was no way to get around it. The magnitude of the kick was significant. It’s got to be the greatest kick of all time, certainly that I’ve seen."

Belichick has spent over four decades in the NFL. He's seen great kicks. He saw Vinatieri make a kick later that season to win a Super Bowl. Vinatieri made fourth-quarter kicks in all three Super Bowls he won with the Patriots in the early oughts. 

Vinatieri passed Morten Anderson last weekend for most made field goals in NFL history, but still none have been more memorable than that one in the snow in the winter of 2002.  And Belichick -- who was on the Patriots coaching staff in 1996, Vinatieri's rookie year, then named Patriots head coach after three years with the Jets -- has no problem singling it out. 

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"Adam is a great player," Belichick said. "He was a great player here and has been a great player for the Colts, great person. He works hard. He certainly doesn’t fit the classic profile for a kicker. He is more of a football player. He’s physically and mentally tough. When he was here, he trained and worked out with all the players. There was no special program for him as a kicker or anything like that. He embraced that. He had a great relationship with his teammates because of the way he worked, how competitive and mentally and physically tough he was and how he was willing to help out in other areas of the team – scout team and things like that. Whatever the team needed he was always great about that. 

"He was a clutch, dependable player in his role. So, you can’t ask for much more than that. He has had a fabulous career. Certainly, in my opinion, the greatest kicker in the game. Not just for his longevity and production but again, the magnitude of some of the kicks that he made and the difficulty – particularly the one that you mentioned. But there were many besides that – the kick in the Super Bowl and the kick in the Carolina Super Bowl. 

"So, I mean there were just big games after big games that we couldn’t – back in 2001, it seemed like every game came down to the last possession or the last kick. Every point was critical. Those games we won in 2001 and 2003 – especially in the early part of the year in 2003 – were all close games and tough ones. Adam came through for us with some enormous kicks. 

"Congratulations to him and to the great career that he has and honestly it doesn’t seem like there is much sign of him slowing down. The ball continues to go right in the middle of the uprights. It never curves. It doesn’t hook. It just goes straight down the middle. So he just has an unbelievable level of consistency."

Vinatieri has made eight of nine field goals this year, with his only miss coming from beyond 50 yards, and he's hit all eight of his extra points. 

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Benjamin Watson: 'I do think there's a much more acceptance now of players speaking out'

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Benjamin Watson: 'I do think there's a much more acceptance now of players speaking out'

The death of George Floyd last week in Minneapolis has sparked protests throughout the United States as people have gathered to raise awareness and call for change in the fight against racial injustice.

Many athletes across different sports have been leaders in that movement, including a few right here in Boston.

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown drove 15 hours from Boston to Atlanta to engage in peaceful protests last weekend. Celtics centers Enes Kanter and Vincent Poirier, as well as guard Marcus Smart, participated in peaceful protests in Boston on Sunday.

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NBA players aren't alone, though. The 2020 NFL season isn't scheduled to start until September, but many of the league's players have not been shy about speaking out or taking part in peaceful protests in recent days.

NFL players also haven't been afraid to protest racial injustice before games, including former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem during the 2016 season. Several other players have done the same since Kaepernick.

Former Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson joined the latest episode of the "Patriots Talk Podcast" with Tom E. Curran to discuss a number of topics related to the events that have unfolded throughout the nation over the last week or so.

Does Watson think NFL players will be more willing to and unified in protesting when the season begins, and will the league, its fans and the owners be more receptive to understanding those protests if they happen?

"Yes, yes, and yes," Watson said. "I think we are on a continuum of awareness, we're on a continuum of involvement of many people in different phases and spheres of life who are getting on board with this. Some people may not even agree that it's an issue, but they say, 'You know what, everyone else is doing it and I don't want to be left out.' And so they get involved, maybe disingenuously, but then over time they realize the truth of the matter. And that's great as well, even if they get in on false pretenses. At some point if they realize it, then I think the goal has been accomplished. I do think there's a much more acceptance now of players speaking out about these things."

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Watson also thinks the Patriots have done well to allow their players to speak out and make an impact on important matters away from the football field.

"And I'll say this, I was talking to someone the other day with the team, and I was telling him just that the Patriots, I believe, have done a good job in allowing their players to get involved with issues outside of the game," Watson said. "They've provided a space. There was a bill about education that came up last year, here in Massachusetts. A number of players got on board, speaking about it and talking about it. They had support from Mr. Kraft. They had support from coach Belichick to go and do those things. Support from the PR department. Other teams aren't like that, so there are varying degrees of which the organization will support and understand.

"I think the biggest thing here in Boston that I've seen is the reaction, especially of fans, when players are kneeling -- everybody can get behind education, but when it comes to police brutality and racism and those sorts of things, it gets a little touchy. I do think that there will be more of an acceptance -- there will be more involvement from other players. We've seen an outcry from players, black, white, it didn't matter, when it came to George Floyd. I've had multiple players reach out, 'I don't understand these things, give me some resources so I can read about what's been going on that I'm just not privy to.' I think there's definitely going to be a greater awareness and a greater togetherness with at least in identifying the issue. ..."

You can check Watson's full conversation with Curran in the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or on YouTube.

Kraft family issues statement on George Floyd's death: 'We are horrified by the acts of racism we've witnessed'

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Kraft family issues statement on George Floyd's death: 'We are horrified by the acts of racism we've witnessed'

The New England Patriots reacted Tuesday night to the death of George Floyd by releasing a statement from the Kraft family.

Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody last week, which has led to protests over racial injustice throughout the United States over the last several days. 

Here is the Kraft family statement in full:

"Over the last several days, we have tried to listen, learn and reflect. We have been at a loss for the appropriate words, perhaps because there are none to adequately describe the horrific incidents of the last few weeks. It is impossible for us to comprehend what happened to George Floyd or the pain his family must be feeling, a pain that resonates with so many others who have lost loved ones in similar brutalities that were not captured on video for the rest of the world to see. We cannot begin to understand the frustration and fear members of our black community have faced for generations. Recent events have shined a light on a topic that demands much more attention.

"Our country deeply needs healing. We don't have the answers, but we do know that we want to be a part of the change. As leaders in the New England community, we must speak up. Here is where our family, and our organization, stands:

"We are horrified by the acts of racism we've witnessed. We are heartbroken for the families who have lost loved ones, and we are devastated for our communities of color, who are sad, who are exhausted, who are suffering. We know that none of the sadness, exhaustion or suffering is new. We know it is systemic. Our eyes, ears and hearts are open.

"Our family has a long history of supporting vulnerable people in our communities and advocating for equality. But past efforts don't mean anything until we all stand on equal footing in America, so we must act in the present, and not simply rely on what we've done in the past. There remains much work to be done. We will not rest on statements, because words without actions are void. Rather, we will work harder than ever before – through our philanthropy, community engagement, advocacy and supporting the work of our players – to build bridges, to promote equality, to stand up for what's right and to value ALL people."