Patriots

Dion Lewis makes his case, helps Patriots running attack vs. Jets

Dion Lewis makes his case, helps Patriots running attack vs. Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Dion Lewis took his time in the Patriots locker room following their closer-than-expected 24-17 win over the Jets. He made sure his sock game was tight and his suit game on point. Lewis brushed his hair, turned to face a gathering crowd around his locker and still fiddled with his top button. For the first time this year, and maybe since 2015, the running back was the focal point of the offense and our attention.
 
“Whenever you get a chance, you have got make plays,” said Lewis. “That’s my job. Whenever my number is called to make plays. I was just happy I was able to go out there, play, move around a little bit and help my team.” 
 
“Dion's so shifty, everybody's at the point of attack when he has the ball,” said his personal escort, fullback James Develin. 

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Lewis played 29 snaps, 11 more than his season-high, which came two Thursdays ago in Tampa. The former University of Pittsburgh standout knew he’d get more run today just based on the game plan but - as always - you never know what happens after a series or two. But Lewis was productive, rushing for 52 yards while also scoring his second touchdown of the year. And after normal lead back Mike Gillislee fumbled in the opening quarter to kill a Patriots drive on the edge of the red zone, it was Lewis and James White who found themselves as the only two backs playing over the next 34 offensive plays. That allowed Lewis to find better footing from start to finish.
 
“I think it’s pretty big, even if you’re not getting the ball, just to be out there, getting used to the game flow,” said Lewis. “That’s pretty big but a series here, a series there, whenever my number is called, I gotta be ready to make a play, show them I’m capable. Whenever I get a chance to do that, I gotta prove it.”
 
Lewis made it clear to me weeks ago that he felt he proved that he was all the way back from the knee injury that derailed his breakout 2015 season and then slowed him for much of the 2016 campaign. But the Pats incorporated him slowly and - at times - sporadically. 
 
“He's incredibly creative,” said Develin. “Everybody's at the point of attack. You have to make your block and sustain it and let the guy do his thing because he's dynamic.” 
 
“I feel I showed them I was ready to go back in July and August,” Lewis told me as he headed for the door. “But hey, I’m just happy we got a win. It’s always exciting to win. And I’m glad I could help.”
 
Lewis has made his case. We’ll see where it goes from here.

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Curran: Brady's waffling is a little wearying

Curran: Brady's waffling is a little wearying

Somebody needs to tug on Tom Brady’s sleeve and let him know that fun’s fun, but he’s drifting into Brett Favre territory now.

Forty-eight hours hadn’t passed since the Oprah Orchard Interview in which Brady said his retirement was coming “sooner rather than later” and there he was on Instagram Tuesday afternoon insinuating in Spanish that he’s back to playing until he’s 45

Given that he’s 40 right now and his contract expires at the end of the 2019 season, 45 seems like later not sooner.

That’s standard fare this offseason.

There was Couch Brady in the Super Bowl aftermath, wondering what he’s doing it for anyway.

We had Robert Kraft in May saying that “as recently as two days ago [Brady)] assured me he’d be willing to play six, seven more years.

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Gotham Chopra, who produced TvT, said in March, “I think this idea that he’s going to play for four or five more seasons -- I mean, this is just me, the guy who has been around him for a while now -- I’d have a hard time envisioning that, to be candid. But we’ll see.”

Last month, Brady said he’s negotiated “two more seasons” with his wife, Gisele Bundchen.

During TvT, he said he was chasing “two more Super Bowls. That can be shorter than five or six years.” 

Brady’s agent, Don Yee, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter "Tom's intentions have not changed. He's consistently said he'll play beyond this contract and into his mid-40s, or until he feels he isn't playing at a championship level. I understand the constant speculation, but this is one point he's been firm about."

I’m not feeling the firm. Nor, it seems, are most people who have grown weary of the ping-ponging expiration dates Brady keeps floating.

I think you have to be either absent-minded or amazingly entitled to say with a straight face that Brady “owes” the Patriots, the fanbase or the media a hard answer on his retirement.

The guy has generated billions of dollars for the franchise. He’s provided 37 games -- more than three seasons -- of postseason football for the fans to revel in. He’s created almost two decades worth of content for us in the media to gravy train off of.

Until this past calendar year, Brady hasn’t outwardly put his family or personal “brand” anywhere near the top of the pedestal where football and the Patriots resided.

Now that he’s done so, some people (read: “morons”) don’t merely consider it jarring, they feel it rises to a betrayal of the bygone Brady, of Simple Tom and The Patriot Way, which was always a naïve concept anyway.

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Fortunately, Brady has a ways to go to match Favre’s Hamlet routine.

The former Packers quarterback started noodling about retirement after the 2005 season. Same thing after 2006. After the 2007 season -- in March of 2008 -- he actually announced his retirement.

Annnnnd by July he’d changed his mind and wanted back in. The Packers, with Aaron Rodgers more than ready to succeed Favre, told Favre to screw. He did. Favre played three more seasons with the Jets and Vikings, then retired. The three-year post-Green Bay wandering hardly seemed worth it and the annual “is he in or is he out?” conversation was a tedious exercise.

By comparison, Brady has years of waffling to go. But he’s definitely come out of the blocks fast with crazy promises of longevity.

Last May, barely 13 months ago, Brady was telling ESPN’s Ian O’Connor that he didn’t see why he shouldn’t keep playing past 45 if he still felt good.

“I’ve always said my mid-40s,” Brady said. "And naturally that means around 45. If I get there and I still feel like I do today, I don't see why I wouldn't want to continue."

And 50? Why not?

"If you said 50, then you can say 60, too, then 70,” Brady said in the same interview. “I think 45 is a pretty good number for right now. I know the effort it takes to be 40. ... My love for the sport will never go away. I don't think at 45 it will go away. At some point, everybody moves on. Some people don't do it on their terms. I feel I want it to be on my terms.”

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That interview was one of a handful Brady did with the aim being to promote the TB12 Method. There was ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the book, the app and the Tom vs. Time docuseries, which began filming last summer. Having won his fifth ring, the time was right to maximize visibility. If that approach ran contrary to Patriots customs, well . . . sorry. What’s the worst that can happen?

How about a poorly-concealed, season-long pissing contest in which Brady was assailed for having changed and the coaching staff was assailed for being restrictive and unreasonable?

Which spawned Contemplative Tom, sitting on his couch during the final installment of TvT pondering what he’s doing it all for. 

I’m not sure Brady really appreciates how big this story -- his ultimate retirement -- truly is. Not just here but to sport in general. He should; he grew up rooting for Joe Montana. He understands Jordan and Tiger and Kobe.

Just before the Super Bowl, he was asked about retiring and he replied, “Why does everyone want me to retire?”

Was he being disingenuous? Or does he not get that his and the Patriots stranglehold on the NFL isn’t like Jordan’s on the NBA. It’s closer to Godzilla’s on Japan, and that every other NFL team and fanbase is counting the seconds until he walks.

That’s why every throat-clearing, every pause, every social media “like” is scrutinized for clues as to which way he’s ultimately leaning.

Maybe he doesn’t care. “Take Nothing Personal” is one of The Four Agreements. But the mixed messages -- over a period of time -- probably don’t help the brand.

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Trio of Patriots talk criminal justice reform in Dorchester

Trio of Patriots talk criminal justice reform in Dorchester

BOSTON -- Devin McCourty didn't want to waste any time. He sat down on stage at the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School in Dorchester and made a quick joke about how the 200 people or so in attendance may not be able to distinguish him from his twin brother, Jason, who sat alongside. Then he launched right into why he was there.

"Our criminal justice system," Devin said, "is broken . . ."

It was the beginning of a long back-and-forth between three high-profile moderators -- the McCourty brothers and Patriots teammate Matthew Slater -- and five candidates for Suffolk County District Attorney. On the table were a multitude of topics focused on criminal justice reform and policy changes that might be made in order to help create a more fair justice system as well as a safer communities.

The event was organized by the Players Coalition, which under the leadership of the likes of Devin McCourty, Malcolm Jenkins, Anquan Boldin, Chris Long and others has tried to steer attention away from polarizing anthem demonstrations and toward making meaningful change for communities that need it.

"If you listen to what players are saying all along, you know, taking a knee was a protest to get people to understand what we were trying to do," McCourty said. "This is what we were trying to do. We're trying to make changes to the community . . . That has been our focus all along."

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Tuesday's back and forth between the trio of Patriots and the DA candidates for Suffolk County was was one of many nationwide Players Coalition "Launching Justice" events taking place during the NFL's offseason.

In early May, Jenkins, Richard Sherman, Doug Baldwin and former Patriots special teamer Johnson Bademosi spoke with DA candidates in Oakland. Jenkins headed up another similar event in Sacramento. Last week, Boldin and Carl Davis met with State's Attorney candidates in Capitol Heights, Maryland. On Wednesday, Long is scheduled to meet with prosecuting attorney candidates in Missouri for a public discussion.

"Us as professional athletes, we feel like we're citizens first," Devin McCourty said. "We're in these communities, we live in these communities, we get to be a part of them. Meeting people, greeting people. We felt like it was our right to worry about equality and how people are being treated in these communities . . .

"Hopefully us being here and what we do on the field brings a lot of people out here to get educated. They're the ones come sept have to come out and vote."

The Players Coalition has been recognized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and 501(c)(4) social welfare organization that is zeroed in on criminal justice, education and economic advancement, and community relations with police.

Democratic Suffolk County DA candidates Evandro Carvalho, Linda Champion, Shannon McAuliffe and Rachael Rollins were all in attendance on Tuesday, as was independent Michael Maloney. Democratic candidate Greg Henning was not present.

The McCourtys and Slater peppered all five with questions about how the next DA might be able to help roll back mass incarcerations as well as improve relations between police and their communities. All three players had notes, questions and statistics prepared, and they offered follow-ups for candidates when a particular response struck a chord.

The discussion got heated at times with attendees speaking out to take candidates to task or to go back and forth with the players. Jason McCourty took his microphone at one point to address the crowd, saying, "We love the passion, but . . . let's just try to be respectful."

Slater said beforehand that his nerves were about on par with what he feels before a game, and afterward he acknowledged that he had to maybe manage his own emotions a bit in part because of the energy coming from the audience. 

"I think that's what it's all about: passion," he told WBUR. "People are people that end up making a difference. I just kept telling myself I'm moderator, stay calm, stay cool and allow this thing to play out."

Devin McCourty was very clear before the discussion began that he was not there to answer questions about the anthem or how players would be handling the anthem moving forward. For him, that's a discussion that can cloud the ultimate goal for him and the rest of the Players Coalition: to bring attention to real issues for people in communities looking for real progress. 

But McCourty has acknowledged in the past that the anthem demonstrations did spark a conversation. That conversation has helped in part to lead to meaningful steps toward change. 

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There is the partnership established between NFL owners and the Players Coalition that resulted in $90 million being dedicated to programs combating social injustice. There are discussions like Tuesday's happening around the country.

"For us as athletes, it's important to see that you have an impact," Jason McCourty said. "People do want to hear your voice. To see different members of the community to come out, and to probably feel like they'll be heard, and maybe we're asking some of the same questions that they have. I think it has been exciting. And it's encouraging to know that you can make a difference and you do have an impact. 

"[It's important] to kind of roll up your sleeves, and continue to dig in, and continue to try to, for us, make strides and improve and do things that we can to help the communities that we play in." 

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