Patriots

Ex-Patriot Chris Long rips NFL's new national anthem policy

Ex-Patriot Chris Long rips NFL's new national anthem policy

On Wednesday, the NFL announced a new policy on players protesting during the national anthem.

The new policy permits players to stay in the locker room while the anthem plays, but requires them to stand if they come on to the field.

Former Patriots defensive end Chris Long, now with the Eagles, shared his thoughts on the controversial change via Twitter:

His teammate, Malcolm Jenkins, ripped the new policy on Twitter as well.

Devin and Jason McCourty showed their support for Long and Jenkins' statements by reposting them on their Twitter account:

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Here's how important Steelers game is to Patriots' first-round bye hopes

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Here's how important Steelers game is to Patriots' first-round bye hopes

The New England Patriots enter their Week 15 showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers as the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoff picture, and Sunday's showdown will have a profound impact on whether the Pats earn a first-round bye.

A win for the Patriots on Sunday would raise their chances of clinching a first-round bye to 94 percent, per ESPN Stats and Info. A loss drops the Pats' chances to 63.6 percent. A 30-point swing is pretty emphatic, which shows how important this game is for Tom Brady and Co. Luckily for the Patriots, their quarterback has owned the Steelers throughout his career -- Brady is 8-2 in his career against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

The Patriots, if they can beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh for the second consecutive season, would only need to beat struggling AFC East rivals in the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets at home to close the regular season and secure a first-round bye. A bye in the playoffs and the guarantee of at least one home postseason game is critical for a Patriots team that's 3-4 on the road this year. 

New England controls its own fate for the No. 2 seed, but the margin for error is small. The Patriots' toughest competition for a first-round bye is the Houston Texans, who also have a 9-4 record. The Texans close the regular season at the New York Jets, at the Philadelphia Eagles and home to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Only the Eagles pose any kind of threat, and the defending Super Bowl champs are struggling at 6-7.

A ton is at stake for the Patriots on Sunday, and if past results are any indication, it would be surprising if they didn't make enough plays to earn a much-needed victory. 

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Steelers coach knows Rob Gronkowski still is "dangerous" Patriots weapon

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Steelers coach knows Rob Gronkowski still is "dangerous" Patriots weapon

Rob Gronkowski isn't the same unstoppable force we've seen in previous seasons, but the New England Patriots tight end still is capable of putting his mark on games.

That was evident in Week 14 when the Miami Dolphins had no answer for him. Gronk tallied eight receptions on eight targets for 107 yards and a touchdown in the Patriots' 34-33 loss in Miami on Sunday.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is well aware of Gronkowski's abilities despite some of his struggles this season.

"He’s a dangerous man. He’s Gronk," Tomlin told reporters during a conference call Wednesday. "He’s a vertical matchup. He’s a big-time play-maker. He’s good with the ball in his hands after the catch. He’s a big-time competitor. It is a serious job to work to minimize his impact on the game."

Gronkowski has dominated the Steelers in his career, so there are plenty of reasons for Tomlin to be concerned. The veteran tight end has tallied 39 receptions for 664 yards and eight touchdowns in eight career games against the Steelers.

He was the MVP of last year's matchup when he caught nine passes for 168 yards and a key two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter as the Patriots barely held on for a win in Pittsburgh. 

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