Patriots

Good news, Jason McCourty: Proposed NFL onside kick alternative voted down

Good news, Jason McCourty: Proposed NFL onside kick alternative voted down

The NFL's message to teams that struggle to recover onside kicks: tough luck.

NFL owners passed three rule changes for 2020 during a virtual meeting Thursday, and a proposal for an alternative to the current onside kick format wasn't among them.

The proposal -- which would give teams the option after a score to attempt a fourth-and-15 play from their own 25-yard line to maintain possession instead of onside kicking -- came to a vote but ultimately was shot down, per Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer.

Jason McCourty should be pleased with that result; the New England Patriots cornerback said Wednesday he wasn't a fan of the fourth-and-15 option, arguing the rule would "basically (reward) you for being behind."

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The proposal indeed was divisive: Some players and fans agreed with McCourty that the rule made it too easy for an opponent to wipe out a hard-earned lead, while others thought the change could spice up a predictable play: Only eight of 63 (12.7 percent) onside kicks were recovered last season.

As Breer points out, this proposal could resurface in the future. But in 2020, at least, defensive backs like McCourty won't have to worry about making a stop on a gimmick play to protect their team's lead.

Bill Belichick the pitchman? Patriots coach spotted shooting Subway commercial

Bill Belichick the pitchman? Patriots coach spotted shooting Subway commercial

Bill Belichick apparently signed up to speak in front of a camera Tuesday.

The New England Patriots head coach was spotted outside a Subway restaurant in Branford, Conn., on Tuesday, according to several eyewitnesses who posted photos (and one glorious video) of Belichick on Twitter and Instagram.

As those Instagram users suggested, Belichick was in fact shooting a commercial for Subway, the town's selectman confirmed to Zip06.com.

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The Patriots have some downtime before training camp (supposedly) begins later this month, but it's pretty surprising to see the intensely private head coach out in public -- shooting a commercial, no less -- instead of fishing in Nantucket. (Props to Belichick for wearing his mask, though.)

Branford is a just 30-minute drive south of Wesleyan University, so perhaps Belichick paid a trip to his alma mater before or after filming this ad -- which we'll be very eager to see.

Patriots' Gillette Stadium to host 20 percent of fans in best-case scenario

Patriots' Gillette Stadium to host 20 percent of fans in best-case scenario

Cam Newton could make his New England Patriots debut in front of 13,175 fans.

And that's the best-case scenario.

The Patriots announced Tuesday they expect Gillette Stadium to operate at 20 percent capacity for 2020 home games. That's if fans are allowed to attend games at all, which would need approval from state and local governments.

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If fans attend games, they'll be required to wear face coverings "at all times" inside the stadium and stay at least six feet from other parties, per the team.

To aid in physical distancing, the Patriots will distribute tickets in blocks of 10 seats or less and close off the eight rows closest to the field. The team also announced earlier this month that all ticketing will be digital and that parking at the stadium will be free.

Again, this all assumes fans will even be allowed at NFL stadiums -- and that the 2020 season will start on time -- as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the United States.

By announcing an 80 percent reduction in crowd size, though, the Patriots join several teams in at least acknowledging this season will look very different from years past, even under the best-case scenario.