Patriots

Josh Gordon credits huge difference in conditioning since trade to Patriots

Josh Gordon credits huge difference in conditioning since trade to Patriots

FOXBORO -- Josh Gordon hasn't had to be the engine lately. He hasn't had to be the one who makes the Patriots offense go. But he has been productive. He has opened things up for Tom Brady and his teammates when they've needed him.

It wasn't until late in the third quarter last week against the Vikings that he saw his first target, and not-so-coincidentally that's when the Patriots started to pull away.

Over his last two games, he's been used more sparingly than he was in his two games before that: Eight total targets in Weeks 12 and 13 after having 19 combined targets in Weeks 9 and 10. Against the Packers and Titans, he caught 47 percent of those targets. Against the Jets and Vikings, he caught 100 percent of the throws sent his way.

Gordon was asked Thursday what's been clicking for him lately.

"I think just remaining focused and locked in on what I want to get done and how I can contribute with my opportunities to do so," he said. "Really just making sure I capitalize when those times present themselves. Fortunately enough I've been able to catch the targets I've been given."

As the season has gone, Gordon explained, his conditioning has improved immensely. Even though his target share has gone down to make him more efficient in recent weeks, his snap counts remain high. The 48 snaps he played against Minnesota were the fewest he's played since seeing only 18 snaps in back-to-back weeks against the Dolphins and Chiefs.

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"He’s more comfortable," said Dolphins coach Adam Gase, who will see Gordon for the second time this weekend. "He knows the offense better than what he knew at that week. He seems like he’s healthy. I don’t know . . . I’m sure everybody in the NFL is banged up a little bit, but I know he was coming off an injury at that time. He’s a tough guy to defend. He can catch the ball at all levels. He can stretch the field. He can work underneath. He can win in the quick game. He makes some incredible catches. He’s a tough guy to deal with."

And he's tougher to deal with when he can stay on the field. 

There have been times this season when he's had to come out of games because he's sprinted down the sideline and was winded. He was stopped short of a touchdown in Chicago when he ran out of steam on a long catch-and-run. 

If he can finish strong -- as he did against the Vikings -- or stick it out for plays following long incompletions, it allows the Patriots to have one of their best weapons on the field for critical situations.

From his perspective, he's seen improvement as far as his wind goes.

"It's night and day," Gordon said of his conditioning now versus when he arrived to New England.

"Huge difference. [Head strength and conditioning] coach [Moses] Cabrera and the strength staff have been amazing. Patient with me. Helped me out through my injuries. Training staff as well. Bringing me along safe . . . I think I'm as good as I've been."

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That's not standard this time of year. But the Patriots as a team are relatively healthy. They had only two players listed on their injury report Thursday -- Dwayne Allen (knee) and Patrick Chung (shoulder) -- and all 53 players on the active roster have been present for each of the first two practices this week. 

They could use all hands on deck in Miami, where they've had their issues historically, and where the heat could tax their stamina and overall depth on game day. 

Gordon has followed the plan to this point and been one of the team's most productive offensive players despite not spending any time with the Patriots through the offseason, OTAs or camp. Given where he is physically, he seemed confident he can continue on the right track in Miami despite the conditions.  

"It's been awhile, I guess, since we played a hot game," Gordon said. "I think guys need to stay on top of being hydrated going into the weekend and continue to drink and hydrate the day before the day of the game. I think that's the best thing to do. Stay limber, stay loose."

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Patriots' Devin McCourty: It's 'an absolute joke' NFL is changing opt-out deadline

Patriots' Devin McCourty: It's 'an absolute joke' NFL is changing opt-out deadline

Devin McCourty didn’t hold back on a Sunday afternoon video conference with New England media.

The Patriots veteran safety took no questions during a six-minute session, choosing instead to make an impassioned statement about his belief that people need to stay attuned to the equality problems in the United States.

McCourty pledged his support for the cause of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by Louisville police when a shootout began after authorities burst into her home with a “no-knock warrant.”

McCourty also spoke about healthcare inequities, the “digital divide” underprivileged students face because some don’t have access to technology and the internet for remote learning, efforts to reach out and listen to minorities involved in law enforcement and the need for the NFL to have more diversity in coaching and personnel.

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McCourty then took aim at the league for reportedly trying to move up an agreed-upon deadline for players to “opt out” prior to the 2020 season.

A source told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, “Teams are concerned that some players who think they won’t make the team are choosing to opt out and to take the six-figure stipend." While players apparently would owe the money back to the teams if they fail to make the roster in 2021, no team wants to have to chase a former player around next year in an effort to retrieve $150,000 or $350,000.

“Another concern comes from an issue we’ve previously flagged: Some agents, per the source, are using the threat of an opt out as leverage to get their clients new contracts.”

“It’s an absolute joke that the NFL is changing the opt-out period, mainly because they don’t want to continue to see guys opt out,” McCourty said. “I’m sure they’re shocked about how many guys have opted out. But it’s the same thing when we sign the CBA, sometimes some of those things that we think are good, sometimes backfire. You know, we have rookies who are locked in long-term contracts and tagged and tagged. You guys don’t think we would love to change that about the CBA? But we can’t. That’s the point of signing an agreement.

“So I think it’s terrible. I think it’s BS that the league [wants to change] that date.”

So far, eight Patriots have opted out. The latest was tight end Matt LaCosse who reportedly opted out Sunday. Wide receiver Marqise Lee also opted out this weekend.

McCourty seemed to indicate he was still mulling his ultimate decision. Separately, he explained to me that – if he did want to opt out for family reasons at any time – the passing of an opt-out deadline wouldn’t prevent him from doing so.

McCourty encouraged players to understand the power they have right now.

"Monday will be our first day in the building, so to try to act like guys are trying to make a decision about something other than virtual meetings is a joke," he said. "When players understand how much power we have, we've seen things change for us; primarily even with this deal, with the COVID-19 and trying to get everything back. We saw some of that strength. Hopefully we'll see how everything turns out come Wednesday, if it ends up being the deadline.

"I support guys no matter what they decide, but I'm still out here having fun and figuring things out. So we'll see how we go."

The NFL and NFLPA agreed to a host of changes to the CBA to get through the 2020 season but those changes have not been finalized. The opt-out deadline was supposed to be a week after the deal was done. Because of the delay getting it done, the opt-out deadline keeps moving further down the road.

And the concern from some teams seems to be that a player who’s destined for the bubble may see the writing on the wall and opt-out. It’s a cynical concern but it’s also not beyond the realm for a player who was already on the fence about playing and then realizes he’s a longshot.

The other concern according to Florio is players threatening to opt out if they’re not given a new deal. Florio pointed out he hadn’t heard of that happening but he noted, “For plenty of players, a significant bump in compensation could be the difference between opting out and opting in.”

Objectively speaking, players and coaches are the ones taking the personal medical risk. Owners aren’t. For a key player to say, “What will you do to make it worth my while? What’s the additional hazard pay?” is not that absurd.

NFL players don’t often use their leverage. McCourty, it seems, is hoping they start to.

NFL rumors: Patriots place Sony Michel, Mohamed Sanu, Brandon King on PUP list

NFL rumors: Patriots place Sony Michel, Mohamed Sanu, Brandon King on PUP list

The New England Patriots will begin training camp with three players on the physical unable to perform, or PUP, list. 

Patriots wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, running back Sony Michel and special teams standout Brandon King all have been placed on the PUP list, according to ESPN's Field Yates.

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Sanu had offseason ankle surgery in March. He suffered the ankle injury in Week 11 against the Philadelphia Eagles, and it prevented him from playing at a high level for the remainder of the 2019 season. Michel had foot surgery in May. The 2018 first-round pick had a disappointing sophomore season in which he averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. King missed all of the 2019 campaign because of a torn quad. Therefore, it's not too surprising that these players have landed on the PUP list.

In Sanu's case, he's been working pretty hard over the offseason to get back into optimal shape. He's posted several workout videos on Instagram, including some sessions that included newly signed quarterback Cam Newton.