Patriots

LA Rams punter Johnny Hekker: 'Humbling' to hear Belichick's famous 'weapon' praise

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LA Rams punter Johnny Hekker: 'Humbling' to hear Belichick's famous 'weapon' praise

Los Angeles Rams punter Johnny Hekker has been the subject of some of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick's heaviest praise over the years. It's gone back years, but really picked up in late November of 2016 prior to the Rams' regular-season visit to Foxborough. 

Lacking in much positive hyperbole to say about Jeff Fisher's mightily-struggling outfit, Belichick unfurled an avalanche of praise for the 6-foot-5, lefty-kicking perennial Pro Bowler, resulting in a transcript that bordered on a length that may as well have rivaled a James Joyce epic:

"Hekker is a tremendous weapon," Belichick said at the time. "This guy looks like as good a player as I’ve ever seen at that position. He’s a tremendous weapon in his ability to punt the ball, punt it inside the 20, directional kick it, involved in fakes, can throw, can run, very athletic."

That colorful characterization continued last week, when Belichick repeatedly called Hekker a "weapon" in his Thursday media availability.

"He's a weapon on the field. He can change field position and he’s a good situational punter and obviously he’s very athletic," Belichick said. "You have to respect his ability to handle the ball. I think the main thing when you sent your punt return team out there is you want to make sure you get the ball at the end of the play. That’s not always that difficult but with these guys it’s pretty challenging. As I said, they’re all weapons. [Greg] Zuerlein’s a weapon, Hekker’s a weapon."

Hekker, a four-time First Team All-Pro, said he's flattered by the compliments when asked during Monday night's Super Bowl LIII Media Night at State Farm Arena.

"Whenever something nice comes out, my mom is for sure gonna text me and say, 'Hey, this person said this nice thing about you.' My family is really proud," Hekker told reporters. "It's a deal where I really, really appreciate his respect and acknowledgement of the position.

"I don't listen to too many Belichick press conferences, but to hear that is pretty humbling for sure."

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Steelers star has the least surprising take on Tom Brady's free agency

Steelers star has the least surprising take on Tom Brady's free agency

Ask anyone associated with the New England Patriots, and they'll tell you Tom Brady should stay put.

Ask any Patriots opponent, and they'll tell you Brady should leave -- and never come back.

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward joined 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Zolak & Bertrand" from Radio Row in Miami on Wednesday and was asked where he thinks Brady may sign in free agency this offseason.

His answer shouldn't surprise you.

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"I hope not with New England anymore," Heyward said. " ... Let the NFC deal with him for a while. That'd be nice. He's terrorized the AFC enough."

Heyward would know. Brady's Patriots trounced his Steelers 33-3 in Week 1 of the 2019 season and have beaten Pittsburgh in six of their last seven meetings, including playoffs.

New England also has reached the Super Bowl in four of the previous six seasons and made the AFC Championship Game in eight of the last nine seasons, annually crushing the postseason dreams of AFC rivals like the Steelers, who won 10 or more games in four straight seasons from 2014 to 2017 but never reached the Super Bowl in that span.

So, you can see why Heyward (and Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu) would appreciate Brady getting out of his hair.

Unfortunately for the AFC, that doesn't look likely: The Patriots are the odds-on favorite to re-sign the 42-year-old QB in free agency, followed by three AFC teams: the Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans.

But Heyward still appreciates Brady's greatness, even if the 20-year veteran doesn't grant his wish.

"I think he understands the game at a different level," Heyward said of Brady. He knows when to hit you with pace. He knows when to make you feel uncomfortable, and he's gonna exploit you."

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Roger Goodell gives latest update on Patriots videotaping investigation

Roger Goodell gives latest update on Patriots videotaping investigation

The NFL's investigation of the New England Patriots remains ongoing.

The league launched an investigation into the Patriots in December after they videotaped the Bengals' sideline during Cincinnati's Week 14 road game against the Browns in Cleveland.

League commissioner Roger Goodell was asked Wednesday at his Super Bowl LIV press conference in Miami for a status on the process and why it's taken so long. Goodell provided a brief update and pushed back on the notion that it's taken too long for the investigation to complete (H/T to ESPN's Mike Reiss for transcribing).

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Question: On the videotaping incident with the Bengals, what is the status of the investigation? When do you expect it to be complete? Why is it taking so long? You have the video, the Patriots admitted wrongdoing, shouldn't it be relatively open and shut?

Goodell: "The answer to that (last) question is 'No.' It shouldn't, because our responsibility is to make sure we're being extremely thorough. We have a responsibility to 31 other clubs, we have a responsibility to partners, we have a responsibility to fans to understand all of what happened, and make sure that something that we don't know happened didn't happen. 

"And so, from our standpoint, we want to make sure we're being thorough. Our team has been on it. We have been focused on this. I think it has not been that lengthy of time. We have obviously put the focus on it, but we're going to get it right. When we come to a conclusion, we'll certainly make sure people are aware of it."

The Patriots issued a statement after the incident occurred that said the video crew was sent to Cleveland to collect footage for a team website series titled "Do Your Job." New England admitted the video crew "inappropriately filmed the field" from its spot in the Cleveland press box.

Part of the footage captured by the video crew was shown exclusively on FOX Sports' NFL pregame show on Dec. 15 before the Patriots beat the Bengals 34-13 to clinch a playoff spot.

There is still no timetable for when the investigation will be completed. Goodell did not provide one Wednesday, so it looks like this matter won't be resolved until some time in the offseason.

Curran: Shanahan addresses the 28-3 collapse, adding Jimmy G