Patriots

Next Pats Podcast: Tony Romo on Brady, Belichick and Gronkowski; Early Patriots roster projections

Next Pats Podcast: Tony Romo on Brady, Belichick and Gronkowski; Early Patriots roster projections

Tony Romo attended the Northeast Amateur Invitational at the Wannamoisett Country Club in Rhode Island and took the time to answer a handful of questions from reporters.

2:02 — Phil Perry asks him about Rob Gronkowski's potential return.

5:58 — How will Tom Brady deal with a depleted offense?

9:07 — How much longer Bill Belichick might continue coaching?

14:37 — Phil also caught up with Patriots cornerback Duke Dawson, who despite missing the entirety of his rookie year, could end up being a key piece of New England's secondary.

23:46 — Phil goes through his 53-man roster projection, starting with the defense and the handful of new additions there.

29:11 — Phil gets into the offense Brady will be working with.

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Great Patriots Debate: Who was the toughest quarterback: Brady, Bledsoe or Grogan?

Great Patriots Debate: Who was the toughest quarterback: Brady, Bledsoe or Grogan?

It's not a position that usually lends itself to the goriest of war stories. The quarterback spot — especially nowadays when it's protected by the rulebook better than ever before — isn't the first that springs to mind when the topic is toughness.

But the Patriots have had their share of resilient passers over the years, commanding the respect of teammates and fans alike for their ability to play on. Three in particular have to be mentioned in today's Great Patriots Debate.

Who, in your opinion, was the toughest quarterback in franchise history: Tom Brady, Drew Bledsoe or Steve Grogan? 

Brady has played through all manner of bumps and bruises and things more severe during his two decades behind center. His shoulders have been battered. Back in 2002, he separated his shoulder, played through and exacerbated the issue in the season finale. He hurt his left shoulder in 2011 but played on, ultimately losing the Super Bowl. He hurt that shoulder again in 2017 — something that's helped keep him on the field because he does well to fall on his non-throwing arm when he can — but didn't miss a beat. 

Brady played through an ankle issue late in the 2015 season and suffered a significant ankle injury during his run to a Super Bowl in 2014. Brady's hand swelled up like a balloon in 2013, and perhaps his most publicized injury — a gruesome cut on his hand he suffered in practice late in 2017 — didn't keep him out. 

Brady's predecessor, meanwhile, certainly has a case as the tough man of the group. He played with pins in his throwing hand in 1998 and came back for a series after a hit from Mo Lewis rattled him so badly that his abdomen was filling with blood. 

“Drew could have died,” Dr. Thomas Gill told Sports Illustrated in 2016. “He ended up having about three liters of blood in his chest. He had torn one of the blood vessels behind his rib that was then pumping blood into his chest. They got a CAT scan of his belly, and you can see the bottom of the lung fields and they could see that was filled with fluid. 

"So then they extended the study up the chest and saw what the problem was. They were able to drain the blood out and immediately once that happened, he started feeling better, his breathing was under control, his blood pressure stabilized. But it was really dicey. I don't even think Drew knows how serious it was. But he really could have died.”

Then there's Grogan, who was so tough that he inspired something the Globe's Nick Cafardo called "GTM -- the Grogan Toughness Meter." 

"You won't find too many QBs past or present any tougher than old No. 14 Steve Grogan," Cafardo wrote in 2003, "who played 16 years for the Patriots with neck injuries, broken bones, and myriad pulls and strains. He was the ultimate spit-on-it-and-go-back-out-there football player. John Hannah calls him the toughest guy he ever played with."

Cafardo was writing at the time about Brady's toughness. The young quarterback's elbow "was swollen the size of a grapefruit" after a game against the Eagles, but there was no doubt Brady would continue to play.

"To explain GTM a little better," Cafardo continued, "here's a partial list of Grogan's ailments: five knee surgeries; screws in his leg after the tip of his fibula snapped; a cracked fibula that snapped when he tried to practice; two ruptured disks in his neck, which he played with for 1 1/2 seasons; a broken left hand (he simply handed off with his right hand); two separated shoulders on each side; the reattachment of a tendon to his throwing elbow; and three concussions ("I lost parts of my life," he said.)"

"I tried to play like I was a football player and not just a quarterback," Grogan said. "If I had to deliver a blow, I'd deliver a blow. If I had to run and take the hit, I'd take the hit."

Quarterbacks, sure. But one thing that Grogan, Brady and Bledsoe all had in common is that their peers would likely unanimously consider them more than that. They were (and are) football players. And in a game where toughness is a commodity valued as highly as any other, there aren't many compliments higher than that.

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NFL odds: Updated spread, betting total for Patriots vs. Steelers Week 1 game

NFL odds: Updated spread, betting total for Patriots vs. Steelers Week 1 game

New England Patriots training camp starts next week at Gillette Stadium, but the defending Super Bowl champs already are favorites to win their Week 1 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Here's a look at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas' latest spreads and totals for every Week 1 game. The Patriots are 6-point favorites over the Steelers, and the game's total is 51.5 points.

The Patriots have won five of their last six games against the Steelers, including the 2016 AFC Championship Game, and their average margin of victory in those matchups is 12.8 points. Pittsburgh did beat New England at home last season, but the Steelers haven't beaten the Patriots in Foxboro since the 2008 season when Matt Cassel was starting at quarterback in place of an injured Tom Brady. The Steelers have never beaten Tom Brady in Gillette Stadium. 

Vegas clearly isn't high on the Steelers' chances of ending that trend in Week 1, and it's hard to blame the oddsmakers. Pittsburgh lost wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell, arguably the two best players at their respective positions, in the offseason. Pittsburgh's once-feared defense also didn't look great for much of last season as the Steelers missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

The Patriots lost legendary tight end Rob Gronkowski to retirement and a few other notable players in free agency, but Brady is still the quarterback, Bill Belichick is still the head coach and the team's offense was bolstered in the draft with the selections of Arizona State wide receiver N'Keal Harry and Alabama running back Damien Harris.

It's hard to envision the Patriots losing their season opener versus the Steelers, especially when the crowd is fired up after the pre-game ceremony where the Super Bowl LIII banner will be unveiled.

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