Patriots

NFL rumors: Patriots to meet tight end Jace Sternberger before 2019 draft

NFL rumors: Patriots to meet tight end Jace Sternberger before 2019 draft

The New England Patriots will enter next month's 2019 NFL Draft with tight end being among their top areas of need, and they will get a close look at one of the top players at the position a few weeks before the first round begins.

The Patriots will meet with Texas A&M tight end Jace Sternberger on April 7, per NFL Draft Insider's Jared Tokarz. 

https://twitter.com/NFLDraftInsider/status/1112081146974818306

NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry reported earlier this month the Patriots met or planned to meet with several of the top tight ends in this draft at the NFL Scouting Combine, and that group included Sternberger.

The top three tight ends in the 2019 class are Iowa's T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, plus Alabama's Irv Smith. Hockenson likely will be off the board, and perhaps Fant, too, when the Patriots pick at the end of Round 1 with No. 32 overall. Smith probably would be available, and Sternberger, barring something surprising, almost certainly would be there.

Sternberger tallied 48 receptions for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games for the Aggies last season. Texas A&M had a 6-1 record when he caught a touchdown.

The offseason departures of veterans Rob Gronkowski (retirement) and Dwayne Allen (released) have left the Patriots thin at tight end, so it's expected they'll pursue a few players at this position with their six picks in the first three rounds of the draft. New England currently has 12 picks overall.

Click for a Patriots mock draft roundup>>>

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Tom Brady was surprised by Bill Belichick's 'very kind' gesture after win

Tom Brady was surprised by Bill Belichick's 'very kind' gesture after win

Tom Brady has garnered every accolade under the sun. But even he didn't see this one coming.

After the New England Patriots quarterback passed Peyton Manning into second place on the NFL's all-time passing list in Thursday's win over the New York Giants, head coach Bill Belichick showed Brady some love by giving him the game ball in the locker room.

In an interview Monday on WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show," Brady expressed his appreciation for his coach's gesture.

"I don't remember (the last time I got a game ball)," Brady said. "But that was very nice. That was very kind. That was, I would say, unexpected but certainly appreciated. It's pretty cool."

Belichick probably could give Brady the game ball every week if he wanted to, but the Patriots like to spread praise across the entire roster. A milestone like this provided an exception, though.

"I never imagined playing 20 years in the NFL," Brady added. "Peyton was a guy that I looked up to because he was so spectacular in every way. Brett Favre is the same."

Brady also added two rushing touchdowns Thursday, breaking Doug Flutie's record to become the oldest quarterback in NFL history with multiple rushing TDs in the same game.

Brady said he actually got a text from Flutie, a former Patriot and a "good friend," and responded with a little self-effacing humor.

"I (told him), 'I think they should delineate quarterback sneak touchdowns and actually where you have to run for a touchdown. Because I don't know if you'd classify mine as 'rushing' touchdowns, because there's not much rushing. It's more like sneaking."

Those sneaks add up, though: Brady now has 1,006 career rushing yards, only 628 behind the fleet-of-foot Flutie.

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Belichick: N'Keal Harry good to go mentally, Patriots need to see if he's physically ready

Belichick: N'Keal Harry good to go mentally, Patriots need to see if he's physically ready

N'Keal Harry has had to wait... and wait... and wait to make his NFL debut, but he's getting closer to getting on the field.

The Patriots first-round pick out of Arizona State suffered an injury in their preseason opener back in August that eventually landed him on injured reserve. By NFL rule, Harry had to wait at least six weeks before practicing and at least eight weeks before playing in a game.

That six-week wait is now up, and he's eligible to practice, though the Patriots can wait to get him back on the practice field at any time.

Bill Belichick said in a conference call on Monday that Harry -- who has been in the facility, in meetings, and taking reps with fellow rookie wideouts in the team's "virtual room" -- is mentally ready to go. The question is whether he's physically ready. 

If he is, Belichick said he'll practice.  

"We hope," Belichick said, "he'll be ready to go . . . Physically he needs to be able to show he can go out there and participate competitively at the practice level that we're at. Hopefully that's where he'll be, but we'll make our final evaluations on that before we put him out there."

Before Harry actually practices, the team will have to inform the NFL that he has been "designated to return." That would designate him as one of two players that the Patriots are allowed to bring back off of IR (or the non-football injury list).

Once Harry gets on the practice field, the Patriots will have 21 days to activate him to the active roster or shut him down for the season. The first game he'll be eligible to play will be a Week 9 matchup with the Ravens.

Harry impressed at times in training camp, flashing an ability to make acrobatic contested catches. But after he was injured in Detroit, he missed valuable on-the-field time that inevitably stunted his development to a certain extent.

"I think the fairest thing to do for any young player . . . is we have to get him back on the practice field," Josh McDaniels said. "We have to make smart decisions about when he's ready to do what."

McDaniels explained that it wouldn't be wise to say to Harry, "Do everything. Do it all well. Do it all well under pressure."

Instead, they'll look at his practice reps and figure out what he can handle and what he can't for the time being. 

"There's things that hopefully we can build into and do quicker than others," McDaniels said. "I think the practice field and the results we get on the practice field will tell us what the right time is to use him in different roles."

If Harry is out at practice this week, as the Patriots hope, his performance on the fields behind Gillette Stadium should quickly provide the team with answers on his readiness.

Perry's Patriots Mailbag: Do Pats still believe in N'Keal Harry?>>>

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