Patriots

Patriots meeting with draft's top tight ends at the NFL Combine

Patriots meeting with draft's top tight ends at the NFL Combine

The New England Patriots have an uncertain future at the tight end position. Rob Gronkowski's future is murky and there have been some rumblings that he might retire. Considering these rumors and his injury history, it's hard to trust him moving forward.

Elsewhere, top backup Dwayne Allen has a $7.3 million cap hit in 2019, so he may need to restructure his contract if he wants to remain in New England.

With those major questions surrounding what has become a critical position in the Patriots offense, it's no surprise that the team is looking into some of the top tight ends at the 2019 NFL Combine.

According to NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry, the team has already met with or plans to meet with Noah Fant, Irv Smith Jr., Jace Sternberger, Kaden Smith, and Isaac Nauta at the combine. It's clear that the team is intent on scouting this tight end class heavily and may be interested in adding one early.

Of the group, Fant and Irv Smith Jr. stand out as potential first- or second-round options. Fant has scored 18 touchdowns over the course of the past two seasons despite playing with another potential first-round tight end prospect, T.J. Hockenson, and has previously been mocked to the Patriots in the first-round by NFL Network's Charley Casserly.

Meanwhile, Smith Jr. had a breakout year at Alabama playing with Tua Tagovailoa, catching 44 passes for 710 yards and seven touchdowns.

The tight ends will work out and do on-field drills on Saturday at the combine, along with the wide receivers and quarterbacks.

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McCourty twins put Drew Brees on blast after Saints QB's protest comments

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USA TODAY Sports

McCourty twins put Drew Brees on blast after Saints QB's protest comments

Drew Brees' first public comments in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis last week have drawn a strong reaction from players across the NFL, including members of the New England Patriots.

The New Orleans Saints quarterback did an interview with Yahoo! Finance that was posted Wednesday, and when asked about players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice in America, Brees made it clear he's not in favor of that gesture.

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“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," Brees told Yahoo!. "Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States. I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corps. Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place. So every time I stand with my hand over my heart looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that’s what I think about. ..."

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 was the first NFL player to protest by kneeling during the national anthem, and many other players have done so since.

The official Twitter account of Patriots defensive backs Devin and Jason McCourty posted a tweet in response to Brees' remarks, calling them "a disgrace."

The McCourty twins weren't the only athletes reacting to Brees' comments on social media. Many others did, too, including two of Brees' wide receiver teammates, Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.

Malcolm Butler gives great insight into Super Bowl XLIX interception

Malcolm Butler gives great insight into Super Bowl XLIX interception

The play never gets old (if you're a New England Patriots fan, anyway).

With 26 seconds remaining in Super Bowl XLIX and the Seahawks threatening to score the go-ahead touchdown, Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler jumped a slant route to intercept Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson at the goal line and clinch an improbable 28-24 win for New England.

 

So, how did Butler anticipate the play so well, and how did he know to make a bee-line toward the ball?

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NBC Sports' Liam McHugh asked Butler on Tuesday night during NBC Sports Network's re-broadcast of Super Bowl XLIX, and the now-Tennessee Titans cornerback admitted he thought Seattle would run the ball just like everyone else.

But Butler also noticed a subtle tell from Wilson.

 

"I learned a long time ago, if the quarterback is throwing the ball, I guess he’s going to favor the receiver or look at him or see what’s going on in the area," Butler told McHugh, "and I just felt like Wilson was just looking a little bit too much. And I think I just caught a little whiff of what he was going to do.

"So I just stared at my receiver and said if my receiver plants on the outside, I’m just going to go and just hope the ball is there. And when he planted, I took off. I just (saw) the ball and the ball was coming so fast I didn’t know how to catch it."

Butler also was uniquely prepared for the moment: The Patriots' scout team had run a similar passing play in practice leading up to Super Bowl week and actually beat Butler for a touchdown.

The undrafted rookie wouldn't make the same mistake twice, however, showing great anticipation and instinct to make one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history.