Patriots

Gronkowski still not cleared, treated as a non-contact player during padded session

Gronkowski still not cleared, treated as a non-contact player during padded session

Bill Belichick came to the podium for his press conference on Wednesday and opened things up by explaining that Rob Gronkowski was treated as a red non-contact jersey-wearing player . . . even if the jersey he wore during the session was white. 

Gronkowski has not been cleared for contact and is therefore still in the NFL's concussion protocol. Until he is cleared by a team physician and an independent neurological consultant, Gronkowski will not be eligible to participate in contact during practice. He'll also need to be cleared by both parties before playing in Super Bowl LII. 

Gronkowski, Deatrich Wise (concussion) and Malcom Brown (foot) were all limited in Wednesday's practice, according to Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. 

You can read Jhabvala's full pool report here. 

* * * * * * 

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The New England Patriots kicked off their Super Bowl week of practice with their first and only fully padded session Wednesday afternoon at the Minnesota Vikings' Winter Park indoor facility.

And at Week 20, they seemingly haven't missed a beat.

“We're getting there,” coach Bill Belichick said. “Every year is a little bit different because we're a little bit different and the team we play is a little bit different. But I think we're doing the best we can.”

MORE PATRIOTS - Kraft acknowledges "tension" for Pats

The 12:30 p.m. CT practice lasted approximately two hours without a minute wasted.

Quarterback Tom Brady, wearing only black tape on his injured right (throwing) hand, practiced in full and led the offense through passing and red-zone drills to start, then situational 11-on-11 football.

By his side for much of the workout was tight end Rob Gronkowski, who will practiced in pads and was listed as limited as he works his way through the concussion protocol.

"We red-jerseyed him today so he's working his way back,” Belichick said.

Also limited were defensive linemen Deatrich Wise (concussion) and Malcom Brown (foot).

MORE FROM NBCSPORTSBOSTON.COM - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from C's-Knicks

The up-tempo practice was similar to most other Patriots practices, with receivers running routes and catching deep balls from Brady to start. The offense transitioned into a red-zone period, then went straight to 11-on-11, with the noise cranking up before every snap. Special teams took over for kick returns, and later field goals. After additional 11-on-11 work, Brady and the offense closed it out with a two-minute drill.

The location might have changed. The opponent too. But the Patriots’ schedule remains regimented, with morning meetings, weights and practice, then additional team meetings and media availability to follow at the team’s hotel attached to the Mall of America.

"Again, it varies during the season -- short weeks, long weeks,” Belichick said. “But we had a week in Foxboro and now it's kind of our day to hit the tempo here and tomorrow will be a little less, Friday will be a little less.”

The Patriots will return to the Vikings' facility for practice at the same time Thursday and will have two more daily sessions before Sunday’s game.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Georgia the new Rutgers? Contingent of Bulldogs growing in New England

ap_17337030766191.jpg
AP Photo

Georgia the new Rutgers? Contingent of Bulldogs growing in New England

FOXBORO -- David Andrews was excited. He just had a hard time showing it.

The Patriots center stayed up long enough to see his team pick at No. 23 in the first round of the NFL Draft, long enough to see his Georgia teammate Isaiah Wynn have his name called.

But the Thursday night prime time event isn't for everyone, and so Andrews wasn't fully conscious by the time the Patriots picked a second Bulldog, Sony Michel, at No. 31.

"I was in bed. My wife stayed up and watched it," Andrews said last week. "I was in bed and I saw Isaiah get drafted, and then I passed out. She came busting in th'.;e room about Sony getting drafted, and at that point, I really didn’t care. I was just trying to get to sleep, but . . . No, I was very happy for them. It was awesome to talk to them. They were here the next day. I didn’t really get to see them, but it’s good to see them around, see some familiar faces"

Suddenly, with five Georgia players on the roster -- Andrews, Wynn, Michel, Malcolm Mitchell and undrafted free agent John Atkins -- they now make up one of the largest contingents of players from one school in Bill Belichick's locker room.

MORE PATRIOTS:


Iowa is right there with Georgia at five players (Aidrian Clayborn, Cole Croston, James Ferentz, Riley McCarron, Matt Tobin). Vanderbilt is next on the list with four (Adam Butler, Andrew Jelks, Jordan Matthews, Ralph Webb), even with Rutgers (Devin and Jason McCourty, Duron Harmon, Kenny Britt). Arkansas follows closely behind with three (Trey Flowers, Dietrich Wise, Cody Hollister).

If you look at the coaches involved in helping certain groups of players develop, the Patriots connections become even a little more clear.

At Iowa, it's Kirk Ferentz, who served as a Belichick assistant in Cleveland back in the 90s. At Vanderbilt, Belichick thinks highly enough of Derek Mason that he gave Mason and the Vandy coaching staff a behind-the-scenes look at spring workouts in New England last year. At Rutgers, Belichick's relationship with former Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano has been well-documented.

Then there are the coaches who've bounced around a bit and impacted multiple players on the Patriots roster at different spots.

Bret Bielema, who's been helping the Patriots this offseason (and was spotted with Belichick at The Preakness this weekend), coached all three Arkansas products as well as James White during his time at Wisconsin. Bo Pellini has coached three Patriots (Vincent Valentine and Rex Burkhead at Nebraska, Derek Rivers at Youngstown State).

Then there's that Georgia connection. Kirby Smart coached all three Bulldog rookies as well as the two Alabama products on the Patriots roster (Dont'a Hightower, Cyrus Jones) when Smart was coaching defense for the Crimson Tide. Former Georgia coach and current Miami sideline boss Mark Richt recruited all five Georgia players currently on the Patriots roster, and he coached both Miami rookies now in New England (Braxton Berrios, Trent Harris).

Asked why Belichick and the Patriots front office would be so interested in acquiring so many players from the same school, Andrews replied, "That’s a psychology question. Man, I don’t know . . .  

"You know, no, I don’t think there’s really like one thing. I think those are some great guys. They all work really hard. They’ve been great teammates to me, so that’s something you can always respect, and it’s guys like that you love having in your locker room and playing with.

MORE PATRIOTS:


No matter how you look at it, the Georgia connection in New England is as strong as ever.

"Georgia the new Rutgers? Oh, I’m going to have to talk to Dev and Du about that and all those guys," Andrews said with a smile. "We might be now. We’ll have to see."

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Johnny Manziel signing with Hamilton of the CFL

Johnny Manziel signing with Hamilton of the CFL

Johnny Manziel won't be in the Patriots' plans at quarterback anytime soon.

The former Browns QB, Heisman winner in 2012 and first-round pick in 2014 announced on Saturday morning that he had decided to sign a contract to play in the CFL in order to "further my football career after a long break."

"I believe this is the best opportunity for me moving forward and I'm eager for what the future holds," Manziel tweeted. 

Manziel also announced that he'll be co-hosting the "Comeback Szn" podcast for Barstool Sports alongside his agent Erik Burkhardt and our buddy, former "Boston Sports Tonight" and "Football Fix" co-host, Kayce Smith.

"It's just a really good fit," Burkhardt said on "Comeback Szn." "Good offense. It's a really good league. It's been around forever, we vetted it well, and at the end of the day, like Johnny said, he wants to play ball."

Manziel, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems, has battled bipolar disorder. He will play for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats under head coach June Jones, who has also coached in the NCAA and NFL ranks. Jones served as offensive coordinator of the Falcons (1991-93) before becoming their head coach (1994-96). He was also quarterbacks coach and interim head coach for the Chargers in 1998 before heading to the college ranks. Jones coached at Hawaii then at SMU, where he was the first person to offer Manziel a college scholarship. 

CFL rookie contracts are for two years, meaning the Tiger-Cats will have his rights through the end of the 2019 CFL season. 

Earlier this year, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie reiterated the league's stance that they're not in the business of letting players break their contracts to pursue NFL opportunities.

The Patriots took a look at him this spring, but even if they had interest, the possibility of which we discussed on Quick Slants the Podcast last month, any marriage will have to wait. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE