Patriots

Rob Ninkovich shares comical story about conversation with Chris Long

Rob Ninkovich shares comical story about conversation with Chris Long

Some players enter the NFL with massive expectations that are tough to live up to. Chris Long would qualify as one. The former New England Patriot and No. 2 overall pick in 2008, who announced his retirement from the NFL just over a week ago, was expected to be a terrific pass rusher. He was able to have a solid career, but the expectations were certainly lofty.

In a recent interview with ESPN's Mike Reiss, former Patriot Rob Ninkovich recalled about a conversation he had Long about being compared to players, and it had a comical result.

At one time, we were having a discussion, and I told him, 'It sucks that they gave me [No.] 50 because it can feel like a Mike Vrabel comparison all the time.' He looked at me and was like, 'Yeah, I'm Howie Long's son.' He wins that one.

Um, yeah. I'd say that Long had a little bit more heaped on him than Ninkovich for that comparison.

Still, Long did well for himself. Though he only played for the Patriots for one season, he had a huge impact on the team. He totaled four sacks in 2016 en route to the team's Super Bowl victory over the Atlanta Falcons. He would go on to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl the next year as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. He finished his career with 70 sacks, the two rings, and a Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

Considering that Long's father had 84 sacks, the younger Long did a great job of trying to live up to the comparison.

Meanwhile, Ninkovich had four sacks in 2016, his lone season teamed up with Long which also turned out to be his final season. He finished his Patriots career with 46 sacks and two Super Bowl titles in eight seasons. Comparatively, Vrabel had 48 sacks and three Super Bowl titles in his eight seasons in New England.

Suffice to say, both players were able to do the comparisons they faced justice during their more-than-solid NFL careers.

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Raiders QB Derek Carr to face Patriots early in what could be bounce-back season

Raiders QB Derek Carr to face Patriots early in what could be bounce-back season

Editor’s note: In the coming weeks our Patriots insiders will be speaking with beat writers from around the NFL to get an outside view on what the future holds for the Patriots. Today’s team: The Las Vegas Raiders with Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area.

The Las Vegas Raiders reportedly were among the teams with some level of interest in signing Tom Brady in NFL free agency, but the Silver and Black ultimately decided to stick with Derek Carr as its starting quarterback.

Carr shouldn't be too comfortable, though.

Despite making the most of a tough situation in 2019 during which the Raiders lacked skill and depth at many offensive positions, Carr's job doesn't appear to be safe. For example, the Raiders signed veteran quarterback Marcus Mariota in free agency, and he has several seasons of starting experience.

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NBC Sports Bay Area's Raiders insider Scott Bair recently spoke to our Patriots insider Phil Perry, and one of the topics centered around Carr's future and if he can once again perform at the level of a top-tier quarterback.

"Actions speak louder than words, and (head coach) Jon Gruden and (general manager) Mike Mayock at the combine and all these different places, they say the right things -- Derek Carr is their guy," Bair said. "But then, they're constantly flirting with Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins, and they sign Marcus Mariota to a deal that could evolve into paying him starter money should he take over that job. Those actions don't say (Carr is their guy).

"I've seen every professional snap that Derek Carr has ever taken. I've seen every practice rep that I've been allowed to see, and I may be in the minority, but this is a guy I believe can be an upper-tier NFL quarterback. He can make every throw, and if you go back to 2016 when he had a loaded offensive line and lots of good skill players, he finished third in MVP voting despite the fact he broke his leg in Week 16. I know that's in there. Now, Raiders fans don't believe me, the national media doesn't believe me, but I think the stage is set for him to have a career year and find that 2016 form yet again, that most fans think is lost forever."

One defense Carr will go up against in 2020 is the New England Patriots.

The Raiders are scheduled to visit Gillette Stadium on Sept. 27 for a Week 3 matchup, and they currently are underdogs by almost a touchdown, according to oddsmakers. Bair thinks the matchup is closer than the betting lines would suggest.

"I would definitely hammer the Raiders pretty hard right there," Bair said. "I just think they're going to have a lot of explosive firepower, and when there's uncertainty at quarterback, (the more explosive team) seems to be a safer bet. Maybe you know better than I do exactly how (the Patriots') quarterback situation is shaping up, but if there are major questions marks there, I would go with the more established quarterback, the more established offense. Again, (the Raiders) are going to be able to score in bunches, and I think they're going to be pretty excited to come to Foxboro and finally get a win, even if Brady isn't there."

The Raiders and Patriots both face a bit of uncertainty at quarterback entering the 2020 season, and whichever coach is able to surround his young QB with the best system and the right talent will put his team in a strong position to reach the playoffs. The Patriots haven't missed the postseason since 2008, while the Raiders have made only one appearance since 2002.

Are Bucs 'automatic' Super Bowl contenders with Tom Brady? Shaq Barrett thinks so

Are Bucs 'automatic' Super Bowl contenders with Tom Brady? Shaq Barrett thinks so

The addition of Tom Brady has Shaquil Barrett feeling like Joe Namath.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker was asked Tuesday on ESPN's "Get Up!" about his expectations for the 2020 season after the greatest quarterback of all time left the New England Patriots to join his team in free agency.

The short answer: They're very high.

"I think (former Bucs quarterback) Jameis (Winston) would have made a big jump, but I think with Brady, it just makes us an automatic contender for a Super Bowl," Barrett said.

"With Jameis, I think we would have been a playoff contender. It would have been still a battle, for sure, and it's still going to be a battle now, but having Tom, I think we're going to be over the edge, and everything on paper looks perfect. We've just got to put the work in."

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There you have it: Pencil the Bucs in for Super Bowl LV, which conveniently will be held at Tampa Bay's Raymond James Stadium. At least Barrett won't have to cancel any travel plans if his bold prediction doesn't come true.

Barrett has reason to be confident: The Bucs have the NFL's fifth-best Super Bowl odds at DraftKings Sportsbook after trading for tight end Rob Gronkowski, who joins an already-loaded offense featuring Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Tampa Bay also has a sneaky strong defense that allowed the fewest rushing yards per game in 2019.

The Pro Bowl linebacker may not want to count his chickens before they hatch, though. According to ESPN's Football Power Index, Tampa Bay has just a 4% chance to win Super Bowl LV, while Brady's former team, the Patriots, is right behind at 3%.

Some also believe Brady's Bucs may be overhyped, with one sportsbook executive comparing them to the 2019 Cleveland Browns, who went 6-10 after landing Odell Beckham Jr. and several other stars in the offseason.

Brady has never finished under .500 during a full season as starter, so Tampa Bay should be considered a serious threat. But if it fails to meet expectations, Barrett will be forced to eat crow.