Patriots

Tom Brady says he's 'really happy' for Jimmy Garoppolo

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Tom Brady says he's 'really happy' for Jimmy Garoppolo

The Patriots clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs when the Jaguars fell to the Niners over the weekend. That Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots had a little help from their former teammate Jimmy Garoppolo was not lost on the football-watching world. 

Brady was asked about his former understudy -- who has gone 4-0 as a starter in San Francisco and beat arguably the best defense in the NFL in his last outing -- during his weekly interview on WEEI.

"He’s done a great job," Brady said. "You go in there and get the opportunity to play and win games, that is what we are all here for. It was good to see and good for them to beat Jacksonville, that really helped us. I am really happy for Jimmy and he’s worked really hard. It shows up when he goes out there and plays really well."

Garoppolo has played well enough that the Patriots-Niners trade has been re-visted many times in recent weeks and drummed up curiosity as to why the Patriots couldn't receive more in a deal than a second-round pick in exchange for a player who looks like a franchise cornerstone. Some have wondered if the Patriots ever considered dealing Brady in order to keep the younger backup option.

Brady has long acknowledged that many of the best players in the history of professional sports have been traded, and he was asked on Tuesday about that hypothetical. 

"We can go through all 31 teams, but I am here with the Patriots and I’ve loved playing for this team and Mr. [Robert] Kraft and Jonathan, playing for Coach [Bill] Belichick and all the other coaches and all the great players," Brady said. "I think I have had it pretty good. I don’t really think too often about what could have been, or what should have been or what might have been. I know where I am at and we’ve done a pretty good job here and hopefully we can keep it going."

Meanwhile, Garoppolo has one more opportunity to keep his hot streak going with San Francisco. Scheduled to become a free agent after the season, he seems to be making himself more money with every throw. Clearly in 3 1/2 seasons with Brady and the Patriots, he picked up a few things that he could finally put to use now that he's running an NFL huddle of his own.

“It’s really a credit to him," Brady said. "You do what you can with the opportunities you get. I think it is great for any player and anyone who has been in the Patriots system to watch how the coaches prepare the players. There is obviously a high standard and high expectations for us every time we take the field. Anytime you’re in a winning environment, that definitely helps and I think guys really enjoy that. You take what you can and use that in other places if that is where you go. Like I said, what they are doing is a credit to them. I don’t think anyone should take credit for what those guys have accomplished."

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

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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. 

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