Patriots

Curran: So what's the endgame in the Foxboro Cold War?

Curran: So what's the endgame in the Foxboro Cold War?

With Tom Brady in Qatar having his family’s April vacation chronicled by Tom vs. Time producer Gotham Chopra, you know we’re going to get a much more intimate and revealing look at what his April mindset really is. 

With Rob Gronkowski in Texas acting as a human water ski you know we’re going to get . . . more enigmatic and entertaining social media posts. 

Meanwhile, the rest of the Patriots are beginning preparations for 2018 still without knowing whether both or either will be back this season. 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter mentioned on Wednesday what we’ve noted often this offseason: We all expect Brady to play, but he hasn’t since the offseason began, really committed. 

His last on-the-record comment uttered during the season that he’d be back has been followed by ambiguous statements since about fun, appreciation and a nagging question of “why” he does all this

And I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that this is an attempt -- one week before the draft -- to smoke Brady out. It’s one thing for us to report locally that it’s been impossible to “ferret out an answer that Tom Brady is going to play in 2018” as we did last week on Quick Slants The Podcast:

It’s another thing entirely for Schefter -- owner of the biggest bugle in the business  -- to wafflingly report that Brady hasn’t committed to playing. That’s going to cause pearl-clutching from Anaheim to Augusta, Maine. It ratchets up the heat a bit on Brady. OTAs started this week and the team has no indication? The draft is in a week and they don’t know? They traded Jimmy Garoppolo and there’s no hard answer? For one of the NFL’s most committed players, ambivalence does nothing for him in the court of public opinion (fleeting as that jury is). Worse, it doesn’t help his off-field brand with TB12 Sports Therapy. It’s also bad for the franchise to not know whether its figurehead is returning. Observe that when Schefter’s source catalogs the reasons Brady might be wavering, there’s no mention of a Brady-Bill Belichick rift and the very real power struggle that’s ongoing. 

As this continues to play out, we continue to not only wonder what the endgame is but why? And who’s winning or deserves “blame?”

Our podcast this week went deep on a number of items with Jerod Mayo and the ongoing Foxboro Cold War:

Two main items of note:

-- First, if Danny Amendola feels somewhat betrayed by the still-unexplained benching of Malcolm Butler, what of Brady? And the rest of the team that is now returning?

“There are only two people that know what happened: Bill and Malcolm,” said Mayo. “I’ve had conversations with multiple guys on the team and no one knows."

Is this the biggest hurdle Belichick’s faced?

“I think so. Being able to rally the troops around this one common goal of getting to the Super Bowl while (players are thinking), ‘If we get there, how do we know you’re not going to pull this again?' that’s always going to be back of the players' minds as well. For the most part, players don’t play for the coaches. You play for the guy -- corny as it sounds -- you play for the guys next to you. And those guys will find a common ground to rally around. This can be terrible for the franchise for the foreseeable future, or they can just plow through it.”  

-- Meanwhile, here’s Mayo on the importance of OTAs to the team. 

“I remember when Bill, every offseason, the first thing he would say to the team was, ‘Hey guys, we’re not doing this, ‘I’m here this week, I’m gone next week . . . ’ Either you’re here or you’re not here. we’re not doing the back and forth.’

"So someone’s gotta bend here. Either Bill has to bend and say, ‘Guys, come on back home, you can come in.’ Or he can all of a sudden, iron fist drops and a nuclear bomb goes off. Either you’re in or you’re out. Timing doesn’t matter as far (what the team is doing). If Tom and Gronk aren’t here next week, they’re done for the whole offseason. Or, Bill has changed his ways a little bit. There’s been a little compromise."

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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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