Patriots

What they're saying: Lane Johnson explains why he called Tom Brady a 'pretty boy'

What they're saying: Lane Johnson explains why he called Tom Brady a 'pretty boy'

ST. PAUL, Minnesota -- Lane Johnson made headlines moments after the Eagles beat the Vikings in the NFC title game because he took it as an opportunity to take a shot at Tom Brady.

Informed that the Eagles were 5.5-point underdogs against the Patriots, Philly's right tackle said, "Pretty boy Tom Brady. Greatest QB of all time. I'd like nothing more than to dethrone that guy."

MORE - What the Patriots are saying

On Monday night, at the NFL's "Opening Night" festivities at the Xcel Energy Center, Johnson was given an opportunity to expand on those comments. Why call Brady a "pretty boy?"

"Go and Google it, and you can find out pretty quick," Johnson said. "It's the whole image. The whole brand."

What about the brand? 

"The TB12 Method," Johnson replied. "Go look at it, make your own opinion."

He later asked a reporter, "Have you read it? What do you know about it? Do you know what pliability is? . . . I think it's worked for him. I think the TB12 Method has worked for him, but I'm on the LJ65 Method.

"As far as that's concerned, I don't want to make any more headlines. I'm not scared of Brady. It's not like he's going to rush off the edge from me. I don't think he needs any more motivation to play us. He knows he's a great player. Y'all know he's a great player. I'm going against the defense. I'm not competing against Tom Brady."

Johnson, who showed up to his podium on "Opening Night" wearing running back Jay Ajayi's sunglasses, clearly isn't trying to replicate how Brady goes about his business. When Johnson was told that Brady said the Eagles couldn't be underdogs -- "You’re 13-3," Brady said, "you can’t be an underdog when you’re the No. 1 seed in the NFC” -- he scoffed. 

https://twitter.com/TorreySmithWR/status/958191975479545866

"Here’s the deal: I could be politically correct just like he can, and that doesn’t make any ratings for none of y’all," Johnson said. "Y’all don’t have any fun with it, it doesn’t make the producers go, 'Wow, man, we really nailed that one!' But here’s my version, he’s a great player . . . The Patriots have done it the right way, they’ve been in this situation for a long time . . . Incredible resume. I’m just glad to be here with them and able to perform against them."

How did Johnson really feel? He was asked to provide his unvarnished answer, and he obliged.

"He knows [the Eagles are underdogs]," Johnson said. "We’re all human. He’s not a robot. Obviously, he’s a great player. I have tremendous respect for him. I think a lot of people in this whole stadium do . . . They know what he’s done. That’s why he’s going to be named the GOAT.

"Then again, I think there’s a human aspect to football where you can enjoy yourself a little bit and think outside the box a little bit. That’s what I really mean by all this."

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Eagle defensive end Chris Long on what will happen if the Eagles win the Super Bowl: "I also made a really dumb bet with my linebacker coach that I would get a portrait of his face if we won the Super Bowl," he told NFL Network. "Ken Flajole. Look him up on Google. Hopefully I'll have a Ken Flajole tattoo." 


Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson on what the last week or so has been like: "Pandemonium. Exciting. People putting Crisco on the light poles so they don't climb them after games. This is stuff that doesn't happen every day. I wanna win this game, and then put some type of documentary together for this parade."

Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox on if he saw the young Eagles fan imploring him to take Tom Brady out of the game: "I finally scrolled through Twitter and saw that. It was good, man. Good little kid. They start them early in Philly."

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Hightower’s presence at OTAs leads to a look at linebacker depth

Hightower’s presence at OTAs leads to a look at linebacker depth

FOXBORO - Dont'a Hightower was among the missing during Tuesday's OTA that was open to reporters. He was prominently featured on the team's website as a participant in Thursday's OTA, though.

It's a positive development for one of the Patriots best and most versatile defenders. Hightower tore his pectoral in October and missed the remainder of the 2017 season, leading to some shuffling of personnel both at the second level and on the edge. 

Hightower snagged one of the team's photos of his participation in Thursday's workout and slapped it on his Instagram page. 

Hightower's presence on the turf behind Gillette Stadium, even if he was limited in the practice, allows our minds to wander a bit and look ahead to what the Patriots depth chart might look like at linebacker with him in the fold. 

The Patriots are consistently altering their fronts and Hightower's adaptability allows his role to change with whatever scheme Bill Belichick deploys. 

Hightower can play on the line or off. He can be used as a "Sam" linebacker at the second level in a 4-3 or at the end of the line of scrimmage in 3-4 looks. He played on the left end early last season - a spot we identified yesterday as a potential landing spot for Derek Rivers. And if the Patriots needed Hightower to play as a "Mike" linebacker, he has the ability to do that as well. 

Sub packages, base packages . . . Hightower can line up in a variety of front-seven spots for the Patriots regardless of the situation, which is why when healthy he's been able to serve as an every-down player. (He played 92.4 percent of Patriots defensive snaps in 2014 and 83.1 percent of the snaps in 2016.)

How might the rest of the Patriots linebacker corps slot in if Hightower is a full go for training camp? Let's take a look . . . 

MR. MIX AND MATCH


Kyle Van Noy is probably the closest approximation to Hightower that the Patriots have on their roster. When Hightower went out last season, it was Van Noy who moved around the front seven and handled a variety of responsibilities. He's probably best suited as a "Will" linebacker, someone who can use his athleticism to make plays in different areas depending on the situation, but Van Noy's ability to handle multiple responsibilities in New England's defense is part of the reason why the team likes him as much as they do. He was handed a two-year extension early last season. 

LIKE "MIKE" 


Elandon Roberts often handled the "Mike" responsibilities in the Patriots defense last season. The third-year player out of Houston might have the inside track on this role in 2018, but he could be pushed by rookie fifth-round selection Ja'Whaun Bentley out of Purdue. Both players seem like they're at their best against the run game, unafraid to fill their lanes as prideful "thumpers." What may separate this duo is which player can more consistently cover the correct gaps on first and second down, and which player more effectively communicates the defense to their teammates around them. Whether either player can contribute on special teams could also alter how the workload is distributed here. 

WHEN THERE'S A "WILL"


Van Noy would likely be the first choice here for the Patriots, but there are a few others who could be angling for time here. Marquis Flowers re-signed with the Patriots this offseason after an impressive end-of-the-season run where he showed up as a pass-rusher with enough athleticism to be trusted to run with backs in the passing game. Flowers was also a key contributor on special teams last season. Rookie sixth-round pick Christian Sam could also compete for "Will" reps. A defensive back in high school, Sam bulked up at Arizona State but remains a good athlete and could be a fit behind Van Noy. Special teamers Nicholas Grigsby and Brandon King work out with the linebackers and could be options here if they were ever called upon defensively.

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NFL owners words not consistent with their actions with new anthem policy

NFL owners words not consistent with their actions with new anthem policy

Chris Gasper and Michael Holley talk about the inconsistent messaging from NFL owners to their teams' players after they unanimously voted to change the league's policy regarding the national anthem. Watch the video above.