Danny Amendola

Amendola: Pats' turmoil overblown, but Butler benching remains a mystery

Amendola: Pats' turmoil overblown, but Butler benching remains a mystery

First things first. All that talk about turmoil in Foxboro?

Overblown.

"There's not really much truth to [the rumors that there was a ton of turmoil inside the walls], to tell you the truth," said ex-Patriots and current Miami wide receiver Danny Amendola. "There is always going to be some friction between a coach and a player in a business."

Second things second. The talk that there's been no explanation as to why Malcolm Butler was benched in the Super Bowl, and that the players -- or at least this player -- remain baffled by it?

Not overblown.

"I don't know the answer to [why that happened] to this day . . . " said Amendola. "[For] whatever reason, [Bill Belichick] felt, you know, he's the coach. I can't make that decision. I can only do my job and focus on my job.

"But in hindsight, it's like, 'Really, what agenda are we on?' It's something that I will probably never really understand."

Amendola said all this, and much more, on Barstool Sports' Comeback SZN Podcast with Kayce Smith, formerly of NBC Sports Boston. Amendola -- who played five years in New England before signing as a free agent with the Dolphins this past offseason -- gave a fascinating glimpse behind the Patriots' iron curtain.

Like when he signed with the Pats on March 13, 2013:

The realization he was headed to New England "set in when Bill called . . . and said, 'Get your ass to Foxboro and ink this up . . . we're not having a press conference, we don't give a [crap] about that.' Then I realized [New England] was all work, no glitz. No glamour. It's just about playing good football, the Patriot Way."

And what it was like with the Pats:

"I got to understand what it was like to put the work in and really grind it out . . . and learn how to win. When I was in St. Louis" -- Amendola played for the Rams from 2009-12, when the team went 17-46-1 and was below .500 every year -- "I learned that wins are hard to come by in the NFL . . . but sometimes we'd win in New England and [Belichick] wasn't happy. Tom [Brady] wasn't happy. Or we knew we could play better here or play better there. I learned how to win and how to play and what it meant to play good football."

Did he enjoy it?

"I have mixed feelings about business is done," he admitted.

However . . . 

"I got to play for the greatest coach of time, [with] the greatest quarterback of all time and [for] one of the greatest owners of all time (in Robert Kraft). I got to understand what it was like to put the work in and really grind it out . . . and learn how to win."

Some of the other things he had to say . . 

On the difference between Belichick and his new coach, Adam Gase: "Adam Gase is one of the guys. He's our leader. He's our head coach, but he's also our boy. It's cool. It's refreshing to have that kind of relationship with a coach, which is something that I haven't had in a long time. You want to fight hard [for a coach like that]. Back in New England, it was almost like you've got a principal and a principal's office and [stuff] like that. You know, in a good way. And in a bad way, too."

On how playing with Tom Brady impacted his career: "Tom is not only a great football player, but he makes every one on his team better around him. He's created a lifestyle for himself and diet and the way he approaches the game on and off the field around the clock. . . . he's preparing his body. He's really instilled that in me. I've watched him do it for five years. That's inadvertently changed that way I approach the game."

More on the Patriots' reported turmoil: "Personally, I can't speak for Tom or Bill. But I know that regardless of business -- and I have mixed feelings of how business is done [in New England] -- I know for a fact that Coach Belichick is one of the best coaches of all time. He has all of his players' respect. I know Tom would say that same thing. I know [Rob Gronkowski] would say the same thing, regardless of how they feel about their contracts or certain situation or whatever may be going down." 

On his favorite off-the-field memoires as a Patriot: "[Going] to the [Kentucky] Derby every year after we won the Super Bowl with Tom was fun . . . we'd gas up the jet and we'd get down there and four or five Louisville cops would pick us up. We could literally do whatever we wanted with cops by our side . . . of course, Gronk and [Julian Edelman] being there (spices things) up a bit. And when you're with Brady, every head in the building turns. He changes the energy in any room. It's fun. It's adult fun.

"I went to the Derby twice and I don't think I saw a horse one time. [Wes] Welker, one year, brought in a boombox.. We created our own club vibe in there. Wes brought like $500,000 in fake 20s and 100s stacked it up on the table and everybody thought it was real money . . . Another year, we had a karaoke machine. And this is like in the most distinguished area of the Derby. People are suited and booted . . . and we have a karaoke machine. Travis Tritt was there . . . and he sang 'Sweet Home Alabama'. It was awesome. It was electric."

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Signature Plays: Who will be Patriots high-low crossers in ‘18?

Signature Plays: Who will be Patriots high-low crossers in ‘18?

This is the first in a series looking at favorite concepts in key situations that the Patriots rely on. Today: High-low crossers.

In 2013, Nicholas Dawidoff published a book called "Collision Low Crossers." The title was a play off the terminology thrown around inside the Jets facility, where Dawidoff received unfettered access in 2011. It also happened to be a key strategy for then-coach Rex Ryan's defenses: Drill the receivers you could legally drill within five yards of the line of scrimmage. 

Last season, long after Ryan's tenure had ended, that philosophy was at least temporarily forgotten by his old team. Instead of colliding with Patriots crossers, the Jets blasted each other to allow a touchdown. Within a couple of hours, their season was over. The Patriots, meanwhile, had clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

This marks the first entry in a retrospective series we'll put together this month that may help us identify some of the Patriots' favorite concepts in key situations, which may then help us project how the Pats will look in 2018.

Bill Belichick and his team have their staples - like their high-low crossers, offensively - that we'll see again this season. But the team's personnel has changed. So how might those plays look now? And will schematic staples necessarily transfer from last year to this year given the skill sets of the players available? 

For instance, that play against the Jets, the one Josh McDaniels drew up that had Morris Claiborne and Buster Skrine run into each other like two-thirds of the Three Stooges . . . the key Patriots on the play are no longer Patriots. 

WEEK 17 VS. JETS, 4:14 SECOND QUARTER, SECOND-AND-GOAL
BRANDIN COOKS FIVE-YARD TOUCHDOWN RECEPTION

THE STAPLE: For years, the Patriots have devised ways to create traffic for opposing defenses to sort through. Often it's near the line of scrimmage, and we'll take a look at some of those plays later in this series. But an offense like New England's can force communication problems and gunk up a small area down the field as well. Deploying crossers over the middle at different levels of the field against a man-to-man look can spell disaster for a defense when an offense executes. For the Patriots, who have had their share of intelligent route runners, running crossers tightly together without picking up an offensive pass interference penalty requires awareness and body control, both of which were on display against the Jets. 

THE PLAY: Danny Amendola begins the play by going in motion from left to right, which helps identify man-to-man coverage for Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots offense because he's followed by Claiborne. At the snap, both Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen run out-breaking routes, but Gronkowski slows his release just enough to get in the way of Amendola's man (Claiborne) near the line of scrimmage. Smart. Claiborne has to go underneath Gronkowski, which means Claiborne finds himself in a trailing position. As Amendola gets to the goal line, he feels Claiborne on his hip and flattens to get as close as possible to Brandin Cooks' man (Skrine). Both receivers seem to take a slight stutter step to make sure they're aligned properly. It would stand to reason that at full-throttle there would be a greater likelihood of an inadvertent collision. But with both receivers under control, the spacing is perfect. The result is Skrine on the ground and Cooks all alone for an easy score. Tom Brady could've hit Amendola if he wanted. It was just a matter of deciding between open and ridiculously open. Neither receiver received any resistance from Jets defenders as they got upfield. Linebackers had cracks at both but didn't take them. 

STAPLE IN 2018: The Patriots can run this play again in 2018, but it's worth wondering who the available candidates would be to run it. Amendola and Cooks are in Miami and Los Angeles. The rest of the group returns. Julian Edelman could obviously fill Amendola's role, though he's scheduled to be serving a suspension in the season's first month. The Patriots have other slot options in Jordan Matthews, Riley McCarron and Braxton Berrios, but all three are still somewhat new to the offense. This is a route that appears to require reps and precision. The two wideouts who make the most sense to take on the "X" and slot roles here are Chris Hogan and Edelman. But if Edelman is out, having someone like Matthews, who's accustomed to navigating the middle of the field in the NFL, would make sense to play the slot. The other option is the Patriots could use Hogan in the Amendola role and have one of their many "X" receivers - Phillip Dorsett, Kenny Britt, Malcolm Mitchell - take on the Cooks role.  

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Amendola: Belichick 'the greatest' but also 'an a-hole sometimes'

Amendola: Belichick 'the greatest' but also 'an a-hole sometimes'

The Patriots stars have taken what some consider thinly veiled (see video above) and not-so-thinly veiled shots at their head coach this offseason.

A former Patriot, Danny Amendola, straight up calls Bill Belichick a bad word, but he means it in a good way. 

In an exclusive interview with ESPN's Mike Reiss as he returned to the Boston area for a charity event this weekend, Amendola, who last month signed as a free agent with the Miami Dolphins, says of playing for Belichick:

“It’s not easy, that’s for sure. He’s an a–hole sometimes. There were a lot of things I didn’t like about playing for him, but I must say, the things I didn’t like were all in regards to getting the team better, and I respected him. I didn’t like practicing in the snow, I didn’t like practicing in the rain, but that was going to make us a better football team and that was going to make me a better football player. It wasn’t easy, and he’d be the first to admit, at the [Super Bowl] ring ceremony, that it wasn’t easy playing for him. The silver lining was that we were at the ring ceremony.”

Here's an Instagram video of part of the conversation, via @espnnfl:

In addition to being a not-so-nice word sometimes, Amendola also calls Belichick "the best coach to ever coach the game."

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