Exploring hot topics around the New England Patriots in mailbag form:
Mike what r your thoughts on a guy like Manziel? Bill’s done a very good job of keeping things under control distractions like with Tebow & Hernandez don’t become a circus.He’s only 25 still young from QB standpoint and could really learn a lot from Brady and Josh. Cheap deal too
— Jesse V (@Patswillwinit) March 30, 2018
Jesse, I wrote on the reasons I could see the Patriots signing quarterback Johnny Manziel, and the reasons I think they might shy away from it, last week. Here is that piece. The more I’ve thought about it, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens, with one huge caveat: The team would have to be at a high comfort level with him off the field as it relates to allegations of domestic violence (a 2016 domestic violence charge was dismissed). If there is a high comfort level by the Patriots with that, I see limited risk for the team in bringing Manziel aboard at a time when there are 90 players on the roster and there is still a need for a third/developmental quarterback. At the least, Manziel could be part of the offseason program, he’s be on a minimum-level contract, and who knows if he would even make it to training camp? But it wouldn’t hurt to take a closer look at him on a day-to-day basis in the offseason program to determine if there was something there to work with further. It could potentially provide an insurance policy if the Patriots decide not to draft a quarterback (or if the quarterback they like doesn’t make it to them). Furthermore, while I don’t think this is the main reason to do it, I also believe the presence of a once highly touted player who has hit rock bottom and is trying to work his way back can also potentially have a positive trickle-down effect on others.
Hey Mike, good article overall. I agree with the grade of a B. I really like the Shleton and Clayborn additions. You mentioned LB as a need in the draft which I agree with. But don’t you think the team still needs a top end pass rusher still? Clayborn is more of a rotation piece.
— Mike’s On (@TheMikeIsOn) March 30, 2018
The way I view the pass-rushers/end-of-the-line players in the scheme is that the Patriots have had some notable success when they’ve had a solid rotation. In 2016, for example, the foursome of Rob Ninkovich, Chris Long, Jabaal Sheard and Trey Flowers was more than capable. They didn’t have that last year, in part due to some personnel decisions that didn’t work out. In 2018, Flowers and Adrian Clayborn are part of that mix, and Deatrich Wise Jr. could develop into even more of a contributor. I’m curious to see where 2017 third-round pick Derek Rivers (who missed his rookie season with a torn ACL) fits as well, as rushing the passer was his forte at Youngstown State, where he set the school record with 41 sacks. There are some other potential developmental players as well, such as Keionta Davis, who will get a look in camp. So while they could always add another piece there, the development of the younger players will also be key.
Which position should Patriots strengthen with priority?
TE(still use D-Allen)?
RB(satisfied with Jeremy Hill)?
O-line(need to protect Brady)?
LB(If we miss Hightower again…)?
CB(left Butler and Bademosi)?
— 森川 (@jwoodsriver) March 30, 2018
If I had to make a list of priorities, assuming everything was equal, it would look like this: a franchise-caliber left tackle, an off-the-line linebacker who runs well and could factor on all three downs, and a developmental quarterback would be my top three. A lot depends on how the draft unfolds, and they could never go wrong with adding more speed at running back, another defensive back, a pass-rusher or a tight end, but those first three pieces are the ones that stand out to me the most.
Still no defensive coordinator? Belichick making all the defense draft decisions too? Wow!
— Amin Pashapour (@apashapour) March 29, 2018
Amin, the Patriots are going to have linebackers coach Brian Flores run the defense, but without the title of coordinator. That is similar to how the team did it with Matt Patricia, Bill O’Brien and Josh McDaniels in years past. As Bill Belichick said, there might be an addition or two to the defensive staff in the future.
Hey @MikeReiss – I don’t understand this “Robert Kraft the fan” approach. He’s the owner whether he says he’s thinking as a fan or not. Isn’t he still sending a message as an owner?
— Shimon Cohen, LCSW (@ShimonDCohen) March 28, 2018
Shimon, when Robert Kraft references “putting his fan hat on,” I take that to mean when he reacts with emotion about a decision. Then when he steps outside of that, and looks at things from an owner’s perspective, it’s less about emotion and more about management skills and supporting the people he’s put in place to make challenging decisions, knowing they are doing so with more information than fans. That doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t challenge them on things. So in essence, it’s his way of taking the emotion out of the equation and being able to separate and look at the big picture.
@MikeReiss Hey Mike, Happy Easter. You see them bringing Harrison back? I’m sure they will see how the draft goes. Nice insurance policy to have.
— Paul Savini (@PaulSavini) March 30, 2018
Paul, this has been a frequent question in recent weeks, specific to James Harrison. My sense is that if it happens, it would be later in the process. I don’t sense urgency from either side to push something through right now.
Mike, do you think this is an effort to achieve more parity? Have to believe this hurts good teams making playoff runs, it’s a potentially major distraction and could allow for significant outside influence on a playoff team’s activities
— Mike Richardson (@mrichardson31) March 27, 2018
Mike, the NFL was considering a rule to allow assistants to sign contracts with other teams to become head coach in an attempt to protect teams who stop their coaching search thinking they have it completed, only to have the coach back out. The feeling among some is that it is a bad look for the league when that happens. Don Banks of Patriots.com wrote on this last week, and shared the perspective of some NFL folks.
Falcons’ Hayden Hurst shares support for Cowboys’ Dak Prescott speaking on mental health
Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst said he approached Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott after Sunday’s game to express his support in the wake of what Hurst called “disgusting” comments made by Fox Sports 1’s Skip Bayless about Prescott’s opening up about his mental health.
Prescott recently shared in an episode of “In Depth with Graham Bensinger” that he sought help in the offseason for anxiety and depression brought on by the death of his older brother, Jace, and the coronavirus pandemic. Jace Prescott died by suicide in April. Dak Prescott also lost his mother to colon cancer in 2013.
In response to Prescott’s comments, Bayless said on his “Undisputed” show, “I don’t have sympathy for [Prescott] going public with, ‘I got depressed’ and ‘I suffered depression early in COVID to the point that I couldn’t even go work out.’ Look, he’s the quarterback of America’s team.” Fox later issued a statement condemning Bayless’ remarks.
Hurst, who has been open about attempting suicide and dealing with anxiety and depression, said he was appalled by Bayless’ words.
“To be totally honest with you, when I saw what Skip Bayless said, it just really upset me — that Dak had the courage to come out and talk about that and how it affected his family, how it affected him — and those [Bayless] comments, I thought, were just disgusting,” Hurst told ESPN on Tuesday night. “For a guy to come out and talk about that topic and use his platform to try and help and save lives, I’ve got nothing but respect for him because I know how hard it is going through stuff like that.
“It hit my family hard. My uncle killed himself. My cousin killed himself. And I had my own stuff with addiction and my attempted suicide. I know how much courage it takes to come out and talk about that. And for a guy like [Bayless] to blast Dak on his show, on national television, I think that’s just wrong. So I wanted to go up to Dak and talk to him and tell him how much I appreciated it.”
Following the Cowboys’ 40-39 win over the Falcons on Sunday, video captured Hurst stopping Prescott to say, “Hey, I’ve got a lot of respect for what did, came out and talked about. Me and my mom have a foundation about suicide prevention. Respect the hell out of you for talking about it, man.”
Prescott responded with a suggestion that they collaborate one day, to which Hurst replied, “Absolutely.”
“I thought it was awesome,” Hurst told ESPN. “I’m sure Dak Prescott doesn’t really know who I am. But I know the courage that takes, because a lot of people don’t like talking about mental health. They’re afraid to talk about it. They’re embarrassed. If guys like Dak Prescott can come out and talk about it, I think he’s going to save a lot of lives. I think that’s cool. I admire him. And I’ll be a Dak Prescott fan forever. I think he’s an awesome guy.”
Hurst previously shared his story about attempting suicide in January 2016 when he was in college at South Carolina. He had an unsuccessful stint in minor league baseball as a pitcher due to a throwing condition known as “the yips,” started using drugs and drinking heavily, then tried to slit his wrist. He survived what he called his “come to Jesus moment” and now tries to educate others about dealing with depression.
Hurst established the Hayden Hurst Foundation with his mother, Cathy, to raise awareness of mental health issues in children and adolescents by funding mental health services and programs through donations and fundraising events. The foundation will host a charity golf event Oct. 19 in Atlanta.
New York Giants adding Devonta Freeman on 1-year, $3 million deal
Freeman and the Giants agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $3 million, Freeman’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday. Freeman will sign the contract Wednesday morning, practice with the Giants later Wednesday and could play as soon as Sunday.
“Devonta turned down more money from other teams because he likes the opportunity with the Giants best,” Rosenhaus told Schefter.
Freeman, 28, spent the first six years of his career with the Atlanta Falcons. He has two 1,000-yard rushing seasons (2015-16) and has averaged 4.2 yards per carry throughout his career.
But Freeman had 656 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 184 carries (3.6 ypc) last season. The Falcons let him walk as a free agent this offseason and instead signed Todd Gurley.
But the Giants currently offer Freeman the best opportunity for touches with Barkley lost for the season. They have Lewis and Wayne Gallman on the active roster. Veteran Rod Smith is on the practice squad.
“Wayne and Dion are definitely guys that will factor in,” coach Joe Judge said Monday. “We’ll work to their strengths, they are two different types of backs. Both of them have a degree of toughness. Wayne’s got that long speed, get him ranging out and get him really moving. Dion’s got that real good short area quickness and burst to get going. He does a great job of finding small seams and getting through the hole. They are both different guys, we’re going to have to work with what they do well to give them an opportunity to be successful.”
Now add Freeman, who visited the Giants on Tuesday, to the mix.
Barkley was placed on injured reserve earlier Tuesday. Cornerback Ryan Lewis was added to the active roster.
Raiders’ Jon Gruden, Saints’ Sean Payton fined $100K for violating mask protocols
Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton have both been fined $100,000 by the NFL for not wearing masks on the sideline during Monday night’s game, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Raiders and Saints also have each been fined $250,000, the source said.
The fines are the same that the NFL levied Monday against the Denver Broncos and Vic Fangio, the Seattle Seahawks and Pete Carroll and the San Francisco 49ers and Kyle Shanahan for similar violations this past Sunday of the league’s COVID-19 game-day protocols.
“I had a coach who was reminding me about it throughout the game, [running backs coach] Chad Morton was on my ass the whole night. He was reminding me the whole time,” Carroll told the Seahawks’ website on Tuesday. “I even changed masks at halftime to find one that worked better. Sometimes you’ve got to get coached up. Sometimes you have to admit that that you screwed up and have got to do better.”
“We wear masks all day at practice, we wear them around the building,” Carroll said. “I know it’s extremely important to wear masks. Sometimes you’ve just got to be reminded.”
Gruden, who revealed after Monday night’s victory over the Saints that he had previously contracted COVID-19, said Tuesday that he did not want to get into specifics about how he dealt with the virus.
“It wasn’t pleasant,” he said, “and it was reported that I made up that I had the virus and it really ticked me off because I would never do something like that.
“But it’s a very serious matter and, you know, obviously, I’m sensitive about it. But yeah, it was a tough ordeal, that’s for sure. Just like everybody else that had it.”
Payton also battled COVID-19 over the summer.
Gruden was asked after Monday night’s game about being mask-less on the sideline.
“I’m doing my best,” he said at the time. “I’ve had the virus. I’m doing my best. I’m very sensitive about it. … I’m calling plays. I just want to communicate in these situations and if I get fined, I’ll have to pay the fine. But I’m very sensitive about that and I apologize.”
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