What's that? You were wondering exactly how many days until the start of the NFL season? Well, you're in luck! We here at the Triangle are set to spend the next three and a half months providing a daily reason to get excited about pro football's return.
I’ll tell you what I see. I see the purest of friendships, an unbreakable bond, forged by hundreds of millions of after-practice route-running sessions and a joint chiponmyshoulderness born of lives defined by slights. It just isn’t right, what happened. If we can’t believe in Tom and Wes, what’s left to believe in?
The fallout between Welker and Belichick (who clearly hates love in all its forms), along with Brady’s unhappiness and the whole situation’s ugly turn, deserved the attention it received. But underplayed in all this, somehow, was not only that Welker was leaving — he was running straight into the arms of Brady’s greatest rival. It could’ve been anyone. But no, it had to be Peyton Manning.
In this loyal-free era of sports, we see defections like this all the time, but with Welker, I want to believe it was about more than business. I want to believe that what happened with New England was a personal affront, that he chose Denver to stick it to Belichick, and that all this talk about feeling like a rookie again is an effort to make Brady jealous. Until I hear otherwise, that’s what I’m going with. And I can’t wait for Wes Welker to be the Adam Banks of the NFL.
By the way, the Broncos visit Foxboro in Week 12, when I can only assume those teams are going to be a combined 17-3 and battling it out for home-field advantage. I've got to assume that all this comes up that week. Just a hunch, though.
With free agency and the draft process revving up, there are plenty of questions for every NFL team. But for most, there's one issue that trumps the rest. This is the latest in a team-by-team look at the offseason tasks that just can't get botched.
The AFC Championship Game featured a pair of offenses that for most of the season could not have been more different. As was brought up countless times during the playoffs, Joe Flacco was the best deep-ball thrower in football in 2012, but the Ravens struggled in their intermediate passing game and in manufacturing first downs. For the Pats, manufacturing first downs is all they do. They had 444 in all, 62 more than any other team.
Much of this middle-of-the-field dominance was — and has been — a product of Wes Welker. The 31-year-old receiver has caught 627 passes in his six seasons as a Patriot, and as every other piece of New England’s backfield and receiving corps has turned over, Welker has remained a constant for Tom Brady. Welker had another typically outstanding season in 2012, catching 118 passes for 1,354 yards while Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski missed significant time with injuries, and Brandon Lloyd, well ... didn’t do anything.
This steady production is what’s made Welker’s treatment by the Patriots and Bill Belichick a bit puzzling. Before the 2011 season, Welker, coming off his worst year as a Patriot, was offered a two-year, $16 million contract. He turned down that deal before getting the franchise tag that spring. Last offseason, coming off his best season as a Patriot, Welker was given a lesser offer, which he again turned down before getting the franchise tag. In total, Welker brought home more than he would’ve by signing the original sheet, but what had become clear was that to the Pats, Welker’s value had been defined. In New England, that usually means a line in the sand. When it came time this week for the Pats to decide whether to again use the franchise tag on Welker, they declined, meaning that Welker will likely become a free agent when the league year begins.
Manti Te'o finished the 2010 season, his second in South Bend, as already one of the most decorated linebackers in Notre Dame history. A former five-star recruit, Te'o finished his sophomore year with 133 tackles (good for 21st nationally), was a finalist for both the Butkus and Bednarik awards, was named a second-team All-American by CNN/SI, and, against Stanford, had managed 21 tackles. There was just one problem: He could've played a lot better.
"He had a lot of production he left on the table," Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, who is also Te'o's position coach, recently recalled. Fortunately for both the Irish and their star linebacker, Te'o, as Diaco puts it, "longs to be coached." That offseason, Diaco put together a DVD from the season — a lowlight reel of sorts — and gave it to Te'o with an accompanying message: "If you really want to take the next step in your game, here are the 83 plays you will be able to make next year.” The response was, in hindsight, predictable. "He studied that thing," Diaco said. "He broke the film studying that thing."
Patriots shell out more money to pass catchers, continue blatant taunting of Wes Welker
Every bit of this Karen Guregian blog post for the Boston Herald is so perfectly Bill Belichick that I don’t think anything could make me happier. It starts with the news of Aaron Hernandez’s new $40 million extension, which comes on the heels of Wes Welker’s very public griping about his own contract situation. It’s no secret that Belichick’s Pats have never let loyalty get in the way of business matters, but an apparent willingness to jettison Welker is a far cry from dealing Deion Branch. Welker has caught at least 110 passes in four of his five seasons in New England, including a 122-catch, 1,500-yard 2011 campaign. Allowing Welker to walk would take the Patriot Way to an entirely different place — the place where we might finally be able to conclude that Belichick has lost his mind.
I’ve thought this before, but now I’m convinced — Tom Brady is messing with us. Brady’s latest magazine shoot, this one for VMAN magazine, features the Pats quarterback both fighting a Doberman and wearing a dog collar. The goat? Fine. Huge Uggs billboards? Whatever. The collar is where I draw a line in the sand. There is no other explanation for this other than Brady seeing exactly how much he can get away with. He is A-Rod’s self-awareness anti-matter. And I, for one, am fed up with the public, blanketed trolling. I can only imagine the yuck-it-up sessions he and Belichick have over this shit.
The above image comes courtesy of photographer Amanda Swinhart, who happened to capture this unlikely moment of tenderness between man and robot-terminator head coach at New England Patriots camp. Take it away, Amanda:
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick kisses tight end Aaron Hernandez's elbow after Hernandez appeared to injure it during a passing drill at the Patriots' training camp practice for season ticket holders and Foxborough residents in Gillette Stadium on Wednesday in Foxborough, Massachusetts. It was the one time I saw Belichick smile during the entire practice, and Hernandez laughed after he realized what Belichick was doing.
Everybody has their faults. Some people are kleptomaniacs. Some people walk onto uncrowded subways and stop directly in front of the doors. There are even some who use nail-polish remover during cross-country flights. And some people (hi there) cheer for the Patriots despite having no good reason to do so. My name is Chris Ryan. This is my confession.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said that his team's pass-rushers are in Tom Brady's head. And at least one of them — the insanely creepy Justin Tuck — has also been in his underwear drawer.
Bill Belichick's preparations for the Super Bowl now include taking a 31-minute break during practice to simulate the lengthy halftime intermission. He also tried to hire Janet Jackson so he could rip off her shirt in front of the team to teach them discipline in the face of distractions. She was too expensive, though, and he had to settle for an awkward cup check on kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
There is the victory you enjoy in private, at the end of a hard-fought day, with the family or close friends, feelings of ambient, total satisfaction in the chest and a cold beer in hand. And then there is the victory experienced in public: the gratuitous bat-flip and slow trot, the penalty for excessive celebration you’ll gladly take, kissing your badge to taunt the opposing fans. Generally, this second type of celebration is not permitted to NFL coaches; a fist-pump and a smile are about as swaggy as it gets. Which is why a good press conference can make for such great theater, the delicate and unlikely battlefield where these hypercompetitive leaders of hypercompetitive men might begin to work through some those accruing aggressions.
1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots Sunday night was many things, it was an opportunity for Mark Sanchez to pour lighter fluid and a lit Zippo on his reputation, it was a chance for Chad Ochocinco to get somewhat more involved in the New England game plan, and it was an opportunity for Rex Ryan to get more involved in fan relations. But ultimately, it was a chance for Bill Belichick to do what he does best; take a bunch of guys off the trash heap and have them looking like the '86 Giants. Andre Carter? Rob Ninkovich? Julian Edelman blowing up LaDainian Tomlinson? You know it was a good coaching job if Belichick himself was (allegedly), um, impressed with his performance.
Here's your Tuesday whip-around on the stories dominating coming out of last night's Monday Night Football games. No pads needed.
The New England Patriots are Robert Sean Leonard in Dead Poets Society and Bill Belichick is their dad. The Pats beat the Dolphins, in Miami, 38-24 in a game that felt a lot less competitive than the score ever suggested. Tom Brady put up 517 yards in passing while marshaling a no-huddle, chuck-it-to-the-TEs offense that had Fins defenders gasping for air. Was this electric offensive performance enough to satisfy their overbearing patriarch? "We're a long way from being a good football team right now."
Here's your Friday whip-around on the stories dominating the headlines and lingering in the margins of the NFL. No pads needed.
Despite head coach Bill Belichick opting not to play his starters in the New England Patriots' first preseason game, last week, Tom Brady and the rest of the first team looked to be in midseason form, last night against the Tampa Bay Bucs. The Pats won 31-14. A typically brassy Belichick said, "I thought we accomplished a few things." It's that kind of brazen collar popping that drives Rex Ryan up a tree. In his first preseason action, Brady overcame a clinically diagnosed case of being "antsy" to go 11-19 for 118 yards and two touchdowns.