FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1a. Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Father’s Day, while leading off with five Patriots sharing some of the biggest lessons they learned from their dad:
Bill Belichick (on Steve): “Keep your head down, work hard, keep your mouth shut. Actions speak louder than words. That’s basically what he did. Do what you can to help the team. The team is bigger than you.”
Trey Flowers (on Robert): “He’s definitely the wisest man I know. He always showed how much he loved his kids and also how much he expected out of them. Any time you see me today, doing any extra work to learn my craft, that’s what I learned from him. He owned a construction company. I’ve been on construction sites since I was 6, and he’d tell us how if anyone told him to do anything he’d always try to do a little bit more. That got me used to hard work.”
James White (on Tyrone): “My dad’s a police officer, and I’d hear the stories — the good, bad and ugly. He taught me and my brother a lot growing up, mainly about hanging around the right people and trying to do the right things. He’s still always checking in on me, keeping me level-headed and motivated.”
Rob Ninkovich (on Mike): “He’s retired now, but he was an iron worker in Chicago. He worked seven days a week, and as I grew up and became a man that’s something I came to respect even more about him. It’s not easy to do that — seven days a week, year-round. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid, and that’s how his mentality was. He was always doing what he had to do for our family, and on top of that, he’s like my best friend.”
D.J. Foster (on Darryll): “Dedication. He put me in the position to be very involved with sports growing up. Sometimes I didn’t want to play. Sometimes I didn’t like it. Being a young kid and very intense, the AAU, all the travel football and baseball, he would always talk about how when you start something, you finish it. When you’re a part of the team, you don’t give up on the team. I definitely appreciate that life lesson from him.”
1b. Hat tip to Kalyn Kahler of The MMQB for gathering up six Patriots players who welcomed babies to their homes in the months following Super Bowl LI, and having them discuss the joys and frustrations of fatherhood. Neat pictures to go along with it, too.
1c. When tight end Benjamin Watson first arrived in the Patriots’ locker room in 2004 as a first-round draft choice, it was clear that he was mature beyond his years. So it comes as no surprise here that he has authored “The New Dad’s Playbook,” which publisher Baker Books has dubbed “every man’s game-plan to being the best partner and the best father.” Watson, now with the Baltimore Ravens, breaks the book down into five parts: training camp, regular season, Super Bowl, postgame and offseason.
$200,000 if he plays 65 percent of the defensive snaps
$400,000 if he plays 75 percent of the defensive snaps
$500,000 if he plays 85 percent of the defensive snaps
$300,000 if he plays 80 percent of the defensive snaps and the Patriots win 13 games
$300,000 if he plays 80 percent of the defensive snaps and the Patriots are in the Super Bowl
So that’s a total of $1.7 million that Chung can earn if all thresholds are reached. The Patriots didn’t have to do anything to Chung’s contract (which runs through 2018), but similar to Gronkowski they elected to reward a player whose performance has clearly exceeded his contract.
For context, Chung played 77.6 percent of the defensive snaps in 2014, followed by 81 percent in 2015, and 96.5 percent last season.
3. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady declined all media requests during the team’s five offseason practices that were open to reporters, which was likely a result of him not wanting to face questions about concussion-related remarks his wife Gisele Bundchen made on “CBS This Morning” that generated headlines. I reviewed the fine print of the 2017 media access policy, and Brady won’t be fined for declining interviews. The effect of his decision, however, was that it put Belichick on the spot to answer the concussion-based questions. While Belichick is often happy to play a leading role in deflecting media distractions away from the team, one could understand if his tolerance to do so is lessened in situations when the increased media attention is created by the player or someone in his inner circle.
4. Impressive second-year Patriots receiver Malcolm Mitchell was kept on the sideline throughout spring practices, and my understanding is that the decision is best put into the “less is more” category. When the Patriots drafted Mitchell in the fourth round last year, they knew his medical/injury history (e.g. knee surgeries) was more extensive than the norm and would likely lead to them considering different approaches to help him sustain for the long haul. That meant some days off from practice last year. When I caught up with Mitchell at his reading rally on Friday night, I asked him his plans for the next month, and he didn’t hesitate. “Get ready for training camp,” he answered. “We’re back on it. Back to work.”
5. Mitchell’s reading rallies across New England concluded Friday at the Patriots Hall of Fame, and in all, he directly spoke to thousands of students since beginning his tour in Roxbury, Massachusetts, on March 20. It has been ambitious, and from my time covering the team, unprecedented for a player at this stage of his career. Patriots team magician John Logan is a perfect complement to Mitchell’s message about the importance of reading, mixing in the fun and wonder of magic. Mitchell takes questions from the audience and this was his answer Friday when asked how he stayed upbeat during Super Bowl LI after the Patriots fell behind 28-3 in the third quarter: “During the game, I sit in between Matthew Slater on my right and [Danny] Amendola on my left. I simply looked left, then right, and they had their chin up. So I followed along. I’m also a firm believer that the amount of work you put in prepares you for an opportunity somewhere. So I believe everything we did up to that point prepared us to be able to come back from something as drastic as a 25-point deficit.”
6. Second-year Lions general manager Bob Quinn, who spent 16 years with the Patriots prior to being hired in Detroit, pulled off a Bill Belichick-type deal last week in acquiring offensive tackle Greg Robinson from the Rams in exchange for a sixth-round pick. Robinson, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2014 draft, was a big-time disappointment with the Rams. But some of the traits that made him the second overall pick haven’t suddenly vanished, so Quinn — with the Lions in need of help after starting left tackle Taylor Decker underwent shoulder surgery — figured some late-round compensation was worth the flier on a possible Robinson revival. The approach hasn’t always worked out for the Patriots (e.g. 2013 No. 7 overall pick Jonathan Cooper), but the hits have still outnumbered the misses.
7. After the last Patriots practice that reporters watched on Tuesday, Brady spent some extra time with tight ends Dwayne Allen (acquired from the Colts) and James O’Shaughnessy (acquired from the Chiefs) after the workout. It was just the three of them on the field, with Brady leading them through how he liked specific routes to be run. As I saw that unfold, and considered how Brady had previously spent time with receiver Brandin Cooks doing the same thing — as well as running back Rex Burkhead — it struck me that a big part of spring practices for Brady is using the time to develop a rapport with his new targets.
8. As is the case every year, the Patriots have done extensive advance scouting work on their 2017 opponents, especially those in the first quarter of the season. With that as a springboard, Friday’s news that Saints starting left tackle Terron Armstead is set to undergo shoulder surgery and miss 4-6 months is significant from a New England perspective. The teams meet Sept. 17 in New Orleans. Armstead is the Saints’ best offensive lineman, and now Andrus Peat (2015 first-round pick) could kick out from left guard to left tackle, or perhaps first-round draft pick Ryan Ramczyk — who might be more of a natural right tackle — could win the job. The Saints took Ramczyk with the No. 32 overall pick they acquired from the Patriots in exchange for receiver Brandin Cooks.
9. From the “Patriots around the globe” file:
For the second time in three years, Patriots owner Robert Kraft is leading an ambassador trip to Israel with Pro Football Hall of Famers (June 13-21). The club is chronicling the trip on its social media accounts (#TDinIsrael) as Kraft is joined by Lem Barney, Jerome Bettis, Jim Brown, Cris Carter, Dave Casper, Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Joe Greene, Willie Lanier, Joe Montana, Andre Reed, Mike Singletary, Bruce Smith, John Stallworth, Roger Staubach, Andre Tippett, Aeneas Williams and Ron Yary. Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker is also on the trip.
Receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are in Mexico to help generate excitement for this year’s Nov. 19 game against the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City, as well as continuing to raise awareness about the game of football (#PatriotsEnMexico).
And finally, the six-day Tom Brady Under Armour Asia Tour begins in Beijing on Sunday. Brady plans to engage fans about the excitement of football and training for the sport with a focus on recovery.
10. Did You Know: There are 81 days until the NFL opener between the Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, and as part of the numbers-based theme, ESPN’s Stats & Information notes that teams are 1-81 over the last two seasons when trailing by 25 points. The lone win came in Super Bowl LI when the Patriots charged back to beat the Falcons.