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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Passion before, after Pats' game

By MIKE SHALIN
September 25. 2017 11:50PM
Members of the New England Patriots take a knee during the national anthem before a game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

Devin McCourty, one of the New England Patriots’ leaders, started his Sunday post-game session by making a statement before the first question. The words came from passion — and from a truly class athlete.

“I’m just going to say how I feel, how a lot of guys felt,” he said. “We were obviously very conflicted. We knew our message would be perceived by a lot of people in a way that wasn’t what we were trying to put out. A lot of guys felt, I mean, all over the place about the comments by the President Friday night. As a leader on the team, a lot of guys came to me and they didn’t know what to do. They just were kind of angry. It was good Saturday. We all kind of talked as a group of releasing that anger and not being angry.”

“We were in chapel and a lot of guys talked about that in our faith, God is first. We wanted to come together. First and foremost, we hate that people are going to see it as that we don’t respect the military and the men and women that are way braver than us that go and put their life on the line every day for us to have the right to play football, and we know people are going to see it that way. Guys have family members, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters that serve, and they were really conflicted about it.

“But, we just wanted to send a message of unity and being together and not standing for the disrespect and different ways guys felt. (There were] so many different things going through a lot of guys’ heads, and it was unique to see guys kind of come together and bond together as a group before the game and do that. But, I think all of us want a message that goes out of unity, being together, obviously as a team, and also as a fraternity of NFL players.”

Monday, Tom Brady, who showed his support Sunday by locking arms with teammate Phillip Dorsett, who is black, told WEEI, “Yeah, I certainly disagree with what he (the President) said. I thought it was just divisive. Like I said, I just want to support my teammates. I am never one to say, ‘Oh, that is wrong. That is right.’ I do believe in what I believe in. I believe in bringing people together and respect and love and trust. Those are the values that my parents instilled in me. That is how I try and live every day.

“I have a lot of respect for the players around the league and for obviously my teammates,” said Brady. “I said after the game I just love my teammates and it takes a lot to play in the NFL. The guys that have played in the past really paved the way for us and what I thought in that post is that is what makes this game great — players, coaches that come together for one goal, to try and go out there and do the best we can do every week. It certainly is not an easy game. It’s intense. You sacrifice a lot. We’re all making a choice to do that. There’s no — we love doing that and I love being out there being out there playing with my teammates. It’s a great blessing in my life. That’s kind of how I felt.”

“Hopefully it brings everyone together. I think that is what unity and love — like I said after the game, those are the things that concern me. When you’re in a locker room full of 53 players, you’re working to a common goal. You support the guys that you play with and you support your coaches, coaches support you. You just do the best you can do. You’re navigating through life. These things aren’t easy. Everyone deals with different challenges in their life and you respect everyone’s opinions and views. You don’t have to agree with everything. It’s hard to agree with your own wife on everything from day-to-day. I have so much respect for my teammates and what we’re trying to accomplish. Hopefully we can keep marching toward the end of the season, keep making improvements, get better and win more football games.”

One of the needed improvements has to be on the defense. The absence of Dont’a Hightower has been so important. The Patriots chased rookie Deshaun Watson all over the field Sunday and this week have to deal with Cam Newton, a bigger and more-experienced version of Watson.

Gronk is honest

Gronkowski, who had suffered a groin injury the previous week, was confident he would play and he did, catching eight passes, one for a touchdown. Afterward, he said the number of catches was just fine. Plenty on a hot day.

“I don’t really care what my role is, whether it’s blocking, if it’s receiving a lot,” he said. “But I just appreciate that I’m out there playing the game. Whatever role the coaches want me to do — if it’s jamming, if it’s blocking I’ve got no problem, especially a game like that.

“I don’t think I would’ve made it if I ran 50 routes today because I’m usually running deep, up and down. So I actually appreciated being in there and jamming J.J. (Watt) a few times instead of going out on a route. I mean, it’s helping out the team jamming the pass rush so Tom gets more time and also at the same time a guy covering in man is sitting there so it’s kind of like taking two guys for one helping out the team that way. I have no problem doing that on a day like today.”

Brady and Rodgers

It happened hours apart, on a day that won’t be forgotten around the NFL for a long time.

Amid all the craziness that resulted from the ill-spoken words of the President, Brady and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, used late heroics to rescue their teams.

First, buoyed by a defense that forced the Texans into a field goal, Brady took the team 75 yards for another comeback win — the 52nd time in his career he’s engineered his team from behind in the fourth quarter.

He had some help along the way, like Gronkowski bulling his way to a first down, and Houston’s Corey Moore dropping an interception at his own 2. But he got it done.

Hours later, Rodgers took HIS team 75 yards in the closing minutes, but only to a tie. He then threw a 72-yard pass to Geronimo Allison to set up a winning field goal.

Two special guys. Two special events.

Farrell speaks

Adding baseball to the mix, with the entire sports world having its collective eye on what’s going on with Washington, John Farrell was asked Sunday about backing his players, the way the Oakland A’s did for Bruce Maxwell Saturday after the catcher became the first baseball player to take a knee.

“I follow it closely,” Farrell said. “As it relates to our players, if they were to choose to express themselves in the way we’ve seen other athletes in other sports, we would fully support them. We strive to create an environment that’s inclusive.

“We would have their back as an organization if that’s the expression they chose. It’s their constitutional right. But I would tell you, we’re at a point of time in history — and I’m not a historian by any means — but there’s a lot of division that is currently in the forefront in a lot of people’s minds. The more united we can become, I think that is a goal I think for all of us.”

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com.


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