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Mike Shalin's Working Press: So far, Belichick not talking about Gordon

By MIKE SHALIN
September 18. 2018 8:01PM




ON MONDAY, a mere matter of hours after the New England Patriots melted in the Jacksonville heat, sending their fans into a frenzy, coach Bill Belichick acquired troubled receiver Josh Gordon from the Cleveland Browns.

The trade was announced.

On Tuesday, the boss refused to talk about it.

“We’re at the same place with him that we were yesterday, so we’re in the process of working through it,” Belichick said Tuesday. “We’ll just have to see how it goes.”

Followup question: ”So you’re not completely ready to talk about him being officially added to the roster?”

“Yeah, that’s right,” said Belichick.

The Patriots didn’t look very good Sunday. But it was the second game of the season, on the road, against a team that came very close to beating them in last year’s AFC title game.

We’ve seen this early-loss thing before.

In 2001, a road loss at Cincinnati in the opener, and the Pats went on to win the Super Bowl. In 2003, a 31-0 road loss at Buffalo opened the season, and the Pats went on to win the Super Bowl. A Week 3 loss at Buffalo in 2011 preceded another Super Bowl win. The 2014 season opened with a loss at Miami — and ended with another Super Bowl win. In 2017, an opening loss at Kansas City (remember the panic after that one?) eventually led to a Super Bowl loss.

In other words, an early loss means nothing.

Heck, the Patriots were undefeated and lost a Super Bowl. They were 13-2 and lost another one.

Gordon’s here

The usual fan panic set in Sunday into Monday — and the acquisition of Gordon quieted some of that as the Last Chance Café had claimed another Cleveland reclamation project.

Will this work? This is a tremendous athlete, but one who has played in exactly 11 NFL games since 2013 — with 43 catches.

That’s a long time to be away from the game and there’s just no way of telling if Gordon, who has been accused of not really liking football all that much, will come in here, learn the complicated New England system, toe the line and help.

“I hate to make projections and expectations,” Tom Brady told Westwood’s One Jim Gray Monday night. “That’s not fair. I’ve never met Josh, personally — just like I hadn’t met some of the guys who have come in the last couple of weeks. We’ll see how it goes this week. Hopefully, he can work hard, put the team first, and end up helping us in any role that he can find for himself on the team.

“Any time you get someone in the middle of the season, there’s obviously a lot of things that have happened that have got the team to a certain point that they weren’t a part of,” Brady told Gray Monday night. “So not sure how many of those things matter, but you’d like to try to get up to speed as quickly as possible, and it’s really up to the individuals. All these things need to play themselves out.”

Tough day

Colleague Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal made a couple of comments Tuesday about what happened in Jax.

He tweeted: “After rewatching the game, the biggest surprise for me is how the Jags shut down (Rob Gronkowski) — with single coverage. Gronk ran 30 routes and was single covered (or not covered) 25 times. He was doubled four times and tripled-teamed once.”

And: “How bad was the defense on third down? When the Jags needed 6-plus yards for the first, they were still 7-for-10. The Pats were beaten so many different ways — two failed blitzes, two rub routes, three times the D didn’t set the edge on runs, a screen pass, bad pass coverage, etc.”

So, there was plenty of blame to go around — the Blame Pie as Eddie Andelman used to call it. It resulted in the Jaguars talking trash and then backing it up.

But it did NOT end the 2018 season.

More Gordon, who toasted the Pats in 2013: “He had a lot of yards. I do remember that,” said Duron Harmon, a rookie on that team. “He had a breakaway slant against (Aqib) Talib that showed the speed and athleticism. He had a lot of good catches with Talib all on him.”

And from Adam Schefter: “New Patriots WR Josh Gordon is healthy enough from his strained hamstring to play Sunday vs. the Lions, per source.”

Fix it

Count Don Mattingly among those who think something has to be done about the expanded rosters in September.

After his Marlins and the Phillies combined to use 15 pitchers in a game last week, Donnie Baseball (shameless plug for my book with him by the same name), said, “If you’re in the hunt and you’ve got a chance, you don’t want to get to any situation and be like, ‘Well, I could use a pinch-runner here,’ and not be able to do it.’ As long as you’re eligible to use 40, if you’re in the hunt, there’s no reason to have them here.

“But we’re trying to prepare for 16 pitchers. And really, if you had four or five lefties in your bullpen, you could match up and bring in a new guy every time they bring up a (left-handed hitter). You just can’t do that during the first five months of your season.”

Another topic up for discussion is the number of bad teams in baseball — a real reason good teams are winning so many games.

“There seems to be, at least in our league, more powerhouses this year than in the past, maybe a little less parity,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “The only thing I would really take from that is that if you went into the season and looked at those (other) three teams that might win 100 games, you almost expected them to.”

Touching tribute

Marcus Smart’s mom, Camellia, lost her battle with cancer, leading the Celtics guard to salute her on Twitter.

“I feel like I’m suffocating and the person who helps me get through things has left me but I know you’re in a better place with no more worries, no more hurt, no more sadness or pain,” Smart wrote. “Hate to let you go but I thank god for allowing me to have one of his angels to call my mom. Words can’t express nor is there enough time in the world to tell you how much I love and miss you.”

The mental well-being of athletes has been discussed in recent months, with Kevin Love reminding us these people are more than just athletes. That’s why we have to wait and find out what’s going on with Jabari Bird, who sought out help in the weeks leading up to his alleged attack on his girlfriend.

Have to win

Rick Porcello, who still has a chance to win 20, to MassLive’s Chris Smith, on the Boston pitching staff’s lack of postseason success: “I don’t think we’re going in there thinking about us as starting pitchers need to win ballgames. We’re thinking that we’ve got a great ballclub. These opportunities only come around so often. We need to capitalize on it and we need to win a championship. Whatever that takes. I’ll start. I’ll come out of the bullpen. I’ll do both. I’ll do whatever to help this team win.”

Chris Sale, who gave up a homer to Jacob deGrom in college, knows how good the righty is. “He’s a good guy, and I think right now he’s the best pitcher in the league,” Sale said.

Added Alex Cora: “I know voting is tough and all that but he should win the Cy Young in the National League. No doubt about it.”

deGrom has only two more wins than Brandon Workman, one more than Hector Velazquez, but can sue his teammates for lack of support — the numbers are there to support him.

Sorry about that

An irate reader felt I shortchanged the WNBA by ignoring Seattle’s championship in this space.

Guilty! The Storm of Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird breezed through the finals to win the title. Wrote the reader: “Stewart, the most accomplished player in all of NCAA basketball. She has accomplished more than any other male player has been able to do. Four Division I championships as well as four MVPs of the tournament. Also, three straight players of the year at UConn. None of the great players in the NBA have come close to that. Not MJ, Magic, Larry, Duncan, Ewing.

Valid points.

The reader, who does “enjoy” this column, accused me of looking down on the women’s game. But I actually worked for the Connecticut Sun — on their stat crew — this season and I love the game.

Looking around

…Random stat from Dave Laurila of fangraghs: “In 1973, Tigers lefty John Hiller went 10-5 with 38 saves and a 1.44 ERA in 125 relief innings. In one of his losses, he allowed one run in 8 1/3 innings. In another, it was one run in 5 2/3 innings. In another, the run he allowed was unearned. Short list of best reliever seasons ever.”

…From @ScottBarrettDFB: “Through two weeks, Malcolm Butler — the cornerback who was infamously benched in the Super Bowl last year — has been targeted 17 times while surrendering 257 yards (most in NFL) and three TDs (most in NFL) when in coverage.”

…STATS tells us the last time there were ties in each of the first two weeks of an NFL season was in 1971 — three years before there was overtime.

…The Indians are talking about adding Trevor Bauer to the bullpen when he returns from his broken leg.

…The Yankees,who got Aaron Judge back Tuesday, added prospect Justus Sheffield to their bullpen for the final push and can add him to their postseason roster. Sheffield is a left-handed pitcher.

…Finally, Tampa Bay Bucs defensive end Vinny Curry on his team’s Ryan Fitzpatrick-led 2-0 start: “When you go home and have your little glass of wine, put your pinkie out. We’re feeling good. We’re going to celebrate this win for the next 24-48 hours and then it’s on to Pittsburgh.”

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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