SOME ODDS AND ENDS on a fairly important football day in New England:
• Patriots coach Bill Belichick, as you might have expected, downplays then effects of the cold weather on today’s Divisional game at Gillette, saying, “We’re playing the Chargers. We’re not playing the weather — whatever it is, it is” and adding “We’re going to be on the same field.”
Pats quarterback Tom Brady, though, makes it clear there’s a New England advantage on a New England winter day against a warm-weather team.
“I just think the ability to practice in it,” says Brady. “Like today, it’s very similar to what we’re going to get on Sunday, so just knowing how many layers you have to put on, and kind of how you’re going to feel when you have the nice, warm, heated benches out there like we will on Sunday.
“It’s cold and that’s just this part of this time of year. But it’s good to be playing when it’s cold out, it’s good to be playing this time of year in Foxborough.”
Thursday’s practice started in the snow and it’s supposed to be very cold for the game. Forecast is for 26 degrees with a wind chill of 20.
• One of the hazards of early deadlines is having to file before a team you’re noting plays a game. Friday’s column pumped up the play of the Celtics during a four-game winning streak. Then came a flat effort at Miami that was also marred by a huddle altercation between Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown.
Celtics president Danny Ainge shrugged off the disagreement between his players, telling Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, “I honestly didn’t think anything of it. I like Marcus’ and Jaylen’s character and personalities and feistiness, and, like, I just think nothing of something like this.”
The disagreement ended with Morris shoving Brown as Marcus Smart stepped in. Said coach Brad Stevens: “I looked at Smart breaking it up … talk about growth, holy smokes.”
“It’s something where those things happen to best friends even,” Ainge said. “Heck, I remember those things happening to (Rajon) Rondo and Perk (Kendrick Perkins). You know, they’re best buddies, but it’s just the heat of the battle, and I didn’t have a second thought about it.”
Both players also downplayed the whole thing.
• Patriots receiver Julian Edelman thinks the fans are as important as the weather in today’s football game, saying, “This is why you play. It’s New England. We’re going need to (the fans). We need Foxborough going nuts.”
• American League MVP Mookie Betts got $20 million from the Red Sox to avoid arbitration, just a down payment on what should be a fruitful future. Here are the remainders of the deals agreed to on Thursday, with Betts up $1.3 million: Xander Bogaerts: $12 million (+$100,000); Jackie Bradley Jr.: $8.55 million (+$655,000); Eduardo Rodriguez: $4.3 million (-$500,000); Brock Holt: $3.575 million (+$175,000); Sandy León: $2.475 million (+$175,000); Matt Barnes: $1.6 million (+$100,000); Brandon Workman: $1.15 million (-$250,000); Blake Swihart: $900,000 (-$200,000). Earlier, Steven Wright, Tyler Thornburg and Heath Hembree had been signed to one-year deals.
• While some suggested Patriots assistant coach and reported new Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores should wait and not accept a head coaching job in the same division as the Pats, one of his players, Marquis Flowers, said, “Wait for what? He’s been ready! One of the only coaches that has a sense of humor but at the same time he’s no nonsense!! Never panics and believes in the little things. Great hire, big reason why I had five sacks last year! He will change the culture in Miami.”
• While revenues continue to increase, baseball player salaries have dropped on a percentage basis and it should be noted that, through Friday, only 84 of 214 free agents had found work. Something is going on.
• Column pal Sean Deveney of The Sporting News notes the Sixers, Pelicans and Trail Blazers as three teams that would trade their first-round pick for help at the deadline. The Celtics, who potentially have three first-rounders this year, aren’t ready to deal, Deveney writing, “The Celtics are poised to have three first-rounders in next year’s draft, and possibly two lottery picks. But, according to league sources, none of Boston’s picks are expected to be available at the deadline.”
• SportsLine projection: Score: Patriots 26, Chargers 21. Projected Statistics: Tom Brady throws for 290 yards, Julian Edelman gets six receptions for 72 yards and Sony Michel rushes 15 times for 60 yards for the Patriots at home. For the Chargers, Philip Rivers passes for 290 yards, with Melvin Gordon rushing for 80 yards and Keenan Allen gaining 76 yards on six catches.”
• Count Gordon, who is playing on a sore knee, as one of the Chargers not afraid of the cold, the Wisconsin product saying, “This is some Wisconsin weather right here, baby.”
• And the Chargers on the road? They’re 8-1 on the “road” this season, one of the wins coming as the “home” team in London and the loss coming as the “road” team against the Rams at the LA Coliseum.
• From Celtics blogger Keith Smith: “According to the Boston Celtics team site, P.J. Dozier has switched from jersey No. 50 to No. 35. No. 35 has been retired by Boston for the late Reggie Lewis. Dozier is Lewis’ cousin and previously wore No.35 with Oklahoma City Thunder to honor Lewis.”
• From NESN’s Zack Cox: “Weird stat I just realized: The Patriots’ last 11 playoff games were against 11 different teams. That streak continues if they beat the Chargers.
• Saturday marked the 50th anniversary of Joe Namath and his Jets upsetting the Colts in the third Super Bowl. No, the J-E-T-S haven’t won a title since.
• Former Patriots teammate Ted Johnson, who has suffered from head injuries picked up as a player, didn’t appreciate Brady saying his “brain is wired for contact.” Johnson told WBZ FM 98.5 on Thursday: “I’ll be honest, and I love Tom, it made me throw up in my mouth a little bit,” Johnson said. “It was very irresponsible for Tom to talk like that. ‘My brain’s wired for contact.’ So, what, Kevin Turner‘s wasn’t? Junior Seau‘s wasn’t? Justin Strzelczyk‘s brain wasn’t? Andre Waters‘ brain wasn’t wired for contact? But yours is (wired for contact)? It was very insensitive and I thought irresponsible to talk like that.”
• Speaking of head injuries, Rick Nash, who played for the Bruins last year, retired the other day because of ongoing concussion symptoms.
• Not from head injury, but former Sox prospect Will Middlebrooks also hung them up this week. He tried all last season to rehab but it didn’t work. Tweeted better half Jenny Dell of CBS sports: “I’ve watched this man do everything in his power to rehab his leg/ankle back to playing shape but unfortunately, there is no coming back from the last injury. He has so much more to give to the game... I can’t wait to see what’s next for him. Beyond proud of @middlebrooks.”
• Want to feel old? Scottie Pippen Jr. has committed to play basketball and attend classes at Vanderbilt.
• First Take’s Max Kellerman this week on ESPN: “I’d rather have all other QBs in the AFC not named Tom Brady in these playoffs right now, and so would you.” Let’s see how that plays out.
• The Yankees’ signings appear to be positive -– and the Manny Machado thing might not be dead after all –- but you have to figure George Steinbrenner is flipping in his grave over his team’s fiscal responsibility.
• When a media type told Belichick he was tired of talking about the coming game and just wanted to see the game, Belichick said, “Sorry to put you through it.”
• He’s valued as an NBA coach, but Rick Carlisle showed his class this week after long-time beat guy Eddie Sefko was laid off as part of more media bloodletting by the Dallas Morning News. Said Carlisle: “I just want to go on record saying that I miss Eddie Sefko very badly. He is a wonderful man of the highest integrity. It’s just one of the sad things that is happening in the media. That’s a great man and it was a privilege to work with him for 11 years.”
• The $16.5 million the A’s gave to slugger Khris Young shattered the most the franchise has ever given a player for one year. Eric Chavez got $12.5 million in 2010.
• From Albert Breer of the NFL Network: The (salaries against the cap) of the 8 remaining QBs (with league rank) ... 1. Brees (6) $25.0M; 2. Luck (8) $24.6M; 3. Rivers (14) $20.8M; 4. Brady (21) $15.0M; 5. Goff (26) $7.0M; 6. Foles (31) $5.5M; 7. Mahomes (37) $4.1M; 8. Prescott (69) $681K. Fact: No QB making $20M per has EVER won a Super Bowl.”
• Agreeing with Rodriguez on Thursday left the combined 2019 salaries of the five Red Sox starters at $87.925 million, more than three major league teams in 2018.
• From WEEI Celtics analyst Cedric Maxwell: “Jayson Tatum’s dad came to me ... and said, ‘Man, I’ve got a bone to pick with you. ... You said you’d trade my son for Anthony Davis.’ And I said, ‘And?’ And he said, ‘Well, I probably would trade him, too, if he wasn’t my son.” Maxwell then talked to the younger Tatum, who said, “Yeah, I’d trade me, too, for Anthony Davis.”
• Rob Gronkowski, who may or may not play in his Foxborough finale Sunday, looking toward this game: “It’s a new season right now. Whatever I got going forward is what I’m going to give.”
• He’s been controversial as heck, but John Tortorella this week became the first U.S.-born coach to 600 NHL victories.
• Five-time NBA champ Gregg Popovich moved into third place on the league’s all-time wins list with No. 1,222 this week. He trails only Don Nelson (1,335) and Lenny Wilkens (1,332).
• While the Brad Marchand not fighting Lars Eller thing became the post-game story in the Bruins’ loss to the Capitals on Thursday, the real bottom line is the Bruins are 0-11-3 in their last 14 games against the Caps –- 0-2 this season. The Caps have outscored the B’s 52-21 in the 14 games, never allowing more than three goals and spinning four Braden Holtby shutouts.
• Don’t know about you, but I’m glad the Josh McDaniels talk has died –- at least for time being. He says he’s staying. Then again, last year he said he was leaving and he stayed.
• Kyrie Irving called a 30-minute “therapeutic” shooting session in the Heat’s practice gym after Thursday game. “That’s my job, right?” he said. “So it’s always good to get some extra work after a tough loss. “(The Heat) shot extremely well. They did some great things tonight. I’ve got to give credit to the Heat team today. They came prepared, made some big shots. We just couldn’t get that run. I just wanted to get some extra shots, feel good going into the next game. We’re staying over in Miami, so I’d rather be in here than be out in Miami right now.”
• Our goofball of the week goes to the Knicks’ Enes Kanter. Normally a healthy eater, he downed seven cheeseburgers and fries one day this week, and got sick and couldn’t play in Friday night’s home loss to the Pacers.
• The Bruins will wear their Winter Classic jerseys in Monday night’s home game against the Canadiens.
• According to the Elias folks, James Harden became the first player in NBA history to record a 40-point triple-double while playing fewer than 30 minutes: 29:34 in a blowout. He finished with 43 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.
• A poll of 85 defensive players from 25 different teams tabbed, among other things, Brady as the QB you’d least want to face in a big game – at 52 percent. The piece read: “This was, predictably, split between Brady and (Aaron) Rodgers, with Brady prevailing with 42 total votes to Rodgers’ 26. There was a gigantic margin between those two and the third-place finisher, potential 2018 NFL MVP Drew Brees, who had six votes. One player who voted for Rodgers said the Green Bay QB has ‘ice in his veins.’”
• Finally, happy to report old pal Jonny Miller of WBZ radio has recovered from a stroke suffered on a plane flying to LA for the World Series and is already in Fort Myers and ready for work. Nice piece by Chad Finn in the Globe on Jonny, who will also be a subject of a coming Harry Smith feature on NBC.