HE BEGAN his professional football career amid doubts over being picked in the first round, then a knee injury that caused him to miss much of training camp and then the first game of the regular season.
He was trashed by some local radio hosts. They called him trash. Garbage. A waste of a draft choice. Take him in the fifth round? Sure. First round? MISTAKE.
The “experts” are ripping Sony Michel no more.
“It really reminds of back when they had Corey Dillon, the way they played Corey Dillon,” former great RB LaDainian Tomlinson of the NFL Network said this week. “That’s what Sony’s doing right now. He recognizes that’s the role he needs to play and he’s doing it well.”
Michel gained just 84 yards on 24 carries in his first two NFL games. The Patriots lost both games and while people were trashing and doubting the team, Michel as a first-round pick was in the middle of the demise.
Things changed. Michel missed two more games the rest of the regular season but finished with 931 yards in 13 games.
Then came the playoffs: 242 yards and five touchdowns in two games. Taking that back to the regular-season finale, Michel has 408 yards and six TDs in three games.
Still trying to hold onto their original thoughts, doubters point to the great offensive line play, to the system, the holes, the blocking of Rob Gronkowski, etc.
But you can’t overlook the production.
Is he Gale Sayers? Barry Sanders? O.J. Simpson (sorry)? No. But he fits the Pats’ three-back system to a T. He runs. James White catches passes. Rex Burkhead does both.
Tomlinson remembers his thoughts when the Patriots drafted Michel out of Georgia.
“I said, ‘Boy this is a perfect fit,’ because this is a guy, he just fits with the Patriots Way,” Tomlinson told the Boston Herald. “He’s going to do his job, not worrying about what anyone else does. He’s tough-minded, a physical guy, team player, all those things, and so I knew Bill would be able to get the best out of Sony, but also that Sony would embrace the Patriots Way and being around Tom (Brady) and seeing how champions play.”
Sunday, he goes up against the Rams, whose star running back Todd Gurley, preceded him at Georgia.
“I remember when he first came in, he couldn’t run and catch,” Gurley told ProFootballTalk. “I had to teach him how to do all that stuff … Hopefully, everything I taught him, he doesn’t do it and he just plays like he used to play before I taught him everything.”
One week in between is probably too short of a wait between the conference title games and the Super Bowl. Two weeks, though, is too long.
The two-week layoff gets you all the way down to finding out more than you need to know about a player. Gronkowski likes being tickled? It also is long enough for people to change their original stories.
For instance, Nickell Robey-Coleman said Tom Brady is old. Then he talks to his coach and walks back the comments. In a regular week, he wouldn’t have time. And then Devin McCourty says he’s not sure he’s going to play next season. Then he says, “No, I haven’t,” when asked if he’s thought about retiring. “I’ve been focused on this season. It’s been a lot of fun this year. We’ve battled through different things, ups and downs as a team, so being here now in my ninth year and being able to go with these guys every day at work.”
And, of course, we have the never-ending Brady story.
Again, he’s NOT retiring — even if he wins his sixth ring.
The owner knows it. That’s why Robert Kraft is open to extending No. 12’s contract.
“Think about it,” Kraft said. “In the last three years, we’ve been privileged to go to the Super Bowl with a quarterback in place. I would be quite surprised if he didn’t continue for quite a while as our quarterback.
“Having the head coach that we have, and having Tom, there’s a unique symmetry there and chemistry and it carries over to the whole organization. I think we’re very lucky.”
Says Brady: “The reality is I don’t think many people thought I’d be playing like this, even though I had a great belief I would. I think RKK (Kraft) has always supported me in my beliefs and thoughts, that’s why we have a great relationship.”
Looking into it
Regardless of what calls might have been missed earlier in the game, or the way the Saints managed the last few minutes of the NFC title game, the Saints should be in Atlanta playing the Pats on Sunday. The missed call — on our pal Robey-Coleman — determined the likely outcome of that game.
Commish Roger Goodell basically said, “Oops” when he finally addressed the matter during Super Bowl week, but he did leave the door open for possible video review on plays like this.
…Patriots RB coach Ivan Fears on FB James Develin’s days on the practice squad: “He was just consistent as hell as far as knocking the (bleep) out of people.”
…Gronk on the top jokester in the Pats locker room: “You know who’s stepped it up this year? (Brian) Hoyer. Seven years ago I was like, ‘Hoyer’s a little lame.’ Now I’m like ‘Hoyer ain’t lame no more.’ This dude, he’s in the locker room joking 24/7.”
…Gronk on potential retirement: “Yes, no, maybe so.”
…Bill Belichick on if he’ll write a book when he’s done: “Yeah, I don’t know… I’m just trying to get ready for the Rams and that’s a full-time job.” After a pause, he adds, “Would you buy one?”
…Goodell on replay: “We will look again at instant replay.”
…Malcolm Mitchell, a Super Bowl hero (five catches in the fourth quarter) in the big comeback two years ago, to ESPN.com on missing the last two years with knee injuries: “I’m still motivated. I’m still encouraged. I’m recovering — the last surgery totaled out to be No. 10, and it takes a little while to come back from it. But I am working my way back. And I’ll be back.”
…Former Pat Matt Chatham, writing for The Athletic, on the first title, the upset of the vaunted Rams: “My purpose here isn’t to say that people were crazy to pick against us, or to denigrate in any way the Rams. They were awesome — and that’s what made the win so satisfying. They had the résumé; ours was just getting started.”
…Kraft, to Boston Sports Tonight, on the suspended Josh Gordon: “He was a real good guy, and there was a connection. Unfortunately, people like that need mentoring at a young age, but when it becomes addiction, addiction is something that is way beyond our ... We gave him tremendous support on a daily basis, and he was worthy. But I think we as a society have to try to help these young people not to get addicted in the first place. And that’s the sad part of this. He’s a good guy — a really good guy. It makes us sad.”
…We give you former Pat Aqib Talib on Robey-Coleman’s comments on Brady taking aim at the kid who ripped him (and then backed off): “Tom gonna target everybody. That’s why he the best. That’s why they been in the ‘chip for the fifth time since I been in the league. Tom don’t need no extra motivation. That Tom Brady. It’s that time of the week. It’s story time.”
Finally, slipping away from football for a sec, Thursday was the 100th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s birth — a day that would wind up changing sports forever.
Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.