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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Trust in Bill (again)

By MIKE SHALIN
March 15. 2018 11:14PM
BELICHICK 



IN BILL WE TRUST.

That has been the mantra of Patriots fans through all these years of winning. Some of the moves have stung, many making you wonder what the heck he is doing. But through it all, the Patriots keep winning. Eight Super Bowls. Five titles.

Players have come and gone, and through it all, the Pats have done something not done by any other team in football: managed their way through the salary cap era.

Yes, Tom Brady has been a constant. And you can make the argument he hasn’t had the greatest weapons around him. That all counts for plenty. But Brady doesn’t play alone and the Pats keep winning.

Then we give you what happened in Foxborough this week.

Nate Solder, Brady’s back door, Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis and Danny Amendola — $158 million in contracts with $93 million or so guaranteed — are Patriots no more.

That led loyal column friend Dot Julien to send the following e-mail:

Under the heading “holy moly,” Dot wrote:

“Tell me we have a team left! I am glad that (Julian) Edelman wasn’t part of this crew that has left. Wow!”

Now, Dot and others, Edelman was a part of this plan — the Amendola part. Edelman should be back in 2018 and take up the slack Amendola took from him.

But the others? It seemed the Patriots didn’t want any of them. Amid talk of turmoil within the organization, with Brady reportedly not thrilled with what’s going on, with Rob Gronkowski still not announcing whether he’ll play next season — and likely looking for money — it’s easy to think this is the next step toward the end. After all, they DID lose the Super Bowl, under the heavy cloud of what went on with Butler.

Every reason in the world to think disaster, right?

Sorry, until Belichick loses badly with Brady still playing, I’m not ready to think it’s time to cash in the chips. In Bill I trust? I guess so, until proven otherwise.

Old pal John Tomase, writing on WEEI.com, said:

“There are bad weeks and then there’s what’s transpiring in Foxborough. The Patriots have started the NFL offseason with a bang. Unfortunately it’s the starter’s pistol as their most proven free agents race for the exits. The ensuing whimper is the sound of their fans collectively realizing none of these guys is coming back.

“Nate Solder, Tom Brady’s most trusted lineman? Gone. Danny Amendola, playoff monster? Gone. Malcolm Butler, Super Bowl hero? (It was a long time ago, ask your parents). Gone. Dion Lewis, the primary threat out of the backfield? Gone.

“But don’t worry. The Patriots are signing special teamers as if the most critical phase of the game is punt coverage, which helps explain the rush to secure Nate Ebner, Brandon King and presumably Matthew Slater.”

And they will sign others. Relax, folks.

No answer

Butler, speaking to the Boston Herald, still doesn’t know why he was on the field for only one special teams play in the Super Bowl.

“I never got a reason,” Butler said. “I feel like this was the reason: I got kind of sick. I went to the hospital. They probably thought I was kind of late on the game plan; I wasn’t as locked in as I should be and could have been a matchup deal. It could have been anything. But Bill Belichick has been doing this for a very long time.

“He took a veteran out of Super Bowl XLIX (against the Seahawks) and put in a first-year rookie, and that turned out right, so you could never question his decision. It didn’t work out right (against the Eagles). It didn’t work out the best for me or him or the New England Patriots. But I can say he won more than he lost, so it is what it is. I always have love for New England, Bill Belichick, Mr. Kraft, all those guys. Life just goes on.”

He added: “I’ll always have love for New England. From the custodians to Belichick, all the way to Mr. Kraft, I love those guys, my teammates. I like everything about New England, especially the fans. Those fans, they really had love for me and they still do. I will always remember where I came from, and I never could forget.”

Thursday, the Pats traded for Devin McCourty’s twin brother, Jason.

Sharpe weighs in

Count Shannon Sharpe among those who thinks Brady is not nearing the end.

Talking to Skip Bayless on their ESPN show, Sharpe said, He’s talking about, ‘It’s going to be a family decision.’ No it’s not! You can have your mom, your dad, your sisters and Gisele, guess what? You have one more vote than them because that’s the only vote that matters,” Sharpe said. “Unfortunately I have a feeling, Skip, that Tom is going to try and play as long as he can, injury notwithstanding. And I’m afraid that might be the only way, is that an injury knocks him out for part of the season and he walks away.”

Reacting to an episode of Tom vs. Time, where Brady and his wife joked about how he loves football more than he loves her, Sharpe said, “So that doesn’t sound like a guy that says, ‘You know what? I got one more year,’ He’s not retiring after an MVP season, obviously. But I don’t see him walking away, minus an injury, anytime soon. I thought he was going to play like two years, get to 20 (years), but Tom Brady, he might try to be like (Adam) Vinatieri. Vinatieri came in the league in ’96 and he’s still playing.”

Appearing with Stephen Colbert Monday night, Brady said he would “absolutely” allow his kids to play football and, talking about potential retirement, told Colbert, “I’m gonna stop at some point ... I don’t know when.”

WEEI’s Ryan Hannable tweeting about Gronkowski: “These tight end contracts being agreed upon past few days are giving Rob Gronkowski more and more leverage against the Patriots for a new contract. He’s scheduled to make around $9 million this season.”

Hoop stuff

Russell Westbrook became the fourth player to record 100 triple doubles this week. Oscar Robertson leads with 181, Magic Johnson had 138 and Jason Kidd 107. … Avery Bradley had surgery to repair adductor and rectus abdominis muscles and is slated to be out 6-8 weeks. … Danny Ainge says Gordon Hayward had a bit of a setback in his recovery recently, probably a good thing that will likely slow this thing down. … Did the committee really have to match up Wichita State and Marshall, two schools known for plane crashes, in the opening game?

Trae Young and Oklahoma were one and done at the hands of Rhode Island Thursday. Now, we wait to see if Young is one and done in college.

Speaking of not sticking around, Rhody coach Danny Hurley is the center of coaching rumors. Is he headed for Pitt?

“It’s something, social media age, for me to sit up here and to say I have no awareness would be, you know, it wouldn’t be truthful,” said Hurley, whose seniors picked up their school-record 91st victory Thursday.

Sticking in Rhode Island, this tweet from the Providence Journal’s Kevin McNamara on Providence College: “This is quite an achievement, now need more W’s: Providence 1 of 13 teams making 5 or more consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Other 12 are Arizona, Cincy, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina, Villanova, Virginia, Wichita State and Xavier.”

UVM and BC shared a charter flight to Nashville for the N.IT., flying out of Manchester. Both lost, and the Catamounts’ plane smelled of smoke upon landing back in Burlington. All ended well — except the season was over.

The 91-64 loss to host Middle Tennessee State was UVM’s worst loss since losing to Purdue 107-79 on Nov. 15, 2015.

Baseball silliness

The minor leagues have decided to put a runner on second base with no one out in each extra inning this season. That, folks, is messing with the game, and we can only hope it doesn’t hit the major leagues.

Pace of play? It has more to do with strikeouts and walks than anything else, starters throwing a hundred pitches in five innings. Thursday’s Yankees-Pirates spring game was almost two hours old through four innings. To that point, the Yankees had eight runs on three hits.

By the way, as a scorer, I checked with Elias Sports Bureau on whether that runner, if he scores, would be an earned run. It is not. It will be treated like a batter reaching first on catcher’s interference.

Wednesday, Aaron Judge had to be slapped on the wrist for telling Manny Machado he wants to see him in the Bronx next season, saying, “You’d look good in Pinstripes.” MLB didn’t like the tampering and told the Yankees, who told Judge.

People are assuming Machado will sign with the Yankees, but remember this: He is moving to shortstop this season and that’s where he wants to continue his career beyond this year. The Yankees have a pretty good shortstop in Didi Gregorius.

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


Sports columns Patriots/NFL Red Sox/MLB Celtics/NBA Bruins/NHL