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#pounditThursday, January 27, 2022

Articles tagged: New England Patriots

Patriots temporarily gave away Rob Gronkowski’s old number to rookie

Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski’s number hasn’t been officially retired by the New England Patriots. They offered a reminder of that recently when they gave it away for the first time since the tight end’s departure — to a tryout rookie, no less.

As noted by Mike Reiss of ESPN, wide receiver Devin Ross wore Gronkowski’s old No. 87 during his recent tryout, raising some eyebrows. The Patriots ended up signing Ross to their 90-man camp roster, but with a new number — No. 8. It’s not clear if that was the plan all along or if the Patriots had second thoughts about giving Gronkowski’s old number to a rookie receiver — or anyone else, for that matter.

It’s too early for the Patriots to retire any numbers from their two-decade dynasty. It’s almost certain Tom Brady’s No. 12 will not be worn again by a New England player. Guys like Gronkowski are more of a question, though he will forever be closely associated with that period of time in Patriots history.

There doesn’t appear to be any animosity between Gronk and the Patriots. For that and many other reasons, it wouldn’t really be a shock if the franchise keeps No. 87 out of circulation at least for a while.

NFL world reacts on Twitter to big throwback uniform news

Bucs throwback helmet

The NFL has finally decided to allow teams to wear alternate helmets with their throwback uniforms, and it would be an understatement to say fans are excited about the big news.

The NFL sent a memo to teams on Thursday informing them that they will be able to utilize alternate helmets with their uniforms beginning in the 2022 season. Teams will be permitted to use the helmets for alternate, throwback or Color Rush uniforms.

The league had previously banned the use of alternate helmets for safety reasons. Officials felt that allowing alternate helmets would lead to more helmets not fitting properly. The new policy calls for teams to have a set of alternate helmets for every player on the roster and to ensure that the helmets are the same make, model and size as the player’s primary helmet.

NFL fans had overwhelmingly positive reactions to the news, with many wondering what took the league so long. Now that alternate helmets are allowed, several teams can return to using their wildly popular throwback uniforms. You can see some examples below:

Some teams, like the New England Patriots, have not used throwback uniforms for years. That is because it would make no sense to wear throwback uniforms without the helmet graphics that go along with them. Those red Patriots uniforms and many others will likely be back in 2022, and the NFL community is ecstatic.

With all the money teams stand to make selling throwback merchandise, it’s baffling that the NFL took this long to come up with a solution. Better late than never.

Here is the first impression Mac Jones has made with the Patriots

Mac Jones

The general scouting report on Mac Jones prior to the NFL Draft was that he had possibly the highest football IQ of any quarterback in the class without the elite skill set. It sounds like he has lived up to that reputation in his first camp with the New England Patriots.

Albert Breer of The MMQB wrote in his weekly column on Monday that Jones has come as advertised for the Patriots. He describes the No. 15 overall pick as “a heady field general, if somewhat limited physically.”

Jones lacks elite arm strength and isn’t really capable of making things happen with his feet. Bill Belichick knew that when he drafted him, however, and Breer noted that Jones has showcased his ability to process pre-snap reads and deliver the ball to the right spots. That level of awareness is what made him a Heisman Trophy candidate at Alabama.

The Patriots have only held 13 spring practices. Breer, who covered the team before he began working for Sports Illustrated, said Belichick does not hold any positional competitions at this point in the offseason. Any talk that Jones is pushing Newton for the starting job would be premature, though it sounds like he is off to a solid start.

Belichick seems determined to have Newton under center in Week 1. Some of that has to do with the belief within the organization that Newton did not get a fair shot in 2020, as the offseason was shortened due to the pandemic and New England had a poor set of skill position players. Belichick also probably does not want to start a rookie at QB, but Jones could force his hand if he continues to play well and Newton does not show significant improvement over last year.

Ernie Adams keeps ‘pink stripes’ a mystery in surprise Patriots presser

Ernie Adams

Ernie Adams is a New England Patriots legend who has notoriously kept a low profile while helping the team win championships, but the media finally got to ask him some questions on Wednesday. Of course, Adams did his best to remain a man of mystery.

Belichick made a surprise announcement on Wednesday that Adams — his longtime “Director of Football Research” — would be available to the media. The 68-year-old Massachusetts native is retiring, and he’s taking an intriguing legacy with him. One of the first questions Adams was asked was about the famous “pink stripes” phrase that Patriots fans are familiar with yet know absolutely nothing about. Adams chose to keep it that way.

What does “pink stripes” mean? No one outside the Patriots organization really knows. The phrase was first discovered in a 2014 NFL Films documentary when it was seen on a whiteboard inside Adams’ office. It then surfaced again in a documentary the Patriots released about Adams in 2020.

For years, people have wondered what the phrase means. Adams said in 2020 that it is “proprietary football information,” which he repeated on Wednesday.

Like the phrase “pink stripes,” there has always been a ton of mystery surrounding Adams himself. He worked for the Patriots as an administrative assistant from 1975-1978. He then spent time with the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns, and Belichick brought him back to New England in 2000. Adams has been with the Patriots through all six of their Super Bowl titles.

When asked on Wednesday what exactly he did in New England for the past two decades, Adams kept things vague.

Many people believe Adams was at the center of the Patriots’ infamous Spygate scandal in 2007, but that has never been proven. The fact that he met with the media for the first time in 20-plus years on Wednesday and still managed to reveal nothing was the perfect ending to his career.

If you thought you knew very little about Belichick from the way the coach has always answered questions, just know that Patriots fans and those who cover the team know even less about his right-hand man. That is likely the way it is going to stay.

Cam Newton shares his thoughts on Patriots drafting Mac Jones

Cam Newton

Cam Newton knew he might have to compete for a starting job when the New England Patriots drafted Mac Jones, but that does not mean the former NFL MVP was disappointed with the pick.

Newton was asked by a reporter on Tuesday how he felt about the Patriots drafting Jones in the first round. He said he fully supported the pick.

“He was the right pick, in my opinion,” Newton said, via WBZ’s Michael Hurley. “He was the best player available and that’s what the NFL draft is for.”

Although he did not take the Jones selection personally, Newton gave a very firm response when asked if he has a chip on his shoulder.

Bill Belichick has had nothing but positive things to say about Newton this offseason. He has repeatedly said that Newton is the team’s starter, and it’s possible he does not want Jones to start as a rookie. Belichick told reporters on Tuesday that Newton is “way ahead of where he was last year at this time.”

Of course, Newton will have to prove that Belichick’s confidence in him is warranted. The 32-year-old has been taking first-team reps in practice, but some believe Jones will have a chance to beat him out.

Cam Newton is back with the Patriots! Treat yourself or a friend with this great Cam Newton Patriots shirt. You can buy it here.

Stephon Gilmore officially begins holdout with Patriots

Stephon Gilmore

The New England Patriots began mandatory minicamp on Monday, and their best defensive back was not in attendance.

As many expected, Stephon Gilmore did not report to the start of minicamp. The former Defensive Player of the Year is not expected to attend at any point, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network.

Gilmore is rehabbing from a partially torn quad that ended his season early last year, so it’s unclear if the injury is a factor in his absence. Numerous reports have indicated he wants a new contract.

Gilmore is set to earn a base salary of $7 million this year in the final season of his five-year, $65 million contract. That number is so low in part because the Patriots previously moved a large portion of Gilmore’s 2021 salary to 2020 to give him more guaranteed money after he won Defensive Player of the Year.

A report earlier in the offseason claimed it was viewed as a foregone conclusion that the Patriots would trade Gilmore. That has not happened, though it cannot be ruled out. We also can’t rule out Bill Belichick making Gilmore his latest surprise veteran cut.

By not reporting to minicamp, Gilmore is subjecting himself to a fine of around $93,000. The Patriots have the option of waiving that and categorizing his absence as excused.

Stephon Gilmore holding out for new contract from Patriots?

Stephon Gilmore

Stephon Gilmore is in the final season of his contract with the New England Patriots, and that may be why the All-Pro cornerback has yet to show up to work.

Gilmore has not attended any voluntary offseason workouts with the Patriots, which is a different approach from how he has operated in the past. The 30-year-old will be subject to fines if he does not report to mandatory minicamp on Monday, and ESPN’s Mike Reiss wonders if a holdout could be coming for Gilmore.

Gilmore is set to earn a base salary of $7 million this year in the final season of his five-year, $65 million contract. That number is so low in part because the Patriots previously moved a large portion of Gilmore’s 2021 salary to 2020 to give him more guaranteed money after he won Defensive Player of the Year. Now, the four-time Pro Bowler likely wants an extension.

A report earlier in the offseason claimed it was viewed as a foregone conclusion that the Patriots would trade Gilmore. That has not happened, though it cannot be ruled out. We also can’t rule out Bill Belichick making Gilmore his latest surprise veteran cut.

Gilmore missed five games last season with a quad injury. It would be out of character for Belichick to give a new contract to a player who is on the wrong side of 30 and coming off an injury. The Patriots have spent big this offseason, but that may be where they draw the line.

Mac Jones already poised to beat out Cam Newton?

Mac Jones

Bill Belichick has made it clear that Cam Newton remains the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback even after they drafted Mac Jones. That is easy for the coach to say months before the start of the season, but it is fair to wonder how long he can stick to it.

Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald shared some observations after watching both Newton and Jones take part in organized team activities on Thursday. While it is far too early to draw conclusions about the quarterback competition, she said there is already a feel that it is playing out. And at least for one practice, it sounds like Jones looked like the better option.

Newton has been working on his mechanics this offseason, and Guregian notes that he appears to have made progress with his delivery on short throws. However, Newton displayed some issues throwing to his right and had deeper passes sail on him. He also had some issues with accuracy during drills.

Jones, on the other hand, is “clearly polished on the finer points of playing the position,” according to Guregian.

“There was one drill where the quarterbacks would make a play-fake before delivering the football. His fakes were smooth, despite playing mostly from the shotgun at Alabama,” the reporter said of Jones. “And all the pre-draft hype about him throwing a ‘catchable ball’ were on target. He leads receivers and puts the ball in the perfect spot.

“He has a nice release, is accurate and gets rid of the ball quickly.”

Again, we’re talking about OTAs. Belichick probably does not want a rookie starting Week 1, but Jones is going to do everything he can to force the coach’s hand.

Jones showed that he is thrilled with where he ended up with the message he delivered to Roger Goodell at the draft (video here). That is likely because the No. 15 overall pick knows how Newton played last season. If Cam doesn’t show drastic improvement, it will only be a matter of time before he loses his job to the rookie.

Julio Jones reportedly hoping to join one of these two teams

Julio Jones

Julio Jones confirmed this week that he wants the Atlanta Falcons to trade him, and the All-Pro wide receiver reportedly has two teams at the top of his wish list.

Jones would prefer to be traded to the New England Patriots or Tennessee Titans, according to Chris Simms of NBC Sports.

It’s unclear if the Titans will attempt to trade for Jones, but the interest with New England appears to be mutual. A report over the weekend claimed the Patriots have had internal discussions about the possibility of acquiring Jones.

Players from both teams have already begun making their pitches to Jones. Derrick Henry had an enthusiastic response to rumors linking Jones to Tennessee. Patriots offensive lineman Trent Brown also tweeted about Jones this week.

Jones supposedly is open to the idea of playing with Cam Newton. Although, he did say on live TV Monday that he wants to be traded to a winning team (video here). The Patriots finished 7-9 last season and are hoping for a big turnaround in 2021.

The Falcons are said to have a very steep asking price for Jones, so that will likely have to come down for trade discussions to get serious.

Photo: Lisa Ferdinando/U.S. Secretary of Defense via CC-BY 2.0

Report: Patriots have had internal discussions about Julio Jones trade

Julio Jones

The New England Patriots appear to be at least somewhat interested in trading for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones.

According to Michael Giardi of NFL Network, the Patriots have had “internal discussions” about trading for Jones. The seriousness of those discussions was unclear.

The Patriots have been named as a possible Jones destination because the fit seems to work. They have the cap space to theoretically take on Jones’ $15.3 million salary, and they’re in serious need of offensive playmakers. The price to acquire Jones likely wouldn’t be particularly prohibitive either, with the Falcons in dire need of cap space.

There’s been some talk that Jones might be interested in joining the Patriots for this specific reason. If that’s the case, he’d probably welcome a deal.

Photo: Lisa Ferdinando/U.S. Secretary of Defense via CC-BY 2.0