FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. A special Mother’s Day: When Angie Edelman answered the phone Friday afternoon, she was minutes away from boarding a flight for what was truly a surprise Mother’s Day weekend treat. She was en route to Ohio to watch her son — Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman — walk in Kent State’s graduation.
“I was shocked. I only found out two days ago,” Angie said.
The receiver, who initially joined the Patriots in 2009, tweeted Thursday that he had promised his parents he would finish his degree. Angie and Frank Edelman had stressed to him that a degree would provide him greater opportunities whenever his playing career ended.
Angie knew Julian had been working toward it, but she wasn’t aware how close he was to completing his studies as a business management major. So the idea of spending Mother’s Day weekend in Ohio wasn’t on her radar. The trip came together quickly.
“Couldn’t be prouder. Proudest mom in the world,” Angie said.
— Julian Edelman (@Edelman11) May 11, 2019
2. Player cuts hit Bielema hard: Former Wisconsin and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, whose second year with the Patriots in 2019 will include the expanded responsibilities of leading the defensive line, told me Friday that he had never really considered a transition to the NFL in the past. He described himself as “living in the moment” and someone who just “loves coaching,” before adding: “The world of college football has been great to me for a long time, but last year I definitely enjoyed certain aspects. Obviously, if you go to the Super Bowl and win it, you’re going to love that ride. I kind of got spoiled with the first impression. But there’s definitely things I miss about college football. … One of the most humbling moments for me last year was when we had to cut the roster. In college, when you have a player that is removed from your program prematurely, it’s usually by actions they chose. Now in the NFL, with limited roster spots, you’re working with a guy and all of a sudden there is just not room. I actually had to go take a moment and sit in an office — you have an attachment to players; it’s difficult.”
3. No jersey number solidified for Harry: When Patriots first-round pick N’Keal Harry took part in Thursday’s introduction for the team’s top pick with owners Robert and Jonathan Kraft, he held up a No. 1 Patriots jersey, per tradition. Harry’s appearance sparked the question of what jersey number the wide receiver actually will wear in New England (he was No. 1 at Arizona State), but coach Bill Belichick, not surprisingly, is in no rush to assign it. Similar to last year, when Belichick gave all rookies jersey numbers from 50 to 71 in the spring, it sounds like the plan is to do the same thing this year until the start of training camp.
4. Special-teams units a pack of wolves: In a “behind the scenes” feature on the Patriots’ “3 Games to Glory VI” DVD, a shot of special-teams coordinator Joe Judge working in his office shows the following motivational saying on the wall: “If You Call One Wolf, You Invite the Pack.” On Friday, I asked Judge where it originated. “A few years ago, talking with the special-teams units, a couple of the guys referenced how wolves hunt in terms of how we cover kicks. That’s always been something that has resonated with the group — everyone depends on each other. We need to be strong individually, but that’s going to make us strong as a group. So we’re truly working as a pack, and if you’re challenging one of us, you’re challenging all of us.”
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5. Judge’s unique double dip — special teams and WRs: Friday’s news that Judge is coordinating the Patriots’ special-teams units and serving as wide receivers coach puts him on a track to better position himself for future head-coaching opportunities. John Harbaugh, who was hired by the Ravens in 2008, is the most recent special-teams coach to become a head coach — which reflects how franchises are reluctant to look in that direction. If the Patriots didn’t think highly of special-teams assistant coach Cameron Achord, it’s hard to imagine them exploring such a unique double dip with the 37-year-old Judge, whose work as an assistant to Nick Saban (Alabama) and Belichick has helped provide him a solid foundation in coaching.
6. Big year for Rivers — on and off the field: This is a big year for 2017 third-round pick Derek Rivers, the team’s top draft choice that year (No. 83 overall). When I caught up with him Wednesday as he volunteered his time to create a special experience for 150 students with disabilities, he relayed that his wife, Lauren, is due with the couple’s first baby any day now. They are expecting a son. Meanwhile, Rivers is hoping to deliver as an end-of-the-line-of-scrimmage player for the Patriots in 2019 after a quiet first couple of seasons with the club. “Praise God, I feel great,” he said. “God has blessed me more than just with physical ability, but mental and spiritually.” One thing Rivers mentioned was that while some have said it takes two years to return from a torn ACL (he missed the 2017 season because of the injury), he felt as though he was back by last year’s organized activities.
7. Scar’s offseason study on Wynn: Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia told me Friday that part of his offseason work included going back to watch 2018 first-round pick Isaiah Wynn in training camp practices before he tore his Achilles tendon in August. In doing so, it was reinforced to Scarnecchia that Wynn is a “really good football player” and the team is still high on him as a top option at left tackle. As part of that conversation, though, Scarnecchia noted Wynn is not yet cleared for on-field drills. With insurance in mind, the club probably feels fortunate that veteran offensive tackle Jared Veldheer was still available after the Tuesday compensatory-pick deadline.
8. Did You Know: No team ran down the play clock more than the Los Angeles Chargers in 2018. That was what Patriots pro scout Steve Cargile, as shown in “3 Games to Glory IV,” relayed to the defensive coaching staff leading into the AFC divisional-round playoff game between the teams. It was Cargile’s way of explaining that the Chargers weren’t a fast-paced offense, and that defenders — more than facing any other team — should be prepared for the play clock to be close to expiring before the ball is snapped.
Rodney Harrison was the first NFL safety to have 30 sacks and 30 interceptions. Joe Robbins/Getty Images
9. Rodney Harrison in Patriots Hall of Fame, but what about Canton? With Harrison winning a fan vote to earn induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2019, it sparked a question of his Pro Football Hall of Fame credentials. Longtime NFL reporter and current Hall of Fame voter Clark Judge of the Talk of Fame Network was gracious with his time in explaining some of the dynamics in play that have kept Harrison from becoming even a semifinalist, let alone a finalist.
Position had been overlooked, creating recent glut: “We historically have been blind to safeties, and that changed in 2017 when Kenny Easley became a senior inductee. Then last year Brian Dawkins goes in. So that’s 2-for-2. But before that time, the last safety to go in was Paul Krause, in 1998. He’s the all-time leader in interceptions. So we have all that time and now we have Ed Reed this year. … With Rodney, you just don’t hear that much talk about him, in part because we have other candidates. Steve Atwater is a first-team all-decade safety who made it as a finalist this year for a second time. Then you have LeRoy Butler, another first-team all-decade safety. John Lynch has been a finalist the last six years. And looking ahead, [Troy] Polamalu comes up [in 2020].”
Closer look at his candidacy: “Rodney has to get some people talking about him. He’s one of the most productive guys out there — first [safety] to have 30 sacks and 30 interceptions — and was named to the 50th anniversary team with the Chargers and Patriots. He’s a disruptive force and also produced when it counts the most — nine playoff games, seven interceptions, two sacks. So what’s holding him back? I think other people, the fact there has been a blind spot towards safeties, and let’s be honest, there has been this feeling he had been a dirty player. I’m not saying I feel that way, but he did accumulate a lot of fines. Maybe this Patriots Hall of Fame gets him some attention, so we start to re-evaluate him, because the résumé speaks for itself.”
10. Tippett’s 25-year anniversary: On May 12, 1994, future Pro Football Fame linebacker Andre Tippett announced his retirement from the Patriots, and it was on that day that he was named director of player resources. When I mentioned the 25-year anniversary of working with the Patriots after his playing career, Tippett turned to humor in referencing an old Virginia Slims slogan: “I’ve come a long way, baby!” Tippett has most recently served a long tenure as the team’s executive director of community affairs, and when I asked what he’s most proud of over 25 years, he said it has been “being part of the great work the Kraft family has been part of from a philanthropy standpoint.”
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