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Drew Rosenhaus: Gronk, Patriots on the same page

Rob Gronkowski AP

Patriots president Jonathan Kraft said over the weekend that there was no rift between the team and tight end Rob Gronkowski about the pace of his return to game action this season.

Gronkowski’s agent Drew Rosenhaus echoed those sentiments, as well as those of Patriots coach Bill Belichick on the difference between practicing and playing in a game on Thursday.

“There’s a huge difference between being cleared to practice and being cleared to play in a game,” Rosenhaus said on WQAM in Miami, via Field Yates of “I’ve had great dialogue with Coach Belichick and the Patriots’ medical staff and Rob and his family. Everybody’s on the same page, except it’s gotten a lot of play in the media and all these unsubstantiated sources.”

Last weekend, PFT reported that Gronkowski was likely to miss one more game, at most, before making his long-awaited 2013 debut. Rosenhaus said that Gronkowski still has not been cleared by Dr. James Andrews, but that he’ll “hopefully” be back soon and that this Sunday’s date with the Jets remains a possibility should Gronkowski get the necessary medical clearance.

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Cam Newton says the kind of thing Cam Newton says sometimes

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) directs the team's offense against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter in NFC Divisional Playoff action at CenturyLink Field in Seattle on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images) Getty Images

By all accounts, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton works hard, has played hurt and played well, helping his team to the first back-to-back playoff seasons in franchise history.

But sometimes when he talks, he makes it easy to misconstrue him.

During an interview with Morgan Fogarty of WCCB in Charlotte, Newton said another one of those things — like “entertainer and icon” — which will be latched onto by his critics as evidence of something he may not actually be.

When asked if he was still one of the league’s “greatest unknowns,” Newton started talking and the words just fell together in the following perhaps-unfortunate order.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “I say this with the most humility, but I don’t think nobody has ever been who I’m trying to be. Nobody has the size, nobody has the speed, nobody has the arm strength, nobody had the intangibles that I’ve had.

“I’m not saying I’m the one-on-one type of person that this league will never see again. No, I’m not saying that, hear me out. I’m just saying that so much of my talents have not been seen in one person.”

To be honest, he’s probably right. He has the mobility of a Russell Wilson, with the size and arm of a Ben Roethlisberger. But for all Newton’s grace — not everybody can wear white pants in the mud and save damsels in distress — sometimes he stumbles over his own words and ends up sounding more arrogant than he could possibly be.

And when he does, it makes him an easy target.

On the other hand, Newton can also sound incredibly gracious and self-aware.

For example, he said he still wears the hospital bracelet from last year’s car wreck, as a reminder of the temporal nature of his existence and the need to appreciate each moment.

And he was open about learning not to demand “instant gratification,” from his career, as he learns from his elders on the Panthers roster.

“So much of leadership is being a good follower as well,” Newton said. “And I look forward to hearing Thomas Davis speak. Watching how Ryan Kalil approaches the game. As well as Greg Olsen, [who] gets after it every day at practice.

“When I see those type of things each and every day, it makes me a better person [and say to myself] ‘Man, let me stop feeling sorry for myself and my nagging injuries and say you know what, I gotta do better. I gotta become that leader that I’m supposed to be.'”

Of course, that’s not as dramatic a sound bite, or as easy to use to pigeonhole him. Which is probably why you won’t hear it as often.

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Police confirm arrest of Ray McDonald

McDonald Getty Images

The Bears have yet to say anything about the arrest of defensive lineman Ray McDonald. The authorities are saying plenty.

Via NBC Bay Area, Santa Clara police have confirmed that McDonald was arrested Monday on charges of domestic violence and child endangerment. More information could be released within the hour.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee notes that the arrest occurred at an address belonging to retired 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith.  Smith has not been accused of wrongdoing.

The Bears surely will face pressure to sever ties with McDonald, especially since owner George McCaskey has said that he initially didn’t want to sign the player who was cut by the 49ers after a pair of accusations in 2014.

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Report: Jim Schwartz to consult with NFL officials in 2015

Cleveland Browns v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

Former Lions head coach and Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz didn’t land a job on a coaching staff for the 2015 season and said that he’d reached a point in his career where he “can be selective about opportunities.”

Schwartz also said that he was confident that an appealing opportunity will present itself to him at some point in the future and it appears he’s found a way to stay busy and around the game until that happens. Alex Marvez of reports that Schwartz will serve as a consultant for the league’s officiating department.

It would be the first time that Schwartz will work directly with the league’s officials, although he’s had an impact on that office in the past. During a Thanksgiving game in 2012, Schwartz threw a red flag to assert that Texans running back Justin Forsett was down a short way into what was ruled an 81-yard touchdown. League rules at the time were that throwing the challenge flag negated the automatic review of a scoring play, but the rule was changed during the next offseason to ensure the play would still be reviewed even if a coach was overzealous with his challenge.

Per Marvez, Schwartz’s main role will be “to help provide a coach’s perspective with some of the decisions made by the officiating office” and the aforementioned rule change probably takes care of one big suggestion that Schwartz would have made from a coach’s point of view.

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Report: Ray McDonald arrested, again

McDonald Getty Images

Bears defensive lineman Ray McDonald is about to have his character assassinated all over again.

McDonald, who became a lightning rod for controversy following a domestic violence accusation last year and later was abruptly cut following a separate accusation of sexual assault, has been arrested, according to Damian Trujillo of NBC Bay Area.

Per Trujillo, the new allegation is domestic violence and “possible child endangerment.”

The NFL previously has cleared McDonald of potential Personal Conduct Policy violations arising from the first 2014 incident. McDonald has said he will sue his accuser from the second incident, claiming that footage from his home surveillance system shows that their sexual encounter was “clearly consensual.”

“I had two incidents [in which] I feel like I didn’t do anything wrong, but still it’s in the spotlight,” McDonald said last month. “It was in the national spotlight for quite some time. I’m just trying to move forward from it.”

The 49ers absorbed plenty of criticism for not suspending McDonald pending the resolution of the initial incident from August 2014; this time around, the allegation could result in placement of McDonald on the Commissioner Exempt list, given the NFL’s new approach to accusations of violent crime. McDonald would be paid his base salary, but he’d be prevented from practicing or playing.

The suspension won’t matter if the Bears decide to sever ties with McDonald. Owner George McCaskey has said he initially didn’t want to sign McDonald based on his history. but McCaskey deferred to G.M. Ryan Pace.

For Pace, the incident becomes the first blemish on his record as the architect of the team’s football operation. What Pace does next will likely be a factor in whether the blemish becomes a scar.

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Glenn Dorsey: There shouldn’t be a big letdown because of Justin Smith’s retirement

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Glenn Dorsey didn’t try to undersell what defensive end Justin Smith meant to the 49ers defense when asked about Smith’s retirement last week.

Dorsey said you can’t replace “the baddest dude I’ve played with” and that the team’s plan moving forward is going to be for several players to pick up the slack. Dorsey is part of that group along with Darnell Dockett and younger players like Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial and first-round pick Arik Armstead. He thinks the injection of new blood will do good things for the defensive front.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that can play,” Dorsey said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “There are a lot of young guys that are hungry, so there’s a lot of good competition and guys are working hard. There shouldn’t be too much of a letdown.”

Dorsey may see more time at defensive end in the coming season as the 49ers recalibrate with Smith and Ray McDonald out of the picture and he said he’s close to being fully healed from the torn biceps that ended his 2014 campaign. Dockett is returning from a torn ACL and the 49ers will need the veterans to be a big part of the mix even with the hungry youngsters trying to fill their plates.

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Rashean Mathis thinks Lions’ defense can be better this year

Detroit Lions v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Can the Lions’ defense get better despite the loss of its best player, Ndamukong Suh? Cornerback Rashean Mathis thinks so.

“That’s definitely the plan,” Mathis told the Detroit Free Press. “Anything other than that wouldn’t be us. It wouldn’t be what we’re building for. Like I said, we started something but we know that consistency has to carry on. That’s what the off-season is for: trying to fill in those gaps or even places that we were good at, getting better and those things as well. That’s what our scouts are for, that’s what the coaches coach for and that’s what we train for, to be better than we were last year.”

It’s easy to see why that’s the approach the Lions are taking, but it’s hard to believe they can actually do it. In addition to losing Suh, the Lions have lost their second- and third-best defensive tackles, Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley. Even with the arrivals of Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker, they’ve taken a step backward at that position. Detroit also lost defensive end George Johnson, who was third on the team in sacks last season. And none of the Lions’ draft picks are expected to start as rookies.

So despite Mathis’s high hopes, the Lions’ defense is likely to take a step backward this season. Last year it was the defense that carried Detroit to the playoffs, but if the Lions are going to remain a playoff team, they need the offense and special teams to pick up some of the slack.

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Dee Milliner competing for roster spot “like everyone else”

New York Jets v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

If you want a primer on how quickly things can change in the NFL, the career arc of Jets cornerback Dee Milliner isn’t a bad place to start.

When the Jets took Milliner with the ninth overall pick of the 2013 draft, he was seen as a replacement for the newly departed Darrelle Revis in the starting lineup and the foundation of new General Manager John Idzik’s first draft in charge of the team’s personnel. Fast forward two years and Revis is back with the Jets while Idzik has been ousted from his job in favor of Mike Maccagnan.

As for Milliner? He’s not a starter after two years plagued by injuries, including a torn Achilles last year, and ineffectiveness. If those trends don’t come to an end, defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers suggests a roster spot might be hard to come by in 2015.

“When you look at Dee coming in, you see a guy still kind of working off of an injury, trying to get himself to 100 percent,” Rodgers said, via Rich Cimini of “But as we looked at him, we expect Dee to compete for a position on the roster like everyone else. This was a top-10 pick, and we think he has a lot of ability and we expect him to compete.”

Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine joined Revis as free agent acquisitions with the Jets and none of them will be fighting for roster spots. The Jets also have 2014 third-rounder Dexter McDougle returning from a torn ACL to go with Darrin Walls, Marcus Williams and Milliner at corner.

Cimini suggests Milliner could start the year on the PUP list as he continues to return from the Achilles injury and that his $3.7 million in guaranteed money will help him hold onto a roster spot one way or another, but it’s clear that the paths of both Milliner and the Jets have veered significantly from where they were pointed in the first round of the 2013 draft.

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Blake Bortles worked to remake himself this offseason

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 28: Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks to pass in the pocket against the Houston Texans in the first quarter in a NFL game on December 28, 2014 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The reward for going 3-13 was the third pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, but the Jaguars can’t even enjoy that after losing Dante Fowler to a torn ACL in his first minicamp practice.

So if they’re going to improve, they’re going to need more from last year’s third pick, quarterback Blake Bortles.

While it’s hard to tell if the cast around him has improved enough to make them better, Bortles himself is putting in the time to help himself.

Via Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union, Bortles is like many quarterbacks honing his craft with an off-site quarterback tutor. He’s working with a group in California including former Major League pitcher Tom House, who has worked with everybody from Tom Brady to Tim Tebow, to many in between.

This offseason, Blake did everything he could to improve his craft,” said Adam Dedeaux of 3DQB. “It’s not just about working hard, but smart, making sure everything you do has a purpose.

“Blake really worked smart this offseason. He now has a process that’s going to work for him to be successful, which is the main goal. His attention to detail, wanting to get better, his expectations of himself, are right there with the best. I know he’s taking that into training camp. The dude got after it.”

The group, which includes House, Dedeaux and former NFL quarterback John Beck spent two months working with Bortles on bio-mechanics, conditioning, nutrition and the mental game.

But Bortles is also physically different now, down from 250 pounds to 238, hopefully in better shape for his second season.

And while his offseason focus is no guarantee of success, for Jaguars fans, it’s what they have to cling onto at this point.

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Cam Heyward: We’ll find out how high Stephon Tuitt’s ceiling is this year

Keith Butler AP

The Steelers kick off organized team activities this week and they’ll be getting to work without Dick LeBeau for the first time since 2003.

The longtime defensive coordinator is in Tennessee now, leaving longtime Steelers assistant Keith Butler in charge of the defense. This week’s work will be the first chance the Steelers have had to run team drills under Butler, but defensive end Cam Heyward said that no one should expect any radical differences from what the team ran with LeBeau calling the shots.

“I don’t think there are going to be too many changes,” Heyward said, via the team’s website. “It’s going to be the same details. We will have a couple of new wrinkles, but we won’t share them now.”

Without any major schematic shifts to figure out, the Steelers should have plenty of time to focus on integrating young players into key roles on a defense that’s changed a lot of personnel of late. The team has drafted 10 defensive players over the last two years to replace departing veterans and they’ll need several of them to step up this year. Heyward thinks fellow defensive end Stephon Tuitt is ready.

“He has been in certain situations most rookies don’t get to be in. He has been in dog fights,” Heyward said. “For me, I was behind Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel and they were going through the dog fights. If they weren’t playing I would get my opportunity. We expect Tuitt to be ready to go game one. Tuitt has a high ceiling and we are going to see how high it is.”

If the likes of Tuitt, Ryan Shazier, Senquez Golson and Bud Dupree can make strides in 2015, the Steelers should be on better footing defensively. If they don’t, expect more shootouts in Pittsburgh again this season.

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Report: Adrian Peterson still wants out of Minnesota

Peterson Getty Images

The agitation through his agent ended when the draft came and went without the Vikings trading running back Adrian Peterson. The motivation to no longer play for the team reportedly lingers.

According to Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports, Peterson still wants out of Minnesota.

Per Robinson, Peterson will skip the entire offseason program, not just the first week of Organized Team Activities. Which means that Peterson will forfeit a $250,000 workout bonus.

The next question becomes whether he’ll skip a mandatory minicamp, which runs from June 16-18. If he doesn’t show, Peterson can be fined $12,155 for missing the first day, $24,300 for missing the second day, and $36,465 for missing the third day — a total of $72,920.

Given that he’ll already lose $250,000 by skipping voluntary workouts, what’s another $72,920? However, Peterson has been careful not to say or do anything that would directly indicate to the public that there’s a real problem, relying instead on the words of his agent and/or Peterson’s father, along with a stream of leaks to the media, with the latest coming from a “longtime Peterson confidant.” Failing to show up for mandatory minicamp would become the first tangible action from Peterson himself that a significant problem exists.

The news that Peterson still wants out is a bit of a surprise. The leaks regarding his desire to leave had ended with the draft. And agent Ben Dogra had openly accepted that the Vikings want to keep Peterson.

But Dogra also said he wants a “commitment to make him retire as a Viking.” Appearing earlier this month on PFT Live, Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman declined to comment on any talks or efforts to upgrade Peterson’s contract, which currently carries no guaranteed money over the final three years. (As a practical matter, though, he’ll get his full salary of $12.75 million for 2015 if he’s on the roster as of Week One.)

It’s hard to reconcile Peterson’s desire to leave Minnesota with his desire to get more guaranteed money to stay. If he truly wants out, more guaranteed money shouldn’t matter. Robinson reports that it is a “far more personal issue” between player and team, and that it “has never been about the money.”

Which likely means it’s always been about the money.

Whether it’s about the money or not (it is), the Vikings aren’t about to trade him — absent an offer that would give them no choice but to do it. With the 2015 draft over, it will be harder for an interested team to pull it off.

Recently, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones mused that his desire to win now could induce him to give up a 2016 first-round pick to get the right player. While Jones wisely didn’t mention Peterson, who else would they need at this point? Still, it’s unlikely the Vikings would take only a 2016 first-round pick at this point.

And so the impasse about money or something other than money (money) will continue, until mandatory minicamp arrives and either Peterson accepts that the Vikings won’t be trading him or he calls the Vikings on their not-so-subtle “play for us or play for no one” stance and fails to show up.

The stakes are fairly high. With $12.75 million in base salary due for 2015 and $2.4 million in unearned signing bonus payable back to the Vikings, the $322,920 he’ll lose by not showing up for the offseason program or minicamp is the tip of a $15,472,920 iceberg.

So look for Peterson to eventually show up. At some point, he’ll work through the anger-denial-bargaining-depression and accept that he has no leverage here. The harder his agent, family, and/or unnamed confidants try to paint Peterson as a victim, the worse he’ll look.

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Monday morning one-liners

Emmanuel Sanders, Jason Verrett AP

A look at the Bills safeties heading into OTAs.

Said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin of the team’s new wide receivers, “So the biggest thing from a coach’s seat is let’s get these guys out on the field, let’s get them as many reps as we possibly can, as many looks and as many different coverages as we can so we can prepare them to play fast and decisive.”

Patriots QB Tom Brady has a new dog.

Where does LB Lorenzo Mauldin fit on the Jets Defense?

Some questions for the Ravens to answer as OTAs get underway.

The Bengals have gone for two after touchdowns three times in the last four years.

Breaking down some storylines for the next phase of the Browns offseason.

C Maurkice Pouncey is becoming more of a leader for the younger Steelers.

Texans DE J.J. Watt took in what much of the world calls football during a visit to London.

Colts QB Andrew Luck was in attendance for the Indy 500.

Will RB Toby Gerhart make the Jaguars this season?

Titans CB Tre McBride comes from a military family.

Vance Walker brings versatility to the Broncos defensive line.

95-year-old Edward Burnham took part in a 5K run sponsored by the Chiefs.

DE Justin Tuck likes what he’s seen from Raiders rookie Mario Edwards Jr. thus far.

A closer look at Chargers CB Jason Verrett.

A scouting report on the Cowboys Offense.

Measuring the offseason improvement of the Giants.

WR Nelson Agholor says he feels comfortable doing anything the Eagles ask of him on offense.

What work do the Redskins need to do at cornerback?

The Bears need production from Jared Allen and Shea McClellin at linebacker.

Grading the Lions’ offseason moves.

Vonnie Holliday reminisces about playing next to Reggie White on the Packers defensive line.

Previewing the start of Vikings organized team activities.

The Falcons’ running back competition should be heating up.

Do the new PAT rules give the Panthers an edge?

A look at the Saints’ kicking competition.

The Buccaneers defensive coaches are more comfortable in their second season with Lovie Smith.

Cardinals CB Jerraud Powers thinks Justin Bethel will step into a bigger defensive role this season.

The Rams website takes a look at QB Sean Mannion.

Is LB Lance Briggs still a possibility for the 49ers?

The Seahawks expect more from CB Tharold Simon in 2015.

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Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl hopes could hinge on renovation deal

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 29:  Tampa Bay Buccaneers Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer talks with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell before Goodell announces a $1 million donation to the Tampa Bay YET Centers during a presss conference at Mort Park on January 29, 2009 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images) Getty Images

Technically speaking, Tampa is in the running for Super Bowls in 2019 and 2020.

But unless the Glazer family comes up with a plan (i.e. money) to upgrade Raymond James Stadium, those bids might not go anywhere in the face of new and renovated buildings elsewhere.

Via Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune,  the Buccaneers are “currently negotiating” with the Tampa Sports Authority and Hillsborough County officials on plans to refurbish the 17-year-old stadium. Team COO Brian Ford is described as “confident” those plans will materialize soon.

Without them, the Bucs may have a hard time landing the big game.

The NFL has long used Super Bowls as both carrot and stick to leverage new stadiums and upgrades to existing ones.

Atlanta figures to be a shoe-in for building a brand new retractable roof facility next to the Georgia Dome, and with Los Angeles entering the mix for a title game soon, competition is going to be tough. That’s why Dolphins owner Stephen Ross just poured in $400 million to improve Sun Life Stadium.

“We got invited this time because basically Mr. Ross committed to make all the renovations,’’ Rodney Barreto, the chairman of the South Florida Super Bowl Committee said.

So unless the Glazers are willing to make (or find someone to make) a similar investment, it might be some time before the Super Bowl returns to Central Florida.

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Gary Kubiak sees NFL teams signing two-point specialists

Denver Broncos Introduce Gary Kubiak Getty Images

Does the NFL’s new rule moving extra point kicks back 13 yards make much of a difference to how teams assemble their rosters?

It does according to Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, who sees NFL teams signing players specifically for their ability to score on two-point conversions.

“I think there [are] going to be two-point specialists from the standpoint of how you go about doing it. Coaching, those are things that you work on,” Kubiak said, via Lindsay Jones of USA Today. “You probably practice those things during camp. It’s not very much and, all of a sudden, it becomes part of the game. That’s a big part of practice. It’s going to change the way you go about doing things. I know that.”

The player most often named as a potential two-point specialist is Tim Tebow, whose presence on the Eagles’ roster has some thinking that Chip Kelly must have some two-point conversion tricks up his sleeve. But if Tebow had some great ability to score consistently from the 2-yard line, why was he out of the NFL for the last two years? The ability to score on two-point conversions and goal line plays has always been valuable in football. Moving the extra point back doesn’t make it much more valuable than it already was.

If the Eagles’ proposal to move two-point conversions up to the 1-yard line had passed, that would have caused a significant change: Some teams would have started to go for two as the “default” position, and those teams would have assembled their rosters with that plan in mind. But the reality is, a 33-yard extra point kick isn’t much harder for an NFL kicker than a 20-yard kick, and so teams aren’t going to go for two much more this year than they did last year. Those two-point conversion specialists may be coming to the NFL eventually, but only if the extra point rules change more in the future.

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Report: Adrian Peterson skipping start of Vikings OTAs

Peterson Getty Images

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said he had an idea when running back Adrian Peterson was going to show up for work.

At some point this week, someone can ask him if he knew it wasn’t going to be soon.

According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the less-than-gruntled running back won’t be on hand when the Vikings begin OTAs Tuesday.

The Vikings have said they weren’t interested in dealing Peterson, and with the draft come and gone, any realistic window for moving him is closed.

But now, the absences become costly for Peterson, who has a $250,000 workout bonus that hinges on his appearance at 90 percent of the team’s OTAs and minicamps.

Whether he shows up this week and in time to collect remains to be seen, but the current plan is for him to not be there Tuesday.

Of course, losing a quarter of a million is one thing for most of us, but Peterson’s set to make $13 million this year. So whether this is just posturing, it’s at least the latest sign he’s not happy in Minnesota.

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Rally to support Tom Brady draws about 150 people outside Gillette Stadium

Fans Attend "Free Tom Brady" Rally Getty Images

On Sunday, we learned something: if you hold a rally supporting a star quarterback suspended due to allegations of deflated footballs, they will come.

Approximately 150 people attended Sunday’s “Free Tom Brady” rally outside of Gillette Stadium, the Boston Globe reported, citing Foxborough, Mass. police for the crowd estimate.

Brady, the Patriots’ four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, has been banned for the first four regular season games of 2015 by the NFL. He is appealing.

The demonstration, per a Facebook page advertising the event, was intended to “protest the unjust football arrest of half God half man Tom Brady.”

According to media reports, the demonstration included a recently married couple that is not honeymooning in Bermuda in solidarity with with the Patriots after Brady’s four-game suspension.

“We want to be here to support our Patriots, and until that ban is lifted we’re not going on our honeymoon,” said Paul Goodrow of Watertown, Mass., according to the Boston Herald. “Our whole house is like a man cave.

“The NFL debacled this so-called Deflategate. It’s just ridiculous. It’s all because of fans from other states who hate us because they ain’t us. I believe that he is innocent. This is just a smear campaign against the Patriots.”

There was no indication any Patriots staff were present for the rally.

New England begins its organized team practice activities on Tuesday.

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