Tom Brady turns 40

AP

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski came up with a pretty good idea for a 40th birthday present for quarterback Tom Brady on Wednesday when he said he gets Brady touchdowns because all the quarterback wants is for his receivers to catch the ball.

Mike Reiss of ESPN.com came up with another good way to celebrate Brady’s big birthday on Thursday. Reiss spoke to several Brady family members, friends, teammates and coaches to paint a picture of Brady on and off the field. The anecdotes range from a chippy response to razzing about Drew Henson while at Michigan to his willingness to use connections to help teammates score nice watches to his enjoyment of a good prank.

More than anything, though, the stories Reiss collected show the traits that have made Brady one of the best to ever play in the NFL. Early morning arrivals to the weight room, supreme confidence in his abilities and, as former Patriots offensive coordinator and current Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, a steel trap memory of what’s been successful in past games.

“My favorite story about him has to do with his memory,” O’Brien said. “I don’t remember the exact time of the year, but we were playing Buffalo, I think it was 2009. We’re in a meeting and we’re watching Buffalo’s first- and second-down tape. I’m talking to them about what the Bills’ defensive coordinator was doing, and [Brady] basically knew who the coordinator was because he had faced him earlier in his career, about five to six years prior. So he says to me in this meeting, ‘I remember we ran this play against this scheme called Crunch Stock in 2004.’ I said, ‘You remember that specific play?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I remember it against this specific coverage, which this coordinator loves to play. It was on the right hash, going away from the lighthouse, and we hit Troy Brown for a big gain on the crossing pattern.’ I said, ‘There is no way you remember that play like that!’ He challenged me to pull it up. We have all the games on the computer system, and we find that game and there’s the play: on the right hash, second-and-less-than-5, going away from the lighthouse and he hits Troy Brown on a crossing pattern. Think about all the plays he had between that day and the day we were talking. Apart from his talent and competitiveness, I always tell people that’s what sets him apart. He has an IBM. He remembers it.”

The entire piece is worth a read for a trip back through the years as Brady hits 40 with no sign that he’s slowing down.

Wax museum needs Tom Brady’s help to fix “creepy” statue of him

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Tom Brady apparently looks better in person than he does in a new Boston wax museum.

The Dreamland Wax Museum features a statue of Brady, according to the Associated Press, but the replica has not gone over well with Patriots fans. It has been ridiculed online, with some calling it “creepy” and no one claiming it looks anything like Brady.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, the museum acknowledged the Brady replica isn’t perfect. The museum explained the statue is based on a photo rather than Brady’s actual measurements.

To that end, the museum seeks Brady’s help. It invited the Patriots quarterback to “come by and sit in for a measurement session.” Dreamland said getting the replica perfect is its top priority.

Per the Associated Press, the museum had not received a reply from Brady, and museum officials probably shouldn’t hold their breath.

The only statue Brady likely cares about being accurate is the one in Canton, and he probably won’t mind sitting for that one.

Gronk has the perfect gift idea for Tom Brady

AP

What do you get for a guy who has everything? More of what he wants the most.

Asked by reporters regarding his plans for quarterback Tom Brady’s 40th birthday on Thursday, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn’t miss a beat.

“I get him touchdowns,” Gronkowski said. “You’ve got to catch the ball. That’s all he wants — his receivers, tight ends, running backs to catch the ball. So that’s probably what he wants tomorrow.”

Gronk expressed disbelief that his quarterback is spending his last day in his 30s.

“There’s nowhere else he wants to spend it besides the football field. But it’s just unbelievable how he’s turning 40 and just where he’s at right now is just unreal,” Gronkowski said.

Yes it is, and it remains to be seen how long he’ll continue to play at a high level, or to play at all — for the Patriots or someone else.

Belichick doesn’t have much to say about his rules on practice fights

AP

Yes, pretty much any article about the Patriots’ head coach could begin with “Belichick doesn’t have much to say about. . . .” Today’s topic on which he doesn’t have much to say: Fighting at practice.

On Tuesday, both receiver Julian Edelman and cornerback Stephon Gilmore were booted from practice after getting into a skirmish. It’s apparently Belichick’s rule that if you fight, you’re gone.

Here’s the portion of the transcript of Belichick’s Wednesday press conference regarding his rules on fighting, as generated and circulated by the team.

Q: When there’s a fight at practice, the rule is that those guys involved are asked to leave. Is there anything positive that you can take from that sort of instance in terms of the competitiveness or intensity the players are showing?

BB: Well, I don’t know what the rules are. I just try to coach the team the best I can.

Q: I was just referring to your rules.

BB: I don’t know what rule that is. I do what I think is right in all situations, so that’s what I do.

Q: What typically happens if there is a fight between players at training camp?

BB: I do what I think’s best.

Q: What happened after the fight yesterday?

BB: I’m not going to get into that.

Q: Will there be any consequences for those players today?

BB: Look, I’ll do whatever I do with the team. It’s between me and the team. All discipline matters are. Hopefully you can respect that.

And that’s that. And that’s Belichick.

Julian Edelman, Stephon Gilmore booted from practice after fight

AP

On-field scuffles are a regular occurrence during training camp practices and different teams deal with them in different ways.

The Cowboys weren’t displeased when tussles broke out at their camp last week and coach Jason Garrett said “you’d rather have to dial it back than constantly having to light a fire under these guys.” Patriots coach Bill Belichick has not been a big fan of them in the past and his view of them hasn’t changed this year.

According to multiple reports from Patriots practice on Tuesday, wide receiver Julian Edelman and cornerback Stephon Gilmore came together after an incompletion in the end zone during a drill. Things escalated from there and both players’ helmets came off as they scuffled with one another.

Both players were told to leave the practice field after the fight, which keeps with the standing tradition in New England for how such things are handled.

Bill Belichick on Kony Ealy: He’s building his versatility

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The retirement of Rob Ninkovich leaves the Patriots with an opening at one of their defensive end spots heading into the season and one of the players in the mix is Kony Ealy.

Ealy was acquired from the Panthers in an offseason trade and is getting acquainted with what the team is looking for from a player at his position. During his Tuesday press conference, coach Bill Belichick outlined where those things differ from what Ealy was doing with his old team and how Ealy is adjusting to the new scheme.

“I think we’ve asked him to do more in coverage than what he did at Carolina. Carolina doesn’t do a lot with their defensive ends in pass coverage,” Belichick said in comments distributed by the team. “We probably do significantly more than they do, not with their linebackers, but their ends that have coverage responsibilities more frequently, so those are things he’s had to adjust to. But, I mean, he’s a smart kid, he works hard, and he’s building his versatility. We’ll see how far that goes, but he’s got the ability to play inside, to play outside on the end of the line, to play in some coverage situations, to have a role in the kicking game, which is another thing that wasn’t a big role in Carolina. I don’t know how big it will be here, but it’s already, I would say, more than what he had there. We’ve asked him to do some new things, and we’ll evaluate those as we go through camp and see how it goes.”

The Patriots have several other options off the edge, including Trey Flowers, Shea McClellin, Geneo Grissom and rookie Derek Rivers, and they’ve never been shy about mixing and matching players situationally to take full advantage of their abilities. That makes it likely that it will be some combination of players filling the hole left by Ninkovich once September rolls around.

Tom Brady returns to the top spot in merchandise sales

AP

The G.O.A.T. has returned to the top of the stack.

After yielding the NFLPA player merchandising title to Cowboys rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott, who finished No. 1 and No. 2 for the year ending February 28, 2017, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has reclaimed the throne for the quarter ending July 31, 2017.

The NFLPA released on Tuesday morning the periodic Top 50 list reflecting comprehensive merchandise sales of all licenses products, from jerseys to T-shirts to bobbleheads to anything and everything.

Here’s the full top 10: (1) Brady; (2) Elliott; (3) Prescott; (4) Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch; (5) Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson; (6) Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant; (7) Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers; (8) Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr.; (9) Steelers receiver Antonio Brown; and (10) Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.

It’s amazing that Brady continues to do so well when it comes to jerseys and other merchandise, given that fans have had 16 years and counting to buy things bearing his name and likeness. At this point, it’s safe to say he’ll continue to be at or near the top of the list for the rest of his career, and maybe for a few years after it ends.

Tuesday morning one-liners

AP

Which Bills helped their stock in the first week of training camp?

The Dolphins are taking it easy with S Reshad Jones.

Said Patriots RB Dion Lewis, “We have a lot of great running backs, and they’re great guys as well. Competition’s great. That’s when you show who you really are.”

Jets CB Morris Claiborne’s work at practice earned a good review.

The Ravens got WR Michael Campanaro back at practice.

Former Bengals RB James Brooks visited the team’s camp on Monday.

S Derrick Kindred isn’t taking a spot in the Browns secondary for granted.

First-round pick T.J. Watt is off to a good start at Steelers camp.

The game has slowed down for Texans LB Bernardrick McKinney.

Some positive notes about Colts WR Donte Moncrief’s work at practice.

Rookie T Cam Robinson is in line for a big role with the Jaguars after Branden Albert’s retirement.

Titans rookie TE Jonnu Smith has set high expectations for himself.

Things went a bit better for the Broncos offense on Monday.

The Chiefs are working to boost their run game.

Said Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. of rookie DT Eddie Vanderdoes, “I think he understands how to get lined up. He understands the blocking schemes. He understands how to get on edges. Things that we drafted him for.”

Chargers wide receivers have been doing a lot of talking to the team’s defensive backs.

Rookie DE Taco Charlton is coming along after a slow start at Cowboys camp.

Blocking is a focus for Giants rookie TE Evan Engram.

An injury scare last summer hasn’t dimmed Eagles TE Zach Ertz’s excitement about doing some hitting in practice.

Redskins veterans are high on rookie DL Jonathan Allen.

Bears LB Leonard Floyd feels he’s improved as a tackler.

WR Kenny Golladay has been doing some extra work with Lions QB Matthew Stafford.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t want to compare his defense to other teams.

Vikings CB Terence Newman said he is “chasing this hot babe known as the Lombardi Trophy.”

The Warriors’ rebound after losing in the NBA Finals caught Falcons QB Matt Ryan’s eye.

WR Brenton Bersin has been cut several times, but keeps coming back to the Panthers.

Willie Snead is a big believer in the Saints receiving corps.

The Buccaneers aren’t underestimating S Keith Tandy.

CB Tramon Williams said he wouldn’t have signed with the Cardinals if he didn’t think they could have a winning season.

A healthy CB E.J. Gaines has been productive at Rams practices.

The 49ers are dealing with injuries at safety.

Kendrick Lamar stopped by Seahawks camp.

Brandin Cooks says he’s shooting those arrows for the Lord

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Ever since the league offered to relax their enforcement of touchdown celebrations, new Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks has been a bit of a target.

Celebrations which involve mimicking violence are still verboten, but Cooks doesn’t know where his bow-and-arrow routine stands with the league.

And just to clear it up, he said this week the celebration had more to do with The Bible than any particular love of archery.

“It comes from Psalms 144:6: ‘Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy; shoot your arrows and rout them,’ ” Cooks said, via Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. “It’s just one of those things that my faith is the biggest part of my life and I feel like the reason why I am where I am today with the gifts that I have.

“So it’s just another way to be able to glorify God rather than just pointing to the sky [after a touchdown]. Just bringing a unique way, so my hope is when fans see me, they see God in me. That’s the biggest part of it all.”

Unless Cooks plans on passing out Old Testaments to everyone who walks into a stadium, it’s likely that many of them are going to be thinking Comanches or William Tell as much as King David.

“The first thing that comes to your mind is something else,” Cooks admitted. “It’s unfortunate. The biggest is probably the league not understanding it. There’s no violence in it for me at all. I’m not shooting it at anyone. I’m not pointing it toward anyone.

“If anything, I’m shooting it at God. It’s my way of thanking him and bringing a little twist to it.”

While we generally prefer our church and state separate (and football has become a de facto arm of state long ago), it’s clear Cooks has put a lot of thought into this. As long as his Sunday school class doesn’t lead to Rob Gronkowski turning up in a fig leaf, it’s hard to find much harm in it.

David Harris: Jets “blindsided” me

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Linebacker David Harris felt disrespected by the Jets’ timing of his release.

The Jets cut Harris on June 6. He signed with the Patriots on June 21.

“They kind of blindsided me with the whole thing, being so late in the offseason, a week before minicamp,” Harris said, via SiriusXM NFL Radio. “It came out of left field. It was more about the disrespect of the whole situation than anything else. But the Jets made their decision. I had to sit back and be patient and evaluate some things. A couple teams were inquiring about me, but then once the Patriots came into the picture, it was pretty much a done deal as soon as I found out they were interested in me.”

Harris said all the right things in his departure, thanking his former Jets coaches, owner Woody Johnson and the medical staff for their support during his 10 years in New York.

Harris, though, seems to mean it when he says he is happy to be in New England.

“It feels good. I couldn’t expect anything more,” Harris said. “Everybody just works hard every day, with that winning attitude, and the culture is like no other than I’ve been a part of. I’m glad to be here, this late in my career and be around a bunch of great individuals. They are better people off the field.”

Where does Matthew Stafford rank among the NFL’s top quarterbacks?

AP

Quarterback Matthew Stafford currently has the Lions over a contractual barrel. Whether he receives another huge contract or goes year-to-year and makes more than $100 million from 2018 through 2020 obscures the question of how good he really is, in comparison to other quarterbacks.

Appearing on Monday’s PFT Live, former NFL quarterback Chris Simms put Stafford at No. 3 in the league behind Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.

The notion of Stafford being that good in relation to the other great quarterbacks seems surprising at first blush. But if he’s not No. 3, who is? Drew Brees, arguably. Maybe Ben Roethlisberger. Matt Ryan possibly. Cam Newton or Russell Wilson? Perhaps. Andrew Luck isn’t healthy, and who knows when he will be.

It’s really not crazy to put Stafford in that category. Yes, he hasn’t won a playoff game. But he’s taken a chronically based Lions team to the postseason three times since 2011, and whether a team thrives isn’t solely determined by quarterback play.

Weigh in below with your thoughts. Ultimately, it’s not going to matter to his next contract, because the Lions won’t be letting him walk until they can find someone as good or better. And whoever is as good or better than Stafford simply isn’t and won’t be available.

Rob Gronkowski is working with Tom Brady’s nutritional “guru”

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Rob Gronkowski is working with Tom Brady’s body coach. Maybe it will help him avoid nagging injuries — at least if he doesn’t drown first.

According to Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald, the Patriots tight end has decided to adopt some of the ways of his quarterback and his nutrition guru Alex Guerrero, though he hasn’t gone with the full program.

For instance, Brady doesn’t drink alcohol, and Gronkowski, well, he has been known to on occasion. Asked how that fits into his new program, Gronkowski referred the question to “the guru.”Guerrero said that for every drink that’s not part of his plan (either coffee or alcohol), Gronkowski has to drink at least three glasses of water.

Rob has been really committed,” Guerrero said. “He’s done a great job. The foundation has been set. Certainly, we’re not done.”

The 28-year-old Gronkowski has been working out at the TB12 facility in addition to what he does with the team, and has taken on many of the points of the nutritional program, with Brady even cooking some of the plant-based meals for him. But after a career marked by a number of injuries and surgeries, he’s hoping to do anything he can to keep himself on the field and he likes the early returns.

“Just looking at Tom, seeing what he does every day, what he eats, talking to him, personally one-on-one, just learning about the body with him, just seeing how flexible he is, how pliable he is, how loose he is all the time, every day and ready to go, I just felt like it was the time in my career where I needed to devote myself at all levels,” Gronkowski said. “I just felt like I had to add on to what I was doing. Find a way that my body will respond so I can perform every day. Be in prevention mode for injuries happening.

“I definitely feel like a brand new guy just being able to do exercises here [at TB12]. Exercises that help stabilize your core, exercises that help me and my whole body.”

While there are legitimate questions about Guerrero’s methods (he’s been investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for making medical claims which can’t be verified), Brady’s performance at an advanced age has earned converts.

And if that means Gronkowski starts drinking avocado margaritas, that might have to be the price to pay.

Monday morning one-liners

AP

S Micah Hyde is serving as a leader in the Bills secondary.

Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green was a guest at Dolphins practice.

Patriots WR Brandin Cooks discussed his touchdown celebration.

The Jets like what they’ve seen from their rookie safeties.

WR Tim White’s play was a highlight of Sunday’s Ravens practice.

Bengals QB Andy Dalton and his son worked with WR John Ross at the end of practice.

The Browns made a change to their offensive line group.

LB Tyler Matakevich is trying to make an impression on the Steelers.

Texans WR Will Fuller has shown signs of improvement.

The Colts flipped their guards as they look for the right offensive line alignment.

Rookie CB Jalen Myrick’s first week of Jaguars training camp didn’t go as hoped.

The Titans didn’t hold rookie WR Corey Davis back on his first day of practice.

CB Lorenzo Doss is trying to find more playing time for the Broncos.

WR Tyreek Hill is in line for a bigger role with the Chiefs this season.

The Raiders will wear pads for the first time on Monday.

Chargers QB Cardale Jones is looking forward to learning from Philip Rivers.

Cowboys TE Jason Witten got some advice from Jerry Rice.

CB Janoris Jenkins’ anger flared at Giants camp.

Undrafted Eagles rookie CB Randall Goforth tore his ACL.

Tracing how TE E.J. Bibbs made his way to the Redskins.

A look at how some younger Bears players prepared for their second NFL seasons.

Lions G T.J. Lang is feeling the best he’s felt in years.

Packers DL Mike Daniels wants Green Bay’s defense to take a page from the Seahawks.

Vikings QB Sam Bradford and WR Laquon Treadwell are working on their chemistry.

The Falcons got S Ricardo Allen back on the practice field.

Said Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker of QB Cam Newton, “To me, you wouldn’t have even known that he had surgery in the offseason and that he’s still going through the recovery process.”

Saints coach Sean Payton reminisced about former Saint Rob Ninkovich upon his retirement from the Patriots.

Checking in on the Buccaneers kicker competition.

QB Trevor Knight is trying to show the Cardinals he belongs in the NFL.

A positive review of Rams QB Sean Mannion’s early work at camp.

DL Arik Armstead appears to be taking to his new role on the 49ers defense.

Will this be S Kam Chancellor’s final season with the Seahawks?

Rob Ninkovich announces his retirement

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Reports that Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich would announce his retirement appeared on Sunday morning and Ninkovich made it official on Sunday afternoon.

The team held a press conference attended by many of Ninkovich’s teammates and kicked it off with coach Bill Belichick at the podium to talk about a player who joined the team in 2009 and was part of two Super Bowl champions. Belichick noted that Ninkovich, who had stints with the Saints and Dolphins before coming to New England, came in without any fanfare before carving out a key role as a linebacker and defensive end.

Belichick called Ninkovich one of the most unselfish players he’s ever coached and owner Robert Kraft lauded him as one of the most “productive, albeit unassuming” players in the league before Ninkovich stepped up to the microphone.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, but after 11 seasons and 19 years playing football it’s time for me to walk away,” Ninkovich said.

Ninkovich called getting released by the Saints in 2009 a blessing because it allowed him to join the Patriots and got emotional at times as he ran through a long list of people he thanked for making an impact on his career dating back to high school. He closed his remarks by saying there’s something special about going out on top and then going to hug the Patriots players who will be trying to stay on top without his help this season.

Sunday morning one-liners

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DE Shaq Lawson is off to a good start at Bills camp.

Dolphins CB Byron Maxwell likes what he’s seen from QB Ryan Tannehill.

CB Eric Rowe has impressed at Patriots practices.

Is DE Leonard Williams the most important player on the Jets?

WR Griff Whalen is trying to make a quick impression on the Ravens.

It’s been almost a year since Bengals CB William Jackson tore his pectoral.

Browns TE David Njoku has to do a better job of holding onto the football.

CB Artie Burns hopes covering WR Antonio Brown at Steelers practice helps him improve.

Texans WR Braxton Miller has high expectations for the 2017 season.

Colts DE David Parry has off-field issues while he tries to stake a claim to an on-field role.

Jaguars WR Allen Robinson hopes his offseason work makes 2016 a distant memory.

A new contract means new expectations for Titans DT Jurrell Casey.

The Broncos brought DT Domata Peko in to provide some heft to their defensive line.

LB Kevin Pierre-Louis is looking forward to getting settled with the Chiefs.

Raiders players hope for a quick resolution to T Donald Penn’s holdout.

Kobe Bryant dropped by Chargers training camp.

QB Luke McCown thinks he can be more than a camp arm for the Cowboys.

Giants S Landon Collins’ profile has grown over the last year.

Eagles TE Zach Ertz discussed his foray into nude modeling.

Was the Redskins’ offseason roster turnover a step in the right direction?

Bears rookie TE Adam Shaheen made a good first impression.

Reasons for concern about the Lions defensive line.

The Packers are looking for more from DT Kenny Clark.

Marcus Sherels feels he can handle kickoff and punt returns for the Vikings.

Said Falcons coach Dan Quinn of the first day in pads, “They want to go against each other so hard. We walk that fine line as competitors. We always want to take care of one another, but do it at the very best way we can. We’ll work on that.”

Panthers LB Shaq Thompson lost weight this offseason.

WR Corey Fuller’s confidence is rising at Saints practices.

Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston tried out a brace on his left knee.

A breakdown of the Cardinals’ Red-White practice.

Rams WR Tavon Austin is working on the field after his offseason wrist surgery.

CB Rashard Robinson and WR Marquise Goodwin have gone from talking trash last year to sharing the field for the 49ers this year.

Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett and CB DeShawn Shead are working their way back from injuries.