Category: Professional Sports News

Bill Belichick: We All Have A Long Way To Go

Bill Belichick says his focus heading into his team’s training camp this week is on football. (PHOTO COURTESY: CREDIT: EPA/JOHN CETRINO/People.com)

By Matt Noonan

Ahead of his team’s first training camp of the 2021 NFL season, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick met with the media this morning to discuss his team’s upcoming practices.

And as expected, the tenured coach did not have much to say.

“We all have a long way to go,” said Belichick.

Indeed, Belichick and the Patriots “have a long way to go” — the team produced just seven wins last season and missed the postseason for the first time since 2008. But many believe this year’s squad, specifically the defense, should be much better, thanks to some key offseason acquisitions that should help the Patriots contend for the top spot in the AFC East with the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.

But as Belichick explained — and yes, it has been reported over the past few days (and weeks) — some members of the Patriots won’t be on the field tomorrow when camp begins at 9:45 a.m. And one of those players is cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was nowhere to be found during the team’s mandatory minicamp.

Gilmore, who signed a five-year, $65 million contract in 2017, wants a new deal. “I just want what I’m worth, however that plays out,” he said to Josina Anderson earlier this month.

Belichick didn’t budge when pressed about Gilmore’s contract. “I’m not going to talk about contracts and personal situations,” he said.

How Gilmore’s contract situation will play out remains a mystery, but for now, Belichick and his team will keep their focus on football going forward.

“From this point on, (I’m) focused on football and trying to get our team ready to go,” he said.

The team’s first practice will be open to the public — fans will also be able to see the team workout on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

Fans can learn more about the team’s upcoming training camp by visiting the Patriots’ website.

New England will compete three times next month, including once at home when they open their preseason slate against the Washington Football Team on Thursday, August 12 with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

New Patriots Training Camp: Will Cam Newton Win The Starting Job?

Cam Newton enters the New England Patriots’ 2021 training camp as the favorite to start at quarterback. (PHOTO COURTESY: AP Photo/Steven Senne, Pool)

By Matt Noonan

A brand new season of New England Patriots football is quickly approaching — are you ready for some football?

I am — I have been counting the days, weeks, and months since the Patriots concluded their 2020 campaign with a two-touchdown victory over the New York Jets in January at Gillette Stadium.

Like many, I am excited to see how some of the team’s offseason signings mesh with members of last year’s squad, including quarterback Cam Newton, who will enter the team’s 2021 training camp on Wednesday, July 28 as the favorite to be spotted under center in week one against the Miami Dolphins.

Newton did not have a great 2020 season — I think many know that or are aware of how he performed last fall. But coach Bill Belichick has acquired some solid pieces for the offense over the past few months, including tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Both players should certainly help Newton, as well as the offense, perform even better than they did last season — New England won just seven games in 2020 but had a chance to squeak out a few more victories had things gone their way down the stretch, especially against the Buffalo Bills in New York.

With a full year under his belt, along with some offseason practices (and meetings, of course), Newton enters training camp more prepared than he was last year, however, he certainly will be challenged by Mac Jones, who the Patriots selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft in April.

Like Newton, Jones competed in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) — Jones played at Alabama while Newton competed at Auburn — and should be ready to take the reigns from the league’s most valuable player in 2015.

Jones led the Crimson Tide to a national championship in January — Alabama rolled past Ohio State, 52-24, in the College Football Playoff National Championship contest, which was held in Miami Gardens, Florida — and recorded career-highs in completions (311), passing yards (4,500), and touchdowns (41). And despite seeing limited action in 2018 and 2019, Jones should be able to translate his junior season’s success to the NFL this summer and fall.

Jones certainly has what it takes to challenge Newton for the starting quarterback spot — I am unsure if Jarrett Stidham is ready to slide up the depth chart considering he will begin his team’s camp Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

Selected in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Stidham has competed in eight games since becoming a member of the Patriots organization, including five contests last season. The former Auburn signal-caller completed 22 of 44 passes for a career and season-high 250 yards and two touchdowns. He did, however, throw three interceptions compared to one in 2019.

Numerous talking heads, along with various analysts believe Mac Jones could be the starter in the opening week, but it will all depend on how he handles himself during in-game situations. As Patriots.com’s Mike Dussault explains, “Every throw of 11-on-11 work will be dissected ad nauseam, but the bottom line is whether or not Jones or Stidham do enough to dethrone Newton, and can Newton hold them off by taking significant strides in his second year in the offense.”

For now, my bet is Cam Newton will be the starter in the opening week, but I do think Patriots fans will see Mac Jones under center at some point this fall — maybe against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week four? I am not sure if week four is when Jones will be thrusted into the lineup, but we’ll certainly learn more about his readiness when the Patriots scrimmage the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles later this summer. Those inter-squad practices will help us identify which quarterback(s) is ready to lead the hometown team to hopefully a postseason appearance next January.

Chris Hogan Makes His PLL Debut With Cannons Lacrosse Club

Chris Hogan, who won two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, made his Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) debut on Saturday with the Cannons Lacrosse Club. (PHOTO COURTESY: ProFootballRumors.com)

By Matt Noonan

The wait to see Chris Hogan play lacrosse concluded this afternoon.

The former New England Patriots wide receiver suited up for the Cannons Lacrosse Club to compete against the Whipsnakes Lacrosse Club, which scored an exciting 15-14 overtime victory.

Saturday’s contest marked the second week of the 2021 Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) season — the game was held at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

Yet, despite not tallying a single goal or an assist against the two-time defending PLL champions, Hogan seemed content after the final whistle sounded that he was able to play the same sport he did as a student-athlete at Pennsylvania State University.

“Honestly, the bus ride over that I had today compared to my first NFL game was the exact same feeling. The exact same butterflies, the exact same nerves, (and) the exact same intensity and focus,” Hogan said following his team’s one-goal setback to the Whipsnakes.

He would go onto say that “I was just excited to be out there with my team and you know try to help them win games — I was just excited to be out there, man.”

Prior to his official start with the PLL, Hogan’s former teammate Julian Edelman shared excitement for his former teammate by quoting a tweet from the league with the following sentence: “Former football player Chris Hogan.”

Hogan and the Cannons will be idle next weekend before returning to the field on Sunday, June 27 when the team competes in its fourth contest of the 2021 season against the Atlas Lacrosse Club. The game will be played at Homewood Field in Baltimore, Maryland.

Does Bruce Cassidy Know There Was A New York Saints Team?

The New York Saints competed in the National Lacrosse League (NLL) from 1989 to 2003. (PHOTO COURTESY: SportsLogos.net)

By Matt Noonan

Bruce Cassidy did not hold back his emotions last night, especially after the Boston Bruins saw their comeback fall short to the New York Islanders at the TD Garden.

New York defeated Boston, 5-4, to secure a 3-2 series lead heading into tomorrow’s match-up — the Bruins need a win to extend the series to Friday. A win by the Islanders would clinch the series and set up a Stanley Cup Playoffs semifinal matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning or Carolina Hurricanes (Tampa Bay current leads the series, 3-1).

Speaking with members of the media shortly after Monday’s contest concluded, Cassidy, who is in his fifth season as the head coach of the Boston Bruins, shared some interesting thoughts regarding the one-goal loss, specifically about the officiating while referring to his opponent as the “New York Saints.”

“I think they sell a narrative over there that it’s more like the New York Saints, not the New York Islanders,” Cassidy told reporters when referring to calls that supposedly went in favor of his opponent, not the Bruins. “The exact calls that are getting called on us are not getting called on them. I don’t know why. You got the exact same high sticks … you just hope they’d see them.”

Cassidy’s post-game comments resulted in a $25,000 fine this morning, but his remarks about the “New York Saints” made me wonder if he knew there was an actual team — well, franchise, to be exact — that once competed in the National Lacrosse League (NLL)?

The New York Saints were indeed a team — in fact, they began as the New Jersey Saints. They were one of four teams to compete in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League (MLL), which would be renamed the National Lacrosse League (NLL) in 1998, and won their only championship in 1988 when they beat the Washington Wave, according to the league’s website. They would fall short of a repeat one year later when they lost to the Philadelphia Wings by a score of 11-10.

Unfortunately, the Saints would not return to the title game following their one-goal setback to Philadelphia in 1989 but did appear in the semifinals in 1990 and 1997. Their time with the league would conclude in 2003 after winning three of 16 contests.

So, the New York Saints were indeed a franchise — they were not a made-up team — but sadly, they won’t be competing against Cassidy’s squad tomorrow evening in Uniondale, New York.

Chris Hogan Thinks Paul Rabil Could Go From PLL To NFL

Chris Hogan, who played ten seasons in the NFL, recently secure a spot on the Cannons Lacrosse Club of the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL). (PHOTO COURTESY: NFL.com)

By Matt Noonan

Chris Hogan made headlines earlier this year when he elected to swap his football pads for a lacrosse stick.

Hogan, who won two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, secured a spot earlier this month on the Cannons Lacrosse Club of the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) but did not suit up this weekend. However, he was on the sidelines supporting his teammates this afternoon en route to their first-ever PLL win against the Waterdogs Lacrosse Club while discussing his experience thus far with NBC‘s Paul Burmeister.

One question Burmeister asked was a fun, what-if/hypothetical questions — he wanted to know which of his Cannons teammates was “best suited” to go from the PLL to the National Football League (NFL).

Of course, there are a few that come to mind, but Hogan named Paul Rabil, who is a co-founder of the PLL with his brother Mike Rabil. He described the veteran midfielder as “big, physical, runs hard, (and) probably could play offense or defense.”

“All these guys are good athletes, and I know a lot of them played two sports,” Hogan said to Burmeister. “I mean, I think Paul gave it a second thought there for a little while.”

While it’s unknown if Rabil wanted to play in the NFL, especially earlier this year, he did tell Rich Eisen that Patriots coach Bill Belichick did try to convince him to try out for the team when he was younger.

“We went back and forth — this was when I was 23 and I was the captain of Team USA at the time and we kind of came to an agreement that it was the best decision to stay in lacrosse,” Rabil said during a recent interview on The Rich Eisen Show.

It would have been fun to see Rabil and Hogan compete for the Patriots, especially with Tom Brady, but for now, they can focus on winning a championship later this summer/early fall.