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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Quick thoughts and notes about the New England Patriots and the NFL:
Gostkowski’s view: Out of the 65,878 fans scheduled to attend Sunday’s sold-out Tennessee Titans-Patriots game (13.00 ET, CBS), few can share Stephen Gostkowski’s unique perspective.
He kicked for the Patriots from 2006 to 2019 and is the franchise’s leading scorer ever with 1,775 points. So in 2020, he joined coach Mike Vrabel’s Titans.
Gostkowski, who has since made Tennessee his year-round residence, planned to travel to New England to play the game and bring his son as a surprise birthday present. Before boarding the plane to do so, he shared insights on three topics: How much his time in Tennessee reminded him of New England; whether he is officially retired; and kicker Nick Folk’s career revival with the Patriots.
“I was there for a cup of coffee, had no training camp, and then it was a COVID year, so things were a little mixed up with meetings and stuff like that,” Gostkowski said of his time with Tennessee. “But just like when I played with Mike, he was great back then as a player and now he’s a great coach.
“He’s a great motivator and like [Patriots] Coach [Bill] Belichick – goes over a multitude of different situations and knows how to press guys’ buttons. “
Gostkowski, who turns 38 in January, described the Titans as a scrappy group adopting an underdog mentality. In terms of his own career, he has not closed the door to kick again in the NFL, though that would likely only come in 2022 as a result of a Coxsackie virus infection he got from his kids that fired him for most of a month.
“I had hundreds of blisters all over my feet and hands. I got worse than the kids did. All my skin was peeled off my fingers and toes; woke up in the middle of the night and it felt like my hands and feet had pins and needles in them, “he said.
“It was like that right at the beginning of the middle of the season when I had a semi-itch to play. It was hard because I got in good shape but then you can not train. I could not do it “much more than walking. So I do not think right now would be the right time; I’m not in good enough shape. But I’m not closing the door to never play again. It’s just not in my immediate future.”
Gostkowski got to know the 37-year-old Folk, who has succeeded him as the Patriots’ kicker when they had create side by side in New England in 2019. Gostkowski was on reserve injuries due to his hip, and Folk was trying to find a permanent job after being out of the league for almost two years.
People have since become one of the league’s most consistent kickers – 14-of-17 on field goals in 2019, 26-of-28 in 2020 and 26-of-28 this season.
The two also know each other from taking the same MBA classes online through Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.
“Nick is just a great guy. It’s hard not to root for someone who’s a nice guy, keeps his mouth shut, gets to work and just acts. And if he messes up, he does not make excuses. I respect that very much, “Gostkowski said.
“It takes a certain kind of person to fit into New England, and he obviously has. The guy is ‘Steady Eddie.’ It’s fun to see the tradition of good specialists coming through New England.”
Belichick during the weather: He was not on the injury report, for it is for players and not coaches, but Belichick struggled with an aggressive cold this week; his voice scratches and falls rapidly. Players noted that Belichick went through it, which is what they are expected to do in a similar situation.
“You’ve definitely noticed it,” said safety Adrian Phillips. “I thought, ‘Oh, it’s not the same voice you’re used to.’ But he’s behaving as if there is nothing different.”
Belichick sounded a little better at the end of the week, joking that he was five pounds heavier after Thanksgiving.
3. Vrabel’s red jacket: Mike Vrabel has been a finalist for the Patriots Hall of Fame each of the past five years and deserves an introduction, but he keeps falling short in the fan poll. His former teammate, Troy Brown, has a theory as to why.
“It’s always going to be waiting for him when he’s done training, but I do not think it’s going to happen just yet, because it looks like he’s having too much fun,” said Brown, the Patriots’ assistant receiver. / return coach. “But it’s a little hard to give it to someone when competing against them.”
Barmore’s energy: Mention the quick Patriots rookie-defensive tackle Christian Barmore for a player, and they smile inevitably. The 22-year-old Barmore, whose role continues to grow, described himself as a “fat guy”, and his everyday energy and non-stop questions seem to get a boost out of his peers. Veteran linebacker Dont’a Hightower put him in the category of linebacker Matthew Judon, receiver Kendrick Bourne and safety Devin McCourty when he said, “Such people help you get through the season with 17 games and training.”
5. Mike on Mac: Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones is 245-of-349 for 2,540 yards, with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Studying him this week, Vrabel said: “It looks like he has really improved and has a good grip on what they are trying to do and how they are trying to play the football game. He is making good decisions. I am sure he “would like it [interception] back from [win over Atlanta] but all in all it looks like a lot of accuracy, a lot of command, balance. Plays well. “I did not have the courage to ask Vrabel if it reminded him of a quarterback he was teammates with back in 2001 with the Patriots.
6. Slater on Mayo: Great praise came from longtime Patriots captain Matthew Slater, who was asked about former teammate / current linebackers coach Jerod Mayo in his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI. Said Slater: “He’s someone I’ve known for 14 years now; we were appointed together. You talk about elite leadership. I put him and Devin McCourty at the top of the best leaders I’ve been around. Their ability to connect. And football IQ to go along with it. Jerod’s football IQ is second to none. “
7. Jakobis block: When asked about the identity of the Patriots’ offense last week, Vrabel highlighted an area that was often overlooked. “Probably the best blocking wide receivers in the league,” he said, noting their role in helping the fast-paced attack rise to the top of the NFL over the past five games. Specifically, Vrabel remarked Jakobi Meyers (54 catches) when he said, “When your leading receiver is your best block, it gives a good combination. He goes in there and is fearless. He goes in with a purpose.”
Farewell to full farewell week: Last week’s announcement that the Week 15 Patriots-Colts game would be moved to Saturday, December 18 shortens an already shortened Patriots bye week because the team’s Week 13 game is in Buffalo on Monday, December 6th. “Come on, NFL!” joked McCourty. Side note: The NFL Network plans to complete / announce its Patriots-Colts broadcast team this week, December 6th.
9. Rookies return: Draft-selected Cameron McGrone (linebacker, fifth round, Michigan) and Joshuah Bledsoe (safety, sixth round, Missouri) practiced for the first time last week after spending the season on the list of injuries outside of football. McGrone tore his ACL in college and Bledsoe injured his wrist at the Senior Bowl. Belichick noted how hard they have worked and they are now getting three weeks of practice to build a foundation for 2022, while providing potential short-term non-life insurance. Both have been regulars to meetings throughout the year.
10a. Did you know, Part I: Titans QB Ryan Tannehill is seeking his third straight win against the Patriots (including the playoffs), and if that happens, he will be the first quarterback since Eli Manning (SB XLII; 2011 Week 9; SB XLVI) to do so.
10b. Did you know, Part II: Vrabel is 2-0 against Belichick, and with a win on Sunday, he would join Dave Wannstedt as the only coach to beat Belichick (2000-now) in their first three meetings.