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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Quick thoughts and notes about the New England Patriots and the NFL:
1. Take it to the house: This is set to be the best Mother’s Day ever for Luisa Turner. A life gift from her son, Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne, does it that way.
Turner will spend the day in his new home in Oregon, which Bourne bought for his parents just a few weeks ago.
Although much larger than their previous two-bedroom, one-bathroom home – and has everything from a basketball court to a hot tub and sauna – it’s what the room represents that matters most to mom.
“When I walked in, it just felt like home. I could see my life – my grandchildren here, my children here,” she said. “It warms my heart that he did this for his family.”
Bourne, who has three siblings, had told his parents, Luisa and Eric, about his dream of buying a home for them. He asked them to explore different possibilities and tell him what they found.
That was when he decided to add a playful twist to it all.
When Luisa told him this was the one, Bourne told him he was talking to the real estate agent and that they might not be able to close the deal based on another offer. So I identified another house that they could consider.
Luisa was grateful, of course, but the location of the second option was not so preferable because it was not so close to Kendrick’s Oregon residence.
Eventually, Kendrick brought his parents back to the original house and gave them a floor mat that read “Home Sweet Home.” The house was theirs.
“That was when I broke out in excitement,” Luisa said. “Since he was a baby, he’s been something else!”
Bourne’s sense of humor and positive demeanor has been a staple of the Patriots since signing a three-year, $ 22 million contract in March 2021. His hard work as a football player – lifted himself out of eastern Washington in 2017, to join the San Francisco 49ers and then the Patriots – set the stage for his gift to his parents.
“He’s just an amazing son – a golden child,” Luisa said. “I tell him that all the time.”
2. O’Brien at hand: Bill Belichick has previously said that the Patriots’ coaching staff was probably complete, but that does not mean that visitors will not be welcomed at different times – and Belichick’s network is deep. That way, players noted current Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien on the field at Gillette Stadium last week at the volunteer offseason program. O’Brien, of course, has deep roots in New England as a former Belichick assistant.
Groh at Shrine Bowl: Eric Galko, director of football operations and player staff for the Shrine Bowl, pointed out that the Patriots draw to NFL high (with the Titans) by drafting four Shrine Bowl players.
Players are receiver Tyquan Thornton (second round), cornerback Jack Jones (fourth round), running back Pierre Strong Jr. (fourth round) and defensive tackle Sam Roberts (sixth round). While that might have been a coincidence, the presence of New England HR director Matt Groh through Shine Bowl week was remarkable for Galko.
“He was one of the leaders who had been back there for at least four days,” he said. “One of the things we added this year was a lot of formal interview time. Most all-star games have 8 to 10 hours of interview time with players, sometimes up to 11 o’clock at night. Not for us. We had 24 hours. free talk time, all structured during the day.
“I think for managers like Matt who were there and took advantage, they probably got a lot of good character and background feedback.”
4. Jones’ character: Jones, the fourth-round pick from Arizona State who began his career at USC, was arrested for breaking into a restaurant in 2018. A plea deal reduced the initial charges of crimes to a second-degree charge of commercial burglary. In 2020, he was also suspended in Arizona State for fighting during training. The teams had to investigate these issues while scouting Jones. Galko, who says he got to talk to Jones in Arizona State before inviting him to the Shrine Bowl, stands by him.
“I think a lot of people see the one incident he had as an 18-year-old kid at USC, and [assume] it is him he is. It’s really important when assessing the character of a player, [to consider] it’s not about what the player has done before, but what they can do in the future. Is the previous behavior predictable? …[Jones] made a mistake, he owns it, and it’s not something he’s shaking about. “
5. High comparison: While acknowledging that he has a vested interest in Jones’ success as a Shrine Bowl alum, Galko, who previously founded Optimum Scouting and was head of the XFL, compared his potential with some of the draft’s top-rated cornerbacks.
“His ball skills, timing and reaction make him special. I think in terms of pure man coverage, Ahmad Gardner, Derek Stingley Jr., he’s in the … ‘upside’ category,” he said.
Gardner went on to an overall fourth-place finish for the New York Jets, a choice after Stingley was selected by the Houston Texans. Jones was chosen as number 121, and some draft analysts believe it was early.
If Jones delivers at the level Gardner and Stingley are projecting to as top-5 picks, that would be something of a story in New England.
See the highlights from Baylor’s fast wide receiver Tyquan Thornton.
6. Thank you, mother! In an interview with the Patriots’ internal media, Thornton, the selection in the second round, which ran a 4.28-time in the 40-yard race in the NFL combine, (fourth best for a receiver since 2006) credited his blazing speed to his mother, Latasha Jackson. Thornton said she was always the fastest in her class. A perfect Mother’s Day note, in fact.
7. Strong report: An NFL scout is projecting Strong, the South Dakota State fugitive, to follow in the footsteps of James White, Shane Vereen and Kevin Faulk in terms of his role. “He’s a pure speed, third-down back,” the scout said, adding that he hoped to see more toughness from Strong at times. “He did not dominate enough at the end of this year when they made their playoff push to get me to say ‘This is the guy’. But he certainly has talent. Catches the ball. He has grades, the production is good “but one question I had is why did they switch him during the playoffs against Montana State?”
Schedule preview: The NFL is releasing its 2022 regular season program Thursday night, which will pair the long-awaited when to the already known against whom. One of the first thoughts last week when it was announced that receiver DeAndre Hopkins has been suspended for the first six games of the season was whether the Patriots could take a break with an early season date in Arizona. Ditto with an away game against Cleveland, with the possibility that quarterback Deshaun Watson faces an exclusion in the early season.
The Patriots’ 2022 opponents solidified:
🏈Home: ravens, bengals, foals, bears, lions, bills, dolphins, jets
Away: Browns, Steelers, Raiders, Packers, Vikings, Cardinals, Bills, Dolphins, Jets
– Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) January 10, 2022
9. Old draft class: Patriots first-round pick Cole Strange turns 24 in July, and other rookies Thornton (22 in August), Marcus Jones (24 in October), Jack Jones (25 in December), Strong (24 in December) and Bailey Zappe (just filled in 23) reflects how COVID-19 made this an older NFL-wide draft class. Age was not a major concern for the Patriots. “When you start getting to some of those older players, it’s a factor you keep in mind, and I think the position plays a factor in that,” Groh said. “But I do not think there is that big of a difference between some of the age groups we are talking about.”
10. Did you know that? The Patriots selected seven offensive players in the 2022 draft, the most of any team in the NFL, and their most in a draft under Belichick, according to ESPN Stats & Information.