FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Patriots fans are still getting to know towering tight end Matt Lengel, who was signed off the Bengals practice squad in early November, caught a touchdown pass in late December against the Jets and played in nine of the final 10 games of the 2016 season (including the playoffs).
The 6-foot-7 Lengel, 26, has been using his platform as an up-and-coming NFL player to highlight something that has significant meaning to him: Supporting police offers.
Specifically, Lengel has used his Twitter account to acknowledge police officers who have been killed in the line of duty. Lengel’s father, Brian, is a retired police officer.
“I’ve always looked at my dad as my hero, still to this day, and it’s not really until you get older that you realize just how dangerous it is what they do,” Lengel said last week. “I think it takes a very special person to do what police officers do. I don’t think police officers choose to do what they do. I think it chooses them.”
As a symbol of this, Lengel pointed out how when there is an announcement about the death of an officer (even those who have retired), the date of death is often referred to as the officer’s end of watch.
This past week, Lengel wrote about how his “heart breaks” after learning of the death of New York police officer Miosotis Familia, who was shot and killed while sitting in a marked police cruiser.
As the son of a retired police officer, my heart breaks. Humans who voluntarily wake up, leave families, and protect against evil everyday. https://t.co/ecnOf9nsIX
— Matt Lengel (@Colonel82) July 5, 2017
"What’s the most important to me, in reference to support to police officers and social media, is that they are humans." Lengel said. "Humans aren’t perfect, but these are people who voluntarily wake up every day and if they hear shots are fired, they are getting in their car and driving to it while others are going in the opposite direction.
“What happened to them might affect them as bad as someone else. You don’t know the events that cause that person’s family to be disrupted, how stressful the job is. These are human beings, with loved ones, that want to go home at the end of the day. That’s what I hope to get across.”
Lengel, who is from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, has had an unconventional football journey. He’s also had a memorable offseason. he got married two weeks ago, which brought many of his former teammates together from Northeastern University, Eastern Kentucky and the Bengals.
Lengel’s wife, Lauren, shares in the support for police officers. Her mother and father worked as officers, and her stepfather is a police chief. Matt said some of his best friends from college have also become police officers, in New York, Lexington, Kentucky and New Orleans.
At Eastern Kentucky, Lengel majored in political science and went on to get his master’s degree in physical education. He planned to go into some type of law enforcement if his football career didn’t take off.
“When I get suited up for a game, it takes me back to when I went on one SWAT call with [his father]. We parked, he put his vest on, his hands are freezing, and he’s getting his game face on to kick in a door and pull somebody out,” Lengel said. “I go back to that and it helps me with any pregame jitters. My life isn’t on the line.”
If Lengel continues to grow as a player and sticks with the Patriots, he hopes to expand his work raising awareness for police officers.
As our chat was coming to a conclusion, he had one final thing to add: “Anything I can do for the Boston Police Department, let me know.”
2. The Patriots don’t have many major position battles entering training camp later this month, but Lengel and the backup tight end spot is one of note. Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen project as the top two tight ends, then it’s Lengel (6-foot-7, 267), James O'Shaughnessy (6-foot-4, 245) and undrafted rookies Jacob Hollister (6-foot-4, 239) and Sam Cotton (6-foot-4, 250) vying for a potential third spot. Lengel’s offseason has been impacted by a finger injury that required offseason surgery, and the club has been bringing him along slowly.
3. As usual, Miguel Benzan of Patsfans.com does a thorough job breaking down the specifics of linebacker David Harris’ two-year contract with the Patriots. Harris has a salary-cap charge of $2.84 million in 2017, and then it could possibly spike to $3.875 million in 2018. While the deal is technically a two-year pact, the financial impact is limited if the Patriots decide to move on after just one season.
4. In the always-enjoyable “Know Them From Adam” podcast, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter interviewed free-agent running back DeAngelo Williams, who said he’d sign with 28 teams, but “the other four are automatic no.” Williams then told Schefter he should start a poll to see if fans could guess the four and that he would share the four teams at a later date. I voted and figured including the Patriots was a safe choice based on Williams' past trolling of the franchise. Others apparently agreed.
5. Good point by Chris Warner, who contributes to the Boston Sports Media Watch website, about not forgetting the impact of the Patriots’ trade for nose tackle Ted Washington in 2003 when ranking the best offseasons in Bill Belichick’s tenure. Acquiring Washington for a fourth-round pick was one of the team’s top trades, as the creator of the “Homeland Defense” nickname was a rock in the middle of the 3-4 alignment. Recalling that deal also sparked a thought of a more recent trend with the Patriots: Those types of trades have evolved into the club not wanting to give up a pick for a player without receiving a lower pick in return as well (e.g. Martellus Bennett, Allen, O'Shaughnessy, etc.).
6. Not sure that New Hampshire International Speedway could have made a better choice than Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to drive the pace car for next Sunday’s Overton’s 301. Who else in the New England sports landscape has orchestrated more fast starts?
7. Did You Know: ESPN’s Stats & Information notes that it is just 60 days until the NFL opener between the Patriots and Chiefs, and as part of its numbers-based theme, offers up this Giants-based nugget: Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall have 60 combined receiving touchdowns since 2014. Beckham is tied for first in that time span and Marshall is seventh. They are teammates for the first time this year.
8. Nice story from Angelique Fiske of Patriots.com on former New England linebacker Dane Fletcher (44 games played from 2010-13) and his transition to a post-playing career, as he opened a workout facility in his native Montana. There are plenty of stories of players struggling as they move to the next phase of their lives, but there are also plenty of stories similar to the 30-year-old Fletcher’s that should also be told. One of the best parts to me is how he highlighted the support of his former Patriots teammates, such as Tom Brady.
9. With baseball’s all-star break set to arrive, it got me thinking about the football version of the event and what the league can do differently to make the Pro Bowl more relevant. I vote for eliminating the game -- it’s not even real football -- and making it some type of creative skills competition that allows fans to connect more with players in a different way. Going that route, and eliminating the injury risk for players, might actually lead to fewer players pulling out of the event and giving it more of an all-star type feel.
10. Can you imagine the joy a father would have to see two of his children married in a span of three weeks on beautiful New England summer weekends? No doubt, it’s been a memorable and meaningful offseason for Patriots coach Bill Belichick.