FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Taking it to the house: This promises to be the best Mother's Day ever for Luisa Turner. A gift of a lifetime by her son, Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne, makes it so.
Turner will spend the day in her new home in Oregon, which Bourne purchased for his parents just a few weeks ago.
While it is much bigger than their prior two-bedroom, one-bathroom residence -- and has everything from a basketball court to a hot tub and sauna -- it's what that space represents that means the most to Mom.
"When I walked in, it just felt like home. I could see my life -- my grandchildren here, my kids 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, of his dream to buy them a home. He asked them to explore different possibilities and let him know what they found.
That's when he decided to add a playful twist to it all.
When Luisa told him this was the one, Bourne relayed that he spoke with the realtor and they might not be able to close the deal based on another offer. So he identified a different house for them to consider.
Luisa was appreciative, of course, but the location of the second option wasn't as preferable because it wasn't as close to Kendrick's Oregon residence.
Ultimately, Kendrick brought his parents back to the original house and handed them a floor mat that read "Home Sweet Home." The house was theirs.
"That's when I burst out in excitement," Luisa said. "Since he was a baby, he's been something else!"
Bourne's sense of humor, and positive demeanor, have been staples with the Patriots since he signed a three-year contract worth a maximum of $22 million in March of 2021. His hard work as a football player -- elevating from undrafted out of Eastern Washington in 2017, to hooking on with the San Francisco 49ers, and then to the Patriots -- set the stage for his gift to his parents.
"He's just a great son -- a golden child," Luisa said. "I tell him that all the time."
2. O'Brien on hand: Bill Belichick previously said the Patriots' coaching staff was likely complete, but that doesn't mean visitors won't be welcomed at various times -- and Belichick's network is deep. Along those lines, players took note of current Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien on the field at Gillette Stadium last week at the voluntary offseason program. O'Brien, of course, has deep roots in New England as a former Belichick assistant.
3. Groh at Shrine Bowl: Eric Galko, the director of football operations and player personnel for the Shrine Bowl, pointed out that the Patriots tied for the NFL high (with the Titans) by drafting four Shrine Bowl players.
The 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 it might have been a coincidence, the presence of New England director of personnel Matt Groh throughout Shine Bowl week was notable to Galko.
"He was one of the longest-staying executives, 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 until 11 o'clock at night. Not for us. We had 24 hours of available interview time, all structured throughout the day.
"I think for executives like Matt, who were there and took advantage, they probably got a lot of good character and background feedback, for sure."
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 agreement reduced the initial felony charges to a second-degree misdemeanor charge of commercial burglary. In 2020, he was also suspended at Arizona State for fighting during practice. Teams had to investigate those issues while scouting Jones. Galko, who says he got to talk with Jones at Arizona State before inviting him to the Shrine Bowl, vouches for him.
"I think a lot of people see the one incident he had as an 18-year-old kid at USC, and [assume] that's who he is. It's really important, when assessing character for a player, [to consider] it's not about what the player has done before but what they may do in the future. Is that past behavior predictive? ...[Jones] made a mistake, he owns it, and it isn't something he glosses over."
5. Lofty comparison: While acknowledging he has a vested interest in Jones' success as a Shrine Bowl alum, Galko, who previously founded Optimum Scouting and was a head personnel executive for the XFL, compared his potential to some of the draft's top-rated cornerbacks.
"His ball skills, timing and reaction makes him special. I think in terms of pure man coverage ability, Ahmad Gardner, Derek Stingley Jr., he's in that ... 'upside' category," he said.
Gardner went fourth overall to the New York Jets, one pick after Stingley was selected by the Houston Texans. Jones was selected 121st, and some draft analysts believe that was early.
If Jones delivers at the level Gardner and Stingley project to as top-5 picks, that would be quite a story in New England.
6. Thanks, mom! In an interview with the Patriots' in-house media, Thornton, the second-round pick who ran a 4.28 time in the 40-yard dash at 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, indeed.
7. Strong report: One NFL scout projects Strong, the running back from South Dakota State, to follow in the footsteps of James White, Shane Vereen and Kevin Faulk in terms of his role. "He is a pure speed, third-down back," the scout said, adding that he hoped to see more toughness from Strong at times. "He didn't dominate enough at the end of this year when they were making their playoff push to make me say 'This is the guy.' But he definitely has talent. Catches the ball. He's got traits, the production is good, but one question I had is why were they alternating him during the playoffs against Montana State?"
8. Schedule preview: The NFL releases its 2022 regular-season schedule on Thursday night, which will pair the much-anticipated when to the already-known against whom. One of the first thoughts last week, when it was announced receiver DeAndre Hopkins is suspended for the first six games of the season, was if the Patriots might catch a break with an early-season date at Arizona. Ditto with a road game against Cleveland, with the possibility that quarterback Deshaun Watson faces an early-season suspension.
Patriots 2022 opponents solidified:— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) January 10, 2022
🏈Home: Ravens, Bengals, Colts, Bears, Lions, Bills, Dolphins, Jets
🏈Away: Browns, Steelers, Raiders, Packers, Vikings, Cardinals, Bills, Dolphins, Jets
9. Older draft class: Patriots first-round pick Cole Strange turns 24 in July, and fellow rookies Thornton (22 in August), Marcus Jones (24 in October), Jack Jones (25 in December), Strong (24 in December), and Bailey Zappe (just turned 23) reflect how COVID-19 made this an older NFL-wide draft class. Age wasn't a major concern for the Patriots. "Once you start getting to some of these older players, it's a factor that you keep in mind, and I think the position plays a factor in that," Groh said. "But I don't think there's that big of a difference between some of those age groups that we're talking about."
10. Did you know? 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.