FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Patriots great Seymour connects with Williams: Maybe "The Godfather" can help.
That was the thought process behind the phone call that former Patriots defensive tackle and two-time Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist Richard Seymour recently received. He had earned the "Godfather" nickname toward the end of his playing career (2001-12) because of his willingness to help younger teammates, and this time, it was current New York Giants defensive tackle Leonard Williams on the other end of the line.
"Can we meet up?" was the question.
Of course, said Seymour, who opened his Atlanta home to Williams last week as they pored over game film and later shared a workout.
"I've worked with guys in the past -- not so much on-the-field work, but just mentality, mindset," the 40-year-old Seymour explained in a phone interview. "Here's the thing: In my mind, anybody can be good if they have a certain amount of talent. But what I try to give guys is the mindset of what it takes to be great, and to be great consistently. To develop a mentality over the course of your career. I'd say Leonard has all the tools for what it takes to be great."
It hasn't clicked just yet, hence the visit with Seymour.
Patriots fans are familiar with the 6-foot-5, 302-pound Williams, having seen him twice a year since the Jets selected him with the No. 6 overall pick of the 2015 draft (the same draft slot as Seymour in 2001). But with the Jets under a new regime in 2019, and Williams not becoming the difference-maker they hoped as he approached unrestricted free agency, they traded him to the Giants in October for third- and fifth-round picks.
"I've been working with him, assessing what I think his strengths and weaknesses are, and what does he need to do to take that next step to be the perennial All-Pro player that he has the ability to be. He's 25 years old. He's young. Athletic. Can run like a deer," said Seymour, adding that his work with Williams is based on specific defensive-line drills.
"My heart has always been whatever I can do to lend a hand to the young group of talent in the league, I'm willing to do that."
Seymour, who plans to keep working with Williams throughout the coming months, also found another way to connect with him. As the highest draft pick of Bill Belichick's 20 years as Patriots coach, he knows all about the challenge of high expectations.
"I respect the hard work of guys that come in the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh round, but it's different when you are the guy and have to perform at that level, basically with a target on your back the whole time and live up to that. And exceed expectations," he said.
"I've been telling him, it's really about competition. Competing. And hanging around and being around people who have the same mindset, being in that environment all the time. It helps in terms of what you're trying to accomplish."
The "Godfather" would know.
2. Kraft's words on Bledsoe apply today: Watching ESPN's E:60 hour-long feature "Drew Bledsoe: Better With Age" last Sunday -- a terrific piece by reporter Jeremy Schaap -- it was hard not to make the connection of Patriots owner Robert Kraft's remarks to the situation the franchise finds itself in today with Tom Brady.
Kraft was asked by Schaap what he remembers feeling when being told that Bledsoe, whom he viewed like a son and whose presence gave him added assurance in purchasing the team almost a decade earlier, was losing his job in 2001 to Brady after a serious injury.
"I was heartbroken, because I felt a connection and I didn't think it was fair on a human basis," Kraft told Schaap. "Drew came to me and expressed his frustration. I went and met with Bill, and Bill explained to me his thinking. I could have stepped in, especially at that time. I had deep discussions with Bill. I was bothered. But I trusted Bill to make the final decision, as he's more capable than I am. Although emotionally, it was very difficult."
With Brady scheduled to become a free agent in mid-March, many of the same tenets apply to Kraft's current position.
Kraft has made it known he wants Brady back, and is expected to be involved in negotiations, but has entrusted Belichick to make the final decision from a football standpoint.
3. Projecting an initial approach without Brady: If Brady departs in free agency, my opinion is that the Patriots' most likely approach would be to initially stand pat at quarterback and roll with Jarrett Stidham and Cody Kessler, before letting the veteran quarterback market settle and then possibly looking for a lower-priced option at a later date. It would be a chance for a financial reset, with Stidham set to earn a base salary of $585,000, Kessler at $820,000, and the team having about $29 million in cap space to devote to other positions of need.
4. Stidham's mobility a potential asset in changing QB times: Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, whose team is moving on from pocket passer Philip Rivers and could turn to the more mobile Tyrod Taylor, highlighted how times are changing in the NFL with quarterbacks, and movement skills are now more valuable than ever to keep teams on the cutting edge. This is one area in which Stidham also excels. While no one is definitively saying Stidham would be the heir apparent if Brady departs, his ability to move would open new aspects to the offense.
5. No movement on Brady talks: It is officially one month until the start of the March 16 legal tampering period when teams can negotiate with representatives for upcoming free agents, which narrows the timeline for Brady, Kraft and Belichick to come together and have the all-important meeting to set the table for whether Brady will be back in New England. The Patriots are expected to seek clarity on Brady's intentions before the start of free agency on March 18, because his decision will have a significant trickle-down effect on the team's overall plans. With no movement to date, I’m sticking with 80% odds on Brady's return at this time.
6. Patriots STMs get word of 2020 stadium improvements: In a thank-you letter to season-ticket members this past week, owners Robert and Jonathan Kraft wrote that they don't take their support for granted and are always looking for ways to improve Gillette Stadium and the fan experience. Along those lines, the owners relayed that "in 2020, our capital improvement focus will be in the south end of the stadium, where we will debut a new state-of-the-art video board, a completely rebuilt 7,000-square foot walk-in food and beverage location, as well as renovated and expanded restrooms."
7. Mystery of Belichick's rings is solved: Last week, the mystery of the third ring Belichick wore during the NFL 100 Super Bowl ceremony was highlighted, but as it turns out, the answer was right there on social media. Thanks to Twitter follower "Tom N." for relaying that it was a Giants Super Bowl ring. So between Belichick's Super Bowl LIII ring -- which represented six Lombardi trophies -- and the two Giants rings, Belichick was able to account for his eight championships in that special moment. As for this reporter, it was a reminder to check "SnapFace" and "InstaChat" the next time such a situation presents itself.
8. Tagovailoa vs. Herbert -- a question that intrigues: Throughout last offseason, the idea that the Dolphins or any team would "tank for Tua" generated plenty of media-based chatter. It is a good reminder of how things can unexpectedly shift, as few had LSU's Joe Burrow over Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa as the likely No. 1 quarterback until the college football season began to unfold. Now, as the draft season shifts into a higher gear, here's a question that intrigues me: Tagovailoa or Oregon's Justin Herbert as the next quarterback off the board? I wouldn't be surprised if it's a question that gains some traction among teams. As one longtime scout opined to me, Herbert is coming off a solid week at the Senior Bowl, and from a pure scouting perspective, his 6-foot-6, 227-pound frame fits more in the "built to last" category compared to the situation the 6-1, 218-pound Tagovailoa finds himself in coming off serious hip surgery.
9. Following up on Seymour and the Hall: Seymour's Pro Football Hall of Fame candidacy has advanced quickly, as he has been a finalist the past two years.
"I will say, it was a level of disappointment not getting in. Then I look at it and all the guys that got in were very deserving. I totally respect the process," he said. "It's an honor to be considered one of the best and make it to the final 10. For me, my work is done. It's up to the writers and voters."
Longtime Hall of Fame voter Ron Borges represents the New England vote, and Seymour pointed out his exemplary work in aiding the candidacies of Andre Tippett (2008) and Ty Law (2019).
"Ron has the knowledge from watching the game. He's not just a friend or a fan. He understands football. He's a guy that can look past statistics and see the impact that you make, so he understands that side of it, too. He's been pounding the table hard," Seymour said.
Meanwhile, there is one item of business closer to home that could also help Seymour's cause. He's not yet been voted into the Patriots Hall of Fame, with fans selecting Raymond Clayborn, Matt Light and Rodney Harrison over him the past three years.
So Patriots fans who want to provide Seymour a boost can do their part in the coming months.
10. Did You Know: Belichick enters his 46th consecutive NFL season, which moves him past Dick LeBeau (45) for the most all time. The only other coach with 40 consecutive NFL seasons is Tom Moore (41).