Flea Clicker: The Gronk speaks


There’s something I have to get out of the way off the top here…


A little later on this morning/afternoon we’ll be celebrating the return of the best thing ever with a season primer, among other goodies. But for now, it’s on with the news of the day.

Because he’s attended the school of Bill Belichick media relations, Rob Gronkowski’s first meeting with the Boston media microphones since his practice participation earlier this week was bland and uneventful. But hey, quotes, we got’em:

“Putting the pads on, just having them on, man, made me happy again. I love this game, definitely miss it, football, just going out there and practicing with my teammates. Miss doing the grind with my teammates, miss being out there with the coaches and everything, so it’s just awesome to be back out there with the team and focusing and getting things done.”

“I approach every single day to the max of my ability, preparing every day to do the best I can. When my number’s called, that’s when I’ll play.”

As the Boston Globe’s Shalise Manza Young quite correctly noted, Gronkowski’s six-minute media jam session can be summed up thusly: he’s progressing, he hasn’t had a setback, and he’ll keep progressing.

Since Robert Griffin III’s full recovery will be officially completed Monday night when he participates in a game, there’s something missing in our lives. We don’t have a major injury to get all obsessive compulsive about, and worse, one that has a significant fantasy impact. Thankfully, Gronk is here to briefly be the shining light in our lives.

When he was carved up for the fifth time this offseason (he had four other forearm surgeries, in addition to this latest back surgery), Gronkowski and his agent Drew Rosenhaus initially said he’d be fine for opening day, because of course they did. Shortly thereafter, reality prevailed and a mid-September timetable has become much more realistic. That was all but cemented this past weekend when Gronkowski avoided the PUP list, and therefore also dodged being shelved for the first six weeks.

For fake footballing, you’re ideally set up to play this perfectly. You’ve already pounced on the sweet Gronk draft discount, and then you also handcuffed either Zach Sudfeld or late-round tight end X. So now you hold on, and hope that the most optimistic recovery projection that’s been bouncing around (Gronkowski missing only two games, and returning for Week 3) is true.

As I’ve noted many times and most extensively in the Patriots fantasy preview earlier this week, risk can be managed but not completely avoided in fantasy football. Ideally, having one or two players on your roster who have tremendously high ceilings but their cost is still managed because of health risks is a fine strategy. With his 11 touchdowns and 790 receiving yards last year despite missing five games, Gronkowski easily tops the list of risk/reward players to own, with Pierre Garcon a close second.

Later tonight we can officially stop talking about what might happen, and start talking about what happened. Winter is coming We’ve been given the glorious gift of football again.

More notes, stray thoughts, and other such randomness


Every year, there’s just something about this day — this magical, wonderful day — that makes me want to watch this over and over and over and over and over. I’m no Raiders fan, but the musical musings combined with the imagery of the season just make it so…football, just so very football. Join me then, and let’s celebrate together…

On sliding, and doing it often

It’s so easy for us non-elite athlete folks to sit in our beer and couch haven on a Sunday afternoon, watch a mobile quarterback get rocked, and yell “SLIDE! WHY WON’T YOU SLIDEEEEE?”. Here’s the funny thing about quarterbacks who know they can run fast and often force missed tackles in the open field: they want to do that, and they want to maximize the yardage gained every time they take off. That’s their instinct, and if they happen to get pummeled every now and then, so be it.

Fighting instinct is a difficult battle during even the easiest times, but as Michael Vick said to Yahoo’s Les Carpenter, it’s something Robert Griffin III needs to do promptly. He can still use his speed and elusiveness, because if he’s hesitant to do that he’s no longer really Robert Griffin III. But when he’s given the opportunity to slide or duck out of bonds safely, he should gladly learn to take it.

Vick said that’s not an easy learning process, especially for a quarterback entering just his second season. But it’s also a wholly necessary and vital process:

“What I’ve learned is that you have to be cautious, the guys in this league hit so hard and we only weigh about 200-210 pounds, and these guys take all kinds of angles and we don’t see them sometimes,” said Vick who weighs 215. “So it’s important for us to protect ourselves and be conscious of where we are on the field and, more importantly, understand how much we mean to our football team.”

Vick said this is only a recent discovery. It’s a lesson he learned this past offseason when he feared for his job being 33 years old with a long injury history and a new coach in charge of the team.

Not that this was easy. In fact it might have been the toughest thing Vick has had to do as a football player. But in this preseason, the Vick who never met a defensive end he didn’t think he could twist around or run past, instead fell safely to the ground.

“I think once you tell yourself that’s what you’re going to do, then you kind of ingrain it in your mind,” Vick said.

Lizards are eating Wes Welker’s legs

I remain convinced that the marketing guys at Old Spice do their best work while in a deep state of sleep deprivation. They just stay awake for three days straight in the same room, yell out the random things that come to mind when they think they’re sleeping but they’re not really sleeping, and then bingo bango, you have a commercial.

Being the “designated dive guy” is a job I could nail

Brian Urlacher is quickly learning how to go about the business of being a guy who says things on TV. If you want to matter, make sure you either say something completely illogical that will piss people off (see: Bayless, Skip), or something controversial that will piss people off. Urlacher is now an analyst for Fox Sports 1, and he very much did the latter by dropping this:

“We had a guy who was the designated dive guy. It wasn’t coached, but it was part of our game plan.”

The concept of faking injuries has likely been around about as long as football has existed, though it’s rarely acknowledged so publicly. The motivation is obvious: if the defense is gassed following a series of no-huddle plays, an injury provides a brief rest. Or more importantly, it also provides an opportunity to makes substitutions and get the proper personnel on the field.

The maneuver requires a bit of stealth, something the Giants sorely lacked two years ago…

Pardon me, my Canadian is showing

J.J. Watt is an enormous human. We know this, and we see it every week.

My neighbors in the northern section of North America who care about another sport called “hockey” should close their eyes for a minute and try to imagine Watt on skates, flying around and busting guys up like it’s his job (because it was). As he told Peter King, that happened for a time. Watt called hockey is “first love“, which is downright terrifying.

Here’s a poll that will surprise no one

So far 266 current and former players have voted on a poll question asking what area of the body they would prefer a defender to target. This debate has intensified since D.J. Swearinger’s hit on Dustin Keller, with many players saying that although head trauma may have a long-term impact, the short-term impact of having your career end when a knee is shredded sucks much more.

The results of the poll aren’t remotely surprising then.


BREAKING: NFL players will still be complete idiots regardless of who is commissioner

The 2013 NFL offseason officially ends tonight, which means we can take a final count of the criminal stupidity which occurred between now and the end of the Super Bowl back in early February. Over that period 37 players were arrested, according to USA Today, and in total during the year 2013 there’s been 43 arrests.

So how does the Roger Goodell era compare to Paul Tagliabue’s reign in this regard? Despite Goodell’s iron fist and emphasis on his personal conduct policy, there’s been little change, and little to discern from the peaks and valleys of the past several years.

Goodell’s toughened player-conduct policy was a reaction to 79 arrests in the 12 months since April 2006. Arrests have declined since 2007 — from a high of 66 in 2008 to a low of 47 in 2012. But another surge may be underway with 43 arrests so far this year.

I’m reaching here, but it seems to me that if we’re blaming Goodell for player conduct, that’s a misplaced perspective. Grown men should be able to conduct themselves in a legal manner without the long arm of legislated league punishment hovering over each offseason step.