Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski’s $7,500 fine for unsportsmanlike conduct vs. the Jets is over the top. He spiked the ball after a touchdown and it was debatable if he was actually spiking it at an opponent. A penalty is one thing, but a $7,500 fine? Too heavy-handed from this view.
2. From undrafted rookie to starting linebacker for the 6-3 Giants; that could be the next chapter in Mark Herzlich’s overcoming-the-odds story. An injury could thrust him into the spotlight tonight against the Eagles (link here).
3. I saw the sure-fire defensive rookie of the year on Thursday night and his name is Von Miller. There are few players in the NFL on defense that command your eye on each snap, and he’s one of them. He’s a game-changer.
4. If the Broncos keep winning, would the league consider flexing the Patriots-Broncos game on Dec. 18 to Sunday night? It’s currently a Ravens/Chargers prime-time contest that night, but as @ehannan73 noted on Twitter, a Tebow/Brady matchup could be more compelling TV. Still see it as a longshot at this time.
5. When Brian Waters talks in the Patriots’ locker room, I try to listen. He offers a unique perspective from a decade-plus in the NFL, which means he’s seen and experienced a lot, and this is what he said about life as a Patriot: “This is a professional locker room. The guys here treat this football thing the way it’s supposed to be treated. There are a lot of professionals here, even the young guys, they give you a lot of inspiration to come in here and know that you don’t have a lot of knuckleheads in this locker room. You have guys that really treat this game the way it should be treated.”
6. Did you know the Harbaugh brothers are successful head coaches of NFL teams – John with Baltimore, Jim with San Francisco? Get ready to hear a lot about it in the coming days as the 49ers visit the Ravens on Thanksgiving night.
7. The Patriots have had back to back games with a shaky center/quarterback shotgun snap and starting center Dan Connolly has been limited all week with a groin injury. Wouldn’t be surprised if we see more of scrappy backup Ryan Wendell at center on Monday night.
8. One player I’m looking forward to watching Monday night is Chiefs defensive end Tyson Jackson. He was Scott Pioli’s initial first-round pick in Kansas City (No. 3 overall) and it looks like he’s playing a Ty Warren-type role for the Chiefs. Jackson was considered a safe selection, and considering some of the struggles of other top picks that year (e.g. Aaron Curry, No. 4 overall, is already with a new team), one can understand Pioli's thinking.
9. For players, Monday night games can seem like they take forever to arrive. Wes Welker’s plans for Monday: “We have meetings in the morning, and then I go back to my house and just kind of hang out, watch TV and just kind of relax. I don’t really do too much. … I think you still get a little anxious for prime-time games like this. You want to go out there and play well. It was probably easier when I was younger, because the days do get long. You’re just kind of waiting there.”
10. Watching Broncos receiver Eric Decker on Thursday was a reminder of what could have been for the Patriots. Decker looks like a find, and the Patriots were strongly considering him in the third round last year. But Decker went 87th overall, a few picks before the Patriots (90th) were on the clock. The Patriots ended up with receiver Taylor Price, who has yet to break through.