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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Usually art imitates life, but Thursday, life imitated art -- in record-breaking fashion.

New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees brought to life a Visa commercial to set a Guinness World Record for most one-handed catches in a minute, completing 33 on the ESPN Super Bowl set.

"He was throwing them perfect," Beckham said.

The event recreated a commercial that aired during the football season and featured Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald catching one-handed passes from Brees, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick. That commercial digitally imposed the three quarterbacks, but Thursday's event was very real.

The passes had to travel at least 10 yards. The event was officiated by Arizona Interscholastic Association football official Tyler Cerimeli and was verified by Guinness World Record adjudicator Alex Angert.


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Former New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, who now plays for the Raiders, was a guest on "Mike & Mike" on ESPN Radio this morning, and he discussed a number of topics involving the upcoming Seahawks-Patriots Super Bowl. One of the first questions the guys asked Tuck was about Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, who is creating a stir this week with his one-sentence protests of the group media availabilities.

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The lead-in point was about Seattle coach Pete Carroll embracing the individuality of Lynch and many of his teammates, and Mike & Mike asked Tuck whether Giants coach Tom Coughlin as coach of this current Seahawks team would work.

"No. I don't think so," Tuck said after a pause. "I think Coach Coughlin is a little bit more to the line. Him and Marshawn wouldn't get along very well, because [Coughlin's] not about individuality in that case, when it brings attention to a certain player and not to the team.

"Now, I agree with you. I think Pete is perfect for Seattle and the athletes and the guys they have on that football team, and it's worked well for them, obviously. Those personalities feed that team. I don't think it would have worked well for us and how the New York Giants were built, from top to bottom, from Mr. Mara down. I don't think that would have worked well."

Tuck wasn't criticizing Coughlin -- just analyzing his style versus what the Seahawks and Carroll have built in Seattle. There are many ways to skin the coaching cat, and obviously Coughlin and Carroll have had great success doing it their way. Tuck goes on to discuss Coughlin's style and the ways in which he used to stress to his star players that they had to be focused on the team first.

Tuck also talks, later in the interview, about Sunday's game. As a member of a Giants' defense that beat Tom Brady's Patriots in the Super Bowl twice -- including the year New England came into the game 18-0 -- Tuck believes the Seahawks need to repeat the Giants' defensive formula from those games.

"The way you beat Brady is to pressure him with the front four," Tuck said. "Seattle's front four has to dominate the football game. I know the 'Legion of Boom' is getting all the pub, and rightfully so. But the game is going to be won up front, like it always is."

Spoken like a true defensive lineman.

Checking in on Prince Amukamara

January, 28, 2015
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New York Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara missed the final eight games of the season after surgery to repair a torn biceps muscle, but he said Wednesday that the injury was healing fine and that he expected to be cleared for full activity as early as March. That puts him on track easily for the start of minicamps and training camp, and there is no concern about the injury lingering and affecting Amukamara's play once it is healed.

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"I feel good. No worries at all. I'll be set to go," Amukamara said by phone from the set of the "Rachael Ray Show." He and his wife were filming an NFL couples cooking competition against the Jets' Eric Decker and his also-famous wife and the Lions' Glover Quin and his wife. The Amukamaras made enchiladas. The show airs Friday.

Amukamara also said he'd heard nothing yet from the Giants regarding his contract, which is a potentially interesting situation that may yet be addressed in the next few weeks.

Because Amukamara was their first-round pick in 2011, the Giants had the right to exercise a fifth-year option on him for 2015, which they did last offseason. If he plays out the season on that option, he'll make $6.898 million in 2015 (a figure determined by averaging the third through 25th highest cornerback salaries in the league in 2013). So far, that money is only guaranteed against injury, but it becomes fully guaranteed if he's still on the Giants' roster on the first day of the new league year, which is March 10.

The Giants like Amukamara, who was having a strong year before the injury, and they consider him part of their future. He'll surely be on the roster on March 10, and if they have to pay him $6.898 million in 2015, they can afford to do so.

But it's also possible that the Giants will approach Amukamara about signing a longer-term contract -- say a two-year or three-year deal that rolls the $6.898 million into a larger guarantee and helps them lower his cap number for this year. Amukamara said he and his agent had not yet been approached about that, but he'd be willing to listen if they wanted to have such a discussion.

Of the 32 first-round picks from the 2011 draft (the first one to which the fifth-year option rule applied), 21 had their options picked up. Of those 21, only four have signed long-term deals, and they are what Amukamara described as "no-brainers" -- Houston's J.J. Watt, Arizona's Patrick Peterson, St. Louis' Robert Quinn and Dallas' Tyron Smith. An Amukamara deal wouldn't come in as a mega deal along the lines of those four, but if the Giants can get him to agree to something reasonable that keeps him there for two or three years, it might help them with a little bit of extra cap room in the short term.
Our man Matt Williamson ranked every NFL team based only on its 25-years-old-and-under talent , and the New York Giants came in ... 25th.

Obviously, when you have consecutive seasons under .500, your hope is that you're building something for the future. But at least in the eyes of our talent scout, the Giants are behind three-fourths of the NFL in terms of the quality of young talent on their roster.

We've talked a lot in this space about how the Giants' drafts from 2008-12 were pretty much complete wastelands, but when you're looking at 25-and-under talent you really can't go back further than that 2011 draft. That one delivered first-rounder Prince Amukamara (who doesn't turn 26 until June), but after him it was a mess of Marvin Austin, Jerrel Jernigan, James Brewer, Greg Jones, Tyler Sash, Jacquian Williams and Da'Rel Scott. Amukamara and Williams were defensive starters for the Giants in 2014, and Williams helped win the Super Bowl as a rookie, but that's clearly not a good draft.

The 2012 draft hasn't worked out very well either, as first-rounder David Wilson was forced into early retirement by neck injuries. Second-rounder Rueben Randle is a quality NFL receiver, though not a star. Third-rounder Jayron Hosley was a complete bust, and the Giants have received very little in contributions from Adrien Robinson, Brandon Mosley, Matt McCants and Markus Kuhn.

The Giants got starters in the first two rounds of the 2013 draft with Justin Pugh and Johnathan Hankins. Damontre Moore is still only 22, so there's still a chance he learns how to play the run and stop committing dumb penalties. And they're happy with fourth-rounder Ryan Nassib as a backup quarterback. But he's shown little to indicate he'll be any more than that, and late-rounders Cooper Taylor, Eric Herman and Michael Cox haven't shown much.

Of these drafts, 2014 obviously shows the most promise, with first-round superstar Odell Beckham Jr. leading the way. Matt also lists second-rounder Weston Richburg, who could be the team's starting center in 2015, among the Giants' top five 25-and-under players. They also found potential starters in the fourth round (Andre Williams) and the fifth round (Devon Kennard), and it's early to judge lightly-used guys such as Jay Bromley and Nat Berhe.

If this were a ranking of players 23 and under, then the drafts from the last two years likely would push the Giants up the list. But they're still lugging around the mistakes and misses from that dark half-decade when they couldn't figure out the draft, and that's why they're sitting there in the bottom quarter of Matt's rankings.
We have spent -- and will continue to spend -- a great deal of time talking about New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning's contract. At $19.75 million, Manning's is by far the largest salary cap hit on the Giants' 2015 roster at this point, and they'd be wise to extend his contract beyond 2015 to get some relief from that.

[+] EnlargeVictor Cruz
William Perlman/USA TODAY SportsReceiver Victor Cruz is a special guy, and the Giants know this, and because of that they have some tough decisions to make on a possible salary cut.
But on a separate note, I'm curious to see whether the Giants feel the need to do anything about the second-highest cap hit on their roster -- the $8.125 million number that belongs to wide receiver Victor Cruz.

Cruz signed his long-term deal prior to the 2013 season. He has four years left on that deal at an average salary of $7.5 million per year and an average cap hit of $9 million per year. This year's salary is a palatable $6.15 million. Next year's is a more exorbitant $7.9 million. None of the remaining salary in his deal is guaranteed.

Now, if Cruz produces the way he produced in the two years before he signed the deal -- two years in which he averaged 84 catches, 1,314 yards and 9.5 touchdowns -- these numbers are no problem. However, his production dropped in 2013 (73 catches, 998 yards, 4 touchdowns and missed the final two games due to injury). And in the sixth game of the 2014 season, he tore the patellar tendon in his right knee and had to have major surgery that ended his season.

There is no guarantee Cruz comes all the way back from the injury, or that he's the same kind of explosive player he was before it happened. The Giants hope he makes a full recovery, and he and they are optimistic he will. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has some creative ways to use Cruz that he didn't get to show much in 2014 before the injury. The team's preference would be to have Cruz all the way back and earning his contract in their new offense for the next four years.

But this is a cold business, this NFL contract business. And with Odell Beckham Jr. having exploded onto the scene as a superstar talent and producer in Cruz's absence, the Giants may well have the leverage they need to seek a reduction in Cruz's salary over the remaining four years of the deal. And it may be in their best salary-cap interest to seek that reduction. They can point out the 12 missed games over the past two years and use Beckham's emergence to help their case and maybe shave a couple of million bucks off of that cap number this year.

Doing this would run the risk of alienating one of the team's best and favorite players. Cruz is a selfless, team-first guy who showed up in 2014 training camp after signing the deal and told the coaches he wanted to work on becoming a better downfield blocker in the run game. He's a special guy, and the Giants know this, and because of that they may decide this isn't a road they want to travel. That contract definitely means something to him, and it may well hurt his pride if they come to him and threaten him with a release while telling him Beckham has passed him -- even if it's just a negotiating tactic.

Cutting Cruz would only save the Giants $2.425 million cap space this year, so assuming they believe he's going to make it all the way back that's not a worthwhile way to go. But given the way things have gone since Cruz signed that deal a year and a half ago, it's not crazy to at least look at making some changes to it.
It's a headline world, and very few people seem to read beyond them, so all day Monday it was, "Did you hear Odell Beckham Jr. played the whole season with TWO tears in his hamstrings???? OH MY GOD!!!!!!" Someone even asked me on Twitter what New York Giants fans should think of Beckham "playing hurt in the Pro Bowl."

No.

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That's not what happened. None of that is what happened. And while I know my plea is likely to fall on deaf ears, I think everybody needs to relax.

One of the most important rules about interviewing professional athletes is to remember that they are not doctors. Beckham can tell the New York Post, if he likes, that he played the whole season with two tears in his hamstrings. He may even technically be correct, because any kind of muscle pull or strain is, in point of fact, a tear of the soft tissue. But all he's doing is using a different word to describe an injury about which everyone already knew. If you go out in the backyard and throw the football around with your kids and you pull your calf or your quad or your hamstring, you will go to work the next day with at least one tear in your muscle. Congrats on toughing that out.

Now, of course, Beckham's job requires him to use his hamstrings to a much more spectacular extent than you or I use them, so the fact that his preseason hamstring injury never fully healed is interesting. But what you have to remember is this: After Beckham pulled his hamstring in the first practice of training camp last summer, and after he pulled it again in a partial practice a couple of weeks later, the Giants sat Beckham out until they were completely sure he could play without risk of reinjuring that muscle. He likely could have played in Week 4 against Washington, but they waited until Week 5 against Atlanta for his debut simply because they wanted to make sure. (And because, if you remember, they only needed Larry Donnell to beat Washington.)

During the season, Beckham would occasionally discuss the hamstring. Once in a while, he would be discussing a particular play or route and say that was one where he felt he might not be able to go full speed because of his hamstring. Wisely, on these occasions, he slowed down so that he might continue playing in the rest of the game. That is the extent to which Beckham's hamstrings affected him after Week 4, and it's possible he could have stretched it out on any or all of those plays and not been affected.

Beckham was absolutely dazzling this season. His 91 catches, 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in only 12 games are likely to be rewarded Saturday night with the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Might he be even better next season if his hamstring is fully healed after an offseason's worth of rest? Sure. A full offseason program, training camp and slate of preseason games are likely to help him as well, as could the return from injury of fellow star wideout Victor Cruz.

But Beckham's accomplishments and ability require no embellishment. They are great enough on their own, and the words he chose to discuss his hamstring issues Sunday night don't mean anything in the big picture of what this young man did or can continue to do going forward.

Beckham Jr. affected by hamstring

January, 26, 2015
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- New York Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who had so many athletic catches that he inspired T-shirts and all forms of Internet creativity in his rookie season, revealed after Sunday's Pro Bowl that he is still affected by a hamstring injury that kept him out of much of the Giants' offseason program, training camp and the first month of the regular season.

Beckham, who still closed out 2014 with 91 receptions for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns, missed the first four games of the season and didn't have a game with more than four receptions until Nov. 3 when he had eight catches for 156 yards against the Indianapolis Colts.

"I was never fully healthy," Beckham said following Team Irvin's 32-28 win over Team Carter in the NFL's all-star game. "... I was just trying to manage it and maintain it. ... It's still not right. [I'm] still working on it."

Beckham added it was a "long process" for his recovery.

The Giants' first-round pick from the 2014 draft (12th overall) finished Sunday's affair with five receptions for 89 yards for Team Irvin, including a full-layout 48-yard catch on a pass from Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in the first half.

Beckham added after Sunday's game that he had actually suffered two hamstring injuries before the season -- one in an early-offseason workout and another in a preseason game. He said he intends to rest in the coming weeks to try to get his leg feeling better.


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Interesting project up on ESPN.com right now in conjunction with Pro Football Focus. Basically, PFF rated every significant player on every team (based on snap counts), sorted them into four categories -- Elite, Good, Average and Bad -- and came up with a formula to determine how many above-average players each NFL team was away from the Super Bowl this year.

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The whole, slick-looking project is accessible here, and an explanation of the methodology is available here. Especially if you're snowed in for the next couple days as it appears I will be, it's a fun way to pass the time.

We'll take a quick look at the New York Giants' end of it. PFF has them six above-average players away, which doesn't sound bad. They have only one player in the "Elite" category -- Pro Bowl rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. -- and seven in the "Good" category (Johnathan Hankins, Robert Ayers, Jason Pierre-Paul, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Will Beatty, Rueben Randle and Daniel Fells).

Check out the project and click on the Giants' link and you'll see I have a bit of a rundown on where I do and don't agree with PFF's evaluations (and why). And you can decide for yourself where you do and don't agree with them. And you can look around the rest of the league to see how other teams' problems stack up with those of the 6-10 Giants. For me, I think the evaluations are generous. But with the Giants, they always seem to be -- until the season ends and we look at the record.
Thank you for your #nygmail questions on Twitter. Here are a few of them.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Mathias Kiwanuka is the most obvious New York Giants cap casualty this offseason, as it's been a long time since his production matched up with his salary and they can save $4.85 million by cutting him. Also looming as potential cuts are linebacker Jon Beason and center J.D. Walton, though Walton's not overpriced and the decision on him could come down to how much other work they're able to do on their offensive line this offseason. Beason's case is an interesting one. They obviously like him and believe he makes a difference to their defense. And he's guaranteed $900,000 in salary this year anyway. But the $7.37 million cap number is unwieldy, and they'd save about $3.53 million by cutting him. They could try to talk him into a pay cut, but if they really believe Jameel McClain functioned as a capable replacement, then it's not crazy to move on from Beason at this point.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Obviously, a lot depends on what they do in free agency. And even after that, the Giants do have a tendency not to target specific positions but to go with the best possible player at their spot. If you're looking for a basic framework, my sense is that the market will send them toward offensive linemen in free agency and defensive players in the draft. Given where they're drafting, they could have a chance at a top-flight pass-rusher or a stud safety like Alabama's Landon Collins at No. 9. And while they don't tend to draft linebackers, they do have a significant need at that position, so maybe they'll try for one of those in the second or third round. And even if they do sign a bunch of offensive linemen in free agency, they could (and maybe should) find a tackle or a guard in the second or third round with an eye toward the long term.

@DanGrazianoESPN: It was something of a surprise that the Giants spent big on cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in March, even as part of their big free-agent frenzy. But it does show you where their priorities are focused right now, and I think if they did spend big on a marquee free agent this year it would be on the back end of their defense, possibly a safety like Devin McCourty or Da'Norris Searcy. They will make offensive line a priority, but since they consider themselves set at left tackle with Will Beatty, they're unlikely to bring in any "marquee" names on the line. (Guards and right tackles aren't generally marquee names.) The only two safeties on the roster right now are Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe, and there's some question about whether they'll bring back free agent Antrel Rolle, so this is a place where they have significant resources to spend.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I do not think taking a top quarterback such as Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston would be a good use of the Giants' first-round draft pick this year, even if one of those guys fell to No. 9. The Giants' roster is not in strong enough shape to allow them to double up major resources on the quarterback position, where they're heavily committed to Eli Manning this year and likely to extend his contract into the future. If they believed they were moving on from Manning after this year, then you could maybe make the case for taking Mariota in the first round. But let's be honest -- Mariota or Winston would do well to ever be half as good an NFL quarterback as Eli Manning already is. The Giants know this, and with Manning still in his prime, they're not interested in cutting bait and turning the franchise over to an unproven commodity at the most important position.

Thanks for all of your questions. Enjoy the Pro Bowl.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- They were teammates for just one season at LSU, but that was all New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. needed to develop a respect for Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu that's still strong four years later.

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Beckham was a freshman at LSU when Mathieu was a sophomore in 2011, and together they lost in the national championship to Alabama. They would've been teammates again in 2012 but Mathieu was kicked off the team that August for failing a drug test and later had any chance of reinstatement disappear after he was arrested two months later.

"It's been a guy that I've looked up to for a long time," Beckham said after Friday's Pro Bowl practice at Scottsdale Community College. "A guy who's been at the top and a guy who's been all the way down at the bottom and still remained the same the entire way through.

"Skills like that is something that I admire in a person -- someone who goes through such controversy and adversity and is still able to overcome it."

But Beckham never thought Mathieu would give up.

"Just says a lot about the person and his character," Beckham said. "It's something that I expect from him. I expect nothing but greatness from him. That's what he gives every time."

Beckham experienced some of that adversity during his rookie season in 2014.

He missed the first four games with a hamstring injury but recovered to lead all rookie receivers with 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games. His injury, coupled with the knee injury Mathieu suffered in Week 14 of 2013, kept them from working out together during last offseason.

The two New Orleans natives kept in touch and would "chop it up back-and-forth," Beckham said. They also share a similar style: Like Mathieu, Beckham has the top of his hair dyed blonde.

"I don't know if it's really [a tribute] to him," Beckham said. "It's our little style, so it just works out."

Possible Giants' run game targets

January, 23, 2015
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One of the New York Giants' top priorities this offseason will be to improve their run game, and they're likely to address it in free agency. But while many of you want to talk about which running backs the Giants will target, I think you may be missing the point. The Giants like running backs Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams. And while they may go out and look for a veteran running back who can augment that pair and possibly help in the passing game, their primary focus is to improve the run-blocking effectiveness of their offensive line.

While the Giants plan to have Will Beatty back as their starting left tackle, Weston Richburg back as either a guard or (they hope) their starting center, Geoff Schwartz healthy and back to play one of the guard spots and Justin Pugh back as either a guard or right tackle, don't be surprised if the Giants add multiple pieces on their offensive line. Part of their issue there the past couple of years has been a lack of depth, and they don't want to keep getting caught short on the line.

With that in mind, here's a very short, partial list of potential offensive line targets in free agency:

Joe Barksdale, Rams tackle: This is a 6-foot-5, 326-pound giant who just turned 27 three weeks ago. He graded out as Pro Football Focus' No. 10 tackle (and No. 3 right tackle) in run-blocking in 2014. If the Giants' plan is to get a mauling right tackle who would allow them to move Pugh inside to a guard spot, this is a guy to watch -- assuming the Rams let him hit the market, which is no certainty.

Bryan Bulaga, Packers tackle: Grades out better in pass protection, but he's no slouch as a run-blocker. Former first-round pick turns 26 in March and could leave Green Bay if the bidding for his services gets out of their preferred price range.

Doug Free, Cowboys tackle: He has rebounded from a rotten 2012 with two strong seasons at right tackle for Dallas, and was a big part of the league's No. 2 rush offense in 2014. But Free is 31 and therefore a bit older than the Giants' preferred free agents tend to be.

Orlando Franklin, Broncos guard: He has played tackle and guard in his career, and the Giants like that versatility in their linemen. Franklin is 27 years old, which makes him appealing as well.

Mike Iupati, 49ers guard: Turns 28 in May. Graded out as PFF's No. 2 run-blocking guard in 2014. Likely to be in demand.

Clint Boling, Bengals guard: He is quite young, as his 26th birthday is not until May. At 6-foot-5, 310, he's a bit smaller than those first two guards I listed.

Mel Kiper re-grades Giants' 2014 draft

January, 22, 2015
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Actually, Mel Kiper Jr. re-graded every team's 2014 draft in this Insider piece here . But since this is a New York Giants blog, you're interested in what he thinks about the Giants' draft in particular. He likes it.

Mel liked the Giants' draft in the first place, giving it a "B" immediately after it was over. Since this is an Insider piece, I'm not going to tell you here what the re-grade is. But considering they got 12 rookie-of-the-year-caliber games from first-rounder Odell Beckham Jr., 15 starts from second-rounder Weston Richburg, a team-leading 721 rushing yards from fourth-rounder Andre Williams and 4.5 sacks from fifth-rounder Devon Kennard, you can assume the grade improved upon consideration of the season's worth of evidence.

The Giants desperately needed a strong 2014 draft, after years of unproductive ones, and the early returns indicate that this could be the most productive since Jerry Reese became GM in 2007. If Williams can be a starting running back, Kennard a starting linebacker, Richburg the team's center of the future and Beckham the kind of star performer he was as a rookie, there will be no doubt.

NY has delivered swift kick in the Pats

January, 22, 2015
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[+] EnlargeDavid Tyree
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarThis Giants catch helped keep Bill Belichick's Pats from a perfect season ...

NEW YORK -- If you believe the assertion that you can tell how much something really bothers someone by how much they squawk, then the way a couple of former Patriots responded on television this week to a few taunts that former Giants place-kicker Lawrence Tynes tweeted after New England routed the Colts 45-7 in last Sunday's AFC title game was telling.

Retired cornerback Ty Law scowled and said, "Who is this dude?"

He's a kicker, Law and former Pats wide receiver Troy Brown were reminded.

"A kicker? Next subject," Law scoffed.

"Don't count. Next subject," Brown agreed.

"Go soak your foot," Law added.

For Tynes, who's built a burgeoning reputation as a Twitter smart aleck since leaving the Giants for Tampa and getting knocked out of the league in 2013 by a serious staph infection, the social media blowback he caught in the first 36 hours after his tweets proved he'd hit a sore spot. Tynes insists, "I actually have great respect for how much winning the Patriots have done, all the division titles they've won" -- even if he did also tweet that "maybe the Pats will have a chance now that they're not playing the G-Men."

Pats supporters and former players don't want any reminders of New York's role in interrupting Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the franchise's coronation as the best NFL coach, quarterback and NFL dynasty of all time.


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