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Pats pick up another tight end in trade with Lions



FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots, thin at tight end since the retirement of Rob Gronkowski in March, have acquired third-year tight end Michael Roberts in a trade with the Detroit Lions.

The Lions are getting a conditional seventh-round pick in 2020 in return, a league source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

In the search to replace Gronkowski, four-year veteran Matt LaCosse was taking No. 1 reps in mandatory minicamp. He had a career-high 24 receptions with the Denver Broncos last season.

Veteran Benjamin Watson figures to be part of the mix, but he will miss the first four games of the season due to an NFL suspension. Stephen Anderson, who spent the 2018 season on New England’s practice squad, rounds out the top of the depth chart along with 2018 seventh-round pick Ryan Izzo.

The Patriots inherit Roberts’ contract, which has two years remaining. Roberts is due to earn a base salary of $645,000 in 2019 and $735,000 in 2020. The Lions selected him in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft out of Toledo. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Roberts has played in 23 regular-season games over the past two years, totaling 13 catches for 146 yards and three touchdowns.

After Roberts struggled with injuries last season while appearing on the cusp of a breakout multiple times, Detroit worked to revamp the tight end room over the past six months. That included drafting T.J. Hockenson in the first round and Isaac Nauta in the seventh and signing free agents Jesse James and Logan Thomas. The quartet of new faces left Roberts in a tough spot in order to make the roster.

“Obviously with the tight end position, kind of in the conversation here, we have good competition in the room right now,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “We had an opportunity to move on from Mike and hopefully, potentially get something for it. So it was a good opportunity for us as a team to do that and build our team long term. There’s always situations, too, when roster movement happens that may affect the overall total number. We are currently at 89, we are not at 90. So we do have an open roster spot at the moment.”

This is the latest in a litany of trades made between the Lions and Patriots since former New England staffer Bob Quinn took over as Detroit’s general manager in 2016 — including trading linebacker Kyle Van Noy to New England and making moves during various NFL drafts.

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New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s mother dies at 98



New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s mother, Jeannette, died of natural causes Tuesday in Annapolis, Maryland, a club spokesman confirmed. She was 98.

Jeannette and Steve Belichick met at Hiram College in the 1940s, where Jeannette taught Spanish and French, and Steve was a coach. They married in August of 1950, and Bill was born in 1952.

In 2015, Bill Belichick made a donation to Hiram College, located in Hiram, Ohio, to honor the legacy of his parents in the areas of campus life upon which they made a lasting impact.

The Jeannette Munn Belichick ’42 Endowed Fund was created to provide support to the school library in purchasing books and other resources related to foreign languages. In addition, the Jeannette Munn Belichick ’42 Reading Room named the space on the first floor of the school library.

Steve Belichick died in 2005 at 85. At Hiram, there is now the Coach Steve Belichick Olympic Training Center.

The Belichicks raised Bill in Annapolis, where the Patriots coach received the first-ever key to the city earlier this year.

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Brett Favre takes issue with Bucs’ Bruce Arians publicly calling out Tom Brady



TAMPA, Fla. — Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre took issue with Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians’ postgame comments about Tom Brady that he perceived to be critical and believes could possibly be detrimental to Brady.

“Getting to Bruce Arians’ comments, true or not, I think the last person you want to call out after the first game of the year is Tom Brady,” Favre said Tuesday on “The SiriusXM Blitz with Brett Favre and Bruce Murray.” “Now, maybe they had a mutual truce going into the game, going into the season, ‘Hey, I’m going to be hard on you. I want the guys to know we’re going to treat you the same even though technically I’m not, so are you OK with it?’ If they have that truce, great. If not, I think you are barking up the wrong tree.

After the game, Arians was asked about Brady’s two interceptions. He responded, “One was a miscommunication between he and Mike [Evans]. He thought Mike was going down the middle — it was a different coverage — Mike read it right. He should have been across his face, but Tom overthrew it.

The other one was a screen pass with an outlet called. He threw the outlet and it was a pick-six. Bad decision.”

Arians corrected himself Monday, saying Evans was actually at fault for the first interception. But Favre still took issue.

“Dissension could easily enter quickly,” said Favre, who has a unique perspective, having spent 16 seasons with the Green Bay Packers before going to the New York Jets in 2008 and Minnesota Vikings from 2009 to 2010. “Maybe the Saints didn’t do anything that they were not ready for other than we didn’t protect very well, Tom gets hit a couple of times, you get a little jittery, it happens.”

“First half of the Super Bowl against the Falcons he was getting nailed, played lackluster at best. They went in, had a come-to-Jesus at halftime, they don’t even come close to touching him in the second half and he’s flawless. So they clean up the protection, the timing, the chemistry will come. Will it come overnight? I highly doubt it, but it will come pretty quickly, though, and they very easily could be 4-1 after five weeks.”

After facing the defending NFC South champions, the Bucs take on the Carolina Panthers at home this week, followed by the Denver Broncos on the road in Week 3, the Los Angeles Chargers at home in Week 4 and at the Chicago Bears in Week 5 on Thursday night. Those teams after Week 1 are a combined 2-2 but finished 25-39 last season. The Panthers, however, have made wholesale changes to their organization, hiring Matt Rhule as their new head coach and bringing in a new quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater.

“Tom’s performance was not what we’ve come to expect from him, but I’ll say this, it wasn’t far off,” Favre said. “[After] the first drive, I think most people said, ‘Well, he hasn’t missed a beat. That’s typical Tom.’ I was a little bit surprised at how he started. I was not surprised with how the rest of the game unfolded. New team. He’s been in a familiar environment forever.”

“And then all of a sudden not only is he with a new team, football in itself is totally different right now. No preseason. Yeah, we saw, we heard where he was getting some kind of workout in, whether it be virtual or in the parking lot. But, look, it’s not even close to the equivalent of real bullets. And they protected OK. Tom, you know, if you protect him he’s gonna pick you apart, I don’t care if it is new receivers or not. And it just wasn’t typical protection. I’m not blaming the line, I’m not blaming Tom Brady.”

The biggest issue for Favre, though, was Arians pointing out Brady’s mistakes publicly, although that’s nothing new for Arians, who doesn’t care much for coach-speak and is much more apt to speak freely and say what’s on his mind. He called out Carson Palmer when they were with the Arizona Cardinals, too, saying after a come-from-behind 16-13 win over the Indianapolis Colts in 2017, “The quarterback has to play better. Simple.”

Arians did the same to Calais Campbell after a career-high three-sack performance against the Seattle Seahawks, saying, “He could play better,” Arians said. “He had potential for a five-sack day. Three sacks is nice when it comes to sacks, but he’s a better player than that.”

He called out the entire Cardinals receiving corps in 2017. He said last training camp that a few players “crapped their pants in pads.” After the final game of the 2019 season, he said of Jameis Winston, “We can win with him. We can definitely win with another one, too.” And this year, he called out Rob Gronkowski for his lack of conditioning during camp.

But Favre believes in the unspoken rule of a coach not publicly criticizing his quarterback.

“Bruce Arians is the head coach, he’s gonna do it the way he wants to do it — and I’m not saying that it’s right or wrong — but what’s happened in New England for so many years is that it worked,” Favre said. “And I’m not saying that it’s the right formula, but it certainly is one of the right formulas. I just don’t see any good that comes out of calling your quarterback out.

“And we’re not just talking about a quarterback — we’re talking about the biggest acquisition maybe in football history. I don’t care if he’s 43, or 33 or 21. Say collectively, ‘We’ve gotta play better, from quarterback to kicker, we’ve gotta play better, we’ve gotta coach better. In order to get where we want to go, that’s what we’re gonna have to do.’ And leave it at that.”

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San Francisco 49ers condemn racist messages sent to Arizona Cardinals’ Budda Baker



SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers publicly condemned the person who sent racist messages to Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker and announced that they have begun an investigation into identifying the fan.

Baker took to Twitter on Monday afternoon to show screen shots he had received in his Instagram direct messages from someone who attacked him with a variety of racial slurs. Along with screenshots of the messages, Baker wrote “I’m all good with opposing fans talking trash but this right here man. All you can do is pray for people like this.”

The Niners issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon, condemning the person sent the messages and made it clear they would no longer be welcome at their games or events.

“The San Francisco 49ers unequivocally denounce the racist messages sent to Budda Baker. The individual who sent the messages does not represent the 49ers or the Faithful. Per team policy, we are working to identify this person and will ban them from all 49ers games and events.

“Incidents like this demonstrate how much work remains to be done to address racism and hate in our society. We remain steadfast in our commitment to that work.”

Niners chief executive officer Jed York echoed that message via Twitter, writing “Sadly, these incidents occur far too often. Permitting these individuals to go unchecked allows racism and hate to spread. I urge other teams in the world of sport to consider our policy of banning those who seek to tear others down with racial slurs and threats of violence.”

The person in question seemed to be blaming Baker for Niners tight end George Kittle‘s sprained left knee. Baker delivered a hit to Kittle’s legs on a ball thrown too high by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo late in the second quarter of Arizona’s 24-20 win against the Niners on Sunday. The fan accused Baker of trying to go after Kittle’s knees.

After missing a snap, Kittle returned and finished the game. He defended Baker on Tuesday afternoon, posting a photo of he and Baker in game action with the caption “Nothing but respect 32 (Baker’s jersey number)! See you down the road.” Baker responded to Kittle’s post with “Always Respect Bro.”

Kittle and Baker, who both entered the league in 2017, have had a series of hotly contested matchups over the past few seasons, but Kittle said last week that he and Baker have enjoyed a friendly rivalry and even were among the first to text each other when each received a lucrative contract extension before the season.

“We have a very, we have a mutual respect for each other,” Kittle said on Sept. 10. “Budda is a hell of a football player … I love watching Budda play. He’s a monster. He’s all over the field. … We compete at a very high level, we have a lot of intensity and we both love the game of football. What more do you want in a matchup?”

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