NFL Notebook: For Belichick, only ‘Way’ is winning

The Sports Xchange

May 31, 2018 at 7:41 pm.

Feb 4, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on the sidelines during the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium. Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 4, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on the sidelines during the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium. Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick insisted on Thursday that his focus steadfastly remains on winning, as opposed to how others perceive the so-called “Patriot Way.”

Belichick was rather blunt when asked whether it’s important for players to feel like they’re enjoying themselves while putting in the work that is being asked of them.

“We feel what’s important to us is to win,” the 66-year-old Belichick said. “So that’s really what we’re trying to do.”

The next inquiry centered around Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson, who previously claimed that the “The Patriot Way is a fear-based organization.”

As expected, Belichick played it close to the vest.

“Yeah, we’re focused on what we’re doing, trying to get better and taking each day we can to try to improve our football team,” Belichick said. “Not really focused on what everybody else is doing.”

–Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has high hopes for both himself and quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Hopkins said during organized team activities that he envisions the pair to develop into the best quarterback/wide receiver tandem in football this season.

“Honestly, I feel like I set the standard high for myself and him, so I think we can be the best in this league,” the 25-year-old Hopkins said, via the Houston Chronicle. “I think he can be the best quarterback. I know I can be the best wide receiver. That’s our mindset coming into the season.”

Watson is making progress on his surgically repaired knee and is expected to be cleared well before the start of the regular season. Before suffering the knee injury, Watson amassed 1,699 yards passing and 19 touchdowns in seven games, adding 269 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 36 carries.

–Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback Josh Allen continued to work with the third string on the final day of organized team activities.

Allen, taken with the No. 7 overall pick by Buffalo in the 2018 NFL Draft, did get a chance to make an impression at the end of Thursday’s session while running the two-minute drill with the third-team offense.

On his first drive, he was intercepted on his third attempt but capitalized when given a second opportunity. Starting at his own 30-yard line, Allen sandwiched a pair of 10-yard completions around a 20-yarder.

The 6-foot-5, 237-pounder out of Wyoming found Robert Foster for a 13-yard connection to the 7-yard line with 14 seconds left. He capped the march by finding Cam Phillips in the end zone with five seconds remaining.

–Wide receiver Brandon Marshall spoke of his options — or lack thereof — as to why he signed a one-year contract with the Seattle Seahawks.

“I didn’t have a ton of options,” the 34-year-old Marshall said, per the Seattle Times. “I think the sentiment around the league is that I’m done, and I get it. Rightfully so. When you get on the other side of 30 and your production slips and you have a big injury, people just count you out. So it was an interesting process. It was a humbling process, to say the least.

“There were some really tough days that I had to push through, mentally and physically, so for this to be an opportunity and come to (fruition), you can’t ask for a better situation. You’ve got probably a top-three quarterback, you’ve got one the best franchises, you’ve got a young nucleus, guys that are hungry and ready to compete.”

Marshall took part in Wednesday’s practice with the Seahawks at organized team activities. The 6-foot-5, 232-pounder spent some time catching balls from quarterback Russell Wilson, but did not participate in any of the 11-on-11 drills.

–Jay Ajayi envisions himself as the lead running back with the Philadelphia Eagles.

“Obviously, you understand what the stakes are going into this season,” said Ajayi, who is entering a contract year. “I’m not going to let it affect the way I carry out my business. Obviously, yeah, I understand that is something that will come to a crossroads at some point, whether it’s during the season or at the end of the year.”

Ajayi showcased the workhorse mentality during the 2016 season in Miami. He rushed for 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns as the Dolphins punched a ticket to the postseason for the first time since 2008. He didn’t get out of the blocks as fast in 2017, leading to a midseason trade with the Eagles.

Ajayi had rushed for 465 yards on 138 carries, but had been held out of the end zone with Miami. He had 70 carries for 408 yards and one touchdown in seven games with the Eagles while added 10 catches for 91 yards and a score.

–Peyton Manning knows a thing or two about injuries, as he was relegated to the role of a spectator for the 2011 season with an ailing neck.

Manning said that repetitions are key when attempting to return from a lengthy absence, much like the one that Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is enduring after sitting out the entire 2017 campaign with a shoulder injury.

“Everything is an individual thing, so you have to be careful speaking on it since injuries are different,” Manning told ESPN while attending Wednesday’s Pro-Am at the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. “But it’s also universal. For me, I was a (repetition) guy. I liked to get all the reps on practice. The theory of 10,000 reps, I believe in that.

“I felt like I was kind of behind because I hadn’t gotten the reps even though you have a lot in the bank. It took me a few games before I felt like I was coming back. Getting as many reps as possible is key.”

–Cleveland Browns linebacker Jamie Collins was able to practice on a limited basis during organized team activities.

Collins was limited to six games last season after suffering a torn MCL in his right knee in November. He was unable to participate in OTAs last week, the Akron Beacon-Journal reported.

Browns head coach Hue Jackson said Collins is on course to be ready for the start of training camp in July.

“He is definitely making the progress that we feel he needs to make,” Jackson told the newspaper.

–Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman expects to be more involved in the offense this season.

Coleman has seen a steady ascent in snaps over his three seasons with the Falcons, and he expects that trend to continue in 2018.

The 25-year-old participated in 41 percent of the snaps last season, rushing for 628 yards on 156 carries while recording 27 receptions for 299 yards. He had eight touchdowns in 15 games.

“They are just going to use me more … lining up out wide and stuff,” Coleman said. “It’s going to be pretty fun.”

–The Arizona Cardinals signed offensive lineman Mason Cole to a four-year contract, the team announced.

Cole, a third-round selection out of Michigan, was the final member of Arizona’s six-member draft class to reach contract terms.

“Obviously, it’s really exciting,” Cole said, per the team’s official website. “Once you get drafted, you’re waiting for this point to officially sign. Really grateful for the opportunity, and just excited.”

Cole set a school record for an offensive lineman at Michigan by making 51 consecutive starts. He was the first true freshman in school history to start on the offensive line in a season opener.

–Buffalo Bills tight end Logan Thomas underwent a surgical procedure on his knee and will miss the rest of the club’s offseason program, the team announced.

Thomas made the transition from quarterback to tight end and appeared on the field for 155 offensive snaps last season.

The 26-year-old recorded seven receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown in 12 games last season while playing behind Charles Clay and Nick O’Leary. Fellow tight end Khari Lee is also on the roster.

— Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens is itching to get back on the field. Owens said he could help a contending team in its ascent when talking on “The Pat McAfee Show” recently.

“Do I still have the ability to play? Absolutely,” the 44-year-old Owens said, per the Kansas City Star. “Do I have the ability to come in right now and play at the level in which I left the game, being that No. 1, play-every-down type of guy? Absolutely not. But I can work myself, you know, into shape to get to that point.

“But I could obviously contribute to a team that’s really on the cusp, that’s a contender, that’s one play or player away from making it to the Super Bowl, or winning the Super Bowl. I definitely feel like I still have that talent.”

Owens’ talent has never been debated, as he was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in February. He hasn’t played since suiting up for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2010, although he attempted a comeback in 2012 before being cut in training camp by the Seattle Seahawks.

A tug-of-war for control of the Denver Broncos is unfolding after the second-oldest daughter of longtime owner Pat Bowlen expressed her desire to take over the reins of the franchise.

Beth Bowlen Wallace released a statement that she wanted to be appointed to succeed her father, but the Pat Bowlen Trust quickly responded with a statement of its own, saying she is not qualified to take over the team

“Pat did not designate Beth as a trustee or appoint her to a leadership position, nor did he instruct the trustees to specifically mentor her,” the Trust said in a statement. “He made it clear that his children were not automatically entitled to a role with the team and that they would have to earn that opportunity through their accomplishments, qualifications and character.

“As trustees honoring the clear wishes of Pat, we have thoroughly evaluated whether Beth is capable of succeeding her father as controlling owner. We have determined that she is not capable or qualified at this time.”

–The Buffalo Bills are releasing veteran center Eric Wood.

The team has reached an injury settlement with Wood, multiple media outlets reported.

The 32-year-old Wood announced in January that he was retiring due to a neck injury that was revealed in a season-ending physical.

Wood did not formally retire in January because the team was trying to work through salary-cap issues. According to the Buffalo News, if the Bills placed Wood on the reserve/retired list before June 1, his cap number would jump from its current $8.625 million to $10.39 million.

–The Carolina Panthers waived offensive tackle Zach Banner, the team announced.

Banner’s release comes two months after the Panthers claimed the 6-foot-8, 360-pounder off waivers from the Cleveland Browns.

A fourth-round draft pick of Indianapolis in 2017, Banner was waived prior to the start of the season and claimed by the Browns. The former USC product appeared in eight games with Cleveland as a rookie — all in a reserve role.

–Johnny Manziel will see his first CFL action on Friday night but it will be in a backup role.

Manziel, who signed a two-year contract with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats earlier this month, will come off the bench for the team in its preseason opener against the Toronto Argonauts, head coach June Jones said, per USA Today.

Jones added that there is no quarterback controversy on the team and said that incumbent Jeremiah Masoli “absolutely” will be the starter when the regular season opens on June 16.

“Masoli is going to play until I feel good about it,” said Jones of the preseason preseason opener. “And then the rest of the game will be whatever we decide — 15 plays each, or whatever.”

–Former St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz was formally introduced as the coach of San Diego of the Alliance of American Football.

San Diego is the sixth franchise in the AAF, joining Atlanta, Orlando, Memphis, Salt Lake City and Phoenix. The league will debut in February.

Martz provides more name recognition for the fledging league. Other Alliance coaches are Steve Spurrier (Orlando), Mike Singletary (Memphis), Brad Childress (Atlanta), Dennis Erickson (Salt Lake City) and Rick Neuheisel (Phoenix).

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to get back on the sidelines in my hometown of San Diego,” said Martz. “This city is very special to me. It’s where I grew up, started my collegiate career and met and married my wife. I would love nothing more than to bring a championship here. The people of San Diego love football, and I’m committed to putting a product on the field that they will be proud to support.”