Kyle Arrington won’t be anonymous this fall as teams prepare to face the Patriots.
When you’re one of the reigning leaders in interceptions, it’s a bit tougher to hide.
A lot has changed for the cornerback. Not long ago, he was fighting just to be on an NFL roster. He then proved he deserved to suit up for special teams.
Now, he’s been a defensive starter for two seasons, and last year had fans rallying on his behalf to get him into the Pro Bowl, as he tied the Packers’ Charles Woodson and the Chargers’ Eric Weddle with an NFL-high seven INTs.
And while he and his teammates weren’t able to get Super Bowl rings, Arrington got a ring this offseason, marrying VaShonda Murphy in March.
“It’s great,” Arrington said during minicamp of married life. “They say, ‘Happy wife, happy life,’ and she’s happy.”
Arrington feigns surprise when reminded that he led the league in picks. He allows that he gave himself time to reflect on the accomplishment, but in true Patriots style, he’s quick to say it’s behind him.
“It’s a blessing. It definitely is a blessing. I’m not trying to downplay it, but it’s in the past,” he said. “And ultimately, that’s not our goal as a team, individual stats like that. I mean, yeah, in the game, in those moments, [the interceptions] help the team win, but we still didn’t reach our goal.”
It was barely two years ago that Arrington was overjoyed at making a roster out of training camp. Undrafted in 2008, he was initially signed by the Eagles and was briefly on their practice squad. Tampa Bay picked up Arrington a week after he was released by Philadelphia, and he stayed with the Buccaneers for the remainder of that season.
But the Bucs released him a day after he played in his first game, in 2009, and Arrington was picked up by New England, signed to its practice squad. Cleveland and then-coach Eric Mangini tried to sign Arrington away, forcing the Patriots to promote him to their 53-man roster. He showed himself to be a special-teams standout over the second half of the season, but played little on defense.
In 2010, Arrington earned a starting role when Darius Butler struggled. Arrington was asked to step up again last fall after Ras-I Dowling went down with a hip injury.
He wound up leading the defense by playing 1,177 of 1,362 snaps, also breaking up 15 passes.
When training camp begins later this month, Arrington will be trying to retain a starting spot.
“I don’t know if it’s the competitive spirit or the never satisfied person in me, but I’m just trying to build,’’ he said. “Consistency would be the next key for me. I can only speak for myself, but I just want to work on doing the right thing and being where I need to be, the right play, each and every play. Just trying to be as consistent as possible.”
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Arrington was targeted 101 times last season and allowed 55 receptions. Among cornerbacks who played at least 75 percent of their team’s defensive snaps, his completion percentage of 54.5 was in the middle of the pack.
Arrington may or may not know those numbers, though it is certain the Patriots’ coaching staff has provided its thoughts on what Arrington needs to work on. He does know that comfort and confidence are huge, particularly at his position.
He may be able to gain more of both with more study work.
“Play in and play out, get the call, understand where I need to be, where my help is, if I don’t have any help, things like that, and let the play come to me,” Arrington said. “I think the harder I get in the playbook and I can just decipher things on the field before the play happens, it will allow me to play a little faster and slow the game down a little bit. So, it will be very important to get in the playbook and attention to detail as much as possible.”
SENSING A TREND
League works with military
With 2,600 former players and counting named in concussion lawsuits against the NFL, the issue of how best to protect players from brain damage isn’t going away, nor should it.
One of the initiatives the NFL is taking is working with the United States military to help get rid of the stigma attached to head injuries, and the groups are also sharing information on in-helmet sensors.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy explained in an e-mail that the league has two independent labs and engineers evaluating sensors.
Commissioner Roger Goodell initiated conversations last year with the Army’s chief of staff, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, and vice chief of staff, Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, on the project.
There have been two focus groups at the Pentagon, with members of the Army and Marines meeting with current and former NFL players and coaches, such as Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Browns tackle Joe Thomas, retired defensive lineman Hollis Thomas, and former Browns coach Eric Mangini. The sides discussed how concussions are dealt with.
“There is a tremendous amount of respect between the NFL and military communities and we are working together to break down some of the stigma around reporting a head injury,” McCarthy said. “A soldier may not listen when his commanding officer tells him that he needs to take head injuries seriously, but perhaps he’ll listen if one of his NFL heroes says so.”
Similarly, McCarthy added, NFL players may be reluctant to listen to team medical personnel, but might get the message if it is delivered by a soldier who has been in combat.
As part of the recent NFL-USO trip to Afghanistan, which Mangini, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, Jets special teams assistant Ben Kotwica (an Army veteran) and former Steelers coach Bill Cowher took part in, a discussion on brain injuries and concussions was held at FOB Arian in the Ghazni province.
It is evidence the league is trying to do right by its players, though McCarthy said there’s no timetable on when players could have helmets with sensors.
The military publication Stars and Stripes, which first reported the work being done with the NFL, wrote that the Army has been putting blast sensors in its helmets since 2007.
Bad choice of words
In these days of Twitter and instant reaction to, well, everything, it was probably an interesting week for Cowboys rookie receiver Cole Beasley.
A former teammate of Patriots defensive back Sterling Moore at Southern Methodist, Beasley was an All-Conference USA selection in his final year with the Mustangs, but was not invited to the combine and was not drafted.
Signed by Dallas, the 5-foot-8-inch, 182-pound Beasley was on Dallas sports-talk station 105.3 The Fan and was asked about comparisons he’s received to similarly sized and formerly undrafted receiver Wes Welker.
“I get tired of it a little bit because I feel like I have a little bit more speed than [Welker] does,” he said. “He has a little bigger frame than me, but I feel like I got a little bit more versatility to my game than he does.”
Welker has well over 500 catches in five seasons with the Patriots and is a four-time Pro Bowler. While the “small white guy” comparisons when it comes to Welker do get a little tiresome (Danny Amendola, anyone?), wouldn’t you be happy to be compared to a player who’s had such success?
Of course, that first quote is where most folks stopped when it came to the interview.
But the hosts came back to Welker and gave Beasley a chance to clarify his statements, which he did. Asked if the Cowboys were his favorite team growing up, the Texas native said he had favored the Patriots in recent years because of Welker.
“He was my favorite player coming up [and] in college, and I actually watched him a lot, watched how he plays,” Beasley said.
“He’s a great player, he’s one of the best in the game, and he’s doing a lot of things a lot of people said people our size can’t do, so he pretty much opened up the door for me.”
Beasley was doing well until he was asked if he watched the Super Bowl, and whether he could have caught the high pass that went off Welker’s fingers in the closing minutes against the Giants.
“Oh, yes,” he said. “You gotta catch that one.”
So maybe Welker won’t be seeking out a fellow long shot to offer some advice after all.
Take it easy, big fella
Last week in this space we gave deserved kudos to the Gronkowski family for donating equipment, money, and time for a workout area at a Buffalo area facility for young people dealing with addiction.
This week, we’re going to talk about Rob Gronkowski again, though perhaps in not so positive a way.
After posing nude for ESPN The Magazine’s “Body Issue” and partying at events for the issue and the ESPYs (Gronkowski was up for two awards but was shut out), and co-hosting “Access Hollywood Live” in recent days — things that seem un-Patriot-like — don’t be surprised if he lays low for the next couple of weeks.
Via a league source, Gronkowski has been told by the team that his summer of Gronk, so to speak, is over.
Looking for change
The Palm Beach Post reported last week that the Dolphins are “well into discussions” with the NFL about updating the team’s logo and look for 2013. Dolphins’ chief executive officer Mike Dee told the Post that fan feedback has shown a desire for the logo — a helmet-wearing Dolphin in front of an orange sun — to be “freshened up” a bit. “We’re not talking about changing colors or taking the sun off the helmet. It’s definitely keeping one eye on what’s traditional in the logo intact, while keeping one eye on a 21st century version of that,” Dee said. Owner Stephen Ross told season ticket-holders last month that he would like to update the team’s uniforms and logo, and it looks as if it may happen. If the Dolphins are going to make the change for 2013, it has to be done by November . . . The family of Junior Seau has decided to send some brain tissue from the late linebacker to the National Institutes of Health for study. While a full brain is most beneficial for those who are investigating chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the decision of Seau’s family could still help determine whether he suffered devastating damage to his brain during his 20-year NFL career, and also provide more evidence of the long-term effects of concussions and continue to prod the league to take steps to truly protect its players. Seau committed suicide in his Oceanside, Calif., home May 2, less than three years after he played his final game, as a Patriot. Earlier this month, the amphitheater and community center in Oceanside were dedicated to Seau . . . Last week, SiriusXM NFL Radio’s Rich Gannon said coach Jim Harbaugh is already calling Randy Moss the 49ers’ best receiver. Moss, who turned 35 in February and did not play in 2011, signed with the 49ers in March, a month after announcing he wanted to return to the NFL. San Francisco signed former Giant Mario Manningham in free agency, and also has Michael Crabtree (whom Harbaugh has said has the best hands he’s ever seen) and tight end Vernon Davis. We’ll find out soon enough if Harbaugh was blowing smoke to keep Moss happy or if he still has it.
Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.