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How Gronk Became a Patriot, Manziel in Memphis and More Monday Notes

News and buzz from the league meeting, including some Rob Gronkowski appreciation, where the Pats and Brady are on a contract, Sean Payton’s replay push, Manziel in Memphis and more.

PHOENIX — Wrapping up Monday at the league meeting in Arizona …

1. Because the backstory is always interesting: In 2010 the Patriots traded up from 44 to 42 with Oakland in the second round to draft 20-year-old University of Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski. The reason? They were worried about Baltimore taking him with the 43rd pick. But the Ravens weren’t going to do that, the team doctors’ assessment of Gronk’s college back injury having taken him out of consideration for Baltimore at that point of the draft. So New England really dealt up based on bad info. The moral of the story here to me is simple: If you have conviction on a player, better safe than sorry. The freight for the move up, by the way, was a sixth-round pick that became linebacker Travis Goethel, who started zero games in three years as a Raider. He did serve as the backup long snapper, though.

2. One more Gronk note left on the MMQB’s cutting room floor, this from Raiders coach Jon Gruden: “Great player, great entertainer, and congratulations to him on his career. Fortunately for him he gets to go out on top. And I hope he reconsiders, because he sure is fun to watch. I made a lot of training reels that he’s the star of. He could play in the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s. He could play in any offense, he could play in any situation, you could line him up as a wideout, you could play him as a tight end, a fullback. He epitomizes what the position was, and has become.”

3. One other Patriot note: It’s status quo, for now, on Tom Brady’s contract, which expires after the 2019 season. Neither side seems overly concerned, as far as I can tell. But it’s at least notable that the last two were done right around the combine, and we’re a month past that juncture in the NFL calendar. The Patriots have come closer than this to the end of a Brady contract, by the way. The team and Brady did a four-year extension in September 2010, six months before his existing contract at that point was up.

4. Good for Sean Payton, speaking up on the need for change in the replay system. And good for the NFL for having him on the competition committee. Committee chair Rich McKay told me he’s been a pretty valuable resource, saying, “Sean’s been a really good addition to committee, last year in addition to this year. One thing about Sean, he’s passionate. He understands the game very well. And he’s articulate. Having him, and having Mike Tomlin, having coaches, it’s a good perspective.” McKay added that it’s been good, too, to have someone who was involved in the play (the obvious one from the NFC title game) that’s caused some much discussion in the room. “There’s no negative to having it,” McKay said. “Only a positive. They lived it. They have their impression of it. And we discussed it a lot, not just that play, but plays like it and how we would deal with them.”

5. We mentioned on Monday morning that, in an informal text poll of head coaches, 15 of 19 respondents said they’d be in favor of a sky judge, two would be against it, and two needed to look more closely at the idea. And some felt really strongly about it. So strongly, in fact, that a coaches session with EVP Troy Vincent and head of officiating Al Riveron that was supposed to end at noon on Monday spilled over 90 minutes and right into a 1:30 meeting with general managers. The sky judge and replay were discussed. And the good news is the coaches felt like their feelings on those subjects were heard. But the discussion did get heated.

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6. You can expect votes Tuesday morning, by the way, on the rules proposals. Those are on the agenda for 9:30-10:30 a.m PT.

7. Jets CEO Christoper Johnson said on Monday, in reference to Anthony Barr backing out of a deal with the team, “Not everybody wants to be in New York.” And in this case, there was truth in that. Both teams thought trepidation over playing in New York, and being so far from the West Coast (he grew up and went to school in L.A.), were factors when Barr wavered on his initial commitment to the Jets.

8. I’d the crowd reaction to Johnny Manziel getting in Sunday’s AAF game between Memphis and Birmingham is proof positive that the league is getting what it paid for. Those in the AAF’s football ops are aware that the move to bring him into the league was business-driven. And honestly, given where the league is, there’s nothing wrong with that.

9. One quick add to our report on the Raiders being set to kick tires on Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins back-to-back next week: They’ve already gotten a really good look at Missouri QB Drew Lock. Gruden’s staff coached him in the Senior Bowl back in January.

10. I like the idea of the league starting the 2019 season with Bears-Packers at Lambeau Field, as part of the 100th season kickoff. The Super Bowl winner has played in the Thursday night opener every year since 2004, but I bet Bill Belichick doesn’t mind the break with tradition. He likes to be active on the waiver wire over cutdown weekend, which is more difficult to do when you’re playing on the following Thursday, rather than three days later with most everyone else.

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