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Football Notes

In Andruzzi, Cannon has a kindred spirit

By Greg A. Bedard
May 15, 2011

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The Joe Andruzzi Foundation’s annual golf tournament always holds a prominent spot on the Patriots offseason calendar because of the work the foundation does to assist families dealing with cancer.

But in light of recent events, the third installment of the tournament is a little more timely this year.

Andruzzi, who started at guard in all three of the Patriots’ Super Bowl victories, will host the event May 23 at TPC Boston in Norton, with several current and former Patriots scheduled to be on hand, including Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer, Jermaine Cunningham, Tully Banta-Cain, Rob Gronkowski, and Dan Koppen.

“We’re getting bigger every year,’’ said Andruzzi. “In three years, we’ve grown 45 percent. We’ve helped up to 45 patients out there, and we want to make that number get larger and the number get bigger.

“Cancer’s not getting any cheaper and the medicine is very pricey, but it’s pricey because of research and because of testing and things like that.

“We’re helping many families out there that are struggling with mortgage payments and oil bills, home bills. The financial assistance is geared towards living. We’re there to step in on the stuff that people sometimes forget about.

“A lot of times, people forget that if it’s a child, one of the parents has to possibly stop working and become a caregiver, and hopefully the other one has the insurance to help cover it. But it becomes a burden on people and a tough struggle to get through.

“So as a foundation, we can help lift up that burden a little bit to ease their bills a little bit.’’

Andruzzi, who signed with the Cleveland Browns in 2005 after five seasons with the Patriots, retired in 2007 shortly after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt lymphoma. Andruzzi went through two months of treatments, and his cancer is in remission.

Andruzzi has taken note of the story of Patriots fifth-round pick Marcus Cannon, who is also a guard and is currently undergoing chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Andruzzi said it will be a tough road for Cannon, but one that he can navigate and still have a long and successful NFL career.

“Thankfully enough, he went to the NFL combine and they did have a physical there and caught it, which is pretty amazing,’’ Andruzzi said. “For him to go through right now what he’s going through, it’s a big mind game, and I’m sure being drafted was a great lift off his shoulders knowing that now he has an opportunity to give it a shot.

“But as most cancer patients will tell you, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. He’s going through treatment right now, but he’s going to have to get back on his feet.

“When you’re done with treatment, as much as you wish and would like to snap your fingers and be back to normal, it’s not that easy. For myself, it was a good year before I felt normal again and back on my feet, but my treatment and protocol was much different than others, so I don’t know exactly what he is going through. His protocol might be the exact opposite.

“First and foremost, he has to listen to his doctors and get through this treatment and put football aside right now. He’s got his life to worry about right now.

“Football will come back. He’s young enough. As for me, I was diagnosed after my 10th year and it forced me to retire. But him being young, it could be a good boost for him, force him to look at life different where he can push himself when he’s done with treatment and get back to his physical form.’’

Does Andruzzi have any doubts that Cannon will be able to play in the NFL?

“No, not at all,’’ Andruzzi said. “We don’t know what he’s going through. Side effects are different for medications. Myself, I have nerve damage in my hands and my feet still.

“But every patient is different. So there’s no telling where he’s at with his, so I guess we’ll just have to see when he’s ready to go out there and give it a shot. But I’m sure it’s going to be a process for him and I’m sure he’s going to try his best.’’

Andruzzi was disappointed to see that Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich wasn’t drafted. Herzlich went through cancer treatment for Ewing’s sarcoma, a malignant tumor most often found in bone or soft tissue of children and young adults. Herzlich and Andruzzi met when they were guests of the Jimmy Fund at a Red Sox game.

“I was a rookie free agent myself, and it’s tough,’’ Andruzzi said. “I can’t imagine what they’re going through with this lockout and waiting. I had to wait 10 minutes. These guys are waiting weeks now. It’s going to be a tough transition, but all you need is a shot.

“I think he has a good head on his shoulders. You look at life in a whole new perspective and realize you need to live every day to its fullest. I’m sure he’s going to be out there trying to prove people wrong, and I’d bet he’s going to make whichever NFL team is smart enough to give him a chance.’’

The golf tournament will feature an online auction, including items signed by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and conclude with a helicopter ball drop. West Bridgewater brain tumor survivor Joey Llanes and his mother Debora, a breast-cancer patient, will do the honors. For more information, go to JoeAndruzziFoundation.org or call (774) 284-4694.

Andruzzi may have been on the minds of some Patriots fans when Osama bin Laden was killed. Andruzzi has three brothers who are New York City firefighters and responded on Sept. 11, but they didn’t do much celebrating when news of bin Laden’s death broke.

“It was more bittersweet for all of us,’’ Andruzzi said. “Death is not the answer to anything, really, and you’re not celebrating death, you’re celebrating the lives of others.

“For what he stood for, for what he represented, for what he was the main culprit for, whatever happened to him now doesn’t bring back the lives that he was involved in taking that day on 9/11.

“So I’m sure it’s a bittersweet moment for a lot of people, but Al Qaeda didn’t die that day. It’s still out there. Terrorism didn’t go away. I’m sure our country will stay on top of that.’’

RISKY BUSINESS
Pioli OK with his draft picks Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli raised eyebrows around the league with three of the players he selected in the draft.

Receiver Jonathan Baldwin (first round), linebacker Justin Houston (third), and defensive lineman Jerrell Powe (sixth) had some character concerns that likely caused them to drop in the draft.

Baldwin was labeled a diva by some scouts for his antics at Pittsburgh, and he was arrested in 2009 for allegedly groping a female student (the charges were later dropped).

Houston was thought to be one of the draft’s premier pass rushers but there were concerns about his work ethic before he reportedly tested positive for marijuana at the scouting combine.

Powe’s mother said in a legal proceeding in 2006 that her son, then 19, couldn’t read. Powe told a police officer two years ago that he wasn’t able to read a traffic ticket. Mississippi coach Houston Nutt, though, disputed Powe’s claim and said he could read.

Every draft pick involves some risk, and not all prospects are Boy Scouts. But Pioli’s decision to pick those players at least runs counter to the pattern he set in his first two drafts with the Chiefs, when they stocked up on high-character players known for working hard.

On Houston, Pioli said, “He had a situation, and that is why he was available when he was available. Without that situation, he is not available there.

“Is there some risk here? There is certainly some risk and we understand there is risk. We talked about it internally quite a bit. We talked with other people, we talked about it with the coaching staff, [coach Todd Haley and I] talked about it, we talked about it with ownership.

“We understand there is risk here and there is a chance for great reward. We have a system here in place and he knows what he signed up for and we know what we signed up for.’’

Pioli may have felt a little better about taking some risks because of the work he did his first two years in Kansas City, both in the draft and with the trade for former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel. After winning their first AFC West title since 2003, the Chiefs feel good about their roster and their ability to deal with distractions.

“As we have said a number of times, [character] is something that is always going to be important to us, and we obviously believe that Jonathan Baldwin has Kansas City Chief character or he wouldn’t be a part of this team now,’’ said Haley.

“But last year, with the way some things fell, it looked and worked out very well. But like I said, this Jonathan Baldwin is our type of guy so we are excited about him coming and being a part of what we are doing here and trying to get us to where we want to go, which is championships.’’

CUTBACK MOVES
Miami latest to reduce pay While all three of their AFC East brethren have cut the pay of team employees or forced them to take unpaid vacation during the lockout, the Patriots are not expected to follow suit.

The policy of owner Robert Kraft and his son, team president Jonathan Kraft, likely has much to do with that, but the Patriots also have more varied business interests than other teams, including the Revolution, events in and around Gillette Stadium, and the Kraft Group.

The Dolphins became the 11th team to institute some cost-cutting measures.

According to the Miami Herald, Dolphins employees making more than $75,000 will face a 20 percent pay cut, those making $50,000-$75,000 a 15 percent cut, and anyone making less than $50,000 a 10 percent cut.

The Bills previously announced a similar wage cut. The Jets are making business-side employees take a week of unpaid leave every month.

Previously, all employees at the league level were required to take a 12 percent wage reduction.

A COLT IS LOOSE
Moore wisdom now available When it becomes official, it certainly deserves fanfare, but it appears that longtime Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore has left the organization.

The 72-year-old Moore is no longer listed on the team’s website, though neither he nor the team has commented on the situation yet.

But Jets coach Rex Ryan told reporters that Moore was the first of what is likely to be many people he will bring in to brainstorm during the lockout. Moore talked to the coaching staff about red-zone scoring.

“We’re going to bring in other guys, even position-coach guys who might be out there,’’ Ryan said. “If we can get an idea, or two ideas, from somebody, then it’s worth it.

“We’re about improving as coaches and collectively, so we’re excited about that. This is going to give us a chance to get better, and this is one way we can do that.’’

It would not be a shock if Bill Belichick gives Moore a call. The man who helped make Peyton Manning one of the league’s elite players obviously has substantial knowledge.

DEPARTURE TIME
Benson favors a Palmer exit Count Bengals running back Cedric Benson as one who believes it’s time for quarterback Carson Palmer (left) to move on. Palmer has said he wants to be traded or he’ll retire.

“I love Carson Palmer to death,’’ Benson said. “He’s supported me and taught me a lot, but I think when a guy expresses himself as strongly as he has, it’s almost not healthy for the team to bring him back. He’s already expressed his disgust.

“To bring him back would only be detrimental to the team and to him. This guy wants to be free and to soar somewhere else. Don’t lock a man down whom you know won’t be happy if he stays.

“I’m going to miss the guy if he happens to go, and I hope his situation blossoms and he gets what he wants. That’s how you have to approach it.

“You have to understand, he’s had a long list of receivers, a couple celebrities, and he’s tired of losing. If a man in his heart is ready to move, you can’t hold him down.

“He’s the quarterback. Hell, I looked up to him when he was there and I’m sure many of the other guys did. If he’s there and not happy, he’s not going to give us his best, he’s not going to give us that extra time in the film room and weight room because he’s not happy.

“In a way, we’ll all kind of suffer for that. Passion comes from the happiness and the joy. If he’s not happy in Cincinnati, he’s not going to have passion.’’

ETC.
Newsome goes Belichick way Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome touted Bill Belichick last week when talking about why he prefers watching practice to going on the road to scout. “I think everybody has to find their niche where they’re very much at ease in their position,’’ Newsome said. “I know Ted Thompson from Green Bay, he came up as a scout, so he likes to be on the road. And I know Phil Savage, when he went to Cleveland, he came through as a scout, so he liked to be on the road. But I came through as a player. I spent time on the road. But for the most part, I’ve been in locker rooms and I’ve been at practice. I was taught, by Bill Belichick, at a very early age that scouting begins on Sunday. The only way you get to know your football team is you’ve got to be able to watch them at practice. I watch the practice tape, so that’s why I do that. That’s my niche. But the only way I can do it, I have to trust [director of player personnel] Eric [DeCosta] and [director of college scouting] Joe [Hortiz] and the scouts and their ability to go out and do their job.’’

Short yardage Their payroll decisions notwithstanding, the Dolphins made a great gesture last week when they honored former tight end and broadcaster Jim Mandich, who died April 26 after a long battle with bile duct cancer. Several former Dolphins, including Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas, were on hand as Mandich’s life was celebrated at Sun Life Stadium. Mandich was probably more popular with Dolphins fans after his playing days, as he never hesitated to give his passionate and always honest assessment of the team. Mandich insisted on broadcasting all of Miami’s games last season, including the season finale at Gillette Stadium, despite needing a feeding tube. His son, Michael Mandich, said, “I told him, ‘Dad, I don’t think you need to go.’ But he’s the kind of person, if he makes a commitment, he’s going to see it through, no matter what. He held it together. I couldn’t believe it. He had a resolve unlike anyone I’ve ever met.’’ Mandich will be greatly missed by this writer, as he was a valuable source of knowledge and a great friend to a young journalist cutting his teeth at the Palm Beach Post . . . The Bills will place defensive end Phil Hansen in their Wall of Fame next season. Hansen ranks third on the team’s all-time sacks list (61.5) and is tied for 17th in games (156). Hansen will be the 27th honoree, the ninth player from the Bills’ Super Bowl era.

Greg A. Bedard can be reached at gbedard@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @greg_a_bedard. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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