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Ask PFW: Season-opening edition

Posted Sep 10, 2013

The Patriots are off and running, with a quick turnaround for Thursday night's game, and fans are just as quick getting their questions in for this week's PFW mailbag.

Understandably, it will take time for Tom Brady be in sync with the new receivers, but dropping passes which they did plenty in this game, is entirely on receivers – would you agree? And if Brady keeps feeding injured Amendola, Danny won't last a season. But how do you spread the ball around if the other guys keep dropping it? Sean Maggio

No, I don’t agree, Sean, because I disagree with your premise. Among my responsibilities on game day is to chart every incompletion thrown by Brady. There were only two passes in the Bills game that I considered legitimate drops by the receivers (my criteria is, the pass is thrown on target and the receiver mishandles it). There were several instances where Brady’s passes hit the hands of his receivers and they couldn’t hang on, but in those instances, the ball was either thrown too high, too wide, or too far behind the receiver. In those cases, the fault lies more with Brady than his intended targets.

As far as Amendola is concerned, if a player is deemed fit to take the field, he should be expected to contribute whenever his number is called. If you’re afraid of his getting injured, you shouldn’t put him on the field. But the coaching staff obviously felt he could handle the workload, despite his right groin injury, and he proved he could play through it – and play very, very well, at that. Erik Scalavino

An opening day win is a great start to the season. However, there seemed to be a huge disconnect between Brady and his new receivers (which is to be slightly expected). Is there no chance of resigning someone like Brandon Lloyd to a one year deal and using him until later in the season when (hopefully) Brady and the new guys are on the same page? Michael Maxey

I hate to use the word “never” with regard to Bill Belichick and the Patriots, but I’ll make an exception this one time. New England will never re-sign Brandon Lloyd, no matter how bad the situation at receiver gets. If need be, they’ll promote a practice squad player like Quentin Sims or sign a vagabond off the street before they bring Lloyd back into this locker room. Besides, you probably missed it, but during opening weekend, news somehow filtered out that Lloyd was planning to retire from NFL life. He’s not coming back to Foxborough ever again – unless he plans to shop, dine, or otherwise enjoy Patriot Place. Erik Scalavino

Hi Guys – close call on Sunday! What was the status of Aaron Dobson – was he not dressed [at Buffalo]? Also, can we please end the LeGarrette Blount kick return experiment and activate Washington already? Thanks. Graham Smith, Toronto

Hey guys first question in awhile. Please share your thoughts on the logic of having Blount return the opening kickoff, is that really the best we have? Thanks guys. Mike Anderson

I’ll tackle the first part of Graham’s question first: No, rookie receiver Aaron Dobson was not active against the Bills. He was dealing with a left hamstring injury that prevented him from playing.

Meanwhile, the plan was to have Leon Washington – re-signed the day before the opener – return kicks, but his own injury (a thigh) kept him out of the game. He tried to make a go of it in pre-game warm-ups, with the strength coaches helping him stretch and try to work out the problem, but it wasn’t meant to be that day. Once he’s fit, you’ll no longer see Blount back there returning kickoffs, I’m sure. Erik Scalavino

Not that it’s a big deal, but the team never announced the 2013 captains. I know from hearing BB say it in the past that they don’t wear the patches that most of the other teams wear, but a little acknowledgement would be nice, don’t you think? Gary Abrams

I wrote the following in the game notes section of the latest PFW (which is hitting newsstands now… call 1-800494-PATS to subscribe): The Patriots usually announce their elected team co-captains in the week leading up to the regular season opener. New England didn’t do so this year, however. When the teams went out for the coin toss at Ralph Wilson, the same players that did so last year went to midfield, a group that included Logan Mankins, Jerod Mayo, Matthew Slater, and Vince Wilfork. However, conspicuously absent was defensive back Devin McCourty, who has held the captain title the past couple of seasons. Tom Brady has also been a captain, but never goes out for the coin toss. Erik Scalavino

[Last] Wednesday morning, the Bills announced that [rookie E.J.] Manuel would be starting on Sunday. [Bill] Belichick commented that not knowing which quarterback would be starting the Pat's would be preparing for both. Why would the Bills make it easier for the Pat's by eliminating that question? Dave Bates

Actually, he said what he always says, which is that the Patriots always prepare for every player on the opposing roster, regardless of where they may stand on the depth chart. “We have to be ready for everybody. We all know that could change in one play so we have to be ready for all the guys on the active roster,” was his verbatim answer to that question during his Wednesday. Erik Scalavino

Hi, with the news of Jairus Byrd who wants to be traded and the depth at safety position really thin, how many chances there are, in your opinion, to see Byrd in Pats uniform? Sorry for my english and keep on the good work! Matteo Gaggiotti

Sounds like Jairus Byrd wants to be traded...I know it would be a long shot for New England to pick him up, but man what a boost that would be for our secondary. What are the chances of the Patriots making a move on him? Nicholas Lambert

Trades within a division are not unprecedented – heck, New England sent Drew Bledsoe to Buffalo, after all – but there’s a reason they are so rare. It’s just not good business, usually. While Byrd is discontented in Buffalo right now and would look great in a Patriots uniform, I just don’t see the Bills making that trade with an AFC East rival. Erik Scalavino

If a player gets injured (game time or practice), can the team simply release them, rather than put them on injured reserve? And if so, would this save the team any salary cap space or other money? It seems like it would be unfair to the player. Just wondering. George Newell

Yes, a team can do whatever it wants with a player who gets injured, but there are ramifications for doing so, depending on several factors, including the player’s contract and number of accrued seasons in the league. Each case is different, but in some instances, a vested veteran with a guaranteed contract would still have to be paid if he were injured and released. Releasing the player would therefore have no impact on the team’s cap space. Erik Scalavino

Two questions: First, seeing as how he was waived, is it possible for Ras-I Dowling to rejoin the Pats? Second, what is Mark Harrison's role on this team? Eric Davis

If the Patriots wanted to re-sign Dowling, they certainly could. He is currently a free agent. And since his previous contract was terminated when he was released, he would have to sign an entirely new deal if the team brought him back. But don’t expect that to happen, barring some unforeseen cataclysm in the Patriots secondary.

As for Harrison, he doesn’t have a role on this team at the moment. The rookie receiver is currently on the non-football injury list (NFI), which has virtually the same rules as physically unable to perform (PUP). He’s out for at least the first six weeks of the regular season, at which point, the team has three weeks to decide what to do with him. Their options are a) place him on season-ending injured reserve, b) release him, or c) begin practicing him. If the last option is chosen, the team then has three more weeks to decide whether or not to promote him to the 53-man active roster, release him, or place him on injured reserve. Harrison’s “role” will be more clearly defined once we get past Week 6. Erik Scalavino

Is there a chance of Adrian Wilson coming back from injury this season? And with him injured, what will the Patriots tend to do to replace that role he played in the Patriots defense? Also, would they consider signing maybe Kerry Rhodes or Kenny Phillips? Kaimana B.

First, there is no chance Wilson comes back this season. He was placed on season-ending injured reserve, not the relatively new IR/designated for return designation. He also wasn’t that major a factor in the Patriots defense, having only arrived here in the spring and never really solidifying himself as a starter. The Patriots will enter 2013 with the same starting safeties with whom they ended 2012: Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory. Wilson’s loss is by no means a great one for New England’s defense.

It’s rarely wise, either, to say that the Patriots will or won’t do anything. So, would they consider signing either of the players you mentioned? Sure, they would consider anything if they felt it was “in the best interest of the football team,” as the head coach so often reminds us. But if I were you, I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for this to happen. Erik Scalavino

Why have the Patriots been claiming players like Braxston Cave, A.J. Francis, and Matthew Mulligan and then released them as quickly as they were claimed? Also, why have the Patriots released players like Marquice Cole and Leon Washington only to resign them latter on? Mackenzie Kirkey

It’s a great and legitimate question, Mac… and one we in the media were asking ourselves all last week. Particularly at the start of the season, when rosters are still being sorted out, it’s not unusual for teams around the league to tinker with their rosters by adding or subtracting a player or two before opening day. But the number and frequency with which the Patriots did so last week was just downright baffling. If you ask the head coach, though, all he’ll tell you is, “We do what we think is in the best interest of the football team.” What he never tells us is why it’s in the team’s best interest. We share your frustration, believe me. Erik Scalavino

What is the status of Armond Armstead? Do not see him on the roster, but know that he can be a potential breakout player. He had an illness then I could not find any info about him. Was he cut, pup, practice squad, etc? Ron Kaplove

Armstead is on the reserve/non-football injury list (NFI) because of surgery he had in late spring/early summer to cure an unspecified infection. The team made that announcement at the start of training camp. After week six, the club will have a three-week window in which to decide whether or not he is fit to resume practicing. Or they can place him on injured reserve and end his season completely. If he does begin practicing, the team will have three weeks from that point to determine whether or not they want to elevate him to the 53-man active roster, place him on IR, or release him. Erik Scalavino

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