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Ask PFW: Training camp opens

Posted Jul 30, 2013

Now that camp has begun, fans have a whole new set of roster-related questions for this week's PFW mailbag.

Could you see the Patriots going after a veteran wide receiver like Randy Moss or Deion Branch maybe even Brandon Lloyd just to mentor the rookies and teach them the playbook? Troy Magstadt

Will we sign more wide receivers? Because I think we REALLY need to! Jason Lu

We’ve been answering this Moss/Lloyd/Branch (even T.O.) question for months now, both in this space and on our radio program, and the answer remains the same: an unequivocal… NO!

First of all, one of the biggest myths about the NFL involves veteran/rookie relationships. A veteran player’s job is not to “mentor” or “teach” rookies the playbook. Coaches teach, and it’s up to young players to study on their own. Some veterans can be of help by setting a positive example based on the way they carry themselves on and off the field, and in so doing, might be perceived as being positive influences on others, but players aren’t brought in specifically to mentor other players. They’re signed to contribute on the field. Period.

With that in mind, the Moss era in New England ended long ago. Lloyd had his chance last season and didn’t make the most of it. Branch was a great guy and a valuable addition at various times throughout his career, but his time has passed. Owens just can’t play at this level anymore.

So far in training camp, we’ve seen encouraging signs from the many young receivers the Patriots have acquired recently. Bill Belichick even acknowledged that the team is in the midst of a “re-do” at the position. Translation: we’re going with what we’ve got, so, stop dwelling on the past and focus on the present.

Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Kamar Aiken, Kenbrell Thompkins… these are some names with whom Patriots fans should be getting more familiar in the next month or so. Because they’re going to be the ones catching passes from Tom Brady. Erik Scalavino

I hate to jump on the Tebow wagon, especially since I think it's entirely possible he will be a late cut - perhaps to keep another RB or WR on board. That said, do you see the potential for Tebow and Brady lining up in the pistol formation? Not exactly a "trick" play, but might keep the opposing defense guessing until the snap. Jack Gordon

I’m curious to see Tebow and Brady on the field together, but something tells me we’re just not going to see it in training camp or the preseason. If Tebow makes the 53-man roster, you can be sure that Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will do unconventional things with Tebow in practice, but that will be long after the media and fans are allowed to eavesdrop on what the team’s plans are. My guess is we won’t see much of Tebow at a position other than quarterback until the coaching staff springs it on us by surprise during a game. Erik Scalavino

What are the chances of New England signing [linebacker Brandon] Spikes back if his agent tells him to play hard ball and ask for a ridiculous amount? And how much is he worth if the workouts he did by himself truly benefit our team? Morris Crawford

New England isn’t in the habit of signing players to “ridiculous amounts” of money if they don’t deserve it. Spikes has yet to prove that he is worthy of a hefty new contract. Maybe his play in 2013 will warrant that, but we won’t know if it does for quite some time.

And even in Spikes has a career year this fall, it will be nearly impossible to prove that his offseason workouts in Florida were the reason behind it. Bottom line, the Patriots are doing the judicious thing with Spikes by taking a wait-and-see approach. If he has a great season, they can elect to apply the franchise tag on him. If his play is similar to or below what it’s been the past few seasons, they can just let him hit the free agent market and maybe bring him back at a reasonable price. Erik Scalavino

I was curious if you thought the PATS will pursue Mark Anderson now that he's been released. I think his asking price should be reduced considerably from last year and he had ten sacks in 2011. Also I am curious whether Brandon Bolden would be eligible for a practice squad position if the decide to go with LeGarrette Blount. Pat Mackey

Anderson is a possibility to return, given his relative success with the club in 2011. New England would have to make a roster move, however, to accommodate him. And he would have to sign a much less expensive deal, of course, than the jackpot he received from Buffalo (the team from which he was released last week).

Bolden, meanwhile, is not practice-squad eligible. For those who may not be clear, a player cannot simply be assigned to a team’s practice squad if he was on their active roster. He must first be released, then re-signed, assuming he is not picked up by another club. There are other rules, too, such as the number of games a player has appeared in during the previous season. Bolden appeared in 10 games for the Patriots as a rookie last season, which is more than the maximum of eight that a released player can have appeared previously and still remain practice-squad eligible. So, if New England releases Bolden at the end of this camp, they cannot add him to their practice squad, nor can any other NFL club. He must be signed to an active roster. Erik Scalavino

Do you think that Deion Branch could make the Hall of Fame? He has a couple Super Bowl and AFC championship rings and even was a Super Bowl MVP. Noah Henry

I don’t see Branch making the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. As I mentioned earlier, great guy, and a very good player for many years, but his career is not one that begs for Hall of Fame consideration. His position is just loaded with too many other talented players from the current era, as well as previous ones, who are more deserving. For example, one former Patriots receiver who should be in the Hall and isn’t is Stanley Morgan. His accomplishments, in total, are much more Hall-worthy than Branch’s.

However, the Patriots Hall of Fame is certainly a viable option for Branch down the line. Erik Scalavino

The Patriots have been taking out all Aaron H. images and stuffs but what about his locker? Who will have the spot? Any ideas about the message that will send to the team? Nicolas Aubert, Ottawa, Canada

Locker space, even in a big room like the Patriots have, is always at a premium, particularly at this time of year when rosters are bursting at the seams. Someone on the team right now will likely get the locker formerly occupied by Hernandez, I would imagine – a receiver or tight end, most likely. But I wouldn’t read any subliminal message into the selection. The locker room assignments are given based on jersey numbers and positions. I would expect the team simply to assign a player that locker and not make any big fuss about it. Remember, as Bill Belichick said last week, “it’s time for the New England Patriots to move forward.” Erik Scalavino

I'm graduating this coming year in Maryland and I have options for what I might do for my graduation gift. I was thinking about either going to a Patriots game in Foxborough or coming by during mini-camp. Any suggestions on what I could do that relates to the Patriots? Thank you. Wyatt Hudson

Congratulations, graduate. If you’re commencement is in the spring and you’re thinking about mini-camp, unfortunately, those practices aren’t open to the public. Only training camp sessions are in July and August.

My suggestion would be to come up for an autumn weekend and stay at the Renaissance hotel here at Patriot Place. Take the two-hour tour of The Hall at Patriot Place on, say, a Saturday, do some sightseeing in and around Boston, then go to a regular season game on Sunday. Watching an NFL game in person is a completely different experience than on television. If you’ve never been to one, you’ll be in for quite a treat! Erik Scalavino

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