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Ask PFW: Asante's back in action

Every season we see the rookies get their heads shaved bald, get Mohawks and all other types of assorted hairstyles that only Dr. Phil would yearn for. Yet last year Maroney was spared and this year Merriweather appears to have been spared, yet if I recall a few years back Logan Mankins was given no preferential treatment. Do 1st rounders with dreads get a pass from the team?Ken R.

There is a very simple answer to this Ken. Because dreadlocks take so long to grow out, they are not shaved off. Players sporting dreads lose their eyebrows instead. Both Maroney and Meriweather got their eyebrows shaved and while it's not as bad as some of the haircuts given, they didn't get a free pass.
-Tom Casale

I think Michael Vick should be banned from the NFL for life. Playing in the NFL gives these guys an opportunity to make a ridiculous amount of money. They should feel blessed that they have the talent. We don't want our children growing up with a role model that has abused animals as a past time, and made money off this horrible game.Matt Rea

In my opinion Vick should be punished severely for his actions. Personally, I'm a big dog person and what he did disgusts me to the highest degree. However, I don't think he should be banned for life from the NFL and I doubt he will be. I'm not sure if a team will ever give Vick another chance – especially if he's out of football until 2010 - but he'll probably be reinstated at some point. I hope the guy never plays another down of football. Anyone stupid enough to throw away everything so he can take part in dogfighting deserves all the misery bestowed upon him.
-Tom Casale

Every year Tom Brady throws for 26-28 TDs while Peyton Manning throws for 30÷. I have faith that Tom can break the 30 mark but he never does. Is that just how Brady plays or is it the team's gameplan to have the QB manage the game instead of taking it over? Also, Do you think Brady can reach 30 this year with all the new offensive weapons acquired in the offseason?Raul Hernandez

Manning and Brady play in different offensive systems. Plus, Manning has two of the best receivers in the NFL at his disposal. No matter how good the new additions are at receiver for the Patriots, they won't be Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Those two have been with Manning for so long now, they can complete passes in their sleep. Another reason for Manning having more touchdown passes is because the Colts generate many more big plays out of the passing game. Simply put, the Colts have the most dangerous passing attack in the NFL. There's just no other way to say it.

I think Brady may approach 30 touchdown passes but it really doesn't matter. The only numbers that matters in New England is wins and losses. If Brady throws for 35 touchdowns and the team wins eight games, it's irrelevant. The only time you should be worried about Brady's individual numbers is if he's the starting quarterback on your fantasy team.
-Tom Casale

Did Patrick Pass hook up with another team? Any chance the Pats would consider picking him up if he is healthy? I'm not enthusiastic about any backs in camp except Maroney and Faulk and with Maroney still iffy thought that ... Pass knows the system, knows Brady, was a solid contributor on both sides of the ball on Special Teams and was a solid blocker for the RB's and picking up blitzes and was a productive runner when given the rare opportunity to carry the ball. I think he would be a great insurance policy.Otis Hill

Pass is currently on the Houston Texans roster. I don't think Pass is any kind of insurance policy because he's a below average, oft-injured NFL running back. I believe the Patriots are set at the running back position, so I don't share your concerns. They have a young stud in Maroney, a solid backup in Morris, one of the NFL's best third-down backs in Faulk and a versatile guy who does a bit of everything in Evans. I'm not sure what you think Pass can do better than those four other than take up a spot on IR.
-Tom Casale

Edit: Patrick Pass was released by the Texans today, shortly after Ask PFW was posted. My guess is next stop CFL.

Are there any noteworthy linebackers in college this year that the Pats might be interested in drafting next year, seeing we have two first round picks, (so that we could get some youth at that position)?
Mat Burns

I figure losing Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau next year and losing Mike Vrabel and Larry Izzo in two years would mean the Patriots would draft a linebacker or two will some of their five first-day picks in 2008. Do inside linebackers Vince Hall, Jonathan Goff or Philip Wheeler or outside linebackers Keith Rivers, Dan Connor, Xavier Adibi or Malik Jackson look like legitimate prospects for the Patriots 3-4? Who should I keep an eye on during the 2007 college football season?Russ Kupperstein

Well, I usually start my draft preparation once the college football season starts which, thank God, is this Thursday. A few linebackers I like off the top of my head are the three from USC (Rivers, Cushing and Maualuga), James Laurinaitis (Ohio State), Jasper Brinkley (South Carolina), Jonathan Goff (Vanderbilt) and Shawn Crable (Michigan). While he doesn't get as much publicity as his two teammates, keep an eye on Cushing from USC. He's 6-4, 245 pounds and has experience playing both inside and outside linebacker. He's so good that USC actually went to the 3-4 as its base defense late in the season just to get him on the field more. With his versatility and experience in the 3-4, Cushing could be a nice fit in New England if he decides to come out early.
-Tom Casale

I just moved to Texas for Med school, and will sorely miss the Northeast and my memories at Gillette Stadium. That being said...I recently picked up a copy of the new Madden 08 and was surprised to see the Overall Rating of Heath Evans at fullback. If you haven't seen it, he is a 92 out of 99. IMO, this is a bit too high...what do you think?Kurtis Anderson

I like Heath Evans. He's one of the best guys in the Patriots locker room but let's be honest here, he's rated about 20 points too high in that game. I have no idea how they come up with those ratings but if Evans is 92 then Laurence Maroney should be around 200.
-Tom Casale

My question is about the depth at linebacker. We can pencil in Bruschi, Vrabel, Colvin, and Thomas as the starters with Seau, Izzo, and Woods having a pretty good chance of making the team because of their depth/special teams value. That leaves Brown, Rodgers, Alexander, Lua, and Mays fighting for one or two roster spots. Which of those do you think has a good chance of claiming a roster spot and what do you see their role being as the season goes on?Anthony Gorgone

I really like what Rogers has shown this preseason. He's made plays every time he's been on the field. I think Rogers has flashed enough potential to earn a roster spot. I'm not as high on Lua as some people and Alexander hasn't stepped up like I thought he would. Still, I'll give the edge to Alexander for the final roster spot based on his experience and knowledge of the system.
-Tom Casale

Is it true that both Bradys (Tom and Kyle) became fathers this past week on the same day?Julie Shaffer

Yes Julie, on the same day that Tom Brady's son was born, Kyle Brady and his wife, Kristi, gave birth to a baby girl named Brooke. I guess the Brady Bunch really does exist in New England.
-Tom Casale

Hey guys! I just read the good news this morning about Asante Samuel signing his 1-year tender with the Patriots. Given the current shape of the defensive backfield, what effect will Asante have in terms of personnel? Will Merriweather move back to Safety? Will Gay play the nickel or will he still start opposite Hobbs? What is Tory James' role now? I'm really interested in your thoughts on the subject.Frank T

Frank, with Samuel now in the mix, the Patriots have a very good trio of cornerbacks. Samuel will start alongside Hobbs, with Gay playing in the nickel. All three have starting experiences so it gives the Patriots defensive coaches a lot of flexibility in the secondary. Meriweather could definitely go back to safety. I know I'm in the minority here but I didn't think he's looked good at cornerback. I thought he struggled in both practice and during the preseason games. In my opinion, Meriweather may be better suited for safety with his physical style of play and ability to cover a lot of ground. James is in a battle just to make the roster and I don't see him really adding much to the defense. He's looked extremely shaky all offseason.
-Tom Casale

I am happy, like most fans that Asante Samuel finally reported to camp. But what exactly did he accomplish? He did not force a trade or a contract extension. By all reported accounts, he did not receive a promise to not be franchised next year either....so what was the point. What did he prove? Saving face in front of his teammates?...sorry, not good enough. I don't think they even care. I realize that he stayed in shape by working out in Florida....he could of been doing the same thing in Patriot training camp...under a guaranteed contract no less. So he missed valuable time working out with new teammates and got fined a bunch of money for not showing up at camp. Nice strategy Asante...you really showed them.
Shane Cahill

Just for the record Shane, Samuel wasn't fined because he wasn't under contract. Plus, he was able to skip double sessions under the blazing sun. I'm not saying that I agree with Samuel – it's just the opposite – but I don't think he really lost anything in this process on a personal level. I believe his teammates will welcome him back with open arms and if he's playing well in six weeks, no one will even remember he reported late to camp.
-Tom Casale

So, Asante's back in the mix! Nice to hear, but I think Gay has earned at least a couple starts early in the year, a guy deserves credit for working hard and coming to practically every practice. Bill would say "whatever gives us the best chance to win", but I would think playing Asante right away would send a bad message: "if you're talented, practice is unnecessary". Just ask Moss and Seymour, the message is actually supposed to be "if you play up an injury, practice is unnecessary."Will Bortolin

Well Will, in my opinion, starting Asante Samuel gives the team its best chance to win. This isn't senior day at Duke where you let guys start because they put in the effort for four years. While I believe Gay has performed well in the preseason, Samuel is the starter. Case closed. It's great that Gay was here for every practice but Samuel is the better player. I'm pretty sure if Tom Brady missed a month of practice, you wouldn't want Matt Cassel to start because he was here practicing, regardless of how good he looked. Anyway, with Gay moving over as the third corner, this is a very strong group. Plus, I believe both Seymour and Moss are actually injured. I don't think either player is faking for the sake of getting practice off.
-Tom Casale

When the Cowboys were dominant in the league a while back, many called them 'Americas Team'. Because of the work ethic, the spirit and their current status in the NFL, I feel that it is now the Patriots who are truly Americas Team and I wish more fans and sports pundits would refer to them as such. Do you think I am off base here?Joe Pirraglia

You can't just tell people to call the Patriots America's Team. There's a misconception the Cowboys actually started calling themselves America's Team and that's how the nickname came about. But the truth is NFL films coined the term when doing the 1978 season highlights for the Cowboys and it's stuck ever since. Fans can try and put that label onto their team but it won't do any good. The Dallas Cowboys will always be known as America's Team. The major reason – other than the Cowboys five Super Bowl titles – is that they have by far the largest fanbase in the NFL. Demanding that people call New England America's Team is like saying you want the Patriots defense to be referred to as the Steel Curtain. How about we call New England the NFL's most successful team and best-run organization? I'm sure most Patriots fans can live with that.
-Tom Casale

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