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Ask PFW: Back from vacation

Can you compare the play of Nick Kaczur and Ryan O'Callaghan? I feel like the latter did a good job last year when Kaczur got injured, and was wondering if he will see any playing time this year? Who will be the opening day right tackle?Steve Beaulieu

It's hard to compare the two because O'Callaghan hasn't played nearly as much as Kaczur. I too thought O'Callaghan did a solid job when he was in there. This is going to be one of the more interesting training camp battles in my opinion. I think a lot of people are penciling in Kaczur as the starter. I'm not so sure. I believe right tackle is one of the positions up for the taking. While I think Kaczur still has the inside track because of his experience, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if O'Callaghan earns the starting job with a strong camp and preseason.
-Tom Casale

With the recent demise of NFL Europa, Roger Goodell has indicated that there will soon be international regular season games put into the NFL schedule. I think this idea stinks! I'm sure season ticket holders around the league will agree when they are deprived of a home game! Maybe Goodell will be willing to pay for travel accommodations for season ticket holders when they have a "home" game in say Frankfurt, Germany! Furthermore, NFL Europa was experiencing record attendance this season, and it still wasn't enough to sustain the league. Why should the true fans in the hometowns of NFL franchises suffer just to give these foreign fans their football fix? I also feel that imposing the travel itinerary on teams that international play will require in the middle of the season is just plain unfair to the affected teams. It's bad enough when teams have to travel coast to coast in the US, now we're crossing oceans! Does PFW agree that this is a BAD idea?Paul Bissonnette

Whenever I talk about the league, I usually get myself into trouble, so I'll tread lightly here. I agree with you 100 percent. I don't think football will ever be big in Europe, just like soccer will never be big here, despite all the David Beckham hype. I understand the NFL wanting to expand and make more money. But I think it's a shame that in the future fans will lose a home game just so the NFL can say two teams played in Rome. I understand the monetary point of view but in the end, I think playing games on foreign soil will ultimately be a failure. Great, now I've gotten myself into trouble again. Thanks a lot.
-Tom Casale

With the intense competition for back up spots at WR, DL and LB what are the chances that Russ Hochstein could take over the Long Snapper duties. Keeping Paxton at the expense of losing someone like Gaffney, Yates, Mruczkowski or Alexander seems like a waste of a 53 man spot. Hochstein has filled in the LS role in the past and I don't recall seeing any of his snaps on the Blooper highlight reels.Darrell Stewart

I don't think you'll see this happen. Paxton is one of the best long snappers in the NFL. That may not seem like much but having a guy who is going to snap the ball on the money for every extra point, field goal attempt and punt during the season is a luxury worth paying for. Could Hochstein long snap? Probably. But I don't see why the Patriots would take a risk and cut Paxton, just to keep one of the marginal players you mentioned above, who will see very little playing time to begin with. I don't think Paxton's job is in any danger whatsoever.
-Tom Casale

Putting you on the spot, if Samuel doesn't play from the beginning, do you believe its more likely to see either Wilson/Meriweather line up at number two corner or see Scott/James/Gay line up or see a new CB brought in through a trade either at Samuel's expense or one of the 1st round picks?Martin Higgins

I think Chad Scott will be the starting corner if Samuel isn't here. The team trusts Scott and in my opinion, he did a pretty good job filling in for Ellis Hobbs last year. I believe he's the best option out of that group. Wilson is a safety. The Patriots have had plenty of problems at cornerback since Wilson's arrival and he's never switched positions, so why would anyone think that's going to change this year? Meriweather can play a little corner but he's not going to be a starter. I think Meriweather gives the team some flexibility to move him around, but I seriously doubt he's going to be a starting corner. Besides, depending on what happens with Rodney Harrison's health, safety could be an even bigger concern for the Patriots this year than cornerback.
-Tom Casale

As the Patriots approach the 2007 season, with only the fragile Lawrence Maroney as the leader of the running game, I remain curious as to why Corey Dillon left and what efforts, if any, the Patriots have made to lure him back. There was very little insight provided by PFW as to why Dillon went and no public questioning of the Patriots' reaction at the time or since. What the story?Bob Lyman

This is just my own personal opinion on the subject but I don't think the Patriots wanted Dillon back in March and I don't think they want him back now. What insight do you want us to give? Dillon is an aging back who couldn't stay on the field for more than two plays at a time last year. I saw it. The fans saw it. So I'm guessing Bill Belichick saw it as well. The Patriots got one great season from Dillon and he helped them win a Super Bowl title. Now the team has moved on and I suggest the fans do the same. What happened to "In Bill we trust?"
-Tom Casale

You know, the same old debate, Payton vs Tommy. We all beat that one to death. But don't you think that this year will finally put that debate to rest? All the years that anyone thought Manning was better than Brady, he basically had better receivers than Brady, but despite all that, The Patriots have gotten just as far, if not farther than the colts. What do you think it is about Brady that allows him to carry a lower class of receivers as far as he can? I read an article in a magazine about the patriots being heavy favorites this year (one of many) and it said, "you can't measure the heart some one has ". Personally, I think when it comes down to the surrounding team, Tom Brady is not only better than Payton Manning, but may be the best of all time. That's all for now, as a long time fan, I'm going to be busy making room on the bandwagon for the new comers this year.Travis Farewell

Who cares? That's what I think. Who cares? I'm so sick of this argument by insecure Patriots and Colts fans. When you compare Manning and Brady, you're talking about finite points. Both quarterbacks are first ballot Hall of Famers and will probably go down as two of the best players ever at their position. Colts fans will always say Manning is better and Patriots fans will always say Brady is better. I think they're currently the two best players in the NFL, and the main reason why their respective teams are competing for a Super Bowl every year. The Patriots will most likely never have a quarterback as good as Brady again in our lifetime, so enjoy the ride and stop worrying about him being better than Manning. Instead, worry about the Patriots defense stopping Manning on Nov. 4 because that's really all that matters.
-Tom Casale

Hi Guys, hope you had a great vacation. Like other Pats fans I have been watching the news closely, and patrolling all the various NFL related websites checking for word on the Asante Samuel situation. At this point (7/12/07) I have started to despair, since it doesn't sound like there is any communication happening. But then my boyfriend (A Colts fan - our house is one divided, at least he agrees the Pats will kick their butts this year) and I were talking and he was trying to convince me the Pats don't need Asante this year to win it all. And somehow the idea came up of Randy Moss playing in the secondary. I heard he had an interception at one point? I don't know a lot about this, but I am wondering what you think the chances of this are? It would certainly be redemption for Moss, and if he still has his speed (it looks like it in the mini-camp videos), then maybe it could work. He certainly has great hands, and vertical ability. I know it's a crazy idea - but what's your take on it?Kat DeGraff

There's no way this will ever happen. Playing cornerback in the NFL – just like playing receiver- takes a special talent that only a few people in the world have. You can't just line up a good player at one position and expect him to be successful at another. Troy Brown is a great receiver and as much as we all love him, he's a below average cornerback. Let's be honest. He's not awful but he's nothing more than a stopgap if injuries pop up. And even in Brown's case, what he does is amazing. Very few players in the NFL could do what he does. The only time Moss would ever be in the secondary is at the end of the half or late in the game when a team is preparing to throw up a Hail Mary. In that scenario Moss could use his size and leaping ability to bat down a pass, but that's the only time you'll see him line up in the Patriots defensive backfield.
-Tom Casale

With the addition of all the talent at wide receiver, how much less of a role will Watson have in receiving. Do you guys think G. Mills could be used as a fullback or do you see him being used more as a true tight end until Thomas is healed? Thanks you guys are loved here in Orlando by pats fans in. We'd be lost with out you. All we get here is Bucs and Fins info.Chris Gagne

I think Watson will actually benefit from all the speed at receiver. Defenses will now have to stop Moss and Donte' Stallworth deep, while Wes Welker and others pick them apart over the middle. That should open things up for Watson. Defenses can't cover everyone and I'm expecting a big year out of Watson, even with all the new additions at receiver.

I believe Mills is going to play both tight end and fullback. You'll probably see him lined up in the backfield a lot during the preseason but if he makes the team, Mills' role will be a lot like that of Larry Centers. I don't think Thomas' injury has much to do with Mills because they're different types of players. Thomas is a traditional tight end, where Mills is more of the hybrid tight end/fullback.
-Tom Casale

It's been a long while since I last thought of John Stephens. Yet, his name just hit me the other day and I got to thinking about his short career. What I vaguely remember about Stephens is that after his on-field collision, which left a 49ers defenseman paralyzed, he lost his mental edge; that he simply lost the desire to play the way he used to. Is there any truth to this story? My casual searches on the Internet produced no significant findings. Could someone provide as much info on why his career declined along with an update on how he is doing today?
Tom Marsden

This is a very good question and while I did some research on the subject, I wish I had a more definitive answer for you. It appears that Stephens was never the same after his collision with safety Jeff Fuller of the 49ers, that left Fuller partially paralyzed. And while that may have taken away from Stephens' game mentally, he also had a reputation of not being the hardest worker on the team. With the pounding a running back takes – especially one with a running style like Stephens – they have to be in peak physical condition at the start of every season. From what I've heard, Stephens lacked that kind of work ethic and had trouble staying in shape. That, along with the tragedy in San Francisco, were probably the two biggest factors in his declining play.

As for Fuller, the collision with Stephens left him with two fractured vertebrae and torn nerves near his shoulder and neck. Fuller's paralysis affects his right shoulder, arm and elbow, and he's also limited in the use of his wrist and hand. I hope this helps.
-Tom Casale

We have written about and given our opinion on the Asante Samuel situation over and over again this summer. This week, instead of rehashing the same old stuff, I decided to post some of the e-mails we received from fans regarding Samuel, and let the readers respond with their own thoughts. Just for the record, I think we've gotten two e-mails supporting Samuel in the past six months. So if you are one of those people, be prepared to duck right about now.

If Asante Samuel chooses not to sign the one-year franchise offer and holds out, and the Patriots are unable to trade him for value, when he attempts to return in week 10 are they required to place him on their active roster? Can they then tell him to stay home, and not put him on the roster (administrative leave) and take up space they want for a player who has been contributing all year? This has truly become a ridiculous situation, and Samuel seems to be smelling more and more like an un- realistic pig.Jan Feldman

Up until now I didn't know what the Pats had offer Samuel or why the Pats were standing to their offer until today. I can't believe the nerve of Samuel asking for what he did and declining what the Pats offered as if it was chump change. He could of made more then his asking 30 million over 3 years if he made all the bonuses (close to 31 million). This is GREED in its truest form and I hope, no pray, he never puts on a Patriots uniform ever again. Yes he is a good player but it's not like the Pats were trying to give him crap for his services. Samuel, if your reading this, you aren't great and don't deserve great players money. You are good but you haven't proven yourself to be great just yet. Maybe in a few years time we might be saying something else but as of now it's the truth. Look what happened to Ty Law when he left us and he was great. You aren't on his level pal and may never be. You had a good thing here and you may have blown it. Stay your butt at home and wind up like Eric Rhett when he held out for more doe. I don't believe he got the money or ever played in the NFL again. He may have gotten injured, I don't remember, I just know he held out for more money and I never saw him play another down in the NFL.Jason Gabrielson

Dear PFW! I am very surprised that Samuel can return after 10 games and earn a full year's salary. I am also surprised to hear that then he can leave the team at the end of the season. Samuel can return on game 11, mildly pull hamstring (go check), get on IR, and be paid close to $8M without even playing a full game. Not only would he get paid for not playing, he would preserve his possibly best record last season. Then he gets a juicy contract in 2008. If all this is possible, how do you then see Patriots being in control of his situation?Victor

Why do players like Samuel hold out in the first place? Is it to increase their chances of getting traded? Right now, Samuel would lose 5/8 of his money if he held out, so why is he holding out?Akshat Shekhar

So, here I sit unemployed. My company bounced my last 2-week check and poor, poor Asante doesn't wanna play for $7 million dollars for one year. My heart goes out to him. After all he did have one good year.Steve Bean

Just a couple of quick clarifications. Because of the Keyshawn Johnson situation a couple of years back in Tampa Bay, the Patriots can't just send Samuel home. If you remember, the Bucs cut ties with Keyshawn and told him to hit the road. In the new CBA agreement, the players negotiated a clause that says teams can't just send players home anymore like the Bucs did with Keyshawn. However, nothing can stop Bill Belichick from putting Samuel on the inactive list every week. So, there is a chance that if Samuel sits out and comes back after nine games, he still might not play a down of football for the Patriots in 2007.

Samuel will not receive his full one-year contract if he sits out for 10 weeks. The money would be pro-rated, so Samuel would only be getting a portion of that $7.79 franchise tender. He only gets his money once he signs the tender. If he signs it after five games, he loses out on five game checks, so he would receive the rest of his money from that point on. Also, the fact that the Patriots can franchise him again next year and decide Samuel's future is another reason why New England still has bullets left in the chamber regarding this matter.

Samuel isn't holding out. He currently isn't under contract with the Patriots. A hold out is when a player is under contract and refuses to report to team activities, like what happened with Deion Branch last year. Samuel's situation is different because as of right now, he technically isn't a member of the Patriots.

Kudos on the Errict Rhett reference. I used to love him when he played at Florida. You are correct. Rhett held out for seven games in 1996 and while he returned to lead the Bucs in rushing that year, he was never really the same. Tampa drafted Mike Alstott in 1996 and Warrick Dunn the following year, thereby paving the way for Rhett's exit from the Bucs after the 1997 season.
-Tom Casale

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