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Ask PFW: Camp is here!

Plenty of early observations highlight the first mid-camp Ask PFW.

I see where we placed Rodney Bailey on IR … so much for that offseason signing. If we only signed Bailey to a one-year contact, why not just cut him and save the cap space?
Hawthorne, N.J.

Geez, Matt. I'm glad I don't work for you. Luckily the NFL has rules to prevent the kind of cruelty you're advocating. A player who is injured can't be released. Either the team has to reach some sort of injury settlement with the player or place him on injured reserve. You can't just cut a player like Bailey to save the cap space. He was injured playing for the Patriots, and to simply dump him now that he's injured is against the rules. That doesn't make it a bad offseason signing; just an unfortunate fact of NFL life. Guys get hurt.
Paul Perillo

Rodney Bailey was signed in March, now he's on IR for the season. Who pays his medical expenses? What percentage of this season's contract will be paid?
Bill Johnston
Scituate, Mass.

The Patriots pay his medical expenses and 100 percent of his contract will be paid. He's no different than any other player who is injured on the field.
Paul Perillo

Is it possible the Patriots will bring back Otis Smith? He'd provide depth on a unit that seems to be full of injuries.
Travis Simpson
Waltham, Vt.

As Belichick would say, "I wouldn't rule it out," but I doubt it. I think Bill feels, even with a few guys banged up early, that the Patriots have enough depth in the secondary. Otherwise they wouldn't have let Otis go in the first place. And with Terrell Buckley still here and looking good, there really isn't room for another veteran DB.
Paul Perillo

Who looks more impressive to you, Josh Miller or Cody Scates?
New Orleans, La.

So far I've been very impressed with Miller. He's been booming the ball throughout the early practices. Most of his punts have not only traveled well but the hang time has been solid also. Scates has been a little inconsistent. He occasionally kicks the ball like Miller has, but also has had his share of shanks.
Paul Perillo

What are Kliff Kingsbury's chances making the team? He was on injured reserve all of last year.
Austin, Texas

Kingsbury will have to beat out Kurt Kittner and/or Rohan Davey to earn a job. Thus far Davey looks to be entrenched as the No. 2 while Kingsbury and Kittner have been rather erratic. It's tough to tell for sure what Kingsbury's chances of sticking around will be. Once the preseason games begin and all the quarterbacks get some game action it might be easier. As of now, I'd say Kingsbury may have a slight edge over Kittner, but neither has been impressive.
Paul Perillo

It seems like Adrian Klemm every year just keeps hanging around the Pats roster, and every year he contributes next to nothing to the team. I understand that he has had a lot of injury problems, but is that an excuse to keep him around. The only thing he has done consistently in four years is stay on the bench and collect a paycheck every week. Does he have a big salary? Is this the year that BB says that enough is enough and cuts him?
Miami, Fla.

I understand you're frustrations with Klemm because he has been injured every season since coming here in 2000. I'm sure Belichick is frustrated and Klemm is too. He must remain healthy this season or my guess is he'll be somewhere else in 2005. This is the final year of his contract. He doesn't make a ton of money ($475,000 base salary with about the same amount remaining on his signing bonus). Unless he establishes himself as a legitimate NFL player who can stay in one piece, I don't see Klemm making it out of camp. But if injuries to Ashworth and Light (appendectomy) continue to linger, perhaps Klemm will stick around another year.
Paul Perillo

Rookies do not report to training camp until they have signed a contract ... thus Ben Watson has not reported yet. What about mini-camp? I understand that it is mandatory to attend ... what happens if a player is injured in mini-camp? Is there insurance for them during the camp? If Eli Manning blew his knee out in mini-camp I am sure that there would be hell to pay in the big apple. What protects these players? Is this same protection not available for training camp?
Paul Graves
Raleigh, N.C.

You're right on counts, Paul (must be the name). Unsigned draft picks can take part in mini-camp and they do have insurance in case they are injured. The Patriots had a third-round pick a few years back named Brock Williams, who injured his knee during mini-camp and was lost for the season. The team still signed him after the injury. Now, you can still make the argument that there'd be hell to pay if something happened to a star player like Eli Manning in mini-camp. All players take part and are protected, but a serious injury could nonetheless affect a career. Training camp is different than mini-camp. Players not under contract are not allowed to take part in training camp in any way. Until Watson signs, he cannot be a part of the Patriots camp.
Paul Perillo

I am intrigued by the release of Jeff Burris so early in training camp. Do you guys think that Bill B has a good impression of rookies Christian Morton and Randall Gay, and wants to give them a better chance to make the roster, thus adding more team speed? What do you guys think of the play of the Pats two rookie cornerbacks?
Malden, Mass.

Burris wasn't necessarily released because of anyone's play. The veteran decided not to attend training camp, making Belichick's decision to let him go an easy one. Belichick said Burris made a personal decision and he respected it. Now, as for Morton and Gay … I feel Gay has performed pretty well so far. He's gotten some extra opportunities with a couple of corners out injured – including Morton – and he's taken advantage. There's a long way to go and how the players perform in games will tell us more, but so far Gay has a chance to stick. Morton was banged up on July 30 during a special teams drill. He has not been on the field since.
Paul Perillo

All I hear is how a rookie or non-starter vet, no matter how good he was in college, will have his abilities tested when get starts in the NFL. This is a question aimed at the scrutiny about Davey, backup QB for the Pats. Now I'm not questioning the difficulty of the NFL, I'm just curious as to what some of the serious differences are between college, European and National Football League? Couldn't it be possible for Davey to be just as good as Bulger or Delhomme? Neither had been tested at NFL level before but performed great.
Bellingham, Mass.

It's absolutely possible for Davey to be as good as those guys. In fact, who knows, he may even be better. Until he gets a chance to perform at the NFL level, there's almost no way to know for sure. The Rams and Panthers didn't know how good Bulger and Delhomme were before they played; otherwise they would have been starting right from the start. There is a great deal of difference between the different levels, especially for a quarterback. Belichick explains how in college there are very few sophisticated passing games. There are a lot of deep go-routes and quick slants but not as many deep outs that dominate the pro game. And the speed is obviously a major difference. Obviously the higher level you go the better athletes you'll see. The better the athlete the tougher it is to succeed. The pros feature a tremendous amount of coverages, schemes and blitz packages that even NFL Europe doesn't have. Until a guy gets experience playing against these packages, it's tough to imagine how well he'll do against them.
Paul Perillo

Tom Condon and a couple of other agents seem to thrive on making life as difficult for teams as possible. As I write, Ben Watson is sitting at home twiddling his thumbs while Tom Condon refuses to negotiate in good faith with the Pats. I know that the Patriots are well known for their fiscal prudence and that may play a part in the impasse but at some point, Ben has to get on the field and start learning the ropes. The other player represented by Tom Condon is Ty Law who was no end of trouble this offseason. At what point do the Patriots not deal with Condon anymore? Is it even possible to do this? Is the team allowed to tell their potential draft picks that they won't deal with certain agents so if they want to play for the Patriots they will have to have someone else represent them?
Newbury, Mass.

First, you have some facts wrong. Tom Condon does in fact represent Watson, but not Ty Law. Law is represented by Carl and Kevin Poston, who are also notoriously tough agents to deal with. Plus, you make an assumption that Condon is not negotiating with the Patriots in good faith. How do you know this? I haven't seen anything from either side that would indicate that to be true. Your statement would indicate that Condon isn't interested in having his client ever sign with the Patriots. That would be negotiating in bad faith. As far as I can tell, Watson is looking for a shorter-term deal than the six years that Vince Wilfork signed for. The Patriots, understandably, are looking to tie up a first-round pick for as long as they can. There's no bad faith there on either side. (At least that's what's been reported on the subject thus far. The Patriots have not publicly commented on the negotiations).

Now, what could the Patriots do about Condon or any other agent they don't want to deal with? Whatever they want. The Patriots could definitely inform the public that anyone with Condon as an agent will not play for the team. That would be very unwise considering they would be eliminating a potential helpful player from their plans. What sense would that make? I'm sure the team keeps agents in mind when deciding between draft picks and free agent signings but it wouldn't be very smart to completely shut out a particular agent as a rule.
Paul Perillo

Now that we are 4 days into training (6 if this is posted) and considering we have so much depth at O-line, quarterback and receiver, I'm wondering who you think will make the roster at each of these respective position. Who will get cut?
Wellesley, Mass.

Still very early for this stuff, but since I spend most of training camp practices trying to forecast who will stay and who will go, I'll play along. Offensive line – Matt Light, Russ Hochstein, Dan Koppen, Joe Andruzzi, Tom Ashworth, Bob Hallen, Stephen Neal, Brandon Gorin, Big Cat Williams. Quarterback – Tom Brady, Rohan Davey, Kliff Kingsbury. (This could change when Jim Miller is healthy. If he stays, Kingsbury goes). Receiver – Troy Brown, Deion Branch, David Givens, Bethel Johnson and David Patten.
Paul Perillo

I have to believe that Bethel Johnson is going to have a bigger sophomore season than both Branch and Givens. I think that he was a steal, and if he can play like he did against the Titans and Colts we could have a major threat on our hands. I also look for Graham and Samuel to make major strides what do you think?
Brookline, Mass.

What happened, Run, you didn't have any questions about the ball boys? Do I think Bethel Johnson will have a bigger second year than Branch and Givens? No. At least not as a wide receiver. I expect him to continue his work as a dangerous kick returner, but in terms of catching passes, I don't see him getting more than 57 catches (as Branch did last year) or six touchdowns (as Givens did). The team has such a deep corps that receptions figure to get spread out among the top four. As for Johnson last year, he made a huge touchdown catch against the Titans but only had one catch for 6 yards against the Colts. As a kick returner, however, he may already be the best. I agree, although cautiously, with your enthusiasm about Graham. I was fooled early last year too, but he seems ready to emerge as a consistent pass-catching threat. He's already a dominating blocker so if he can improve his all-around game he could be quite a weapon. As for Samuel, I felt at the start of camp he'd be vying for a starting job but he's been out of uniform for the last several days. I'm not sure what his status is but him missing all this practice time can't be a good thing.
Paul Perillo

What is going to be the Patriots weakness and what do they have to work on to get better?
Robbie Arnold
Lincoln, Maine

Wow, that's quite a question. I'd say potentially their weakness could be offensive line, especially if the tackles remain out of action for much longer. The team lacks the overall depth in that area it had last year. When starters went down, there were guys like Hochstein, Koppen and Ashworth ready to step in. I'm not sure suitable backups are on the roster as of now. Beyond that, at least on paper, I don't see too many areas that need to improve dramatically. If the team plays up to its potential, the Patriots should have a successful season.
Paul Perillo

Why does everybody talk about the Patriots having won these two Super Bowls without the help of a running game?! I find it very disrespectful, all of a sudden because we have Dillon, now Antowain Smith is treated like trash! Let's not forget that he averaged 927 yards/season for us and basically did what he was asked when he was asked. My guess is he could have done more if more was asked of him. And I am a big Kevin Faulk fan, I think the two of them together made for one of the better one-two punches in the league. Having said all of that, Dillon is obviously a wonderful upgrade!
Charlotte, N.C.

I'm confused, Matthew. You yourself admitted that Dillon is "obviously a wonderful upgrade." You answer your own question. Why do people act so excited when talking about Dillon? Because he's an upgrade. The Patriots finished 31st and 27th in rushing in the NFL the last two years. The fact they were able to win was even more remarkable given those numbers. Having Dillon should give the offense more balance. Nobody is saying Antowain Smith didn't contribute to the team's success. But having Dillon around should make this team better.
Paul Perillo

With all of our good receivers on the squad this year do you think we will have anyone with 50 catches? Also what is the record for most catches by receivers for a team?
North Attleboro, Mass.

As I said earlier, I expect the receptions to be spread out rather evenly among the top four or five (including tight ends). I do expect the leader to have at least 50 though. Otherwise, the team could be in trouble. If you're leading receiver makes fewer than 50 catches, you better have about eight guys with around 40. That's possible, but not likely. The record for most catches by receivers (in other words, completions) is 432 by the 1995 San Francisco 49ers. The 2002 Oakland Raiders had 418 while the 1991 Houston Oilers had 411. Incidentally, the 1994 Patriots had 405.
Paul Perillo

You have probably been asked this before, but is there any rule that prevents the Pats from trading a player that would otherwise be cut in training camp? If for instance, the Pats decided to go with youth and cut David Patten, then as I understand it, the team with the worst record would get first shot at him much like the draft. But what, if anything, would prevent the Pats from saying to other teams a week or so before they actually release him that they plan to cut him and will trade him to the highest bidder, getting perhaps a 3, 4 or a 5 in next year's draft?
Boston, Mass.

There's nothing to prevent a team from trading a player it would otherwise cut. In fact, that would be the best way for any team to handle such a situation. But there are several holes in your examples. First, if the team cut Patten, as you say, he would become an unrestricted free agent. Just like Lawyer Milloy last year, Patten wouldn't be available to teams in inverse order. That only happens when a player is on waivers, which happens either after the trading deadline or during the offseason with a player with less than four years playing experience. Otherwise, a player who gets released is free to sign anywhere. But if a team wanted to cut a player, and then tried to trade him somewhere, why would another team give something up to get that player when it knows he's going to be available for nothing? If the Patriots want to release Patten, and tell everyone they're going to do it, then why trade a draft pick when it could just wait to sign him for nothing?
Paul Perillo

Hey Andy, on 7/27/04 you wrote "Veterans are paid a $1,000 per week per diem[...]." Which is it, a G per week, or per day?
Honolulu, Hawaii

Come on now, Z-Man … Andy Hart made a mistake!!! I can't believe that. What a shocker!! Anyway, $1,000 per week is the salary for veterans during camp. The confusion actually comes with the language in the Collective Bargain Agreement, which lists "Training camp per diem" …. "Veterans receive $1,000 per week." I know that's confusing, but that's what it says. The rate is $1,000 per week.
Paul Perillo

If Ricky Williams decides to come back to the NFL at the end of the season would he be part of the Dolphins organization or would he be a free agent?
Big Man
Nashua, N.H.

Ricky Williams had three years remaining on his contract at the time of his retirement. Until he plays three more years for the Dolphins, or until Miami trades or releases him, his rights belong to the Dolphins.
Paul Perillo

I know that there have been a lot of questions about the Nick Saban/BB relationship lately. I was wondering if Nick Saban is in any way related to Lou Saban (the Patriots first head coach)?
Millis, Mass.

In addition to being Belichick's defensive coordinator in Cleveland, Nick Saban is Lou's son.
Paul Perillo

I agree that Josh Miller is an upgrade to Ken Walter, BUT if he is so good, why did the Steelers cut him?
Bruce Manchester
Amherst, N.H.

You'd have to ask Bill Cowher why he decided to let him go. But while you're at it, you can ask him why he decided not to re-sign Mike Vrabel too. Pittsburgh didn't want him either and he's worked out pretty well.
Paul Perillo

"I really believe the days of a 100-catch season in these parts are gone for a while, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Tom Brady has the option of going to any receiver on any play and good things can happen." I agree with what you said there, but do you think that could hurt us in the long run? When it comes time for Deion Branch (or any other receiver we have) to choose re-signing with the Pats or testing free agency, do you think he'll want to try to become a No. 1 threat which he is capable of doing? I know we re-signed Brown and Givens already, but I think they are both comfortable with this situation. Also, what are the career stats for former WR Derwin Williams?
Woonsocket, R.I.

That's an interesting point. Branch or Givens could decide to go elsewhere in an attempt to increase their profiles and make a case for being a No. 1 receiver. But they could also decide to stick around here knowing that Troy Brown is nearing the end of the road and take the baton from him. It would be unlikely for them to rake in tons of cash on the market under your scenario of the Patriots receivers not piling up tons of catches. So maybe they just might decide to stay where they're comfortable, not to mention successful. It could go either way. Also, you mentioned that Givens re-signed, but really he didn't. He had no choice as an exclusive rights free agent. He could either sign the tender offer the team made or he could hold out and not play for anyone. Next year he'll be a restricted free agent and get offers from other teams. Branch won't be a free agent until after the 2006 season, so the Patriots have some time before worrying about him. And here are Derwin Williams' career stats: He played from 1985-87, catching 14 passes for 228 yards with no touchdowns.
Paul Perillo

OK, here's a little mind game I like to play from time to time: Pick the one player from the team that you'd have play all 22 positions. If you could only play one guy at all the positions (and you could clone him), he'd play every position on both offense and defense, giving you the best team made up of only that one player. He'd be your QB, WR, DT, etc. It's a good way to assess the value that you place on a player's overall athleticism and qualities. I pick Mike Vrabel. Who do you pick and why?
Bob Bigelow, Gym Gigolo
Bourne, Mass.

Love the name there, Deuce. And I love silly games like this. I even think your choice of Vrabel is a pretty good one. I think a completely healthy Rosevelt Colvin would work. Maybe Daniel Graham (or Benjamin Watson is he ever signs). Basically, a guy big enough to block and hit people but fast and athletic enough to move around. Ty Law is certainly athletic enough. Tough call, but I love the question.
Paul Perillo

Do you think Jarvis Green could emerge as the next Jevon Kearse for the Pats?
New York, N.Y.

Jevon Kearse??? Kind of unrealistic expectations there, no? I think Green can be a very serviceable role player, but to expect him to come up with 15-plus sacks a season, like Kearse did before he was injured, is quite a stretch. Green has shown some ability to rush the passer and I think his role in the defense will expand this year. He should be part of the subpackages on passing downs and will get a chance to make some plays. But Jevon Kearse??? I don't think so.
Paul Perillo

In the last Super Bowl the PATS scored on a two-point conversion. Has there ever been another successful attempt made in previous Super Bowls?
Worcester, Mass.

Green Bay's Brett Favre hit Mark Chmura for a two-point conversion against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI, and Mark Seay and Alfred Pupunu both caught conversion passes from Stan Humphries for San Diego against San Francisco in Super Bowl XXIX.
Paul Perillo

I've been wondering why the Pats signed Zeron Flemister. Can you help me?
Robert Kilpatrick
Easton, Pa.

Basically, with Christian Fauria currently injured and on the active-PUP list and rookie Benjamin Watson still unsigned, the Patriots needed some tight ends. Flemister is a veteran who's been around the league and understands offenses, making him a more attractive candidate than some undrafted rookie. Plus, the Patriots were interested in signing Flemister back in April but couldn't work out a deal then. If Watson stays out, Flemister could stick around and contribute.
Paul Perillo

Why does Andy Hart have a job there?
Boston, Mass.

One of the true mysteries of the 2004 NFL season. I think we keep him around because he played the game in college. Did you know he is a former Tufts Jumbo?
Paul Perillo

What ever happened to Antwoine Womack?
Toronto, Ontario

After the Patriots released the running back last year, he hooked on with the Giants this offseason. But the Giants released him recently, and as of Aug. 2 he was out of a job.
Paul Perillo

As I read the positional analysis on cornerbacks (with stats such as tackles, interceptions and passes defensed), I found myself wondering if anyone tracks number of tackles missed or catches/yards/TDs allowed by individual DBs? Just too difficult with all the zone coverage?
Eric B.
North Andover, Mass.

I'm sure the coaches keep track of such information, but you can bet they're not too eager to share that with us media types. As for us doing it ourselves, you hit the nail on the head. It's tough enough figuring out who was beaten on a particular play without worrying about yardage allowed and all that. Sometimes the person closest to the play wasn't necessarily at fault for a completion. Depending on the coverage, the player who actually was beaten might not even be close to the ball. So it would be awfully tough to chart such stats without knowing the schemes.
Paul Perillo

Fun question for you, if you could trade one Pat for any other one player in the league (semi-fair, not P.K. Sam for Randy Moss!) who would they be and why. Here is mine Ty Law for Bryant McKinnie. I loved Ty Law to death, but after his recent temper tantrums I would just as soon see him play for the Calgary Stampede. McKinnie (or Mount McKinnie as they call him in Minnesota) fills a gaping hole (or two) on the O-line for us for years to come, and I am sure Dillon would love to run behind him.
St. Cloud, Minn.

Another silly question to ponder … I love it. Let's see … if I could swing a player-for-layer deal, with no cap considerations or contracts squabbles to consider, I'd send Corey Dillon to San Diego for LaDainian Tomlinson. I think Tomlinson is the most underrated running back in the league and his production is very impressive. Imagine what he could do playing for a winner?
Paul Perillo

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