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Ask PFW: Camp moves on

Our latest installment touches on a variety of Patriots-related subjects.

Are there fan packages available anywhere including airfare, lodging and tickets to see PATS home games in Gillette Stadium
Gary Needles
St. Louis Park, Minn.

There aren't any Patriots "travel" packages to Gillette Stadium because, after all, that's the Patriots home. Your best bet is to scan the team's newspapers that are playing the Patriots (most are available online) and see if any travel agents are advertising packages for those fans. Unfortunately, the Vikings aren't playing the Patriots this year or you'd be all set. In order to come to Gillette this year, you're probably going to have to do some pre-travel to get to where the tour is leaving.
Fred Kirsch

What's the deal with having preseason games on a Wednesday night and a Thursday night? It makes it very tough for people who have to go to work the next morning. Whatever happened to Friday nights or Saturday afternoons or nights or Sunday afternoons? I suspect TV has something to do with scheduling games on Wednesday or Thursday nights. Can't the Patriots just say no?
Charlie Bakst
Barrington, R.I.

Preseason games are scheduled by agreement between the two teams (unless they are nationally televised games like the Hall of Fame Game). Because of that, there's a ton of factors that have to mesh like stadium availability, team training schedules and, yes, the wishes of the local television station that has paid for the rights to carry the game. Pretty much the trend around the league is to have all the preseason games at night – you won't see too many day games because of television ratings.
Fred Kirsch

What is up with the Patriots home page? It has a plain dull look! It would be nice to see some animated logos. Put some spice in the home page please.
Steve Morrill
Southbridge, Mass.

While I certainly hear your plea for more "action" on the Patriots home page, our studies have shown that after the first or second viewing, fans tend to see such animation as annoying or a distraction. The overwhelming request we have from fans is to provide as much content as possible and that's where we try and spend our time, energy – and money.
Besides, depending on how the animation is created, there's no guarantee it will work on all browser flavors and OS platforms. For example, I have an IMac at home running MacOS 10.2. One of my favorite sites has a flash animation that causes my browser to shut down every time I turn it off!
That said, we'll try and have more photos rotating on the home page to give it more variety.
Fred Kirsch

As we all know, the Patriots recently ended a long and successful relationship with the folks over at Bryant College. That prompted a discussion between myself and a friend as to whether or not the Pats were required to pay any fees in order to use the Bryant facilities, including food, sleeping accommodations, field use, etc. I contest they did, but my friend swears the Pats didn't have to pay a penny. I think he's nuts. So, without being specific, what was the arrangement?
Rick Viera
Boston, Mass.

Without getting into the specifics of the arrangements which I'm not privy to anyway, I can tell you that the Patriots absolutely paid to use the Bryant College facilities, right down to the food eaten in the cafeteria – and believe me, that adds up!
Fred Kirsch

I would like to know when Gillette Stadium and the Patriots hold the class for football for women. I would like to brush up on my knowledge and I know a few women who would like to attend as well.
Amy Parlon
North Attleboro, Mass.

A definite date has not been announced but what is definite is that the Patriots will hold another Football 101 event at some point at Gillette Stadium. Once they decide on a date, it will be posted on so check back from time to time.
Fred Kirsch

I have heard that the Pats will be joining the growing number of teams that wear an "alternate" jersey for a game or two this year. I've also heard that it will be silver. Do you know if this is true and if so, have you seen it?
John Stanton
Norwood, Mass.

You've heard correctly. I haven't seen anything as yet but word is that that Patriots will indeed have a special jersey they will be unveiling this season and I hear sliver is a big part of the design.
Fred Kirsch

Last season the Pats went to a Blue Jersey/Blue Pant uniform for a few home games. Is there any contemplation to bring that back full time? I really enjoyed that look and wouldn't mind if they scrap the silver pants altogether.
Methuen, Mass.

While blue on blue might be aesthetically pleasing to you, consider the Patriots record while donning such a look: 0-2. Knowing the superstitious nature of pro athletes, I doubt very much if we'll be witnessing that combination again in the foreseeable future.
Fred Kirsch

Your writers wrote an article on Thabiti Davis and it said that he played for the Orlando Thunder of the AFL. There is no team called the Orlando Thunder in the AFL. That team is called the Orlando Predators.
Orlando, Fla.

Thanks Red, you're absolutely right. The Patriots press release put on the website by media relations said Orlando Thunder but if you noticed, Andy Hart's update just said Orlando. But the team's name, as you know, is the Predators.
Paul Perillo

The national press' bias against N.E. continues. Isn't it ironic that Drew Bledsoe is now listed in preseason publications as on of the top five NFL starting quarterbacks after a so-called "breakout" season in Buffalo. When he was with N.E. he never was in the top 10 much less top five. Brady had a great year 28/14 TD-Int. ratio yet he's not a top five fantasy pick either. Also, too bad Ty Law never seems to make the top five lists at his position ... in spite of his shut down corner abilities.
Ed Cronick
Anchorage, Alaska

I think Patriots fans need to get over feeling sorry for themselves. First, when Drew Bledsoe was the Patriots quarterback, he ALWAYS was considered one of the top 5-10 quarterbacks in football. He was then and he is now. Tom Brady is also very highly regarded by most national writers. The Patriots success in 2001 captured the imaginations of many NFL writers and was warmly received by virtually every media outlet imaginable. Why we choose to complain about a perceived lack of respect baffles me.
Paul Perillo

What is Patrick Pass' chance of making this year's squad. Enjoyed watching him play on special teams and as a quality backup but with the signing of Centers and McCrary does he have much of a chance?
Greg Bright
Lawrenceville, Ga.

Certainly better than they were before the Giants preseason opener. Also, injuries to Redmond, Cloud and Womack (assuming he's not practicing because of an injury) haven't hurt his cause. Pass is fighting for a job and he needs to establish a role on a consistent basis in order to win one. How's that for Bill Belichick speak?
Paul Perillo

Will the Patriots be able to run successfully this year or will we be seeing the same pass only bunch from last year?
Tom Drawz
Amesbury, Mass.

I know the Patriots WANT to run more often than last year, but whether they're able to or not remains to be seen. Judging from practice and the first preseason game, I'd say be prepared for a lot more passing. Also, consider the few offensive additions (Dedric Ward, Larry Centers, Bethel Johnson, Fred McCrary) are mostly involved in the passing game.
Paul Perillo

Could you tell me where the negotiations with center Damien Woody and his future with the Pats stands? He is a key player in the success of the Pats offense and I really do not believe that the rookie out of BC can come in and start in his spot nor the veteran they signed.
Providence, R.I.

This is the time of year these things generally get done. Ted Johnson, Ty Law and Tom Brady all signed extensions during the summer and my gut feeling is Woody will do the same. With the current unsettled nature of the offensive line, Belichick doesn't want to let his Pro Bowl center walk away as a free agent next spring.
Paul Perillo

How many true roster openings do the Patriots have and at what positions are there openings?
Halifax, Nova Scotia

It's impossible to come up with a number of actual jobs that are available. With very few exceptions – Brady, Vinatieri, Colvin, Troy Brown, etc. – most players are trying to earn roster spots. Realistically, I'd say there are anywhere between five and 10 spots up for grabs.
Paul Perillo

What is the real reason why the Patriots got rid of Grant Williams. With all the many depth and injury problems the team has had with its "inoffensive" line, this move simply made absolutely no sense. Grant Williams was an impressive 6-7 and weighed 320 pounds. What happened here?
Derek Larsson
Ashland, Mass.

I really don't have a good answer to that question. I agree with you … Williams would either be the starting right tackle today or he'd certainly be the swing tackle. At the time, it appeared the Patriots had some younger, cheaper alternatives in Kenyatta Jones, Adrian Klemm and Tom Ashworth, but none of them has established any level of consistency. I don't think it was a terrible personnel decision by the Patriots, but I think it might be one they'd like to have back.
Paul Perillo

Could you please explain the NFL's logic behind teams taking a salary cap hit for a traded player. For instance, why did the Patriots have Drew Bledsoe's cap number count against them last season?
Theodore Bibeau
New York, N.Y.

There's nothing more boring than salary cap talk so I'll try to make this as simple as possible. Teams pay out signing bonuses and are able to spread the cap hit over the number of years of the deal. For example, if a player signs a five-year, $15 million deal with a $5 million bonus, only $1 million of that bonus money counts on each year's cap total. But the player gets all $5 million immediately. So if that player is traded, whatever portion of that bonus that hasn't yet hit the cap would then hit all at once. That was the case with Bledsoe last year. Basically, it prevents teams from handing out huge bonus money for long-term deals with the intentions of cutting the player in order to circumvent the cap. That's how Dallas and San Francisco got into trouble in the mid-'90s with their free agent dealings.
Paul Perillo

I think the Patriots need to make a trade at the running back position. I heard Atlanta is having trouble deciding between Warwick Dunn and T.J. Duckett as their featured back. Maybe the Pats could trade Antowain Smith and a draft pick for Duckett. What do you guys think?
Scott Amaral
Riverside, R.I.

Not that I would ever call your player personnel abilities into question Scott, but to me Duckett looks an awful lot like Antowain – a big, plodding back who runs well for the though yards but won't make too many people miss. There's nothing wrong with that, but why go out of your way to trade for something you already have? Unless you see something in Duckett's potential (he is much younger) that I don't.
Paul Perillo

Every year it seems 1 or 2 relatively unknown players catch everyone's eye with outstanding plays during camp. Are there any this year?
Rich Oljey
Huntsville, Ala.

These are my favorite questions coming into camp every year. Trying to figure out which undrafted players are a step above their more highly regarded rookies is something I always focus on. I try not to include the rookie draft picks (because they're somewhat expected to be good players), but seventh rounder Ethan Kelley could potentially be a player. He has a little more athleticism than the normal nose tackle and a year on the practice squad (or maybe even the active roster) might be what he needs to become a contributor. As for the really anonymous players out there, I like wide receiver Dan Stricker out of Vanderbilt. He has pretty much no chance of making the club, but he catches everything and always seems to be open when he does it. I would think those are two pretty good qualities for a receiver. Tight end Rod Trafford also has looked pretty good.
Paul Perillo

Will the Pats keep 6 receivers? Givens is playing great and I would think Branch, Brown, Patten and Johnson are locks to make the team. Will Ward get the axe?
Guido Buchbinder
Medford, Mass.

I agree with three of your locks but I think Patten and Ward are either fighting for a spot or the team will keep six. Belichick has kept six in the past and I think he'll do it again. They're all too good to toss aside and with the lack of size of the overall group injuries also could become a factor. I say keep six and play the hot hand.
Paul Perillo

I'm a big numbers guy and I wanted to know if there are any online resources that list the test results of all players that went through the NFL combine not only this year, but in previous years?
Claude Edouard
El Paso, Texas

The combine numbers are usually available on soon after the combine is over. But if you typed "NFL combine results" into any search engine, I would think you'd be able to come up with something. We always publish the results of the players the Patriots draft plus the averages from the positions their positions.
Paul Perillo

I keep reading about a scout defense, is it somewhere along the lines of a 2nd or 3rd string defense or is it a bunch of prospects vying for a roster spot?
Doug Doan
Malden Mass.

You have it mostly right, Doug. It is made up of second and third stringers but they're called a scout team because they run the upcoming opponent's plays (both offensively and defensively), thus they help with scouting.
Paul Perillo

When are the mandatory cut dates, and what are the roster limits on those days?
Northboro, Mass.

The first mandatory cutdown date is Aug. 26 when each team has to trim its roster to 65 players, not including any NFL Europe exemptions they may have. For the Patriots, a player like Rod Trafford, who played in Europe this spring, doesn't count against the limit. Aug. 31 is the final cutdown date when teams must submit their 53-man roster to the league.
Paul Perillo

What was the date of the first regular season game in the new stadium in 1971?
Chuck Kreider
Queensbury, N.Y.

The Patriots defeated the Oakland Raiders, 20-6, on Sept. 19, 1971, in the first regular season game ever played at Schaefer Stadium.
Paul Perillo

I watched the Pats preseason opener against the Giants. I know that both teams ran their "vanilla" game plans but I still was not impressed with the starting defense. The 1st D came up with a couple of nice plays but overall I felt they looked slow and sloppy. They repeatedly gave up good amounts of yardage. Is this just preseason and game planning?
Jeremy Viles
Houston, Texas

You're a tough man to please, Jeremy. The Giants offense managed very little against the starting Patriots defense. Colvin caused a fumble on the second play and the pass rush was constantly in Kerry Collins' face. And Tiki Barber "rolled up" 10 yards on eight carries. Overall I'd say the Pats defense made a pretty solid debut.
Paul Perillo

Do You know what happened to the names of the original fans that signed up for "PATS PACK" in 1995 that were on the wall of the runway where the team comes on to the field? I was No. 72 to sign up, I've been to a few games, but have never seen it. Is it gone or did it move to the new home? Would it ever be possible to view it and take a photo? Sincerely a long time proud PATRIOT fan.
Michael English
Snowville, N.H.

The Pats Pack signs are currently in storage. From what I have gathered, there are plans to include them in some sort of Hall of Fame display somewhere at the stadium in the future.
Fred Kirsch

I heard there is going to be a flag football game of past Patriots vs. past Jets. Chuck Fairbanks is coaching! Has a date, time, and location been set? Where can I get tickets? Thanks.
North Reading, Mass.

There was talk of a flag football game between Patriots and Jets alumni to benefit each group's pet charities, but talks between the two clubs kind of hit a snag as to the location. It was set for Sept. 20 at Gillette Stadium but that is no longer the case. The idea is a great one and everyone hopes the logistics can be worked out. As soon as that is the case, I'm sure it will be promoted.
Fred Kirsch

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