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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Thu May 23 - 02:00 PM | Tue May 28 - 11:55 AM

Ask PFW: Camp questions continue

PFW answers Patriots fans' questions about the team, many revolving around training camp battles.

I am having a difficult time understanding where NFL Europe players fit into an NFL organization? Are they on the team, or are they practicing for next NFLE season? If they make the team do they have an obligation to play NFLE the following season? Thanks
Joe Behr
Verona, N.J.

Joe, the NFL Europe players fall into a number of different categories. A large portion of the players are allocated by NFL teams to the league so that the players will get a chance to improve their skills in game action, a chance they really can't get anywhere else. Some of the players go to Europe in order to improve themselves so that they might draw focus from an NFL team and earn a shot in the league. There are also a number of players that play in the league from around the world, called National players. But as far as the allocated players, they return to their NFL team with the hopes of making the roster. For some guys one season in NFLEL is all it takes to launch an NFL career, for others it takes longer. Either way, the long-term goal of just about every player in Europe is a career in the NFL.
Andy Hart

As a New England native forced to leave my beloved Pats for Texas, I was elated when the Pats drafted the QB from my current college of Texas Tech, Kliff Kingsbury. While Brady is obviously the standout starter, what future do you see for Kingsbury? I see many similarities between him and Brady as both have great field awareness, and a quick release. Kingsbury's arm is the biggest question when it comes to the deep ball. The main knock on him is that he was the product of a system at Tech. How is he doing with the Patriots, does he have a future as a solid backup, or do you see the Pats perhaps moving him, or does he simply lack NFL skills?
Kevin Harnisch
Dallas, Texas

Hey Red Raider, Kingsbury has probably put in a camp that would be expected of a sixth-round draft pick. Keep in mind Brady was in a similar situation in 2000 and barely resembled the Pro Bowl quarterback that he is today. Regardless of physical skills and college productivity, the jump to the NFL for a quarterback is a huge one. Kingsbury has shown some good things in camp, including good touch in the short passing game, but has also had some rookie plays like fumbled snaps and poor throws. In the end he is fighting an uphill battle for a roster spot, as most teams don't carry four quarterbacks in the regular season. Rush judgments on a guy this early in his career, as many people learned through Brady's development in recent years, are not fair. But a season on a practice squad would probably be the best thing that could happen for Kingsbury.
Andy Hart

Will Bethel Johnson compete for one of the top three wide receiver spots? How much do you think his playing time will compare to that of Deion Branch? Where does David Givens fit in the mix?
Jon Phelps
Manchester, Conn.

While Johnson has shown his impressive speed and quickness in training camp, he probably won't be in the mix as one of the top four receivers. Simply put, Johnson is an impressive athletic talent who needs a good deal of polishing to become a legitimate NFL receiver. Although Branch has missed a bunch of time lately due to injury, there are big expectations for the second-year wideout. And Givens has been one of the highlights to date of training camp. The former Notre Damer has improved his hands and route running this offseason enough to move from special teamer and possible roster causality to a guy who could legitimately fight for playing time at receiver. While Troy Brown and David Patten are still likely the top two pass catchers, the Patriots have three young players who appear to be the future at the position, and for at least two of them the future could start as early as this season.
Andy Hart

How is Spencer Nead doing in training camp? Is he looking like he'll have a spot on the final roster?
Brevin Theobald
Eagle Mountain, Utah

After having a lot of trouble catching the ball in rookie and mini camp, Nead looks to be more comfortable in training camp. That said, he is still fighting quite a battle for a roster spot and could be a guy that ends up on the practice squad. With Christian Fauria and Daniel Graham the Patriots have a pair of solid pass catchers, and veteran Fred Baxter would probably be the third tight end on the roster. Both Nead and Rodney Trafford have shown ability in action this summer, but neither is expected to make the roster.

I just read Wednesday morning notes -- Centers signs30 Jul 03 / by Bryan Morry, Patriots Football Weekly on-line. What does "squibs" mean in practice?

Phil Cressey, Jr.
West Baldwin, Maine

Don't worry Phil a squib kick is not some weird form of sea life or monster from a horror movie. A squib kick is one that is low and bounces off the ground, but unlike an onside kick, is kicked further down field past the front line of the opponents return team. A lot of times teams will use a squib kick at the end of the half or against a team with an exceptional return game with the hopes that one of the blockers in front of the return men will have to field the bouncing ball, or at the very least, the timing for the return unit will be thrown off in the hopes of preventing a big return.
Andy Hart

Let me say first I think you guys are awesome for doing this! You're really reaching out and answering a lot of people's questions - it's really unusual and it's really great - Thanks! Now, this is a Pats question and also a general NFL question: What do you think is the best way to evaluate a player's progress and competitive position on his team's depth chart during the preseason? I mean, with so many different factors, like desire to win of different preseason teams, what string opposing offense/defense they are competing against, etc., how can you try to make some sense of what you see? Unfortunately, preseason NFL TV commentators during the games are in my experience terrible at providing any insight into this, as they tend to treat the games as meaningful competition between the two teams, mostly mentioning individually only the bigger-name players. Thanks.
Jon Parisi
Westerfield, Conn.

Jon if I had all the answers for this one I would probably be the General Manager of an NFL team somewhere, but I will give it a shot anyway. You are right, there are a lot of factors that go into talent evaluation during training camp. Some factors like age, money invested, cap considerations, draft status and future potential all come into play before the players even take the field. But once the players are in the pads things that you need to watch include what group a player is working out with, how he performs against players on the opposite side of the ball who are likely to make the roster and overall how that player fits in to his specific position and unit. And when all that is said and done, then remember to tell yourself that even if you attend training camp practices you are only seeing the player for about one-tenth of the time that the coaches are. Make your own evaluations, make your own mock roster cuts and see what sort of future you have in an NFL front office.
Andy Hart

I have a question if Mike Cloud is injured in the season can he still play out his 4-game suspension?
Rocky Hill, Conn.

While Mike Cloud is out following surgery to repair a leg injury he doesn't count towards the Patriots active roster but will be able to serve his four-game suspension. Once the regular season starts Cloud will not be able to work out or rehab at Gillette Stadium or with anyone on the New England medical staff. But once he has served the four-week punishment he can return to the team and at that time the team will have to make a decision as to where Cloud may fit in to the team's plans for this season or the future.
Andy Hart

Please tell me what the conditioning test consists of? Specifically the running drills? Is that test in full pads? Also, how many dashes are there?
Ed Aznavorian
Hingham, Mass.

The conditioning run consists of a set of 20 sprints run with specific time limits based on position grouping. The offensive and defensive linemen must run 40-yard sprints in under six seconds. Tight ends, linebackers, quarterbacks and fullbacks must run 50-yard sprints in under seven seconds each. And defensive backs, wide receivers and running backs must run 60-yard sprints in under eight seconds. All the players get a 30 second rest between each sprint and a short break at the halfway point of the test. Normally the players take the run before the start of camp in regular shorts and t-shirts, but Bill Belichick has been known to make those who fail initially take the test in full pads when they retest.
Andy Hart

Dear PFW, I think one of the finest NFL-players of all time is "the fridge", but unfortunately I don't remember his name. Can you let me know?
Pieter van Leeuwen
Delft, The Netherlands

Pieter, I believe you are referring to former Chicago Bears defensive tackle William Perry. But showing your allegiances to Perry in Patriot Nation could be a bit dangerous for your health as he was a memorable participant for Chicago when the Bears soundly defeated the Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX, a game many New England fans are still trying to forget.
Andy Hart

I have a bet with a friend regarding Drew Bledsoe. Did the Patriots ever put the "franchise tag" on Drew?
Ray Clontz
North Attleboro, Mass.

No, the Patriots never used a franchise tag on former quarterback Drew Bledsoe. And Ray, regardless of who wins the bet you can send a portion of the winnings to me at Gillette Stadium, One Patriot Place, Foxborough, MA 02035. Good doing business with you.
Andy Hart

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