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Ask PFW: countdown to camp

Training camp is fast approaching. Is Ty Law coming back? Will Richard Seymour report? What will they do without Troy Brown? Whoa, whoa.

Two things have me curious - you may be the only people who can answer them. 1.) I have searched for any evidence everywhere that a Patriots player from the 70s ever existed - wide receiver Reggie Rucker. He is not listed on the alumni section of your site or anywhere else for that matter. Did he go against the family or what? 2.) Every year, about a month after the Super Bowl, NFL films releases a Super Bowl video. Not so this year - what happened? Is there some kind of resentment that the NFL films people have towards the Pats?
Jim D.

First of all, Boston University Terrier alum Reggie Rucker started 38 of his 43 games between 1971 and 1974 while playing wide receiver and wearing No. 33. Go Terriers. Also, NFL Films along with Time Warner did indeed release a Super Bowl video. The Patriots then commissioned Three Games to Glory III, which can be purchased at

This might sound like a mincing little question, but does Belichick realize what he's doing when he brings in guys like Antuan Edwards and Chad Scott? He's making the people at EA sports exclude the other, more permanent, players on the Pats roster from their 2006 edition of Madden Football. Including Chad Scott means leaving out Ellis Hobbs, and keeping, say, someone like Tim Dwight probably means that we won't have P.K. Sam on the roster. It would be like they didn't even exist. What a jip! Is there any way you guys could do something about this? Do you care?
Morgan Van Lent

No. I can't say that I do. I suppose if I played Madden football, I might care, but even then I doubt it. You're really concerned about having Ellis Hobbs and P.K. Sam on a video game roster? No disrespect to those guys, but aren't you going to be throwing it to Branch, Givens, Terrell and even Kevin Faulk? Are you going to use the rookie as your starting corner or are you concerned about using him as your backup dime back? It seems to me as long as you have the front line guys, you'll probably be OK. I'll try to let Bill know that he is screwing up the Madden roster for you.

Shalom! First I would like to thank Mr. Kraft for the great football field he built for us here in Jerusalem. Now to my question - Will Richard Seymour's holding out lessen his chances of eventually being inducted into the Hall of Fame?
Ephraim Wolff

First off, we don't know that Richard is going to hold out of training camp. So far, he only skipped a mini-camp. I happen to think he will hold out, but I am in the minority here in the PFW office. Richard has a long way to go in his career so while maintaining his current level of play would earmark him for the Hall of Fame, it might be a little premature to engage in that discussion. However, for the purpose of your question, I don't think it will impact him. Assuming he doesn't sit out entire seasons because of his contract, I really can't see it having any impact on that type of thing. This is a business issue and one that Hall voters will probably have long forgotten about when it's time for Richard to appear on a Hall of Fame ballot.

I earnestly believe that Richard will report for training camp. But in case he does not, I have a question. I have read that a player can hold out until the tenth game of the season and then report to the team to get credit for the year in respect to free agency. Is that correct? Does the team then have any recourse to not activate him at that point (so as to get a full year of service as opposed to 37.5%)? I know this would only be a function of a bitter dispute, and I hope it does not come to that. Also, just for fun, what do you think the trade value for Richard is? Currently my feeling is that he is at least worth a first and second round pick and possibly two firsts. Is that wishful thinking? It seems when a trading partner sees a difficult situation between a team and a player they are reluctant to offer the asking price (ala Travis Henry in Buffalo).
Mathew Varughese

You are correct about the 10th game of the season and receiving a credited season toward free agency. That's why I think Richard will hold out. If he reports to camp and then leaves because of any lack of movement toward a new deal, he would be subject to the infamous five-day rule. Once the team sends a letter notifying him of the team's rights under the five-day rule, it could then place him on the reserve/left camp list after those five days. He would then be gone for the season and would accrue nothing toward free agency. If he did not report to training camp, he would be placed on the reserve/did not report list, but would be reinstated to the roster for the purpose of accruing a season toward free agency so long as he did so before the 11th game of the season. The team would have little recourse in that case. So unless Richard is content to either play the season under his current deal or trusts that serious negotiations will take place after he reports, then he will likely hold out of camp. I don't want to trade him, but if I did, I think a first and a second would be reasonable to make something work. Two firsts, in today's NFL, is too much for any player beyond possibly a franchise-type quarterback and even then, that might be too much.

Thank you for answering questions! I truly wish Seymour back with Pats. However, I want to question his production last year. As I recall, he had very modest numbers early in the season, did well (but not spectacular) during the mid-season, got injured, then did the best he could in SB. Was that a Pro Bowl season? If not - why? Was he already feeling underpaid and so there was no 110% effort? If that's the case, why not expect him to be back this year, and again given his solid but not spectacular effort. This is my prediction. If I were the team, I would offer him increases in incentives and not the base salary. This could turn him into the beast he can be, and a happier one at that. What do you think?Thanks, Ted

Ted, I disagree with your assessment of Richard's play. If you want to discredit him for his decision to skip a mandatory mini-camp while under contract, fine. But his play is unquestioned. He is the player in the Pats front seven that teams game plan for. Probably the best example of this that I know of was back in Week 2 of last season when the Pats played in Arizona. The Cardinals blocked inside all day to get bodies on Seymour, which allowed the Patriots outside linebackers some clean looks into the backfield. If you remember, Cardinals Head Coach Dennis Green took a rocket shot at Mike Vrabel after the game saying that Vrabel didn't make any plays despite having an unblocked path to the quarterback all afternoon. He did have 4 tackles and a sack in the game while Seymour finished with just one tackle. I read somewhere this offseason that Ty Warren outperformed Seymour and I definitely disagree with that. While I think Warren may have been the Pats most improved player last year, he was only a two-down player in most cases and simply isn't the disruptive force that Seymour typically is. And when Seymour is quiet, it's generally safe to assume that it's because team's have focused their efforts on slowing him and have consequently allowed someone else some playmaking opportunities. I don't think Richard needs any more motivation. I don't recall ever questioning his effort.

I was impressed with the way the Patriots aggressively went after FAs in areas of team weakness so that competition in training camp would net the best player (hopefully). Those areas would be linebacker, defensive back, wide receiver, and kick/punt return. When I look at the Patriots as a whole, the only relative weak spot I see is offensive line - particularly on the right. Why, oh why, did not the Patriots also get look-see FA's for that area as well? Are we pretty well locked into Ashworth/Gorin again this year?
Peter LeBlanc

I think the team feels the combination of Ashworth and Gorin, or more specifically one of the two, can do the job on the right side. The club drafted two offensive linemen in the first three rounds and both can play guard or tackle. I wouldn't be surprised to see Nick Kaczur get a lot of work at right tackle and then compete for that job a year from now. I think the Patriots have done a good job finding offensive linemen at reasonable prices and not overpaying free agents at that spot. They've brought journeymen type veterans in during past training camps and none have made it to the final roster. I think the line, by the end of the year, will be the best since Bill Belichick took over. I really like Stephen Neal and think Logan Mankins will be a beast. I am comfortable with Light, Koppen and Ashworth as well. I also look for Gene Mruczkowski to push hard for playing time this summer.

I had a question about the practice squad. Why do players have to pass through waivers to be placed on their parent team's practice squad? Considering there are no minor leagues in football, you'd think the league would want to promote the development of young players by the team that drafted/signed them. Also, is it true that a team can sign any player off of another team's practice squad at any time? Finally, is it possible to e-mail David Silverman, I believe he's the best sports photographer on the planet and I wish he received more recognition.
Chris Jackson

I will pass along your message to David, who does a fine job for us. The reason practice squad players have to pass through waivers is so good teams cannot hide some young players that may be able to make it on some other team's roster. The league wants all players who do not make the final roster or are not placed on some injury list available for other teams to sign to improve their rosters. It also is true that a player can be signed off your practice squad by any other team, but that player must be signed to the active 53-man roster and remain there for a minimum of three weeks.

Hey Andy, I've been a Pats fan since before high school [67] Sox also. These are now happy times for me. Born in R.I. and now live in Indiana. Need I say more about how these wins are getting some smiles? My questions are about the loss of Brown, Bruschi, Law & Seymour? What do we have to back them up? Say to make it a three-peat year? Also what year was it the Pats only won two games both against the Colts? Some Hoosier asked me and I didn't have the answer. He said 'Wow what a fan.' Also ask Mr. Kraft about my ring. I deserve one just for being loyal and American and very "patriotic." ThanksJohn Coyle

Where have I been? Troy Brown is back on the team. Tedy Bruschi hasn't yet said what he will do and Richard Seymour is still on the team, although it's not yet known if he'll show up for camp. Law is the only player you mention who is gone and even he said a return to New England is possible. Playing your game, if Bruschi doesn't play, the team signed Chad Brown and Monty Beisel to play his spot. If Seymour doesn't play, it's likely that some combination of Jarvis Green and Rodney Bailey will fill his position. Duane Starks will likely start in Law's place. The Patriots have won only two games in a season three times and never did both wins come against the Colts. In 1990, they won just one game and that did come against the Colts, 16-14 at Indy. In 1992, the Pats won two games with one a 37-34 win at Indy. The Pats also won two games in 1981 and in 1970. None of those four wins came against the Colts. So you were right not to remember it.

What if Tom Brady never got injured in the 2001 AFC Championship game against Pittsburgh and Drew Bledsoe never got a chance to win that game for the Patriots? What if Brady stayed in and ended up losing the game? Bledsoe did make some great throws in that game. Could Brady at that stage in his career make those same throws? I guess one will never know! The point I'm trying to make is, lighten up PFW readers and writers! PFW is a great, open forum where Patriot's fans can voice their opinions and get an honest, to-the-point answer for the most part. Keep up the great work PFW!Steven Morrison

That was in response to the whole Drew Bledsoe/Mo Lewis thing where a reader suggested that Lewis get a Super Bowl ring, which drew the ire of many Patriots fans. Who cares what might have happened if … I have to agree with Steven here. But what's with the "for the most part" dig?

Hey guys, I read on ESPN that Ty Law was on PTI and he stated that there still is a chance for him to return to New England. Has there been contact between the two? Is there any truth to that or what? Thanks

Ty apparently said that he has spoken with Bill Belichick. I would think Ty is using the Pats as a negotiating ploy, but I am not privy to his conversations with Bill Belichick. I will be surprised if he returns to New England, but I have learned to rule nothing out. That said, my opinion is that Ty Law will never be a Patriot again unless he chooses to sign one of those one-day contracts a la Otis Smith to someday retire as a Patriot.

It just occurred to me that the addition of so many decent return specialists not only improves our offensive field position, but also should cut down the number of giant returns against us. It would make sense to me that if you have marginal returners to practice against, you may be shredded by a talented one at game time. I will honor both PFW writers' and Big Bill's opinions regarding Coach Seely, for now, and remain confident that we'll be much stronger against the return game this coming season. Also, I think I admire how Seymour is handling his contract dispute and I believe that's the best way for a team to feel good about working a deal with you. Finally, what's the proper protocol for my Law jersey, if he becomes a Jet. Should I hide it at the bottom of my closet with my Martin jersey or can I use it openly as a dust cover like my Bledsoe jersey? (I hate the Jets... Just End The Season)
John Constantine

I think you should put your Law jersey in the drawer. He was a great Patriot for most of his 10 years with the team. Someday, you may want to have that jersey. If not, throw it in your tailgate fire and grill your burgers over it. I think that the Patriots recognized the weakness they had in the return game last year, particularly punt returns and punt coverage. They set out to address the problem and if the past is any indication, it won't be a problem this year. When the Pats have identified and then addressed problems in the offseason, they typically correct them. Something new may crop up, but I expect the Patriots to be much better on fourth down this year, Adam Vinatieri not withstanding since it's hard for him to be any better than he was last year.

I have a comment and a question. The comment is that I just read that Scott Pioli has signed an extension with the Patriots, and I think that's great. This is the guy who is helping Belichick find guys like Randall Gay who play key roles in championships and make picks like Seymour and Branch. I think he probably deserves the majority of the credit when it comes to finding guys like Hank Poteat in the middle of the season when Belichick needs to be working with the team. He's got to get them ready for the next week's game and they need to find a guy who fits into their system and can come in and step up. I don't think you can put a value on what Pioli does for the organization, and whatever they are paying him is well worth it. My question is about the practice squad. I've heard that there isn't going to be one next year. Is this true? If so, do you think this will hurt the Patriots more than other teams since we've had so much success with guys coming off the practice squad, particularly on the offensive line? Do you know why they decided to get rid of the practice squad if in fact they have?
Aaron Webber

I think the no-practice squad thing is being used in negotiations with the union. I don't think they want to get rid of it, but if either side tries to play hard ball in the new CBA negotiation, a tactic like that could be used by management to say, 'OK, we'll give you this, but we're eliminating these 256 jobs and the accompanying salaries as a result. I'll be surprised if it comes to that, but I've never sat in on any negotiating sessions. I don't think any final determination has been made on that as of yet. I don't think the elimination of the squad will hurt the Patriots MORE than another team. All teams attempt to develop players on the practice squad so it will remain an equal playing field. Saying it hurts the Patriots more assumes they do a better job developing practice squad players. While I think they do a good job, I don't know how well the other teams do it.

I think having Pioli sign a contract extension may be the best news of this offseason. He has been instrumental in the great teams the Patriots have put on the field, these past few years. I thought he was going to be gone after his contract expired. Was this a surprise to you guys? Any comments?Ben Peasley

I was surprised. I'd be curious to see if the contract gives him any outs, but it makes sense to get him signed so that the Patriots aren't dealing with questions about his future all season. All we'd hear in December is how Pioli is headed here or there for a GM job. He would also have faced questions about his draft preparation work since his last contract ran through the 2006 draft. If he were in line to take over as the GM of another club at the completion of his last contract, he would surely be asked about his allegiances as he prepared for the draft.

Players' contracts and endorsement opportunities.... Troy Brown apparently has an endorsement deal with several local banks (TV ads, etc.), which I'm sure makes up for some of his prior contract reductions. Are endorsements a factor in signing players where a large market offers more endorsement opportunity? (I can imagine Ty Law doing ads for "Law-yers" in Boston/ Troy Brown doing ads for UPS/....)
Mark Richardson

Endorsements have nothing to do with a player's contract. In Troy Brown's case where he had a choice to sign with the Saints or Patriots, he determined it was more lucrative to sign in New England where he was known and had some lucrative local endorsements. But those endorsements have nothing to do with the offer the team makes to a player. Those deals are independent of the team.

Will we have trouble stopping the run this year? If you think about it, we lost some main contributors on defense, including the coach. And if we were to have trouble stopping the run, it could end up like the 2002 season. As you and all of the readers know the Patriots give up a lot of yards in the air, with their "bend but don't break" defense. Please give me your thoughts on this. Thanks!! Mis-placed Bostonian.
Sean Lindahl

Boy are you negative. Why would you think this would be anything like 2002? The Patriots are a much better team today than they were at the start of 2002. The only player definitely gone from the front seven is Keith Traylor and I happen to think Vince Wilfork will adequately replace him in the starting lineup at NT. The Patriots defense has been pretty good the past two years, allowing just 238 points in 2003 and 260 last year.

Simple question, does Matt Cassel have what it takes to be the next Tom Brady if opportunity should arise?
Kyle Fehr

Simple answer. How the heck would I know that? I've never seen the kid play in a football game, college or pro. Sorry, just being honest. Brady had a pretty good college career as Michigan's starter. Cassel was a backup at USC. Granted he backed up two Heisman Trophy winners, but that means he didn't play. He has a good arm. That much I've seen in limited action during the team's mini-camps. I think his arm is stronger than what I remember Brady's being like back in 2000 if that means anything, which I suspect it doesn't. Jeff George had a good arm, but where did it get him?

I have been working on comparing the 2005 Patriots roster with that of 2004. Part of my analysis is assigning a value to each position. This has been guesswork and I think that, perhaps, there is a better way. My thought is finding what is the average pay per position in the NFL and using that information to come up with relative values. With this information I could multiply position value and estimated value per specific Patriot player to come up with a numerical team value (hopefully do this for starters and backups). My question is, do you guys have numbers on pay per position? Or, if not, do you have numbers for the top five players per position (used in franchised player analysis). If so, could you publish them? It would be a big help to me. Thanks.Paul Wright

Here are the franchise numbers (average of top 5) and transition numbers (average of top 10) for each position. Cornerback: franchise -- $8.816 million, transition -- $6.938 million. Defensive end: franchise $6.666 million, transition -- $5.615 million. Defensive tackle: franchise -- $5.134 million, transition -- $4.436 million. Linebacker: franchise -- $5.950 million, transition -- $5.120 million. Offensive line: franchise -- $7.424 million, transition -- $6.201 million. Kicker/punter: franchise -- $1.787 million, transition -- $1.599 million. Quarterback: franchise -- $8.078 million, transition -- $6.831 million. Running back: franchise -- $6.323 million, transition -- $5.239 million. Safety: franchise -- $4.968 million, transition -- $3.926 million. Tight end: franchise -- $2.687 million, transition -- $2.095 million. Wide receiver: franchise -- $7.768 million, transition -- $6.414 million.

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