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Ask PFW: Cuts, a suspension and the season opener

It’s a busy time in New England. The Patriots, like all teams, made their final cuts, Rodney Harrison has been suspended for four games and, oh by the way, the most hyped Patriots season in history kicks off this Sunday in New York.

How does the Rodney suspension work? Is he allowed to work out or practice with the team, or is he banned from the facility all together for the next month? Thanks, guys. I love your column.Chris Moller

Harrison is indeed banned from the facility for the next month. In fact, he cannot have contact with any club officials, other than to set up off-site medical treatment he might need at this time. He does not get paid. It also means that Harrison cannot be elected to the Pro Bowl or win any awards for his play this season. He will be allowed to return for the week leading up to the Patriots game against the Browns.
Andy Hart

Rodney Harrison is one of my favorite football players of all time and when I heard he got suspended for 4 games for using steroids I was horrified. Now he says he was using them to help recover from injuries, and I believe him. But I just can't believe, after all the suspensions given out this year already, that he'd be dumb enough to use them, even for his well-intentioned use. I just hope Belichick doesn't cut him from the team. I know that's probably crazy talk right there, but Bill is a no nonsense guy and I wouldn't put it past him to cut him loose. I really hope not. Rodney is the best safety of his generation in my opinion and I would hate for the end of his career to be remembered as nothing but a few knee injuries and a steroid suspension. What do you guys at PFW think about this, and what do you think Belichick will do in response? I know Rodney came clean and admitted it, but will that be enough?Wesley Nickle

I don't think Belichick will cut him from the team. I think we've seen all the penalties that will come down at this point in terms of the 4-game suspension and the permanent black mark that will now forever be linked to Harrison's impressive career. But let's clarify a couple things. We don't know for sure what Harrison took, although it's been reported as Human Growth Hormone. There is no reliable test for HGH and is no urine test for HGH. No one in the NFL has tested positive for HGH because the league only uses urine testing for its players. Players have tested positive for other steroids and performance enhancing drugs. But, in relation to the number of players in the league, very few players actually test positive for steroids or receive suspensions due to league testing. And many times steroids come to public attention as a result of some other legal investigation into doctors, clinics or drug suppliers. That's the case this time with Harrison as the league was notified of his connection with an Internet drug scam investigation through the Albany (New York) district attorney.
Rodney came clean, but only because he got caught. On some level, that is better than if he had lied about it. But it doesn't change what he did. Nor do his reasons for taking the drugs. The bottom line is the drugs are banned substances. He took them. Nice guy or not, that doesn't make him much different than any other player in any sport who's taken illegal performance enhancers over the years. Illegal drugs are illegal drugs. Cheating is cheating.
That said, the issue of drugs and cheating isn't that simple. I am not a Saint. Never will be. Would I cross certain lines if felt I had to? No question. There is a great amount of perceived pressure to compete in all levels of sports. High school kids want to be good enough to start or earn college scholarships. College kids want to get drafted. Pros want to keep their jobs, support their families and make more money. All those things lead to guys looking for an added edge, a quicker return to action or a couple extra seasons on the end of a career. Today's science offers pharmaceutical grade performance enhancers that allow athletes to do all those things and then some. So caving into the pressure is very much understandable, but by rule it is also called cheating.
Andy Hart

Hi there, I have a question for the experts - but I'll settle for you guys. Patriots just cut Reche Caldwell - threw him to the curb - with the rest of the trash. Am I missing something here? Mr. Caldwell just finished a pretty good year with New England - number one receiver on a team that almost made it to the Super Bowl. Now I know he tripped in the last playoff game, but does that cancel the great work that he did all season long? He must have value - based on last season's work. Did the PATS try to trade him - for possibly a secondary player (the Patriots seem to need legions of them every year.) The Patriots kept Jabar Gaffney - a player signed in the last few weeks of last season - off the streets (interrupting his milk run, no doubt). And Mr. Gaffney has played well, last year and this. But, Reche was the featured wide receiver all season long - and performed well. The Patriots have many good receivers this season, so Reche may have been relegated to the back of the bus - but he still did well last season. Why not try to trade him??
Dick Goodwin

According to reports, the Patriots may have tried to trade Caldwell or another one of their abundance of receivers. But that didn't happen. So the team cut Caldwell. The timing was an issue, because as a vested veteran if Caldwell had remained on the roster for the first week his entire $1.55 million salary for this season would have become guaranteed. Evidently with no trade offers coming to fruition they just had to move on.
I don't think it's a great move. I thought Caldwell was OK last season. He was the only reliable option Tom Brady had to turn to throughout the year. He's not overly athletic, doesn't make big plays and may have been a product of the fact that somebody has to catch passes. But I still think he was OK. With so many questions throughout the rest of the new-look corps of receivers I personally thought having one consistent holdover might be a good thing. Obviously Bill Belichick and Co. didn't agree.
Andy Hart

Only 2 draft picks made the team and neither of them starts. In my book that means it was a very poor draft. I know you are going to say we got Moss and he starts and that is true, so count him as 1. But 3 of our ended up on IR, which is an indication there were too many reaches who weren't physically capable. Compare this to the Colts who had 8! draft picks make it with 2 starters.....and they picked last!Gary Thompson

It was a poor draft, -- in terms of the talent New England felt was available. I thought the Patriots made that very evident with the way they traded and picked last April. I think Belichick was very much under whelmed with the guys he saw coming out and knew there wasn't a lot of talent to be had. Guys ending up on IR doesn't really mean anything, either. They're hurt. They will get a year in the system and we'll see if they can contribute anything next year. I also don't think it's necessarily a good thing when all a team's rookies make the roster. That means the veterans weren't that good or the roster is week in terms of depth. Most drafts are judged on the first-round pick and maybe one other player. If Brandon Meriweather starts at some point and can play and Kareem Brown ends up being a contributor then this draft will be fine. If neither guy can play, then it will be a bad draft. But you can't decide that now, it takes a couple years to really get a handle on a draft. Only time will tell.
Andy Hart

I am not into conspiracy theories, but who betrayed Rodney Harrison? Who set off the league investigators on him. He was recovering nicely from two crippling injuries in a row, and that could have triggered some suspicion I suppose. But I would not be surprised, that it would be the Pats best friend Bill Polian who whispered "go check him out" into the league's ears where he presides. Polian has a long history of complaining and rule enforcing on the Pats.Charles R.

I am usually up for a good conspiracy theory, but this one doesn't hold even a single drop of water. Harrison's name came up, along with many other athletes in a variety of sports, in an Albany County (New York) District Attorney's investigation of an Internet drug scam. He got caught the same way it seems most athletes get caught these days, not by their leagues but by independent law enforcement investigations into drug suppliers.
Andy Hart

All of the health concerns of the Patriots lie with Randy Moss, because he hasn't played in game situations with Brady, and the recent suspension of Rodney Harrison. No one is talking about Richard Seymour, who hasn't practiced as far as I know, and who was just recently placed on the PUP, so he'll be out for the first six weeks of the season, at least. Shouldn't we be more concerned? Doesn't the defense get significantly better with Seymour on the field (I know, Harrison too)? Who can we look to to start opposite Ty Warren? What is even wrong with Seymour?Tyler Maritote

Seymour's loss is a concern, but I think the depth of the defensive line will help cover his absence. You will probably see Jarvis Green start at Seymour's right defensive end spot as he's done at times in the past. You will also probably see some reps from Mike Wright. Both guys have experience filling in and should be able to hold their own although they can never really replace the 3-time All Pro. I also expect Warren and Vince Wilfork to continue to develop into defensive line stars in their own right. That should help even more to offset Seymour's six-week absence as he recovers from an offseason procedure on his knee. As I've said in the past, he did some running on the field with the training staff during camp and therefore I don't consider the injury to be all that serious. He's also said that he's getting better but not ready to be dominant. I would expect him to return in October when he's eligible to do so, but to be fair I was also a little surprised that he wasn't healthy enough to open the season. I guess we never really know when we're assessing injuries, especially since we get very little in terms of specific info to go on. It is what it is.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, First I'd like to thank you for spending so much time answering questions each week. I read each article and am consistently impressed with your knowledge of the game and expert analysis of different situations. So just a quick question......why was Vinny Testaverde released? I noticed his name in the list of 21 players the Pats cut to get down to the 53-man roster, and was surprised. I was relieved when Vinny was signed - he adds experience and depth to the backup QBs. Was his preseason performance poor, or did Matt Gutierrez simply beat him out for the third string QB spot? It seems odd that they would sign Vinny late in the preseason only to cut him a few weeks later. Do you think they'll sign Testaverde for the practice squad, or possibly later in the season? Or is it goodbye to Vinny for the season?
Chris Burgdorff

I also found the Testaverde situation odd. Maybe he needed a little preseason game action and practice to be ready in case the team needs to call him in an emergency as it did last fall. In the end I think Gutierrez played well enough that the Patriots wanted to see more from him and were worried that he wouldn't clear waivers to land on the practice squad. That's a "guesstimate" that Belichick had to make. And I'm sure the team will be able to call Vinny in the event that they need him later in the fall. He didn't look all that good in the preseason and I'm not sure he'd be looking to sign anywhere but here. He's got a good working relationship with Belichick, evident by his working out and practicing with the team even though he wasn't under contract this spring, so I wouldn't rule out a return.
Andy Hart

Hi guys, I will try to sneak in 3 questions if you will allow it. I am a little surprised that Justin Rogers was cut - I thought he played decently in the preseason games. Your thoughts? Also - Bam Childress keeps delivering solid performances every pre-season - yet he keeps getting cut - what is it that the coaches see or don't see in him? Last question is on corner backs - even with Samuel back, aren't we a little thin there? Thanks.Nagen
Framingham, Mass.

Rogers did seem to make some plays in the preseason, especially early on. I thought he had a pretty good chance to make the roster but that didn't happen. He did land on his feet in Dallas, though. As for Childress, I think he's a great practice player and does everything a coach could ask for. Unfortunately his measurables – 5-10, 185 – aren't exactly ideal. And with all the depth the team has at the position now he couldn't find a job. I also think that his practice squad eligibility for this season hurt his chances, since the easy solution was cutting him and putting him there. I root for Childress. If he ever ends up on a roster for a consistent time I think he can help a team and will be a great story. He still faces an uphill battle, but it beats working for a living.Andy Hart

Who is going to replace Rodney Harrison at strong safety... Meriweather or Sanders? Thanks keep up the good work guys.Michael Hobbs

My guess is Sanders will start in Harrison's strong safety spot for the first month of the season. In his third year, Sanders has really been making a strong push for more playing time this summer. Belichick has said a lot of good things about his development and improved communication skills. I think he will open some eyes with his play and help fill the void. Meriweather seems to be more of a true free safety type who will contribute in the passing game. He has some versatility to help in sub-packages, but would likely more of a backup to Eugene Wilson's spot in the lineup.
Andy Hart

Hey Ask PFW - longtime Pats fan and reader, and really enjoy the column. I'm a bit boggled as to why the Pats made the Baugher/Hanson swap. It seemed like Baugher was having a great preseason, beat out Miller and Malone, and had the job all wrapped up. Suddenly he loses it to a guy who drove an axe into his foot? I understand the motivation to bring in a veteran, but it doesn't seem to apply as strongly to punter - either you can kick, or you can't. I guess I had grown kinda attached to the Bog-man.
Aaron Piccirilli

What did Danny Baugher do to deserve getting cut for Chris Hanson? Hanson is a terrible punter. He does not get good hang time, isn't very good at angling his kicks, and generally is just not a good punter. I think anyone who watched the Jaguars last year would agree with me. I hope that after Hanson predictably screws up in the final preseason game they bring back Baugher or Josh Miller or even just send Andy Hart out there to punt, he would probably do a better job than Hanson.Aaron Webber

I don't think Baugher could have done much more this summer. He punted well in practice and games. So I really think the Patriots were looking for a veteran option all along. Remember, they tried very hard to retain Todd Sauerbrun this spring. Maybe you've seen Hanson kick more than I have, but he has had a decent career. He seems to come from the mold of Ken Walter in that he has a decent net average, gets a lot of kicks down inside the 20 and doesn't have a lot returned. Maybe that's the model Belichick prefers to the stronger legged, unproven Baugher type. Just a thought. I'm also not sure the team is set at this point at punter. They have continued to try out veterans who are available and if Hanson doesn't get the job done I think the team will continue to try to find the right guys.
I do appreciate the recommendation for me to take the job, though. I have never been much of a kicker/punter. I kicked off for a while in high school and more than a few ended up going about 15 yards while spinning like a top. Not what you're looking for. I don't even want to imagine what my punting would be like. Enough glory days, here's one last thing on Baugher. Not to take a shot at the guy (especially since I'm barely 5-9 myself) but I always thought he was too short to be a pro punter. I've never seen a punter that short. I just assumed it had to do with leg length and the physics of punting. Take that for whatever it's worth and send in any successful NFL punters who were 5-10 or shorter. I challenge Ask PFW readers to find me a short punter.
Andy Hart

Overall stats in Madden games are generated by a combination of only a select few ratings that a player actually carries. Evans is at 92 because his awareness and pass blocking/run blocking are high, which are the stats that correspond to fullbacks. Awareness affects every players overall, whereas each position has it's own 'most important stat' (QB's is throwing power and accuracy). You can see an example of this when you put a tight end at WR in the depth chart. An overall of 98 (antonio gates) at TE drops to 92 when moved to WR. If you want to figure out which stats figure into the overall, you can create a player and see how each stat affects the overall. Now the greater question about madden is: could a team actually ever be moved to Winnipeg, Canada?Richard Arpin

This is in response to a previous Ask PFW referencing Heath Evans' seemingly insane rating of 92 in Madden '08. I'm not sure if everything Richard says is totally accurate, but it's more than I'll ever know about the video game. Just figured I'd pass it along.
Andy Hart


I am not yet worried about Gostkowski's mild preseason struggles, but I am keeping a close eye on his work. He had a tough stretch a year ago when he missed three-straight kicks (including two blocks) against the Jets, Broncos and Bengals and then went on to have a very good year replacing Adam Vinatieri. I think he has a strong leg, evident by his tremendous kickoffs this preseason, and will be OK in the long run. But he missed more than his share of kicks in camp and a few this preseason. As I said, I'm watching to see if that becomes more of an issue when the kicks start to count. With games early in the year against quality playoff-type opponents, a missed field goal could be the difference between a win and a loss.
Andy Hart

In response to Joe Pirraglia who asked if the Pats were "America's Team," I'd like to point out that the third line of the Canadian national anthem goes, "True Patriot love, in all thy sons command." This is no mere coincidence.Mike Epstein
Montreal, Canada

Um, OK.
Andy Hart

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