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Replay: Best of the Week on Radio Thu Jun 13 - 02:00 PM | Tue Jun 18 - 11:55 AM

Ask PFW: Honoring TJ and more 'backer banter

Not surprisingly considering the sudden, unfortunate retirement of Ted Johnson on the eve of training camp the bulk of this week’s emails related to the well-respected linebacker and continued worries for the Patriots at the inside linebacker spot.

I know the likelihood of Ted Johnson ever making it to the NFL Hall of Fame is highly unlikely, but he should be a shoe in for the Patriots Hall of Fame. I hope Ted Johnson knows how much we all appreciate his contributions on and off the football field.Rian Bednarz

I would just like to thank Ted Johnson for being a true Patriot in every sense of the word and for helping create all the great memories over the past few years. He will be missed. Now that both of our starting ILB are out, it seems quite likely that the Patriots will lure Roman Phifer out of retirement, at least to create depth and experience in the Patriots system while Monty Beisel and Chad Brown learn the ropes. What are your thoughts on the ILB situation?Pat Yegian

I don't mean to sound panicky, but what are we going to do? Is there anybody we can sign? With Ted Johnson's retirement, that leaves Monty Beisel, and Chad Brown as our ILB's. Beisel is still raw, and Brown is an injury risk. What do you think of possibly switching to the 4-3? We won the super bowl with it, and I think Willie McGinest with his 275 lb size is big enough to play the pass rushing DE. Brown and Beisel can split time, Jarvis Green/Richard Seymour can man the tackle position with Vince Wilfork, and Ty Warren can be our left end. This would also leave Rosevelt Colvin and Mike Vrabel manning the outside. Do you think it's possible that NE might switch to the 4-3?James C

Great job as always on answering some tough and some times repetitive questions from the greatest fans in the NFL. My question concerns Ted Johnson's retirement. I completely understand why Johnson made this decision. Obviously he was thinking of his family and future after football. And of course since the doctors would not medically clear him play, the writing was on the wall. My concern evolves around his timing which took the entire Patriots staff by surprise. Johnson was aware of his history of concussions and I was wondering why did he wait until the day before training camp opens to be examined when he could have examined much earlier. Do you think he had an idea all along prior to his physical that he would be informed he would not be cleared to play? Was any of the coaching staff aware of this possibility? I am just a bit perplexed how this did take everyone by surprise. I am confident that the Pats will find an able replacement whether it be bringing back Roman Phifer or another veteran but losing Bruschi and now Johnson is a tough blow to the LB corp. Now let's Seymour's contract dispute get resolved as quickly as possible. Thanks.
Wakefield, Mass.

The great strength of the Patriots over the last couple of years is their ability to adapt to whatever situation arises, whether it's from a tough opponent or multiple injuries. The Pats lost Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel in the off-season, and most fans I've talked to think the Pats will be fine. The same thing with the loss of Tedy Bruschi and Ty Law, mainly because the Pats made smart draft choices and free-agent signings. Ted Johnson was a key player in the run defense last year and a leader in the locker room. Do you think the injury prone Monty Beisel and Chad Brown can fill Ted's shoes? Or how about the untested Dan Klecko? I'm cautiously optimistic that the Pats will find ways of adapting without Ted Johnson. What do you think? Enjoy retirement, Ted! Thanks for the memories. You will be missed.Paul Foster

Do you see Ted Johnson sticking around the organization to help the new LBs get acclimated to the defensive schemes?Moses Ip

I hope that Ted Johnson does well in his retirement. I have one question. If a player decides to end his retirement say the week before the beginning of the season or during the season, is the player obligated to go back to the team that he retired from? Could the player go to a different team without the consent of the team that he retired from, if he decides to come out of retirement? I'm asking because I don't know what laws there are in contract agreements with the NFL. Also, Ricky Williams went back to the Dolphins, but could he have gone to another team if he had chosen to do so? ThanksAlexsis Feldman

Holy Mother of Missing Inside Linebackers Batman!!! After enduring the Bruschi uncertainty all year, big Ted pulls chalks on the eve of training camp?! His healthy 2004 season gave us the run-stoppage we've needed for years, but clearly this gives the Pats hard decisions with very little time. What are our options? Tell Danny K he's back in ILB training…recall the ageless Roman…let young Monty know he's a starter…move Vrabel inside? Teddy J's been a stud for his 10 years with the world champs, but do you see any critics putting the Ricky Williams label on him for the last-second retirement? Did ANYBODY see this coming, besides (obviously) Ted Johnson? Soooo many questions...
Tom From Virginia

Like everyone else, the Ted Johnson retirement caught me completely by surprise. That said, I completely understand and support his decision, much the same why I support Tedy Bruschi's decision. Johnson wanted to continue to play football and even admitted that all his offseason work may have been an effort to convince himself that he would be able to still play, but in the end I think he made the right decision and even he regrets the timing of the matter. I certainly don't think he did anything to intentionally hurt the team by waiting until the last minute and it certainly is in no way comparable to what Ricky Williams did in Miami. A person's health and family are the two most important things, and that's what Bruschi and Johnson were thinking about when they made their decisions. I wish both players good luck in the future in whatever endeavors they may undertake.
As for all the questions, let me do my best to cover the entire situation resulting from the linebacker losses in one fell swoop. First I do expect Johnson to remain connected to the organization in some way, whether it be on TV, behind the scenes or simply as a team ambassador, at least in the near future. Once Johnson officially files his retirement papers he cannot return to play in 2005. He could apply to play again in 2006, but would still be under contract with the Patriots. To play for another team he would either have to be released by New England or a trade would have to be worked out.
In terms of how the Patriots will fill the voids, that plan is clearly still in the works. Brown and Beisel are the most likely candidates in the middle, although Beisel has missed the last few days of training camp work for undisclosed reasons. Vrabel has also spent much of camping taking reps on the inside, so there may even be a rotation of players used to carry the load at inside linebacker. I don't think the team will make any wholesale change to go to a base 4-3 as their front of choice. As always, the team will employ a variety of fronts and be multiple in nature, but I think 3-4 will remain the starting point. But make no mistake about it, the Patriots are weaker up the middle defensively now than they were a year ago. In addition to the loss of the pair of 100-tackle linebackers, the team also parted ways with veteran nose tackle Keith Traylor in the spring. There will be a lot of pressure on guys like Wilfork, Brown, Beisel and others (I do think the return of Phifer is a real option) to play at a high level in the middle. And New England's defensive success may hinge on what those guys are able to do. It will be interesting to see the group develop in the preseason and get tested in the early going of the regular season by teams like Oakland, Carolina, Pittsburgh and San Diego.
Andy Hart

With the recent news of losing both championship inside line backers, the common notion is that Chad Brown and Monty Beisel will be forced in to fill the void. Chad Brown I believe is an ideal replacement in this worse case scenario that has unfolded he is versatile like Bruschi and has good football sense, but Monty Beisel is going to be a big liability. My question is do you think there is anyway, although it is late in his career, is there anyway Willie the wonder McGinest could will that void by moving to an inside position?Kyle F.

Considering his age, injury history and lack of experience at the spot, I do not think McGinest is an option to play with any regularity on the inside. He is probably getting close to the end of the road in New England as it is and is probably best used on the outside for whatever time he has left in a Patriots uniform.
Andy Hart

Normally I abhor these kinds of questions, but the recent ILB retirements got me thinking: If we're stacked at D-line, have a/the premium player in the league unhappy there, and are in dire need of an ILB, why don't we shop Seymour for an appropriately talented ILB? There has to be one or more teams out there with better depth there than on the defensive line, right? If you agree with my suggestion, what teams/players might be good fits?Jason Jarvis

In theory that's a good idea, but there are some inherent problems. First you would have to find a suitable trading partner, a team that has serious needs in terms defensive line help (including players coming from a 3-4 system). Then, that trading partner would have to have extra depth at linebacker that it is willing to trade. And considering this late point in terms of preparing for the season, any players dealt at this time would face a difficult time learning complex NFL schemes in a new city. While there are clearly exceptions to the rule, the Patriots thrive with players well-trained in their system over a period of time. Adding talent now would be a challenge to that trend.
Andy Hart

What does it mean that Morton-Dwight-Bethel Johnson and the others are as of 7/29 are on the PUP list ?? What is their playing status? Thanks- and will Vrabel and or Izzo be asked to learn the 3-4 inside linebacker position now that the two Ted's are out this season ?? In other words who will back-up Beisel and Chad Brown inside[if one or the other get hurt] ?? Thanks
Chip Heard
San Antonio, Texas

Chip, haven't you heard? Vrabel is learning in the inside linebacker spot in training camp and Izzo, though a special teams ace by trade, has always been an emergency option at ILB. PUP (physically unable to perform) players can be removed from the list at any time during training camp, as was the case with wide receiver Tim Dwight on Monday. If the players start the season on PUP they must remain on the list for the first six weeks of the season, meaning they can't practice or play with the team. Between weeks six and nine they can begin practicing at any time, they then have a 21-day window to practice at the end of which they must either be activated, released or place on PUP/injured reserve for the rest of the season.
Andy Hart

You had a question from a London, England, based fan about whether the DVD would play in the UK. Nowadays, most DVDs will play anywhere provided you have a recent DVD player. Being from England myself, I had difficulty playing DVDs of my hometown team until I bought a new DVD player with all the latest software. Interestingly enough it was only $65 from Walmart. Hope this helps!Geoff Hewitt

Thanks for the info, Geoff. Hopefully this helps some of the many Patriots fans trying to keep up with their favorite team from various locales around the globe.
Andy Hart

This is in response to all of the comments pouring in right now of how big a hit the Patriots defense took a hit when Tedy Bruschi decided to forgo on the 2005 season. I definitely agree that his loss was hard to take, and I think my favorite play ever was in the 2004 AFC div. game against the Colts when he ripped the ball away from Rhodes, calling it a "Take-a-way" not a "give-a-way". But saying the New England defense will be any less potent without him goes against the entire system NE has built in the Belichick era. That system states that one player is NEVER the one KEY to the team, with the lone exception being a man named Mr. Brady. To think that one person could ever replace Tedy's energy on the field is blasphemy, but to rule out proven vets like Vrabel, Colvin, McGinest, Johnson, Seymour, Wilfork, Wilson, Harrison, Warren, Bailey from making enough contributions to pick up his slack collectively, isn't fair to the rest of this rock solid Defense! p.s. Monte Beisel is the real gem here, lock him in Belichick's system, and watch him shine! (he even reminds me of Tedy) Thank for letting me vent.Mark Scholz

I don't think anyone is ruling out the other players helping to fill the void from Tedy's loss (and now the loss of Johnson as well). But trying to replace more than 200 tackles and a slew of big plays in nothing to take lightly. Does the team have talented options to try and make up for the losses? Of course, that's what Belichick and Scott Pioli do best. Will the transition be seamless? No way. Bruschi was too good, too big a part of this team's success. There is plenty of work to be done and contributions will have to come from a variety of areas but combined with the losses of Johnson, Crennel, Keith Traylor and Ty Law the New England defense has a lot to prove in the preseason and early parts of the regular season schedule.
Andy Hart

Yesterday I was reading an article on about possible training camp holdouts this year, including a possible holdout by Seymour. One justification that they give for players to holdout is that the average length of an NFL career is only 3.2 years. I would agree that NFL players have shorter careers than most other professions, but 3.2 years doesn't sound right to me. Looking at the stats on, the current Patriots roster (of 73 players) has an average tenure of 5.0 years. This is the average tenure of the current players who are at various points in their careers. I would think that the average career length would be higher than 5 years. The current average tenure for the other teams in the AFC East are 4.1 years for the Bills, 4.8 years for the Dolphins and 4.0 years for the Jets. Does the NFL publish statistics on the average career length in the NFL? I'd be curious to see if the 3.2 years is accurate. Do they also keep statistics on the average career length by position? I would think that a WR would have a longer career than a RB. Thanks.
Bob Emberley

Sorry to shoot down all your research but your average isn't taking into account guys who aren't on NFL rosters right now, guys who may have been first or second-year veterans who would bring down the average. They are the ones that didn't even make it for 3.2 years.I don't have the exact numbers in front of me , but I think there is a good chance the numbers you read on are accurate. And I don't have the numbers by position, but I am guessing that some positions would last longer, on average, than others, including your suggestion of WR over running back.
Andy Hart

I'm a Boston native living out here in the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area. I have a question about the winningest team in NFL history. One of my buddies (who is envious of the Patriot's recent success) says "the Raiders are the winningest team in the NFL". Now I'm not even sure that "winningest" is a word and I assume that he means "has won the most games". This statistic would favor teams that have been in the league the longest, so another way to measure this is to look at winning percentage. You could choose to include playoff games or not. It is amazing how many teams are said to be the winningest team in the NFL. Do a Google search on "NFL winningest team" and see how many hits you get" (over 76,000). The Raiders appear to be the only team to make this claim on their website. So finally to my question. Which NFL team has the highest all-time winning percentage of all games played including playoffs? Thanks.Bob Emberley

Big on the stats this week, Bob? Since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970 the Miami Dolphins have the best overall record (including playoffs) with a 360-218-2 mark for a .623 winning percentage. For the record, the Patriots have a record of 282-282-0 for a perfect .500 record.
Andy Hart

You had a question about coverage in the Metro DC Arlington , VA there is a bar called the FoxHole where you can watch all sports New England, especially the Pats, and there is another place in Alexandria, VA. I don't know the name but if you look it up online you can find out information.Deanna Runeman

I was just reading the latest installment of ASK PFW, and I saw the note from Eric Curry from New Hampshire stating that he was moving to the metro DC area. I have been living here in the metro DC area for about four and a half years, and I was hoping you could forward the following information to him. I am originally from Maine, and have been a diehard Patriots fan for my entire life. Anyway, I found a place in Alexandria, Virginia called Murphy's Grand Irish Pub. On Patriots game days the entire second floor of the pub shows only Patriots games on the numerous televisions, and Mr. Curry will find that just about everyone of us Patriots fans is a transplanted New Englander. He would be more than welcome to join us. Also, as we are sort of an unofficial fan club, we do have a website the he might be interested in checking out;****. We also road trip to one or two Patriots away games a year, which he might be interested in as well. We Patriots fans need to stick together, so if he is interested, Murhpy's is the place to catch the Patriots in the metro DC area. Also, please include my email for him if/when you pass along this information. Thanks much for your time and consideration. By the way, great work on the entire body of off-season coverage. I am looking forward to receiving my new yearbook so I can put up the new poster with all three Lombardi trophies in my office.Dave "Duke" Moreau

A large contingent of Patriots fans in Washington gather each week to watch the games at "The Flying Scotsman" on Capital Hill. There are several other Pats bars around town.Grant Bosse

With preseason games just around the corner it's important for every member of Patriots Nation to have a place to watch the games surrounded by friendly faces. Thanks for the suggestions.
Andy Hart

We can all appreciate everything Bruschi has done for our team in his career. Without a doubt, he is one of the most beloved Pats players of all time. So why not actually show our appreciation at an upcoming game? All the fans who attend can wear their #54 jersey to show their support and appreciation for the guy who has been the heart and soul of this team. Maybe Monday night, November 7th against the Colts on national TV? That would be a fitting matchup. Spread the word!!
Rabid PatsFan

I did my job passing on your suggestion. We'll have to see if your idea takes off.
Busy SportsWriter

I've read the breakdowns about the D-line and the Linebacking units and there was little news on Dan Klecko. I know he was drafted as a D-lineman, and then worked with the Linebackers last year, and also as a fullback in short yardage situations, but he wasn't mentioned much in the articles. With him being injured last year and missing out on valuable learning time with the different schemes, I was just wondering if you think he will be around this year and if he is, where do you think he will be spending most of his time?Matt Breen

The team has moved on from the experiment with Klecko at linebacker. He has taken nearly all his reps this summer as the backup to Wilfork at nose tackle. He chances of locking down a roster spot and role on the defensive line may have improved of late with the team letting go of third-year nose tackle Ethan Kelley. But if Klecko does stick, he will also likely continue to have to contribute on both special teams and possibly as a short-yardage fullback.
Andy Hart

How many games this year do you think the Patriots will win? Their division? And who do you think they will beat in this years Super Bowl? ThanksRichard Wolford

It's early and I am just throwing this out there, but I say the team goes 11-5 and wins the AFC East. But the run of Super Bowls does end in January with the team finally falling to one of the teams it has owned in recent postseasons, probably the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Andy Hart

Are fans allowed to bring digital cameras to the Patriots training camp sessions?Nathan Graf

Digital cameras are allowed, but video cameras of any kind are not permitted. For a list of all the other rules and more information about training camp go to
Andy Hart

Dear PFW, I was able to see Ray Ventrone in high school and in college, and the kid looked like a great ball player. He was fast, smart, and played with reckless abandon. How is he doing at camp?
Matt Barbera

Ventrone is still playing with reckless abandon on the practice fields at Gillette Stadium. He faces an uphill battle at a crowded safety spot in New England, but with the effort he's shown in camp a practice squad spot with the team might not be out of the question depending how he performs in the preseason games.
Andy Hart

Could you shed some light on the release of Ethan Kelly? I know better than to question Belichick's decision making, but with Kelley and Traylor being released this offseason, who do you expect to spell Wilfork? Do you think Bailey has a chance at the nose, or are they just that impressed with Klecko at that position so for?Jay Corbeille

Based on published reports it looks like Kelley was a causality of failing the conditioning run. That's a no-no for any Belichick team. For now, the team has Wilfork and Klecko at nose tackle with Warren also take a few reps at the spot. Call this a hunch, but I wouldn't be shocked if releasing Kelley was as much a message as anything else. I think there is a chance he could be back at some point, if he can get in shape. Or, I may be way off base and he's gone for good. I have been wrong plenty of times in this space in the past.
Andy Hart

Now that the PATS no longer spend their summers at BRYANT, I was wondering where the players are housed while practicing in FOXBOROUGH. Thank you in advance for your help.

The players sleep at a local hotel, the name of which is quite clearly kept under wraps.
Andy Hart

Hello. This is the first time I have written in but I have enjoyed both the column and radio show for years. I went to the first practice on Friday morning and during the 7 on 7's I was impressed with PK Sam. I also watched David Terrell and I thought he looked like he was slow out of his breaks and could not get free of his defender. My question: Do you agree with my assessment? Did he improve with the additional camps? Do you think that Terrell will be on the 53-man roster in Sept?Charles Myers

I think that if he is healthy Terrell is a total lock for the final 53-man roster. I have to disagree with your assessment. While he may not be as quick and shifty as a guy like Deion Branch, he has looked good in camp and has hauled in just about everything thrown his way. Beyond that, Belichick has had a lot of good things to say about him. With the quarterback on his side and having seemingly already impressed the head coach through hard work and attitude, I think things are really looking up in the early stages of Terrell's career in New England. The pressures of being the eighth overall pick are gone, with the Patriots he just has to be a solid contributing player and I think he has already shown the ability to do that.
Andy Hart

I read with great interest Michael Felger's position-by-position rundown on the 2005 Patriots in the Boston Herald. However, conspicuously absent was the name of Kyle Eckel, the 5-11, 245-pound fullback from the US Naval Academy, who I feel could be this year's sleeper. I thought that he was a major contributor to Navy's successful season last year and is a true fullback who runs between the tackles. I also recall that he was a better-than-average receiver in Navy's short passing game. While Michael Felger mentioned the virtues of Kevin Faulk and Patrick Pass and the great potential of Cedric Cobbs, Eckel might be the back that comes the closest to replicating or replacing Corey Dillon's skills when he needs a breather. Have you had an opportunity to watch him in practice? Is he getting any reps with the other aforementioned backs? What are his major drawbacks and making the roster? One obvious one that I know is that he IS a rookie. One that I don't know is his military obligation. Has he been relieved of his service commitment or is he on leave only long enough to attend training camp? Thank you for your time and cooperation. I would appreciate any comments or information you might have on this player who could be this year's "sleeper."Les Taylor

I too entered camp with some interest in Eckel. So far, I have been a bit disappointed. The former Navy star has taken most of his reps at fullback, although he has seen a little action at tailback. If he makes the team it will likely be as a fullback/special teamer along the lines of Patrick Pass. In watching Eckel he has struggled catching the ball out of the backfield and in a number of blitz pickup/pass protection drills. Known more as a runner than a blocker at Navy, including back-to-back seasons, Eckel needs to work on his blocking to have a shot at the pro level. At this point I would say he is a long shot to make the roster. As far as his military obligations, he is still committed to the Navy for some service time but he said in mini-camp that if he did make an NFL roster he would likely be able to play this season and defer his commitments. Right now I would say he should be a lot more worried about his performance on the practice field than any restrictions from the Navy that might limit the start of a professional football career. But I'll be honest, as someone with an affinity for all fullbacks in general and a respect for the military, I am pulling for him.
Andy Hart

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