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Ask PFW: Injuries abound

Week Four's installment of Ask PFW includes a wide variety of questions, starting with the Patriots building injury problems.

Since injuries are abound this season in New England, I was wondering what your thoughts are on Belichick's approach to the media (and fans) regarding injury questions. Why is he so cryptic in his responses? At times this is very frustrating to the fans who are eager to know how their favorite player(s) are doing.
Miami, Fla.

I feel your pain, Bryan. Pretty much everyone covering the team shares your frustrations in this department. But regardless of our views, Belichick does have specific reasons for offering as little information regarding injuries as possible. It's quite simple: He believes any information given could provide the opponent with a competitive advantage. For example, if Washington knows Tom Brady's elbow is sore, they could intentionally try to hit the elbow. By downplaying such problems, he puts the onus on the opponent in trying to gather any helpful information.
Paul Perillo

It seems like all you hear about is how the Pats can't run the ball. It seems to me like a more accurate statement would be the Pats don't run the ball. Kevin Faulk is averaging nearly 5 yards per carry in the first 3 games but he hasn't even touched the ball 40 times. Am I the only one that thinks this is whacked? In the game against the Jets they had a lead halfway through the 4th quarter and rather than run the ball and eat up the clock they throw incomplete passes which accomplishes nothing. Am I just ignorant to something?
Jay Patterson
Lynn, Mass.

While the Patriots will never be confused with the Dolphins when it comes to running the ball, they should try to keep it on the ground more often. The Jets game was a pleasant surprise because it appeared there was change in the approach. Rather than throw countless passes within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, the Patriots decided to run the ball and did so effectively. I agree with your fourth quarter criticisms as well. Good teams take time off the clock when they're protecting a lead and the Patriots failed to do that in each of their wins, instead relying on the defense to finish the games.
Paul Perillo

When was the last time a Patriots linebacker was voted to the Pro Bowl? I know McGinest went a few years ago but as a d-linemen.
Mike Cziria
Davenport, Fla.

It's been a while, Mike. You remembered correctly in saying that McGinest went (in 1996) as a defensive end. Before that, you have to go all the way back to 1989 when Johnny Rembert made the second of his two trips to Hawaii. In 1988, Andre Tippett made the last of his five trips.
Paul Perillo

Should we expect Colvin back if the Pats make it to the playoffs?
Peter Simoulidis
Norwalk, Conn.

I like your positive thinking, but no. Colvin was placed on injured reserve, meaning he cannot return anytime this year – regular season or postseason – even if his fractured hip healed in time.
Paul Perillo

I'm getting really worried with all the injuries that our defense is suffering. I don't see how we can turn this around. Yes I know we have very good rookies ... but they are rookies and they are still learning. What's your take on this matter?
Ben Christopher
Holyoke, Mass.

Ben, you should hook up with Peter and let him give you a pep talk. He's wondering if guys can come back for the playoffs while it looks like you're preparing for the 2004 draft. But honestly, I can't really blame you. Having one or two key guys out, like the Patriots did in Philadelphia, is one thing. But having this amount of starters on the mend will be awfully difficult to overcome. The defense is especially banged up and I unfortunately believe that will eventually lead to the team's demise at some point.
Paul Perillo

What years did Darryl Stingley play? And how and when did he get hurt?
Sarasota, Fla.

Stingley was an excellent wide receiver for the Patriots from 1973-77. During a preseason game against Oakland in 1978, Raiders safety Jack Tatum drilled him on a high pass over the middle, and Stingley wound up paralyzed and obviously never played again. He finished his career with 110 receptions for 1,883 yards and 14 touchdowns in just five seasons.
Paul Perillo

When do the new escalators go in at Gillette Stadium?
Brian Sutton
Westfield, Mass.

The Patriots currently have no plans to add escalators at Gillette Stadium. They do offer accommodations for handicapped fans needing assistance in getting to their seats, but otherwise the ramps are the only way to access the upper levels.
Paul Perillo

Does Andy Hart really think he is funny? He is a smart aleck with an immature sense of humor that smells of arrogance. BTW, I like your show on Channel 56 – even when Andy is on.
Len Stewart
Fall River, Mass.

Yes, Andy does think he is funny. Yes, he is a smart aleck. And yes, he does have an immature sense of humor that smells of arrogance. But hey, no one's perfect. Anyway, thanks for watching the show and for not holding Andy's antics against the rest of us.
Paul Perillo

OK, no jokes about "left coast loonies" because I'm a New England transplant. Now, given that, here's my admittedly oddball question – How open are NFL team medical staffs to alternative healing methods? If a player with a broken bone – say Rosie Colvin with his fractured hip – could speed up the heeling and actually come back with more integrity in the injured bone, would they be willing to include a safe medicinal plant formula? If someone on the team staff was willing to look at it, seriously, there are some incredible results. I have been a wilderness guide for over 10 years. Boneset is a native plant that indigenous people have used for centuries to speed the mending of bone tissue. There are other plants that can aid this process. OK, I'll be very impressed if I get a serious answer to that one. I've been a football fan my whole life and have seen certain players have success with acupuncture and other alternative healing aids but there still is a vastly untapped resource that's cheap and easy and effective.
Mark Foster
Montara, Calif.

First, I admit that I'm really fighting the urge to take a few shots here. I would strongly doubt that any NFL team considers using medicinal plant formula to heal broken bones … although I personally would have to try one called "boneset" at least once. Anyway, I'm sorry I can't offer you much help on this one. Growing up in the Boston area around some of the most renowned hospitals in the world, I've never heard of one opting for such measures.
Paul Perillo

Where is Andy Katzenmoyer now – is he still involved in football?
Tampa, Fla.

The Patriots released Katzenmoyer in June of 2002 and he's been out of football ever since. As far as I know, he has not returned to the NFL in any capacity.
Paul Perillo

Please provide an address to make a donation to the Ron Burton Fund
Dracut, Mass.

You can send donations to:
Ron Burton Training Village
P.O. Box 2
Hubbardston, MA 01452
Paul Perillo

Who went to the Super Bowl in 1988?
Wrentham, Mass.

In 1988, San Francisco defeated Cincinnati, 20-16, in Super Bowl XXIII.
Paul Perillo

With all the injuries to the defense (Colvin, Washington), is there a chance that the team could go back to a 4-3. Also, with Compton injured will Damien Woody play guard while Koppen plays center?
Matt DeSisto
Barrington, R.I.

I think there's an excellent chance of the happening at this point. With Vrabel, Colvin and Johnson out, plus Washington at nose, it would seem the 4-3 makes more sense. Plus Belichick said from the beginning the system allows for the team to switch back and forth. As for the offensive line, that exactly what took place against the Jets as Woody played right guard while Joe Andruzzi switched to left guard.
Paul Perillo

When are the Pats going to start Kevin Faulk as the No. 1 running back and try to give him the ball 30 times a game?
Fort Myers, Fla.

Never. Faulk is a nice back and is definitely taking over as the No. 1 back. But at 200 pounds he's simply not big enough to carry the ball 30 times a game. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-20 plus a few catches is plenty.
Paul Perillo

Where is Damon Huard on the depth chart?
Cam Wilcox
Boston, Mass.

Huard is No. 2 behind Tom Brady on the depth chart. Rohan Davey has been listed as the emergency quarterback in the first three games.
Paul Perillo

In the snow bowl, how much time was left on the clock when the Patriots tied it at 13 all? How much time had elapsed on the clock when the Patriots set up for the game-winning field goal?
Bedford, Mass.

There was 27 seconds left when Adam Vinatieri tied the Raiders game with a 45-yard field goal through the snow and his game-winner came with 6:31 left in overtime. BTW, great name Thor!
Paul Perillo

I haven't noticed Dan Klecko on the field yet in either of the first two games. Is he injured, or just waiting his turn. There seemed to be "filler" time opportunities in both contests.
John Mann
Acton, Ontario

You didn't see Klecko in the first two games because he was inactive for both and didn't make the trips. Because of the abundance of injuries on defense, he did dress for last week's game against the Jets and was pressed into service when the Patriots suffered some more during the game. I'd expect him to continue in a backup role as long as the Patriots are without all of the injured players.
Paul Perillo

I sent a comment/question a couple of months ago, but you never posted it, despite the fact that it was more intelligent than many of the comments/questions you post. Additionally, you posted two of Phil Cressey's comments (September 9 and September 16). Do you post only the comments/questions of subscribers of Patriots Football Weekly? I'd appreciate it if you'd post my original comment/question (from some time in July or August). I honestly believe that it's instructive and would educate many Patriots fans. However, posting it shortly before the 2004 draft may be more appropriate and enlightening.
Joe Theban
Tulsa, Okla.

Joe we get literally hundreds of questions every week that we unfortunately can't answer. We simply don't have enough time to get to respond to each and every one. I can assure you that no consideration is given to whether or not a question comes from a subscriber or not. In this case, we have tens or thousands of subscribers and couldn't possibly know each of their names personally without consulting our database. So there is no conspiracy at work here against you.
Paul Perillo

Do you think the 2 Number 1 picks will be used for the best running back in the country? How about Chris Perry? He looks real good. Who do you think would be a good choice?
Denville, N.J.

With Maurice Clarett's problems, Perry would seem to be among the favorites to be the top back taken. I haven't seen many college games so far this season, but Perry looked great against Notre Dame. I agree with you, though, that the time has come to target a top-flight back in the draft.
Paul Perillo

The Patriots re-signed Je'Rod Cherry in the offseason. He then made the Pats roster. Then when Lawyer Milloy was released two weeks ago I thought he would become the replacement. Cherry has been my favorite football player for a number of years and I would like to know why he isn't starting.
George Bissell
Chepachet, R.I.

Cherry is mainly a special teams player – and a great one at that. He hasn't seen time at safety in the regular defense since he's been here and I don't expect that to change in the near future. Plus, he's missed each of the last two games with a leg injury.
Paul Perillo

The following question was asked several weeks ago: "What happens if a team is over the salary cap at the beginning of the season? The answer: "Impossible. The team would be forced to cut players or do whatever is necessary to get in compliance immediately," does not really answer the question. What forces the team to comply? A fine? Forfeiture of game(s)? There must be some specific penalty to enforce the salary cap.
Bellingham, Mass.

I think that answer explains the situation perfectly, Pat. You simple cannot be over the cap. The NFL would not allow a team to sign a player that would put it over the cap … it's against the league rules. So getting into specifics of forfeits or fines is irrelevant. It CANNOT happen.
Paul Perillo

I was surprised to see that most NFL teams are (on average) between $1M and $4M below the salary cap for 2003. (The Pats are about $4M below.) Since I know most teams are doing their best to win now, and that there's plenty of profit for each NFL owner, I'm surprised that most teams aren't maximizing their payroll and coming in just under the limit. Do you understand why this isn't happening? Is it because teams have to save a few million in cap room for midseason signings or for performance based bonus payments that are likely to occur?
Mike Theriault
Wilton, Conn.

You hit it on the head, Mike. Every team obviously does its best to win but you have to be careful when dealing the cap. Look at the Patriots current situation and imagine if they had no cap room. They'd be forced to finish the season with less than the allotted amount of players because they wouldn't be able to afford adding a replacement or two (or 10 in the Patriots case). The bonuses are less restricting because they come in two forms: likely to be earned and unlikely to be earned. The former automatically is added to that year's cap (and subtracted if not reached) while the latter is added to the following year's cap, if reached.
Paul Perillo

I have two questions. The first is about the return of Troy Brown to returning punts. Why did Troy not return last year? Secondly, I have heard a lot of grumbling about BB's choice of using both Faulk and Smith. Do you think that BB is trying to emulate the 2000 Giants were they used Dayne and Barber as a kind of Thunder and Lightning approach?
Marc Roy
Pennsville, N.J.

There really wasn't any decision to remove Troy from returning punts last year. He stopped handling those duties after he was injured early in the season against Kansas City. With his knee not at 100 percent, Belichick decided to limit his role to strictly offense for most of the season. As for his approach with Faulk and Smith, I think he's doing what he can and not trying to emulate anybody. As Bill would say, I'm sure if he had Jim Brown he'd hand it to him 40 times a game. But he doesn't, and this is probably his best option.
Paul Perillo

I was wondering if you think Tom Brady is still one of the best QBs in the league?
Joseph Arvesen
Springfield, Mass.

It depends on how many would be included in "one of the best." For me, that means one of the top five and I would not place Brady in that category. But he certainly would be in the top half of the league, probably in the top 10. I think Brady does a terrific job making good decisions and generally throwing the ball pretty accurately. I just think there are some others who do more to help their team win than simply avoiding mistakes. Brady hasn't consistently displayed the ability to get the ball downfield and he has little to no mobility. In my opinion he's a good, but not great, quarterback.
Paul Perillo

Considering the Pats have a terrible running game, I think Tom Brady has done a remarkable job at quarterback. Everyone says you have to be able to run the ball to keep defenses honest and to control the clock. Brady doesn't have that option available. That, to me, makes his play remarkable. My question is: Do you agree with me or do you have severe brain damage (or both)?
Richard D'Andrea
Las Vegas, Nev.

Judging from my previous response, I guess you can say I have brain damage. I think Brady does a nice job but nothing out of the ordinary. I'm sure this will illicit many responses but it's how I feel. Brady was the recipient of a tremendous running attack in 2001 yet most Patriots fans credited him with the Super Bowl title. Last year, they didn't run much and finished 9-7, a very pedestrian record. And now we're supposed to continue to hail the quarterback. Funny it didn't seem to work that way with the previous starter. Brady led the league in touchdown passes and many teams would like to replace their starters with him. But let's not get carried away by talking about his remarkable play.
Paul Perillo

It's hard not to be envious of Denver's consistent success in the running game. They seem to pluck random backs out of the draft and make them stars. Of course, if the back leaves the Denver system, he is revealed as a stiff (Olandis Gary anyone?). So why can't the Patriots copy the Denver blocking system? What in the name of Alex Gibbs could be so complex about it?
Oleg Sheyner
Marlborough, Mass.

I agree and disagree. First, you're right, Alex Gibbs' system is likely the variable that makes the Broncos running game so potent. He employs smaller, quicker, more athletic linemen who have the ability to move in space and make blocks. Those qualities are hide to find, and possibly, harder to teach. But I also think you dismiss the Broncos runners. Terrell Davis was terrific before his injuries and would have been for anyone. Olandis Gary, while not in Davis' league, was still very good. He also was derailed by an injury and hasn't been the same. I would have liked to judge him away from Denver while still healthy. Torn knee ligaments are very tough for running backs to overcome. And Clinton Portis, their current star, is right there with any of the game's current backs.
Paul Perillo

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