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Ask PFW: It's go time

It's regular season time and Pats fans are ready. This week's mailbag takes a look at the final roster and anticipates the Raiders invasion set to hit Foxborough Thursday night, plus the normal random questions we get each week.

I have been listening to you guys on the radio broadcast taking about which receiver you think will not make the team. The thing I wonder is how much pull will Brady have? His history with Terell is well known and do you think he might have a bit of input or go to bat for David over PK? I think the relationship with the QB might matter a little and I wonder if you think Brady will swing the pick one way or another. Also, do you think there is a chance that both of them make the team and maybe Starks starts the year on the PUP list, giving his injury history, you think they might let him get fully healthy before putting him on the field?
Eli Patterson

Obviously the cuts have already been made, but since you suggested a move with Starks that actually wasn't a possibility I wanted to clarify it. Starks was not eligible for PUP because he opened camp fully healthy. For a player to start the season on PUP, he must also start camp on PUP and not participate in any practices or games during the preseason. Starks was on the field for the first two weeks and the opener in Cincinnati, thus he was not eligible for that list.
Paul Perillo

First off I have to say I think Mark Small (the one who criticized Belichick and Pioli) was obviously not a Patriots fan. I think he was a Steelers fan, but oh well (cough two loses to Patriots in championship cough). For a player to be on the practice squad wouldn't he have to go through the whole league if a team wants him in the order of last year's record? I'm especially thinking of Kyle Eckel because if they cut him a team would pick him up in a heartbeat before Pats could put him on practice squad. Am I right?
Sal Reza

Turns out you were right, Sal. Miami signed Eckel and he's now trying to stick with the Dolphins.
Paul Perillo

Did I hear that Bruschi is going to play this year?Linda Cutler

No you did not, Linda. Tedy recently said he would like to return in 2006 but reiterated the fact that he won't play this season.
Paul Perillo

I saw a report Thursday morning that said that Bethel Johnson was at practice Wednesday. This was very surprising as I thought for sure he would start the season on the PUP list in effect giving BB a mid-season replacement should any of his top 6 get injured. That being said, what is the purpose of taking Bethel off the Active PUP list now as I expect he hasn't had enough time at practice to play in the Giants game and ... does that move negate any opportunity to place him on/keep him on the INACTIVE PUP list?
Otis Hill

The reason Belichick took Johnson of the PUP list was because he was healthy. If he stayed there and opened the season that way, he would have been ineligible for the first 6 games of the regular season. If he's healthy now, why waste six weeks? And since he played in the Giants game, there's no reason to believe he wasn't healthy enough to be activated. Incidentally, the fact he was activated did negate any opportunity for Johnson to open the season on PUP.
Paul Perillo

I've been a fan of New England teams all my life, usually to my detriment. Yet, recently, given 3 Super Bowls and a World Series, it would seem "we" have a lot to brag about. But, as a rule, we don't! I value the opinion of PFW, and would appreciate your thoughts on the way New England fans approach every season with guarded optimism, and wonder if you've ever noticed the difference between 'us' and 'them'?
Michael Clark

I definitely do not see the guarded optimism you're talking about, especially with regard to Patriots fans. Most not only believe the Patriots will win the Super Bowl again (and rightly so), but most laugh at predictions of any other team possibly beating New England. Now the Red Sox are a slightly different story given their propensity to fail at the end. Because of that, I think many of their fans are a bit more cautious because they fear getting let down. But after last season I've noticed a change there as well. Now, many Boston fans think because they've won in the past it means they'll win again.
Paul Perillo

I would like to make the following suggestion to not only the Patriots but all NFL teams who play the NO Saints this season. I suggest that at all teams who play against the NO Saints that a process be set up to allow the fans to donate funds ($) to the residents of the New Orleans to help them get through the recent catastrophe. I assume the Patriots have a system in place that would allow for this but I would like to see all teams move forward on this.
Steve Sabounjian

Excellent suggestion, Steve, and as I'm sure you're aware, the Patriots and many other teams are already moving to get this stuff done. Check out for info. regarding one of the team's many fundraising efforts with Hurricane Katrina.
Paul Perillo

Is the Patriots DL one of the best in the NFL, including backups not just starters?George Porter

Richard Seymour is obviously one of the best defensive linemen in football. He works very well in the Patriots system with Ty Warren on the other end. Vince Wilfork is largely unproven, although very talented, inside at nose tackle. Beyond those starters, Jarvis Green is the only other defensive lineman with much playing experience. The rest – Marquise Hill, Dan Klecko and Mike Wright have either very little or no experience. Based on their starters, I'd say the Patriots group is among the best. Carolina's is also very strong with Julius Peppers and Kris Jenkins, as is Jacksonville's with John Henderson and Marcus Stroud. And there are others to be sure. But I think the Patriots group is very strong and versatile and should be considered among the best.
Paul Perillo

With all the losses the Patriots have suffered over the off-season (i.e. Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law, etc.) what facet of the game do you think our biggest weakness will be? Personally, I think it will at first be the run game, but later in the season the passing game will get to us. Your thoughts?
Katherine Nelson

While I believe the Patriots will be able to overcome all the losses they've suffered this offseason, the toughest one will be the coaching changes. Losing both coordinators is tough to deal with and both Charlie and Romeo were experienced and very good at what they did. That's obvious since they are now head coaches. Adjusting to life without them will be the most difficult challenge the team faces, although, as I said, I don't foresee any major problems right now. In my opinion, this is the best Patriots team, at least on paper, yet.
Paul Perillo

Based on your comments below, it's obvious that you will degrade the image of a Patriot team member in writing. Do you actually feel better about yourself when doing this? It makes PP look even more immature for wanting to talk about how Bethel answered a question. If you don't agree with what Bethel said, then don't say anything about it. Don't try to make him look bad by spreading around what you found out that he said. I often like to read what you write, but sometimes it seems as though you disrespect the players, when you're supposed to represent the Patriots and project a positive image. P.P.: Tom Brady – (just wanted to see if you were paying attention). Actually, Bethel Johnson – He just came back from an injury but judging from his comments following the Giants game, it seems the talented youngster still "doesn't get it." While P.K. Sam and David Terrell answered questions regarding their tenuous roster positions with class and respect, Johnson became belligerent and defensive, which points to an overall lack of maturity that many believe has prevented him from reaching his potential. He can be replaced
Jane Duncan

Maybe it's just me but I have mixed feelings about Saturday's cuts. What is your opinion on keeping Bethel Johnson, a player who never has gotten the Patriot system? Or releasing players like Terrell, who had a great attitude, or Sam who was a younger, faster version of Terrell?Shaun Kelly

First of all, I am not "supposed to represent the Patriots and project a positive image." That's not my job. My job is to write, report and comment on the Patriots in a professional manner. It doesn't "make me feel better about myself" (or worse) when I conduct an interview. Obviously when a team wins three Super Bowls in four years most of what I've written, reported and said over that time has been in a very positive manner, and it should be. I did not degrade Bethel in any way – he did that to himself and obviously Coach Belichick has felt the same way about him in the past because he decided to bench him twice for not getting with the team concept. My comments about him being a possible surprise cut had nothing to do with any personal opinions toward the player. Listening to him laugh off questions about not being a team player made me believe he has yet to understand the lessons Belichick was trying to teach him over the last two years. Now, evidently Belichick hasn't given up on him and decided to keep him. But coaches don't sit down healthy players who can help them win just on a whim. There were reasons why Belichick was unhappy with Bethel in the past. It remains to be seen if any of those reasons manifest themselves once again in the future.
Paul Perillo

First commandment of Patriots Nation: Thou shalt never question Bill Belichick in all matters football-related. This having been ordained from above, I would merely observe that every year the Patriots diminutive receiving corps gets dinged, nicked or otherwise PUP'd by midway through the season. If Bill & the staff truly believed they'd keep Bethel through cuts, wouldn't they have been well served to keep an affordable PK Sam with nice potential and leave Bethel on PUP. This would leave Bethel in line to be activated around midseason when one of their core receivers inevitably goes down (hated his interview re: cut-down day). Really thought that PK was "getting it" while befriending Branch this spring. Congrats to Mike Wright- never saw it coming (I'm guessing neither did Rodney B.) Where the heck does this leave Klecko in the future? Finally, would like to throw a HUGE thank-you to the entire Patriots players, staff & organization. Their UNSELFISHNESS, to a man, is unheard of in sports. As corny as it sounds, I appreciate your individual sacrifices (financial, media attention, fame/glory and otherwise). Good luck this year fellas (including Charlie, Romeo, Joe A., Ro, Patten, Ty)!Stuck in St. Louis Miserable

Not a big fan of the Genuis Mike Martz, eh! Well, as long as you're stuck in St. Louis, we can give you a Pats fix anyway. I think your idea about the receiving corps is interesting. The group always seems to suffer through injury problems and having one on PUP ready to help out after six weeks isn't the worst idea I've heard. But the bottom line is if Bethel Johnson is healthy and ready to contribute now, then there's no reason to keep him on PUP and lose his services for six weeks. That's obviously what Belichick felt when he activated him. I, too, was intrigued by P.K. Sam but the kid couldn't seem to stay healthy and never really showed what he could do.
Paul Perillo

Hi, the one thing really missing from the stadium is a display of the retired numbers. I know they have the huge pictures of past greats on the side of the stair columns but it's not possible to represent all the players. A perfect spot would be in the east end zone up where the end zone cameras are positioned. There is a large area of plain gray wall (shockingly no ads) that they could put back lit blue numbers up. Maybe for the old school guys like Hannah they could use red instead. Not a crisis, but just a thought, thanks for your time.
Ward Bower

Thanks for the suggestions, Ward. While there are no definitive plans regarding this, I can tell you that much of what you've said has been talked about so can your eyes open. My guess is there will be some additions in terms of honoring some past Patriots in the near future. And tell The Beav I said hi.
Paul Perillo

My question is when was the first game the Patriots ever played?
Torrie Bartley

The Patriots first-ever game was played Sept. 9, 1960. The Boston Patriots hosted the Denver Broncos at BU Field and lost, 13-10. Their first game as the New England Patriots took place Sept. 19, 1971, at Schafer Stadium in Foxborough. The Patriots defeated the Oakland Raiders, 20-6.
Paul Perillo

Gentlemen, are you surprised at the final roster cuts? I am a bit, about keeping: small Klecko over Bailey T. Brown over P.K. Sam, small/old for young/big? Davis over Terrell, at least the last guy had the size. Keeping four old CB's and letting go of a promising OLB Alexander when this position is aging and losing Mike Vrabel to ILB. Please comment on these. My comment, although deep and RX and CB positions, Pats only have 2 out of 6 quality players in each group.

I was surprised that Klecko survived, although not shocked. Klecko has a lot more versatility with his ability to play anywhere up front, plus linebacker and even fullback. Rodney Bailey seemed to be more of a one-dimensional player so maybe none of us should have been so surprised. Keeping Troy Brown over Sam was a no-brainer to me. Brown is extremely dependable and Sam hasn't proven to be during his two years in New England. Alexander's days as a Patriot aren't over. He's back on the practice squad and I wouldn't b surprised to see him back on the roster at some point.
Paul Perillo

I was wondering why the Patriots didn't sign David Terrell to the practice squad. I thought he was good enough, or at least have him on the actual team and have P.K. Sam on the practice squad.Michael Hobbs

Terrell is in his fifth NFL season and therefore is not eligible for the practice squad. Players with at least one accrued season are ineligible for the practice squad.
Paul Perillo

A Pats fan from the unlikeliest of places (India - as I was in Boston the last 2 season during playoffs season & got hooked to NFL). I was wondering about the opening night record of SB champions? Who was the last SB champion to have lost opening night; and did they make it to playoff (Never for a moment I doubt Pats victory over raiders, my curiosity took better off me!)
Kalyan Chatrathi

The last time a defending Super Bowl champ lost its opener the following year was 1999 when Denver lost at home to Miami, 38-21. The Broncos, playing their first season without John Elway after winning back-to-back titles, finished 1999 at 6-10 and failed to make the playoffs.
Paul Perillo

Is Deion Branch going to being in the starting lineup after not playing at all in the preseason, and how do you think he will perform against the Raiders?
Mark Lembke

According to Branch, he will be out there Thursday night ready to go. He had an excellent preseason during the camp practices and looks to be ready to emerge as Tom Brady's true No. 1 target.
Paul Perillo

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