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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Thu May 16 - 02:00 PM | Tue May 21 - 11:55 AM

Ask PFW: Kicking off the season

Just as the Patriots will kick off 2004 on Thursday night, Ask PFW hits its stride in answering questions from all of Patriots Nation..

We often hear about linemen using "stunts" and "pulls". Can you explain what these are and how they work?
Jean Bissonnett
Guilford, Conn.

There is nothing like a little trench talk to kick off another mailbag as we enter the season. Stunts are some of the different games that take place with the defensive linemen in which they try to penetrate the offensive line by shooting gaps. The stunts can involve one player, but many times they revolve around a pair of players working in conjunction to confuse the offensive linemen in the hopes that one of them will go unblocked and make the play. "Pull"-ing is what an offensive linemen does, generally a guard or center, when he pulls out and around the other linemen to block on the other side of the line or lead the way for a running back. For example the right guard might pull out, run behind the center and block on the left side of the offense. In some cases multiple offense linemen, including centers, guards and tackles, made famous by Joe Gibbs' Redskins linemen, pull across the ball to lead the ball for the running back.
Andy Hart

Looks like we went heavy on the O-Line and a bit light in the secondary. With the new "emphasis" on contact and the injury to Guss Scott, I saw the secondary as a place where much depth was needed. Was T-buck a cap cut or was Randall Gay just that impressive?
Hawthorne, N.J.

I agree with the basis of your assessment. I was surprised to see the team keep 10 offensive linemen. I thought guys like Stephen Neal, Adrian Klemm and Bob Hallen were fighting for one or two spots and didn't give Gene Mruczkowski a shot. To see that they all made the team was somewhat shocking. I am not sure if this is a general statement on the overall quality of the group from top to bottom, maybe the old quantity over quality debate, or not. We will see. I was also a little surprised to see a veteran with Terrell Buckley's experience get cut. But from day one I thought Gay had a shot at the roster. He was a guy that seemed to make a play every time he got a chance, whether it was mini camp, training camp or preseason action. Gay battled a couple of injuries at LSU, but got a strong recommendation from Nick Saban. His experience in an LSU defensive system that is very similar to New England's probably gave him a step up in his early time here and he took advantage. But even Gay knows he still has a long way to go. He has made the team but he must continue to work to be a productive player in what was arguably the best secondary in football a year ago. Right now he is insurance, but he is one play away from being thrown into the NFL fire.
Andy Hart

I find it interesting that the Pats decided to keep for the practice squad Kory Chapman, someone who was a very late pickup, over Chas Gessner, someone who was here last year and all summer giving his best. I understand that the depth at WR is greater than the depth at RB on the active roster, but even then do you think Jennings is better than Gessner? And what do they see in Buck Rasmussen? What are your thoughts on all this?
Woonsocket, R.I.

As a quick update, the team released Jennings from the practice squad today to sign safety Russell Stuvaints to the eight-man unit. In terms of overall value on the practice squad, I think the Patriots saw Jennings as a guy who works hard and might be able to help out in a number of areas whether it be as a scout wide receiver, defensive back or mimicking a specific speedy opponent on any give week. Gessner is a guy who had a year in the system as well as NFLEL experience and didn't do enough to earn a roster spot. While he offered some skills that differed from the rest of the receiving corps, it wasn't enough in the end. Chapman adds depth to a thin running back spot and can perform some of the things I described with Jennings. He will also be learning the system and could become an emergency option down the line. As far as Rasmussen goes I am going to be totally honest and say I haven't seen him do much and don't really know where his value lies. He has spent two camps with New England and the spring in NFLEL. They obviously like what he has done and feel he can bring value to the practice field. Sorry for the vague answer, but I have really seen very little that I could add to that description. We just have to remember that there are a number of different reasons for a guy to be on the practice squad. Some guys are almost purely practice players -- bodies. Others are developing talents who aren't quite ready for the active roster. Others are a combination of the two. And some are guys who might be just an injury away from suiting up on Sundays.
Andy Hart

Hi guys, finally the heaven is upon us and we can root for games that actually matter! I was wondering about the Practice Squad. How much are they allowed to practice with the team? Is their participation limited in any way and how do they get paid? Is it a contract or a salary? Thanks and keep up the good work! P.S. I think it would be cool if you could have a way for readers to submit questions for the Coach to answer and pick the best 1-3 every week. I bet we could stumble him once or twice in a season!
Dmitriy Sokolovskiy
North Reading, Mass.

So many vowels, so little time. I feel for you when you have to deal with telemarketers. But I appreciate your interest in the practice squad. These guys sometimes get overlooked, but you never know when a year or two down the line they will be key contributors. They can practice with the team as much as they want. They go to all the meetings. The only real difference between them and regular players is on game day, when they are obviously not eligible to play. They can be under contract, as some fans may remember Brandon Gorin had a regular contract while on the practice squad a few years back. But most of them are paid on a weekly basis, $4,350 for the 2004 season. As for your idea on the questions, I will bring it to the attention of the bosses here (ie Fred Kirsch and Bryan Morry. I include Bryan to make him feel good even though is power here is minimal at best.) But if we do decide to ever put something like that together, I will be very impressed if you can stump the Coach. He knows his stuff.
Andy Hart

What does it mean for a player to be on the PUPS list in terms of playing availability and contract. I was also curious as to the details of Cedric Cobbs's contract.
Pocahontas, Ariz.

A player placed on PUP is not eligible to begin practicing with the team until after the sixth week of the season. Between that point and the ninth week the player can begin practicing. The team has 21 days from the player's first practice action to decide to activate him to the roster, release him or leave him on PUP/injured reserve for the remainder of the season. Players on PUP are paid under their normal contract agreement. According to NFLPA sources Cobbs signed a two-year rookie contract that will pay him $230,000 for 2004 and $305,000 for 2005. Cobbs is recovering from a leg injury, something he has battled at times in the past, but could be a mid-season insurance option at New England's thin running back spot.
Andy Hart

Any chance of us bringing Mike Compton back into the fold now that he's been cut by Jacksonville? Out of all the cuts the Pats recently made, who do you think they're targeting for practice squad?
Anaheim, Calif.

While I haven't heard anything, I do think Compton could be a guy the Patriots might have interest in. He was a solid veteran presence in his time here, even when he was hurt last season, and was well liked in the locker room. I know he had surgery on a thumb injury during the preseason, but I don't think that was a major health issue. Obviously New England is set with 10 offensive linemen currently on the roster, but a veteran like Compton with experience in the system and a good relationship with the organization can't be out of the question. Bill Belichick has been open about potential roster moves as the early part of the season goes on, so no move would surprise me at this point as teams feel out their rosters and depth. In terms of the practice squad, New England signed Eric Alexander, Kory Chapman, Michael Jennings, Justin Kurpeikis, Malaefou Mackenzie, Christian Morton, David Pruce and Buck Rasmussen to the practice squad on Monday. The team then released Jennings and added former Pittsburgh safety Russell Stuvaints on Tuesday.
Andy Hart

Last week you touched upon the differences between the Practice Squad, PUP list and Injured Reserve. Looking at the cuts from Sunday, I have a couple questions for you, hoping you can expand upon the financial differences between all three. For instance, why wouldn't the Pats put P.K. Sam on the PUP list and keep one of the other three receivers (Gessner, Bryant or Jennings) that they cut? Does the player have to have not practiced at all during training camp (I thought that was the case with P.K. Sam) to make it on to the PUP list? What are the salary cap ramifications of putting someone on the PUP list in comparison to IR and the practice squad? It seemed like last year Belichick put a lot more people on the PUP list, which really came in handy later on.Also, Justin Kerpeikis looked really impressive in the game against the Jaguars, I wish he could have made the final cut, hopefully he'll show up on the practice squad.Thanks,

Arlington, Mass.

First off both PUP and IR players are paid, their full salaries, and therefore count against the cap. As I said in a previous answer practice squad players earn $4,350 per week during the 2004 season and also count toward the cap. In order for a player to be eligible for PUP he must have failed his initial training camp physical and not have practiced during training camp. Once a player practices in camp, as Sam did, he is no longer eligible for the PUP list. For Sam, who is once again practicing with the team, the decision came down to injured reserve, roster or being flat-out released. Kurpeikis did look good throughout the preseason and is now on the New England practice squad. While the team is rather deep at linebacker, age and durability remain big questions at the position. If the youngster can play his opportunity cards right he may have a future in New England.
Andy Hart

The Patriots have cut there team down to 53 players. Of the 53 how many were on the team for the 1st SB win. How many were on the team for the 2nd SB win?
Hamden, Conn.

Good old Hamden. I spent a little time in your area while my wife was in school at Quinnipiac University. Not a bad little area, but not a lot going on. All I remember is a good homemade ice cream shop that was not far from campus. You know, guys like me who love to eat always remember places based on the food that they offer. Anyway, as far as your question goes, 18 of the current 53 were on the active roster for Super Bowl XXXVI, while 36 were active for XXXVIII. 16 players from the current 53-man roster were active for both Super Bowl wins.
Andy Hart

Hey guys. Do you agree with me that some of the cuts that we see like for example Mike Cloud can be directly linked to Ty Law not willing to restructure his contract? I don't understand him because this gives him more money upfront and is just being stubborn against his own best interest. Thanks
Christopher Neveri
Carson, Calif.

First of all Law has always said that he is willing to restructure. The only thing he is not willing to do is take a pay cut. Law wants all the money that is owed to him under his current contract, regardless of what part of that money is guaranteed. Law still believes that he would get a good deal on the open market if/when his time in New England ends. I don't believe that any of the cuts this week had anything to do with money or Law's cap number. You could argue that New England could have done more this offseason with more money to play with, but I think Cloud's release had to do more with his abilities and how he fit in with the offense.
Andy Hart

The play ends. The 40 second play clock starts. Coach Weis starts to call a play into Tom Brady's helmet. How much time does Weiss have to call the play into Brady? Does he get the whole 40 seconds? Can he talk to Brady while the play is going on? Can he talk to him during a hurry up offense? like," look out for the def. end behind you!!!!" or Troy is open deeeeeeeeep!!" Do the officials monitor the communications?
North Providence, R.I.

The communication from the offensive coordinator to the quarterback is cut off 15 seconds before the play clock expires. Therefore Weis could not help Brady during a play or even during pre-snap reads. This keeps the emphasis on the players and the action on the field and not on the skills of the sidelines or the coaching booth. But your little scenario would be interesting. Can you imagine a quarterback trying to scan a defense, look at all his receivers and take directions from someone yelling in his ear? Talk about making your head spin.
Andy Hart

Why was Mike Cloud released? He showed much potential, as he did last year prior to his injury.
Lancaster, Mass.

To be honest with you I was a little surprised to see Cloud released, not so much because of his skills but because of the team's current lack of depth at the spot. Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk are the only two true running backs on the roster with Patrick Pass along as a special teamer/fullback/backup running back. And for this week's game Faulk is listed on the injury report Out for personal reasons. Cloud led the team in rushing touchdowns a year ago and has been relatively productive when given the chance. But he is now in New York with the Giants and the Patriots may have to go into the first game with just two running backs active. Depth is a major concern and while I am not the biggest Cloud fan, he is better than what they have right now behind Dillon.
Andy Hart

Hello,With mega QB contracts the latest trend how much will it cost the Pats to keep Tom Brady?Do you think he will be too expensive for the team or will he be the next Drew Bledsoe? I worry because we have nothing in the pipeline for a future prospect.

Chris Morris
Chicago, Ill.

First off, did you think you had something in the pipeline when Michael Bishop, Damon Huard and Brady where behind Bledsoe? Did you even care? Be honest. There is little question that Brady is going to be worth a lot of money in the coming years. As a two-time Super Bowl MVP with a great record as a starter he could be looking for Peyton Manning-like money with a signing bonus of over $30 million. Even Chad Pennington got more than $24 million in up front money and I don't think he is even close to Brady in terms of value to a team. The only thing that could keep the contract more manageable is Brady's willingness to work a cap-friendly deal with the team. I don't know if he is willing to give a huge "hometown discount," but if he isn't things could get messy. It will be very interesting to see how the Brady contract situation unfolds in the coming years and how that relates to the rest of the team's roster and cap situation. Don't forget that a guy like Richard Seymour is going to be looking for the big money as well.
Andy Hart

I just finished an article by Kevin Mannix where he implied that Patriots fans were "ripped off" because the starters didn't play a single snap against the Jaguars. I have been a Patriots fan for a long time and only felt ripped off once during the preseason; when we lost 3 defensive starters for the season in a game against Green Bay in 1989. I think this article is out to lunch and it implies that the only Patriots fans are the ones that have season tickets. I, along with probable a million or so other Patriots fans who don't/can't have season tickets, applaud the coaches for this decision. Your thoughts please?
New Brunswick, Canada

This is a tough one because I can see both sides of the argument from a fan's perspective. I would hate to go to my only game of the year and never see more than 25 of the team's best players. But as a fan I would also hate to see Tom Brady play in his last game of the season in August. Winning the regular season has to be placed highest on the list of priorities. In the end, while I know that fans must have been disappointed in not seeing the starters, I am sure they will be more than happy if they watch a healthy, 2004 squad compete for the AFC title throughout the fall and winter. As much as a fan would like to think that the team is playing for their entertainment on a weekly basis, they are not. They are playing to win and have the ultimate, long-term success.
Andy Hart

Im watching Rohan Davey and Im more nervous about him than this darn Frances. Or does Frances just have me on the edge? Do you think we will have a Veteran QB by the time you post my question? Hopefully they brought back Miller. Or do you think we should of kept Huard? I might not have power for a week or so, but I will read the archives. Keep up the good work at PFW, love the coverage. Thank youP.S. I was so shocked to see all 22 rested, was anyone else.?

George Porter
Winter Garden, Fla.

First off, I hope all worked out with Frances. It wasn't as powerful as expected, but did slow down and do plenty of damage. Nothing but good thoughts from here. A bit of a bright spot though, the team did re-sign Miller. We will have to wait until Thursday night to find out whether Davey or Miller is active as the backup quarterback. Look for Miller to take over that spot in the long run this season. I, too, was disappointed in what I saw from Davey this preseason. I expected big things in his return from NFLEL. All I saw was the same inaccurate, indecisive quarterback that I remembered from training camp a year ago. He should be making big strides in his development as a pro by now and I just don't see it.
Andy Hart

Any reason why the Pats didn't cut Dana Stubbletoe instead of placing him on IR? If the Cowboys can cut a player for a drug violation (A big No No according to the union) how is it the Pats have to eat a bunch of dead money on someone that barely took the practice field.
Las Vegas, Nev.

I see what you did there with the Stubbletoe reference. That kind of stuff is appreciated here. Keep it coming. But the rest of your email is flawed. You can't cut an injured player unless you reach an injury settlement with him. So if Stubblefield doesn't agree to a settlement the only real option left is to place him on injured reserve and eat his salary on the cap. If you weren't willing to pay the veteran you should not have signed him in the first place.
Andy Hart

My question is about Deion Branch. He seems to have been improving very quickly since he came into the league. Do you think he has a shot at the Pro Bowl this year? If not, do you think he has the potential to reach that level eventually?
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

I do think that Branch has developed into a solid NFL receiver over the last two seasons. But in a New England offense that spreads the ball around to so many capable targets I think it will be hard for any of those players to make the Pro Bowl. In all likelihood New England's top receiver could have in the neighborhood of 50 catches every season. Those numbers won't get you in the Pro Bowl even if you are one of the most talented players. Do I think he has Pro Bowl potential? Yes. Do I think he will make it here, under the current system? No.
Andy Hart

What is the number of players on the regular roster? Is it 53, plus 8 on the practice squad or 45 plus 8 for a total of 53? Also, do we have to waive the 8 players we want on the practice squad then pick them up after they clear waivers? How many can we have on the IR?
Cheri Ames
Anaheim, Calif.

A team's regular season roster consists of 53 players, 45 of which are active for any given game. A team's practice squad consists of eight players (in previous years the practice squad had five players.). All players on the practice squad must clear waivers before they can be signed to the unit. There is no limit to the number of players a team can have on injured reserve, although keep in mind that those players are paid their normal salary and do count against the salary cap for that season.
Andy Hart

Do you think that the schedule has been set to have the Pats fail. With the many different times?
John A. Cabot
Ware, Mass.

No. As Bill Belichick would say, you play the games when they are scheduled. The Patriots are the Super Bowl champs and as such get the prime time, special games. That comes with success. And if you are asking if I think the NFL schedule makers are intentionally trying to knock the Patriots off, then I really disagree with you. Ware would you get such a crazy idea?
Andy Hart

I have been hearing about the pre-game performers for opening night next Thursday and I was wondering what the deal was for season ticket we just go in the gates early for the performances? do we need special tickets? What is the deal with this?
Carol Brown
Dover, N.H.

The parking lots at Gillette Stadium open at 4 p.m. The stadium gates open 6 p.m. No special tickets are needed. Come to the game as you normally would, but enjoy all the music and festivities that go along with the opening game of the NFL season.
Andy Hart

Hey PFW,First off, keep up the good work! Secondly my question.With the pats losing two straight (though the Carolina game the rookies blew it) am I the only one that's worried. For the first time in over a year, I did not see a dominant Pats defense! Do you guys think that they have a legitimate shot at repeating or is there defense too weak or is it all just me???

Ottawa, Ontario

Repeat after me,"It was the preseason. It was the preseason. It was the preseason." I think I have said enough. If you are still worried in a few weeks and you very well may be, I don't know how the season will start, then email again.
Andy Hart

I watch the Patriots in High Definition TV but turn the Network Audio down to listen to Gil Santos and Gino Cappelleti on the Radio. However, the Video feed is about 2 to 3 seconds behind the Radio broadcast. Do you or other Patriot Fans know how to get the radio and HDTV feeds synchronized? Gil & Gino are great broadcasting the games!Thanks

As a fellow HDTV lover, I post this for the sole purpose of finding an answer. I don't believe there is a way for it to happen, but maybe some tech-savvy person out there can help you out. Good luck.
Andy Hart

What happened with the rookie from Florida, Guss Scott?
Travis Mozingo
Kennesaw, Ga.

Scott is on injured reserve with a knee injury.
Andy Hart

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