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Ask PFW: Mini-camp wrap

With mini-camp recently completed, fans are wondering why some players weren't in attendance and where others might fit in. We tried to answer some of those questions in this week's "Ask PFW mailbag.


Jerod Mayo recovers a fumble vs. Denver Broncos.

I was wondering in reading the mini-camp and OTA blogs I haven't seen much concerning Patrick Chung. Is he having trouble getting acclimated to the system?Brad Pelletier

One reason you didn't see a ton about Chung (hey, that rhymes) is rookies weren't available to talk after practice. Chung was out there every day and working at safety alongside James Sanders. It's hard to tell with the players not wearing pads, but he looks like an active player with a ton of athleticism. We haven't even hit training camp yet so it's a little early for predictions, but I believe Chung is a player that will contribute right away and become a fan favorite in New England.
Paul Perillo

Huge fan of PFW, your analysis helps me through the long offseason. My question is about some of the players we haven't seen yet. Should we be concerned about Jerod Mayo, Ty Warren, Brandon Meriweather, Sammy Morris and Jarvis Green? Is there any word on what's holding them off the field?Toby Milton

I listen to "PFW in Progress" and have been checking the blog and website, but I'm not hearing anything about Jerod Mayo. Did I miss something? Why wasn't he at the mandatory mini-camp last week?Alan Acker

Of the players you mentioned, there was no official word about any of their absences. Morris did return to the field for the final day of mini-camp on June 11 but the others missed all of the OTAs we watched plus the mini-camp. Warren and Green are coming off injuries and surgeries that we knew about so it's safe to say that's why they were out. I can only assume Mayo and Meriweather are in some for of rehab as well, although neither has been officially mentioned as coming off an injury. Overall, I wouldn't be too concerned about those guys not being on the field in May and June. I'd expect all of them to be ready for the regular season.
Paul Perillo

I have noticed on your blog lately that every time players practice punt returns, the coaches have them do so while holding a football in one hand. What's the point? Don't they normally catch punts with two hands?Jeff Dickson

A very interesting take there, Jeff. After all, how many times have we heard coaches tell us to do everything while wearing your helmet because you'd always have your helmet on during a game? I guess they take the Patches O'Houlihan approach from that Oscar winning classic "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story." Patches used to throw wrenches at the players and say: "if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball." I guess Bill Belichick's thought is if the players can catch punts while holding a ball in one arm then they'd certainly be able to do so with both hands at their disposal.
Paul Perillo



]()I will make this brief. The organization needs to go ahead and sign Vince Wilfork. He has met his obligations so far and he wants to continue being a Patriot. He hasn't even made any comments in regards to playing for another team. I know financial obligations probably weigh more to his mandatory practices, but think about players from the past like Deion Branch, Asante Samuel, etc. Those guys held out and eventually left. They are taking forever to sign him, but throw a bunch of money at Adalius Thomas and he hasn't produced NOTHING.*
*Rick Vega

I think it's easy to think that way and I can't say I completely disagree … well, with the exception of Thomas doing nothing. I feel that Wilfork has been a terrific player who has exceeded his rookie contract. But that contract was for six years and he has one year still remaining. I wouldn't be opposed to extending him but I can certainly understand why the team would want to wait. There's labor uncertainty with the CBA, the Patriots have a lot of pending free agents to deal with and Wilfork is also a very large man. The team could have some health concerns with him moving forward and might opt to focus on players who play every down. Like I said, I don't want to see Wilfork playing elsewhere next season but I can understand the Patriots reluctance to lock themselves in.
Paul Perillo

Would Mike Vick be able to help the New England Patriots out?Joe Dearing

There are obviously elements of Vick's game that would be beneficial to the Patriots offense, but with Tom Brady coming back I don't see much value in bringing Vick aboard. Vick hasn't played since 2006 and hasn't been training at an NFL level during his absence. So I don't see the Patriots having much interest in him at this time.
Paul Perillo

First I want to thank Rodney for the great years that he put in for the Patriots and I think he should go into the Hall of Fame. But I want to know what is the news of the defense, who is going to take Rodney's job? Is it Patrick Chung or James Sanders?
Andrew Riley

Don't forget about Brandon Meriweather in that mix to replace Rodney as well. Sanders and Meriweather were the starting safeties last year and I'd expect them to open this season in that role as well. Sanders is more in the Rodney mold in terms of size and tackling ability while Meriweather has shown the ability to operate near the line of scrimmage at times on blitzes. Personally I like Sanders' dependability more than Meriweather's but both did a reasonably good job last year. Chung is an interesting prospect. Belichick talked a lot about his cerebral nature after the draft. He said Chung played in a very pro-style defense at Oregon and was responsible for making a lot of the calls and doing the communicating. Those are traits that I would think would allow him to assimilate well into the Patriots system. I'd be surprised if he wasn't in the mix for playing time pretty much from the start of the season. Rodney will certainly be missed – no one loved him more than I did (hold the jokes, you know what I mean) – but I feel these three young players will handle those duties well.
Paul Perillo

What positions do you see the Pats possibly filling with late signings, prior to the start of the next regular season? I'm still concerned about the OLB, ILB, RB and reserve QB positions of the present Pats.
John Moore

Belichick is always looking for talent to bolster the roster and I'm sure he'll be doing so once again this summer. Late signings have frequently contributed to winning in the past. Guys like Terrell Buckley, Junior Seau and others came in well after the roster appeared to be set. As for the specific positions you mentioned, I agree with the first two and disagree with the others. The running back position is pretty deep. I'm not sure how many you want to keep, but I'm more than comfortable going into a season with Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor, Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk and possibly even BenJarvus Green-Ellis is he can earn a spot. That's a deep, talented and versatile group. I also and happy with Kevin O'Connell as the backup quarterback. He looks better to me at this stage than Matt Cassel did in his second year, and as was the case with Cassel, I'm confident that O'Connell will continue to develop. Matt Gutierrez also looks like an improved player based on the little action we got see in the spring camps. The linebacker spots aren't quite as deep. I'm optimistic about Shawn Crable emerging into a contributor and joining Adalius Thomas and Pierre Woods on the outside. Tully Banta-Cain could factor into that mix as well, although I'm not as high on him as I am on the younger guys. It's too bad the Pats couldn't grab Greg Ellis (who signed with Oakland) because I feel he would have been a nice veteran piece to add to that mix. The inside spot is solid with Jerod Mayo but after that there are questions. Paris Lenon's arrival alleviates some of those to an extent, and Tedy Bruschi and Gary Guyton should give Belichick four options for the two spots. It's not ideal, and health will be a major concern at the position, but the linebackers on the roster should be enough.
Paul Perillo

Why do people rail on the tiny little four-game NFL preseason? Compare this to the 30-something games MLB teams have to play before it starts to matter. There is so much evaluation of talent that is needed in game situations before determining a final roster that I don't think four games is remotely excessive. The same injury that happens in game four of the preseason would have happened in game one of the regular season if the league reduces the preseason.
Kenyon Gagne

People don't criticize the length of the NFL's preseason as much as they do its usefulness. Frontline players rarely take part in those games, which is why your premise about injuries happening in the fourth preseason game still happening in the first regular season game is off base. Starters almost never play in the fourth preseason game so they almost never get injured. Baseball players need that spring training time to get all the pitchers' arms in shape for the regular season. There are also three or four minor league clubs to stock during that time. Players get in shape for the season through training camp and then with a few games to better simulate live conditions. Roster spots are rarely won or lost based solely on in-game performance. Coaches watch every practice, walkthrough and game and make their personnel decisions based on their evaluations. Losing two preseason games would certainly make life tougher for the coaches in that regard, but it won't be as big of a deal as you would think. Personally I don't want to see the regular season extended because I think the wear and tear on players' bodies is already astronomical and adding one or two games would impact the postseason in my opinion. But losing a game or two in the summer wouldn't bother me in the least. The preseason has out-lived its usefulness.
Paul Perillo

Please tell me why the Pats aren't eager to sign Wilfork to a four- or five-year contract. Here's a committed and a very good ballplayer who wants to play here and they drag their feet about signing him. This doesn't make sense to me. Is it all about money or do they take him as a player too lightly. Good column, fun to read.Bob Eaton

I find it tough to criticize this kind of point of view with regard to Wilfork. He's been an exceptional player pretty much from the day he arrived back in 2004. He plays a position that is very tough to fill and he does it at a very high level. If we are to take him at face value, he claims not to be interested in breaking the bank with an Albert Haynesworth-type contract (I'm a little skeptical on that one). He seems to really enjoy life in New England and it's clear from watching him that he has a great relationship with his teammates – especially his fellow defensive linemen. I'm not sure exactly what the Patriots are thinking but I do have some opinions (when does PFW not??). One is they could be concerned about the pending labor strife that could be on the horizon next year and not want to be locked into a deal that might look good today but could change in value depending on the language of the new CBA if and when it's signed. They might want to wait to see what the new landscape may bring. They also might look at Wilfork, as good as he is, as a two-down player since he rarely stays on the field on passing downs. Richard Seymour, as an example, also will be a free agent at the end of the year and he generally plays all three downs. He'd also likely cost less to re-sign and perhaps they see more value in Seymour even though he probably hasn't played as well as Wilfork the last two years. Again, I'd like to see Wilfork re-signed and happy in 2009, but there are a lot of factors we don't know about that could be in play on both sides. We'll just have to wait and see.
Paul Perillo

I've been asking you guys for quite some time about what is going on since the Pats seem to be taking more injuries than most other clubs. Hey, let's face it … I don't see any other teams knocking on the door to 'steal' away these coaches. Yeah, luck, age and the sport itself has much to do about injuries but ... pray tell are these strength and conditioning coaches looking to change their approach and philosophy to keep the players in play healthy?Philip Karas

Now this is what I've been looking for … something to really disagree with. First, teams have come calling to 'steal' away part of the Patriots strength and conditioning staff in the past. Assistant strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul left for the Jets back in 2006 and was replaced by Harold Nash. Mike Woicik is regarded as the best in the business and he has a record six Super Bowl rings (three with Dallas, three in New England) in his possession to prove it. I don't see any reason to question a guy who has obviously gotten tremendous results through his methods in the past. Second, the Patriots don't take more injuries than most other clubs. Injuries are a fact of life in the NFL every year. Last year Baltimore and Indianapolis were completely decimated by injuries just like the Patriots. Many other clubs were in a similar boat. In fact, Arizona was one of the only teams I can recall that wasn't hit overly hard by the injury bug. Your last part I actually agree with to an extent – luck and age have a lot to do with staying healthy, and the coaching staff is always fine-tuning their approach to best maintain the players' health. But overall, to pin the team's injury concerns on the strength and conditioning coaches seems more than a little absurd to me.
Paul Perillo

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