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Patriots Replay Thu May 28 | 02:00 PM - 11:59 PM

Ask PFW: Offseason concern

I know that Bill doesn't usually give out to much information about player injuries, but do you have any insight as to when we might see Deion Branch back on the field?
Joe Asklar
Marlborough, Conn.

Insight? No. Opinion? Why not? Branch started practicing last week and donned pads for the first time on the Friday before the Buffalo game. There have been reports that he has been running well in a straight line but hadn't been able to cut yet. Assuming he's begun that part of his rehab (since he practiced last week one can make that assumption), my guess is he'll return either Monday night at Kansas City or the following week against Baltimore. He was recently upgraded from doubtful to questionable on the injury report, so barring any setbacks I wouldn't expect him to be out any longer than that.
Paul Perillo

I really enjoyed watching Troy Brown play offense and defense last week. I thought he did an excellent job given the circumstances (even though Mike Martz said he held his receivers the whole game, I think Martz has problem accepting blame for his terrible game planning). I was wondering what the status of TB's contract is for next year. I think I remember you guys saying that he might not be here next year, and I was wondering if there was anything the Pats can do to not let that happen. He is probably the most willing player to just do whatever is asked of him and I would hate to see him go and help another team.Jim Loewke

Brown had part of his contract guaranteed during the offseason, which allowed him to receive a portion of his 2004 salary up front like a signing bonus while adding an additional year to the deal. That allows the team to prorate that payment over the life of the contract, which in Brown's case runs through 2005. But that also increased the salary cap hit for Brown for next year, so it might make it difficult for the club to maintain his services under the cap. His base salary will be in the $2.5 million range and his cap number will be about twice that number. That might make him tough to keep. But the Patriots could also tweak his contract again if they decide he's worth keeping. Or they could simply allow Brown to play out the final year of his deal.
Paul Perillo

I'm responding to a question from Hal Coyle posted on 11/9. He's a Bostonian living in Virginia Beach, Va., looking for a place to watch the games with other fans. Well, there is a place – Murphy's Pub on Pacific Avenue. They've got a budding group of die-hards who rally together for every Patriots game. And they are always looking for more Pats fans to join them!Doug Roberts

There you go, Hal. Thanks for the help Doug.

While I should not be jumping the gun on what to make of the inevitable offseason coming up, I'm concerned about what is being talked about at present. Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported the possibility of Pioli becoming the Dolphins new president of operations, thus Pioli bringing Weis or Crennel over with him. That's bunk! It would be severely disappointing to see Pioli and/or Weis or Crennel go to a divisional rival like Miami. I really hope no one goes anywhere.Simon Says

At some point, Patriots fans are going to have to deal with the reality of losing key members of the organization. I have no idea if Scott Pioli would even be interested in leaving the Patriots to go anywhere, but I could certainly understand why he might. Pioli has done a great job providing Belichick with the players they want to build their team around. They seem to work well together and are on the same page when it comes to finding "the right guys." But Pioli may want the opportunity to prove to the rest of the league that he's an important part of a championship program. One way he could do that is by heading up his own organization. Belichick now receives the bulk of the credit for the Patriots success. Maybe Pioli would like the chance to get some of that credit elsewhere. And both Weis and Crennel have been worthy of head coaching jobs for three years now; it's only a matter of time before at least one of them leaves. The Patriots have been fortunate that they haven't lost many key members of their winning cast.
Paul Perillo

A co-worker of mine is a die-hard Dolphins fan. He has been telling me that he's reading the Dolphins are of course interested in Charlie Weis but also they really want to get our front man Scott Pioli. Have you heard anything about that? Plus, do you think the Pats will do whatever they can to keep him, even if it means making him General Manager? Second, I read recently that Deion Branch had a set back. Is there any timetable on when or if he returns?Rob French
Virginia

Again, it's all speculation at this point. Here's what we do know – Pioli is still under contract with the Patriots and will be until after the 2006 draft. That means if Miami (or any other team) wants to make him an offer they'd have to get permission from the Patriots and Pioli would have to be willing to leave. Until a team inquires about Pioli's services, which not only hasn't happened this year but it never happened last year, as had been reported. Until anything of substance happens, it's all just rumors and hearsay. As for Branch, he has not suffered any setbacks that we know of. He's been practicing recently and should be ready to return within the next game or two.
Paul Perillo

We all know the effect Corey Dillon has had on the team. One of them that I have noticed is the improvement in the running of Kevin Faulk. Is this just me, or has Faulk started to raise his own game level to try and match Dillon's?Greg Mowery

No offense Greg, but I think it's just you. Faulk has always been a very valuable asset to the Patriots offense. He can handle a variety of roles and is one of the most team-oriented players on the club. He's always had success running as a change-of-pace back, but when put in positions where he has to carry the load – like in Pittsburgh – he doesn't fare as well. Dillon definitely opens things up for others on offense, and Faulk no doubt has benefited from his presence. But I don't see any discernible difference in Faulk's game since Dillon arrived.
Paul Perillo

I would like to know why in the world Weis would call for a spread-formation with Brady under center and no RB in the backfield? Obviously we saw they paid dearly for this at times with Brady making a mistake, getting sacked or knocked down. I can understand the need to get things going on offense, so the spread-formation is where you want to start, but what point is there in making Brady snap under center with no help in the backfield? It just adds to the time he needs to get the ball out of his hands and puts him at a greater risk of getting hurried or sacked. It seems like they addressed this later in the game with him in shotgun formation and some help in the backfield, but at that point in the game it was too late. Also, I wish they had given Cobbs a chance. Honestly, they were only down two touchdowns with an entire half of the game to play and playing in desperation by telling everyone you're going to pass the ball just didn't seem smart and proved not to be. Sure, it's easier said now that approaching the game different in the second half would have possibly turned for the better, but it seems like they discounted any chance of Cobbs helping move the ball down the field.Stephen Thorud

Judging from the way the Patriots offense has played this season, I wouldn't change a thing. This email obviously came in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh loss when everything went wrong on both sides of the ball. Brady has had plenty of success both under center and in the shotgun with and without a back behind him. I wouldn't say there's any correlation based on the specific formations. Dillon's absence in Pittsburgh had a major effect on the game plan – and the reaction to falling behind early. It would have been asking an awful lot out of Cedric Cobbs to come in and mount a running game in such a hostile environment in his first NFL game. I agree with you in that I would have liked to have seen him get a few more carries, but the only chance they had of coming back was if Brady caught fire, which obviously didn't happen.
Paul Perillo

I didn't see his "debut" action against Pittsburgh but I suspect it didn't impress the coach. But since he has been touted by certain pundits as the successor to Corey Dillon, any chance we might start seeing him as a change of pace back? Kind of like Steven Davis and Marshall Faulk. That way we could use Kevin Faulk on screens and short outs where he seems to shine the most. Also, what about his injury/recovery, is that what's holding him back?Mike Luster

I can only assume "his" in this case refers to Cedric Cobbs, since that's the only player I can think of who saw his "debut" action against Pittsburgh. He got one carry and picked up 1 yard, so it wasn't much in the way of "action." As for any pundits who perceive him as Dillon's successor, based on Dillon's efforts thus far that won't be for quite some time. Cobbs was a productive college back who shows good feet and quickness but I don't see him playing much of a role this season. I'm also not sure about what you perceive Cobbs as – you say change-of-pace back but that's more of what Kevin Faulk does. And the two guys you use as comparisons for Cobbs – Stephen Davis and Marshall Faulk – couldn't be much more different in terms of style. Davis is a bruiser while Faulk is a smaller, quicker, all-purpose back. Cobbs probably falls more closely toward the latter style but at 6-0, 225 pounds also the size to run between the tackles. He needs some experience to get his feet wet, but with Dillon racking up the yards he probably won't get that opportunity for a while.
Paul Perillo

Did Colvin play against the Rams? I never saw him in the game but instead saw a lot of Tully Banta-Cain. Was there any particular reason Banta-Cain played so much more then Colvin when it is clear Colvin is the better player that gets more pressure on QBs?
Steven Velez

Colvin's playing time has started to decrease in recent weeks. I'm not sure if that's in any way related to his health or it's just because of a lack of production. Colvin hasn't made many plays so far and maybe Belichick was giving Banta-Cain a chance to show what he can do. Banta-Cain had a nice second half against Buffalo so I would expect his playing time to continue to rise. Belichick is going to play the guys he thinks give the team the best chance to win and Banta-Cain has been the guy the last two weeks.
Paul Perillo

Has Marquise Hill played at all this year?
Nick Dwight

Hill dressed for the opener against Indy but did not play. He's been one of the inactives in every game since.
Paul Perillo

It has occurred to me these last two weeks that with the Steelers love fest, all the major sports reporters are missing the fact that the Patriots played the Steelers without both of their starting corners, their starting running back, and their best receiver. Add to this that the remaining players had a very unlike them bad day. This in no way represents the Patriots as a team this year, but ESPN seems ready to hand the AFC title to the Steelers. Even hobbled, we put up a much better showing against them than the Eagles. My question is, and I know you get asked this all the time, why is the national media so ready to dismiss these Patriots? I can't believe it only has to do with the lack of "stars" on the team. What is wrong with letting the Patriots be seen as the dominant team that they are?
Justin Johnson
Northampton, Mass.

One of my favorite, 'oh-was-is-us' Patriots fans' questions. Why doesn't the national media respect us?? First, you go through the player-by-player injury losses for the Patriots while conveniently leaving out the fact that Pittsburgh was without its best CB in Chad Scott, its best linebacker in Kendrell Bell and its Pro Bowl nose tackle in Casey Hampton – not to mention they lost their STARTING QUARTERBACK Tommy Maddox. And just to add to their problems, they then played the undefeated Eagles the next week without their best RB Duce Staley. So to dismiss Pittsburgh's performance thus far is ridiculous. They've had loads of adversity to overcome, just like the Patriots. As for the lack of respect, I watched ESPN's pregame show the day of the Pittsburgh game and they all thought the Patriots would win. Geez, what a slap in New England's face that was. Nobody is handing the AFC to the Steelers, and nobody should be handing it to the Patriots, either. There are a lot of games left and injuries, weather and other factors can impact things a great deal. Through nine games, the Patriots are ranked second in all the power rankings I found, behind only Pittsburgh. Since Pittsburgh is also 8-1, and since the Steelers dominated both the other 8-1 teams, they deserve to be No. 1 now. That doesn't mean they'll stay there and it doesn't mean the Patriots are being disrespected.
Paul Perillo

Last season we started something like 42 different players, and it seems like we are going the same direction this year. I know that all teams face injuries, but it seems like we have more than our fair share. What sort of strength and conditioning programs do the Pats use, and have they considered that maybe they need to change, or do more in the offseason?Ian Kirkwood

The Patriots have been bitten hard by the injury bug the last two years, but no more so than many other teams in the league. Look at Carolina this year. Peter King from Sports Illustrated had a stat earlier this season that said players on IR were up 75 percent over the last year. So injuries are a league-wide problem, not just for the Patriots. The Patriots strength coaches – Mike Woicik and Markus Paul – run a very structured program and they get almost 100 percent participation during the offseason. I don't see Belichick making any changes to a program that has been successful.
Paul Perillo

Could you tell me exactly what Ben Watson's injury is? I know it is his knee but did he have surgery? Is it a MCL or ACL? What is his rehab?Scott
Chicopee, Mass.

Watson underwent knee surgery and is well into his rehab. He was in the locker room last week and said he's progressing well. The nature of that surgery is unknown but based on his movements it would be unlikely that it was an ACL injury.
Paul Perillo

Most of us are aware of the Patriots streak of scoring first (16 straight games). More recently, a new trend has emerged. In the final possession before halftime the Patriots have scored six of their last eight opportunities. Michael Felger's recent Herald column 'Prized Possession: Pats consistently produce early, late' referred to this as "situational football at its best." All of this left me wondering; assuming that these plays are scripted by Weis (a fact seemingly confirmed by Tom Brady himself), does this somehow reflect poorly on Brady's ability to call plays during the balance of the game?John Skinner
Florida

The only time when Brady would be calling his own plays would be late in the half or the game during a hurry-up situation. Otherwise, Weis calls the plays from the sideline and relays them to Brady. So questioning Brady's play-calling abilities is off base since he doesn't really have the authority to do so with the possible exception of his occasion audibles at the line of scrimmage.
Paul Perillo

I think one thing that typifies Tom Brady is his reaction to Patten early in Sunday night's game. After chewing Patton out (I'm not sure what the discussion was about as there was no real call made on the play even though a flag was thrown) Tom Brady was the first to congratulate Patten after he caught a touchdown pass. It just showed how his intensity never got personal and was all about professionalism and improving the team. Way to go Brady and way to go Patten! ... Can you comment what Brady's issue was in the first place?Jeremy Hus

I noticed Brady talking to Patten during the game but he did not say specifically what the discussion was about. I'm not sure I would categorize it as "chewing Patten out" but he was clearly frustrated with something. My guess is Patten failed to make the proper adjustment on a particular pass route and Brady was letting him know, which happens all the time during the course of the game and season. As for congratulating Patten after the touchdown, would you have expected Brady be upset after his receiver made such a great catch? Of course he was there to congratulate him.
Paul Perillo

Was there a Player named Zee Parker that played for the patriots in the 1970s? I was told that he played for the pats as well as the saints but cannot find any information anywhere.Kevin Lepine

The Patriots media guide does not list any player named Zee Parker on the all-time roster. If he was with the Patriots at all, it was likely during training camp and he never made the team.
Paul Perillo

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