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Ask PFW: Offseason edition

I would love to drive to Gillette Stadium and watch a practice. How do you go about doing this? Do you have to buy tickets? Also what are the chances of getting autographs from the players?
Joseph West

Training camp dates have yet to be made public but it usually gets underway sometime in late July and runs for about three weeks. Your best bet will be to check with Patriots.com for updated practice times once the summer hits. As for getting there, it's as simple as driving to the stadium and walking to the practice fields. There is no admission charge or tickets. Autographs are always available either by waiting around the ropes as practice ends or by going to a designated area where players sign by position. You should be able to get at least a few on any given day.
Paul Perillo

Are the Patriots ever going to come to an agreement with Asante Samuel?John Sullivan

Obviously this question is impossible for anyone other than the parties involved to answer. My guess is Samuel either signs his tender and plays out the season (most likely) or he signs a long-term extension and is here for several more years. I don't see Samuel holding out like Deion Branch did last year because he would be sacrificing much more than in salary ($7.79 million) than Branch did last year. But I honestly can't answer this definitively since neither party is letting PFW in on their plans.
Paul Perillo

Outside of Bobby Orr and actually ahead of Larry Bird I completely idolize Tom Brady. I have never been to Boston and can only watch the Pats, Bruins, Celtics or Red Sox when they come to either Buffalo or Toronto. That said I truly believe I know the psyche of real New Englanders. Tom Brady and his Yankee hat photo may not seem like much to him but I encourage the other sports heroes of New England to wear Jets.
Ed Simkin

I found it somewhat amusing how much of a stir Brady caused by wearing a Yankees hat one day. I will first admit up front that as a lifelong Bostonian I despise the Yankees. But that doesn't mean I expect everyone else to share my feelings. Brady grew up in northern California. Why should he be prohibited from wearing whatever baseball hat he wants? Just because he plays for the Patriots doesn't mean he has to be a Red Sox fan. In fact, I remember when Tom first came here back in 2000 and he was wearing a Yankees hat. Of course he was an obscure fourth-string rookie at the time so nobody cared. I'm a real New Englander, Ed, and I couldn't care less what baseball team Tom roots for as long as he keeps tossing touchdowns for the Patriots every Sunday in football season. Now, if he starts wearing a Jets hat …
Paul Perillo

Do you agree the Patriots did not receive top value with some of their trades? For example, trading this year's third to Oakland for a third next year plus a seventh. The seventh has little value and I realize that Oakland will likely have a poor record this year it is still a pick in the same round. The trade of a first for a first and a fourth was also far below what Dallas received from Cleveland. I also thought even though they traded out of this year's draft with their third-round pick, they could have picked up a punter or Bush from Louisville with the third rounder or by trading down into the early part of the fourth.
John Heisman

I don't really agree with you on this one. In my opinion, they got more than they gave up in both trades and in my book that makes both good deals. They got a third and a seventh for a third – not to mention that the third they get next year will almost certainly be more valuable than the 91st pick they gave up. On top of that, the Patriots obviously didn't feel there were a ton of players worth drafting so they opted instead to garner picks for next season. Time will tell if that assessment was accurate. As for the other trade, you're comparing the Dallas-Cleveland deal with the Patriots and I don't think that's fair. The Cowboys pick was No. 23 and the Patriots was 28. That's a fairly significant difference, not to mention that Cleveland increased the value of the 23rd pick by targeting a potential franchise quarterback. Five spots difference at that stage of the first round is quite meaningful. You're not likely to get a team willing to offer as much for the pick with the first round just about done at that point. As I understand it, several teams were interested in making a deal with New England for that pick, and San Francisco's offer was the most lucrative. So evidently the other teams don't share your belief that the pick was worth more than the Patriots got. As for what they could have done in the third round, as a matter of opinion I'd wonder why they would have wanted a punter? They just gave Josh Miller a bonus and they have two young guys around for competition. Why would they want to invest a third-round pick in another one. And Michael Bush in my mind is nothing special. He's a big guy who runs like he's a scatback. The leg injury still isn't healed and he won't have a huge impact anytime soon.
Paul Perillo

What positions do you feel we will look to add veteran depth at before the start of the preseason? I read somewhere that as a result of the new CBA, there aren't as many June 1 cap casualties as there used to be, however, there must still be some. I am concerned about the depth of the running back corps, although that might be because we were spoiled with the Dillon/Maroney 1-2 punch last year. If something were to happen to Maroney, do you feel that Morris is a starting-caliber halfback? I like his versatility (Belichick word), but I would like more insurance at the position. As always, thanks for the great, informative work.
Russell Rososky

Post-June 1 cap cuts have diminished greatly in recent years and now that teams don't have to wait that long to spread cap hits out anymore there will be even less going forward. For example, when the Patriots cut Corey Dillon they didn't have to wait until June 1 to spread his cap hit out over two years because of the new CBA rules. Anyway, I wouldn't expect any substantial talent being let go in the coming months, but there are still some interesting names available. You point put running back as a potential need. I don't think it's nearly as significant as you do unless Maroney is unable to play a full 16-game season. If healthy, Maroney can handle the load with Morris filling in from time to time. But if Maroney is out of the lineup, then I'd like to go get a guy like Chris Brown, who the Patriots have reportedly talked to this offseason. I'd rather see Brown start a game in a pinch than Morris. Linebacker is still an area of need because they lack quality depth. Junior Seau is likely to return but that doesn't really satisfy the need in my eyes because he's not likely to stay healthy at this stage of his career. I'd like to see the Patriots pick up another guy capable of playing inside but it doesn't look like that's going to happen.
Paul Perillo

I wondered if you guys read the article by Jeffri Chadiha this past week on ESPN.com? I believe he (and I hate to say it) made some good points about the Patriots, and their sudden change in team philosophy. Honestly, do you think he may have a good point?Sarah M.

I saw the piece and I've read others like it. I've also heard many people espouse similar beliefs claiming there's been some change in philosophy. I can say only that I don't feel there's been any such change. Bill Belichick has always maintained that he does everything with the best interests of the football team in mind. If he believes a player can help his team win, then he'll sign that player. Really, if you got back and look even before the Patriots started winning titles, Belichick has been willing to take chances on players with less-than-sterling reputations. Bryan Cox was similar to Randy Moss in that most of his transgressions were of the immature variety rather than criminal in nature. But Belichick brought Cox in for his veteran presence and it worked. In some ways the same can be said of Corey Dillon, who had a terrible reputation before the Patriots traded for him. Belichick felt the strong Patriots locker room would help keep Dillon in line and he gave them a great year in 2004. In the short term, I believe the Randy Moss deal is an absolute no-brainer and it makes the Patriots a better team. I really think that's all Belichick is concerned with.
Paul Perillo

I am more than thrilled about the possibilities of the offensive capability, however I am not happy with the defense as a whole. Yes, Adalius Thomas is an excellent addition to the roster, but within three years, you're looking at the departure of Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison and who else knows. I do not know what Bill and Co. are up to, but playing find a defense this late is starting to scare me. We can't keep importing veterans every few years and expect to stay a winning team. All it will take is one flop of a vet in an important position to ruin the Pats. I do not see us going to the SB unfortunately. Teams will just continue to exploit the speed at MLB as we saw the Colts do in the playoffs this past season.
Ryan Martinage

Well that's certainly a different take on the Patriots offseason. Most people have already printed up Super Bowl tickets with the Patriots name on them and you believe the defense – a unit that set a franchise record for fewest points allowed last year by the way – ultimately will do them in. I agree that Bruschi and Harrison is pretty close to the end and Vrabel isn't likely going to be around much longer either. But I don't agree that Belichick can't keep plugging in veterans to fill holes. He's done that pretty every year and even when the moves haven't worked out (Beisel, etc.) the team has remained competitive for the Super Bowl. In fairness, I actually agree with you to a point that last year's defense perhaps wasn't as strong as the numbers indicated. Against really good offenses like Indy's the Patriots struggled. But there aren't many teams like the Colts that are capable to taking advantage of any weaknesses in the Patriots defense. And with the offense looking very strong, perhaps the defense won't be asked to shut down opponents as frequently as they have in the past. If this team remains relatively healthy (obviously every team is going to lose some starters) I don't see any way it's not playing deep into January.
Paul Perillo

Sorry, I disagree with your assessment of the schedule strength. We don't have our perennial loss to Denver on the schedule. We have a few difficult games against SD, Indy and Cincy but I'm not buying Pittsburgh with a new coach and fewer weapons. I also want to see Chad Pennington have two good years in a row (I said the same thing at the start of last year about Plummer). As far as the league's most overrated division (NFC East) 4-0 - BOOK IT! That division brags the 2 most overrated QBs in the league - McNabb and Manning, and the most overrated coach in the league (16 years since a Super Bowl win, 11 years since a Super Bowl appearance, nine years without a playoff win). If Washington is not a cupcake I don't know what is. You guys should stop reading Peter King's articles. What happened to the three playoff teams from the NFC East that everyone was predicting last year?Andrew Green

Andrew takes the prize for most misguided email of the week. When he's not breaking his arm patting himself on the back (Jake Plummer) he's otherwise simply wrong. What happened to the three playoff teams in the NFC East people were predicting last year?? Correct me if I'm wrong here, Andrew, but three NFC East teams DID make the playoffs last year (Philadelphia, Dallas and the Giants). In fact, one could accurately argue that those teams might have fared better in the postseason if they weren't forced to beat each other up in the regular season twice each. And I know in this day and age we often glamorous certain coaches and build them up perhaps a bit more than they should, but are you honestly trying to make the case that Joe Gibbs is not a great coach? The main reason he hasn't won a Super Bowl since 1991 is he was out of the league for most of that time running his NASCAR team. And even then you were wrong because Gibbs' Redskins won a playoff game just one year ago against Tampa Bay. Basically a schedule is easy according to you as long as Denver isn't on it. Using your "logic" what playoff game did the Broncos play in last year and how long has it been since Mike Shanahan has been to the Super Bowl? The answer is none and eight years – so I guess you're saying Shanahan is like Gibbs and he can't coach, either. Of course now that I'm examining the ridiculous numbers you have in parentheses, those don't even add up for Gibbs since it's only been 15 years since he last won the SB. I can only assume that once again you're facts are wrong and you're describing Bill Parcells, who isn't even the Cowboys coach anymore. But I guess you missed that one since it only happened about three months ago.
Paul Perillo

I hear a lot of talk of how Laurence Maroney might not be able to handle a full load and the possibility of us going out and getting a guy like a Chris Brown. So I actually have a few questions, why bring in Sammy Morris if we can't really count on him? Also, what's wrong with Kevin Faulk, in his career with the Patriots I feel as though he has always done what was asked of him and he has done it well most of the time? Kevin Faulk to me is fairly similar to Maroney and Brown, but the two back systems I have seen work in the NFL including our own is when teams have a power back and guy who is going to stretch outside, so who is out there for us to possibly grab to help not put too much on Maroney in his sophomore season?
Joe Rinaldi

I'm not sure where you got the impression that Maroney might not be able to handle a full load. He did suffer through some injuries last year, and perhaps his durability is not a certainty at this point, but that doesn't mean he won't be able to handle a full load. Morris was brought in to pick up a few spare carries here and there and perhaps to catch some passes out of the backfield. Faulk is, has and always will be a third-down back. Nothing more, nothing less. Whenever he's been asked to do more than that, he's failed. As long as he's used in a similar role I believe he'll continue to be productive. As far as your comparisons go, I disagree a bit. Maroney is much bigger than Faulk and the two have nothing in common in running style. Maroney is a violent runner who is physical. Faulk is shifty and operates best in space. Both have speed and the ability to make people miss, but Maroney is much stronger. And Brown is more of a power back like Dillon (not nearly as accomplished obviously). Brown would be valuable if Maroney were to miss time for some reason because he's capable to handling full-time duty on a short-term basis. Morris can probably do some of that too but I believe Brown would be a better option for 20 carries in a particular game.
Paul Perillo

I see Mike Richardson is wearing No. 35, what happened to Patrick Pass?
Rian Bednarz

Pass is an unrestricted free agent and has yet to sign with any team. With the addition of Sammy Morris to go along with Heath Evans, Maroney and Faulk – plus sixth-round pick Justise Hairston – there wouldn't seem to be any need for Pass on the Patriots, but he's been cut before and returned so you never know.
Paul Perillo

Do you have any insight for us on Marquise Hill? I went to the first week of training camp 2006 and watched the second day morning session when he hurt his ankle during a very ordinary drill. My impression was "this guy isn't even in shape." It is a mystery to me why a guy, surrounded by great peers on the line and a great coach in Pepper Johnson, can't muster up even a modicum of self-respect and effort. What is wrong with this kid?Chris Noble

I'm not going to get too self-righteous here because I've been trying to figure out what the coaching staff sees in Hill for two years now. Based on training camp and preseason games (that's all we have to go on) he hasn't really distinguished himself. But to suggest hurting an ankle is an example of not being in shape is quite a stretch. And how can any observer determine how a player gets injured just by watching? Just because it looked like an ordinary drill doesn't mean a player can't get injured. To suggest he shouldn't have gotten injured on the play because it didn't look like anything out of the ordinary is unfair to Hill.
Paul Perillo

What number will Randy Moss wear as a New England Patriot? The number 18 he wore with Oakland has been grabbed by free agent acquisition Donte' Stallworth. Do you think he'll go back to 84 like he has with the Vikings, or something new? Maybe 1.
Tyler P.

Moss has still yet to choose a number, but it won't be 1 because NFL rules force receivers to use numbers in the 80s or the teens. Also, Benjamin Watson is No. 84 so if Moss wants that it would likely cost him.
Paul Perillo

Did not see Justin Warren's (ILB Texas A&M rookie free agent) name mentioned during your weekend coverage of rookie mini-camp. Was wondering if he is still en route to Foxboro from Texas or has he made it to town and just was in process of moving in?Chip Heard

Warren practiced for a short time on Saturday but suffered a leg injury and spent the rest of the workout and all day Sunday riding an exercise bike on the sideline. He is still with the team and is wearing No. 47 in blue.
Paul Perillo

Is Don Davis working with the Pats? He's an awesome motivator and role model.Russell Aldridge

Davis retired in the offseason and is now serving as assistant strength and conditioning coach with Harold Nash under Mike Woicik. And we at PFW agree: Don is a tremendous person and a great candidate to serve as a role model.
Paul Perillo

I know Wilson's contract is up at the end of the season. He has had a great year, a good year, a subpar year and an injured year. Will this year determine if the Pats will want to retain him, and what will be the interest in him on the open market?Bella M.

There will be a lot of factors involved in whether or not the Patriots would want to retain Wilson's services. First and foremost would be his production. If Wilson has a solid year then clearly the team would like to keep him. But then factors like salary, depth and other options come into play. For example, if Brandon Meriweather comes in and contributes right away, it might make it easier to let Wilson go rather than get caught in a bidding war for him. Also, if there are a couple of veteran options that the team might like more than Wilson, then that could play a role as well. Bottom line is Wilson's performance will determine what kind of marketability he has next offseason. If he plays like he did from 2003-04, he'll be a sought after commodity. If he gets banged up and is inconsistent, the market will be lukewarm at best.
Paul Perillo

Compensatory picks cannot be traded. Does this prohibition extend to picks after they are made? For example, is it OK for a team to make a compensatory pick and then immediately ship them to another team?
Scott Houde

Once the pick is made, it is completely legal to then trade it. But logistically this is difficult. If the pick is traded before the player is signed, the teams' rookie cap pools are not affected. So if a team has $3 million to sign all of its draft picks based on the nine picks it made, and then trades for an unsigned draft choice, it still would have only $3 million to sign 10 picks. That makes deals of that nature virtually impossible since the rookie cap pool is exhausted by every team. And if the player is signed by the team that drafted him, that team would then be tossing away whatever the signing bonus was, however modest it may have been. Teams aren't in the business of chucking $100,000 down the drain so any such deal would have to be a pretty good one to substantiate such a move.
Paul Perillo

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