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Ask PFW: Offseason issues

Antowain Smith's replacement and chasing the Dolphins immortality high on Pats fans priority lists.

I read somewhere that if a team offers their potential free agent enough money and he signs with another team, then the team that lost the free agent can get a first-round and a third-round pick. Is one pick a conditional pick? Can you please explain?
Biddeford, Maine

You're thinking of restricted free agency. If a player is restricted, that means his current team can match any offer he receives from another team. But it also means the current team can get compensation if it loses the player provided that team offered the player a contract. If the offer is what is called a high tender and the player still signs elsewhere, the original team would be due the compensation you described – a first- and third-round pick. This happened to the Patriots after the 1997 season when they lost Curtis Martin to the Jets. They offered a high tender and he still signed with the Jets. There are also medium tenders and low tenders, which would provide less compensation – the medium tender would receiver a first-round pick while the low tender yields a pick in the round the lost player was originally selected. There are also compensatory picks the NFL awards for losing unrestricted free agents but those are mid-to-low-round picks.
Paul Perillo

Can you explain what exactly a Cover 2 defense is? My understanding is that the corners play the receivers for the first 12 or so yards then pass them off to the safeties. The corners then drop into zones and the safeties play the receivers man-to-man the rest of the way. This takes advantage of the loss of energy experienced by the receiver. As the corner starts to fade in strength/speed, the safety (with fresh legs from waiting 15 yards back) takes over. It seems like so many writers/reporters toss out the words "Cover 2" and really don't know what it means.
Andrew Grigg
Salem, Mass.

Your explanation of the cover 2 is pretty good, although I'm not sure about your reasoning with the receivers getting tired and fresh legs and all that. The cover 2 basically means the two safeties stay back and are responsible for their deep halves of the field. A cover 3 would have three players dividing the field into thirds. Corners can play man-to-man or zone in the cover 2. Miami, for example, plays tight coverage on the line with their cornerbacks playing man-to-man, but use their safeties in cover 2 to help with any deep balls. It has nothing to do with defenders "passing the receivers off" to the safeties.
Paul Perillo

Who are the Patriots team captains?
David Morin
Norwell, Mass.

The Patriots had seven captains in 2003 – Tom Brady, Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Ted Johnson, Larry Izzo and Rodney Harrison.
Paul Perillo

What is the record for consecutive games won, including crossing into a new season?
Providence, R.I.

The Chicago Bears won 17 regular season games in a row in 1933-34 so the Patriots will still need to win six straight to open the 2004 season in order to claim the record.
Paul Perillo

I was told there was a logo prior to the old Pat Patriot. Something about a white helmet with a blue minuteman hat on both sides of the helmet. Is this true?
Douglas, Mass.

In 1960 the Patriots wore the logo you described. The tri-cornered hat was designed by a gentleman named Walter Pingree, who won a contest. The following year the team went with the more familiar Pat Patriot logo and kept it until 1993, when the Flying Elvis made its debut. I'm not sure where you could find the old helmet, but the New England Sports Museum is always a good place to start.
Paul Perillo

Here is something that has been on my mind. I really hope they bring back Ted Washington, but how will he be able to pass Belichick's running test?
David Baker
New York, N.Y.

You'd be surprised how well Big Ted can move around. While the conditioning is certainly no picnic, I don't see Washington having any trouble passing it. His mobility is one of the things that makes him so effective.
Paul Perillo

Does the NFL have single-season rushing touchdowns by a quarterback stats and if so does Steve Grogan hold the record?
Ronny King
Weymouth, Mass.

Yes and yes. Grogan rushed for 12 touchdowns in 1976, the most ever in a single season by an NFL quarterback. Kordell Stewart rushed for 11 touchdowns in 1997, the most since Grogan's 1976 effort.
Paul Perillo

Out of all 32 NFL teams in the NFL where did the Patriots rank in red zone scoring?
Springhill, Fla.

The Patriots finished 28th in the league in red zone offense, scoring touchdown 44 percent of the time.
Paul Perillo

Every now and then with some consistency, when listening to or reading the comments Belichick provides in interviews or postgame speeches, he uses two words, "reads" and "looks." Can you explain what is going on when these words are used in football-speak? (i.e. "he had a hot read," "he showed them different looks").
Dan Macione
Peabody, Mass.

Reads are when the players have their assignments on a play dictated by what the opponent is doing. A quarterback, for example, might look at the defensive alignment and decide what he's going to do based on what he sees. He's making his "read" based on how the coverage is playing his receivers. The receivers run their routes depending on how the coverage is set, "reading" where the defenders are and adjusting their route accordingly. Same thing for "looks." Teams like to change their approach periodically. The Patriots defense can use five men up front and then change their "look" with only two or three depending on how they want to play it. They're just words coaches use to vaguely describe what's taking place on the field.
Paul Perillo

What determines which team wears home or away jersey colors?
Worcester, Mass.

I assume you mean at the Super Bowl since the home team would dictate who wears what jersey during any other game. In the Super Bowl, the conferences alternate serving as the home team. In 1985, 2001 and 2003 the Patriots were the home team and thus wore their dark jerseys. In 1996, the Packers were the home team and wore their dark jerseys while the Patriots wore white.
Paul Perillo

What is Adam Vinatieri's longest field goal? How long was the field goal that won Super Bowl XXXVI? And currently, when was the last time that he missed a field goal meaning how long is his streak for field goals made?
Dan Schmidt
Mount Pleasant, Mich.

Adam's longest career field goal is 57 yards, which he kicked at Chicago on Nov. 10, 2002, in a 33-30 Patriots win over the Bears in Champagne, Ill. His two Super Bowl winning kicks were from 48 yards in 2001 against the Rams and 41 yards this year against the Panthers. Before this Super Bowl when he missed his first two attempts, Adam missed his first try against Tennessee in the divisional playoffs, then made six in a row before missing against Carolina.
Paul Perillo

I know the Pats acquired Ted Washington via trade from the Bears, but for how long is he under contract with the Pats? Do they intend to pursue a long-term deal?
Rudy Flamisch
Orlando, Fla.

Washington was only under contract for the 2003 season and thus will become a free agent in March unless the Patriots re-sign him before then. My assumption is the team will definitely pursue a deal that will keep him here for at least two or three more years, especially considering Washington has expressed a desire to remain here in New England.
Paul Perillo

Who were the quarterbacks between Steve Grogan and Drew Bledsoe?
Shaana Myers
Waterford, Maine

Depending on when you want to start recording the quarterbacks after Grogan, there were several that bridged the gap between him and Bledsoe. Grogan's career ended in 1990, but even before that there was Tony Eason (1984-89), Doug Flutie (1987-89), Tom Ramsey (1987-88), Marc Wilson (1989-90), Tommy Hodson (1990-92), Hugh Millen (1991-92) and Scott Zolak (1992-98). Bledsoe arrived in 1993 and was the starter from Day 1.
Paul Perillo

Going into the draft the Patriots obviously need to look into a running back and a punter. Besides this do you see any other weaknesses in this team that need to be addressed?
David K.
Holbrook, Mass.

I would think this is the year the Patriots finally draft a running back early (in the first two rounds) since most of their backfield will likely be gone when 2004 begins. Punter is an obvious need that may or may not be filled in the draft depending on how they want to approach that. Otherwise, I think they could use some youth at linebacker and cornerback. Wilson and Samuel worked out well last year but Law and Poole are both getting up there so potential replacements will need to be groomed. Bruschi, Johnson, Phifer and McGinest are also approaching that stage so some youth at that spot would be a nice addition.
Paul Perillo

Is this the beginning of the dismantling of our team? Big Kraft got another win and it seems we're doomed. It becomes money now. Thoughts? Is Antowain the first link to bring us down? He said he'd do anything to stay here and the Pats just cast him off. Not the team we've seen promoted in the media.
Manchester, N.H.

The Patriots didn't become "the team we've seen promoted in the media" by making bad financial decisions. Antowain Smith was set to earn more than $2 million in base salary and more than $4 million against the cap. Those numbers are far too high for a guy who finished the year with less than 700 yards rushing. He was a team player and he could return, but would have to do so at a reduced rate. Belichick's sound financial decisions are a major reason for the Patriots success.
Paul Perillo

Do you think that the Pats will go after Kevin Barlow? I know he is restricted but I think even giving up a 1st rounder on him is better then drafting a running back that may or may not perform.
Davenport, Fla.

Barlow is definitely an intriguing guy. He's actually a lot like Antowain, only better since he's younger and faster. The problem is as a restricted free agent his services might be tough to acquire. The Patriots aren't afraid to sign players to offer sheets but obtaining those players can be difficult. The 49ers would have the opportunity to match any offer, plus depending on what type of tender offer they make, the Patriots might also have to fork over some draft picks as well. Assuming it would cost the Patriots a reasonable amount of money to sign Barlow in the first place, the draft pick compensation might prove to be too steep a price.
Paul Perillo

I don't mean to sound so old fashioned, but what is a blitz? Could you also put that into easy terms?
Rutland, Vt.

In the simplest of terms, a blitz is when the defense rushes more than four players after the quarterback. Normally, a defense has four players rush while the other seven are employed is some type of pass coverage. On a blitz, the defense sends extra players after the passer. Now, there are also run blitzes where a defense sends a linebacker or safety to run to a particular spot where they believe a run might be designed. When you see a safety close to the line and he rushes into the backfield when the ball is snapped, you can bet it's a blitz.
Paul Perillo

Listening to Coach Shula the other day he mentioned when the Dolphins had their "perfect" season the following season they went with two losses which led to an ungodly 31-2 record. What was the Dolphins record their previous season to the 17-0.How does this compare to the current two-season record of the Pats and statistically speaking are preseason games figured into winning streaks.
James Mitchell
Woolwich, Maine

First, preseason games are not included in these streaks. As for comparing the Patriots to the Dolphins of the early-1970s, there's really no comparison. Miami went 12-4-1 in 1971 and lost in Super Bowl VI to Dallas, then went 17-0 in 1972 and won the Super Bowl. That's 29-4-1 including the postseason. The Patriots went 9-7 and missed the playoffs in 2002 before going 17-2 this year for a two-year total of 26-9. The Dolphins then went 15-2 and won a second straight Super Bowl in 1973 for a three-year total of 43-6-1. A truly amazing run for Don Shula's boys.
Paul Perillo

I'm curious as to what the Jets did with the draft pick they got from the Patriots for Bill Belichick.
Ed Cormier
Rochester, N.H.

The Patriots gave the Jets three draft picks all together in order to obtain Bill Belichick's services: a first rounder in 2000, a fourth rounder in 2001 and a seventh rounder in 2001. The Jets did some wheeling and dealing with the first rounder but eventually selected defensive end Shaun Ellis as their first of four first-round picks in 2000. They took cornerback Jamie Henderson in the fourth round in 2001 and defensive tackle James Reed in the seventh round in 2001. All three remain with the Jets.
Paul Perillo

I know that the Super Bowl trophy is called the Lombardi Trophy. Is there a person's name associated with the NFC Trophy and the AFC Trophy?
Warren Reynolds
New Fairfield, Conn.

The AFC Championship Trophy is called the Lamar Hunt Trophy in honor of the Kansas City owner who was instrumental in merger the old AFL with the NFL. The NFC trophy is called the George S. Halas Trophy in honor of the longtime Chicago Bears coach and owner.
Paul Perillo

What's the difference between a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro? I know the Patriots who've been to the Pro Bowl in recent years but are any current players All-Pro?
Hemel Hempstead
United Kingdom

A good question not many people understand. The Pro Bowl team is selected late in the season by fans, players and coaches. Those chosen play in the all-star game in Hawaii the week after the Super Bowl. The All-Pro Team is chosen by the Associated Press and is much more prestigious in that there's only one team selected for the whole NFL. Instead of three quarterbacks per conference, like the Pro Bowl team, there's just one picked as an All-Pro. This season, Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison were chosen as All-Pros.
Paul Perillo

What's the prize money per player to the team that wins?
Dearborn, Mich.

By "wins" I assume you're talking about the Super Bowl, in which case each member of the Patriots receives $68,000 for beating the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Paul Perillo

After beating the Colts, the Pats are 4-0 in conference championship games. Is any team in the NFL better than this? Also, which team has been to the most conference championship games and which lost the most?
Waterville, Maine

The Pats 4-0 mark in conference title games is the best in the league since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. The Broncos are 6-1 (.857) and have the next best winning percentage. The Cowboys with 14 trips to the conference title game since 1970 (8-6) have the most appearances.
Paul Perillo

Is Deion Branch any relation to Oakland Raider Cliff Branch?
Anthony Dee
Ozone Park, N.Y.

Deion Branch is not related to for Raiders great Cliff Branch.
Paul Perillo

I am curious to know, after the '72 Dolphins won the super bowl, how long did it take the next season for them to lose a regular season game?
Ashburn, Va.

The Dolphins won their first game in 1973, lost their second game, then won 10 in a row. So after losing the Super Bowl in 1971, the Dolphins won 28 out of their next 29 games from 1972-73.
Paul Perillo

Now that Brady is being compared to the likes of Montana, I was wondering if you can shed some light on his salary structure. Just how long is contract? The other point is with the game. As we were struggling with the team to keep Carolina's offense out of the end zone, Rodney went down, the sideline shots looked bad but then the sideline reporter came out and said that it was minor and she expected him back in the game. Then soon after the sideline shot showed his arm being wrapped up and soon after running to the locker room. I was upset with this for based on the reporter I was expecting to see him running back in the game, not the locker room. Do you have any insight as to where she got her info and why it was so off the mark?
Joe Kelley
Washington, D.C.

Brady signed a contract extension just before the start of the 2002 season that will keep him in New England through 2006 so you don't need to worry about losing him for now. He will be entering the higher end portion of the deal as far as salary goes, so the Patriots will likely try to work with him to keep the numbers reasonable.
As for Harrison, the sideline reporters simply report what they're told. That same information is announced in the press box for the writers. Harrison was reported to have an arm injury and his return was probable. Then we all saw what you saw and it was apparent the injury was more severe. The sideline reporter can only report what he/she is told by the team.
Paul Perillo

The Super Bowl MVP went to Tom Brady, I think the MVP should have been given to David Givens or Mike Vrabel. What do you think?
Pats Fan
Taunton, Mass.

While I think Vrabel was certainly worthy of consideration, as was Deion Branch (10 catches, 143 yards, 1 TD), in my opinion Brady was the MVP. He directed the offense exceptionally well and rallied the team from behind with scoring drives on the Patriots final two possessions.
Paul Perillo

What are the cheerleader rules? Can they speak to the football players? Can they date them? Do they get paid by the NFL?
Haverhill, Mass.

The cheerleaders are paid by their individual teams, not the league. As for the Patriots, their cheerleaders are not allowed to fraternize with the players in any way.
Paul Perillo

Do you think the Pats will cut/release Huard and have the younger guys Davey and Kingsbury as the Nos. 2 and 3 next year?
Greensboro, N.C.

Even if the Patriots wanted to bring Huard back, it's unlikely that he would want to return. His contract is up so he's free to find a team where he feels his chances of playing are better than they would be here behind Tom Brady. His cap number as a soon-to-be eight-year veteran is also getting a bit pricey. Davey and Kingsbury will likely get a chance to win the backup role, and if neither seems capable, look for the Patriots to sign another veteran like Huard as insurance.
Paul Perillo

Has the Super Bowl ever been played in a northern open-air stadium, and if so, which one(s)? If not, do you think there will ever come a time when it is played in such a stadium (such as Gillette)?
Tim Smith
South Kent, Conn.

I hope not. The Super Bowl has never been played in a cold-weather, open-air stadium. The only cold weather sites have been indoors (Detroit, Minnesota, etc.). Playing outdoors in January/February doesn't seem like a good idea with weather potentially having a serious impact on the result of the game. The NFL has toyed with the notion pf playing in New York and Washington in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in September of 2001, but hopefully that will never come to fruition.
Paul Perillo

What is your opinion of Mike Cloud's future with the Patriots? He has made some major contributions to the team offensively, but has been conspicuously absent in recent weeks. Have his substance abuse problems played any part in his lack of playing time?
Pawtucket, R.I.

Cloud was brought in as insurance in case something happened to Antowain Smith. He performed reasonably well in his limited opportunities, mostly against Tennessee back in October. He could return as insurance again in the event that whichever direction the Patriots go to replace Smith (draft, free agency) doesn't work out. His substance abuse problem (in actuality he used a contaminated supplement) had nothing to do with his lack of playing time. He's a solid backup but at this point doesn't look to be much more, although others have emerged from similar situations in the past and become frontline starters.
Paul Perillo

Do the players on I.R get a Super Bowl ring?
Miami, Fla.

Yes, all players on injured reserve and the practice squad get rings. Depending on the individual team, even those who played at some point in the season that are no longer with the club (like Aric Morris) sometimes get rings.
Paul Perillo

Do you think Ty Law might reconsider and restructure his contract to remain a Patriot? The team is definitely on the right track, spreading the wealth more evenly (under the cap), rather than overspending on a few marquee players. It is hard to believe that Lawyer Milloy is happier as a Buffalo Bill, even if he is earning more money -- and I hope Ty Law will realize that the fans & team want Ty to play his entire career in New England, that the salary cap has incurred hardships on teams that make restructuring hefty contracts the way of the world if the team is going to remain competitive year to year.
Jim D.
Destin,. Fla.

Law won't have to reconsider in order to restructure his contract. He's said from the start that he would do so but that under no circumstances would he take a pay cut. If the Patriots truly want him back, as you claim they do, then I see no reason for Law not to return. He can either restructure his deal and remain a Patriot for several more years (getting some guaranteed bonus money up front) or simply play out his current deal this season and likely have to be released before 2005, when the deal calls for a huge jump.
Paul Perillo

First do you think that Harrison, Poole, Washington, Troy Brown should have gone to the Pro-Bowl?
Mexico, Maine

Individually – yes, no, no, no. Harrison was robbed of a Pro Bowl selection and the fact that he was later named All-Pro is proof of that. Poole had a nice season but in my mind wasn't Pro Bowl caliber. Washington would have gone had he not been injured and missed six games, but that fact can't be ignored so I don't believe he should have been picked. Troy Brown also missed several games due to injury and his production jumped off dramatically as a result.
Paul Perillo

Question on the onside kick, as in the Carolina-St. Louis Game. When St. Louis kicks the ball and it goes the 10 yards, doesn't Carolina have to touch the ball? If Carolina had never touched the ball, would not the ball be downed wherever St. Louis touched it and then be Carolina ball?
Corpus Christi, Texas

No, that would be for a punt. On any kickoff, whether it's an onside kick or not, the ball is live. That means the kicking team can recover it like a fumble whether the receiving team has touched it or not. Thus an onside kick, once it travels 10 yards, is eligible to be recovered by the kicking team.
Paul Perillo

What is the status of Rosevelt Colvin and his recovery? Also, what are the salary cap implications for the team if he can't ever play again and retires or gets cut after a failed try to make the squad next year?
Jay Orlander
West Roxbury, Mass.

Colvin appears to be rehabbing nicely from his hip injury but there's no way of knowing for sure how well he'll be able to return until camp gets underway and he has to deal with contact. Colvin still has five years remaining on his contract and he already received a $6 million dollar signing bonus that is spread out evenly over the six years of the deal. In the event that he would be forced to retire, the Patriots would absorb the accelerated portion of the bonus ($5 million for 2004 if he retired before that season). There is a possibility the Patriots would receive some relief given the injury situation, but that is one of the dangers of signing high-priced free agents.
Paul Perillo

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