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Ask PFW: Part II

Hello there! I hope you receive this e-mail. I am planning a trip from Dallas, Texas to Boston to attend Patriots Training Camp this summer but I have some questions that I hope ya'll could answer. 1. Exactly when is training camp? Times, etc. 2. Is it open to the public? 3. Where is training camp? 4. Is it free? Thanks for any information!
Chris McDonald

Training camp opens during the final week of July on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium, is free and is open to the public (the exact start date and tentative first-day practice schedule should be available on later this week). The schedule changes on a daily basis and is always at the discretion of the coaching staff but usually alternates between two practices one day and one the next. Training camp generally runs through the middle of August, although again the exact closing date is at the discretion of the coaching staff. See you there.
Andy Hart

Hi guys, I have a question, or series of questions, about how signing new players works in light of the various roster restrictions. Could you please explain: 1. Whether there is a cap on the roster number all year; 2. At what point the roster size must be reduced to 80 (I think it's the start of training camp in late July, right?) 3. At what point the roster must be reduced to 53 players? First game of the regular season? Three days before it? 4. Whether any of the above includes the Practice Squad, which I heard a rumor might not be renewed in accordance with a new CBA in order to save the owners money? When the Patriots "sign" a new player -- e.g., Monty Beisel -- he is not guaranteed a roster spot on either the 80 or 53 person roster, correct? If he receives a "signing bonus" does that occur immediately? What if it's prorated over the length of the contract but he doesn't make the 53-man roster? Is all of it due or none of it? Is the yearly salary only paid if he makes the 53-man roster? What if he makes the roster but is cut after the first game? Is the whole season prorated? The reason I ask all these questions is that I'm always reading about these many players the Patriots signed. They just signed another DB. Isn't that 12 "on the roster" right now? How many guys do you need? Seriously, I think right now the Patriots must have more players than any other team by a mile. All of them can't stay. What are the financial implications, if any, to signing so many players and then needing to release them as the regular season approaches? Thanks in advance if you can handle this multifaceted question.PS: They still don't have Belichick's gray hooded sweatshirt at the Pro Shop. Are you SURE that's coming back?Jason Jarvis

While there is a lot to digest here, I will do my best to answer all the questions. The roster limit for the offseason and training camp is 80, but there are player exemptions that can be earned for such things as sending guys to NFL Europe. This season teams must reduce rosters to the 53-man limit (and all exemptions expire) by Sept. 4. The eight-man practice squad does not count toward the 53-man limit as the players are not on the active roster. A player is not guaranteed a roster spot, but any signing bonus is paid when the deal is inked and counts toward the salary cap whether the player makes the team or not. If he makes the team, the money is prorated over the life of the deal. If he is cut, one-year of what would have been the prorated portion of the bonus goes on the current cap while the rest goes on the following year's cap. Yearly salaries on the other hand are only paid out and only count toward the cap if the player makes the roster. The Patriots have a similar number of players on the roster as most teams. New England has a roster limit of 88 players thanks to a number of exemptions from its NFLEL players, but as of now the team has only signed one of its 2005 draft picks. Until the rest of those guys sign, they aren't technically on the roster and don't count toward the 88-man limit. Teams need to have that many players to have a competitive training camp and preseason without getting too many guys hurt or worn out. All teams do it basically the same way and have as many guys as possible in camp. And yes, the Pro Shop will have the Belichick gray hooded sweatshirt. Just be patient. How'd I do with all your questions?
Andy Hart

Hey guys, die hard fan straight out Eagle country! Love the column too by the way. This season I successfully turned my girlfriend into a Pats fan, or should I say Brady/Fauria fan. I'm looking to get her a jersey before the season starts and she said she wanted an Adam Vinatieri jersey. My only concern is that he won't be a Patriot for much longer and that I should get her a jersey of a guy who will be around longer. So my real question for you guys is what is the chance that the Patriots will sign Vinatieri to a new contract and keep him around? I hope you guys have the chance to answer this because it would be a lot of help. Thanks!!!
Neal C.

Buy the Vinatieri jersey and get the authentic. I don't think he's going anywhere. He's already franchised for this year and I expect that the sides will work out a long-term deal later this summer sometime. The team can't sign him to a long-term deal right now because if it did the team would lose the use of the franchise tag for the length of that deal. After July 15 that restriction is lifted. Unless something strange happens I expect Vinatieri, arguably the most clutch kicker in the game, to be in New England for quite some time.
Andy Hart

Why don't people including your staff recognize what Rohan Davey did last year in NFL Europe. He did the same thing as a lot of big name Qbs have done who everybody admire. He led the Berlin Thunder to a World Bowl victory after a great season in both rushing and passing. Remember, such Qbs as Kurt Warner and others have done similar things, yet fans of the Patriots dismiss him as a so -so Qb. What gives? Give the guy the credit he deserves and a chance to play in the preseason and see what he can do. I understand he throws the ball harder than Brady just give the receivers a chance to get used to a guy with a strong arm and watch what happens. Thanks for listening and GO PATS!
Peter Reynolds

Everyone is well aware of what Davey did last season against questionable talent in NFL Europe. And no one will argue his arm strength. The things that people question are his accuracy, his timing, his reads and his ability to fit into a timing-based NFL offense. Davey has had chances in the preseason and hasn't exactly shined. And take it from someone who has seen just about every training camp throw he's made in his career in New England, he's been a so-so quarterback at best. I commend your support of Davey but he still has a lot to prove in terms of becoming a legitimate NFL quarterback. Let's not forget that more quarterbacks have fallen off the football radar despite solid seasons in Europe than have gone on to NFL stardom. NFLEL serves a purpose, but success there certainly doesn't guarantee anything when the players return from across the pond.
Andy Hart

Over the past four+ months we have all heard the word dynasty thrown around (which in itself is amazing considering the hapless efforts of the early eighties and nineties). My question refers to an article written by Peter King a couple of weeks back. He chronicled every dynasty over the past thirty years in the NFL and compared the hall of fame representation from those teams. I know it is tough thing to determine where careers end up, but at this stage is there anyone other than Brady and Belichick who gets in? Actually the only other person who would even get on the ballet might be Law? Even if we win another one, I still don't see anyone else being elected. Is it possible for the Pats to be the dominant team of a decade and only have one player elected?Mathew Varughese

Since this is merely premature speculation, I will just throw some names out there and leave it at that. Brady is a lock. Belichick, too. Despite being "just a kicker," I think Vinatieri will draw serious consideration. Seymour is well on his way. And my early-career long shot is free safety Eugene Wilson. Don't laugh, anything could happen and he is a supremely talented young player.
Andy Hart

Hi Guys.... Last week a question was raised about Richard Seymour's contract, and the fact that he might get "Franchised". It is my understanding that the franchise tag carries a price tag of either the average salary of the top 5 players at the position, or a 120% value of the players current contract. FIRST OF ALL, is this correct? Next, assuming I am correct, Seymour (IF FRANCHISED) would obviously get the average of the top 5 players, since this would be a larger salary (Since he's working off a rookie contract and one that is financially feasible for the patriots). DRUMROLL PLEASE......From this can you tell me what the franchise number would be if he were to sign this year or next year? ALSO, my guess is that the pats would try to sign him as a DT, as opposed to a DE. I'm assuming that the salaries for the top DE would be higher than those of the top 5 DT's. IS THIS TRUE? What are the numbers for both DT's or DE's? If there is such a discrepancy, who decides this?....The league, the commissioner?...An arbitrator??? LASTLY....I'm not sure, but I thought if a player is franchised and then signs a contract (a la Vinatieri), then a team cannot sign another player to a franchise tag for the duration of the aforementioned players contract (ie...if Vinatieri signed a 3 year contract after being franchised, then the team would lose the franchise tag for those 3 years).Am I correct on this? If this is the case, then would the team even have a franchise tag to use on Seymour? Thanks a lot guys.*Jason Tyner

As long as the team doesn't sign Vinatieri, or any franchise player in any year, to a deal between March 15 and July 15, it can avoid losing its franchise tag. So even though Vinatieri may carry the franchise tag for this season, the team could sign the kicker to a long term deal after July 15 and then use the tag in the future on Seymour or other players. The franchise number this year for DTs is $5.134 million. The number is $6.666 million for DEs. So you are right, if there is a dispute as to whether Seymour is an end or a tackle, and there very well could be, there would be more than $1.5 million at stake. A call placed to the NFL league offices got an interesting answer. According to AFC information manager Steve Alic, "teams submit to the league office a position for every player on their club." So Seymour would be franchised at whatever position the Patriots officially list him with the league office.
Andy Hart

Hi, I just had a quick procedural question. If a player is on a teams practice squad, can another team come in and sign that player without him being let go by his current team? I only ask because, given the depth the Pats seem to have at almost every position, they might have to expose some good players on the practice squad. Also, with all the talk of Troy Brown and local endorsements... How has UPS never signed Troy to an endorsement deal?? C'mon, "what can Brown do for you?" It's perfect!
Oliver Chadwick

Players must clear waivers before getting to the practice squad. Also, any player on a practice squad can be signed to another team's active roster at any time. And I agree, the UPS/Brown relationship would appear to be a no-brainer. But I guess that is why you and I aren't advertising executives.
Andy Hart

What can the team do with rookies that can't crack the 53 man roster, but the team feels they have future value? I know there is the practice squad, but can they just put them there or do they have to clear waivers? I know last week you indicated that Matt Cassel wouldn't be kept as a fourth quarterback, to which I agree, especially when you say they are going to keep 11 LB's; there just aren't the roster spots available like there were back when Brady was kept as #4. I know he may not be the best example, because I would not see any other team plucking him, but what are the options for the team? Can he get a mystery injury and be put on PUP or IR or something else? A related question is- is there a difference in the exposure of the player to the team different if they are on the Practice Squad vs. PUP? The point being that if he doesn't make the team, what is the best way to at least keep him around the action and learn from the best? And before you go off on me, no I do not think that Cassel is the necessarily the next Brady (Brady 20-5 as a started- Cassel 0-0), but I think the pick was intriguing and do think that more than Brady, this guy needs to be around as much as possible because he just hasn't played.

Could a player have a "mystery injury"? Yes, and I am sure that all 32 NFL teams have done something along those lines at some point. But there are penalties for such things if you abuse the rules and get caught. There is a difference between PUP and the practice squad. PUP guys can't practice until six weeks into the season then have a window of time to practice before they must either be put on the active roster, go on IR for the year or be cut. Practice squad guys must clear waivers initially and can sign with any team, including their own, at any time during the season. In terms of the protecting a player, the IR/PUP route offers far more protection than the practice squad, which offers virtually no protection for a team to keep a player.
Andy Hart

Much has been made about Mike Vrabel having 5 career catches for 5 TDs. I can remember the catch in Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Panthers, 2004 regular season against the Rams and the 49ers, and Super Bowl XXXIX against the Eagles. I can't, however, recall his first TD reception from the 2002 season. Can you tell me in what game he started this streak? Thanks.
Mark Damiano

Vrabel scored his first career touchdown on a 1-yard pass from Tom Brady when he lined up as a tight end against the San Diego Chargers on Sept. 29, 2002.
Andy Hart

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