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Ask PFW: Passing the time

Time is winding down before the start of training camp, and Richard Seymour's contract situation remains the top item of concern in Patriots Nation.

OK, Bethel is obviously one of the fastest guys in the league and probably the fastest on the Patriots roster. He is clearly a great kick returner but why don't we use him on punts? There was an issue with his hands I'm aware he may not be the safest choice but last year we used him in one game that I can remember and he got a touchdown off of the play. The play was eventually called back I believe but I think we should give him another shot. I think he would do very well back there is there another reason why we are not using him back there?Shawn Donnelly

I'm not sure if the coaches have specific reasons for not using Bethel Johnson as a punt returner much. If it were up to me, I wouldn't use him in that capacity either. He has periodic troubles catching the ball, even on kickoffs, and ball security is the No. 1 priority when returning punts. There's no questioning Johnson's speed and running ability, but if he has a tough time making the decisions that separate great athletes from great punt returners then he can't be trusted to do that job on a consistent basis. Last year he returned four punts – and that was while the Patriots return game struggled for a spark all year. Obviously the coaches don't feel too comfortable having him operate in that role consistently.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys ... I moved to Ohio from Connecticut last year, and I rely on you guys to keep me up to date with all things Patriots. Could you tell me when the Super Bowl rings will be unveiled, specifically on the team website?Chris Tyler

The rings were unveiled on the website June 11 so if you haven't already checked them out be sure to take a look.
Paul Perillo

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 percent value of the player's 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). 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 DTs. Is this true? What are the numbers for both DTs or DEs? 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 (i.e. ... if Vinatieri signed a three-year contract after being franchised, then the team would lose the franchise tag for those 3 years). Am I correct on this? If this were the case, then would the team even have a franchise tag to use on Seymour?
Jason Tyner

Much of this stuff was covered last week but I thought it was worth repeating for those who missed it. (Of course, no one misses an installment of Ask PFW). Lots of stuff to digest here, but some very interesting points (especially for a power hitter such as yourself, Jason). First, you're info. is correct. The franchise tag means a player gets the average of the top five salaries or 120 percent of his current deal, whichever is larger. In Seymour's case, you're correct. The average of the top five would be far greater. Also, the Patriots would have the franchise tag available next year because Vinatieri has not signed a long-term deal. He signed his franchise tender, which is one year. If he signs a long-term deal between now and July 15, then the Patriots would lose the ability to use the tag for the duration of that deal. I wouldn't expect that to happen as the Patriots would likely wait until after that date before signing Vinatieri long term. Now, here's where it gets a little tricky. For 2005, the franchise numbers for DTs and DEs are as follows: DTs -- $5.134 million; DEs -- $6.666 million. According to information from the league office, teams designate players at a position for the purposes of determining franchise numbers. Whether Seymour objects to this remains to be seen, but he's listed as a defensive tackle for Pro Bowl voting, for whatever that's worth.
Paul Perillo

Hi Guys – I'm doing some Patriots historical research for a fansite and had a question regarding the Pats Media Guides. I have been unable to find Media Guides (or even references to them) for the years prior to 1965. I am guessing that they were available in some form, but haven't had any luck tracking them down. Can you confirm or deny the existence of such a publication(s)? If they do in fact exist - does anyone there know where I can locate such a beast?
Gary Needles

They won't be easy to come by, but they do exist. The Patriots don't even have one from every year but the good folks in media relations assure me that media guides were in fact published for every season. Your best bet may be to take a trip to the Sports Museum in Boston and try your luck there. The people involved with it are about the best Boston sports historians you'll find anywhere. If they don't have them, or at least know where to look, then it may be an impossible task.
Paul Perillo

Assuming that Tedy decides to take a year off to avoid any unwarranted injury from contact, do you see him acting as an assistant LB coach for this season, and also perhaps making a career in coaching when he can no longer play? I personally think he will make a terrific coach in the NFL (hopefully, with the Pats).
Bob Hickey

While Tedy has still yet to make his final decision regarding playing this season or in the future, I do know he is interested in coaching. I spoke with him about it last season while talking to Mike Vrabel about the same thing topic and both are interested in coaching at some point. I'm not sure if Bruschi would want to stay in the pros or try college, but it's given the circumstances it's not out of the realm of possibility to see him on the sidelines at Gillette.
Paul Perillo

Hi, Great forum, I really enjoy reading it every chance I get. A couple of questions ... I doubt he will, but if Seymour decides to sit out this season, would his salary count against this year's cap? If not, is there a deadline by which he has to sign with the team otherwise, his cap number can be redistributed to another player? Secondly, is "Ask PFW" on every week? There were a few weeks during late winter/early spring were your column hadn't been published.
Jay Bains

First, Ask PFW is published every week. There are very rare occasions – like when we're away at the Super Bowl – when we skip a week simply because other things are more important at the time. As for Seymour, it would depend how the team handled his potential holdout. The most logical course of action for the team would be to place him on the reserve/did not report list, which would allow the Patriots to replace him on the 53-man roster while also saving cap money. The team would not be required to pay him if he held out, and even could recoup portions of his signing bonus if it got that far. In order to get credit for an accrued season, and thus be one year closer to free agency, Seymour would have to return by the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season, which is Nov. 15.
Paul Perillo

I cannot believe people could believe someone like Richard Seymour would actually sit out a season he has already signed for. His name is Richard not Terrell. It is clear that he wants to be recognized for his dedication and contributions more than what that salary he is signed to make does. His no show at mini-camp may have people upset (me included) but let's be realistic. I am almost sure he wants to be a Patriot for as long as possible and needs to know if management feels the same way. With all the other great talent this team is acquiring, that makes BB's job very difficult. Brady was the exception but he cannot be replaced any cheaper and Richard can. I hope something can be worked out but that salary cap means we have Richard for two more years and he moves on. If something can be worked out then surely that means Richard will be willing to make somewhat less than he can command two years from now with another team and I hope that's the case. The salary cap is what it is and keeping great players like Richard is nearly impossible without them working for a discount. Pats fans must get used to that but also must understand that Bill B. has taken that salary cap situation and turned the Patriots into a dynasty when everyone else was saying it couldn't be done with a cap. Tedy understood that and signed for much less than he could have. Richard won't sit out but if he does not sign a new deal before the start of the season then I am sure he has at most two years left here. What a shame to lose not only a great talent but also a classy, unassuming and great team player.Ed Simkin

Good stuff, Ed. I'm sure both sides have taken a lot of the points you've made into consideration. I'm not so sure I agree with your assertion that Seymour wants to stay here long term. I think Seymour wants to get paid what he believes he is worth and if that means leaving the Patriots then I think that's what he'll do. The Patriots obviously have to keep an eye on the bottom line and can't just cave in to every player's demands; otherwise their whole team concept would take a hit. But I don't expect Seymour to accept a deal worth less than he believes he is worth just to stay in New England. I may be wrong, but I'd be surprised if he did that.
Paul Perillo

I realize that the Patriots drafted Marquis Hill because of his potential. I also know that he was a junior and lacked experience when he was drafted, but what are the expectations and what do YOU see for Hill in 2005? He was a 2nd round pick and players picked that high are expected to make a contribution to their team. In Hill's case how much can a player learn by standing on the sidelines like he did for 15 games last year. The exception being the (exhibition?) game with San Francisco at the end of the season. The Patriots had a tremendous draft in 2003 with Warren, Wilson, Bethel Johnson, Koppen, Klecko, etc. The 2004 draft had a solid starter in Wilfork and Watson looked good in his short stint. P.K. Sam and Guss Scott may help also but the rest of the picks like Dexter Reid are journeymen at best. I think the Patriots for the most part passed on drafting players in 2005. Several picks were exchanged for picks in 2006 and 3 of the picks were used because they could not be traded. At some point the Patriots will need to replace standout veterans like Ted Johnson, Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison. It is also a fact that some players will sign with other teams and players also get hurt. I am worried that if the Patriots have two bad drafts in a row the team will fall back to the level of the other teams in the league. I also realize that that will happen at some point anyway.
John John Heisman

Hill is an intriguing kid. He has great size (6-6, 300) and speed and athleticism to go with it. We haven't gotten much of a chance to see what he can do yet, but training camp and the preseason games should give us that chance. I expect him to make a big leap in Year 2, much the way many other Patriots youngsters in the past have. If that happens, he should be getting some reps in a defensive line rotation and maybe play about 10 or so snaps per game. Whether he does or not will be easier to answer once training camp starts next month. As for the drafts, I wouldn't classify the 2004 draft as a bad one, as you did. Many of the players were injured and didn't get a chance to play. Watson and Scott are the two key figures here. I believe both will be solid players, and when added with Wilfork that makes three terrific picks. And it's way too early to assess the 2005 class since they haven't even put helmets and shoulder pads on yet. Sure, at some point the Patriots are going to have an inevitable dropoff, but there's no reason to believe it will happen now.
Paul Paul Perillo

Greetings Gents! I have a few touchy comments and questions. C: Bruschi is not going to play this year. This is why he is active around the team. He wants to prove that he deserves to collect the check sitting on the bench. Being a fan favorite certainly helps his cause. Q: Can the team put the player on PUP and activate him later in the season if needed? C: The core defenders Law, Harrison, Bruschi, Seymour, will either not play or play "unhappy with money" next season. Q: How does this affect Pats chances to win SB? C. Humble Belichick is going after Walsh's record, and team-first Brady is after Montana's. There is HUGE amount of personal pride and competition amongst elite coaches and amongst elite QBs. Q: Would you expect Belichick to remain his own offensive coordinator, yet getting more and more assistance from other coaches as the season progresses?Ed

I don't see the correlation between Bruschi staying active around the team and getting paid. I'm not sure if he's going to play or not, but if he doesn't he's most likely going to leave his options open for 2006 and thus get paid anyway. If the Patriots put him on PUP to open the season, he would be eligible to begin practicing betweens Weeks 6-9. He'd then have three weeks to practice before the team would need to activate him or lose him for the season. Question No. 2: First, Ty Law is no longer on the team so his attitude is irrelevant. Bruschi's absence would obviously not be a good thing, but the Patriots have signed Chad Brown and Monty Beisel in preparation. If they're on the field, Harrison and Seymour will be giving 100 percent because that's the way they play and I'd expect nothing less. No. 3: Not sure what record Bill Walsh holds that you're talking about … I know he's nearing his all-time win total but Walsh is well down the chain for coaching wins (something around 37th all time). Walsh does have four SB titles, as does Chuck Noll, and Belichick would match that total with another title. But I can't see any of that affecting how he coaches. He will most likely call the plays but will definitely get input and assistance from his coaches. The only things that will change is Charlie won't be here to actually call the plays. The rest of the dynamic will be the same as it has been.
Paul Perillo

What number did Antuan Edwards take?
Nathan Graf

Edwards wore No. 39 in blue during mini-camp. Edwards wore No. 21 in Miami last year but that number is already taken by Randall Gay. I hope you won the bet, Nathan!
Paul Perillo

I read recently that the Baltimore Ravens are going to a 4-6 defense. What is the player breakdown in this formation? Would it be 4 lineman and 6 linebackers? That makes no sense. And what about the 11th player?
Bob Hunnefield

All it means is there are four guys up front and six along the next line. There usually would be one deep safety instead of the traditional two. How the Ravens will incorporate this is up to them. The old Chicago Bears used four defensive lineman, three linebackers and three of the their four defensive backs up in the box. The Bears cornerbacks lined up tight while one of the safeties (either Doug Plank or Gary Fencik) acted more like a linebacker than a safety. They applied tremendous pressure on the quarterback and almost dared teams to beat them over the top, which was difficult to do with the likes of Richard Dent, Dan Hampton and Steve McMichael devouring quarterbacks. The Patriots 3-4 scheme actually has some similarities to the Bears old 4-6, but the Patriots don't seem to gamble as much in leaving the deep middle open. The key isn't necessarily the alignment but rather the schemes. I don't know enough about the intricacies of the defense to know how the 4-6 works differently from the 4-3, 3-4 or any other defense. But my guess is Baltimore won't be using six linebackers at the same time but rather will have a player like safety Ed Reed roving the field to make plays.
Paul Perillo

I was on the Internet last night and looked up some of the analysis of DTs potential the year that he was in the draft. The reports were glowing. At 6'3", 215 pounds, and with 4.4 speed, he was described as a gamebreaker and a go to guy when the game was on the line. At the mini-camp, he was described as looking quite slow when he was running pass routes. What gives? Is he hurt, one of the articles mentioned a foot problem that he had when he was at Michigan. Thanks for your response.
George Burgoyne

Based on the context of your question, I'm going to assume you're talking about David Terrell. If that's true, then count me in the minority because I didn't agree with the many reports that said he looked slow at mini-camp. He's much bigger than the Patriots other receivers (except P.K. Sam) and thus may look different than Deion Branch or Troy Brown when running through drills. But I thought Terrell showed strong hands and the ability to get open down the field. Now it's tough to tell when players aren't wearing pads and it's just a practice, but I was optimistic about Terrell. We'll get a better sense next month when things start for real.
Paul Perillo

I'm happy to see Randall Gay as a projected starter on your unofficial depth chart. Sure, it may be a long shot for him to keep the spot over some of the vets but it's great that he's given a real chance. You would expect an undrafted rookie to say. "You gotta be kidding" when told he's responsible for T.O. in the Super Bowl. Not our guy! He said "Consider that brother covered!" I say we always have a spot for a guy like that. If there's a question in here, I guess it's: What did the secondary look like in mini-camp in terms of groupings and numbers of reps?
John Constantine

The groupings in the secondary had Gay and Asante Samuel at corner with Eugene Wilson and Rodney Harrison at safety. The second group had Hank Poteat and Tyrone Poole at corner with Guss Scott and James Sanders at safety. Chad Scott and Duane Starks worked in at corner with the second group. As for Gay's status, he'll get every opportunity to earn a starting job and either way will be a regular in subpackages as an extra cover man. But I would disagree with your assessment of the Super Bowl. While Gay was terrific as a rookie last year, the Super Bowl was not his finest hour as Terrell Owens finished with nine catches for 122 yards. I don't think any Patriot could "consider him covered" that day.
Paul Perillo

You stated in last week's Ask PFW that Seymour could choose to sit out until the 10th week of the season, play in Week 11 and get credit for the season. Does the organization have any say whether Seymour would play in Week 11? This seems to be the one area where the player has an advantage. I certainly hope it does not come to this. Seymour should get a raise, but he should also consider taking less to maintain a championship caliber roster.
Dave Gibbs

The organization doesn't have to activate Seymour, but if he chooses to return, then he would get credit for an accrued season. But this doesn't necessarily qualify as "one area where the player has an advantage." By holding out, Seymour wouldn't get paid. So what would be worse for him, getting plaid less than what he feels he deserves or not getting paid at all? My guess is the latter. If Seymour sits out the first 10 games, he loses 10 game checks, or more than half of his salary. Whether he decides it's best for him to accept less than he feels he can earn elsewhere is his business, though.
Paul Perillo

Hey, folks, Just trying to plan my summer around the Pats (much to the dismay of my wife!). I was wondering if there's any news on when the 2005 training camp starts.
Bob Stanton

Camp will be open to the public at some point late in July. The Patriots haven't yet announced the date of the first open practice, but it will be very late in July.
Paul Perillo

I'd like to thank you guys at I'm here in California (moved out from Boston four years ago), and your website with the video, audio and text helps me stay in touch, also feeds my insatiable desire for anything Pats. I was reading through some of the Patriots articles from the Super Bowl and the days following, and something struck me that I wanted to bring to your attention. The Patriots, Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick changed the face of Boston sports as we know them. Prior to Bill Belichick signing with the Patriots, Boston was not only in a championship drought, but in the worst state during my lifetime as a Boston sports fan. The Celtics had yet to recover from the Reggie Lewis tragedy. After numerous law suits, numerous GM/coaches, bad luck lottery draws (odds on favorite to get Duncan, ended up with Chauncey and Mercer) and, of course, Rick Pitino. The Red Sox were teasing us as always. Nomar's errors vs. the Yankees in the ALCS. The phantom tag at 2nd by Knoblauch. Mo Vaughn's travails en route b/w Quincy and Providence. Roger winning Cy Youngs, and a WS ring as a Yankee! The Bruins hadn't been very good since Neely's deep thigh bruise from the hated Ulf Samuelson...doesn't he share a middle name same as Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone? And Ray was retiring after winning the cup with the Avalanche. Ray, you have no forehead, but I love ya. The Patriots...well, harken back to '99. Team was in disarray. After Parcells jumped shipped to the Jets, negotiating during Super Bowl week ... Grier and Carroll took the joint helm of the Patriots. Grier had a succession of AWFUL drafts. Chris Canty anyone? Pete Carroll and his Elephant position and his Zone Blitz were no longer working in the NFL. The Patriots weren' very good, and Belichick was also departing an equally painful situation in New York. Having set the stage, and jogging some uncomfortable memories...I like to label the Belichick signing as the turning point in Boston Sports leading into the 21st century. Kraft always wanted a system put in. He always believed that systems won. He thought he had his lieutenants in Grier and Carroll, but they proved unworthy. Now we have a system. The system that has inspired conversations in MBA programs. The system that has won 3 of 4 Super Bowls, the greatest sports spectacle in the world. The system that has every other athletic team, let alone football teams, studying them. The system that has new free agent signees saying how impressed they are with the business-like mindset and overall organization of the franchise. The system that will field a team in 2005 that looks stronger than the record setting 2004 squad, 21 straight wins, 19 home wins and counting, 9-0 in playoffs, and so on and so on. I'd even go as far as to say that New England HAD to win in 2001 and 2003 for the Red Sox to win in 2004. For the Red Sox to break the 86-year-old WS drought, the Patriots had to change the Boston mindset. Winning begets winning. Players like Damon and Millar have been quoted crediting the Patriots as inspirational influence. The Patriots do everything as a team. 11 Men on the field working as 11 parts of the same body. Like an amoeba, morphing and manipulating to cover everything between the 50 yards wide and 100 yards long field. Off the field, they all say the same thing. One game at a time. One day at a time. Only thing that matters is the team they're playing this upcoming game. Tom Brady answering, when asked which one is his favorite, that he, like his equipment manager in Michigan, likes the NEXT one the best. Bob Kraft, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Seymour, Troy Brown, Bruschi, Vinatieri and co....have taught everyone in Boston how to think and feel like a champion. And for that, I will be forever grateful. Thank you Pats. You inspire me on and off the field.
Sean Lee

Not much to add to that …. Thanks, Sean.
Paul Perillo

Hi guys, I'm a long, long really long time subscriber of PFW. I love your publication and devour it when it comes out. I also enjoy reading your Q&A on the Pats website. I have always wondered - and your sneak preview of P.K. Sam finally prompted me to ask - why is it you don't allow your faithful subscribers to see articles online as they are written? It seems they only become available after the issue has been published. I would really appreciate being able to view the articles, even if they are in their alpha or beta form, as they are written. Obviously, this P.K. Sam article has been written, but it is not available online. Can't you cut us hardcore Pats fans some slack? Thanks very much. Chuck Humphrey Pats fan since 5 years old (1972)
Chuck Humphrey

Thanks for the support, Chuck, and I'm glad you enjoyed Bryan's feature on P.K. Sam that we ran in our latest issue. To answer your question, we have to wait until our stories are printed before we make them available on the net, otherwise why would anybody want to buy the paper? Subscribers to PFW have access to and can view most of the stories we print on the computer if they'd like. But to just put everything we write on the web before we publish it would be a disservice to all of the fine folks who subscribe to our paper.
Paul Perillo

What's the right thing to do about a contract holdout? Should the team set a standard and 'not cut' a player, but instead prevent the player from playing for the entire season to set an example? OR should the team trade the player directly before the beginning of the season? Should the team contact the player and ask 'why aren't you showing up for work?' Should the team contact the player and ask 'what's on your mind?' Only the team, its coaches, and doctors know the full situation with a player. State of any injuries, current playing ability, etc. How well can a player perform coming off an injury? How well did that player play in the Super Bowl? What's the trade value of the player? I believe that the Patriots still need a strong backup for Corey Dillon. Would the KC Chiefs trade Priest Holmes? Would the Titans trade their RB? Would the Chargers trade LT? Would the Lions trade Kevin Jones? Also, if you want to better control a player's salary, try not to set up the same people with media interviews and press conferences. Mix it up. Don't always go to the team captains to have them do an interview. Pick someone else. Have a great day!
Megan Connor

There is no right or wrong way to handle a contract holdout. Every case is different. Some instances may call for a trade while others might call for patience. In Seymour's case, my guess is the team and player are discussing a longer term deal. How's those discussions are progressing may determine the Patriots best course of action. If Belichick believes the situation is irreparable and that Seymour will inevitably holdout, he would weigh his options and make a decision. In recent history, Belichick played it two different ways. He tried to re-sign Lawyer Milloy before the 2003 season but couldn't and then decided to release him. Last year, he wanted to re-sign Ty Law, but when the cornerback's demands were too high, he simply held onto him and allowed him to play out the season. When Law was hurt and his contract increased again, Belichick decided to part ways. We'll have to wait and see what that course is with Seymour. As for backup running back, there's no way KC or SD is trading Priest Holmes or LaDainian Tomlinson … and there's no way either is going to back up anybody in the NFL. Also, the media decides who it wants to interview; not the team. When there is an open locker room period, the reporters go to the players they're interested in. So it's not up to the team to decide who gets interviewed after the game or during the week.
Paul Perillo

With no news on any team signing Ty Law would it be possible to re-sign him with a new deal. After all, would he rather sit out a year or sign with his old team. He's not getting any younger. Is there a deal that is on the table that NE would bring him back if he accepted?
Louis Goulet

There is such deal on the table as far as I know. And I would doubt either side would be interested in such an arrangement. I think it may be best for all considered for Law to play elsewhere in 2005 and for the Patriots to continue with their plans without him. But stranger things have happened so I wouldn't rule out a surprise return.
Paul Perillo

Who wore the number 7 on the patriots in 1985?
Michael Babbit

According to the Patriots media relations department, no Patriots player wore No. 7 in 1985. The only possibility would be someone wore the number during training camp and did not make the team, thus preventing him from appearing in team records.
Paul Perillo

Can you tell me what years the Pats have won the AFC East?Kent Brewer

The Patriots have won eight division titles in their history, including seven AFC East titles. Their first came in 1963 as members of the old American Football League. Since the merger in 1970, the Patriots won AFC East titles in 1978, 1986, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2003 and 2004.
Paul Perillo

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