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Ask PFW: Rolling along

As the Patriots continue to roll along, so too does our effort to answer the many questions that come forward from Patriots Nation.

While I watch Patriot games, I noticed that the natural grass field isn't in the best condition, and I think that is because both the Pats and Revolution play on it. Is there any chance that FieldTurf will be installed at Gillette Stadium?
Moosup, Conn.

The grass has gotten a little worn down this year. It really shows up on TV and you are right, I think some of that has to do with the multiple uses of Gillette Stadium. My understanding is that one of the reasons that real turf is going to remain is the fact that FIFA, the governing body of international soccer, doesn't allow high level games, including World Cup qualifiers, to be played on artificial surfaces. Since Gillette Stadium holds international soccer matches on occasion, and would like to continue to do so in the future, the grass must remain in place. Plus, as a bit of a football purest, I think grass is still the best surface for the game.
Andy Hart

Hey, my question is regarding equipment. Maybe if you guys cannot answer it, it can be forwarded to the equipment manage. But I was wondering why some players wear visors, the black visor for instance, is it for intimidation, or do players really need sunglasses on the field? Also, why are there so many different face masks?
Trumbull, Conn.

Players wear the visors for a variety of different reasons. Some wear it strictly for the sun factor, others to protect their eyes from being poked out and others think it looks good. Some running backs even wear the shields so that defenders cannot see their eyes when they are in the backfield and looking to make a cut. In the end it is really just personal preference. And the same thing goes for the face masks. There are a number of different types of masks depending on helmet type, position and vision required to perform properly. For example offensive linemen need a larger mask to protect them from the never-ending contact and hand-to-face combat that takes place in the trenches, while receivers and quarterbacks generally have larger eye openings to allow for better vision and clearer play. And once again, never underestimate the value of fashion sense. Some face masks just look cooler.
Andy Hart

Who was the running back they got rid of recently?
Kaja Stein
Oklahoma City, Okla.

I am not sure who you are referring to, as there have not been any transactions involving running backs very recently. The last running back transaction came on Oct. 18 when veteran fullback Larry Centers was released. Hope that was the name you were looking for.
Andy Hart

Has Todd Blackledge ever played for the Patriots??? Thanks
Bill Vigeant
Orlando, Fla.

No, Todd Blackledge never played in a game for the Patriots.
Andy Hart

Do the players watch other NFL games together, like Monday night, or on the bye-week, or do they just watch them at home?
Rochester, N.H.

Not to be overly sarcastic here, and this may come as a surprise to some fans, but the players are just normal men. Aside from the high profile job, larger paychecks and some of the other opportunities that come from their celebrity, the players a just normal men. That said the players do watch sports and many have talked about them getting together to watch games together. Conversely though, some players don't watch football when they have time off and just get away from the game. It all depends on the player, his likes and dislikes and the overall environment of a team. But the bottom line is, the players are just people, just like the rest of us. (Only bigger, faster, stronger and richer. Other than that, just like the rest of us.)
Andy Hart

Is running back Mike Cloud still a factor in the Patriots running game? He had two good games and 3 touchdowns, haven't seen him play much.
Bill Bryant
Portsmouth, R.I.

I think Mike Cloud could still be a factor for the New England running game down the stretch this season. He showed flashes of talent in the Tennessee game and produced when given the opportunity. But the fact remains that he is the third running back and therefore will see limited chances unless injuries come up. Fans may not be in love with the Patriots running game or the talent at the tailback spot, but at least there are three players that could contribute on any Sunday, three guys that could fit in and allow the offense to continue to put up enough points to win games.
Andy Hart

Has Chas Gessner been activated?
Gordon Boone
Baltimore, Md.

Chas Gessner was added to the Patriots 53-man roster last week, but was listed as one of the eight inactives for Sunday night's game against the Cowboys and was sent to the practice squad today. The former Brown University star wide receiver had spent the first half of the season on the team's physically unable to perform list with a leg injury that had kept him out for all of training camp.
Andy Hart

Ken Walter is a human roller coaster! When he's good, he's ok, but when he's off, he's horrible. Are Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick going to pursue a punter next season? Field position is too important to roll the dice.
D Pero
Halifax, Canada

Hey Dawg. (That's a reference to the Spanish language. Perro. Dog. Get it? Sorry.) I disagree; Walter is less of a roller coaster and more falling stone. Walter was an excellent punter for the Patriots for the second half of 2001. But since then he has been average at best, and more often than not he has been a detriment to the team. According to published reports New England did work out a number of available punters during the bye. Walter is currently last in the NFL with a 38.2 avg. and 12th in the AFC with a 34.0 net avg. The bottom line is he hasn't been punting well and if it continues sooner or later that will cost this team in these tight, field position type games.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, thanks for the great job you do. I look forward to your article every week. I would like to know who is the No.2 Quarterback, I think it's Rohan Davey. What is up with Damon Huard? Do you think either one is remotely capable of filling Brady's shoes in case of injury? We probably wouldn't have made it to the Super Bowl in 2001 if we didn't have a Drew Bledsoe as backup. You will probably answer this with a smart remark about Tom Brady being a nobody when he came in relief of Bledsoe. I guess what I'm trying to say is, I don't feel confident in the backup situation. Please give me your opinion.
Gary Goglia
Jupiter, Fla.

Despite a lot of talk to the contrary this offseason, Damon Huard is the backup quarterback and Davey is third. Davey has been listed as the third, emergency quarterback for all 10 games this season. While New England fans wouldn't know it because he hasn't played in the regular season, Huard is an experienced backup. He started six games in the NFL with the Dolphins, including his best season in 1999 when he completed 125-of-216 passes for 1,288 yards and eight touchdowns and four interceptions. He's felt the fire of NFL game action and was relatively successful. Every backup quarterback has questions marks around him, but Huard is a more than serviceable option if something were to happen to Brady.
Andy Hart

What was the name of the former OSU linebacker that was drafted by the Patriots in either 1998/9 or in 2000?
Washington, D.C.

The Patriots selected Ohio State linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer with the 28th pick, the team's second of two first-round selections, in the 1999 NFL draft. He played in 24 games with 14 starts from '99-'01. He suffered problems with a neck injury over his final two years in New England, spending '01 on injured reserve, and was released in June 2002.
Andy Hart

What is going on with the Bengals! They have upset after upset and I really think if they play hard enough Marvin Lewis will lead them to playoffs! This will be first time since the 80's.
Zach Huff
Forestdale, Mass.

Lewis is making a believer out of his players, opponents, media members and fans everywhere. No longer is the term 'Bungals' being thrown around so lightly. Just ask the previously undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. The Bengals last went to the playoffs in 1990, but as I type are tied for the top spot in the AFC North with the Baltimore Ravens with a 5-5 record. They have as good shot as anyone in that division and as a fan base that has been through its own share of misery here in New England, you have to be pulling for a little good fortune for those fans in the Cincinnati area. Plus, who wouldn't want to see a Patriots vs. Bengals playoff game at Gillette Stadium?
Andy Hart

I have a question about the rules of intentional grounding. If the ball was snapped at the 2 yd line and Tom Brady dropped back into the end zone and intentional grounding was called would that be half the distance to the goal or a safety?
Westwood, Mass.

According to Rule 8, Section 3, Article 1 of the NFL rule book, intentional grounding that occurs in the end zone results in a safety. In fact any offensive penalty in the end zone, including holding for example, results in a safety for the defense.
Andy Hart

When did running back Joe Calzarella play for New England and what can you tell me about his football career?
Revere, Mass.

According to the team's all-time roster (that includes players who have accrued at least one season of veteran status) no player by the name Joe Calzarella ever played in a regular season game for the Patriots. This could be another case of a player that was with the team during training camp or even the preseason, but never actually made the roster for the regular season.
Andy Hart

Can I bring in my camera into Gillette stadium? It is an older style camera with a zoom lens? The lens can be detached, I can make it inspectable, I will not load film into it.
John LoBue
Brookline, Mass.

Short answer, no. According to the list of prohibited items for Gillette Stadium (available at cameras with detachable lenses, as well as all video cameras, are prohibited from being brought into the stadium.
Andy Hart

Has anybody heard of a former Patriot named Ken Orfe Off Guard?
New York, N.Y.

No, not even the human media guide, Paul Perillo. Sorry. See the Joe Calzarella answer above.
Andy Hart

How much does Adam Vinatieri get paid? Is he paid a bonus per game? Is he paid a bonus for any other reason?
Falmouth, Mass.

According to the NFLPA website, Vinatieri will make $1.4 million this season and $1.425 in 2004. Other details of the contract are not available, although any bonus money would likely have been a signing bonus or come as season incentives and would not come on a weekly basis.
Andy Hart

I was wondering about any real possibility of Patrick Pass getting a chance at tailback this season. He seemed to run the ball hard and with production when given the opportunity in the pre-season and he seems much quicker this season?
Hampton, N.H.

While Pass did have an impressive preseason as a tailback, he is still a backup fullback and special teams player. He got a lot of snaps last week against the Cowboys as fullback thanks to the injury to Fred McCrary. But considering the Patriots already have three running backs (Faulk, Smith and Cloud) looking to carry the ball, a tweener-type player like Pass is unlikely to get many carries. And to be fair, most of his production in the preseason came in the later part of games when he was playing against some players who are probably no longer in football. Pass is a solid special teams player and valuable backup, but at this point that is where his value lies with this team.
Andy Hart

Do you think that once Ted Johnson and Ted Washington come back into the line-up, that the coaching staff will decide to go back to a 3-4 formation, since that is what they intended to do in the preseason? Thanks
Beverly, Mass.

As we saw on Sunday the Patriots are willing and able to run both the 3-4 and 4-3 at this point. When Washington was on the field he played mostly nose in the 3-4, a position where he can be a dominant player. But over the last two months New England has been very successful in both fronts and will likely continue to do so. Either way the return of both Washington and Johnson does nothing but add depth, experience, strength and leadership to an already very solid defense.
Andy Hart

There is a lot of talk about Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis and Scott Pioli getting interest in the offseason from other clubs for head coaching or GM jobs. Are there any assistant coaches and/or player personnel people within the organization that have been groomed to take over these positions if these guys leave? If so, which coaches and player personnel people are they? I'm most concerned about losing Romeo and Scott, thanks!
Medford, Mass.

Ian, good question but I don't necessarily know the answer. I will give it a try though. In terms of coaching I think there a number of young coaches on both sides of the ball. One guy who has been working his way up and could be considered for the defensive coordinator job, should Crennel move on as a head coach, would be current defensive backs coach Eric Mangini. Mangini is in his 9th season in the NFL, all but one of which have been under Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. Mangini is very involved in the defensive system and could be ready for the next step in his coaching career. In terms of personal or even offensive coordinator though, I would assume those jobs would be filled from outside of the current staff.
Andy Hart

Why aren't the Pats wearing the throwbacks this year? Those silver jerseys are horrible, and the red would have appeased all of us that wish they had never ditched Pat Patriot. I understand it gives them a chance to sell more shirts, but come on...those shirts are bad.
Woonsocket, R.I.

The third, silver jersey has been the Patriots alternative jersey for 5 years now. Last year the team wore the throwbacks as part of Thanksgiving Weekend and in accordance with a league-wide program. As is the trend in all of sports, especially the NFL, the team chose to use the alternative silver jersey for last weekend's primetime game against the Cowboys.
Andy Hart

Two questions: Can I call Tully Banta-Cain TBC? If a player is placed on injured reserve, does his salary still count against the salary cap?
Rob Kreppel
Arlington, Va.

Sure call him TBC. Call him Ralph if you want to. As for the answer to your second question, yes the salary/cap number for a player on injured reserve still counts against the salary cap. The cap includes active players, practice squad players, injured reserve and essentially all players on a team's roster during the year.
Andy Hart

Hi, Please answer this! HOW can a player with an NFL CONTRACT be cut, traded or asked to renegotiate his contract?? If they have a contract, isn't that a legally binding document? It seems to me these days, just because a player signs a contract, that it doesn't mean squat.
Chuck Williams
Winter Haven, Fla.

Chuck, contracts in the NFL are not like contracts in the rest of the world, or even in the rest of sports. They are not guaranteed. The only part of most NFL contracts that is guaranteed is the singing bonus money that the player gets upfront. That is the reason that players can be cut, traded or forced into negotiations at basically any time of the contract. Unlike in sports like baseball or basketball where guys sign big deals and then never live up to them, the only thing NFL teams are forced to essentially eat is the signing bonus, whereas in other sports, when the deal is signed the player holds all the leverage.
Andy Hart

What is the design that is painted on the football field? I'm not talking about the team logo, but the other weird designy thing.
Eau Claire, Wis.

Rachael, that is a surprisingly common question here at Ask PFW. The logo painted on the field that you are talking about is the logo for Gillette Stadium itself. The graphic symbolizes the bridge and lighthouse, the most obvious symbols of Gillette Stadium.
Andy Hart

I don't have a question but this is about an avid Patriots fan by the name of Joseph Minson, Jr of West Swanzey NH. Joe was 28yrs old and passed away Sunday Nov 9th from a massive heart attack while he was sleeping. It was a shock to all who knew Joe. He left behind a wife and 3 kids of ages 1-6 yrs.He was a good friend and an assistant manager of my roommate's at a Rent-a-Center. I had a surprise 40th birthday party for her the night before that Joe attended, not knowing it would be the last time to ever see him again. He talked about that he had tickets to the Patriots game this Sunday against Dallas and was looking forward to going with a coworker who never been. Joe's house had Patriots everything and even had a Patriots logo tattooed on his arm. I just felt I had to write this, Joe was a great husband, father, coworker and friend. He will be greatly missed by all that knew him and we'll never forget his big smile and ability to make everyone laugh. We love you Joe and we'll always miss you.

Marcia Lehto
N. Swanzey, N.H.

Our thoughts and condolences go out the entire Minson family.
Andy Hart

My understanding of compensation picks is this: that they are given to teams when they lose a player in free agency. The idea being that, like last year, the Eagles got a fourth for losing Hugh Douglas to Jacksonville. Can Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick expect a pick for Lawyer Milloy? I know we cut him, but still, picks with these guys, even a late pick, is like currency, and could mean a better pick. Any thoughts?
Andy Claiborn
Manchester, N.H.

There will be no compensation for Milloy. You answered your own question. He was released by the Patriots. He was not a free agent. The Patriots chose to let him go.
Andy Hart

It is a well known fact that Bill Belichick is a defensive genius and probably one of the best coaches the Patriots have ever had. My question has to do with his dealings on the offensive side of the ball. I don't know why players such as Larry Centers, Mike Cloud, and David Patten are absent from the offense as of late. Larry Centers got released when I thought he was playing decent ball in place of Fred McCrary, Mike Cloud ripped Tennessee for 2 rushing touchdowns and hasn't really been around since, and David Patten for one reason or the other just got put on the IR. I'm sure they're are facts to these decision that we as fans are not privileged to, but all the same I was wondering if you could shed any light on the subject for me. Thanks from this enormous Pats fan.
Jon Pearson
New London, Conn.

Jon, most of the moves you referenced are injury related. Centers was hurt, so the team reached an injury settlement with him and released him. Patten had knee surgery and was placed on injured reserve. McCrary has been battling leg injuries all season and has been in and out of the lineup all year. Cloud was a late addition to the Patriots offensive mix thanks to both an NFL suspension and a calf injury that forced him out of training camp. Cloud took advantage of some other injuries that led to his playing time against the Tennessee Titans, but is still third on the team's depth chart. Cloud has shown flashes, but obviously hasn't impressed the staff enough to move up the depth chart just yet.
Andy Hart

I am a huge Pats fan and during the past few games especially the Denver game it seems like Givens could be our emerging star, he has the size and speed will the pats have him under contract for much longer?
West Palm Beach, Fla.

Givens has come on and in my opinion may be the best all-around receiver on the team when you take into account his receiving ability, blocking, size and special teams contributions. In just his second season, Givens won't be eligible for even restricted free agency until after next season. So expect at least one more season in New England for the rapidly improving wide out. The only concern Givens must conquer now is the injury bug. He's made plays when he's been on the field this season, but has also missed time with various injuries, including a leg injury suffered this past weekend against the Cowboys. If his growth as a player is going to continue he must show he can withstand the pounding of life in the NFL and be on the field every week.
Andy Hart

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