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Ask PFW: Summer edition I

Vacation time has certainly hit the land of PFW, and judging from our lack of questions lately, it appears it's hit the legions of "Ask PFW" as well.

Why do NFL teams sign players for a week or two only to cut them before the player could possibly learn the system. Is it that they just need a body for practice? Thanks, lost patriot fan in San Jose, Calif.Robert Connors

Sometimes the team does need a body, generally in the case of a run of injuries. Other times, the teams want to get a look at a player in a practice setting or in the group dynamic of the team. Or sometimes the team will sign a player and then other things not related to that player change and the team is forced to make another move. There really can be any number of factors and as Bill Belichick would say, no two situations are the same. But generally when you are talking about the 53rd player on a team's roster -- especially in the middle of the season filled with injuries, varying game plans and weekly changes – that guy's hold on a job is tenuous at best.
Andy Hart

Another season is inching closer. Seems like every time I turn around there is another $25 million-30 million athlete complaining that they've outplayed their contract. The main argument seems to be that players can be cut for under-performing, but aren't rewarded for performing at high levels. Do you guys think the players have a legitimate complaint, or are they just full of hot air?Kris Johnson

I do side with the players on occasion, but sometimes I feel like I'm picking between the lesser of two evils. Teams never hesitate to cut or restructure the contract of a player who hasn't played up to his deal. But they rarely get too much bad press for such moves, since the player's poor performance has him as something less than a fan favorite at that point. When players feel they outperform their deals, and then attempt to take measures to get more money, they are generally scorned and deemed as money-hungry by the public. Each situation is different, but I generally feel any person in any industry has the right to do whatever he/she can to maximize earning potential. I'd ask for more money if I thought my boss would give it to me. (He wouldn't, by the way. And since I lack any leverage of any kind, I keep my mouth shut and cash my current checks.) Players have such a short window in the NFL and play a high-risk sport that they must focus on the present and the money that is coming in that season. Add in agents, who are paid a percentage of what the players make, and there will always be guys looking for more money. If they can get it, then I say go for it. But they also have to deal with any consequences that come with it.
Andy Hart

Hi, I am from Germany and I am reading PFW every week. I was wondering when guys like Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli are doing their holidays? There is no time between the end of July and February. Then they have to prepare for the offseason and check the free agents. Then they have to prepare the draft and in May Bill has to prepare and hold all kinds of camps (rookie camp, passing camp, minicamp) while Scott is checking for good available players all the time. I don't see any time for them to relax and refill their energy tanks. Thanks for a short comment on this.Roman Brunnemann

NFL decision makers and coaches usually take time off during late June and early July. Most get somewhere in the range of a month off to recharge their batteries before heading into the grind of training camp and then the season.
Andy Hart

Based on what you've seen so far, who amongst the new additions to our secondary stands out?
Stan Voinovich

The two guys I think have a chance to contribute early on are Fernando Bryant and Terrence Wheatley. Bryant seems to be a smart, consistent veteran who is going to be a dependable defender that Belichick can count on. Bryant's biggest issue is staying healthy, something he's struggled with over the course of his career. Wheatley is a fast, quick, confident and athletic rookie. I like what I've seen from him in minicamps. Of course a lot could change when he puts on the pads. But I'm intrigued. I don't think he'll be overly physical, but I think he'll make some plays relatively early on in his career both on defense and in the kicking game. I really like his upside.
Andy Hart

I remember liking [Sam] Aiken when he came out of college: a big WR, lacking speed, but making up for it with smarts, good hands and good route running. How has he looked so far? Playing in Buffalo isn't a good way to showcase your abilities as a WR. I'll believe CJ Jones will work out OK when I see it, and while I like Jabar Gaffney, I don't know how well he'll hold up playing a full season as a starter. Therefore, I feel that Aiken was the most unnoticed FA signing this offseason. Can he make this team? Do you see him making an impact?
Mark E.

In my mind Aiken is a special teamer first and more of an afterthought as a receiver. He has impressive size but I'm not sure he has great hands. He dropped a few balls while I watched minicamp work and that's not a good thing. With 18 career catches in four seasons, he probably is what he is at this point. I think he's in the battle for the type of role that Kelley Washington had last year as a special teams core guy and WR in only an emergency. On a side note, I think Washington might get the chance to catch a few more passes this year. Since he got exactly zero last year, he only needs one or two this fall to make my prediction come true.
Andy Hart

Greetings PFW … Tom Brady stated after the SB42 loss to the Giants that his ankle was not bothering him. Fine. It certainly appeared to be hobbling him, but what do I know. Now, he seems to be trying to say that it was injured. Please ask Tom why, he either A.) Lied to the fans after the SB about the ankle, or B.) Is now trying to make up for his horrible SB performance (watch it again, missing open receivers all game, all over the field). Guys, it's either one or the other. Personally, it seems like he is now displaying Drew Bledsoe-like apathy, and instead of being driven to win "the next one" he is only concerned about collecting the next check and being followed around by the press with his girlfriend. I know this is not a usual suck up letter, but many of your readers probably would like him to answer.Chris Casey

I think you are spreading some misplaced venom here, Chris. The following is the transcript of Tom Brady's recent comments regarding his ankle:

"The ankle feels great. Yeah. It feels really good. I've been able to do pretty much everything. I'm still slow. I still can't jump. I still don't lift very much. That hasn't changed."

He basically dismisses the issue and then goes on to make a joke (one that not all media outlets correctly portrayed the day these comments were made, but a joke nonetheless) about his own lack of athletic ability. He similarly dismissed the issue after the Super Bowl because I don't think Brady is generally in the business of making excuses for a poor performance and loss.

Do I believe that the ankle limited Brady to some degree in the Super Bowl? Yes, and that's an opinion also held by his life-long passing guru, Tom Martinez. But I wouldn't expect Brady to make excuses at this point for the historic upset last February and his role in the team coming up short on the biggest stage. He's moved on. He says he's healthy moving forward. The end.

As for the "Bledsoe-like apathy," that's a different issue. First, I think it's an uneccesary, unfair shot at Bledsoe. That said, I too was interested to keep an eye on Brady's workout/travel habits this spring. I don't think he's apathetic at this point. I'm not even sure he's one tiny bit less driven than he's ever been. But it did feel like, as an observer, that he treated the spring differently and was fitting the offseason program in around his travel schedule rather than making it his top priority. While I don't think that would ever affect him on the field, he's always been the hardest worker on the team and that's helped the Patriots overall team chemistry tremendously. Having your best player as your hardest worker forces everyone else to fall into line and work as well. If he's let up at all, that could trickle down to others. Of course I don't expect that to happen. I think Brady, Bill Belichick and others will make sure it doesn't moving forward. But it is something worth at least keeping a casual eye on at this point.
Andy Hart

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