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Ask PFW: Your Patriots buffet

The PFW mail bag is up and ready for you to digest and comment on. The questions were a smorgasboard this week since there is very little to whine about, at least so far.

I have a comment and a question. First, I have had enough of Boston media constantly nitpicking on the Patriots. They are 2-0 with a win streak that will put them into the history books with another victory. Yet all I hear about is how they didn't win big enough, or put enough points on the board etc, etc. It is bad enough that BB never gives credit to his players, or that the national media barely acknowledges that there are even men under the helmets and treats the team as BB's pawns in a chess game but now the local papers and even this site are just tossing out too many negatives. I am stuck in Chicago and they do hand springs when the team wins one lousy game. C'mon, cut them some slack. My question, with the revelation that the Broncos cheated with the salary cap rules do you think they actually gained a "competitive advantage" and does this taint the 2 super bowl wins they had?

Best Regards,
Chris Morris
Chicago, Ill.

Well first of all, Chris, winning brings high expectations and people aren't going to do hand springs here when the team wins if it didn't play well in the process. No one is going to heap praise upon the run defense for allowing 202 rushing yards against the Colts. They received plenty of praise for beating the Colts and for making big plays at critical times, but it's ridiculous to turn a blind eye to the team's faults in the game just because they won. I think they should always get praise for winning – always – because it's hard to do in this league, never mind for 17 straight weeks. But the players themselves have been relatively unhappy with the way they've played so far and they have had as much to do with people writing that as anybody has. They should have blown out the Cardinals last week. Did they play poorly? No. They played extremely well defensively, but offensively, were a little out of sync even with Dillon dominating to the tune of 158 yards. But they won and moved on and that's all they have to do. As far as the Broncos go, if their violations allowed them to retain certain players that helped them win two championships, then it definitely gave them a competitive advantage, although I'm not sure of all the details. It also taints their wins, but no one will look at them that way because unlike college, the trophies won't be taken away. Would you pay a draft pick or two and a fine for two Super Bowl titles? Hopefully not, but a lot of folks would consider that a small price to pay.

With Kevin Faulk out, Patrick Pass's ineffectiveness running the ball Sunday as Dillon's backup as well as his fumbling, do you think the Patriots(even though it's too late)regret or second-guessed themselves about releasing Mike Cloud? Also, with your inside knowledge, what were the real reasons for his release?
Brian B.
Narragansett, Mass.

I don't think they regret keeping pass. He's been here since 2000 and they know exactly what they will get form him. I also can tell you that there were no secret reasons for releasing Mike Cloud. My hunch is that it came down to special teams play. When a player is a backup, he has to be able to contribute on special teams and they must have felt like Mike would not be able to do that and certainly not as well as Pass, who has a carved a defined role in that area over his previous four seasons.

I saw that David Patten came out of the game with what looked like a leg problem. Can you tell me if it was serious?
Harvey Eaton
Bedford, N.H.

I saw the same thing. It looked like his left leg was being examined and worked on during the second half Sunday. I don't know anything about the injury and don't expect to find out anything until Sept. 29 at 4 p.m. when the next Patriots injury report is released.

Is Tom Brady OK...Something seemed to be bothering him out there on Sunday...Is his shoulder still hurt?
Jay Mott
Galway, Colo.

It might be Jay. He was listed on the injury report in each of the first two weeks with a shoulder injury, but was probable and obviously played both games. I thought he was healthy all summer, but he may have re-injured the shoulder in the preseason because the next question is related.

As I watched the Carolina preseason game they showed a brief close up of Brady as he was passing in warm-ups and for a split second I could have sworn it showed him wince with pain after a throw. As the game was ending they again went to Brady on the bench and sure enough as the camera closes in you see his left hand reaching up to his right shoulder to re-adjust a heat pad or reflexively rub it. Nothing is said in the press but I have a strong sense he's just not 100% yet. His first game's performance certainly doesn't suggest so, but every time I see a picture or interview of him he is unconsciously grabbing his shoulder. Do you people have any insight or are you less observant than I am?

Duncan Anderson
Raleigh, N.C.

I am less observant because I haven't noticed those subtle-type of things, but he mustn't be 100 percent because he has been on the injury list for two weeks. I dismissed his presence there figuring it was because he had surgery last year and the Patriots were just trying to live to the letter of the law after the league cracked down on injury reporting accuracy. He said this summer that his shoulder was healed and ready to go so maybe he re-injured it during the preseason. If you noticed him in pain, my guess would be that he tweaked it this summer, but I'm sorry to say that I can't offer you any more insight. I'll ask about it.

Call me the eternal pessimist...I should be satisfied following our 17th consecutive victory, but I see a continuing problem with the Pats: They just can't finish teams off when they have them down and wounded...this problem goes back to last season as well. When they were up 14-0 and had them confused, that's when teams with a killer instinct put them away with another touchdown...they hung with us well into the fourth quarter in a game that we should have dominated. Penalties and turnovers will sink even the best of teams eventually. It would be refreshing to be up by 21 going into the fourth for a change, especially against inferior competition. Even with Corey Dillon's running game they could not put them away. How long can the Pats go before sloppy play catches up with them?
Miami, Fla.

You are the eternal pessimist. First of all, they can and do finish teams off even if it's not by running away with an easy victory. They make clutch plays late in games to finish teams off. Not the stress-free way you'd like it, but it still gets the results. I think they do have a killer instinct, but also think they need to get the problems you mentioned corrected before they do indeed catch up with them. The players and coaches acknowledge that very fact. They are not playing clean football yet and are still 2-0. If they don't start playing better, they will be in trouble. But be an optimist and assume they will. If they're 2-0 while playing mediocre football, what will they when the get their act together?

Ok, so we can stop the run...when we don't have to worry much about the pass. My question is, to what extent is our ability to stop the run compromised by the complex pass defense? Also, what specific tradeoffs do the Pats make when they decide to focus on pass vs. rush? I can think of some, such as whether to use Ted Johnson, but hoped you could identify some others. Keep up the Great Work!
Jay Johnson
Concord, Mass.

I don't think the Patriots complex pass coverages compromise the run defense in any way. In fact, I think they are mostly unrelated especially on a defense that returned all of its starting linebackers and defensive backs that have experience in the system. I think there are personnel choices that are made based on game plan and Ted Johnson's usage might be one of those, since he has developed his reputation as a run stopper as opposed to a coverage linebacker. But you can also watch to see where Rodney Harrison is positioned. If he is the eighth defender in the box near the line of scrimmage, it's usually because the Patriots are focused on stopping the run and they will often rely on man coverage in the secondary as a result. If the Pats are playing two deep safeties, it's because they are worried about a team's big-play passing ability. They may also go with a smaller, quicker front against a pass heavy team in an effort to generate more pass rush. Seeing players like Jarvis Green lined up inside may tip off that strategy. Another sign could be the absence of a nickel back when the opponent is in a three-receiver set. Because Eugene Wilson has corner skills, they may use him to line up on a receiver in that situation to keep a linebacker on the field to be stout against the run. That's why defending a team like the Colts is so hard because they can hit you from every angle.

As both a Pats fan and a fantasy owner, I'm interested in the progress of Rosevelt Colvin - can we expect him to regain the majority of snaps and, even more importantly, is he likely to return to Pro Bowl form?
Marc C. Santos
West Lafayette, Ind.

I don't know. How's that for honesty? Rosey broke his hip and I'm not sure anyone can define what his future holds. I don't think he's 100 percent and don't know if he ever will be. If he has lost a step that never returns, his future could be clouded. I hope that's not the case because he has worked so hard to get back and I hope he returns to the form that made him a prized free agent signing. He has never been to the Pro Bowl.

You guys have been keeping up the great work since I asked you to last time I wrote. Nice job! Jumping right in: The Patriots have so much more riding on this season than any Patriots team ever has...A Super Bowl victory this season, and everybody has to admit that this team is a DYNASTY. Regardless of what they do the next three seasons, another Lombardi trophy THIS SEASON, and I feel we can put the word "Dynasty" in concrete at Gillette Stadium. My question is this: One, do you agree? Two, through the history of football (well, the NFL at least, let's not include the Canton Bulldogs) what teams do you feel qualify to be considered Dynasties? Finally, one last point. Some say the greatest measure of a quarterback is "How many Super Bowls has he won?" I say that is the second most important measure. The first most important measure of a quarterback's greatness is: "How many Super Bowls has he lost?" That is why Joe Montana ranks above Elway, Marino, and co. It is also why Tom Brady just might have what it takes to go down in history as THE GREATEST.
Carl F. Roehrich II
Trumbull, Conn.

I think dynasty is the most overused word in football when it comes to Super Bowls. The Rams had won one when they went back in 2001 and everyone was ready to declare them a dynasty. I'm not a big fan of that word. But I'll play along and say that a championship this season would secure New England's place as the team of this decade or for your purposes, the dynasty of the decade. The other such teams in my lifetime would be the Steelers of the 1970s (even though I'd like to include the Cowboys of the 1970s, they couldn't beat Pittsburgh), the 49ers of the 1980s and the Cowboys of the 1990s. There are a lot things that go into making a great quarterback. Winning is one of them and I'm not sure I agree that not losing is one of them. Brady wins. Production is also important. Was Dan Marino a great quarterback? Of course he was. So was Joe Montana. They were both different but great for own their attributes. Brady has a long way to go before you can compare his career to other greats. So far, he is heading in that direction. So yes, he might have what it takes. He is productive when he needs to be and he wins. Those are some darned good qualities.

Where should I find all of the football rules? Any specific website, books for fans like me to learn more about football. Thanks.
Andover, Mass.

This is the digest of rules on

PLEASE!... i really need to know the song (well i dont think its really a song... but a chord to pump up the crowd) played at patriot games with the electric guitar played on like 3rd downs at the stadium........ i know u get like a million emails a day.. but plz.. or wats that song that goes like "heee readdyyy, heee reaadddyyyy..." u know... so plz help me THANK YOU VERY MUCH

*Jason DuPaul
Worcester, Mass. *

Jason, spell the words out will you? What is it with this shorthand type? I know u r prbly biz, but how long does it take to write the actual wrds? Plz do. The chord is from Guns n Roses "Welcome to the Jungle" and the song is called "We Ready" by Archie.

Looking at the schedule for this season, it looks like the Patriots have it pretty easy this time. Not to say that there aren't ANY tough teams that they'll face, but, compared to most teams, the Pats seem to have it easy. What are your thoughts on that?
Al Lind
Hyannis, Mass.

Looks can be deceiving. I don't think we will truly know the strength of the schedule until we see teams perform over time. You can't go by last year or two weeks of this season. The Patriots were 1-3 in 2001 and won it all. They were 2-2 last year and won it all. That said, it's safe to say that Arizona wasn't a tough game in relative terms. Perhaps San Francisco might fall into that category by season's end. The others? Who knows how Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and St. Louis will be? It might help that Miami appears to be a bit down, but division games are always tough. ALWAYS. Every year there are teams that make the playoffs that didn't the year prior and that no one expects to. I'll give you that based on what people use to determine strength of schedule at this time, the Patriots don't have a so-called hard schedule. The teams left on the schedule are a combined 11-17 through two weeks.

I haven't been able to find out much information about 2 Patriots HOFers. Are Bob Dee and Jim Lee Hunt still alive?
*Mike Simonelli
Pittsfield, Mass. *

No sir. Neither one.

Your News Blitz this week says Bethel Johnson led the AFC in return yards. However, I thought Dante Hall did this, and by no small margin. In fact, I was embarrassed repeating this "fact" to another NFL fan. Where do you get this information?
Mike Murphy
Rochester, N.Y.

Murph, don't be embarrassed for repeating the truth. Bethel Johnson led the AFC in kickoff return average at 28.2 yards per return on 30 returns. That's how the NFL measures the statistical leader in that category as long as he meets a minimum number of returns. Hall finished second at 25.9 yards per return although he had 57 returns and therefore had 1,478 return yards to Johnson's 847. But prorating Johnson over 57 returns based on his average would give him 1,607 yards. Hall did lead the AFC in punt return average at 16.3 yards per return, almost 3 yards better than Oakland's Phillip Buchanan, who averaged 13.6 per punt return. That is official. So you shouldn't be embarrassed at all.

My daughter just graduated from Texas A&M and we are both wondering about the other "aggie", Ty Warren. I didn't see him or hear his name mentioned in the Colts game. Is he now basically third string?
Bill Sullivan
Spring, Texas

Ty has started both of the Patriots games this season at left defensive end. He had 10 tackles and a forced fumble against the Colts and one tackle against the Cardinals.

Hey guys, as I am writing this email (9/15/04) I am starting to think (based on the suspect NT play of Traylor and Wilfork as NTs in the 3-4 and the average DE play by Seymour against the Colts)that eventually Richard Seymour will be back playing NT in the 3-4 (like he did in 2001). I'm not talking about him occasionally playing there, I am talking about him being the primary NT in the 3-4, even though he would prefer to be an end. What do you think the chances of this happening are? By the way, there are no jobs in this town unless you want to work 40 hours a week!
Lloyd Christmas
Providence, R.I.

I don't think that will happen. When Seymour played the nose in 2001, it was mostly out of a 4-3 look with him lined up on the center. If they didn't move him there in 2002 when the position killed them, they won't do it this year. I think they will be patient with Wilfork and Traylor, who are both learning to play the position for the first time. What is with the jobs comment? Do you not work 40 hours? Is there something wrong with working 40 hours? I don't understand your point there. What am I missing?

Hey Paul, just read the question about Fred Coleman. He plays for the San Jose Sabercats of the AFL, and won a title this past season. My question is, how much longer do you think the linebacking corps will look as it does now? I mean, they play a bend don't break style of D, especially Willie, and Teddie. Do we really have any promising young guys who can make those sort of plays (i.e. Willie's now 2 game saving tackles against Indy) or when these guys retire, or God forbid, get released/traded, will we be out of luck at LB?
Mike G.
Des Moines, Iowa

I think you might be seeing the end of this group as we know it. Some will certainly be around next year, but how long can all of these guys continue to play? Phifer is 36. McGinest will be 33 in December. Johnson will be 32 in December. Vrabel will have to have his contract re-worked in the next couple of years to stay around as it has some backload in it. Colvin needs to prove he can still be an impact player given the contract he signed. I think there is a touch of uncertainty moving forward with that group. The young linebackers include inexperienced players like Tully Banta-Cain, Matt Chatham, Dan Klecko and Justin Kurpeikis. I would think the Patriots would look to free agency or a high draft pick to replace one of these aging veterans if they cut ties with one or more of them.

Just curious as to what the Patriots ended up getting for our old safety friend Tebucky Jones? I know they traded him to the Saints for a couple of draft picks. What/when were those draft picks and who did those picks actually go on to become? Thanks.
Celebration, Fla.

On April 14, 2003 the Pats traded Jones to the Saints for a third round pick (78th overall) and a seventh round pick (239th overall) as well as a fourth round pick in the 2004 draft (113th overall). They then traded the 78th pick to the Dolphins for a 2004 second round pick, which was traded on April 19, 2004 for running back Corey Dillon. The 239th pick was used to select linebacker Tully Banta-Cain. The fourth round pick in 2004 was used on safety Dexter Reid.

I see that there are 2 players that are physically unable to perform, Matt Chatham (OLB) & Cedric Cobbs (RB). How does this affect the team or is their any possibilities that they might play again? Thanks

Fort Wayne, Ind.

Neither player counts against the active roster and both are eligible to be activated anytime after the sixth week of the season and before the 12th week. There is a good chance both will be activated at some point this season.

Do the Patriots have any plans to bring in another RB. I don't see how Rabih Abdullah is a legitimate running back in this league. I see a big time lack of depth at this position.
Steven Foster
Knoxville, Tenn.

Abdullah is a special teamer who would only play in a pinch. If Dillon went down, Kevin Faulk would be the primary back, but Abdullah would probably get 5-10 carries per game to spell the smaller Faulk. He was brought in as a special teamer as much as anything else.

With this probably being Ty Law's last year with the Pats (and what could be an injury-hampered year at that),any chance that NE could go after disgruntled Packers CB Mike Mckenzie or would the fit be a disaster? I see that Sherman is now talking with Mike again which means that there could be some resolution of that impasse coming. Favre's comments seem to have poisoned the water for him in Cheesehead Land.
Pete Clark
London, England

I'm not sure McKenzie would be a fit here. At least Ty showed up even after his offseason tirade. It's not impossible for Law to return although it would be highly unlikely given his contract status. Most people thought he wouldn't be here this year because of his cap number and they were wrong. But don't rule out a restructure. Things change, and Law and the Patriots could come to an agreement that keeps him here. But New England is unwilling to leave itself with a huge future dead money hit against the cap for Law by signing him to a long-term deal that makes him a financial liability as he climbs into his 30s.

Hey guys, fantastic column... As typical Boston sports fans do, my friends and I were tossing around ideas about the Pats the other day. One idea that my friend Kevin proposed was in the upcoming offseason, trading Ty Law for Walter Jones. We all are convinced that Matt Light was born to play on the right side of the line and Walter would be an unbelievably sturdy fixture on the left. Although this scenario makes a little bit of sense, doesn't it contrast BB's recent success in plugging in over-achievers on the O-line and not spending a lot of money there? What're the odds of a big trade like this going through?
Needham, Mass. *

I don't think the Patriots would want to pay the Walter Jones price for an offensive lineman. While I think having a left tackle of that caliber would be great and Light would probably be better on the right side, it's just not an area the Patriots seem to want to spend their money. You can't spend it everywhere, which is why the Patriots have worked so hard to develop offensive lineman. If Light can't be re-signed, New England will use either a first or second round draft pick to replace him.

Last week "Hurricane" Ivan Dale praised dillion of his recovery of a fumble by tom brady. If he payed better attention he would have realized the only reason brady fumbled is because dillion blew his blocking assignment and let the defender run right by him. I watched the replay and you can see dillion just look as the guy ran by and hit brady. I think after letting your qb take a hit the very least you could do is recover the fumble. Instead of praising dillion, you should wonder how many times that's going to happen before dillion becomes a two down back. HUH? WHAT? HUH?
Davenport, Fla.

Easy Mike. I bet he spelled Dillon correctly in his entry. At least Dillon didn't compound his mistake by standing there watching. Sometimes it's what you do when things go wrong that make the difference. So Dillon missed the block, but at least he didn't also cause a turnover. When Faulk comes back, he will be the third down back. That was the plan all along although I do think that Dillon is a capable pass blocker, that play aside.

I found PFW two months ago. It's now my weekly addiction. My first question; I know the offense can see the play clock as it approaches 0.0, But does the defense see a play clock looking down the opposite side of the field?? If yes, then why wouldn't blitzing LB and safeties time their sprint to 0.0 with so many QBs going right down to the wire? So many times I see a LB mis-time the blitz, stop all momentum and most of the blitz' effectiveness. PS Hope to see many more double teams on the NT. I miss Ted.

Barry Gearin
Garden Grove, Calif.

Yes they can see it. And I think most players do get off the ball quickly, especially linebackers who are standing up, when the clock is near 0.0. When you see players mis-time their blitz or rush, it's not usually when the clock is approaching 0.0. If it is, shame on them.

Once the season begins, player numbers seem to switch to align with NFL requirements by position. Did P. K. Sam switch from number 14? Although he is hurt, does Zeron Flemister get a new number so as not to conflict with Eric Alexander?
Kevin Patrick
Dover, N.H.

Wide receivers are now permitted to wear numbers between 11 and 20, and Sam is still wearing 14. Flemister is wearing 46.

How is it that the Steelers were able to raid our practice squad and sign Russell Stuvaints to a contract? Did the Pats allow this, are practice squad players fair game, or did Russell quit and join the Steelers? I am VERY curious about this because this really does not seem right. Thanks!

Lancaster, Pa.

A team can sign any player from another club's practice squad, but the player must be signed to the new team's active roster and must remain on the 53-man roster for a minimum of three weeks.

Thanks for the column every week. I like the offensive line rotation that Belichick has implemented in the first 2 games. I think this will be important later in the season as injuries are likely to occur and we will have experienced and capable linemen to step up into more regular role. I am a little concerned however about how this rotation system is affecting guys like Matt Light who happens to be in his contract year. Is it possible that Belichick is holding Light back to drive down his value for this coming offseason or is his reduced role due to the offseason surgery and his current fitness level? Even if Belichick's motives are pure regarding Light, is there any evidence that Light himself is displeased with the situation or that he has his own suspicions about his decreased role? Thanks and keep up the good work.

Los Angeles, Calif.

Light seems OK with it now given that he missed much of training camp and didn't play up to par upon his return as he worked to get his conditioning and strength back. He will be the full-time left tackle before long … barring injury. That I guarantee. Bill doesn't make game decisions based on money. Most of the players have incentives in their contracts and if Bill was determining playtime based on contract issues, players would pick that up quickly and tell him to pound sand. He would lose them quickly. Light has been playing for three years at this point and every team knows what he can do. Belichick is not trying to affect the player's free agent value. He's trying to win games and get his whole team ready to win games. This rotation is unusual, but I think it could pay off down the line as you said. His role will be the same as always because he is the best left tackle on the team and he will eventually play there full-time when Bill and Dante Scarnecchia determine that he is ready to assume those duties.

I would like to obtain copies of the Patriots playoff games in 2002 against Oakland, Pittsburgh and the Rams. How do I buy these copies?
Matt Turner
Merritt Island, Fla.

Those are not available for purchase. Your best bet is to pick up the Three Games to Glory DVD that has almost every play from those postseason games without all the interruptions in between plays. I believe that it is 90 minutes long and has all three games almost in their entirety.

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