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Ask PFW: Your Q&A forum

Where are you all? Not many questions this week and I discarded some that didn't seem timely so I apologize to those who didn't make it in. Otis, one of our Ask PFW regulars, asked two David Givens questions so I thought I'd introduce this week's forum with that issue. Otis is wondering what happened to Givens in the offense after he was so instrumental for most of the season's first half. I think Givens still has a role on the club and since he missed a game with an injury and played sparingly in another, I don't think there is any intention to keep him down or that he is in anyone's doghouse. Chronicling the last few weeks since Deion Branch returned, here is a look at Givens. He was not a big part of the passing game against Kansas City for whatever reason, one I have no explanation for except to say that Tom Brady went to Branch more in that game, Branch's first back from injury. Givens then led the team with six catches against Baltimore for 42 yards. He caught three passes for 25 yards in the blowout win over Cleveland in which the Patriots threw only six times in the second half. His three catches were as many as any other wideout on the team. He was then inactive for the Bengals game after Bill Belichick said he "tightened up" and he played sparingly in Miami, mostly as a blocker after missing most of the week of practice. He has since been listed as missing practice time during each week. But he returned to make two big plays against the Jets, catching two passes for 64 yards while David Patten was shut out and Branch caught seven balls. He then returned to the starting lineup against San Francisco and caught two passes for 30 yards, one less pass than Branch, who led all wide receivers with three catches, but Givens' 30 yards out-gained Branch's 22. Givens upped his role with Branch out, but none of the receivers have really had huge games in recent weeks so don't think Givens is in anyone's doghouse. He will be a key part of any playoff run. Trust me on that one.

My first question is: what does it mean for a lineman to "stunt" on a play? I've heard this a few times and I can't figure out what is meant by it. Secondly, assuming the Colts will beat the Broncos, they'll be coming to Foxboro again. Judging from the last 3 meetings, the Pats match up well enough with the Colts and have been able to make enough big plays to contain their offense (with the injuries, who knows?). If weather is a significant factor, what are your thoughts on which team will benefit? Thanks for all the great reading.Shawn
Silver Spring, Md.

A stunt usually involves a player moving from the gap he is lined up over or next to into another gap after the snap to cause confusion among the offensive line and make the blockers account for him while on the move. A twist would involve two linemen doing it across each other at the same time. It could be done in an effort to draw two blockers to the same defender while a blitzer might rush into the vacated gap. Next, I think the Pats injury situation will be critical to their chances against the Colts. As well as they've played and continued winning, it's tough to imagine stopping the Colts passing attack without Ty Law. It's hard to imagine the Pats winning that game without arguably their two best defenders – Law and Richard Seymour. But every time we doubt this team, it finds a way. So while it would be difficult to pick New England in that scenario using your head, your heart might say differently. Peyton Manning is 0-fer in New England. That counts for something. The Colts are 1-6 against the Pats in their last seven meetings.

Hey I have been a Tyrone Poole fan since he was here in Carolina. My question is what are the chances of a return in New England, and also who made the decision to put him on injured reserve? Wouldn't you think the Patriots would be better off with him and Ty Law throughout the playoffs instead of these "other" guys? I mean Samuel is a good nickel back but in the postseason you need a veteran in the defensive backfield. But my main concern is if he'll be playing in New England next year or not.
Josh Beasley

Poole is signed through 2006 with cap numbers of $2.5 and $2.4 million for the next two years and salaries of around $2.1 million and $2 million. I would think he would be back next season unless he chooses not to be. He's due a roster bonus this spring that should determine his fate early in the offseason. As far as the decision to put him on IR, I'm guessing that it was collaborative thing with Bill Belichick and the medical people. My guess is that they were frustrated with his recovery time and felt like his knee injury wasn't progressing as it needed to and felt it was time to move on. We are not privy to medical information as you know since the Patriots are so tight-lipped when it comes to that. He returned for the Bengals game and played only a few plays before leaving again. So the knee obviously wasn't healthy even though both he and the coach said that he suffered no setback in the game. I was surprised by the move and agree that his presence in the postseason would be helpful, but I can't tell you he would have been available. The Patriots obviously felt he would not be or they would not have put him on IR, at least I wouldn't think so.

WITH THE DEPLOYMENT OF THE SECONDARY THIS YEAR AND THE KIND OF PLAYERS OUT HERE LIKE MORELAND WHO I REALLY DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY THE PATS HAVE KEPT HIM, DO YOU THINK THAT IT SECURES MORE THE JOB OF TY LAW FOR A NEW CONTRACT OR DO YOU THINK THAT THEY WILL LET HIOM GO AND GET ONE OR TWO PLAYERS THROUGH FREE AGENCY AND THE DRAFT THIS COMING YEAR? THANKS.
JORGE DELEON

IT'S A GOOD QUESTION JORGE. FIRST OFF LET ME SAY THAT I DON'T THINK THE PLAY OF ANYBODY ELSE AFFECT'S TY'S STATUS ONE WAY OR THE OTHER FOR NEXT SEASON. THE PATRIOTS KNOW WHAT KIND OF CORNER LAW IS AND WILL ULTIMATELY HAVE TO DETERMINE WHETHER THEY THINK PAYING $9.8 MILLION NEXT YEAR IS WORTH IT. THAT'S THE MAIN FACTOR. NOW I WOULD BE BLIND TO OTHER FACTORS IF I STOPPED THERE. OBVIOUSLY IF ASANTE SAMUEL AND EUGENE WILSON WERE BOTH LAW-TYPE SHUTDOWN CORNERS THEN PERHAPS THE TEAM WOULD NOT EVEN CONSIDER KEEPING A BIG CAP NUMBER LIKE LAW'S $12.5 MILLION FOR 2005. SO FROM THAT STANDPOINT, THE OTHER PLAYERS ON THE ROSTER AFFECT HIS STATUS, BUT NOT GUYS LIKE MORELAND. AND THERE IS NO PLAYER ON THE TEAM THIS YEAR THAT AFFECT'S LAW'S STATUS. IT IS IMPLY GOING TO COME DOWN TO VALUE AND WHTHER THE PATRIOTS THINK THEY HAVE IT WITH LAW AND HIS BIG SALARY. I THINK THE PATRIOTS WILL ONCE AGAIN TRY TO WORK OUT A WAY TO KEEP LAW WHILE REDUCING HIS CAP NUMBER BUT WE KNOW THAT WON'T COME IN THE FORM OF A PAY CUT. IT'S LIKELY THAT LAW EITHER PLAYS NEXT SEASON IN NEW ENGLAND UNDER THE TERMS OF HIS DEAL OR HE IS CUT FREE TO GO SIGN SOMEWHERE ELSE WHILE NEW ENGLAND TRIES TO FIND ANOTHER TOP LEVEL CORNER OR TWO IN EITHER FREE AGENCY OR THE DRAFT. I SAY THE PATRIOTS KEEP LAW AND DRAFT ANOTHER CORNER AS WELL. IT IS IN THE PATRIOTS BEST INTEREST TO TRY TO LOWER HIS CAP NUMBER, BUT THE ONLY WAY TO DO THAT IS WITH AN EXTENSION AND A BIG BONUS. THE TEAM DOESN'T SEEM PREPARED TO GO THAT ROUTE. SO IT'S KEEP HIM AND PAY HIM $9.8 MILLION OR CUT HIM. WHAT WOULD YOU DO? I KEEP HIM, BUT I DON'T GET PAID TO MANAGE THE CAP AND DON'T KNOW THE EXACT DETAILS OF THE PATS CAP SITUATION FOR NEXT SEASON.

Why didn't the Patriots have written in the contracts of all its assistant coaches language that would prevent them from accepting or performing a college job while the Patriots season is still in progress? Does the CBA permit language like this to be written in the contracts of assistant coaches?Scott Oude

Scott, the Patriots and Bill Belichick in particular weren't going to stand in the way of Charlie Weis attaining his dream of becoming a head coach. Notre Dame contacted the Patriots about talking to Weis, and the Patriots gave their blessing. Weis made it a point that he had to stay on to finish the season with the Patriots and worked out an arrangement with Belichick. Nobody outside of the Kraft Family has a more vested interest in the team's performance than Belichick so if he feels like the situation is workable without hurting the Patriots chances of winning, then why should you be concerned? I know we are all trained to be skeptical and that's fine. I think it's natural to be skeptical of Charlie's level of contribution given his double dipping. But Belichick stands to lose the most from Weis not being focused. I think he's probably got his thumb on that situation. The CBA applies only to players, not coaches. Assistant coaches have no formal union, but do have an association run by former Patriots offensive coordinator Larry Kennan, who works with teams and the league to ensure assistants are treated fairly.

Where has Dan Klecko gone? I saw him get hurt in the Steelers game and haven't heard from him since. He is not even listed on the injured list.
Bob Tate

Klecko injured his knee in the Oct. 24 game against the Jets and was placed on injured reserve, which means he is out for the season and ineligible to return.

Do you think that Gino Cappelletti is worthy of induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?Nathan Graf

I have answered this before and always preface it by saying that I am biased toward Gino. So I think he does belong in the Hall. He is the AFL's all-time leading scorer and was the first player in the league to reach the 1,000-point mark while doing so as a straight-ahead kicker and a wide receiver. I think he is probably viewed as a kicker first and there is only one place-kicker in the Hall – Jan Stenerud.

Let's make all teams play to full level. Off days only between week 7 and 8. First part of season is against non-conference teams and after week 8, you play only your division. Lets also change the overtime rule where each time gets a shot from the 50-yard line. No extra point in overtime, have to go for two point conversion.
Don Kierce

OK. I'll pass those suggestions along to the powers that be. But keep in mind that there are only six division games so, who do you want to play those other weeks in the second half of the season? On second thought Don, I like it just the way it is. So consider this your pass-along and hope that the Competition Committee reads Ask PFW.

Well anywaise is Dillon going to get a new contract or a contract extension due to his great first season with the Pats? Well he should cause I love this guy. He's fun to watch and he is my new favorite Patriot. It is really exciting to see such a great runner with the Patriots because they haven't had a runner like that forever. Go PATS!!!!!!!!!!!PEACE OUT!!!!#1
Sai Thao

Anywaise? Dillon's cap number will apparently be in the $6 million range next year so I would think it's in the Patriots best interest to sit down and try to extend his deal for a couple more years to spread out some of his cap hit. His play this season certainly warrants a cap number in that range for a top-tier running back, but how many big numbers can they carry? Keep in mind that Dillon is 30 and that signing him to any long-term deal with a big bonus would be risky. Not that 30 is old, but it's generally not a good practice to sign players that hit 30 to long-term contracts that involve huge signing bonuses. It's simply asking for trouble down the line when the player has to be cut because his production at an advanced age (for football) no longer meets his increasing salary level. It's the reason Law's deal fell through last year.

What does Tom Brady have to do to get serious consideration for MVP. To me it seems like all the Patriots success has been directly related to when Brady took over. Belichick was the coach prior to Brady, the rest of the team was basically the same. He is the key guy. Are there any other QBs in the league, including Manning, that could of took over and do what he has done? I can't think of anyone who has been more valuable to a team than Tom Brady.
Chuck Kieser

I agree that Tom is very valuable and his insertion in the lineup is directly correlated to the team's successful period. I also think he is worthy of MVP consideration, but I think the Patriots win more as a team and while I don't want to diminish his value because I think he is the straw that stirs the drink, as the QB on most good teams typically is, I think the Patriots win for a bunch of reasons, not only because of Brady. Let the other guys have those trophies. Tom is valuable. He knows it and the Patriots know it. They don't need a trophy to prove it. It's a statistics award and Peyton Manning is the easy choice. Manning deserves it this year for sure. That's no disrespect to Brady, who has played as big a role as anybody in winning two championships, but Manning has been amazing this year. Tom said it best after the 2001 season when he used the acronym MVT for Most Valuable Team. The team with that honor gets a better trophy and some nice rings as well.

I just wanted to ask. How come the Patriots never wear their all-blue uniforms as in blue top and blue bottom anymore? Is it because they lost those three games in a row when they wore them?
Antonio Knox

Well first off, they are ugly. I'm no Ralph Lauren, but it doesn't look good. Also, I'm sure the losses have something to do with it.

I'm wondering if the Patriots will be able to handle things on defense in the playoffs. When the Pats went to the Super Bowl 3 years ago, their defense was terrific. In last year's Super Bowl, the defense suffered after Rodney Harrison was injured. This year, Ty Law is hurt and back up defensive backs are getting burned against teams that do not have a winning record. What are the coaches going to do to prepare the players against teams in the playoffs if players can't defend the pass well against teams with losing records? The Patriots also seemed helpless against Indy's running attack earlier in the season as well as Pittsburgh's. How do players improve when known weaknesses are exploited each time by the opponent? What can the Pats do to change things around?
Jill Werner

Not much Jill. You're complaining an awful lot about a team that won 14 of 16 games and allowed the second fewest points in the NFL while finishing ranked ninth in the league in defense despite a rash of injuries to the defensive backfield. At this point, it is what it is and if the players out there can't get it done in the playoffs, then the Pats will lose and there is not much any coach can do about it. That should worry you, but there is nothing that can be done about it now. The Patriots, we know, will have a good game plan, but you can't just eliminate weaknesses. At this point in the season, you go with what you have and if the defensive backs on the field are unable to cover in the postseason, you lose. It's not like a coach can turn Earthwind Moreland into Tyrone Poole or Asante Samuel into Ty Law. The coaches will try to do everything they can to hide weaknesses and accentuate strengths, but the opponents know those weaknesses as well.

Tedy Bruschi's loyalty to the organization is a rarity in an era of career moves based on player greed. Corey Dillon breaking the Patriots season rushing record while playing the Jets just drips with irony. I'm sure you see what I'm getting at. Do you think our old friend Curtis Martin might wish he had settled for a few dollars less and acquired two Super Bowl rings? And, since you guys seem to conjure stats at will, can you list the Patriots career totals for Sam "Bam" Cunningham? Thanks.
Phil Troutman

No. I don't think Curtis Martin is thinking that way. It was a different time and the Patriots had a different coaching staff and proceeded to get worse the next two years after Martin left while he went and played for Bill Parcells and came a turnover-plagued second half from advancing to the Super Bowl in 1998. I would guess Curtis has no regrets. I applaud Bruschi, but I never begrudge a guy who tries to make as much money as the market will play him. That's a personal choice. Bruschi had a reason or reasons for staying, but while I like Tedy, I don't think his decision makes him a better person than Curtis or Damien Woody or the like. Cunningham, incidentally, rushed a franchise-high 1,385 times for a franchise best 5,453 yards with 43 rushing touchdowns, second to Jim Nance.

I know this is a silly, unimportant question, but I will ask anyway. I attended Football 101 for women again this year & a comment was made about why the defensive coordinator wears the red jacket, but I would like to know what determines if & when Coach Belichick also wears the red jacket, or is that just another coaching decision?Maureen Gilpen

Believe it or not, I think Bill just grabs something out of his locker. He likes the hooded sweatshirts, but has worn a red jacket from time to time perhaps to help sales of the item in the Pro Shop. But there is no strategical reason he wears red like the defensive coordinator, who wears it so that the defensive players can easily find him on the sideline to get the defensive play calls via hand signals.

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