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Belichick hoping to close gap for rookies

Everyone starts on the same page.

That's the main objective for the New England Patriots rookie orientation weekend. The coaching staff is getting its first look at 10 draft picks and 25 rookie free agents Friday. Head Coach Bill Belichick planned an outdoor practice for the afternoon and an indoor practice Friday night.

Belichick said the key to the mini camp was getting the rookies caught up as much as possible with the veterans.

"What we would like to do as much as anything is try to close the gap between where the rookies are now and where the veterans are," Belichick said. "We want [the rookies] to have a better chance to compete in training camp. This is a phase that they can build from so that the next time they come back here in May, they'll be working from a higher ground. There will be a base of knowledge and a certain level of understanding that we can build up from."

Belichick said he spoke with the rookies Thursday night and told them they were all starting on the same page.

"They are all starting at zero," Belichick said. "Anybody can start, and everyone has a chance. That's why they are all here. As we ask the guys to do things, they will begin to separate. They are all Patriots now, and it's up to each of them what they do on the field.

"Everyone of these guys has something to offer. The players need to maximize their strengths and also sure up their weaknesses."

Belichick said he wanted the rookies to be comfortable as long as they understood the purpose of the camp.

"I told them we wanted them to relax and that it was okay to smile. They all seemed nervous and quiet, but that's a natural progression, and I expect it will change a bit by the end of the weekend," Belichick said. "But we also stressed that we are here for business, and we were not looking for any team clowns. We all have work we have to do."

While there will be some evaluating done, Belichick said this was more of an instructional weekend.

"There is certainly some evaluation, but not to the degree of training camp," Belichick said. "It's a combination of evaluating and closing the gap between the rookies and veterans. What we can do is instruct them on techniques we'll be asking them to play when camp starts up."

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