INDIANAPOLIS - Winning the Super Bowl has its privileges, but being completely prepared for the NFL Scouting Combine is not one of them. Of course the Patriots and player personnel director Nick Caserio would gladly accept the congratulations they've received from their peers in Indianapolis in exchange for some extra work that will be done in the weeks leading up to the draft.
Despite getting a late start on the process personally, Caserio said the scouting department has been on the job for months while the rest of the organization is grinding away and getting up to speed.
"Our staff spent a lot of time during the course of the fall and done a lot of work through December and into the all-star period in January," Caserio said of the lost time. "So, we've spent a lot of time on players and certain players where this is our first exposure to -- especially the underclassmen. So, there are certain aspects that we have to delve into a little deeper. But for the most part our staff has made a conscious effort to stay on top of it. There's still a lot of work to be done here and we'll be ready to go hopefully by the end of April for the draft."
Complicating the matters for Caserio,Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots decision-makers is the lost time has pushed some important moves on the back burner. Normally the entire roster would have been parsed at this stage of the offseason while the brain trust decides which free agents - such as Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty and others - to prioritize.
Still, Caserio believes there will be time to catch up.
"We're going through an evaluation process," he said. "When we get back from the Combine we'll go through a pretty comprehensive analysis of our roster - go through player by player strengths, weaknesses and what we see as their role and what their future is going to be moving forward. Those decisions will be made at the appropriate time but the reality is our team is going to be different next year, that's the reality of the NFL. We'll go through and make the decision we feel is best for the organization going forward."
While those decisions will need to be made, in Revis' case before the start of the new league year, there is still plenty to be gleaned this week. Caserio said the Combine represents just a piece of the overall puzzle but did admit the interviews can often result in player-specific information that can be valuable.
"It's only a 15-minute period of time so maybe there are certain topics you want to try to address that have been ear marked throughout the course of the fall or maybe have some information you want to verify," Caserio explained. "You only have so much time so you can't cover a wide-ranging number of topics. You try to pick one or two things to focus in on and try to step into the football aspect of it - how they process information, learning what they know - so this is just a small segment of it and you use that as a starting point and you build on it the next few weeks.
"To have all the players centralized in one location is good. There are opportunities for the coaches and other staff to spend a little more time with the players. You're really just trying to gather as much information as possible."
And the fact that Caserio and the Patriots are in the midst of the Combine as Super Bowl champs doesn't hurt either.
"It's a nice compliment for the organization but it doesn't really change our approach," Caserio added. "We're grateful for the opportunity we have and the way the Super Bowl ended but now we're turning the page and moving on to putting together the 2015 roster and that's where the focus is.
"It's nice. A lot of people from other teams might come by and offer a quick congratulations and that's always nice to hear and we're very appreciative."