Football is back in session for those Patriots rookies whose schools have already had graduation. A group of the rookies returned to Gillette Stadium Friday to continue their initiation into the world of professional football. The players will work in the team's offseason program and try to build on the early work the youngsters got during the team's rookie mini camp held the weekend following the draft.
The team confirmed three signings on Friday, one of which was the previously reported addition of veteran outside linebacker Don Davis. The 6-1, 234-pound seven-year veteran started 15 games over the last two seasons with the St. Louis Rams. In his career with the Rams, Buccaneers and Saints the Kansas alum has played in 89 games with 15 starts totaling 87 tackles. He had 34 tackles and one interception in 2002 with the Rams. Davis has been a constant special teams contributor in his career, setting a career high with 21 special teams stops in 2000 with Tampa Bay.
The two other Friday signings included two undrafted rookie free agent offensive linemen in Gene Mruczkowski and Joe Schey. Mruczkowski is a 6-2, 299-pound center/guard out of Purdue who started for four seasons with the Boilermakers. He is considered to be a versatile and feisty lineman, but may lack the athleticism needed at the next level. One reason he may have gone undrafted is the fact that he is recovering from a torn ACL in November of his senior season that could prevent him from being ready for training camp.
Schey is a 6-6, 330-pound massive offensive tackle who had a tryout with the Patriots as part of the rookie mini camp in late April. He was a starter over his last three seasons with the Bulldogs and must have shown enough in mini camp to warrant the signing. There is also the possibility that Fresno State head coach Pat Hill, who coached on Bill Belichick's staff with the Cleveland Browns from 1992-1995, put in a good word for a guy who was one of his toughest and most consistent players over the last three years.
The veteran Davis adds more depth to a group of outside linebackers that already includes the likes of Mike Vrabel, Roman Phifer, Rosevelt Colvin, Willie McGinest and seventh-round draft pick Tully Banta-Cain. He will also help add depth to the team's special teams unit, one that already added veterans like Chris Akins and Aric Morris earlier this offseason.
Playoff expansion looks doubtful
According to ESPN.com the NFL's competition committee voted unanimously against the New England and Kansas City proposals to expand the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams. While owners will vote on the proposal next week at the league's meetings in Philadelphia, it would be uncharacteristic for the owners' vote to go against the recommendation of the influential eight-man committee. In order for the initiative to pass it would require a vote of approval of three quarters of the NFL owners, or 24 of the 32 teams. And despite numerous incorrect reports, the Patriots would not have been the seventh AFC playoff team had an expanded playoff system been in place in 2002. That honor would have gone to the Denver Broncos thanks to the tiebreaker and a regular season win over New England.