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Friday Update: Pioli honored by CCSU

New England Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli will be inducted into the Central Connecticut State University Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame on Friday, May 13. Pioli is one of three members in the class of 2005.

Pioli was a starter for three-plus seasons at defensive tackle for the Blue Devils. A 1998 graduate, he was a three-time All-New England selection and was named the team's defensive MVP in 1985. He finished his career with 222 tackles and 22 sacks. The Washingtonville, NY native was the first-ever winner of Central's Frank Marietta Award for leadership and is a CCSU Young Alumni Award winner.

"Scott has been second to none in building and managing our personnel department since 2000," New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said in a statement. "Our success is a direct reflection of Scott's performance, which starts with his love for the game and is carried out through his vision and his competitiveness. He is a man of integrity and one of my best friends."

Pioli joined the Patriots on Feb. 10, 2000. He began his NFL career as a pro personnel assistant on Belichick's staff with the Cleveland Browns in 1992. He was promoted to director of pro personnel when the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1996, and spent one season with the Ravens before he was hired by Belichick as the director of pro personnel with the New York Jets in 1997.

On Wednesday, Pioli was awarded the George Young NFL Executive of the Year Award for the second consecutive year.

[updated 2 p.m. ET]

Big Offseason: For nearly every player making the transition from rookie to second-year pro, the first NFL offseason is a key juncture. With the chance to take part in team offseason strength and conditioning programs for the first time, train under the watchful eye of the team instead of preparing for the NFL Draft and thus enter mini-camp and training camp with a full year of professional experience, it's typically the time when many players make a significant jump in their development.

With that in mind, Patriots fans should keep their eye on second-year players who could make significant strides in 2005. Two players in particular - tight end Benjamin Watson and safety Guss Scott - saw their rookie seasons cut short by injuries. Watson, the Patriots second pick in the first round, was impressive during the preseason and in the regular season opener before sustaining a knee injury that placed him on the injured reserve on Sept. 29. Scott, a third round pick, had a solid training camp and looked to be in line for the third safety spot before he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second preseason game.

Watson and Scott both stayed close to the team during the season, working with team trainers in rehabilitation from their respective injuries. A silver-lining-in-the-black-cloud benefit of their early-season knee injuries is that they've been afforded nearly a full calendar year to recover, making a return to full healthy for a training camp a possibility. Like other first and second-year players, Watson and Scott are working out in the offseason program and could be big contributors in the upcoming season.

Free Agent Update: As the frenzy that consumed the free agency period in early March slows to a relative calm, the Patriots have made progress by signing several players in the last 10 days, bringing back offensive tackle Tom Ashworth, veteran linebacker Don Davis and defensive tackle Ethan Kelley. The Patriots do have two remaining restricted free agents in wide receiver David Givens and defensive end Jarvis Green.

Givens and Green were both offered mid-level tenders of $1.43 million, and have until April 15 in which to negotiate with other teams before their rights are retained by the Patriots. If they are signed to an offer sheet and the Patriots chose not to match the offer, they would receive a first round draft pick as compensation of their mid-level status. As of Wednesday of this week, no restricted free agents have changed teams during the free agency period.

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