New England skies started the day grey and rainy, but by early evening, they'd yielded to blue skies. Convenient for the Patriots, who were holding their annual kickoff gala, renamed Patriots Premiere, outdoors on the Gillette Stadium game field for the first time.
Perhaps a sign of brighter days ahead for the team after a challenging offseason?
"Every year there's some kind of surprise you can't anticipate," owner Robert Kraft told reporters prior to the event. "Sometimes the difficult things help bring a team together… I'm actually pretty excited about this team. It's a very young team. They seem to be coming together pretty well. I'm excited about this season and the next few seasons."
One reason to be even more excited is if superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski can get back in uniform soon after missing all of training camp while recovering from back and forearm surgeries.
"I happened to be working out downstairs," Kraft continued, "and he was the only person in the training room. He's working very hard. I'm optimistic that he's going to come back and be a great contributor. I'm hoping he'll be back as soon as possible. I'm going to let Coach Belichick make that decision."
Kraft also deferred to Bill Belichick when the question of Tim Tebow came up. Calling the third-string QB a "very special young man" for whom Kraft is "rooting for… big-time," the owner acknowledged that it is by no means a guarantee that the Patriots will keep three passers on the final 53-man roster.
"I think we want to make sure we have the 53 best people to help us win games. I have the privilege of letting Bill make those decisions. He has a pretty good record doing it.
"He's been a real joy to have around here," added Kraft, referring to Tebow. "I see why he has such a strong national following. We're also privileged to have Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett. I like our position, if you look around the league, two teams in our division [with injuries to the quarterback position]… I just give thanks for the position we're in."
Finally, Kraft was asked about the continued fallout from the Aaron Hernandez saga. The NFL Players Association, the union which represents players, is formally attempting to force the Patriots to pay the now imprisoned Hernandez a workout bonus for the offseason months in which he took part in the team's strength and conditioning program.
All Kraft would say on the matter was, "We honor all our contracts. We expect the people who sign them to honor their part."
12 on Thursday?
After practice and before tonight's Premiere event, Brady spoke with reporters at his locker and indicated he might play in the fourth and final preseason game this Thursday at Gillette.
"I expect to… that's how we've been preparing. It's always up to Coach Belichick, but I'm ready to go."
Brady said the team has had "a good week of practice" and that while most NFL starters don't play much, if at all, in the preseason finale, it might be good for him and some of his teammates this week, particularly after the way they played in a loss at Detroit a week ago.
"I think there's always something to be gained from the competition," added Brady.
There's also the need to continue developing his chemistry with new free agent wideout Danny Amendola, who missed the Detroit game with an apparent injury.
"He's a veteran player. He's been a part of this system, he's had a lot of productivity. It's just a matter of us all being on the same page," Brady remarked about his on-field relationship with Amendola. "We've never done it under real live game conditions. We can think and be hopeful, but at the same time, we have to go out and prove it."
More roster moves
Late Tuesday, after they'd gotten down to the league-mandated 75-man limit on the roster, the Patriots added to it by claiming defensive lineman Gilbert Pena off waivers from Green Bay, according to multiple media reports. The move was needed to add depth at a thin position that's been beset by injuries of late.
To make room for Pena, the team reportedly waived/injured offensive lineman Brice Schwab. If Schwab clears waivers, he can revert to New England's injured reserve list.