The quiet days of the true NFL offseason are rapidly coming to a close, with training camps set to open league-wide next week. New England's first practice is a week from today, in fact.
With that in mind, most outlets that cover the team are offering preview-type stories in these final days. ESPN's blog, for instance, offers a projected Patriots starting lineup for the regular season.
The Boston Globe provides a top-to-bottom feature on Patriots cornerbacks, a position where depth has improved, according to the writer. NESN.com takes a closer look at New England’s wide receiver depth chart.
"If you assume Edelman, Amendola, Hogan, special teams captain Matthew Slater and 2016 fourth-round draft pick Malcolm Mitchell all will make the 53-man roster," the story says, "that leaves six receivers (Keshawn Martin, Nate Washington, DeAndre Carter, Devin Lucien, Chris Harper and Aaron Dobson) fighting for what likely will be one spot."
*The Providence Journal *goes further, with a broad look at five important position battles to watch this summer in Foxborough. One of those is offensive line.
"It would be a surprise," the author proclaims, "to see the team spend a third-round pick on [guard Joe] Thuney and then not play him. It'd also be a surprise if they cut ties with [guard Tre'] Jackson or [guard Shaq] Mason after playing them so much last season. Out of all the positions, the interior offensive line has the most questions marks."
Elsewhere, if you just can't let Deflategate go, neither can a lot of other folks, it seems.
CSNNE.com recaps the reaction from NFLPA president Eric Winston, who appeared on Sirius XM radio to voice his opinion.
"The [NFL's disciplinary] system isn't perfect, the system isn't fair or transparent," said Winston in part. "I think the one thing that has been lost in this conversation is how much does this affect the competitive balance throughout the league. The NFL's always so big on competitive balance, but you see these random suspensions that have been handed down over the last two-three years, it's definitely affected competitive balance. I think that's the real negative part of it, obviously, just for an everyday football fan."
Another part-time football scribe on boston.com shares his final thoughts on the Deflategate fiasco, focusing on several key figures in the sad saga.
"This was never about the footballs," he insists. "It was about [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell's power — ignorantly ceded to him in negotiations by the players' union, which made the mistake of presuming he possessed a fraction of the honor of Pete Rozelle or Paul Tagliabue — and his right to maintain and use it. Not only is he the judge, jury and executioner, but he's willing to abuse his power to the limits at the behest of a majority of agenda-addled owners."
Lastly, an NBC Sports writer goes even further, saying Brady is absolutely innocent of all Deflategate charges against him.
"I think Tom Brady is unequivocally, unambiguously, thoroughly and 100-percent innocent of any and all charges of deflating footballs in a cheating capacity. I don't think he ever asked anyone to illegally deflate footballs. I don't think he wanted footballs inflated below NFL standards. I think the whole thing … was a bunch of phony-baloney nonsense."