Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, August 1, 2010.
NC: Good to see everyone. We're six practices in; we've had five padded practices. At this point, we're kind of just moving along with our normal installation schedule. We'll have a few more practices here today. A couple roster transactions have taken place over the last couple days with David [Patten] retiring. Wes [Welker] is going to return to practice here this morning, so we'll see how that goes. So we're at 78 players on the roster right now, which puts us two under the limit. So we'll proceed forward from here and see how it goes. We'll take some questions here and go from there.
Q: This means that Wes is coming off the active PUP?
NC: Yeah, it means he has passed the physical and he'll start practicing and he'll be out there today.
Q: Would outside linebacker be one of those priorities given the Derrick Burgess situation and the release of Shawn Crable?
NC: I think right now we have a group that's here that we're working with. And obviously with those players that aren't being here, there are some opportunities for those guys in practice to work on their individual techniques, to continue to improve. I think it's normal this time of year, especially during training camp, there's a lot of roster activity and a lot of roster movement that takes place. I would say it's kind of business as usual for us from the standpoint that we're evaluating what players are available, who might be available and whether or not they might be a fit for what we do. I'd say it's business as usual for us from that perspective. As it relates to that position, or any other position for that matter, I think our philosophy has been that if there is player out that that we feel can help us, we'll consider it and we'll move forward from there.
Q: Procedurally, what goes into the decision to activate Wes Welker?
NC: He passed the physical, so it means he's deemed ready to go by our training staff and the doctors, so that's the more procedural thing. He's passed the conditioning test just like Kade Weston did, just like Sam Aiken did, so it's a similar procedure for Wes as it is for anybody else.
Q: Did he not pass it prior?
NC: He's ready to go now. He's deemed physically ready to go based on the tests and what our trainers have decided, so he'll be out there.
Q: Will he wear a red jersey?
NC: I'm not sure. I'm not sure at this point.
Q: How challenging is it to add players right now, since theoretically there are about 2,400 players on teams?
NC: Yeah, it is, but there is so much shuffling and movement that goes on at different points. You just have to look at your own situation and figure out what makes the most sense for the club and that's what we've done, that's what we'll always do, and that's what we'll continue to do. If there's an opportunity for us that makes sense, we've done it before. If you look at last year during training camp - I think it was August 2 or whatever it was - we brought Rob Ninkovich in, worked him out, and he ended up making the roster and he's been here since and has carved out a little niche and a role for himself. It all depends on the situation. I can't sit here and tell you when exactly that's going to happen, but there are situations like that that do certainly come up.
Q: When Wes got injured, did you anticipate that this range of time would be when he would be back?
NC: I'm not a doctor, so it's really our of our hands. It's up to the player. He goes through the normal process and procedure, and whenever he's ready, that's when he's ready. The medical people determine that more than - I mean, I'm not a doctor.
Q: Considering the extent of the injury, how relieved are you to actually get to see him at this point in the season?
NC: I think it's like any player that has gone through an injury, whether it's during the season, whether it's during the offseason. They go through the injury, they go through the rehab process and whenever they're ready, it's good to have players out there. It means they're ready to compete. It means they're ready to go out there with the rest of the club and see what they can do and figure out what their role is going to be for the team. And everybody that comes off an injury, regardless of who it is, is in the same boat. They have to go out there, they have to prove that they are capable of handling a certain workload on a day-to-day basis. Whether it's Wes or whether it's any other player, we're excited when we have players back on the field that we can work with and we can watch them compete.
Q: You mentioned Rob Ninkovich earlier. Guys like him, Pierre Woods, Dan Connolly, Chris Taylor, they've all quietly gotten to their fifth year in a league, in a league where the average career is only around 3 years. Are there qualities that guys like that possess that allow them to get past that average and beat the odds?
NC: I think every situation is different. There are different players and different categories. From our perspective, the qualities that we look for in players don't change regardless of if they're a first-year player, second-year player, third-year player, etcetera. It's pretty simple; If they work hard, if they do their job, if they're attentive and they put their team first - and obviously they have to go through the physical component, the training to prepare themselves. It's a tribute to the players and the amount of time and effort and the consistency and the persistence that they've shown. I think it's more about the players and it's an individual case-by-case basis. I think it's hard to sort of generalize, but I think it's more a tribute to those players and their mindset and their work ethic and those kinds of things as opposed to anything else.
Q: Is there a point that players reach, like if they make it to five or six years, that then they stand a better chance to make it to 10, 12 years? Have you noticed that?
NC: I think it depends, because really, each year is its own entity. You come into the season and you have an expectation, I'm sure, as a player, as we do as a personnel staff and as the coaches do. You come in and you just try to work hard and you just try to go out there and compete and make the most of your opportunities. Wherever that ends up taking you, then so be it. It's hard to put a timetable. Really, when you are talking about improvement, typically - and I think Bill [Belichick] had mentioned this - your biggest jump usually comes from your rookie year to your second year. So once you get into the league, beyond that, it's a year-to-year thing and it's all based on how you perform when you are given the opportunities that are presented to you and what you make of them.
Q: Logan Mankins is not here and he is not under contract. Do you envision that situation changing?
NC: Logan is not here. We're focused on the players that are here. Anything contract related, I'm not going to really get into that today. We're just focused on today's practice and the players that are here and their individual improvement on a day-to-day basis. That's what we're focused on.
Q: Have there been any recent talks with his people?
NC: I'm not going to get into that [or] anything contract related. Like I said, we're just going to focus on the players that are here.
Q: We're seeing Brandon Tate for the first time in a training camp setting. Can you project where he might have gone in the draft had he not had the knee problem?
NC: I'd say probably not. It depends. He was a productive player, a multi-purpose player. He did a lot of things his senior year: he returned kickoffs, he returned punts, he was averaging 20 yards a catch when he got hurt. The draft is an inexact science. You're not exactly sure where a player is going to fall for whatever reason. I mean, who knows; he could have gone earlier, he could have gone later. I'm not really sure. It's good to see Brandon out there. He's kind of had the opportunity to go through an offseason program for the first time because last year he came in and we had to put him on PUP, then he came back, then he got hurt again. But he was able to go through the offseason and I think, like a lot of young players, I think he's moving in the right direction. I think there is still a lot of improvement for him but it's nice to see him out there and performing.
Q: Last year during training camp and practices, we saw you much more hands-on, particularly with the receivers. This year you seems like you've taken more of an observational role. Is that a conscious decision and does that mean your responsibilities have changed a little bit?
NC: I wouldn't say that they have necessarily changed. That's probably the biggest change, that I'm not on the field conducting the drills, but I think there's interaction between myself and the coaches, whether it's Billy O'Brien or whomever it might be. So I'd say there's some interaction. I think it's just looking at it from a different perspective, but the things that you're looking for I wouldn't say are too drastically different. The biggest thing is kind of that you see more of a big picture instead of one position that you're focused on when you're working on a day-to-day basis with them.
Q: Does that help you with your personnel role, to be able to scan the practice field and not just focus on one position?
NC: I think it's good to have an understating of sort of the big picture and to look at some things offensively and defensively. The funny thing is you really learn as much as you want on a day-to-day basis - to have an opportunity to sit in on an offensive meeting or a defensive meeting or whatever it may be. Just like a player, I take the philosophy that the more you can learn [and] the more you can understand, the better off we're all going to be.
Q: Pat Chung has really stood out in camp so far. I know it's early but can you talk about his progression from last year to this year?
NC: Yeah, I think you can probably put a lot of players in that category, but I think Patrick came in, he had a role last year and I think he made the most that role. And then he went into the offseason and he made a concentrated effort, like a lot of players do, and he really worked. I mean, his work ethic - Patrick really works hard. He's smart. He has good instincts. He understands football. He works at it. And then there is a physical component that goes into it with all the training, the physical development, the on the field understanding routes, being able to process information. So he's worked at it and you hope that a player is improving if he puts that much time into football. You just hope that, whether it's Patrick Chung, whether it's [Julian] Edelman, whether it's [Darius] Butler, whether it's any young player, you hope that if they invest that amount of time, you're going to see that improvement over a period.
Q: Now that basically every team has started camp, are trade inquiries pretty much a daily occurrence at this time of year?
NC: Really, you're open for business on anything. There are a number of different avenues that continue to build your club, whether that's through trades, whether it's free agency, whether it's waiver wire claims. So I think it's just normal procedure to go through this time of year, whether that entails trade talks...I wouldn't say this year is different than any other year.
Q: Do they kind of slow down after the draft and them heighten once teams start camp?
NC: I think it depends. I think it depends on the situation. If there is a player that's out there that, let's say, a club is moving, they might call to gauge your interest. I think it all depends on the situation.
Q: In the wake of Logan Mankins not being here, are you satisfied or happy with the depth that you have to fill the left guard spot?
NC: Yeah, I mean, there are a lot of guys that have worked in there, whether it's been Dan Connolly, whether it's [Rich] Ohrnberger, whether it's Nick Kaczur. So the guys that are here, this is their opportunity to go out there and improve on a day-to-day basis. Any player that's on the club, they wouldn't be here if we didn't feel good about them, so that's why they're here. So they'll go out there and ultimately the player is going to define what their role is and who those players are based on their performance, so we'll let that play out.
Q: Have you been in contact with Derrick Burgess at all and do you anticipate a resolution to that soon?
NC: Yeah, we have had some conversations with Derrick. I think there are still some moving parts on that. We haven't quite reached a resolution. I'm sure when we get to that point we will let everybody know.
Q: What does it say about Wes Welker as a player to come back so soon after a serious injury?
NC: I mean, I think he works hard. He's committed to football. I think every player has to go at their own pace. I think Wes is a unique guy, there's no question about it. He has been a productive player. But he realizes that he has to go out there and prove himself once again, regardless of what has happened in the past, just like any player. Wes works hard, he's got a good skill set, he does the right things, and I think it's a tribute to him and his work ethic and his competitiveness and is toughness to get back on the field, so we'll see how it goes.
Q: Any other new additions to the roster?
NC: No, that's it. With David [Patten] leaving, as far as any roster additions, like I said, we're two under right now. We have a little bit of flexibility if we do want to do anything, but as of now there is not much going on.