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Offseason program begins

Ironically the Patriots officially kicked off their offseason program on Monday, the same day that the NFL announced the schedule of nationally televised games for a 2004 opening weekend that includes the defending Super Bowl champions. The strong contingent of veteran players that converged on Gillette Stadium Monday morning to begin New England's voluntary offseason program now knows that every lift and sprint this spring is in preparation for the team's home and NFL opener on Thursday September 9 at 9:00 p.m. on ABC against the Indianapolis Colts. As has become customary in recent years the game is a rematch of last season's AFC Championship.

The Patriots voluntary program, which has been very well attended in Bill Belichick's time in New England, includes lifting and running workouts as well as football-specific work both on the field and in the classroom. Strictly monitored by Patriots strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik and assistant strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul, the players take part in groups of running drills that are staggered throughout the day as well as individual lifting workouts that generally take about two hours. The players typically work out four days a week (for the most part Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday) and spend somewhere in the area of four hours for each workout.

While there is some flexibility in the scheduling and completion of the program most players will continue the workouts from now through the end of the program upon the completion of the team's mini-camp in May and are expected to complete a pre-determined number of workouts by that time. As an added incentive, along with the workout bonuses that many players have included in their contracts, the players with the greatest commitment throughout the spring are awarded prime reserved parking spots outside the team's training facility at Gillette Stadium for the coming training camp and regular season.

Little movement on Hamilton front

With most of the NFL's decision makers in Palm Beach, Florida this week for the NFL Annual Meeting the agent for Patriots free agent defensive end Bobby Hamilton reported little action in his client's job hunt. Although Brian Levy did confirm previous reports that finding a multi-year deal was at the top of Hamilton's list of priorities and that he has spoken with other teams about the parameters of a contract, he believes things will be on hold until the meeting conclude.

"I expect things to heat up next week when everyone is done with the owner's meetings," Levy said.

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            But Levy was also clear to not close the door on his client's career in New England.  

"The Patriots have been great throughout this whole process."

Hamilton has spent the last four seasons with the Patriots and is a player that Belichick spent a great deal of time praising as a key component of New England's impressive defensive run last season. The nine-year veteran started all 16 games at defensive end a year ago, finishing with 55 tackles and three passes defensed. The 6-5, 280-pound Hamilton has never missed a game in his four years with New England and in that time totaled 241 tackles and 10.5 sacks

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