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Patriots.com News Blitz - 5/15/2006

Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that two players who do not have the luxury of being eased into the transition to the next level are tight ends David Thomas and Garrett Mills. It is not that Thomas or Mills is expected to jump into the starting lineup, as guard Logan Mankins was asked to do a year ago. But because the Patriots' tight ends are expected to be versatile, Thomas and Mills have much more to digest than most offensive players. ''In terms of [formations] and being involved in the running game, the passing game, dealing with linebackers, secondary players, and at times linemen, it's kind of like playing middle linebacker," Belichick said. ''You just have a lot more things to deal with, regardless of what the play is. It's a lot to learn." If Thomas and Mills are able to fill tight end and fullback spots -- ones that at times have gone to linebacker Mike Vrabel, tackle Tom Ashworth, and defensive linemen Richard Seymour and Dan Klecko -- the Patriots' offense will be more dynamic. If they are limited, defenses often can scope out plays.

Michael Felger of the Boston Herald reports that according to sources, five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law was scheduled to undergo a physical with the Patriots last Friday as part of a free agent visit. Pats coach Bill Belichick has kept in touch with Law this offseason through a series of private phone conversations. The Pats have an abundance of salary cap space (as much as $16 million). However, Law's reported asking price of $10 million in first-year money is probably not in the Pats' plans. If Law receives that money elsewhere (he's also visited Seattle and talked with Chiefs coach Herm Edwards, who signed him to the Jets last year), the odds of the Pats matching appear slim. The Patriots must feel they are in Law's ballpark. One source in Foxboro said recently the brunt of the talks are being handled personally between Belichick and Law.

Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that few of the players whose names appeared in the initial pages of a book that has yet to be written -- the Patriots' 2006 season -- will be key characters when the plot thickens. In fact, most of the 31 rookies participating in the three-day camp will be written out of the book before the season begins. While first-round pick Laurence Maroney, second-round choice Chad Jackson, and third-round selection David Thomas are roster locks and likely to be involved in the offensive rotation, the best way for the others to hang on is by excelling on special teams. Defensive back Willie Andrews, a seventh-round pick from Baylor, has received that message. "That's what Coach Belichick said, 'Make the team on special teams first, then work your way toward the defense,' " Andrews said. ''Wherever I can play -- if they need me on offense, anywhere -- I'm willing to do it."

John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that Jeremy Mincey played a ferocious defensive end at Florida, recording 19 tackles for losses in 24 games. Now he comes to his first NFL camp and is asked to cover Laurence Maroney in passing drills. Such is life while transitioning to pro linebacker. The 6-foot-3, 263-pound Mincey looked nimble in coverage yesterday, staying stride for stride with the running backs. He also admitted his head was spinning. "In college, I was in coverage once in a blue moon," he said. "But here there's like a 70 percent chance I'll be in coverage. I've just got to get used to it. A football player's a football player, and I consider myself to be a football player. I'll work hard and everything will come together."

Michael Felger of the Boston Herald writes that during rookie mini camp, first-round draft pick Laurence Maroney did some nice things, although running backs are virtually impossible to evaluate during these type of non-contact workouts. In the one area you can judge, route running and hands, Maroney acquitted himself fairly well, letting only a few balls hit the ground during the time the media was allowed to watch. Maroney comes out of college known as a cut-back runner. The flip side to that skill is some scouts felt he was sometimes too soft going into the line and prone to making too many moves.

John Tomase of the Boston Herald offers a story on Patriots defensive lineman Le Kevin Smith. Smith hopes to find a home in the center of the Patriots defense. The sixth-round nose tackle out of Nebraska will need to adjust from playing in a 4-3 with the Cornhuskers to the 3-4 of the Pats. He's taking nothing for granted. "I'm just a rookie," Smith said. "I'm like everyone else. I'm just doing my job and trying to play catch-up from behind. I've got my playbook and I've got to learn it." Smith, whose first name is pronounced Leh-KEE-vin, stands 6-foot-1, 307 pounds. He started 35-of-49 games at Nebraska, recording 9 sacks. He also helped the Cornhuskers lead the nation last year with 50 sacks and 124 tackles for losses. Playing the nose with the Patriots, however, doesn't yield a ton of stats. It's instead about occupying blockers and holding down the point of attack.

John Tomase of the Boston Herald also offers a story on undrafted free agent quarterback Corey Bramlet. Bramlet had a chance to open eyes at this rookie minicamp. Being the only quarterback in town, the undrafted free agent out of Wyoming threw pretty much every pass for Chad Jackson, Laurence Maroney and Co. "I couldn't ask for a better situation than to be able to get all the reps and throw to all these guys while learning from the coaches," Bramlet said. "This is a perfect opportunity for me as a quarterback to learn the offense." Bramlet had an up-and-down career at Wyoming. As a junior he led the school to its first bowl victory in 38 years, a 24-21 comeback over UCLA. The Cowboys then began last year 4-1 before losing their final six games. As a senior, Bramlet completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 2,610 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also threw 18 interceptions and had a less-than-stellar touchdown-to-interception ratio of 29-to-31.

Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes. Reiss also offers his latest Patriots mailbag.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.

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