Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa of the Boston Herald's "Inside Track" report that Dwyane "The Rock" Johnson will play the beloved quarterback of New England's football team in the made-in-Mass. Disney flick "Game Plan" - but he won't be calling plays as a New England Patriot. Fee and Raposa report that Disney and the NFL were unable to come to terms on the rights to use the Patriots uniforms, so "The Rock" will don a fictitious team's uniform. Filming is set to begin in Foxboro June 19 and Pats' spokesguy Stacey James said as far as the team knows it is still OK for the Hollywood crew to use their football facilities for the flick.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that no unit on the Patriots took a bigger hit than special teams, losing kicker Adam Vinatieri to the Colts, coverage standout Matt Chatham to the Jets, gunner Andre Davis to Buffalo and punt returner Tim Dwight to the Jets. The Patriots signed veterans Mel Mitchell and Barry Gardner as replacements, and drafted collegians with extensive coverage experience like Garrett Mills. But they'll trust their veteran leadership to ensure the unit's function, and once again, that starts with Larry Izzo.
Scott Van Voorhis of the Boston Herald reports that the Kraft family is close to unvieling plans for a nearly $300 million retail and meeting complex on land next to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. The new Patriots Place complex, along with a myriad of shops, eateries and entertainment venues, will include a significant expansion of the Patriot owners' budding meeting and convention business. A proposed building for next to one of Gillette Stadium's main gates includes "hospitality suites" that could be rented out for corporate events year round, according to team spokesman Stacey James. It could also be used by executives looking to do some high-end tail-gating before the game, he added.
Previously in the blitz...
USA Today's "Inside Slant" takes a look at 2006 draft picks David Thomas and Garrett Mills. New England's frequent employment of multiple tight end sets combined with the free agent departure of veteran Christian Fauria and pending 2007 free agency of Daniel Graham made adding another potential contributor to the depth chart a near necessity. New England used it's third-round pick in April's draft on Texas tight end David Thomas. What may have surprised Patriots fans a bit was when the team then also added Tulsa tight end Garrett Mills to the mix with its first pick on the second day of the draft. The duo was used extensively in passing drills in the rookie mini-camp, which is not surprising since the pair combined for 137 catches for 1,848 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. Thomas showed outstanding hands and grabbed everything thrown in his direction throughout the camp's practices.
Michael Felger of the *Boston Herald * reports that Patriots vice chairman and president Jonathan Kraft traveled to Orlando, Fla. on Saturday where he received the 2006 Warner Award, the Pop Warner organization's highest honor. In giving Kraft the award, Pop Warner cited his work as a coach, fund-raiser and his role last year opposing the move of several suburban programs to separate from Pop Warner.
The Boston Globe reports that Tony Sardisco, the first captain of the Boston Patriots, died Sunday of a massive heart attack at his home in Shreveport, La. He was 73. Sardisco, a middle linebacker for the Pats in their inaugural year of 1960, was considered the leader of coach Lou Saban's defense. Sardisco later played guard for the team before retiring in 1962.
Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe offers a story on middle linebacker Monty Beisel. Reiss writes that playing linebacker in the Patriots' defense for the first time was challenging enough for Beisel, but to do it under the circumstances that unfolded through the season's first five games -- where he was suited up alongside fellow newcomer Chad Brown -- was almost over the top. "It was difficult," said Beisel, after a recent workout at Gillette Stadium. "Chad and I were both in the middle, we were new to the system, new to what we were trying to get done. Then we lose [Rodney] Harrison, then Richard [Seymour], and we have all our corners gone. The communication was tough." By the time some of the injured players returned, and the defense included more wrinkles, Beisel had lost his starting job and perhaps the faith of some of the team's followers. His current work is aimed at earning it back.
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald writes that there is nothing new to report on Deion Branch and his contract negotiations with the Patriots, but the time is approaching when it might become a front-burner issue. The Patriots mandatory camp this year comes June 12-14, and there is curiosity in Patriot circles over whether Branch will choose to miss the camp in a gesture similar to what Richard Seymour did last year.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal breaks down what four months of offseason work in the AFC East's front offices has yielded.