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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Thu May 16 - 02:00 PM | Tue May 21 - 11:55 AM

Pre-draft notebook

Bill Belichick’s annual pre-draft press conference left those attending confused about the identity of the players the Patriots are interested in selecting, but the coach had plenty to share about this year’s class in general.

Bill Belichick's annual pre-draft press conference predictably left all those attending every bit as confused about the identity of the players the Patriots are interested in selecting in the first round as they were coming in. But the coach had plenty to share about this year's class in general, and he did little to hide his feelings on his favorite draft-time practice: trading.

Few teams are as active on draft weekend as the Patriots have been under the watch of Belichick and his personnel chief, Scott Pioli. New England has made 16 deals in their four previous drafts, including a franchise-record six each in the 2001 and 2003 seasons.

With the Patriots being the lone team with two picks in the first round (Nos. 21 and 32), logic would dictate the team would once again be the topic of trade rumors.

"We've gotten a number of questions about trading up or trading down," Belichick said. "Basically to me it comes down to when it's your time to pick you're either happy with where you are or you can't move and you select a player, or if you feel like there's a better spot to be you try to move there.

"Sometimes you can, sometimes you can't so we don't have any set plans of going somewhere or not going somewhere. If the opportunity's there, we all know we're not afraid to do that if that's what we think is best for the team."

One place the Patriots will not be going is No. 6, where Detroit currently resides. A recent * Boston Globe* report indicated Belichick had a deal in place with the Lions that would have New England sending its two first-rounders, a second and a fourth to Detroit in exchange for the sixth overall pick and a fourth-rounder. The thought behind the trade was that the Patriots would select Miami safety Sean Taylor.

A day after the report appeared, Belichick told Patriots.com in no uncertain terms that the team would definitely not be interested in making that deal. When asked why on Wednesday, the coach made his position very clear.

"It won't happen," Belichick said. "It's just not something we'd be interested in doing. [Trading up is] not going to be to six. I think you can rule out five, four, three, two and one as well."

The fact that Belichick denied the rumor so strongly seem to be in stark contrast to his normal clandestine approach to all aspects of the team's strategies. Evidently there was something about this particular rumor that compelled him to voice his displeasure.

"It was put out there that we were interested in dong that and it's ridiculous," Belichick reiterated. "There's no way. I don't even want it out there that we'd even be considering it. To me it would be embarrassing to even think about that."

One aspect of this draft that sets the 2004 crop apart from some others is the abundance of underclassmen – and quality underclassmen – available. Belichick said with so many rated pretty high on the board, it makes the evaluation process a little more difficult.

"In terms of the draft process, I'd say we're kind of cramming for the final exam," Belichick said. "We have a lot of information coming in from our scouts with their final workout grades and any kind of last-minute medical information and things like that.

"[Underclassmen declaring] always puts the process a little behind in January or February whenever they come out. We're trying to process that and finalize our grades, take a look at the board and be prepared for whatever scenario we end up with."

With the league still gathering its legal team in an effort to keep some underclassmen like Maurice Clarett and Mike Williams ineligible, as well as a handful of high schoolers who recently won the right to enter the draft, Belichick indicated the proceedings will have no effect on the team's preparation.

"We're going to operate under the assumption that they're in it and we'll grade them accordingly," Belichick said. "If something changes, it changes and that's totally out of our hands. At this point, they're evaluated like everybody else."

Lining up

One area the Patriots hope to bolster is linebacker. With veterans Tedy Bruschi, Roman Phifer and Ted Johnson all at least 30, Belichick would certainly like to add some youth and athleticism to the position. One problem with that, according to the coach, is linebacker is a difficult position to evaluate at the collegiate level.

"A lot of the bigger kids that might be linebackers end up being college defensive ends," Belichick said. "The 6-4, 245-260 guy, most colleges put those players down and make them defensive ends. They're having trouble finding the bigger kids that can run, too, so rather than play them on their feet they play them at the line of scrimmage across the ball and try to find other guys who aren't that big that have to play linebacker and play their college system that way.

"A lot of colleges don't play a linebacker on the line. A lot play three guys off the line and then they don't need as big a player so you can afford to take your 220-235 guys that run well and let them be scrape and flow guys as opposed to putting them on the line of scrimmage and making them take on guys. Teams that play that system in the NFL, like Miami, those players flow pretty smoothly into their system."

Otis III

For the third time in his 15-year career, Otis Smith is a Patriot. The question is, will that be as a cornerback or as a safety? There has been some speculation that perhaps the veteran could make the switch, which he has done periodically the last few years.

"Obviously he gives us a little more depth in the secondary," Belichick said. "Otis played quite a bit of safety last year at Detroit. We used him some at safety here, more in the 2000 season and a little bit in 2001. Primarily he was a corner but he did play there at Detroit so that would be a possibility. Could he do some things at safety? I think that's a possibility but I'm not saying that's where it's going to be."

BINGO

Wide receiver Troy Brown addressed the media following Belichick's press conference to discuss his upcoming charity event, "Troy Brown Celebrity Bingo" presented by Banknorth. The event is scheduled to take place May 13 at Gillette Stadium and will benefit Celebrities for Charity Foundation, the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation and the United Way.

"We're excited about the event because it gives us the opportunity to help a lot of people," Brown said. "We encourage everyone to come and join us; it will be an evening to remember."

Several of Brown's teammates, including Adam Vinatieri, David Givens, Deion Branch and David Patten, will be on hand, as will former Boston Bruins great Ray Bourque. The event will feature a live and silent auction, buffet dinner and 10 bingo games, giving one lucky winner a chance to win $10,000. Tickets can be purchased at www.troybrown.meetthepros.com or by calling (978) 749-6700. You must be at least 18 to attend.

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