Counterintuitive as it sounds, yes, we will be covering the Patriots during their bye week. The coaches have given the New England players the day off today, partly due to their come-from-behind victory yesterday over the Dallas Cowboys and partly because they have no game for which to prepare next weekend.
But there will be Patriots news to report on this week. Certainly, with the NFL trade deadline looming tomorrow, New England has been rumored to be interested in at least one player (Denver wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who appears now to be St. Louis-bound to reunite with Josh McDaniels) and could possibly make a move or more before tomorrow's deadline.
We'll try to get a feel for what the Patriots might be doing when we talk with head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, and player personnel director Nick Caserio this afternoon via conference call. Any breaking news, of course, will be disseminated via Twitter and here on the blog.
Tuesday, normally the team's day off, is a day of work this week, with practice and locker room interviews, plus another Belichick media briefing. Same deal on Wednesday. Then ,that's the last we'll see of this team until next Tuesday. With the signing of the new collective bargaining agreement, players are to be given five consecutive days off during their bye week. Consequently, New England will be off Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and next Monday.
There's also the beginning of the PUP/NFI list decisions to monitor. Now that we're in Week 7, several Patriots (RB Kevin Faulk, rookie OL Marcus Cannon, etc.) are eligible to start practicing with the team. New England has three weeks to decide if those players can return to practice, then once they do, three weeks from that point to determine if they'll be activated.
We don't yet have a finalized schedule for Steelers Week, but it looks like those preparations will get underway in earnest next Tuesday, making Week 8 a longer one than normal. Until then, the goal for the Patriots will be to heal any lingering injuries as best as possible, while remaining sharp mentally and physically through a couple of practices. And as always, Team PFW will be here to follow it all for you.
UPDATE … 2:44 p.m.
So, what did we learn from today's conference call slate?
Well, first, that it's unlikely we'll see New England pull the trigger on a trade before the deadline expires tomorrow. BB didn't close the door entirely on the idea, though (he never would paint himself into such a corner). Also in that vein, Caserio wouldn't confirm whether or not reports of the Patriots being interested in Lloyd were true (not that I expected he would).
The name Chad Ochocinco came up several times, too. O'Brien said he's "progressing every week," while Caserio referred to the high-priced wideout as one of New England's "best practice players." Conspicuously, Caserio avoided any mention of his game performance.
In Ocho's most visible appearance yesterday versus Dallas, he lined up alone on the left side of the formation, with four receivers (Welker, Branch, Hernandez, Gronkowski) all bunched to the right, and Brady threw to Ocho – a pass that fell incomplete and a play that looked disjointed from the start. O'Brien took the blame for that, saying he didn't put Chad "in the best position" there.
Finally, we saw quite a bit of rookie running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen during warm-ups Sunday, but very little of either in the game itself. O'Brien, when asked specifically about Ridley (who got a few early carries), said his "time will come," and that both he and Vereen "have bright futures … we're happy with them."
These topics and more will come up throughout the week, I'm sure, on our patriots.com radio lineup, starting tomorrow at noon.