If you are holding your breath waiting for the big Drew Bledsoe trade before the NFL draft next weekend, your face will soon be turning blue.
Despite numerous reports and publicized comments of interest from a couple teams, no deal is close to being considered at this time, according to New England Head Coach Bill Belichick. As far as he is concerned, Bledsoe's status with the team has not changed since the end of the 2001 season.
Belichick said Director of Player Personnel Scott Pioli is always talking with other teams, but nothing of substance has come up. When, and if, that happens, Belichick will start to consider any possibilities, but he made it clear that he is not near that point with anything involving Bledsoe.
"I have not talked to anybody about any trades," Belichick said. "There are always conversations about personnel, and that's part of Scott's job. If somebody calls Scott, he talks to them. That's part of his job. If something substantial comes up, I'm sure that we'll talk about it. To this point, really nothing has. And I'm not looking to do anything.
"I really don't know, and I don't have any expectations. What I'm trying to do is get ready for the draft and make sure we are ready to make the decisions we need to make on draft day. I would be very surprised if anything happened before the draft in that area."
So, exactly what is Bledsoe's status? It's exactly the same as any other player on the team.
"The players who are under contract, I expect them to be in training camp," Belichick said. "We expect to work with them at that point. I have never said anything but that, and my position hasn't changed."
In terms of the rest of the issues concerning the draft, Belichick again drew comparisons to his first draft with the Patriots, when the first New England pick came in the second round, the No. 46 overall selection.
"There are 31 picks in front of us, so we're really, in a lot of respects, at the mercy of what happens in front of us," Belichick said. "We can't control any of those things, so we have to prepare for what drops into the latter part of the first round."
In keeping with his usual thinking process, Belichick said the team would look to improve depth and competition however possible. When asked for specific areas the team could focus on, he pointed out that the offense managed just one offensive touchdown in each playoff game, and the defense had age and experience in all three facets.
The team has added several new faces through free agency, particularly at tight end, wide receiver and the defensive line, but that doesn't mean the Patriots won't look at those spots in the draft.
"I'm happy with the players we've signed, or we wouldn't have signed them," Belichick said. "I do like the group, but I don't think we've necessarily signed a Hall of Famer. The guys have added depth and competition to our team. If we can add to that competition in the draft, that's what we'll try to do."
Strong participation in workout program
The offseason workout program has seen nearly full participation thus far, with the exception of two players. Bledsoe, who made it clear he wouldn't be taking part, and linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer are the only players who have not at least contacted Belichick. The rest of the team is either participating or has offered an explanation for why they are not in.
One determination Belichick and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel need to make is how much 3-4 defense the team will play. New England plans to go with a 4-3 base defense, but has to figure out how much flexibility will be needed for switching to 3-4 at times. Belichick said that decision will affect the personnel at linebacker more than on the defensive line.
Preseason dates announced
New England's nationally-televised preseason game on Saturday, Aug. 17 against Philadelphia highlights the four-game exhibition slate. Here are all four game dates and times:
Saturday, Aug. 10 @ NY Giants 8 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 17 Philadelphia 8 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 23 Carolina 8 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 29 @ Washington 8 p.m.