If you think mini-camp is just for the players this week, think again.
Monday inside Gillette Stadium, the Patriots Charitable Foundation held its annual "Fantasy Camp" for sponsorship participants, who had the opportunity to take part in football drills, film study sessions and have lunch with Patriots' players in a truly unique behind-the-scenes day.
This is the seventh consecutive year the Foundation has run the Fantasy Camp for its partners, in lieu of a more-traditional fundraising event, like a golf tournament.
"When I heard I would have the opportunity to meet Tom (Brady) and some of the players and get the chance to run drills with them, I couldn't pass this up," said Ben Blevins, one of the camp participants and a contributor to the team's charitable foundation. "I mean, I went to Michigan (like Brady did)," he added, sporting his Brady Michigan #10 jersey. "How could I pass this up? This is an unbelievable opportunity."
What Blevins and the other sponsorship contributors had the chance to do was pretty remarkable, actually. Following a run through the inflatable helmet to the tunes of Ozzy Osbourne and stadium introductions, defensive and offensive players, personnel and coaches put the "campers" through their paces with drill stations, each emphasizing a key component the Patriots' players themselves will work on during camp sessions.
If that wasn't impressive enough, after the on-the-field work and lunch had ended came the really cool moment. Both coordinators, Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia, held film-study and review sessions for the campers, looking back at the coaches' videotape and analyzing the wins in both Super Bowl XLIX and LI.
Unfiltered (but clean) comments by the coaches in their full, energetic and uncensored element, as you might imagine, were welcomed and applauded.
"This is the third year I've been here, and I will look forward to coming back every year," said Justin Walsh, another of the camp participants and charitable contributors. "This is so much better than a golf tournament, where you might get to play with and know a little about one guy. The chance to interact with so many players and the coaches gives us the chance to know these guys a little beyond just being a Patriot. It's great they give their time to so many worthwhile causes."
It's a nice touch to the start of the summer season, and a chance to whet the appetites of fans before the busy time sets in, while creating awareness for the several great causes supported by the Patriots Charitable Foundation.
"We were trying to think about how we could do something in the spring where people who go to golf tournaments could do something with their families and employees, and that's how the fantasy camp idea was born," Patriots' President Jonathan Kraft said at the end of the day. "We try to make it better every year, and we hope everyone enjoyed themselves."
Judging by the liquids consumed on the sidelines throughout the two-a-day session, the ice bags borrowed and the smiles on faces when workouts had ended, mini-camp in Foxboro - for some - may never be the same again.
Globe, charity not exactly best buddies
This is all about "look." And it's not a good look for the Best Buddies' charitable organization.
Perhaps the exclusion of a Boston Globe photographer from last week's Best Buddies fundraiser at Harvard Stadium was, indeed, a mistake? Even if we are to make that assumption and give the charity the benefit of the doubt here, the incident comes off as petty behavior at best, and a PR nightmare at worst.
With several representatives of the local New England media attending a charity flag football game watching several Patriots' players in attendance - all assisting in raising funds and always-needed awareness for a very worthwhile cause - taking focus away from the actual cause itself can be a crushing no-no for any charitable endeavor.
Perhaps Best Buddies thought they were doing Tom Brady a favor - protecting the QB from an on-rushing predator in that Globe photographer? Some favor.
Nicole Maddux, a representative of Best Buddies International, said last week "Tom Brady had nothing to do with it," referring to the Globe employee hoping to cover the event being turned away, in the wake of the newspapers' recent expose detailing financial arrangements between the charity and Brady.
There wasn't anything wrong - technically, legally or otherwise - with those arrangements in the first place. As we've explained previously, non-profits are a business, too. They're in the business of survival within a world every bit as cut-throat as those operating for-profit. TB12's presence is a formidable factor in their business, and it's definitely worth much in the marketplace.
Patriots QB Tom Brady was joined by some of his current and former teammates, and celebrity friends, during his annual Best Buddies Football Challenge at Harvard Stadium on Friday, June 2, 2017. Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, James White and Dion Lewis all took part in the game, which helped raise money for the charity that aids the developmentally disabled.
By reacting in knee-jerk fashion, however, not only did the charity come off looking childish and unprofessional - they also gave undeserved credibility to any aspersions first cast by the original Globe article.
What's worse, is the denial that the photographer's expulsion had anything to do with the Globe story in the first place. That's a problem when it comes to gaining public trust and charitable dollars, when there are so many worthwhile organizations to support.
Best Buddies is a great cause, in the business of making life better for those people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They had the right to be upset with the original Globe story, and they certainly have the right to tell anyone they're not welcome at future events.
But to do so only makes them look, well, uncharitable. And I don't think that's what they're looking for.
Chiefs without a top target
Anyone else surprised at the Kansas City Chiefs' recent axing of receiver Jeremy Maclin?
Maclin was the victim of a post-June 1st release by the team, and the move will free up $10 million in salary cap space. After a solid start to his Chiefs' career with 87 receptions and nearly 1100 receiving yards, Maclin appeared to fall victim to a spread-it-out approach on offense where his talents were simply utilized as a part of the process - and not as the main cog.
But because the Chiefs had to give up to get - remember, they had to forfeit two draft picks in violation of the NFL's tampering policy after signing him in free agency away from Philadelphia - it seems a bit odd for KC to move on from Maclin after only a couple of seasons with a five-year, $55 million contract.
He still has speed. He still has hands. And because he also has familiarity, having played for current Chiefs' coach Andy Reid in Philly as well, the move is a risky one. But Kansas City seems to feel they've got enough on hand for QB Alex Smith to play with. And what they don't have, perhaps they can gain with the extra salary cap room they now have.
We'll find out exactly what they have, and don't have, beginning September 7th at Gillette Stadium.
John Rooke is an author and award-winning broadcaster, and is beginning his 25th year as the Patriots' stadium voice. Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Patriots.com Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for 30 seasons and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame, and RI's Words Unlimited Hall of Fame.