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Patriots notebook

Not known when they’ll play pickup football

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / January 18, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH — The season is over for the Patriots, and now they will have to wait like everyone else to see when, or if, the 2011 season will begin.

The collective bargaining agreement expires in March and without an agreement it is difficult for teams figure out how to move forward.

Coach Bill Belichick said he doesn’t expect much to change in terms of the draft, so that is where he will focus his energy.

“It’s different, but it’s similar to two other situations that I was involved in: ’82 and ’87,’’ Belichick said. “It’s the same type of thing. I’d say if you’re in the business long enough, that’s part of it.

“It’s uncertain in that situation. Eventually, I’m sure it will get resolved, in time — whenever that is — at some point. In the meantime, you do what you can do. Those things are all out of my control as a coach. I don’t have anything to do with any of that. So, whenever it’s resolved, it’s resolved.

“In the meantime, we’ll do the best that we can with the opportunities or the information that we have. When those things become defined, then we’ll deal with those definitions, whatever they happen to be.’’

Linebacker Tully Banta-Cain is optimistic the dispute will not affect the season and he will keep his same approach in the offseason.

“Hopefully something gets done,’’ he said. “I know there’s going to be football next year. There’s going to be an NFL season, so you have to prepare yourself like there is and hope for the best. A lot of guys have contract situations and different offseason situations, but that being said, you know there’s going to be a season next year, so I think the best thing is to prepare yourself to be the best player that you can be.’’

When asked why he was so optimistic, Banta-Cain said he based it “on the history of how these things happen; there’s been many strikes and work stoppages. I mean, there’s just too many people that love football and too much going on for there not to be.

“I don’t see this as the end of football. It’s going to have to be worked out somehow.’’

Wilfork disagrees Belichick’s decision to bench Wes Welker for the first offensive series in Sunday’s 28-21 loss to the Jets was a move not everyone agreed with, including nose tackle Vince Wilfork. In his weekly appearance on WEEI yesterday, Wilfork said if the decision were up to him, he wouldn’t have benched Welker.

“I didn’t hear about that until the end of the game,’’ Wilfork said. “That was something Bill and Wes went through. Me, personally, I don’t know. That’s the head man making a point about what we represent. I wouldn’t have done it. That’s just me. Biggest game of the year so far, and probably one of your biggest players not being on the field. That’s just me. Everybody has their opinion. That’s my opinion. I wouldn’t have done it.’’

Quarterback Tom Brady also was asked about the situation during his appearance on WEEI.

“That has no bearing on the way that we played as a team,’’ Brady said. “I don’t think it has any effect on the game. What has the most effect on the game is the way that we played.’’

Work to do Football is not completely over for some members of the Patriots. The coaching staff will head to Hawaii to coach the AFC squad in the Pro Bowl Jan. 30. As the highest-seeded AFC team no longer in the playoffs after Sunday’s loss, the Patriots assumed the duties.

The Patriots have eight players who were selected to participate in the game, and after their end-of-the-year physicals are completed, it will be determined if they will participate.

While the trip may be a nice vacation, “It’s definitely not where we want to be,’’ Belichick said. “We’ll do it.’’

The coach said he can’t gather much information scouting players in the laid-back atmosphere, and he said he will seek out a few area golf courses.

Ninkovich tore LCL Linebacker Rob Ninkovich will spend a lot of his offseason rehabbing the torn left lateral collateral ligament he suffered in the third quarter Sunday. Ninkovich injured his knee as he tackled Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and had to be helped off of the field. He said the injury would have kept him out six weeks had it happened during the season. Ninkovich tore an ACL in his rookie season and said a six-week recovery time for this injury “sounds better than nine months.’’ . . . A few Patriots were honored by Pro Football Weekly along with the Professional Football Writers of America. Brady was named Most Valuable Player and Belichick was Coach of the Year. Linebacker Jerod Mayo and Brady were all-NFL selections. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, cornerback Devin McCourty, and punter Zoltan Mesko were voted to the all-rookie team.

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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