The Patriots have announced a free exchange of any Aaron Hernandez jersey on July 6-7.
Any Hernandez jersey that was purchased at the Patriots ProShop or through PatriotsProShop.com can be exchanged for a different player's jersey of comparable value at no additional charge.
"We know that children love wearing their Patriots jerseys but may not understand why parents don't want them wearing their Hernandez jerseys anymore," team spokesman Stacey James said in a statement. "We hope this opportunity to exchange those jerseys at the Patriots ProShop will be well received by parents."
This opportunity for a free exchange is limited to the weekend of July 6-7 and is available only at the Patriots ProShop at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. The hours of operation are 10 a.m.-9 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Sunday.
The exchange is for jerseys available in the ProShop only and is limited to one per person. For more details and restrictions, please visit the Patriots website at www.patriots.com.
Ultimately, the Patriots did exactly what they were supposed to by cutting Aaron Hernandez immediately for his connection to a murder investigation.
And like drips and drabs, more details keep coming out about the team’s former tight end. He’s now being investigated in connection with a double homicide in Boston in 2012. He’s also being sued by a former associate for allegedly shooting the man after an altercation in Florida.
That’s three incidents of alleged shootings in which Hernandez is connected. No one apparently really knew who he was outside of his inner clique. And with his banishment -- and more than appropriate incarceration for the time being -- the Patriots now have to turn turn to figuring who will replace his varied skillset.
The balance of the team’s roster has gaping holes in the tight ends department. The team will already be without Rob Gronkowski for an extended period, so the options going into training camp and preseason may appear to be lackluster for the uninitiated. But there’s actually some pretty good players left.FULL ENTRY
Former Patriots tackle Matt Light, who retired after the 2011 season, said he never embraced anything Aaron Hernandez stood for.
What he meant, we're not sure.
Light, speaking to the Dayton Daily News, played two years with Hernandez, so he got a chance to see him up close. What's more, the usually good-natured Light is not known to criticize, much less comment, on former teammates or other players.
He tells the Daily News: “I never talk about other guys, but I will say I have never embraced -- never believed in -- anything Aaron Hernandez stood for."
Light's comments, according to the Daily News report, came on Tuesday, a day before Hernandez was arrested and charged with murder and five other weapons charges in connection with the death of a Dorchester man.
The Patriots released tight end Aaron Hernandez on Wednesday morning, less than two hours after the player was taken into custody by state and local police in connection with the murder of Boston resident Odin Lloyd.
Authorities charged Hernandez with murder, including several llegal firearms charges. But the Patriots decided to cut ties with their young star tight end before those charges were known.
A source told the Globe that the team had been prepared to cut Hernandez as soon as an arrest occurred.
He was ordered held without bail.
In all, Hernandez pleaded not guilty to six charges.
The team released a statement in announcing his release:
“A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss. Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation. We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process. At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.”
Hernandez’s arrest comes nine days after the body of 27-year-old Lloyd was found murdered in an industrial park about a mile from Hernandez’s home in North Attleborough.
New England has wasted no time and is clearly doing everything it can to distance itself from Hernandez.
Immensely talented, Hernandez fell to the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft because of character issues while at the University of Florida – teams were worried about his several failed drug tests and associations.
But Hernandez, 23, had been a quiet star since entering the NFL, compiling 1,956 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns in three seasons with the Patriots. The tight end will still count $4.073 million against New England's salary cap for 2013.
The Patriots structured Hernandez's 2012 contract extension in such a way that he earned large chunks of money through workout and roster bonuses. A source told the Globe it looked like the team had protected itself financially "in case he was a knucklehead."
Of course there was no way of knowing that this type of trouble -- being tied to a murder investigation -- is what would come to pass.
The NFL released a statement regarding Hernandez's arrest as well:
"The involvement of an NFL player in a case of this nature is deeply troubling. The Patriots have released Aaron Hernandez, who will have his day in court. At the same time, we should not forget the young man who was the victim in this case and take this opportunity to extend our deepest sympathy to Odin Lloyd's family and friends."
Hernandez has already pocketed approximately $10.15 million from a seven-year, $40 million contract he signed before the 2012 season: $9.25 million in signing bonus money ($6 million up front, and a $3.25 million payment on March 31), $540,000 in base salary from last season and $400,000 in roster and workout bonuses over the last two offseasons. He has another $3.25 million signing bonus payment due on March 31, 2014, but it is unclear at this time whether the Patriots will be able to avoid paying it.
It is also unclear as of now whether the Patriots will be able to recoup some or all of the signing bonus money already paid to Hernandez, whether it can avoid paying him $2.5 million in guaranteed base salary due in 2013 and 2014 and if they can get salary cap relief in the future.
In addition to the $4.073 million against the salary cap in 2013, Hernandez could cost as much as $9 million against the cap in 2014.
Can Tom Brady reclaim the top spot? Or will he continue to slide down the rankings?
Those are the two big questions for Patriots fans when the NFL Network unveils the final installment of the Top 100 Players of 2013 feature this Thursday at 8 p.m.
Brady was No. 1 in 2011, the first year of the show, and fell to No. 4 last year, behind Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Calvin Johnson. And he’s got some stiff competition again this year – here is the top 10, in alphabetical order:
Tom Brady – New England Patriots, QB
Arian Foster – Houston Texans, RB
Calvin Johnson – Detroit Lions, WR
Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos, QB
Von Miller – Denver Broncos, LB
Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings, RB
Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers, QB
Aldon Smith – San Francisco 49ers, LB
J.J. Watt – Houston Texans, DE
Patrick Willis – San Francisco 49ers, LB
Given what Adrian Peterson accomplished last year coming off the torn ACL – rushing for 2,097 yards, second-most in NFL history – it’s hard to imagine he won’t be No. 1. And Calvin Johnson, who almost had the first 2,000-yard receiving season in NFL history (1,964), is a good bet for No. 2. Houston’s J.J. Watt also deserves serious consideration for the No. 1 spot – his 20.5 sacks, 25 quarterback hits and 30 pressures were absolutely incredible, especially given that he plays 3-4 defensive end – but these votes are almost always about offensive players.
As for the quarterbacks, Brady might be ranked third behind Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning this year. Brady had more yards, but Rodgers and Manning each had more touchdown passes and higher passer ratings.
In case you were wondering, here’s the Top 10 from 2012:
1. Aaron Rodgers
2. Drew Brees
3. Calvin Johnson
4. Tom Brady
5. Darrelle Revis
6. DeMarcus Ware
7. Larry Fitzgerald
8. Adrian Peterson
9. Haloti Ngata
10. Patrick Willis
Here’s the Top 10 from 2011:
1. Tom Brady
2. Peyton Manning
3. Adrian Peterson
4. Ray Lewis
5. Ed Reed
6. Troy Polamalu
7. Andre Johnson
8. Darrelle Revis
9. Drew Brees
10. Julius Peppers
And here’s Nos. 100-11 for 2013:
100. Dennis Pitta – Baltimore Ravens, TE
99. Trent Williams – Washington Redskins, T
98. Maurice Jones-Drew – Jacksonville Jaguars, RB
97. Heath Miller – Pittsburgh Steelers, TE
96. Dashon Goldson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers/San Francisco 49ers, S
95. Max Unger – Seattle Seahawks, G/C
94. Daryl Washington – Arizona Cardinals, LB
93. Anquan Boldin – San Francisco 49ers/Baltimore Ravens, WR
92. Gerald McCoy – Tampa Bay Buccaneers, DT
91. Troy Polamalu – Pittsburgh Steelers, S
90. Percy Harvin – Seattle Seahawks/Minnesota Vikings, WR
89. Cameron Wake – Miami Dolphins, DE
88. Jacoby Jones – Baltimore Ravens, WR
87. Bernard Pollard – Tennessee Titans/Baltimore Ravens, S
86. London Fletcher – Washington Redskins, LB
85. Charles Woodson – Oakland Raiders/Green Bay Packers, CB
84. Steve Smith – Carolina Panthers, WR
83. Lance Briggs – Chicago Bears, LB
82. Logan Mankins – New England Patriots, G
81. Colin Kaepernick – San Francisco 49ers, QB
80. Dwight Freeney – San Diego Chargers/Indianapolis Colts, DE
79. Luke Kuechly – Carolina Panthers, LB
78. Joe Staley – San Francisco 49ers, OT
77. Aaron Hernandez – New England Patriots, TE
76. Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions, QB
75. Brandon Flowers – Kansas City Chiefs, CB
74. Robert Mathis – Indianapolis Colts, LB
73. Antonio Gates – San Diego Chargers, TE
72. Mario Williams – Buffalo Bills, DE
71. Trent Richardson – Cleveland Browns, RB
70. Chad Greenway – Minnesota Vikings, LB
69. Tim Jennings – Chicago Bears, CB
68. Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos, WR
67. Darrelle Revis – Tampa Bay Buccaneers/New York Jets, CB
66. Earl Thomas – Seattle Seahawks, S
65. Dwayne Bowe – Kansas City Chiefs, WR
64. Alfred Morris – Washington Redskins, RB
63. Stephen Tulloch – Detroit Lions, LB
62. Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans, RB
61. Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers, QB
60. Jared Allen – Minnesota Vikings, DE
59. Derrick Johnson – Kansas City Chiefs, LB
58. Victor Cruz – New York Giants, WR
57. Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers, DB
56. Terrell Suggs – Baltimore Ravens, LB
55. Jason Pierre-Paul – New York Giants, DE
54. Julius Peppers – Chicago Bears, DE
53. Champ Bailey – Denver Broncos, CB
52. Vincent Jackson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers, WR
51. Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks, QB
50. Richard Sherman – Seattle Seahawks, CB
49. Justin Houston – Kansas City Chiefs, LB
48. Duane Brown – Houston Texans, OT
47. Tony Gonzalez – Atlanta Falcons, TE
46. Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers, QB
45. LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles, RB
44. Wes Welker – Denver Broncos/New England Patriots, WR
43. Eli Manning – New York Giants, QB
42. Haloti Ngata – Baltimore Ravens, DT
41. Jason Witten – Dallas Cowboys, TE
40. Ndamukong Suh – Detroit Lions, DT
39. Roddy White – Atlanta Falcons, WR
38. Vernon Davis – San Francisco 49ers, TE
37. NaVorro Bowman – San Francisco 49ers, LB
36. Geno Atkins – Cincinnati Bengals, DT
35. Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys, WR/PR
34. Charles Tillman – Chicago Bears, CB
33. Patrick Peterson – Arizona Cardinals, CB/PR
32. Frank Gore – San Francisco 49ers, RB
31. Clay Matthews – Green Bay Packers, LB
30. Vince Wilfork – New England Patriots, DT
29. Justin Smith – San Francisco 49ers, DT
28. Joe Thomas – Cleveland Browns, OT
27. Brandon Marshall – Chicago Bears, WR
26. Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons, WR
25. Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots, TE
24. Marshawn Lynch – Seattle Seahawks, RB
23. Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts, QB
22. Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals, WR
21. Reggie Wayne – Indianapolis Colts, WR
20. Jamaal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs, RB
19. Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens, QB
18. Ed Reed – Houston Texans/Baltimore Ravens, S
17. Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons, QB
16. AJ Green – Cincinnati Bengals, WR
15. Robert Griffin III – Washington Redskins, QB
14. Andre Johnson – Houston Texans, WR
13. Ray Rice – Baltimore Ravens, RB
12. DeMarcus Ware – Dallas Cowboys, DE
11. Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints, QB
The 59th overall pick, Dobson is a 6-foot-3, 203 pound receiver. A three-year starter at Marshall, Dobson finished his career with 165 receptions for 2,398 yards and tied Troy Brown for fourth in school history with 24 touchdowns. Last fall, he had 57 receptions for 679 yards and three touchdowns.
Under the rookie salary slotting system, Dobson's deal is four years, with an approximate value of $3.43 million, including an $873,360 signing bonus.
Dr. Robert Watkins, the surgeon who operated on Rob Gronkowski on Tuesday, has released a brief statement:
"New England Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski underwent a microscopic lumbar discectomy surgery performed by Dr. Robert Watkins at Marina Del Rey Hospital in Los Angeles. The surgery went well. The timing of his return to football will depend on his progression through the rehabilitation program."
Watkins performed the same procedure on Giants' defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul earlier this month.
Massachusetts State police are questioning Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez in relation to a homicide near Hernandez’s home in North Attleboro.
According to Sports Illustrated, Hernandez is not currently a suspect after the body of a 27-year-old man was found Monday afternoon in an industrial park near Hernandez’s home, but a car rented in Hernandez’s name has emerged as a key piece of evidence.
According to ABC News, the victim is an associate of Hernandez, who has not been cooperative thus far with police. Police are reportedly are seeking a warrant to search his house.
Hernandez, 23, was the Patriots’ fourth-round pick in 2010 and is currently rehabbing from shoulder surgery. He has become one of the team’s top offensive stars, catching 18 touchdown passes in three seasons.
The good news for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is that doctors felt confident enough that the infection in his forearm had cleared that they could perform surgery on his back Tuesday.
But now he faces a lengthy rehab and a lot of uncertainty over when he can return to the football field.
Gronkowski, 24, had surgery to fix a herniated disk performed in Los Angeles by noted back surgeon Robert Watkins. The surgery is relatively routine and takes less than an hour, according to experts, and Gronkowski’s surgery went off without a hitch, a league source told the Globe.
When the Patriots can get Gronkowski back, though, is unclear. The generally accepted rehab schedule from disk surgery is approximately 12 weeks – six weeks for the scar to heal, and six weeks to get strength and conditioning back to the point where he can play football. But that appears to be a best-case scenario.
The 12-week window puts Gronkowski right up against the Patriots’ Week 1 game at Buffalo Sept. 8. He conceivably could be ready to play in the opener. More likely, the Patriots would opt to be conservative and hold him out anywhere from one to six games.
Gronkowski is a near-lock to begin the preseason on the physically unable to perform list, which means he can't participate with the team in training camp practices. He can be taken off the PUP list at any time in the preseason, but if he remains on it at the start of the season, he must by rule sit out the first six games.
The Patriots could also opt to take Gronkowski off the PUP list before the start of the season but still hold him out for as many games as they see fit.
This is the second back surgery Gronkowski has undergone. He had a similar disk operation in September of 2009 and missed his final season at the University of Arizona, finally getting medical clearance to return to football activities in January of 2010.
Tuesday’s surgery was on a different disk than the one that was repaired in 2009, according to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus,
The disk injury dropped Gronkowski to the second round of the 2010 draft, but he has not missed a game because of a back problem in three NFL seasons, catching 38 touchdowns in 43 games. Rosenhaus said Gronkowski played the entire 2012 season with the back condition.
Tuesday’s surgery came almost a month after Gronkowski had his fourth surgery on his left forearm. He broke the forearm last November and again in January, and the wound became infected, necessitating two additional surgeries to clear it out.
Gronkowski was forced to wait a month after the last forearm surgery before having the back surgery because the infection needed to be completely eradicated.
While on his way to attend Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, Patriots running back Shane Vereen told Boston.com that he doesn't feel any pressure filling Danny Woodhead's old role as the team's change-of-pace running back.
Vereen, who was speaking on behalf of Fanatics.com, a sports apparel retailer with licenses across the four major sports and college, discussed being a hockey fan, the Bruins, the Patriots, and his role on the team going into training camp.
Here are excerpts of Vereen's comments:
How did you get hooked up with Fanatics.com?
"That's a great question. They approached me. I jumped on the opportunity. You know at first I didn't know much about them, but I'm learning more and more.
"I got my own personalized jersey with my name and number on the back. My family is gonna start using Fanatics now. It's a different experience."
What does this mean for you, the Shane Vereen brand, moving into a different sort of limelight?
"It's pretty cool, I'm excited for it. I'm just trying to do the best job I can."
Tell me more about the jersey you're wearing?
"It's the black jersey with my name and number on the back. It has an old school Bruins logo with the bear."
Is that similar to the bear you used to wear at Cal?
"Yeah, I guess it does look similar. It's a kind of similar bear, although they're the Bruins. We don't like to talk about those other Bruins (UCLA), if you know what I'm saying."
That leads me into my next question. We hear you're a big hockey fan now. As a guy from the Los Angeles area, where do your allegiances lie, with the Kings or the Bruins?
"I think I hope for the LA teams to do well in any sport. However, I was not a big hockey fan until I moved to Boston. I kind of adopted it. So that's why I'm a big Bruins fan."
Did Julian Edelman, also a native Californian, get you into hockey?
"No, not entirely. But he's part of it."
Can you break down the Bruins' keys to winning this series for us?
"No chance I can give you hockey talk. But I can give you three keys of what I think. I got three of my own keys, I think.
"No. 1 is they play good defense. Offense wins games, defense wins championships.
"No. 2 is be more physical -- be the more physical team, I should say.
"And No. 3 is if you're not cheering in Fanatics gear, then you're not a true fan. Just for today. (Laughs.) Just for today."
Give me some cross analysis here: You're a fast guy -- I think everybody knows that -- and you haven't quite popped yet as far as full potential for the Patriots. Tyler Seguin is also a speed guy for the Bruins who some would argue hasn't quite popped yet, either. Would you say he's the Shane Vereen of the Bruins?
"That's funny. I actually had the opportunity to meet Tyler. He's one of my good friends. It depends on the game. If he plays bad, then no, I can't be associated with him. But if he plays good, then yeah, we're just alike. (Laughs.)"
Which Bruin is your favorite?
"I'd definitely say Tyler. But I like [Brad] Marchand, too. He's a little guy, but he fights back. He's got that little man complex. I guess I shouldn't say that. But he's good."
Do you consider yourself a fashionable guy, in comparison to, say, Stevan Ridley with his onesies and moon boots?
"I would never wear moon boots and onesies. However, I do have a couple of onesies courtesy of Stevan. But I won't be wearing any of them any time soon."
Patriots minicamp wrapped early. That's usually a sign that Bill Belichick has liked what he has seen. You've got the next month off; what do you do in your free time to prepare for training camp and the season?
"Stay focused. Trying to get myself ready for a long season. I've got to be able to be durable and last the full 16 games. That's important."
Are you able to get around town -- not in California, but here -- and not be recognized?
"Yeah, there's times when people recognize me. It shows that fans are real supportive of what you do. I love it. I love being in a city where people take it this seriously."
Danny Woodhead's departure is being universally seen as an opportunity for you to fill a role as the change-of-pace running back, the third-down guy, and the guy who plays a critical part of the no-huddle. Do you feel the weight of that responsibility, the anticipation for you to fill that role, when you talk to fans?
"I don't know if I feel pressure. I know that everybody on the team has a job and a role. When your number is called, you have a job to do. That's what I like, that's what I look forward to. I'm just hoping that when my number is called, I can fulfill my job to my best ability."
Two weeks ago, I asked on Boston.com which running back on the Patriots roster would surprise us the most this season. Can you answer that?
"I can't answer it. But hopefully all of us. I do think we have a good running back group and we can all surprise. I'm looking forward to it."
Last question: Give us your Stanley Cup Final prediction. How many games? Who wins?
"Bruins in six. And as soon as they win, everybody needs to go to Fanatics.com and pick up championship gear so they can become a better fan. (Laughs.)"
The Patriots have signed rookie running back George Winn.
Winn, who is 5 feet 10 inches, 218 pounds, was not drafted out of Cincinnati but was signed by the Texans. Houston released him a couple of weeks later. As a starter in college in 2012, Winn had 243 carries for 1,334 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Winn was recruited to Cincinnati by Massachusetts native and current Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, and is a cousin of former NFL receiver Derrick Mason.
New England now has 88 players on its roster; teams can carry 90 into training camp.
The diskectomy, the official name for the procedure to fix a herniated disk, will be performed in California by Dr. Robert Watkins, considered one of the best in the business when it comes to this particular surgery.
Colleague Ben Volin wrote last week about the recovery process after a diskectomy, and also how former players responded to getting the procedure.
As is well known at this point, Tuesday's surgery will be the fifth Gronkowski has undergone since mid-November – he had to have his left forearm, initially broken against the Colts, operated on four times.
The date of Gronkowski's back surgery was first reported by ESPN.com.
All everyone wants to know is what the Patriots plan to do with their new lefthanded Swiss Army knife, Tim Tebow.
Will he lead the team into uncharted waters as a wildcat QB? Will he show up in the backfield, behind Tom Brady as a fullback? Will he show off his pass catching ability, maybe as a tight end?
Will he be the team's backup quarterback? (What of Ryan Mallett?)
Daring to ask Patriots head coach Bill Belichick to specify one or the other is as humorous as it is useless. Thus feeds the Tebow fire. Therefore, we don't just term it a circus because what it is comes across as clear as stripes on a zebra.
It's a project. And one that Belichick is quite ready to take on, with all the hoopla that comes along for the ride. But it is one that has reasonable expectations, or aspirations, and low risk (2 years, base $1.36 million).
Why is that? Because there is reason to believe that Tebow can function in the Patriots offense in a subset of plays that will make him a useful addition. And although Tebow may be rated on the low end of mobile quarterbacks, no one is questioning his mobility, or the trend that is occurring in the NFL at his position.FULL ENTRY
It's safe to assume that Bill Belichick was pleased with the amount of work his team got done not just this week but throughout the spring. He also canceled the final day of minicamp last year.
The team will reconvene around July 24 or 25 for training camp.
FOXBOROUGH -- The Globe's Ben Volin and I review the Patriots second minicamp practice, scrutinizing Tim Tebow's day and we also have an interview with wide receiver Michael Jenkins.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft met with reporters Wednesday afternoon and of course was asked about his team's newest player, Tim Tebow.
"If you want to win in this league, you need quality depth management," said Kraft. "In the age of the salary cap, whenever you can get a competitive, first-grade person to join your team, you never know what happens.
"But for me personally, having Tim Tebow on this team, he’s someone who believes in spirituality, he’s very competitive and works hard and has a great attitude and he’s a winner.
"Having him as part of our franchise is great but he has to compete just like anyone else. We’re blessed to have a lot of people like that, but the fact that spirituality is so important to him is very appealing to me."
Kraft added that Tebow handles himself in a first-class way and that he's never heard anyone say something about the quarterback that isn't positive.
Speaking after the annual Myra Kraft Community MVP Awards celebration, Kraft tired of all of the Tebow questions, redirecting one about the media frenzy by saying how excited he is to have football back and how excited he is about the team New England is building.
Later, when asked how the Tebow signing came about, Kraft said Tebow is "just one of 90 people right now" and wondered if they hadn't talked about the player enough.
He did stick by his belief -- first voiced in 2009, when Michael Vick was released from prison and was a free agent -- that he sees no reason for Tom Brady to come off the field for an athletic-type quarterback to take a couple of snaps.
"In my mind, we have the greatest quarterback of all-time on our team and every time he has the ball in his hands, we have a chance to do something great. Nothing has changed in that regard for me," Kraft said.
The Patriots owner saw Tebow play a few times when he was at Florida, and his team has faced Tebow a handful of times since Tebow was drafted in 2010, so he has seen him on-field a fair amount.
"I think he’s hard-working and very cooperative," said Kraft. "I don’t think there’s any coach who wouldn’t like to have a team full of people like he is. Like [Tom] Brady, he comes out there and works hard, or Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo.
"They come in, they work hard, they prepare hard and they’re all business. You can’t get enough people like that on your team. We’re honored that he’s with us."
On Tuesday, Bill Belichick said signing Tebow was a team decision, and that it included Kraft's input.
"He spoke to me about it," said Kraft. "Look, life is about collecting good people around you who you like to have with you and who want to win. I think he, like many of our other players, fall in that category. You can’t have enough good people around you. He has the added dimension of spirituality being so important to him and that personally appeals to me a lot."
FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots continued minicamp Wednesday, with the fervor over new quarterback Tim Tebow beginning to subside.
The Patriots practiced before a considerably smaller crowd of journalists -- down from the 80-plus credentialed media members Tuesday -- while entertaining a VIP group at Gillette Stadium's practice fields.
Tebow, the former Broncos and Jets quarterback who was signed Tuesday, was 5 of 7 passing on nine reps of 11-on-11 drills with the backups. In his second day with the team, he still appeared to be getting acclimated to the offense, holding the ball too long on two particular plays and making another risky throw. However, one of his incompletions was a drop.
Missing from the practice was tight end Aaron Hernandez, who had been on the field Tuesday and spoke with reporters. Also missing were Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm), Julian Edelman (foot), Nick McDonald (unknown), and Kanorris Davis (unknown).
Another group of players had limited reps, including Devin McCourty, Brandon Spikes, Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, Alfonzo Dennard, rookie Aaron Dobson, rookie Josh Boyce, and rookie Brandon Ford.
Tom Brady found himself working with wide receivers Danny Amendola and Michael Jenkins, tight ends Daniel Fells and Michael Hoomanawanui, and running back Leon Washington in the first group.
Bill Belichick was in front of reporters again Wednesday before the Patriots took the field for Day 2 of minicamp, and while the crowd was still a bit larger than usual for this time of year, it wasn't the madhouse it was Tuesday, a.k.a. The Day Tebow Arrived.
And, thankfully, the press conference wasn't all about the team's new third-string quarterback.
Judging by his comments, Belichick is not pleased with linebacker Brandon Spikes, who opted to skip voluntary workouts and OTAs in favor of working out on his own in South Florida.
When asked Tuesday about the recovering Rob Gronkowski and his contact with the team, Belichick took a thinly veiled swipe at Spikes, saying pointedly, "All of our players except one have been here regularly through the offseason up until this week."
On Wednesday, he was asked specifically for his reaction to players who do not take part in voluntary OTAs.
"It is what it is," said the coach. "We all know what the rules and guidelines are, and that's what they are."
But can a player's position on the team be hurt if he chooses not to participate?
"It is what it is. We don't make the rules."
So there's that.
Minicamp is the last event of the offseason, with the team next reassembling for training camp. The last several weeks have been a time for the Patriots to start installing a good percentage of the playbook in advance of camp.
"Definitely over half, let’s put it that way," Belichick said. "There are a lot of things we don’t do – a lot of situational things and situational plays and some adjustments and things like that.
"But it’s a foundation, it’s a base. Definitely everything we do from here will build on what we’ve done. I think that’s really the important thing, but it’s a pretty good chunk."
As for Tim Tebow, Belichick wasn't willing to offer any observations from his first practice as a Patriot, which was Tuesday (Belichick's press conference Wednesday was held before practice).
When the question came about how Tebow looked, Belichick gave a general answer, saying everyone on the field was trying to get better day by day.
A second attempt at a Tebow question brought this response: "I don’t think evaluating players on a couple plays is really a good practice. We’ll wait until we have a little bit more information and make our evaluations as a staff, talk about players after a chunk of time, after we’ve had a chance to see things.
"Any player you put out there, the first day is a learning experience. As you do it the second, third, fourth time, just like when we all do anything multiple times, we get better at it, hopefully, get more experience, get more comfortable and do it better. I don’t think that’s any different than any football player at any position."
Collie, 27, is trying to get career back on track after suffering a torn patella tendon in his right knee on Sept. 24, ending his 2012 season with just one catch for six yards. Collie was cleared by doctors last week to return to football activities, and left New England without a contract offer. Collie is supposed to work out with two other teams this week before personnel around the league start leaving for summer vacation, and hopes to find a home by the start of training camp in late July.
A 2009 fourth-round pick out of BYU, Collie had 172 catches for 1,839 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first three NFL seasons, all with the Colts. Though he had multiple concussions in 2010, Collie played in all 16 games in 2011 and he has no post-concussion issues, a source said.
The Globe's Shalise Manza Young and I review the first Patriots minicamp practice, which featured the introduction of new quarterback Tim Tebow. We have comments from Tebow and linebacker Brandon Spikes, who joins the team after missing organized team activities.
FOXBOROUGH – The Patriots' first mandatory practice of minicamp was an uneventful one for third-year linebacker Brandon Spikes, who participated in just a handful of drills after having been the lone no-show for voluntary workouts.
However, his session with the media following the workout was a bit more interesting.
Spikes, who arrived at Gillette on Monday, passed on the opening eight weeks of team workouts, and chose instead to spend his time training at a private sports performance center in Florida.
“Honestly, I just felt like I was trying to put myself in the best position to compete for a spot on the team and also help this team win a championship,” Spikes said.
“I mean you guys know me. I frequently do things a little bit different from everybody else,” he continued. “I don’t think they’re bad, or a shocker. Honestly, if everybody in the world was a conformist, it would be one boring place.”
Spikes said that he remained in contact with several of his Patriots teammates in order to avoid falling too far behind.
“I’ve been making sure that things weren’t changing in the meeting room and stuff like that,” he said. “I just wanted to stay on top of my game and when I do stuff on my own I normally do better and [am able to] be productive that way.“
The 25-year-old, said that he was “ready to go” after using the offseason to rehab from a knee injury.
Spikes -- who is in the last year of his rookie contract -- had 92 tackles, one sack, and forced five fumbles in 15 games (14 starts) last season. His absence from the OTA’s doesn’t appear to be contract related.
Asked if he was upset with his current contract situation, Spikes responded, “You know I can’t speak on that. Why would you ask me that? No comment, guys.”
However, he did go on to assure reporters that he would not be a hold out when training camp begins around the end of July.
Whether the Patriots coaching staff has a problem with the absence of their inside linebacker was not immediately clear. However, coach Bill Belichick did make a point to bring up the team attendance during his press conference.
“All of our players except one have been here regularly through the offseason up until this week,” Belichick said.
Spikes managed to fly relatively under the radar on Tuesday, thanks in large part to hoopla caused by the arrival of his former college teammate, quarterback Tim Tebow.
“I was happy for him [when I heard he’d been signed],” Spikes said. “He got to get his job back and come out here and compete. So that’s good to see him smile, you know that big smile I’m used to seeing for the last few years down in Florida.”
Asked about the distraction that could come with bringing in a player of Tebow’s stature, Spikes responded, “Honestly, I don’t pay attention to that type of stuff. I’m just about winning ballgames and everything else is irrelevant.
“He’s a hard worker, a competitor, and he loves the game and you need guys like that.”
The Patriots couldn't keep Tim Tebow completely off limits to the media after Tuesday's minicamp practice, but did the best they could to shut down the Tebow Media Circus.
After working with coaches for about 10 minutes after practice, Tebow greeted a throng of at least 50 media members with a statement about joining the Patriots. He even showed a little humility and humor in his answer, mentioning that his teams haven't had much success against the Patriots in his first three NFL seasons, but he did not answer any questions.
"I'll speak loudly. Relax, guys," he said to the reporters as they jostled for position.
"First and foremost I just want to thank the Patriots for giving me an opportunity. I'm very thankful. It's such an honor to be a Patriot and play for coach (Bill) Belichick and coach (Josh) McDaniels and learn under Tom (Brady) and be part of this great franchise and a part of a very successful franchise. I found that out first-hand, lost to them several times, so it's going to be a lot of fun."
"I'm looking forward to working hard every single day and getting a lot better and learning under some great people. That's all I got. Thank you all so much and God bless. I'm sure we'll be talking more soon."
As for the actual football part of practice, Tebow was mostly a bystander as he tries to learn a new playbook and a new offense. He worked with Brady and Ryan Mallett during individual drills, and threw passes with his new teammates in drills in which there was no defense involved.
But when the Patriots broke into 11-on-11 drills, Tebow was strictly an observer for 95 percent of practice as Brady and Mallett took all of the repetitions. Tebow mostly stood next to McDaniels, the team's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and occasionally next to his old college teammate, Aaron Hernandez, who is rehabbing a shoulder injury. Tebow also spent a few minutes speaking with owner Robert Kraft on the field toward the end of practice.
Tebow finally got some action in the final 10 minutes of practice, quarterbacking the third-team offense against the third-team defense. He completed 4-of-7 passes overall – a couple were dropped – but Tebow also held the ball too long on several plays and likely would have been sacked in a real game.
The breakdown of his performance:
* Swing pass complete to the fullback.
* (Shotgun) Held the ball a long time, finally scrambled and rolled out to his left, threw a deep wobbly pass incomplete.
* Threw a deep fade pass to Matthew Slater incomplete down the left sideline.
* Completed a play-action slant pass for 15 yards.
* Held the ball a long time again, finally threw a crossing pattern that was low, but still hit his receiver in the numbers, which he dropped.
* Held the ball a long time yet again, threw all the way across the field complete to the tight end in the right flat.
* Completed a 10-yard dig pass.
Then the horn sounded, and Tebow's first day of practice was in the books.
FOXBOROUGH – Bill Belichick, in his usual demure tone, deflected question after question about the use of his new quarterback, Tim Tebow, in his first press conference in more than a month and a half.
Standing in front of a throng of media members from all across the East Coast, Belichick said the popular quarterback – who will wear No. 5 – will do whatever is best for the team.
"He's a talented player, who's smart and who works hard," Belichick said.
He repeated some variation of that over eight minutes before leaving for the first practice of Patriots minicamp.
The veteran coach gave no indication of what position Tebow would play outside of quarterback. The Patriots officially announced signing Tebow on Tuesday morning.
When asked about dealing with the popularity of Tebow, including dealing with the higher number of media members covering him, Belichick quipped, "hopefully there'll be more than that at the games on Sunday."
Also of note, Belichick said all players were present for minicamp. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who appeared to suffer a shoulder injury during organized team activities, "will do what he can."
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is expected to have surgery on his back in this month, has been in contact with the team, but the coach would not elaborate.
Welcome, Tim Tebow.
Your arrival comes as a surprise, but it is a pleasant one. As a good teammate, one who is certainly worthy of such a title, the Patriots are a natural fit for you. And certainly in more ways than one.
You're back with your old coach, the initiator of your NFL career, Josh McDaniels. He'll be your quarterback coach, helping to develop you as he promised to do so following the 2010 NFL draft.
You have been embraced by Bill Belichick, who has more than 38 years of NFL coaching experience. And you've got the precious and most valued commodity of time at your disposal, with Tom Brady becoming a free agent after 2017 and Ryan Mallett after the 2014 season. Coming in as the third string quarterback will allow you to learn, develop, and mature at your preferred position.
All you have to do is not screw it up.
The dynamics of the quarterback situation in New England are set. There's no worry that Brady will be replaced or for that matter surrender any number of snaps. There's no immediate consensus that you, Tebow, will replace Mallett on the team's game-day active roster. This is the kind of kick-back job that will require you to be seen, not heard.
And for that matter, this is without a doubt your last opportunity to learn the quarterback position or make the decision of whether to become a fullback or tight end. It's an unenvious position for the proud, but an opportunity nonetheless. It will require hard work and accuracy (something better than your career 47.9 completion percentage). It will require quiet leadership and focus.
But what's more, this tenure with the Patriots will likely bring to an end the deafening noise of Tebowmania, which has swelled your popularity since you were in Florida. The Patriots will likely limit your speaking opportunities and they'll scrutinize your comments when you do talk. But more than anything, they'll make sure that at the end of the day, you are not the story for the 2013 Patriots, much like they made sure Chad Johnson was not the story for the 2011 team. It's not just for the benefit of the team and to push the proverbial "Patriot Way." It is to protect you from the distractions a person such as yourself has no control over. And yes, it will diminish Tebowmania. But it will not destroy it.
If you do the things asked of you and show the promise displayed in 2011, the benefits for both you and the Patriots will be obvious. You can possibly revive your career and the Patriots will have some measure of uncertainty at backup quarterback alleviated. But coming to New England can also very well ruin your career, in a much more painful way than the doldrums of New York ever could. Because if in the safety and serenity of Belichick you cannot thrive, you are hopeless.
Somehow, I know you aim for better. And that's why you're here.
Fortunately, we don’t need to wait until tomorrow to hear Belichick’s thoughts on Tebow. The two have been friends since at least 2007, when Belichick would visit the University of Florida to swap ideas with Urban Meyer’s coaching staff. And Belichick wasn't shy about his support of Tebow when he spoke extensively about him in 2009-10 when Tebow was wrapping up his legendary NCAA career and preparing for the NFL. Heck, he even took Tebow out to dinner in the North End in the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft.
Here is a look back at Belichick’s thoughts and influences on Tebow:
From the NFL owners meetings in March 2010, about four weeks before the NFL Draft:
"My sense of Tim Tebow is that if you asked him to play nose, he'd play nose. I think he's the kind of kid, where whatever you ask him to do he'll do. I don't know what a team will do with him, but I think he's a real interesting player. He's had a great career, obviously it speaks for itself."
”He’s had a great career. There are a lot of positives. I’m sure he’s going to help a team. I think he performed very well in the offense he was in. I think he was outstanding. He’s already spent, I think, six weeks, or whatever it’s been, working on some other things and I think you can see the results of that working. He’s worked hard and made some changes, you can see those changes. I think he’ll continue to work.
Can he change his throwing motion, and survive in the NFL?
“Tiger Woods has rebuilt his golf swing twice. Every quarterback I've ever had or coached has worked on his mechanics and improved them. Phil Simms, certainly (Jeff) Hostetler, Brady, I can't think of too many that haven't. It's part of every player's development. I mean, show me a player who comes into this league at 21 and is a finished product at any position. Show me one guy.
"They all need work. They all have things they need to work on. Some guys are more coachable than others. Some guys have different things they need to correct, whatever the technique or physical development happens to be. I don't think that's unusual.''
From a 2009 Sports Illustrated article on the rise of the single-wing offense in college football:
"There aren't many players who can run and throw. Tebow, obviously, is a special one. But you've got major questions because if you're going to run him 15 times a game, how long will he last before they break him in half? But he is obviously special, and it's going to be very interesting to see what happens when he comes into this league. Do you just run your regular offense and let him scramble when he scrambles? Do you put in a few plays just for him? Or do you really build an entire new offense around him?"
From a 2009 article in the New York Times:
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow said that many of the empty backfield packages that the Patriots run came from Meyer's playbook. The Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said that Florida used some ''shuffle motions to unwind defenses'' and some ''pre-snap motions'' that came from New England.
Tebow has spent a lot of time around Belichick, both when Belichick has addressed the Gators and one-on-one. He said he leaned on Belichick ''as a friend'' when deciding whether to enter the N.F.L. draft after his junior year.
''Anytime I can talk with him and get advice from him and ask him as many questions as I could, I do,'' Tebow said. ''He's just someone that I respect a lot. He was someone I really wanted to talk to and Coach Meyer felt comfortable with me talking to him.''
The Patriots have signed Tim Tebow, a league source confirmed to the Globe's Shalise Manza Young.
The quarterback is expected to join the team at its minicamp Tuesday.
Tebow was released by the New York Jets in April after they drafted quarterback Geno Smith. Tebow played one season in New York after two in Denver.
Tebow was drafted by the Broncos in 2010 after winning two national championships and the Heisman Trophy (2007) at Florida. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was the Broncos head coach at the time.
Like just about anything with Tebow, news of the move quickly became the talk of the sports world. Despite limited success in the NFL, Tebow has been one of its most popular players."I think it makes a great deal of sense. This is the perfect team for Tim Tebow to go to," former NFL coach Brian Billick said in an appearance on NFL Network, where he is an analyst.
In 2011, Tebow led the Broncos on several improbable comebacks and into the playoffs, where he famously engineered an upset of the favored Steelers before losing to the Patriots in the AFC Divisional playoff round.
The comebacks spawned the popular phrase "Tebow Time," and his practice of kneeling in prayer after a touchdown or victory became known as "Tebowing," and was mimicked worldwide.
Tebow has 361 career pass attempts and 173 completions. He's thrown for 17 touchdowns and been intercepted nine times.
He also has 197 career rushing attempts for 989 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Patriots announced they had released quarterback Mike Kafka and defensive lineman Dewayne Cherrington Monday. Tebow's signing has not been officially announced.
Spikes did not take part in the offseason workout program or organized team activities, both of which are voluntary by rule. However, in NFL parlance, voluntary does not really exist. Spikes was the only player to sit out OTAs. Instead he has been working out at Bommarito Performance in North Miami Beach, a facility favored by many NFL players.
The second-round pick in 2010 is heading into the fourth and final year of his rookie contract.
Change is constant.
In Foxborough, where the offensive mastery has been defined by Tom Brady's magical reign for 13 seasons, the yearning for balance comes and goes. From the early 2000s, when the team featured running backs Antowain Smith, Kevin Faulk, and Corey Dillon, the impact of the running game was integral to the team's first three Super Bowls. Those years were followed by mostly modest tenures between Laurence Maroney and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, whose stints were far overshadowed by Brady's brilliance.
With the latest class, most recently featuring Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead, the Patriots once again attempted to close the balance gap. Even with Woodhead's departure, a player who has the ability to make defenders miss in small spaces and is a dependable third-down receiver, this position group is a source of strength for the offense, especially after the team has overhauled its wide receivers group. The Patriots' running game accounted for 2,184 yards last season, or 31.9 percent of the offense. Ridley (1,263 yards, 12 touchdowns) is obviously a big part of that.FULL ENTRY
The Patriots have signed linebacker E.J. Edds, the team announced Thursday.
If the name sounds familiar, it should: Edds was claimed off waivers by New England on Sept. 7, 2011, after he was released by the Dolphins. The 6-foot-4, 256 pound Edds was on the Patriots' active roster for two games before being released and signed to the practice squad.
The Colts signed the former Iowa Hawkeye off the Patriots' practice squad on Sept. 28, 2011 and he played in nine games for Indianapolis that season. However, Edds spent the entire 2012 season on injured reserve with a knee injury; he also spent his entire rookie season in 2010 on IR with a knee injury.
Edds was a fourth-round pick of the Dolphins in 2010.
The Patriots announced Wednesday that they have waived running back Akeem Shavers.
The 5-foot-11-inch, 203-pound Shavers, an undrafted rookie out of Purdue, had been claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay May 7.
The Patriots didn’t hold any organized team practices Wednesday, but several players and members of the organization were still keeping busy.
Owner Robert Kraft was joined by current players, Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett, and cheerleaders this morning at the Roger Clap Innovation School in Dorchester to present a check for $50,000 to provide new playground equipment. The elementary school was chosen out of more than 3,700 communities as the national winner of the NFL’s Play 60 initiative to teach kids about proper exercise and nutrition.
The players tossed footballs and played hula-hoop games with the kids in the schoolyard during the two-hour visit.
“What a great treat to see all these young faces and the excitement,” said Kraft, who celebrated his 72d birthday Wednesday. “I’m so proud of the NFL, what we’re doing with this Play 60. I think we’ve done a good job nationally connecting with communities, connecting with young people.”
Among the seven players in attendance was running back Stevan Ridley, who didn’t show any signs of limping after tweaking his hamstring near the end of Tuesday’s OTA. Ridley declined to talk about his injury, and joked that coach Bill Belichick rubbed off on him, because at Wednesday’s event, “every ball we drop, we make them do five pushups.”
Also in attendance was receiver Danny Amendola, wearing his new Patriots jersey for the first time since signing with the team in March. Amendola said his work with quarterback Tom Brady has “been going really well.”
“So far so good,” he said. “It’s still early. Just trying to be the best we can be in the time we have.”
Amendola noted that he’s familiar with the offense given the one year he spent with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels when the two were in St. louis. He also said he’s excited about playing with a “legend” like Brady.
“He’s a football mind,” Amendola said. “He’s been around the game for a long time. It’s fun to learn from him and play with him and pick his brain a little bit. It’s going to be a good year.”
Also on hand for the Patriots were Chandler Jones, Niko Koutouvides, Matthew Slater, Shane Vereen, and Leon Washington. Amendola said that events like Wednesday’s help him feel a part of the Patriots family.
“This Boston community obviously does a great job supporting the team and rooting for the Patriots, and it’s good to finally be a part of it,” he said.
FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots continued their organized team activities at a sunny Gillette Stadium Tuesday, with seven players missing from the voluntary practice and another failing to finish after what appeared to be a shoulder injury.
Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was carted off the field after injuring his shoulder in the final 15 minutes of practice.
Dennard wasn't the only Patriot to get nicked up in practice, though. Stevan Ridley pulled up grabbing his right hamstring during 7-on-7 drills. He sat out the rest of the practice after getting it stretched out. And tight end Jake Ballard had to have his left ankle looked at mid practice.
Rob Gronkowski (forearm/back), Brandon Spikes, Julian Edelman (leg), Nick McDonald (unknown), Brandon Bolden (ankle), Stephon Morris (unknown) and Joe Vellano (unknown) were not spotted during practice.
A number of players, including Sebastian Vollmer, Dan Connolly, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Josh Boyce, and Nate Ebner were limited in their participation.
Among the highlights, Steve Gregory picked off a Tom Brady pass intended for Michael Jenkins after it was tipped. And Zach Sudfeld had a nice catch with Jerod Mayo in coverage.
After impressing during the first two rounds of OTAs open for observation, Aaron Dobson had a pretty bad drop in 11-on-11 drills that got him booted out of the huddle. Michael Hoomanawanui had a pass he stretched out for go off his hands. And LeGarrette Blount dropped an easy pass that hit him in the hands.
FOXBOROUGH – The Philadelphia Eagles announced they will hold joint practices with the Patriots Aug. 6-7, prior to the two teams' first preseason game against each other Aug. 9.
The joint practices will be held at the Eagles' Novacare Complex in Philadelphia.
The Patriots held joint practices with the New Orleans Saints last year and are slated to hold joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before their Aug. 16 preseason game.
The Patriots announced Monday afternoon that they have brought back rookie offensive lineman R.J. Mattes.
Initially signed by New England on May 13, Mattes, who was undrafted out of North Carolina State, was released 10 days later.
He is listed at 6 feet 6 inches, 313 pounds, and started at both tackle and guard during his four years at North Carolina State.