The Jets are 0-2 heading into Foxborough this week and they're calling it a trap game. The Patriots said all the right things as usual this week. Rodney Harrison called talk about Curtis Martin slowing down "media crap."
And so it appears the Patriots have been psychologically and physically prepared in practice this week to take on the Jets, who have won five straight years in Foxborough. The question now is do we really think it's a trap game, or should the Patriots roll over the Jets and kick them back to Hofstra licking their wounds at 0-3?
Here's the one thing that really bugs me: Patriots injuries. I know the Patriots are very fortunate to have great depth at linebacker where they can put tried and true players like Willie McGinest and Roman Phifer on the field in place of Rosevelt Colvin and Ted Johnson, but we're talking about now looking at a defense that has lost three star players if you add Lawyer Milloy into the mix. It seems to me that the Jets will establish the run right away with Martin. Having known Martin for several years from his time here in New England, he's that quiet team leader than everyone respects and admires. With all the stories about his demise out there, I know that Jet players went to offensive coordinator Paul Hackett this week and told him they have to get Martin 20-25 carries.
I'm 1-1 with the Pats so far. I picked the Bills win which was easy after the Milloy situation, but totally miscalculated the Eagles game where I thought the Eagles would win easily. I'm calling a close Patriots win here, maybe 24-21, but I don't feel very confident about it. I know the spread earlier in the week was 6-1/2 and I thought that was too much in my Thursday picks in the Globe, so I picked the Jets with the points.
Dewayne Robertson vs. Ty Warren: Two games into the NFL season, some football experts with a Patriots slant, are already calling Robertson a bust. Two games? Robertson is getting decent playing time, probably more than Warren at this point. I think both guys are going to be pretty good players. Whether Roberston is the next warren Sapp would be something no one could predict based on what's been seen so far. The question in NE is will Warren be the next Richard Seymour, and I think that's the goal or at least a close facsimile...
Here's a mailbag tip: send your questions after the Jets game, not before it. We got a ton of outdated E-mails this week. Also, we got hundreds of Lawyer Milloy-related E-mails again this week. I answered some of them, but as one of our E-mailers pointed out, lets move on to the next topic. I tried to do that as well. Obviously the big one is Colvin. He's out there getting second opinions, but it looks like a serious injury that will take some time to heal. The way some of Colvin's handlers described it to me was that the hip popped out of place but then "reduced" and popped back in. The question that hadn't been answered, or at least divulged publicly, is what damage was done to either the bone, the muscles or the tendons.
Got this E-mail from a disgruntled Patriots fan and long time season-ticket holder this week. I checked with the Patriots and I think this just might have been a terrible misunderstanding and I get the feeling it's going to be worked out. But here's what Brian Barrett wrote about his situation:
Hi Nick, My name is Brian Barrett and I've been a Patriots season ticket holder for 10 years. I felt I had to tell someone in the media this story so hopefully it can get out just how cheap the Patriots have become. We all know the Lawyer Milloy story, and having been to the Superbowl in New Orleans, considered him the key ingredient to the happiest sports moment in my life. So when he was cut to save 600K I was disgusted because we know this was something that happened for no other reason than to save money. Not for the fans, not for the team, but to line Bob Krafts pockets even more Fact!
Anyway, the day after he was released I was send an UNSOLICITED email from the Patriots regarding some special offer they're always sending trying to sell me even more crap. I usually delete them but this time I responded with an email that basically called the Patriots what they were. I didn't use swears, I expressed that they had the highest ticket prices in the NFL yet finished the season 4 million under the cap last year, etc…. and that cutting Milloy was inexcusable and you set back your team 5 years to save 1⁄2 million bucks. I also mentioned that I have a good mind to cancel my ticket! (NEVER DID I SAY CANCEL MY TICKETS) Anyway, I got a call yesterday from a "Jack" at the Patriots offices calling to tell me they were canceling my tickets. Of course I started yelling and he said quote "When we get emails from disgruntled fans we cancel their tickets. We have a long waiting list so we have no problem if your not happy" I couldn't believe what I was hearing, asking him if I was the customer or not, because I forget, and was I the only email they got on the Lawyer situation? I mean, THEY emailed me first! It got to the point where he said if I emailed an APOLOGY they would reinstate my tickets! Can you believe this! This is a true story! I refuse to apologize to anyone.
I expressed my opinion as a veteran season ticket holder to an organization that ripped out the heart of its team 5 days before kick off and their response was to blackmail me into an apology. We know the reason is so they can dump me, give someone else the tickets, and collect another 100 dollars from someone else. This, to a guy who paid in full for the 1992-93 and 93-94 seasons. Not to mention I've been going with my father since 1976. Anyway I hope you mention this story in your column. To show the region just how loyal the Krafts REALLY are. ROYAL TO THE MONEY!!!!!!
Celebrity restaurant review
Boston-based sports agent Brad Blank: "The Palm" at the Westin Hotel in Copley Place. Brad, a Cape Cod guy, enjoys the lobster and the huge side dishes. He particular enjoys the lunch menu and the large portions, "they're so big I have to go home and take a nap."...
Jim McCarthy, former Sports Huddle talk show host and Boston businessman: "Cohasset Golf Club" in Cohasset. Jim says, "the food is fabulous." Jim enjoys the baked haddock and the view of the picturesque course.
Joe Morgan, former Red Sox manager, "The Lafayette House" on Route 1 in Foxborough. Joe loves the roast beef, the fresh schrod and "anything on the dessert menu."
Nick, I know that Klecko has played only on the nose and at OLB in the preseason; but considering Ted Johnson's loss, would the Pats try him as a run-stuffing MLB? Are they afraid of creating mis-matches with receivers? Seems like a natural move for a small DL with a big motor.
A: I thought of that myself. I'm not privy to how he was used in practice this week, but he did tell me he's still working on the D-Line.
Why doesn't the NFL have an 18 game schedule, eliminate 2 preseason games and require that ALL players (except possibly kickers) have to take at least 4 halves (of games) off sometime during the season. This way, players would not be required to play more than they do today (16 games), rosters would be expanded, there would be a new element of strategy ("Should the Pats hold out Brady in the second half of the Buffalo game if they are being beaten badly?" for example), we would get more football, and the NFL would get more money.... The only negative to this is that it might drive Fantasy Football owners nuts.
A: There are all sorts of issues. The players would never go along with this unless there was big money in it for them, and I don't see the owners willing to change a salary structure and raising the cap when they're making so much money with the status quo. Sometimes I think it's just best to leave things alone. I like the NFL the way it is.
Nick, I enjoy your mailbag every Friday but is there any way you could eliminate the redundant emails? Last week, much like the week before that, 98% of the questions had to do with why the Patriots released Lawyer Milloy. You did a decent job varying your responses and I'm sure people get a little thrill seeing their email get answered, but enough is enough. I ended up skipping every email with Lawyer Milloy in it, which left me with about half dozen other questions. Save the mailbag Nick before it gets dragged down into a morass of duplication.
A: I hear what you're saying Patrick. It was an unusual week and a very emotional topic for sports fans. I let everyone have their say and responded to quite a few, but believe it or not there were just as many I didn't have the time to respond to.
Hi Nick, Love your mailbag! After reading for two weeks in row about Lawyer Milloy I am concerned about the team now. If fans like me and readers of this mailbag are passionate about Milloy just think about the player that played with him feel like. So here is my question I know we won the Super Bowl with thinking of getting Vets at low cost to play hard in the scheme, but my belief is if you have a good chemistry in your team it hides lot of the weakness. Just like how we won the Super Bowl and how the Sox are playing this year. I think our chemistry has been compromise by releasing Milloy it will take awhile before it gels again, then it might be to late for this season. I think that is what BB has miscalculated. Yes safeties are easily replaceable, but not chemistry it takes time. What do you think?
A: That's a good evaluation of the situation. This team won the Super Bowl on intangibles like chemistry and character and that was ripped away with the loss of Milloy. I think BB is trying to see if his younger leaders can save the day. he's very fond of Richard Seymour who has become quite outspoken. Tedy Bruschi is obviously an emotional leader. I think the bigger issue is becoming their injuries. Tough to lose Colvin and Ted Johnson.
Thanks for consistently taking the time to answer all of our questions each week. After reading last week’s mailbag I have a comment about Patriots fans rooting for the Bills: Good Riddance, Buffalo could use the gate receipts anyway. On to my question: Have you ever heard of a team having 8 picks in the first four rounds of a draft? Lost in all of the hyperbole and hysteria of recent events is Belichick's masterful handling of the draft. Maybe shortsighted Pats fans cannot see the makings of an empire, but these days the way to build a team is through the draft. Also, I think Donahue's 22 million expenditure on 4 players was a last ditch attempt to save some jobs and doesn't really set them up for the long haul. What do you think?
A: They have eight picks but I doubt they'll pick them all. Too expensive. They'll package them to move up and probably package some in the '05 draft. They need a good draft because they have so many old players. They started the year with 22 players 30 or older, the most in the AFC, so they need a youth invasion. As for Donahoe, the Bills are a pretty young team surrounded by vets. They'll be fine.
Hi been reading the mail religiously the last couple years and have a couple question and comments. First off I read last weeks questions and a lot of people seem to blame Kraft being cheap for loosing Milloy. Do these people just not understand the cap. Kraft would pay Milloy 6 mil if he could but there is cap and they don't want that big of a chunk tied into one contract. Now onto the future. Do you think Harris will work out? Do you see us getting a running game this year. Or stopping one for that matter. Any rookie favorites?
A: I agree Keith. I leave Kraft out of this. These are Belichick's decisions and if you have a problem your angst should be directed at Belichick not Kraft. As for Harris, well, he's already been replaced by Eugene Wilson at free safety, so I get the feeling it's not going to work out. I don't see a running game. I see one in certain games, but not in enough of them. I think they can stop it, but I'm concerned about injuries to Johnson and Colvin.
With the Krafts, Wasynczuk, Pioli and Hausmann up front, who have done such a good job in the past, how can they have missed the effect of the Milloy deal? The deal was structured when the contract was written. I know they have to maximize and be tough, but how would you play for New England now? Imbriano and Clark, I would think are scrambling, and maybe should be included, just for input, on a regular basis. Or they can call me.
A: They don't believe they "missed." I think this was in the works for a while. I think they knew what they were doing and decided to ride out what ever hit they were going to take.
Nick, can you tell why Tom Brady has to wind up like Pedro Martinez to throw a pass downfield? It was glaringly obvious last week against the Bills, especially when i watched Drew flick one from his back foot for 45 yards.
A: I think there's an obvious difference in pure throwing ability between Bledsoe and Brady. Watching Bledsoe throw a football was like watching Roger Clemens throw a baseball. You're absolutely amazed at the velocity and the arm strength both of those guys have. But you know, as long as it gets completed down field, doesn't matter how you throw it. Remember Joe Kapp?
Loved all the Milloy coverage. I think it won't turn out to be as catastrophic as we all think right now, BUT I am worried about the pattern of messages BB sends to his team. It's one of the basics of management that YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR BEST PEOPLE. From what I've read, Milloy was great on the team, in the community, and did everything asked of him by management. Then, you treat him like that? I know management has to play hardball sometimes, but I don't believe you do that with your best, most committed, "team" players like Milloy. I think over time, the "business only" approach by management kills the spirit of any organization. My question is: with what you see in the locker room, do you see any danger of that with the Patriots?
A: I think what you see Ron is a younger generation of players who could really care less about Lawyer Milloy, and certainly some of the old guard of players who felt getting rid of Milloy was crazy. Down the road, you'll have so many new players coming in here over the next couple of years that Lawyer will be a distant memory. It definitely effects them in the here and the now. Especially when you add Colvin and Johnson to their list of deletions.
Nick, do you think next year we will finally see a Patriots team address our the running back situation. It seems key in today's league one of the "must haves" is at the least "100 rush yds/per game back" - this running back by committee and picking up other peoples trash & turning it into our treasure is getting tired. Does next years crop of rookie running backs hold any promise? It would seem the Pats are set up well for draft picks......
A: I haven't really studied the draft well enough to see who's coming out. The Maurice Clarett situation is worth watching, but it looks like the NFLPA is now backing the NFL in telling Clarett to stay in school. Clearly, they need a running back. But more importantly they need a run mindset.
Hello Nick. Just musing on the fate and fortunes of the latest Patriot draft choices. It seems to me, that while Preseason games are meaningless etc..., the discerning fan can spot a special player based on how they conduct themselves on the field. My take on the following players based on my discerning eye:
Eugene Wilson and Asante Samuel: both will be solid, intermittent Pro Bowl performers
Ty Warren: marginal back-up player
Daniel Graham: marginal back-up player
Bethel Johnson: Special teamer only
Deion Branch: wont live up to promise
Rohan Davey: marginal back up
Dan Koppen: starting center within 2 years
Dan Klecko: super specialist contributing in a large way next year
What is your take Nick?
--John R. Cote Jr., Durham , NC
A: I think Warren will be a starter before the year is out. He's making pretty consistent progress though I laugh at the media and others who feel Dewayne Robertson is a bust after two NFL games. I think Branch is going to be very good; Koppen has those BC offensive lineman genes so I see him becoming another Tom Nalen. I have no idea about Klecko. I'm concerned about Graham because I thought this was his breakout year. After two games we haven't seen much. Bethel Johnson's got a long way to go, but you have to love his speed and once he learns his routes, I think they've got a pretty exciting player.
Nick, if the Sox win the World Series, do you think they'll let them on the field at Gillette Stadium and throw baseballs at Kraft, Pioli, and Belichick over the Milloy fiasco?
A: You sound upset Ray. I understand. But wait it out. If the Patriots aren't in the playoff hunt by Week 10, I can understand your anger.
It comes to my attention that the price of Game Tickets, beer, hot dogs, parking lot fees and even Bob Kraft's cheese have no price constraints. Could you imagine the squealing we'd hear if there was. Communism they'd say. And they'd be right of course. Personally, I could care less if the tickets were $10,000 a piece! I would simply vote with my feet until they either came down in price or I had Bob Kraft kind of money! That's free enterprise. For instance, I was in Baltimore September 10 to see the beloved Sox and Pedro stifle the Orioles. The upper reserve ticket was $15.00 and I had a great view from the third base side and consider that a fair price. The beer was $5.25 and the dogs were $4.25. I noted most fans didn't make change thus allowing the beer man to keep numerous 75-cent tips. That's fine he earned it humping up and down the steps and so on. I didn't buy either of the mentioned refreshments as I had dined before arriving. Pedro looked great and so did the rest of the players. The Sox fans roared louder than the Oriole fans and I had a great time and my Oriole Fan buddy Maryland Bob took the loss with grace. He's still smarting over losing the Moose and Sidney Ponson. Sounds familiar huh? Why should the players who bust their butts for us have to take pay cuts when coaches get "what their worth"? How about a cap on a coach's salary? How about a cap on tickets? Robert Kraft can charge what he wants and fans can choose to attend or not. How about a cap on reporters’ salaries. If I was home sick like Pedro was and a reporter said I was lolly gagging I'd be angry too. Salary caps merely protect owners from themselves. I say let teams pay what they can. It will work itself out trust me. And if the feeling is we would have a few elite teams and the rest would be imitation teams,; that's what we have now!!! Let the ones that can't make it go under and the rest might actually be real teams of NFL caliber again. Fewer teams means better players on the ones left. Let's see ya tackle that issue Nick.
A: I was with you until the salary cap on sports writers salaries. I hear what you're saying, but you have to admit football is run so well compared to the other sports. The cap controls salaries so the players have to work really hard to earn them. I think most fans like that. I will say that the owners make out very nicely because of their fixed costs and fans pay the exorbitant prices they ask for at Patriots games. There's a 50,000 paid waiting list. I don't hear many complaints about the cost of Patriots games. I'm sure I will if they start losing again. But I hear more whining about the costs of Celtics and Bruins games and even Red Sox games before I hear anything about the Patriots prices, which are the highest in the NFL. I think the feeling is, the Kraft family does a great job and puts out a good product and therefore people will pay the money.
Nick, Since Bill Belichick is the only Patriots coach to actually win a Super Bowl isn't it a bit premature to bash him as hard as he has been in the past 2 weeks? I think fans forget that we(all fans for that matter )root for laundry. While I was and will continue to be a huge Milloy fan I still remember that football and the other sports are now and will forever after be a business. I just hope this gets me further up on the season ticket holder list, because to think that the Patriots will fade away and never play in the big game again is foolish.
A: That's why I wrote when this happened you had to give Belichick the benefit of the doubt until the Milloy decision proves it’s ruined the team.
To be honest I'm sick of hearing about Lawyer Milloy. Yeah the guy was a great leader and was loved by the Patriot community. But the team only has so much money to spread around. I feel that asking Milloy to take a 1million dollar pay cut was not unreasonable. He was asked to do this for the team, to help the team win. And to hear Milloy say "I need to put food on the table" makes me sick. I am an Emergency Room nurse, I work long hours, and I work to care for others and save lives. I make a modest income and am content with getting a $2 raise a year (if I'm lucky). I would love to take a 1 million dollar pay cut, and still try to put food on the table, I think I could do it. The timing of the release was questionable indeed, and may affect the team this year, but in the long run and with the large number of high draft picks next year I think we will be better off without Milloy's services.
A: First of all Joe, thanks for pointing out I hadn't answered your question. Rest assured, nothing personal. Sometimes I get a lot of questions that are on the same topic and I have to chose which one to answer. In the 27 years I've covered sports, I always thought it was a bad look for a player to openly complain about money. I've written the contract story I don't know how many times between the Red Sox and the Patriots over the years. It never sounds right coming out of a players mouth when good people like yourself work for a modest wage to save lives every day. I wish players would take the average Joe into consideration and step out of their small world and realize that they're blessed to be doing what they're doing and making movie star money. when a team makes a move like this you can only cross your fingers, as I'm sure they're doing, and hope the kid you drafted will take over. To be honest, I don't see a Milloy among them.
As always, love the column. I have been waiting to cool down to write you. It looks to me like the genius, Belichoke (that's what Browns fans call him) is decimating this team in order to make it in his image. Seems like he did the same thing in Cleveland. There's no doubt in my mind that Ty Law is next, which is only going to send a signal to any good free agents to stay away from this team that has no loyalty. I realize Mr. Kraft doesn't want to be a Jerry Jones, but at some point he has to step in. How long do you think that will take? I fear we are going to go through another multi year slump until something is done. What are your thoughts on that?
A: You have to understand that Bob Kraft is a great businessman. He will let Bill Belichick run the show as long as it works out. When it doesn't, he'll make a change. As for a multi-year slump, I don't know. That all depends on how this year goes. If it doesn't go well, I can see them getting worse before they get better because they'll have an infusion of younger players. I think every team has to go through that at some point.
We sat and watched much more comfortably during this game. But we kept wondering why they don't use the shotgun formation when they intend to throw and know that a blitz is coming. Isn't it easier to survey the field and not have to run backwards before finding a receiver? We all leaned forward and in amazement and disbelief when we finally got to see the shotgun....and don't you know that was the prettiest play of the game. (26 yd TD to Branch) Think we'll see more of it?
A: The only thing I can think of is the Patriots played rookie Dan Koppen at center and maybe they didn't want him shotgun snapping that often in an effort to improve his comfort level out there.
I'm sure you've heard this many times, but where's the Pats' running game? Sure, they beat Philly by a wide margin, but to me, they still looked very shaky on offense in-spite-of some impressive early passing stats by Brady. I can't remember any long drives resulting in points. Can they win without a running game capable of making 3rd and short? I don't remember them making a drive sustaining run but do remember several times that they were 2nd and short or 3rd and short and wound-up punting. Also, what's the deal with Smith running outside... haven't the coaching staff realized he is worthless on that play (and in short yardage dive tackle plays as well). The Pats had a great scheme to control McNabb and the Philly passing game so I don't understand why the Eagles didn't they test the Pats run D more? Any thoughts?
A: Belichick said this week he feels it's important to run to keep the defense honest and not necessarily to really have a completely balanced attack. The Eagles bit on their play-action, which means they respected the run. I wonder in the games to come whether teams will just say, we're not biting on that stuff because we know they can't run. But I'm with you, the lack of a solid running game should hurt them at some point, but as long as they complete those short to medium range passes, they can move the ball. As for the Eagles, they really had nothing going. The coaching was poor and not to run at the Patriots I think is always a mistake even with Washington in the middle.
What effect do you think losing Junior Seau has had on San Diego?
A: Quite a bit emotionally. I think that goes for Rodney Harrison, too. I think they're trying to get younger and faster in San Diego, and Seau and Harrison are not that.
Last year the patriot defense was at the bottom of the league in rushing defense. So why did they fire the secondary?
A: Great question. I just think they thought their guys were too old. Otis Smith at 37 and Lawyer at 29, Victor Green at 32, Tebucky at 27, they just thought they could get better and draft guys that fit what they were trying to do with the 3-4 scheme and the role that the DBs played.
Is it just me or are they not really shown much of Charlie Weis on TV any more? I didn't catch a glimpse of him last week or this past week. How is he doing? Is he 100% now after his surgery and lost weight?
A: Charlie seems to be doing well. He's a lot thinner, but he still has some damage in his leg, which has effected his walking a bit. But he says his energy is back and he's doing fine. Since I'm at the games, I don't really watch TV too often so I can't answer the second part of your question.
I was wondering: what are the chances that NE could go after Ricky Watters? They probably will end up going with Antowain Smith to start the year, but they need some more backs on their roster that can put fear in a defense. Also, what the heck was NE thinking in cutting Lawyer Milloy five days before their season opener? Can Antwan Harris or a free agent off the waiver wire fill the void that is now there at safety? I think that the AFC East will be, by far, the most competitive division in the league this year. I see the Patriots finishing 10-6 or 11-5 (if running game does well), the Bills going 9-7, Miami going 8-8, and the Jets (b/c of no Pennington) won't be better than 6-10. What do you think?
A: I'd be surprised about Watters unless they suffered an injury. Don't forget, they're getting Mike Cloud in Game 5, so if things aren't going well they have Cloud to fall back on. I would guess Harris gets the nod as the starter and the most reps because he's got the most experience in the Pats defense. Tebucky Jones told me the other night that while Harris is small, "he's not afraid to hit you." As for the AFC East, yeah, I see Pats at 10-6, but I also see Miami at 10-6. I haven't yet committed to the Bills winning the division like many national types are, and I also don't think the Jets will be as bad as 6-10.
Two primary observations from the Eagles win:
1) How long can the Patriots rely on Ken Walter? He's getting too many touchbacks, gets absolutely no distance, shanks every other punt & is now mishandling PATs. There's got to be someone out there.
2) We're going nowhere if, to run the clock out, we need to line up 5 wideouts and run Brady. Not sure there's an answer this year. Thoughts?
-- Jon Quick, Norwalk, CT
A: Ken has been up and down since last season. The consistency he once had just isn't there any more. The Patriots didn't bring in another punter, so they must feel he's better than what's out there at the moment, and they also pay him well and would have to take a cap hit to cut him. Jon, you make a great point about running out the clock. That's where you really need that running game to click in. That's what they did in the '01 season. They got a lead and then Smith ran the ball until the game was over.
Nick let me start by saying - great column. My question is this: Why did the media not mention the very favorable draft position the Patriots have next year? If I am not mistaken, don't they have two #1 and two #2 picks? I would think if anything, that extra money saved for releasing that safety, I forget his name, could be used for these picks?
A: Good point Chris. Teams always have to look ahead and this was perhaps part of the thought process. Most Patriots fans feel this team can win right now if they had the pieces in place and most of us thought they would be Milloy at free safety, Ted Johnson at middle linebacker and Rosevelt Colvin at outside linebacker. Things have changed. As for next season, I don't think they'll keep all of those picks because looking at some of the cap numbers for next season, some of their players take big leaps in salary cap.
Nick, what is the deal with Sam Gash and his animosity with the Pats organization?? Number 1 he has no clue what goes on, since he has been gone since 1997 and there has been a change in personnel and coach, so he should keep quiet, since his only claim to fame was when Parcells gave him props at the AFC Championship trophy presentation, and I also see LM is showing his true classless self, while Drew Bledsoe continues to take the high road, even though he lost more than just his starting job, no Drew bashing ever from me Nick.
A: Sam Gash was a player I enjoyed covering when he was here, and to be honest if he were still here the Patriots would run the ball at least 50 percent better than they do. I think he's the best lead blocking fullback in the game, even at his age. He destroyed the Patriots linebacking core in that first game. Sam has always been very emotional and if he feels he's been done wrong, he holds a grudge. He's a bit like Lawyer in that he's a great friend but a terrible enemy. In Gash and Milloy the Bills have two superb leaders on either side of the ball; two of the toughest guys in the NFL. Maybe they should let it go, but I think the chip on their shoulders is what motivates them when they face the Patriots.
What happened to Klecko? The last two games he has been left off of the game day roster. It seemed he had a pretty good pre-season and I don't understand why they don't at least give him some experience during junk time. I really thought he could have a very positive impact on this team with his high motor and never give up on a play attitude. Do you have any insight why Warren is getting more love than Klecko? From camp notes, Klecko was much more "technically sound" than Warren.
A: Warren is the NO. 1 pick. They'll do everything they can to make him look good because you never want to be accused of not picking the right guy. My theory is as the injuries mount, Klecko will be used as a gimmick type player to create some havoc. They could certainly use his energy out there.
Nick, love the mailbag. Living in IL I hear about the Bears constantly and your mailbag allows me to hear about the Pats, so thanks. The Pats brass has been taking the heat for the Milloy release, and while I would have liked to see him stay, I guess I can understand. The funny part about this situation is that I think they made a great transaction just prior to the Milloy release, trading for Ted Washington. The Bears were, in my mind stupid for making this deal. Washington is going to be huge (literally) in stopping the run this year. I think we should give the front office a pat of the back for that deal. On to my question, how important is Larry Centers going to be as the year rolls on? He seems to be the third down back now that Faulk is splitting time with Smith. With the Pats offense in love with screens is Centers a key player on the offense, or just a roll guy. Also will Mike Cloud be healthy after coming off his suspension?
A: Good to hear that about TW. Centers has been running the ball a lot more than I expected. I remember sitting in the Buffalo press box and the writers there couldn't believe the Pats were handing off the ball to him. Everyone thinks of him as more of a pass catcher (814 catches will give that impression) so I think what the Patriots try to do is use him on the run as an element of surprise. So far its worked but I'm sure teams will start catching on. I understand Cloud will likely need a week to get ready and then be back. He may not be ready by Week 5, but maybe by Week 6.
Nick, While the Pats looked so much better last Sunday than the week before, why doesn't Brady use Christian Fauria for more than touchdowns? (Not that there is anything wrong with that!) But Bledsoe and Coates had such a connection; wouldn't a big, tight end be a good threat on a drive down the field as well. It's probably a lame question, but thanks for taking the time to read it anyway. I truly enjoy your writing.
A: Brady himself made the comment this week that he should use him more on non red zone situations. He said that there were a couple of times when Fauria was wide open and he should have gotten him the ball.
Hey Nick, not to beat this Milloy point to death, but I do have a question on something you said. You mentioned that his agent - Carl Poston - wasn't making any money on his current deal. But to my understanding, the most an NFL agent can get is 3% of the contract and with NFL contracts not being guaranteed, the agent doesn't see the money until it's actually paid out to the player. So since Milloy's agent retired, wouldn't Poston get 3% of whatever Milloy received from the Patriots this year?
A: No. Actually what happened was this, Milloy's agent became an NFL executive, but the firm that he left received the 3 percent fee. So when Poston took over, he couldn't make money on a contract negotiated by another firm. Once the contract terminated and he was able to negotiate a new one with the Bills, he made a nice fee.
What's up with the national sports media's Patriot-hating? They just come off an impressive win, albeit to an injury plagued Eagles team, and the media has nothing good to say about their performance. All I keep hearing is how "McNabb didn't play well" or "the Eagles were without Dawkins". C'mon already, our defense beat the crap out of Philly all day and all the media can say is that the Patriots didn't WIN, it was the mighty Eagles who LOST.Even after winning the Super Bowl they got no respect, all the media could say was that the Patriots were "Destiny's Team" or that "everything went right for them down the stretch in the playoffs".Doesn't anyone remember Brady going down in the AFC Championship game and coming back and beating the 14 point favorite Rams in the Super Bowl?How 'bout a little respect for our team, they've earned it!!!
A: Well I think the two games they've played have been very strange. Are they the team that lost 31-0 to the Bills or the team that beat the Eagles 31-10? I think this weeks game with the Jets gives us a better feel for what they are. I still think they'll lose six or seven games before its over.
Who's going to be the Pat's feature back as the season progresses? Kevin Faulk or Antowain Smith
A: Is this THE TD? Terrell Davis? Well, it looks like Fault is numero uno until Antowain can get it cranking.
Nick, Please, tell me they are wrong. Listening to sports radio here in Boston, they mentioned that during last weeks Eagles/Bucs game, the Philly fans were chanting "Where's your son" at Joe Jereviscous. This was not one of the hosts who claimed this but a normally esteemed journalist who covers the Patriots. I know this has nothing to do with the Patriots but if this is true, it may be the single most disturbing thing I've ever heard in sports. That is just a vile thing to say. Did this happen???
A: Didn't hear it personally so I can't comment.
Two weeks have elapsed and I haven't seen or read anything about Ty Warren. How is he doing? Does it take longer for a defensive line draft choice to step in and make an impact or have the Patriots drafted a dude?
A: Belichick says he's making gradual progress. He said it's a good thing that he's stayed healthy and hasn't missed any time. I don't think he's making a lot of plays yet, but he's getting decent playing time.
Hello Nick. Any truth to the article I read on the internet today about the Patriots and Bob Kraft? It seems that the trade of Bledsoe to the Bills was a big misunderstanding and was never supposed to happen. It seems that Bob Kraft had owed Tom Donahoe 25 cents and totally misunderstood when Mr Donahoe kept asking him for his quarter back? HA! get it? Quarterback? 25 cents back? HA! Sorry. -- Danny Griffin, North Pole, AK
A: My kind of humor Danny.
After all of the "the Patriots hate Belichick" nonsense we have been hearing (if you asked most people if they like their boss, what do you think the answer would be?) I have a question on NFL coaches in general. Are there any coaches out there who are generally disliked or aren't respected by the other coaches? Spurrier wasn't the most popular guy in college, how about the pros. Conversely, are there any coaches who are generally well liked or well respected by their coaching peers?
A: I have an answer to that question based on what I've heard from sources around the league, but nothing I could write about in any forum without more proof.
Two games into the season, what is your opinion of the two rookies CBs. It was nice to see Deion Branch getting a chance to make some plays versus the Eagles, do you think that his role will expanding in the upcoming weeks? Living in Florida we do not get much Patriot insider news - so I never understood why he fell from grace last year after a great start. The kid showed amazing hands to go with his great speed and moves. He should be a star for this team. What has held him back? Love your column - makes me feel at home again while living inside the Dolphin camp.
A: The kids look good. As you know Eugene Wilson has been moved to Milloy's position. No pressure there. he's never played free safety but he came out of the Eagle game looking OK with very few mistakes. Samuel is a very active kid who has been successful is disrupting a few receivers. That's a great sign. Both guys have avoided major penalties. They're going to be tested again this week because Testaverde likes to throw long.
When will they ever commit to running the football ? With a large lead and need to kill the clock, Weis continued 5 WR sets with an empty backfield. Why ? K Faulk should have been given the ball over and over in the 2nd half. Antwoin Smith continues to disappoint, but a one dimensional offense will never work.
A: Hard to say it's a problem in a game they won by three TDs, but at some point it will be an issue.
I always thought that journalism was the pursuit of facts. With that said, I'm wondering why ESPN's Tom Jackson would make such an accusation without any basis? perhaps he will continue to be baseless and say he can't reveal his sources.
A: I don't consider them journalists. They're ex-players who never took a journalism course in their lives. There's a lot of that on TV and the internet. There are people with websites who have never been in a press box or a locker room or never written a story on deadline, who comment on things they know very little about. If that was Tom Jackson's opinion, or if he had framed it as an opinion, that's fine. He framed it as a fact, and then admitted he didn't have the facts because he hadn't talked to the players or anyone in the Pats organization.
Despite the win, did you feel that the offensive talent and game plan are sufficient to beat teams like Buffalo or Miami? We seem unable to drive downfield for a long series. We went three-and-out a lot, many times on those one-yard carries by Smith. Is it Smith? Is it McCrary? We had great play-action passes, but we risk a third-and-long to set one up. Is Charlie afraid Faulk will fumble so he doesn't run him when he's protecting a lead? Faulk's numbers are great, but the closeups show him with his arms out for balance and the ball in one hand. I loved the win, but it left a lot of questions. Do we hang on until Mike Cloud can play?
A: I'd like to see the Patriots do what Buffalo does - use a smash mouth fullback and let the lead back run behind him. Nothing fancy. That's why Gash is so good. He does a great job as a lead blocker for Travis Henry and he picks up blitzes better than any FB I can remember. Remember '96? While he was healthy that year, Bledsoe had a lot of time to throw because he could take that extra second to get the ball downfield before getting hit. Mike Cloud will play but lets not expect Barry Sanders.
I'm ecstatic over the Bills/Patriots game. I love some of the Jim Plunkett and most of the Steve Grogan years. I miss John Hannah's play tremendously. I was devastated at the 1986 Super Bowl outcome. I enjoyed all of Drew Bledsoe's years. But I can't stand Bill Belichick. He shows no loyalty and no personal integrity. Maybe after he's gone I can be a Patriots fan again, but for the time being, I'm rooting for the Bills.
A: I've getting quite a few anti-Patriots sentiments.
Thanks for the continuing insight for us transplanted New Englanders! Just a quick observation about the Lawyer Milloy situation - aren't these salary "renegotiations" to fit under the cap nothing more than accounting gimmicks? It seems the player generally does not lose any money, but rather the current year's salary is reallocated into a bonus amount (which then can be spread over the remaining life of the contract for cap purposes) and a reduced amount to be paid that year as salary. If so, why the hesitancy of the players to "renegotiate" since it really doesn't cost them anything and in fact, don't they get the new bonus amount up front?
A: Right Steve. Most of them are just shifting the money to reduce the cap. The Patriots had done that with Milloy before, but elected not to offer that to him this time, which was purely a cut, take it or leave it.
Two things need to happen for this offense to start doing things (i don't count the eagles game even though they played well and won because Philly was missing so many kep players) Bethel Johnson needs to emerge as a playmaker, and even moreso Daniel Graham. If Graham can really start to make plays consistently, I honestly think this offense will be up there with the best of them.
A: Lot of pressure on Graham I think. He's a second year player and they did handstands to move up in the first round. I thought he looked terrific in the preseason and training camp.
First I'd like to say that I was pretty impressed with Dan Koppen's play at center on Sunday. especially for a rookie. Looks like he gives us some good depth. I'm writing this on Tuesday and I hope by Friday this issue will be addressed but here's my question. Why have they not replaced Ken Walter. These 26 yard punts that he hits once every three kicks are going to kill us. Furthermore, he's not even that good at dropping the short ones inside the 10. he kicks it into the end zone a lot. I can't accept the fact that he's around just because of his holding duty. Anyone could learn that. I really hope there's some one out there they can bring in. Otherwise why not just put Ted Washington out there next time. He couldn't be much worse.
A: Koppen may play a bit at center this week as well. Looks like Mike Compton has a foot injury and that may shift Woody to guard. Koppen has good fundamentals. I don't see a punting change unless he has a couple more bad games.
The few times I saw him on the field against the Eagles, Jarvis Green looked like he got decent penetration through the line and generally held his own. What's your impression of his development? Is he becoming a good change-of-pace DT the coaches can use to spell Ted Washington? Thanks, and keep up the good work.
A: He had a good game against Philly. He showed some quickness which is why they put him at nose tackle in the first place. I think he can hold his own against smaller offensive linemen, but he tends to get swallowed up by real big guys. I'd rather see him at end.
Thanks for providing an excellent forum and for allowing us to glimpse what other Pat fans are thinking. Despite a BIG victory in Philadelphia, I'm not feeling optimistic about the season. The TOTAL rushing stats were only 62 yards. And this was in a game where we had a big lead early and should have been running out the clock. Opposing defenses aren't going to overlook this. Although Charlie Weiss was successful this time with a dink-n-dunk offense, Brady will be subjected to greater pressure as the season progresses. I'm reminded of what Drew went through in the 2-3 seasons leading up to the super bowl run. Why does Bill Belichick continue to overlook the offensive line and the running game in the draft and free agency ????
A: I think I addressed the O-line philosophy last week. Bill has a theory that you don't expend high picks for offensive linemen because you can develop them as rookie free-agents or street free-agents in a year or two. He took Klemm in the second round and it's four years later and you still don't see a great player there.
The Pats released Milloy for cap reasons and are now under the cap by 4 million dollars. However they get hit with (I may be wrong) 4.4 million on the cap next year for his prorated bonus. Why don't the Pats try to eat most of the 4.4 million this year instead? Can they do that or are they forced to eat it next year?
A: Forced to take it on over a two-year period.
Nick, since NESN has teamed up with the Globe, much like Fox has teamed up with the Herald, why not do a weekly segment on the Patriots like Fox does. I find myself forced to watch even though I consider the Herald to write with poison pens (the real Boston curse) and I'm not sure they're just stirring up controversy. I guess Fair and Balanced only applies to current affairs and not Sports. We love the mailbag and I think you'd be great doing a show from Foxboro.
A: Well, we've been doing Patriots reports for two years now. Ron Borges and I alternate. They're aired before Red Sox games on NESN.
Drew Bledsoe should never have been traded to Buffalo (any non-AFC East team would have been acceptable) and Lawyer Milloy should never have been fired six days before the start of the season (next spring would have sufficed). For that matter, Curtis Martin should never have been let go to the Jets and Leon Gray and MIke Haynes should never have...OK, now that I've got that out of my system, I have a question regarding replays: Do NFL head coaches (including our own beloved savior) have real-time access - presumably via the assistant coaches upstairs - to the live network television feed (and consequent replays) during a game, so that they can make an informed decision before they actually challenge a call? Or do they simply rely on the players' representations (e.g., "Coach, I swear on my Momma's soul I had complete possession of the ball and my right little toe was definitely inbounds. And if you don't challenge this one, then I'll tell the press you're no Genius as HC of the NEP")?
A: I think it's the players representation and there's a coach assigned to watch for those types of plays who will recommend to Belichick that the play should be replayed. Normally, the coaches need to react quicker than the replay is available. I haven't seen TV feeds of the game in the coaches booth.