SCOTTSDALE -- With Super Bowl preparations continuing in the desert, today's mini-mailbag goes slightly off course to look at some future issues surrounding the Patriots.
The main issue explored is cornerback Asante Samuel and his chances of returning to the team in 2008. Thoughts on Media Day, up-and-coming linebackers, Bill Belichick's demeanor and Super Bowl security are also on the radar.
On to the questions...
Is it possible that you and other media guys are writing Samuel off as a Patriot next year too soon? Maybe Samuel isn't going to get the monster free agent contract after all. He fits well into the NE system of playing zone, closing on the ball and sometimes poaching for an INT. But I don't see him as a Ty Law/in your face CB, and I don't see him excelling in defenses like SD and Denver that rely on the CB much more to play 1 on 1 from the line of scrimmage. Samuel may look around and not find the grass much greener $$ elsewhere - although there's always the Jets.
A: It is certainly possible that I am premature in putting Samuel into another jersey too soon. To recap, my thoughts have been that Samuel has all the leverage at this point. Because of that, I feel as if the Patriots will ask him what he's looking for, and his answer will be that he's worked hard to make it to unrestricted free agency and what he really would like is a chance to see what other teams feel he is worth. My feeling is that usually once a player hits the open market like that, it is rare that he comes back to the original team. It isn't out of the question, but based on the past and what I feel will be strong interest from the Dolphins and Jets, I'd say it is unlikely.
Regarding Asante Samuel's status at the end of the year, is there any possibility that the Patriots only gave up their exclusive franchise rights, yet retain non-exclusive or transition rights to him, thereby retaining some leverage to entertain trade offers if they can't come to an agreement on a new contract?
Dane Prescott, Concord, N.H.
A: Hi Dane, there is no possibility regarding this scenario. The Patriots gave up all franchise tag rights --exclusive and non-exclusive.
I'm not sure if this question has been asked before and I know the Patriots do not negotiate during the season. But is there any chance the pats sign Mankins to a long-term extension? I truly think, barring injury, he could end up being a future Hall of Famer. I wouldn't want him to leave in a couple of years.
A: The Patriots have negotiated during the season, Kevin, so it's not necessarily black and white. I think back to center Dan Koppen signing an extension in October of 2006. As for Mankins, he is signed through 2009 and right now the market for guards, from a team perspective, does not make it conducive to sign him to a long-term deal. The top guards are getting $7 million dollars per year. So right now, the Patriots probably look at that and say "What's the rush?" They might as well take advantage of the fact Mankins is on the books for such a low salary ($500,000 in 2007) and cap number ($1.3 million in 2007).
Was Brady joking light-heartedly when he said Wednesday that he and Randy Moss were a "package deal... where he goes I go." I mean, I know he loves having Moss as a receiver and would love to have him back but that seems extreme if he were being serious about the package thing.
Tiger Qu, Ann Arbor, Mich.
A: Yes, Tiger, he was joking about the package deal. I think he was making a light-hearted comment about how much he enjoys playing with Moss.
I just heard on Boomer Esiason's sports radio show in New York that the Giants wore black (as a team) because they were going to the Patriots funeral. Have you heard this or can you confirm this?
A: That was reported on Sunday night when the Giants first arrived here. Receiver Randy Moss was asked about it today, Greg, and this is what he said: "There is a lot of hype to this game. This is the last game of the year, so you are entitled to do and say what you want. We'll see who has black on after the game."
Mike, don't you think it's ironic that the "No Fun League" has allowed Media Day to become such a circus? I'm not saying they should micromanage the event, but I would just think that they'd put a ban on costumes, etc. Show up in a wedding dress, and you're not getting in. Your thoughts?
John Doyle, Dover, N.H.
A: Like the game itself, I think Media Day is over-hyped. That being said, I don't necessarily see the parallel between the No Fun League and Media Day, as I've always felt the NFL liked the big show and bright lights, and crossing over into entertainment. I see that on the league's own network.
All these reports about Belichick seeming laidback, relaxed, even fun this week have me nervous; what gives? I would've thought, with the stakes now at their absolute zenith, Coach Bill would've been even more intense this final week than he was for the San Diego rematch (when players compared him to a trial lawyer trying to scare the heck out of them).
John, Alexandria, Va.
A: Part of it might be that it's the start of the week and the first few days of Super Bowl week are generally a little more laid back.
I have been curious about what/how the QB directs the line just before the snap. What is he telling them? Is it individual or entire line?
A: What you are likely hearing, Stan, is the quarterback setting the pass protection for his linemen. He is calling out the number of the middle linebacker, which creates a middle point for the linemen when deciding who/where to block.
Mike, this daily chat is terrific. Thanks to all of you. There is much speculation about the linebacker corps for next year - especially if Tedy retires. Oscar Lua was impressive in preseason. Do you think there is a long term role for him?
Dave McGregor, Berlin, N.H.
A: I would hesitate before calling Lua a sure thing. While I saw flashes of promise, and he will have an opportunity to emerge, I don't think it would be wise to count on that. He is still very much of an unknown. I remember learning my lesson on that with Freddie Roach, a rookie free agent out of Alabama who was with the team in 2006. He looked quite good in camp, and I remember touting him as a possible young player to keep an eye on, but he didn't keep improving and was eventually cut. So I'd say more time is needed to better assess Lua, who is coming off a season-ending knee injury.
A security question. This is such a brand-building event, so I'm curious of what steps teams and the league take to prevent players from creating scandal (I think back to the Raider player who went AWOL at the Super Bowl several years ago). Does the team or the league employ people to trail certain players. Generally, what steps are taken to "isolate" the teams from distractions?
A: To start, there is a heavy, heavy security presence all over the city, especially at the team hotels and at practices. That security is NFL-related and team-related. From a team perspective, the Patriots had an 11 p.m. curfew on Tuesday night, so that's one way in which they are attempting to limit distractions, by creating those rules. Yet there are times when players are left on their own, and that is when each player is trusted to use good judgment.
Mike - I was wondering do the media folks or their employers pay to have access credentials to the Super Bowl press activities? With almost 5,000 of you there I would imagine it would be an additional revenue source for the cash-strapped NFL! After all, they charge the fans and exorbitant price as well.
A: There is no cost associated with the press credentials, John. And I hear what you're saying about the cash-strapped NFL.