What about Seymour?
Injury questions weigh heavily on the minds of Patriots fans
FOXBOROUGH - In sorting through the letters submitted to this week's Patriots mailbag, one question seemed to stand out from the rest:
Are we forgetting about Richard Seymour?
The five-time Pro Bowl defensive end has yet to practice and remains on the physically unable to perform list. Some fans are starting to worry that he might not be ready for the opener.
Seymour has not spoken with local print reporters in training camp, but has conducted "Patriots Monday" interviews on sports radio 850 WEEI over the last two weeks.
"Right now, it's at a point where I'm just trying to get myself healthy and get back out on the football field - not just to be out on the football field but to be dominant," Seymour said. "I really haven't been there at that level yet, but I'm working with the trainers. We're on track, I've been working hard and that's the only thing I can do right now. I'm doing everything I can, it's just waiting until the knee kind of comes around."
In addition to Seymour, there are other health-related questions in the mailbag, regarding receiver Randy Moss and others.
There was also an initial flurry of emails regarding Jeremiah Trotter, who was released by the Eagles last week. Might the Patriots be interested?
On to the questions, and we'll be back next Tuesday as the regular-season preparations reach a new level.
Do you think Richard Seymour will be ready for the opener?
Nick Marotta, Montreal, Quebec
A: Right now, I'd say no, although that's only a hunch and not based on any information I've heard from Seymour or others. I'm surprised he has yet to take the practice field after undergoing offseason knee surgery. As we've seen in the first three preseason games, Jarvis Green would be the starter if Seymour can't go. I don't think Seymour is far enough away that he would start the year on the physically unable to perform list (meaning he wouldn't be available until after Week 6 at the earliest), but the team's roster might be a bit thin on the defensive line in the early weeks of the season if Seymour takes up a spot but is not ready for action.
My concern has to do with Richard Seymour. I think his status on the PUP list has been understated in general. We are two weeks away from the season and he has not stepped on the practice field. Any word on his return?
Scott Moquin, Peabody
A: Unfortunately, I have no information on his return. I was talking about this Monday night at the team's Kickoff Gala, noting the same thing you wrote, that this kind of snuck up on me a bit. I had figured Seymour would be back by now, and here we are, with the season opener fast approaching and he remains sidelined.
What do you think of the Patriots running backs heading into the season? I think Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris have looked impressive. Morris hits the hole quickly and works hard for extra yardage. Heath Evans is a solid fullback. And, I think Maroney will be like a younger Corey Dillon and grind out the yards. At this point, it all looks better than expected. Agree?
Chuck Tillman, Newport, R.I.
A: I think the running back group has potential to be special. Maroney is a stud, with the big IF being his health. Offensive linemen love blocking for him because he's dynamic and can erase mistakes in a hurry. I wouldn't say he'll grind out yards like Dillon, as he is a different type of back - a lot faster. Faulk has a great understanding of the passing game and blitz pickup, and is the ideal third-down, change-of-pace threat. Morris is a more versatile backup than Corey Dillon, and I think we saw the value of that in Friday night's preseason game at Carolina when Morris grinded out short yardage but was also on the field as a third-down back. I would point out that this was a significant problem for the Patriots in the AFC Championship game - because when Faulk was injured during the game, the team had fullback Heath Evans as its third-down back because that wasn't a role suited for Dillon, the top backup. As for Evans, I see him as the type of role player that helps teams win - he doesn't cost much on the cap, does a variety of things, is unselfish, and hard-nosed. This is a solid, solid group with players who complement each other well.
Where was Kevin Faulk in Friday night's Carolina game? Is he injured?
Charlie, Stowe, Vt.
Faulk is not injured. But because he received the majority of the workload in the first two preseason games, the team wanted to get Maroney and Morris more work in different situations. That also probably explains why linebacker Junior Seau wasn't there; that inside linebacker work was designed to go to Eric Alexander, who is working his way back from a shoulder injury.
Why isn't Randy Moss practicing? Is Belichick holding him back because he's a veteran and will know his playbook, or because he is seriously injured? I just don't get it.
A: Moss tweaked his hamstring Aug. 1 and hasn't practiced since. I think he could practice if the team wanted him to, but the club has decided that rest is the most productive option at this point. I think he'll be in the opening day lineup against the Jets on Sept. 9.
What's the word on Eugene Wilson's injury?
Vince Chase, Winchester, N.H.
A: Wilson appeared to have pulled up on Keary Colbert's 48-yard touchdown catch, and while he was on the field for the ensuing extra point, he did not play again when the Patriots kept their top defense on the field. I don't think the injury is anything to worry about from a long-term perspective, but I would expect Wilson to rest this week (which he might have done anyway, as the starters aren't expected to play much in the preseason finale).
My question concerns Eugene Wilson. With this being a contract year for him, do you think there's a chance he could be traded or released? He's been injured the past 2 seasons, and he just doesn't seem to be the same player he once was. He looked a step slow in the Carolina game and he continues to take bad angles trying to make tackles, which makes him whiff far too often. With Meriweather on board and having the same position flexibility as Wilson, I don't think Geno will be in New England much longer. Just wanted your opinion on Wilson.
Craig Fortes, San Diego, Calif.
A: I don't think Wilson will be traded or released. He's been starting at safety and I think he's the team's best option at the spot at this point. The one thing that strikes me about Wilson is that he is a very sound tackler. He supports the run very well. Speed has never necessarily been his forte, but I think there is a reason he's played in 59 games with 57 starts from 2003-2006: He's a very good player. You do wonder if some of the injuries will catch up to him, but I've seen promising signs from him this preseason.
Now that Samuel is back in the mix do you think that they move Meriweather back to safety? Seems like a nice problem to have.
Jimmy Purice, Eugene, Ore.
A: Yes, I do think Meriweather will wind up back at safety. While Bill Belichick wouldn't go as far as saying he wanted to see more of Meriweather at safety, I'd be surprised if the team kept him taking the majority of his repetitions at cornerback. At this point, Meriweather has built a little bit of a base at cornerback, which should serve him well in the future, but I see his short-term future in the base defense at safety. In sub packages, we should expect to see him at corner. With Eugene Wilson in the final year of his contract, Meriweather projects as his future replacement.
I know it makes for a storyline, but don't you feel all this blabber about whether Samuel will be ready to contribute or not is absolute foolishness? The guy has been here for 4 years, he knows the system. Unless he's been sitting on a couch playing Madden chowing down on Cheetos, I'm betting the guy will be ready and able to play for the opener. Do you think he's stupid enough to hold out for a huge payday, then show up all fat and out of shape?
A: No, I do think Samuel showed up in good shape, but I also agree with Ellis Hobbs that being in shape and being in football shape are two different things. I also think you have to respect part of the training camp process. If it wasn't important, why would teams go through it? I've heard one line of thinking that Samuel's game is breaking on the ball and reading the quarterback, so he doesn't need as much of the physical element of camp. I don't necessarily buy that. I think it's fair to question how much he'll be able to contribute in the opener.
How is David Thomas doing and is his foot healed so he can play?
Arthur Mills, Wolfforth, Texas
A: Thomas remains on the physically unable to perform list, so he is not fully healed at this time. We saw him running on the field prior to Friday night's game in Carolina, so he's making progress, but I think he'll open the year on the PUP list, meaning we won't see him until Week 7 at the earliest.
Saturday is cutdown-to-53 day, so what mid-to-high profile players do you see being on the bubble? Will Chad Jackson ever pan out?
Peter D., Tewksbury
A: I put together an initial 53-man roster on our Patriots blog on Boston.com on Sunday, and plan to do another one Friday, one day after the preseason finale. I'd put Reche Caldwell, Tory James, and Garrett Mills as three players in this category. On Chad Jackson, I think the answer to that one will come in 2008.
Which lower-round pick (5th, 6th, or 7th) among the rookies looks to be most likely to have an impact on the field this year? Anyone?
Kirke, Hopkinton, N.H.
A: Prior to seeing his left arm in a sling Friday night, I would have said cornerback Mike Richardson (sixth round). Otherwise, the pool of candidates is offensive lineman Clint Oldenburg (fifth round), linebacker Justin Rogers (sixth round), offensive lineman Corey Hilliard (sixth round), inside linebacker Oscar Lua (seventh round) and offensive lineman Mike Elgin (seventh round). Based on that group, I'd choose Rogers because he'd have the best chance to get on the field on special teams.
I thought that the Pats would be more interested in trying to extend Vince Wilfork instead of Ty Warren, as the former has a skill set that is far more difficult to secure and plays a more critical, irreplaceable role on the DL. Wilfork is right on the verge of becoming a Pro Bowl player and possibly the best NT in the NFL. How do you feel they will deal with him? Finally, could you comment on Eugene Wilson free agency? I don't feel the Pats will retain him, with his injury history (lately) and possible replacements (Meriweather and Sanders). What's your take?
BC, San Jose, Calif.
A: I think the Patriots would like to retain both Warren and Wilfork, and they started with Warren because his initial contract was set to expire after the 2008 season, while Wilfork is signed through 2009. The way I view it, the Patriots tossed out a line on Warren two years early to see if there would be a bite, and there was. I think they'll toss a similar line out to Wilfork next year, but I don't believe Wilfork will sign the same type of deal that Warren did. As for Wilson, I would agree with your assessment, although I think he's had an excellent preseason and is a sure tackler. But I wonder if the team thinks he works hard enough.
I haven't been able to watch the Pats regularly for a long time (moved to Netherlands in '92 - when not seeing the Pats was not such a bad thing...). Now many of the games are on TV here and I had the chance to see the Pats-Panthers game Friday night. I was struck by the formation the Patriots used on field goals. They seemed to overload the middle with Wilfork, Green and two linebackers behind them who try to push them through the offensive line. I've never seen this before. Is this something that other teams do (the Panthers weren't doing that I could see)? Is this something new? It really seemed to cause the Panthers a lot of trouble - the d-line was just blowing through there.
Mark, Wiuwert, Netherlands
A: This is not necessarily new, and I would attribute the blocks as much to pure strength as the assistance that Wilfork and Green might have received from linebackers Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi. When it comes to field goal blocks, teams usually either try to overload the middle and power through, or overload a side and get the block from the outside. In this case, the Patriots went the middle route and simply overwhelmed the Panthers. I checked the NFL's rule book regarding whether it is legal to get such push from linebackers leaning into the defensive linemen up front, and I couldn't find anything that said otherwise. If one of the linebackers placed a hand or hands on a teammate to gain additional height to attempt to block the kick, it would be a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct under the leverage category.
I was curious to get your thoughts on Matt Cassel. I was disappointed in his play against the Panthers. Not sure if he was watching a replay of Heath's long run when he didn't get the offense lined up in time for the next play and they took a delay of game penalty but something went wrong. Not sure if he forgot the snap count when he bobbled the snap on Heath's touchdown run or if the center snapped early. I like what little I have seen of Matt Gutierrez. He has a great arm and seems mentally tough and focused. Do you envision a day when the Pats try and get a late-round pick for Cassel and go with Gutierrez as their backup? It's a win-win for the Pats and Cassel. They get a late-round pick (maybe) and Cassel gets a chance to compete for a starting position. I actually wouldn't mind seeing the Pats try and trade Cassel to a team like the Falcons right now, keep Gutierrez and Vinny, and have an extra spot on the practice squad for someone other than Gutierrez.
Robert Sedlack, Salisbury, Vt.
A: I'd look at Cassel's overall body of work this preseason, not just the Panthers game, which was an uneven performance. In three games this preseason, Cassel is 13 of 25 for 131 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He has led nine drives, two of which have resulted in touchdowns. I've seen him make a few excellent throws in the face of pressure, but also some other throws that would be in the poor category. His delay of game penalty on Friday night in Carolina was inexcusable, but he was able to recover and lead the team to a touchdown. Overall, I don't see him having much trade value right now, not even for a late-round pick. And, even if that was an option at this point, I'd want to see more of Gutierrez before I went that route.
I have always thought one of the reasons for the Patriots success in recent years was that there was always another team in the AFC getting all the attention, so the Patriots sort of stayed below the radar. This year the Patriots are everybody's pick to win. I know they are a veteran team, but do you think this role will affect their mindset and preparation?
Rocco Biale, Walnut Creek, Calif.
A: I'm not sure I would go along with the thought that the Patriots were below the radar in past years, especially after those Super Bowl championships. But I do think expectations - and managing them - is part of the message that coach Bill Belichick has reminded the team about. Overall, I don't believe the players in that locker room will be affected by the high expectations, and that the preparations will be the same as they always have been, if not sharper. It's part of the culture they've created there.
Mike, your analysis of expiring contracts over the next several years on the Boston.com Patriots blog is a good one. 2009 looks like a year where significant choices will have to be made. There are so many good players with contracts expiring. The Patriots cannot possibly sign all those players. Is there any tactic the Patriots will employ to mitigate losses at the end of 2009?
Chris W., Swanzey, N.H.
A: In my opinion, the first tactic is to keep drafting good players, maintaining a strong talent flow. The second tactic is to identify which of those players is most important - a key part of the self-scouting process - and go through the multilayered process of trying to sign them. Bottom line, the Patriots are going to lose some of those players; that's why you hear every team say "you can't keep everyone". Obviously, there are a lot of layers to this equation, but this is the foundation for how I believe the team will approach it, and I'm sure the planning has already begun.
Any chance the Pats would consider signing Jeremiah Trotter? He'd seem to be a great inside plug and allow Adalius Thomas to move back outside.
Jack Newton, Austin, Tex.
vI think Trotter would be a consideration on the team's short list in an emergency. But one personnel man told me he's slowed down considerably in recent years, and thus, wouldn't be a factor on special teams. You can only have so many backups that don't contribute on special teams, so right now, I don't see this happening.
I keep hearing all these great things about the strengths of this current Patriots team. What are some of the weaknesses that can be exploited by opponents during the regular season?
Liz Anderson, Baltimore, Md.
A: Injuries can change the makeup of any team, but as the Patriots are currently constituted, here are some weaknesses I spot: 1) Inconsistent blocking at tight end; 2) Inconsistent pass protection; 3) Chemistry yet to develop between the quarterback and his new receivers; 4) Inconsistent field goal kicking; 5) No Richard Seymour on the field; 6) A punter who has not performed in a regular-season game; 7) Punt return game. Some might add linebacker speed, and while I'd agree that this isn't the fastest group, I think their ability to play the run will trump those speed concerns in the big picture.
Since last season I have been concerned that the offensive line is not as good as most people seem to give them credit for. I think Brady makes them look good with his ability to get rid of the ball before he's sacked. I think Brady takes too many hits. I know he's not sacked a lot, but I think he's hit way too much. Do you know, for example how many times he was "hit" last year and how that compared to the rest of the league? Also, I'd like your thoughts as well.
A: When it comes to the "quarterback hit" statistic, it is all about interpretation. For example, the official stats from the Patriots-Titans preseason game had Brady absorbing three quarterback hits. I counted more than that. Apparently, the league is trying to make the stat more uniform and has instructed stat-keepers to only record a quarterback hit if the quarterback is knocked to the ground. In 2006, opponents were credited with 61 quarterback hits against Brady (with Denver registering a season-high 15). Based on the varying interpretation of the "quarterback hit" I don't think we can use the stat to accurately measure where it ranks compared to other quarterbacks.
How's does the PUP list work as far as players coming back off of it. Is there a deadline for players to return before being lost for the season?
Robert C., Chattanooga, Tenn.
A: Players that open the regular season on the physically unable to perform list are not eligible to come off it until after the sixth week of the regular season. The way it works is that teams can "start the clock" on a player at any point between the sixth and ninth weeks of the regular season, and have 21 days from that point to evaluate the player before deciding whether to place them on the active roster or on injured reserve (lost for the season). So technically, the deadline for players to return from PUP before being lost for the season is the 12th week of the regular season. Players on PUP in the preseason can come off at any time before the preseason ends.
I remember in times past that tight ends were so much a part of the game. BB doesn't seem to count on them as much anymore and I still can't get over getting rid of Daniel Graham. Do you see it that way also?
Dorothy Julien, Manchester, N.H.
A: In 2006, the Patriots were generally a tight end-based offense, with the idea of getting Daniel Graham and Benjamin Watson on the field at the same time. We saw more of those sets Friday night in Carolina (Benjamin Watson-Marcellus Rivers), so I don't think the Patriots have completely gone away from it. But I do think we'll see more three-wide sets this year, to take advantage of the talent of players like Randy Moss, Donte' Stallworth and Wes Welker. I do think the Patriots will miss Graham, who I felt often did the little, unnoticed things that contribute to winning.
I will be very surprised if the Pats don't find a way to keep Garrett Mills on this roster. Unlike former fourth-round picks (Reid, Cobbs, etc) which the Patriots realized did not have potential, I think they feel very differently about Mills. My guess is that they think he has a world of potential but they haven't seen it because of last year's stint on injured reserve and this year's training camp injuries. My question: Is he eligible for the practice squad and would they at least attempt to hide him there in the hopes that no one would attempt to sign him? In my opinion they either go with two QBs or only eight o-lineman and keep Mills on the roster. Your thoughts?
A: I think Mills is in a tough spot because of questions the team has regarding the health of Kyle Brady. Perhaps more than anything, Brady was going to be counted on for his blocking prowess, and that is not Mills' forte. Because of this, I think he could be a tough cut, as when the Patriots formulate their final roster they will find Marcellus Rivers more valuable to them in the short term. If Brady has turned a corner health wise - and he did return to full-pads practice Monday -- I think they would keep Mills. If not, Mills is eligible for the practice squad and I think the team would like him there.
My question is based on a rumor I "heard" at the beginning of camp that Reche Caldwell "would not be with the Patriots at the end of camp." Are you aware of that rumor, and if so, or if not, what's Caldwell's status at this point?
Bill Baldwin, Manila, Philippines
A: I didn't hear any rumors about Caldwell, but I do think he's on the roster bubble. I believe the Patriots will keep Randy Moss, Donte' Stallworth, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, and Kelley Washington as their top five receivers, so the question is whether they keep Caldwell as a sixth. Because Caldwell does not do much on special teams, I could see him getting cut. Consider this stat: Even with Moss and Gaffney out, Caldwell played in just 15 of 39 first-half snaps against the Panthers last Friday. I took that to mean his roster spot is anything but a lock and there are other players ahead of him right now.
What happens to veterans that get cut from rosters after training camp that can't find a team to play this season? How do they survive financially? How many of them have to give up football?
Andrew Hawkins, Cambridge, U.K.
A: It all depends on the player, but one example is tight end Marcellus Rivers. He was speaking in the locker room Monday about how he was cut by the Raiders at the end of 2006 training camp, so he went home, spent time with his family, and worked out in hopes of hooking on with another team (he was signed by New Orleans for a few weeks in December before being cut again). Other players decide that their careers are over and begin to transition to a new career, or take a year off. This is why you hear players talk about making as much money as they can when they play, because careers are short and the money needs to last as long as possible.
What happened to Chad Brown? Did he get cut?
A: Brown remains on the roster, although I don't think he'll be sticking around. He's been playing outside linebacker and I see those spots going to Mike Vrabel, Rosevelt Colvin, Pierre Woods, and Justin Rogers.
Being a BC season ticket holder, just wondering if Larry Anam has a shot at making the team or at least making the practice squad?
A: I'd say no on the roster and yes on the possibility of a practice squad spot. Anam was a longshot to begin with and an undisclosed injury -- which cost him valuable practice time -- set him back further.
If an NFL player doesn't play or suit up for a game, does he get paid?
Marc, Portsmouth N.H.
A: Yes, the player would still get paid. Players who go on injured reserve, like cornerback Chad Scott on the first day of training camp this year, also get paid.