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    May 14, 2009
And the Rich Get Richer…the Draft and then Some
By:  Stan Jaksina
PatsFans.com Fan Columnist

For me, this was a draft that I was not enthusiastic about in my gut, but grew quickly to embrace it all, so so quickly.

This has been a pretty wild two weeks and a half and again, it looks like CoachB and the Pats have come up on top, despite confounding some of their own fans. But that has always been the case as the Pats are far ahead of many and in awhile, the fan base will understand and appreciate what they have done.

This year, I got an early start with about two thousand five hundred players, This was done in the first week in April and a few weeks later, I combined another database with that, with almost four thousand players in the final tableaux.

As always, the PFW big book has shown again to be a great source of information and I read that the last few weeks before the draft getting familiar with the top picks. In past years, I always seemed to have favorite players who I really wanted the Pats to go after, but this year, that was not the case. There were a few later possibilities and one possible UDFA was drafted in the last round by the Pats. This was not a deep draft at the later rounds as well and many teams were reaching in the latter parts.

Having almost four thousand players listed was almost twice the number of last year and this year's database of players was quite interesting. It ran from Mike Abana, the Nigerian Nightmare, a six foot eight bull rusher from Kansas State to Stan Zwinggi, a small quick receiver/running back from Texas State. I really doubt that either will even get a whiff of pro football, but with training camps and tryouts, it might be possible that a team will take a quick look at one or both of them. I was all ready a few days before, unlike other years.

FRIDAY

I was more or less ready a day early and there was no last minute scramble as there had been in past years, so the morning was quieter. I was listening to ESPN radio and Mike and Mike were talking about the Gonzalez trade and how the Falcons got a steal. I had wondered if that was the first of many blockbuster trades. (It wasn't.) And then there was the Commish. Even though I do not like what he has done, I always like to listen. This time, he sounded pretty good until his last few words as he was saying how the football season was two months shorter, indicating by making that comment that it needed to be longer, like basketball or baseball. It was then that I again realized what a bozo this man was; not that I hadn't thought so, but was again stunned by the man's ignorance.

(So the season is two months shorter and BadL makes a point of that, with an insinuation that it COULD be much longer. It's that thinking that is troubling because he just does not get it. There's a real reason why football is shorter Roger! It actually has to do with the amount of wear and tear it takes to play the game. Apparently, again he missed the point. Basketball and baseball while quite strenuous is not at all as much as football. That is clear to any who have played the game and all all who watch. Apparently to BadL. the season is shorter than the others and needs to be expanded. That football takes a lot more out of the body does not seem at all to matter. To me it is crystal clear; to Goodell it's not a concern or issue. When he mentioned how the NFL season was shorter, it came without a real understanding of the game and one has to wonder how this man has been in the league office for twenty seven years and does not understand the game! Has he even played in high school or pop warner? I really doubt that he has, but it seems like he has been spending time looking at himself in the mirror than understanding the game. Maybe he thinks it's all virtual as in madden and extending it will not matter. One has to wonder.)

(And it is so similar to the issue of extending the season. He just does not get it at all. The system of games works well now. Twenty games total, sixteen regular season and 4 preseason. With those four preseason games, it's possible to do the three things needed to be done. Firstly and most importantly, they can get the team ready for the season, but they can also evaluate talent under games conditions and start developing players. It all works in the system now. By extending the season two games, there is a bit more revenue, but not as much as many think, because the teams do make money from the preseason, so it's a differential of pre versus the regular season games. The players will need to have a chunk out of the added revenue with more games as their bodies are on the line for more wear and tear. The two preseason games will get a team ready for the season, but will not help developing or evaluating young players. I know that Goodell has thoughts of a spring league for young players, but, how would this work and how much money will it cost to operate? My sense is that in total, the cost of extending one or two games will break even or have only a bit loss of gain and that is optimistic.The idea is great for a developmental spring league, but not thought out at all. Instead, it's a BadL afterthought.)

As the day went on, it looked like Sanchez was moving up and that a trade for him was possible. And there were also rumors of the Skins or Browns taking him with Campbell or Quinn being traded to one of the other teams needy of a quarterback. It was all quite interesting how it was playing out. Even the Pats seemed to be getting into the fray as rumors of the Pats trading up to the lower part of the top ten abounded. Maybe there was a player that they wanted to get. With four picks the first day, moving up might have been possible. Supposedly, a trade with the Patriots first and the middle second round pick was turned down by Jacksonville. It made many think and wonder what they were doing. There was also a report by SI's Banks that the Pats were going after cornerback Butler in the first round.

(One thing that came to mind was of the rumor the night before the 03 draft that the team was supposedly going after defensive lineman Dwayne Robertson. It was a smokescreen and the Jets panicked and moved up, giving a lot away. The Patriots moved up a slot and drafted Ty Warren. This was a bit different as the place the Patriots were moving was down a bit, but there were so many thoughts that maybe a defensive stud like English, Jackson, Orakbo or a offensive tackle like ASmith could be available. I thought it might have been parts of both; trying to go to a high spot, late top ten, or of creating a bit of fog. If there was a player or players that they wanted to draft, it was possible that they might want to trade if they could get value, but if that was not possible. a smokescreen could be created. I am sure there was a large buzz about who the Pats were targeting and that might have caused some teams to mess up. Who knows what happens when there are rumors like that. and it can only help muddle things for teams and that can certainly be an advantage for the Pats. As it turned out about the Butler pick, Banks was correct, but they drafted him in the second round, a bit later.)

SATURDAY

The big news in the early morning was that Stafford had signed for big bucks;78 million with almost 42 guaranteed. Wow! With that being done, the focus was now on the next teams, the Rams and Chiefs and it did seems like offensive tackle Jason Smith and possibly linebacker Curry would be the next to go. And of course, USC quarterback Sanchez was also mentioned as rumours of trades were all over the place. Since I was all ready and in place, I went out shopping with my wife, taking advantage of a summer day in April, arriving back home just in time to see CoachB interviewed.

(My only comment on that is that that showed why the rookie salaries are out of whack. Clearly, this is totally ridiculous for a player who has yet to throw one pass in the league to make more money than all of the best players. It's greed run amuck and one of the few things the NFL has that is all wrong. Imagine how people in a city like Detroit that is ravaged by the economy feel. This college player is hitting the jackpot and without even a minute of play in the NFL. The fact that they could have signed him for less is just so atrocious and really an insult to all the veteran quarterbacks who make the league what it is. Something has to be done to lower these outrageous salaries and bring some common sense into this. What is odd is it is just the first six or seven that are so out of whack, money wise. Take some of these millions and spread that around to some vets and all will be well in the NFL. It used to be that the first picks were like gold, but now, teams would rather not have them, given the amount of money to be thrown to a untested rookie.)

With that being done, the focus was now on the next teams, the Rams and Chiefs and it did seems like offensive tackle Jason Smith and possibly linebacker Curry would be the next to go. And of course, USC quarterback Sanchez was also mentioned as rumors of trades were all over the place. Since I was all ready and in place, I went out shopping with my wife, taking advantage of a summer day in April, arriving back home just in time to see CoachB interviewed. There he was in a suit and looking large as life and a bit uncomfortable.He pronounced that there was less than zero chance of the Patriots moving up in the draft. I think all Patriot fans were a bit surprised by the fact that he was so open about this and I imagined many thought this might even be another smokescreen.

I got myself all ready for the draft, being on the PC and having a TV close at hand, although I could not view it. I could hear all of what was going on and I thought that would be fine. I was also in four chats, two Patriot ones that were interactive and two others that had others participating, but saw many comments. Besides those, I was updating the Excel spreadsheets that I prepared, adding names to the draft as it played out, hiding names of players already taken and adding names to team sheets. It really kept me quite busy, but it was something that could be done with the time in between picks.

And so the draft started with Stafford and then offensive tackle Jason Smith being taken by the Rams. The chat room heated up as some still wanted the Pats to move up to get Curry, even though CoachB had already nipped that one in the bud. The Chiefs too defensive end Tyrone Jackson and then Seattle grabbed linebacker Curry.

And then there was a hububb with Cleveland on the clock and minutes later, the place was going wild as the Jets had the pick! And of course, the place was going wild as quarterback Sanchez was taken by the Green. I could not see the commotion and the bedlam and in many ways was glad that I was not able to view it. All the chatrooms were going berserk, especially the Patriot ones. A one year wonder as Sanchez going to the Jets? With all that hype and everything, I really wonder if he will be the real deal or more a bust. It was quite interesting hearing the hype on the TV and then listening at the chat how he would go down in flames the second week of the season or that he would be a bust. The Jets gave up first and second and three players; safety Elam, defensive end Coleman and quarterback Ratcliff. It was a New York steal here as they cleared players and money and got the big kahuna.

Oakland, true to form, took wideout Heyward-Bey, a real surprise and Crabtree was gathered in by the Niners at ten. The draft moved quick and then the Browns traded again, as the Bucs moved up to take quarterback Freeman. The rooms were alive with chatter as many thought the Pats should move up to draft a big name player. Ayers, Maclin, Pettigrew; all the big names came off fairly quickly as the Pats pick was moving up quite fast.

Then there was word on twitter that there were trade options. In the rooms, there were calls for ReyM, ClayM and others. The Browns took Mack, the Vikings Harvin and then, it was up to the Patriots. And just as quickly as they were on the clock, they were off, the trade with the Ravens, for the 26th and 162nd picks. There was a lot of mixed emotions as many had their favorites, but others saw it as great in trading down and as better value would be obtained.

The Ravens took offensive lineman Michael Oher, which was a story in itself, from a homeless lost teen to a first round pick. And just as quick, the Pats were again fielding trade offers. The rooms were abuzz with the big time names going to the Pats. Who would they draft at 26? And then, another trade as they traded the 1st and 5th for Green Bays 3nd and two 3rd round picks. This one was one that really puzzled many. Why the third round picks? There were comments about getting Pioli back on a plane to 'Do the draft' to other comments about how the team was saving money and getting better value. The rooms were going wild as many were incredibly upset by what had happened. Others saw the genius in the move. With that move, the Patriots had 4 second rounders and four third. Effectively, eight picks in the top one hundred.

Meanwhile, the Pack took linebacker Mathews and the Colts, running back Brown. Mike Reiss left his chat. With the comment that he thought the Pats could get the same amount of talent in the second round for less money and I could not at all disagree. Wide receivers Hicks and Britt went to the Giants and Titans and Beanie Wells ended up in Arizona.The Steelers took Hood and then it was into the second round.

Again, there were calls for Rey Mey and Laurenaitis, but when Detroit took safety Delmas, I was thinking the Pats would take the next one and they did; Patrick Chung. This was a big pick, but the rooms were again divided. People liked the pick, but wondered why he was picked so high. Many wanted other players at thirty four and not him. Again, it was a mixed reaction, with some disappointed, while others seeing a solid player in Chung.

Fast and furious, the picks continued. Laurenautis went to the Rams, Robiskie to the Browns and the Broncos got ASmith. ReyM ended up with the Bengals and many in the rooms were upset and disappointed.

With the Pats picking soon again many wanted that linebacker, Barwin, in particular. There were calls for a number of players including Butler, who many had thought the Pats would draft in the first round. Then there was twitter saying that there were calls for another trade, but this time, the Pats traded up with Oakland, for picks 47, 124 and 199. They had back to back picks. Everyone had their binkies; 'Barwin and Kruger', 'Beatty and White', 'Barwin and Brown'.It was all fun as the time was ticking down on the clock. And the picks came in quite fast, one after the other. Defensive lineman, Ron Brace and cornerback Darius Butler. I think all loved the Butler pick, but Brace? That was a bit odd. Many were saying that that meant that WIlfork would be gone, but I saw it more as a real need to have a real back up for Vince. He had even mentioned possibly getting Raji so he could come pout at times. These picks were solid! Although many were still crying about not having a linebacker taken. Some wondered why there was a pick of a nose tackle so high and there were even complaints about Butler.

And with the picks coming quickly, a lot of the players many wanted the Pats to draft disappeared off the board. Outside linebacker Brown was chosen y the Panthers and quarterback/wideout Pat White went to the Fins. It was obvious that the wildcat would now have many other faces with him in the lineup. Clint SIntim who many thought would make it here, was drafted by the Giants and then everyone's fave, Connor Barwin went to the Texans. I think both rooms sighed deeply with those selections. Versatile lineman Ungar went to the Seahawks and the picks rolled on.

Everyone wanted Kruger at linebacker, but as quickly as calls for him abounded, Baltimore snagged him right before the Patriots pick. And when they made the selection, there was a lot of confusion and 'WTF' looks. Sebastion Vollmer? Who? The Pats did get their lineman, but not one who was a household name or really a pick that many thought would be in the top one hundred or so. The chats ended in a sort of odd confusion, many unhappy with all the Pats had done. Many were perplexed by the Vollmer pick. I had other thoughts.

The first day of the draft went quite well, but the one thing I would have done different was have the television moved closer so I could see it. The drama was early unlike other years where the announcement WAS the big moment. Now, the real drama took place as the call was made and then there was a longer delay to the reading of the name. Before, it seemed the name was announced and the next team would be on the clock. This year, the name was given to a few people, twittered and a minute later, it was read. Many times, at that point, the next team already had a minute or two gone. It was not that good. The chats were great and hearing immediate reactions from fans was fun.

(I really did like what the Patriots had done with the four picks as they all were quite solid.

Safety---Patrick Chung--Here was a versatile safety who could play up in the box or play back in coverage. He was young and smart and would add a lot to the defensive backfield. Maybe after Delmas was gone, the team wanted to be sure to get a safety, but it was a really great pick.

Defensive Lineman---Ron Brace This was a big pick as now the Patriots had a real back up to Wilfork that played in his style. Wright was the quicker one who would rake advantage when linemen were worn down. With Brace and Wilfork, they would be great run stufffers at the goal line. This was one position that really had not been adequately filled for a few years.

Cornerback---Darius Butler--Many saw this as a steal as he was a first rounder taken later. He was a top notch corner that could also play a bit at wide receiver. Certainly one who could add a lot of punch to the special teams.

Offensive Tackle---Sebastion Vollmer--He was a giant and had only played football a few years. That he had a big upside was why he was taken where he was. With his nasty demeanor and quick feet, I really saw a right tackle that would stabilize the line in a few years.

(How could anyone think this was a bad draft? They got four solid players that will help the team. Firstly, Belichick is a master of the draft and a great poker player. He gets his chips and uses them wisely. Not only is he a great evaluator of talent, but he can fake many out by what he does. Moving down was a great move. He got his four and for a lot less money; basically, getting a lot for less. Many just like to draft the names, those hyped and those that ESPN has lengthy features on. It's almost as if these draftniks want the team to draft not the best player, but the most recognizable players; the all well known team. That is not at all what this team does and that strategy does not make a cohesive football team. Also, many look at who the Patriots did not draft and complain about that instead of looking at who they did. Everyone has players that they salivate over and many times they are just hyped up and would really be closer to busts. I think CoachB knows what is needed.

I really had my eyes on the Patriots taking someone like Barwin, the perfect Vrabel replacement. I also really loved the idea of a Pat White adding a new dimension to the Patriot's offense. There were also the Ungars, Krugers and others who I saw the Patriots not pick, but I really had to ask myself if they were better choices than the two they made back to back. My answer was an emphatic no. I really think that if any had been available at pick fifty eight, they would have been selected, but all were gone. Kruger fell one before to the Ravens and I really think if.he was available, he would have been the pick. Brace filled a spot the team has not had at all and that there was a long dip to the next really good nose tackle was one reason he was taken. Butler? Drafting a top notch, first round talent at that point was a steal. There was no way that Barwin, White, Ungar or others were really better picks at that point.

As for Vollmer, it was interesting to hear CoachB talked about him and the team connection to Houston. Apparently, the father of one of the wide receiver assistants was a trainer at the college and through him, the team learned about him. It may take a few years, but having this mammoth tackle on the right side will help the team in many ways.

I was happy with what they had done and really not disappointed with who they did not draft. With more picks on Day Two, I was looking forward to it.)

SUNDAY

I was ready when the draft started at 10, getting two errands done early and staying inside with the warm summer weather falling over New England. I did move the TV into a better place, where I could see the screen and knew there would be less time between picks. There were two Patriot chat rooms, one with a few people and the other which had some technical difficulties. I was concentrating more on the picks than the talk. ESPN, I found was a bit better for the second day as they had their little jingle of noises that singled picks and no matter what I was doing, it was easy to turn my head and get the pick. I was really excited about what they had done and looking forward to another crazy draft day.

The picks came off furiously and at the start, three solid players that the Pats may have been looking at fell. Defensive lineman Jarron Gilbert went to the Bears, linebacker Jaison Williams went to the Boys and linebacker Michael Johnson was drafted by the Bengals. Three picks later, they traded away their pick. That pick went to Jacksonville for a second round pick next year and a seventh this year. That seemed like a wise move and those in the chatroom were pleased they were obtaining future picks. The Jags took cornerback Derek Cox and the Pats added a pick from next year to their bag..

There were only ten picks till another Patriot one and people were looking for a linebacker or a tight end in the next pick. It was a surprise pick, wide receiver Brandon Tate. He would have been a first rounder, but had a positive marijuana test and also was injured late in the season. It was a great pick for the future of the team.

It was only six picks to another Patriot one and again, it was traded for a second rounder from next year. The Titans drafted tight end Jared Cook. It seemed everyone was happy with this move as well as the team was stocking up for next year.

Eight picks down, the Patriots had another choice, this one a comp pick and not one that could be traded. The Patriots drafted linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, who many had liked. His background was filled with heartache and of sadness as he had quit one college because of his mother's accident, to work overnight at a job to support the family. A tough player with great character. The chatroom went wild. It was really great!

With the four third round picks gone, it was going to be a long time will the Patriots picked. I talked to my wife and we thought we might go out for an hour or so to do some errands and enjoy the good weather. While she was getting ready, I decided to listen to PFW and here their take on all the picks. It was okay at best and then as they were talking, they got a bulletin of breaking news: Ellis Hobbs had been traded to the Eagles. I was shocked in some way, but not all that surprised. It was again a split situation as many realized he was basically the odd man out at the corner, but others were really disgusted that all they could get was two fifth round picks.

(I always liked Ellis Hobbs and his fire and spirit and even though he was a bit smallish, always defended him from critics. It was in a way no surprise, once they had Butler, that one cornerback would be out and given that his contract was up at the end of the year, it seemed like the right thing to do. It was better to trade now and get something than to cut and get nothing. Yes, Ellis went out mostly classy, but observing that management looks at players like dollar signs, was not one of his better statements. Yes, it was true that in some views that was the case, especially with the salary cap, but the fact that he would have wanted a larger slice of the pie, only meant difficult negotiations were avoided. Ellis wanted to be 'paid' and of course that is a code words for greed. That these athletes are in the top one percentile with high salaries seems not enough for players like Hobbs and in that sense, I feel good that he's now with his money grubbing team mate Asante. Apparently his salary, which most Americans would love to have, means nothing to him and it's almost like he feels he's plating for nothing. The concept of team is missing from players like this and that a loud mouth like him is gone, can only help the flavor of the locker room. What I think is a bit ironic is that so many Patriot fans complained bitterly about having smallish cornerbacks, smurfs, and now that Hobbs was traded, these same fans were complaining again, this time about him being traded. He was a big returner and that part of his game will be missed most, but I am sure there are others that will take his place.)

A few minutes after the dust settled, the Patriots traded the two fifth round picks to the Raiders for pick 123 in the fourth round, offensive lineman Rich Ohrenberger. He was a shorter but weighty lineman who many thought could, in time, fill in the inside positions on the line. It was a good pick, but many in the room were scratching their heads again.

Instead of going out for a few minutes, the draft was now quickly back to the fore ground. Later in the fifth round, the Pats added offensive lineman George Bussey from Louisville and then in round six, ling snapper Jake Ingram and nose tackle Myron Pryor. In the last round, they drafted quarterback Julius Edelman, who would be tried at wide out and could be used in the wild cat offensive and defensive lineman Daryl Richard. It was a long grueling day, but it was over and the Patriots had drafted a total of twelve.

(How could anyone really be disappointed in the Patriot's draft? They drafted six in the top one hundred and did so without having to pay any that top dollar first round money. They also added two second round picks for next year. With all that wheeling and dealing, they added twelve players for the team, some of which will end up on the practice squad and develop in time. That is at the moment, quite a successful draft, but the proof certainly will become known in the coming years.

They added two wide receivers, Brandon Tate and Julius Edelman. Tate would have been a first rounder had he not blown out his knee and later had been tested for marijuana. That he lasted to the third round was interesting and he will recover slowly,but may end up on injured reserve this year. However, with Moss, Welker and Galloway, he will learn a lot about the game. Even if he can not play till 10, he will be a long term deep threat as well as a top notch returner. Edelman was more the wildcat possibility, being an undersized quarterback, but one that played with a lot of savvy and heart. One could see him as a slot receiver or one who could add some razzle dazzle to the offense.

They added two offensive linemen, Rich Ohrenberger and George Bussey./ What they have in both of these players were eager college players who in time can develop to possibly play a few places on the line. Bussey has the size to possibly play tackle and guard and Ohrenberger. more center and guard. It may take some time for both, but in a few years, these two could be real pillars for the offensive line. That both are versatile, really adds to the reason these two were drafted.

Linebacker Tyrone McKenzie was a great pick for the team. Not only was his life story so so compelling, but that he struggled through it and played a hard hitting breed of football. He will in time be a good linebacker for the team.

With Lonie Paxton gone to Denver, drafting long snapper Jake Ingram was the next logical step. The best was gone, so by adding the best one in the country to compete with a vet for that position. the team will have the best of both worlds, a top notch vet and a rookie.

They also added two defensive linemen, nose tackle Myron Pryor and defensive lineman Daryl Richard. Pryor will be the first since Ethan Kelly to develop into a nose tackle and having that third one is really important to the future. With a reputation for play making, he might be a diamond in the late picks. Also in that category is Richard as he has the smarts to understand complex defenses and a passion for playing. That he has his MBA already is really something few have at that age. Both are great additions to the squad.

It was clear that the top picks were not where the value was and that the second to fourth or so was where the best players seemed to be. Later rounds were more stretches, but that is usually the case at some point. The Pats did what was needed and have many new faces to add to the competition. While I was surprised they took twelve players, they expanded the squad basically to ninety two with that as these draftees will not count until they are signed. What that means is that the team will have a large flexibility to bring players in and out of camp.)

And once the draft was over, it was where the scrambling of undrated free agents started. That night, the Patriots were reported to have signed three. One was Jamal Love, a tallish cornerback from Arkansas and safety Marcus McClinton, who has had character issues, but is known as an intense competitor. They also signed quarterback Brian Hoyer, who had been on ESPN waiting for a call to be drafted. Finally, it appears as though the Pats were the one to reach him.

THE NEXT WEEK

From Monday morning on, I was busy trying to add the undrafted free agents to each team. Not only was that a tough process, but there were misspelled names as well as players that were drafted at other positions. I used KFFL and other sites to get all the players added. It was something I had done for the past few years, to track all the players in the league for the first few weeks after the draft. It has always been a tough and time consuming process, but this year, the scrambling for player info was really limited. The almost four thousand players listed made it a lot easier as information on players was there to transfer as the rush for undrafted free agents went on.

As for the Patriots, there was talk that they had signed two Navy players, smooth wide receiver Tyree Barnes and fullback Eric Kettani, but a few hours later, that was disputed by their agents. They did sign hard hitting inside linebacker Antonio Appleby who might be a surprise this year. He was undrafted, but has a lot of intensity and might be what they need. There was also a report that a Kent State wrestler was going to be signed as well and immediately, there was talk about a follow up to Stephen Neal, who also was a top wrestler in college. Jermail Porter, who was 6'6" was rumored to be on the way as another project.

What was interesting was hearing how many trashed what the Patriots had done and yet others thought economically had clobbered all in what they had done. A few things were clear. Obviously having an outside linebacker was not at all a priority, meaning that either Jason Taylor was coming to New England or that CoachB was sure that vetween a few young ones that he would have a pass rusher to replace Vrabel with. Also, it did seem like with Chungs drafting that Rodney might be retiring or possibly becoming more of a shadow roster player for the season.

As I continued to adding UDFAs to teams, there were some that were not on the massive list I had put together. That was hardly any surprise at all. It did seem that they were falling into one of three categories. One was the player that signed that played a different sport altogether. There were a few of those, with the Jets signing J'Nathan Bullock (basketball) and the Pats with Porter (wrestling). I thought this would be the smallest of the three. Another was the specialists, who always have players that make it that come out of nowhere. In other words, the sixtieth long snapper might have a better chance to make it in the NFL than the two hundredth center. The last category would be the largest, those players that were just long shots to make it to the NFL, even by many scouts and others that evaluate. The first player was Brandon Robinson a smallish wide receiver from BC, but others followed quickly even with some head scratchers. That always happens and has made it difficult with some possible phantoms such as kicker Kurt Achter or offensive lineman Dario Nanni.

On Wednesday, the Pats released linebacker Bo Ruud who had a knee injury and missed his rookie season. Many thought that McKenzie was the one who would be taking his place in the mix. Almost just as quickly, he was signed by the Mangini Browns. Thursday, scouting changes were announced as it seemed some left for opportunities in Kansas City or Atlanta. Patrick Chung was introduced and besides the photo with the Krafts, he showed great character in what he said and how he stated things. Later in the afternoon, the Pats traded for tight end Alex Smith from the Bucs. With his arrival, there would be an intense competition developing and it was also possible that in a few months down the road, Watson or Thomas could be the odd man out. Watson could be dangled in front of teams, while Thomas would need to step it up a bit or possibly be the cut.

Mini-camps of some kind opened for twenty five of the teams on Friday and for me, that meant a lot of digging for information. Especially hard were the tryout players on teams. Not only were some more obscure, but sometimes they included players who graduated a year earlier. This made it quite a bit harder, but with the long list of four thousand easier than it had been in other years. Luckily, I remembered some of the second year players so I didn't have to google all of these unknowns. Also, some teams like the Patriots would make a passing interest of the tryout players, not identifying them at all. Other teams provided lists. The number also varied, from none to twenty five or more. It was never smooth nor easy.

The Patriots had thirty in camp, twelve draftees, five undrafted free agents, three vets and ten for tryouts, with only a few names leaking out. The two Navy players were part as was UCLA punter Aaron Perez and last year's tryout wide receiver Josh Allen, from Troy State.

From reports, Chung and Butler practiced with intensity and Reiss commented on the fast footwork of wide receiver Edelman. Not much was observed with the big linemen on both sides of the ball, but all seemed to be getting it. On Saturdays early session, linebacker McKenzie went down with a knee injury, but it did not seem serious, even though he did not return later.It was also learned that to get Alex Smith, the Pats gave Tampa a fifth round pick. Not bad in the large scheme of things.

The big story Saturday was the collapse of the Cowboys training facility during severe weather. The pictures were horrible and luckily the players escaped uninjured. For a few though, their fate was not the same. Assistant scout Rich Behm had his spine severed and was paralyzed. A few others were hurt, but by far, that was the worst. Well wishes go out to all who were injured in that freak storm and the collapse of the bubble.

THE SECOND WEEK AFTER

With the closing of camp, things slowed down. The Dalai Lama was seen in a picture with a Patriot's cap and Fred Taylor was rumored to have a wrist problem. The team did sign eight of the tryout players, so they were finally identified. Besides punter Perez, fullback Kettani and wide receiver Barnes, they inked wide receiver Robert Ortiz who was with the team last year prior to training camp, RB/WR Shun White, another Midshipman, who many thought could make it because of his explosive running ability and low center of gravity, second year defensive lineman Steve Williams, running back Omar Cuff and seventh year special teams vet, Vinnie Ciurciu. He was most intriguing as he might be looked at as a possible future Izzo type player who could champion special teams. Cuff was also interesting in that he could in time be an understudy of Faulk.

Punter Tom Malone was cut as they had rookie punter Perez and free agent safety, Brandon McGowan. The hard hitting safety will add some depth to that unit; another good signing.

On Wednesday, the team got the first really bad news of the year. It was announced that rookie Tyrone McKenzie had torn his ACL and would be out for the season. For such a good young player who has already had some tough situations to fight, he was the last player I'd want anything like this to happen to. The next day, after he talked to a player agent, Mike Reiss noted that McKenzie would be paid at least as much as the same number picked in the draft last year and that there was always insurance and good faith policies. That was good, but I felt sad that the injury was so severe and that a year would be missed.

Brett Favre was back in the new, no surprise, as he was now looking to come back with the Vikes. Really incredible that he is still continuing to want to play football and be a media whore. That he always wishes to be in the spotlight is just in his blood. Personality over team and he is not at all helping himself.

As the end of the week drew to a close, six more mini-camps opened. The last scramble for undrafted free agents was done. The last one was actually a week after, but for all practical purposes, that was finished. In the end, about eight hundred and fifty players were off the board and only forty two added, who were not known. That was not bad at all.

On Monday, the Patriots added another wide out, Terrence Nunn, a swift one from Nebraska. With that addition, the team was now full at ninety two, the eighty allowed, plus the twelve draft picks, who will not be counted until they are signed.

Pat Kirwin came up with an interesting idea for global outreach. He wanted the NFL to form two barnstorming teams of veteran players to play eight games, four in Europe and four other in the Pacifics. I loved the idea and the concept, but two teams will not make it playing ONLY each other. Four will do it and will double the number of games, from eight to sixteen. Hot beds of football like London could get two games, while in other places it could split up to two locations. Kirwin listed the vets available now, at under hundred, but a number of those I believe would be snatched up by teams. What incentive would it be for vets to play for short money, traveling like this? What about injuries? I thought that that could also be a concern and that younger players could be included. (Not developmental players, but ones that played at least three of four years.) I really wondered if the economics would make it work; if so, this could be a real outreach for the league and a better direction than real NFL games. One has to wonder why BadL and company could not have thought of something like this? It was a great ieda!

Yesterday, the Jason Taylor circus came to a close with Miami signing him. It would have been good if he were here, but as time went on, it seemed family and close proximity to them was more important than anything else.

With the draft in the rearview mirror, the offseason trudges on, but what is clear is that BillB is a heck of a poker player with six drafted in the top one hundred, no big money first round players and two second round picks in the bank for next year.

To Peter King---I know you have recently moved to Boston:and I really hope all Patriot fans will have some warm words for you, as you have continued to trash the team at every possible instance. Yes, you may approve of what the Eagles did in the draft, but take aim at the Pats, who it seems, did similar things, BUT not to your liking. Forget the really poor drafting and confused efforts of the Davis Raiders, and sink your knife into the New England team again. Your actions and hypocrisy speaks volumes.

To Ron Borges---Are you really getting it for once, starting to drink the kool aid or has it been that you have been under the weather and a bit ill. Hard to tell really; I guess there is hope for many, even those who many thought were lost at sea.

To Michael Holley---I know you have said that watching CoachB at the draft is not exciting, but I have found his approach to be incredibly interesting as he has taken high picks like Seymour, Warren and Mayo, scooped up players that have dropped like WIlfork, or have moved out of the first round like in this year, drafting six in the top one hundred, with great value. To watch his actions and picks, to me is watching genius at work.

 Stan Jaksina
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