By: Ian Logue/
June 06, 2003

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Rob Gronkowski says he'll be back with Patriots

FOXBORO, MA -- While it's too late to pencil anyone into the starting line-up, it's pretty clear that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick may be starting to get some ideas on who may be in the running for a starting job on the defensive line this season.

As the Patriots head coach heads into his fourth season there's no question that some changes are in order after the team missed the postseason last year. The most obvious change will be the team's switch to a 3-4 base defense, and so far through two days of mini-camp it looks like he may have an idea of who may be lining up at each position on the Pats re-vamped defensive line.

It appears that Richard Seymour and 1st round draft choice Ty Warren are the top candidates for the ends, with Jarvis Green, Ken Kocher, Ethan Kelly, and 4th round draft choice Dan Klecko competing for the nose tackle spot. According to Belichick Rick Lyle will also work at both the end and tackle spot, with Anthony Pleasant working at right end. On the other side Bobby Hamilton will apparently be working with Warren at the left end, but it will likely be a while before Warren would be ready to start.

Both Pleasant and Hamilton are in the final years of their contracts, and Belichick made it clear prior to the offseason that the goal was to get younger and faster on defense. If Warren can step up, the two veterans may wind up seeing limited playing time this season. But for now Belichick says they have to start somewhere, and it's pretty obvious there will still likely be some shuffling going on before it's all over.

"Right now, you have got to start somewhere," Belichick told the media on Friday when asked about the defensive line situation. "Like we usually do in training camp, we may end up shuffling [the line-up] later on, maybe a week through [training camp] and put [Ty] Warren in there. I don't know. We will start there."

Where he may be looking next is at Seymour's versatility. Although Belichick believes that Seymour is more of a tackle, because of the fact that in a 3-4 defense the players up front generally end up inside due to the outside linebackers filling the role of "quasi-ends", the position of defensive end in this scheme fits Seymour's style of play. He played inside at the nose in 2001, but Belichick feels that due to his height and arm length that he's better suited to play end. That's likely where he will see most of his time for now.

Belichick has always liked players to be versatile, but ultimately he's looking for consistency and the goal will be trying to find out who fits in the best at each position.

"We're not looking to shuffle the deck and place somebody in a new spot every week, but we'll see what the best fit is," said Belichick. "We'll see what the best combination is and we'll get the best players on the field. Right now, if our two best players are at right end, then we probably want to move one of them so we can get them on the field. If our two best players are at nose, maybe we want to move one of them to end. We'll just have to wait and see how that turns out."

When he was the head coach in Cleveland Belichick said that Pleasant played right end on first and second down before moving to the left side on third down. Needless to say after having experience moving guys around he says that if he has "to swing them, he'll swing them".

Meanwhile Jarvis Green saw a fair amount of playing time last season, and it looks like although he has experience at the end the coaching staff has already talked to him about moving back inside. For now it appears that competition will be fierce for the nose tackle spot, and since there isn't "an established nose" Green may have an opportunity to win a spot in the line-up.

"We have talked to Jarvis about [moving back inside]," said Belichick. "Hopefully he has not forgotten everything that he has learned at end. There is always a possibility that we could move him back out to end for a number of reasons."

"The upside for Jarvis is that there really isn't an established nose at this point on out team. He has an opportunity to go in and really get a headstart and a jump on that position and maybe win it if he is the best guy, beating out [Richard] Seymour and [Anthony Pleasant]. Maybe he will beat them out. I don't know. "

"There is an opportunity for him to get a lot of playing time."

Runningback's situation is Cloudy

Belichick made it clear on Friday that former Boston College runningback Mike Cloud's situation is that he's just in for a tryout and isn't signed or officially on the team just yet. Cloud is currently set to serve a four-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance last year while with Kansas City. "Mike is going to try out, he's not signed," said Belichick. "He is not on the team. But we'll make a decision on that at some later point in time in conjunction with [his suspension]. We'll just have to take a look at the whole situation and decide what we want to do and also he has to decide what he wants to do. So far, I think [his performance has] been good. Mike has got some quickness, he is a good runner, he showed up in the kicking game a little bit in yesterday's practice and he's done that before. I think it's going fine. We'll just have to re-evaluate it at the end of camp, both our situation and his and then put it all together." Much like the situation with former receiver Terry Glenn during the 2001 season, in the event that the team did opt to sign Cloud he wouldn't officially take up a roster spot until after he finished serving his suspension, although he'd be able to participate in training camp……So far tight end Daniel Graham seems to be making good progress, which is good news after the former 1st round pick was hampered by a dislocated shoulder last season. Belichick says that so far he's had a good offseason and hopefully is more comfortable in New England's system. "Daniel is doing well," said Belichick. "I think that he has had good offseason. I think he much more comfortable in what he is doing then he was a year ago. Naturally, a year ago he was just looking to find the field like all the rest of the rookies. I'm looking forward to seeing him in training camp this year."…….Former Patriots Safety Victor Green for now remains on the team's radar screen. Belichick says he's talked to Green recently but nothing's materialized so far. "I talked to Victor last week and at this point he is not here," said Belichick. "Could that change? It could. I wouldn't rule it out and say that it definitely couldn't happen, but again at the same point we are here at the end of mini camp or close to it and he is not here."