TRAINING CAMP COUNTDOWN: 25 days until Patriots training camp

We’ll kick off this morning with a busy Jeff Howe of NESN.com, who has an in-depth look at the Miami Dolphins, and looks at how they’ll match-up against the Patriots this season.

Howe also looks at the veteran additions the Patriots have made during this offseason, and feels that New England did a solid job of adding character guys to the roster.

In yet another entry, Howe looks at Patriots cornerback Darius Butler, and wonders if this will be the year he’ll emerge as a starter in New England’s defenseve backfield.

Mark Farinella of the Attleboro Sun Chronicle has a humorous look at the use of sponsors here in New England, including some of the advertising done at Gillette Stadium and the Hall at Patriots Place.

Albert Breer of the Boston Globe elaborates on an early report from Tim Graham of ESPN.com regarding quarterback Tom Brady and his throwing guru Tom Martinez, who were both hard at work on Christmas morning to work out the kinks in his game despite battling broken ribs and a broken finger

Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald looks at Martinez’ comments and questions the use of the word “fractured” vs. “cracked” vs “broken”, and the media fiasco that ensued last season when Charlie Casserly initially reported the news – which was later strongly refuted by head coach Bill Belichick.

Chris Price of WEEI.com also takes a look at the story, and offers up his take on the situation.  Price has a good relationship with Martinez, and talks about some other things that you may not have known about. 

There’s a good article on Doc Rivers this morning, with a mention of the athletic career of his daughter Callie, which is relevant because she’s dating  Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes.

SouthCoastToday.com has an article this morning on Dartmouth student Kathryn Kehoe, who recently won a scholarship from the Patriots after winning a writing contest.  According to the article she was one of 25 students who received a $1,500 scholarship for two essays, one on the 2009 Patriots football season and the other on the importance of philanthropy.

Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft “received a scholarship to go to college and wanted to give others the same opportunity,” said Stacey James, vice president of media relations for the Patriots. “The scholarship is designed to encourage students to write. A new component this year is that it is tied with philanthropy. Along with students showing their creativity with writing about the Patriots, the judges are looking at what people are doing in their communities.”

The Boston Herald has a look at the inaugural Fourth of July 10K road race in Foxboro that ends on the 50-yard line at Gillette Stadium.   The race, sponsored by health insurance company Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, will begin and end the 10K at Patriot Place, the shopping plaza that flanks the New England Patriots home field.  About 3,000 runners and walkers are expected to participate, which is down from the 10,000 – 20,000 they were hoping for in an earlier report we mentioned here on Thursday.

The Boston Globe has an article on Ta’u Pupu’a, a former player who played for Belichick in Cleveland, and is now a operatic tenor at the Tanglewood Music Center.  Belichick originally selected him back in 1995 with the Browns and selected the defensive tackle out of Weber State University, in the fifth round of the NFL draft.

In his final entry before heading off on vacation, Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com takes a look at some NFL and Patriots topics this morning, including how this year’s start of training camp differs from how they started the one last year.

Breer looks at Tom Brady’s current contract situation, and questions whether or not it’s really an issue – and whether or not it will have an effect on the team.

OTHER NFL HEADLINES:

There’s an interesting article this morning by Breer in the Globe regarding the state of football in Jacksonville, and looking at the situation league-wide.  Things are so bad there that the team is now pleading with the fans on their official website to save the franchise, although most believe that it’s futile and a relocation is now coming.

All of us have been impacted by the economy (I’m dealing with it where I work, and I’m sure many of you are as well) and it’s taking it’s toll on quite a few franchises.  Fans simply can’t afford the extra money for parking, food, etc. that when added to the already high price of tickets makes a day at the stadium too expensive to deal with.   The owners feel that HDTV is “everyone’s biggest competitor, and that fans are simply opting to stay home.

“Fans’ expectations with the prices being where they are, they’re expecting a good time, they don’t want drunk fans spilling beer all over them, they want a courteous, helpful staff, and a good overall experience,’’ said Jaguars vice president and chief financial officer Bill Prescott. “Our biggest competitor, everyone’s biggest competitor, is HDTV. There’s no doubt, to view a game in your own living room, the beer is colder and cheaper, the restroom is closer, and there’s no line.

It’s an interesting article and the blackout numbers from last season are definitely higher than I thought they had been.

Christopher Price of WEEI.com looks at Colts owner Bill Polian, who spoke on the current labor situation and how it’s impacting their ability to conduct business – most notably their current quest to give Peyton Manning a new contract.

“It’s bound to have some affect,” Polian told WEEI.com. “What we don’t know is what the system is going forward. It makes it really difficult working out a deal that makes sense for everybody because you don’t know what the [salary] cap will be, what the ramifications are, how things count. All of that makes it a little difficult. We’ve been going slowly along with [Manning's agent] Tom Condon because we’re trying to formulate some things that will fit no matter what the system is.”

I came accross an interesting column in the Winston-Salem Journal this morning, where writer Ira Kaufman feels that 4 Exhbition games are simply too many, which is why it’s likely the league will move to an 18 game regular season.  Kaufman noted that Roger Goodell talked about annual overseas games, and “the next thing you knew, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were jetting off to London to play the New England Patriots.”

Jason Levine from DelawareOnline.com looks at the situation with Michael Vick, and feels it’s time for the troubled quarterback to find some new friends.  It sounds simple, but Levine points out some of the reasons why Vick continues to be around the people who helped get him in trouble in the first place.

You want to know why Vick was at that party with those people? Simple. Those friends who may have cost him his NFL future are the only friends he’s got. They’re the only people who have stuck with him since his childhood as the son of teenage parents living in the projects in Newport News, Va. Yes, they were there when he was the highest-paid NFL quarterback, but they were also there when he was losing millions sitting in a federal prison cell.

And finally the New York Times has a good article this morning on some NFL players, including Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns, Mario Williams of the Houston Texans and Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowbys, who visited troops in Afghanistan recently in support of our armed forces.

That’s it for this morning.  Hope all of you are having a good weekend and we’ll see you tomorrow.