The lockout is finally over, and in this space each morning beginning now and continuing on throughout the season you’ll be able to find daily links to all the top New England Patriots related stories here in this space. So feel free to stop by each morning, and thank you for reading.
Now on to today’s top stories.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft is getting a lot of praise for his involvement in helping the two sides reach an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the Indianapolis Star has a great photo of Kraft embracing Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday yesterday in Washington DC. During a news conference in Washington DC yesterday Saturday complimented Kraft’s dedication and thanked his wife Myra Kraft, who passed away last week, for encouraging her husband to be such an important part of the process. It’s a touching photo, and one that will likely go down as one of the most memorable moments of all time.
“A special thanks to Myra Kraft, who even in her weakest moment allowed Mr. Kraft to come and fight this out,” said Saturday.
“Without him, this deal does not get done. … He’s a man who helped us save football.”
Jim Litke of the Associated Press writes this morning that Kraft is the “hero” of the lockout, and that he deserves all the credit for saving football and helping the two sides reach an agreement.
Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe also has an article on Kraft, and talks about a lot of the things he did to help the sides reach a deal.
Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald writes that Kraft told reporters yesterday that now that a new deal is in place, “fans are going to see a great NFL over the next decade“.
Here in Foxboro, Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com reports that the doors will open this morning for the players at 10am, with players allowed to report for physicals and voluntary strength and conditioning work.
Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald writes this morning that season ticket holders received a letter yesterday from Robert Kraft, who thanked them for their trust and patience throughout what was obviously a difficult and frustrating process. Kraft pointed out that 97 percent of fans renewed their seats for 2011, and he was thankful for the support.
In the same article Rapoport points out some Tweets from players yesterday after they got the news, and he also reported that receiver Tyree Barnes and fullback Eric Kettani, who have spent the last two years on the reserve/military list, both exited their ships for the final time late yesterday and are headed to Foxboro.
Rapoport also posted a “Post-lockout timeline”, which includes a look at what will happen over the next week now that the NFL is back in business.
Mike Reiss also has a schedule of the coming weeks, and what each day will mean to the team now that the Patriots are back in business.
Karen Guregian of the Herald looks at the winners and losers of the lockout, and writes that the rookies are one of the biggest losers, pointing out that they haven’t had any minicamps, no playbook, and – especially for highly drafted rookies – a reduction in their potential salaries.
Jeff Howe of NESN was on “NESN Daily” last night, and feels that the Patriots are in great shape heading into what should be a hectic free agency period. Howe feels that the team already has most of the pieces in place, and only needs to make a few “tweaks” to their roster.
Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe writes that now that the lockout is over, the Patriots are going to have a lot of business to take care of as they address new contracts, as well as trying to sign their draft picks and potential free agents.
Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe looks at potential Patriots free agents, and feels that one name that would be his “best fit” is Miami Dolphins runningback Ricky Williams should New England elect to not bring back Fred Taylor.
Karen Guregian also looks at some potential prospects to come to Foxboro, and writes that linebacker Matt Roth appears to be a great fit.
Hector Longo of the Lawrence Eagle Tribune ponders the potential changes coming to the Patriots roster, and what the future holds for the upcoming 2011 season.
Mike Reiss reports that the Patriots have reached a rookie free agent agreement with Iowa linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, citing a Tweet by the university’s athletic department. He also points out that Cal receiver/returner Jeremy Ross tweeted that he’s joining the team as well.
Tom Curran of NECN writes that the team has 10 unrestricted free agents, and he breaks down the entire list, as well as the 450 NFL players who are also in need of a new contract.
Jim Donaldson of the Providence Journal writes that re-signing Logan Mankins to a long-term contract should be the team’s number one priority heading into this season, although he feels the $10-million he’d receive thanks to the franchise tag isn’t exactly “chump change”.
Jeff Howe of NESN writes that Wes Welker should be an even better player this season now that he’s finally healthy, and he expects the receiver to have a 100 catch season.
Howe also writes that wide receiver Brandon Tate is going to need to be “indispensable” as a kick returner if he hopes to make this roster.
That’s it for this morning. Be sure to check back throughout the day for updates, and also follow me on Twitter @ianlogue.