Team Notes: Patriots

Veteran safety Rodney Harrison is no stranger to the NFL's discipline people, having been fined more than once for helmet-to-helmet hits in the secondary. But when he rang Troy Brown's bell in practice last week, it was a bit more shocking.

"I really didn't hit him," Harrison pleaded. "I just tapped him, but he's mad at me right now. He threw the ball at me. If I hit him, he would have really felt it."

Brown got up after the hit and fired the ball at Harrison before slamming his helmet to the ground and walking over to the trainers. But Brown explained his side after the practice.

"It wasn't the hit," he said. "It was the poke in the eye. He didn't do it on purpose, but you know how it is when you get poked in the eye. It hurts. It's like hitting your little toe on the end of the bed. You get mad at the bed. I reacted to getting hit in the eye. I knew he was coming. He's an aggressive player and I'm an aggressive player. If he had just hit me, I wouldn't have been upset."

--Belichick is once again trying to lessen the wear and tear on some of his veteran players by giving them individual practices off. Anthony Pleasant, Mike Vrabel, Roman Phifer and Christian Fauria all received the "veteran's day off" last week to get some rest and preserve their legs. That practice is apparently growing in popularity around the league where coaches either cut down on the reps for some vets or allow them to sit out altogether.

--Last Friday, July 25, the Patriots 2:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. practice ended at almost 5:30 p.m. in one of the longest training camp sessions in memory. Belichick called the team in to a group huddle midway through practice and when he broke the huddle, the tempo of practice noticeable increased. Despite that, he kept the team on the field for an extra 45 minutes.

--Patriots owner Robert Kraft announced a two-year contract extension for Belichick last week that the Boston Herald reported was actually agreed to last August. The move keeps Belichick under contract through 2006 and while terms were not released, it is believed that it also brought his salary in line with the league's top paid coaches.

Kraft approves of Belichick's approach and team building plan along with the fact that he doesn't simply throw money around in free agency, but rather manages the salary cap with smart value shopping. It also didn't hurt that Belichick captured the club's first world championship in what was one of the greatest coaching jobs ever.

--Before he announced Belichick's extension, Kraft announced the creation of the Ron Burton Community Service Award named after the first ever Patriots draft pick who is battling cancer.

Burton literally left the hospital to be on hand and hugged Kraft before getting emotional and thanking him. Kraft then surprised him by present a $5,000 check to the Ron Burton Training Village, a sports camp that benefits underprivileged children. The award will go to the Patriots player who shows a commitment to community service. "I am truly honored," Burton said while accepting the gift. "I remember when I started I had absolutely nothing and people reached out. People ask me why do you do all this and why do you give all this money back and I say to them 'people helped Ron Burton. If they hadn't helped Ron Burton years ago, I wonder where I would be today.'"

--A couple of New York football alums were on hand last week at Patriots training camp. Former Jet Joe Klecko, father of Patriots defensive lineman Dan Klecko, stood on the sideline as did former Giants tight end Mark Bavaro, who is apparently working with the club in player relations.

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