Patriots Camp: News and Notes

The New England Patriots continue to work on situations in training camp at Foxborough. Goal-line defense is one of the key points the head coach mentioned in his press conference. What he hasn't elaborated on is some of the personnel moves or concerns the team has at the moment. Scout takes a look at the changes in this week's camp notes including a look at the impact of the injury to linebacker Mike Vrabel


-- Bill Belichick has failed to acknowledge who, specifically, will handle the offensive play-calling duties vacated by former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis since no new coordinator was officially named.

But Belichick did not appear to be holding an offensive play sheet in the preseason opener against Cincinnati. Instead, veteran assistant Dante Scarnecchia and young assistants Josh McDaniels and Brian Daboll looked to have the laminated pre-prepared offensive calls.

McDaniels, the quarterback coach, was the person communicating the call to the quarterback through the in-helmet communication system. But it's unclear how the process worked on the sideline. The two young assistants were close to Belichick throughout the game while Scarnecchia was not.

Belichick has consistently said that he is accountable for all the play calls, but that doesn't mean he's the one making them. While he's likely to be heavily involved in the plays selected for the play sheet through game planning, he may not be the one who ultimately makes the calls, although he's not saying. Either way, the calls will be made with Belichick's blessing. He merely discussed the process when asked about the situation, but would not get specific. There remains a good chance Belichick makes the calls himself, but of not, he is protecting the young assistants from sure scrutiny by not naming one of them as the official play caller.

"I think for the coaches, and it's like this every year, it doesn't make any difference who the coaches are, we haven't coached a game in quite a while. We've done situational things in practice and part of that is the communication between the players and coaches. I think that, starting with me, we all have to sharpen our coaching and game management and decision-making skills to make them the best we can, make decisions quickly and make the right one. That is part of what the preseason is about for coaches. We all need to do that."


It was a quiet week on the personnel front for New England after two weeks of tweaking the roster regularly. The inside linebacker watch continues, especially since Mike Vrabel injured his ankle in the first quarter of the preseason opener and did not return.

The Patriots may need another veteran body at the position and, depending on how the run defense fares against the Saints in the second preseason game, that search could be hastened.

Roman Phifer remains unsigned, his locker reportedly remains intact in the Patriots locker room and no other player has been assigned his number 95.

Vrabel's injury didn't appear serious and he is in the category that Belichick has placed all of his injured players - day-to-day, which is about as vague as the coach could be. Asked if there is a chance Phifer might return, Belichick said, "I don't know."

Beyond that spot, the Patriots aren't in need of reinforcements at any other position beyond maybe nose tackle. After releasing Ethan Kelley early in camp, the team signed 342-pound lineman Mario Monds, who did not play in the preseason opener and then was cut two days later.

The only way the Patriots would likely land an impact player at either of those two positions is via a trade. But since the Patriots struggled somewhat against the run vs. Cincinnati, the linebacker spot remains the one to watch.

--TE Andy Stokes was cut by the team after a sluggish start to camp. The 2005 seventh round pick and Mr. Irrelevant was inconsistent catching the ball and did not match up as a blocker trying to make the jump from NAIA William Penn to the NFL.

--TE Matt Brandt signed to replace Stokes and lasted just one day before also being released. The Patriots have good competition at tight end with Daniel Graham, Benjamin Watson, Christian Fauria and Jed Weaver all in the fold.

--DL Mario Monds was released after signing a few days into camp. The 342-pound defensive tackle missed the preseason opener with an unknown injury and was let go despite the fact that New England has no true backup nose tackle.

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