--The Patriots signed 15 rookie free agents to join the team's 10 draft picks at its May 13-14 rookie mini-camp at Gillette Stadium. While the team spent six of its 10 draft picks on offense, the bulk of the free agents came on defense. The group included Oklahoma nose tackle Remi Ayodele (6-2, 300), Florida cornerback Vernell Brown (5-8, 165), Syracuse defensive end Kader Drame (6-5, 290), Florida safety Jarvis Herring (5-11, 205), Toledo safety Keon Jackson (5-11, 206), Notre Dame linebacker Corey Mays (6-1, 234), Alabama linebacker Freddie Roach (6-2, 248), Delaware State safety Sam Smith (6-0, 200), Buffalo cornerback Gemara Williams (5-8, 180) and Michigan linebacker Pierre Woods (6-5, 249). On offense, the Patriots signed Virginia center Brian Barthelmes (6-6, 288), Wyoming quarterback Corey Bramlet (6-4, 219), Vanderbilt wide receiver Erik Davis (6-2, 192), Florida tackle Randy Hand (6-6, 305) and Notre Dame wide receiver Matt Shelton (6-0, 172).
Roach is the most notable name in the group, considered by some draft prognosticators to be a potential strong second-day draft prospect. He was a consistent, productive player over four seasons for the Crimson Tide and, given the Patriots lack of depth at linebacker, should get a legitimate shot at earning a long look with New England. His draft stock fell due to injury concerns and a slow 40-yard dash time -- some scouts clocked him in more than 5.0 seconds -- but if he can prove to be a stout run-stopper, he could get a shot with New England.
--New England also added a couple of veteran free agents to the linebacker mix by signing Barry Gardner and Jeremy Loyd on May 8. Gardner (6-1, 245) is entering his eighth NFL season after playing for Philadelphia (1999-02), Cleveland (2003-04) and spending last season with the Jets. Drafted by the Eagles in the second round in 1999 out of Northwestern, Gardner has played in 110 career games with 24 starts, and has recorded 186 tackles, two sacks, one interception, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Loyd enters his third NFL season, having played in 14 career games with the Rams, with the bulk of his action coming on special teams. He has 10 career special teams tackles and no defensive statistics.
--Kevin Faulk rewrote the record books as a star running back at LSU from 1995-1998, finishing with 6,833 all-purpose yards and 53 touchdowns as a versatile weapon for the Tigers. Now the eighth-year pro will finally take his rightful place among the school's elite athletes when he's inducted into the LSU Hall of Fame in July. It's an honor the three-time Super Bowl champion takes very seriously.
"It means a whole lot," Faulk said of what will be the highlight of his off-season, "being part of the great running backs they've had there and the great players they had coming out of LSU. Guys like Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal) and Pistol Pete (Maravich)."
--Patriots starting left tackle Matt Light continues to rehab from the broken leg that cost him all but three games last season. Light suffered the injury in Week 3 at Pittsburgh but didn't go on injured reserve until Dec. 22, as he and the team hoped he'd be able to recover in time to help down the stretch and in the playoffs. That never materialized. The sixth-year veteran had to have multiple surgical procedures to overcome setbacks in his recovery.
"It's been a long time since I've been on the field, so that's motivation. It was a rough injury," Light said after a recent workout in New England's off-season program. "It's one of those deals, that's why you don't speak about injuries, because you don't know how they're going to go. Every case is different. If you put a timeline on it, and don't meet it, it suddenly becomes a catastrophic event. This was something that nobody could have seen coming. I would have loved to have been back, for the playoffs or even the latter part of the season, but it just didn't happen."
But now healthy and doing as much as he can to return to form without actually putting on pads, Light maintains a positive outlook about his recovery that's been a long time coming.
"It's going well," Light said. "Right now, we're in the full swing of things -- phase two of a pretty intense workout this off-season. I do everything I can do. Right now, I'm feeling as good as I can possibly feel at this point. Not to say that's everything is perfect, because if you've been playing football for more than a couple years, usually nothing is perfect. But yeah, it's coming along really well."