In Bill Belichick's eyes, every season is like a novel, unfolding page by page. If you're lucky, there's a happy ending, but more often there's not
The NFL is not Hollywood.
To Belichick, the book doesn't start with the season opener it starts now, with a rookie camp that represents groundwork for the dramatics to follow.
"If it's a novel, its like page 2," he said. "Of a 600-page novel."
Most of the 25 signed rookies at minicamp won't be there on Page 600 to see how it all turns out and that's a fact they surely knew by the end of their first weekend in Foxboro.
"I think that settles in as reality pretty quickly for these guys," Belichick said. "If they didn't realize it before they're on the team, it doesn't take too long for them to realize it now. There are a lot more lockers in that locker room than what there is going to be players. That's the way it is."
Nobody makes the team in May. And of the 25 signed rookies at Patriots minicamp this weekend, many won't make the team in September, either. At most, eight of them will land roster spots, maybe three others on a practice squad.
So it's a fifty-fifty position for these guys, maybe even worse. For blue-chip picks like Lawrence Maroney and Chad Jackson, it's more or less a done deal. But for everyone else, the next four months mean everything.
"I think it's just like any of us anytime we go into something that we've never been in before and that's like these guys," Belichick said. "They're trying to earn a spot on the roster. It's their livelihood. It's what they want to do. Sure, there are a little bit of all of those adjectives, whatever you want to say. Anxiety. Nervousness. Apprehension. Excitement. Whatever. A little bit of everything. But I don't think it's that big of a deal. I just think it's part of the process. There's no real shortcut to it."
Fellow safety Sam Smith the only non-Division 1 player among the rookies after a career at Delaware State echoed those thoughts.
"I'm trying to bring hard work, hustle, show I can play," he said. "I believe I try to work harder than anyone else, regardless of college. I just stay focused on me."
Notre Dame's Corey Mays is fresh off a standout career at the highest-profile college in the country, but the linebacker is now just another UFA and looking to prove himself. He had an interesting perspective on the humbling transition from BMOC to SDOTR (some due on the roster).
"They say that something like 1 in 19,000 high school football players even make it to a camp," Mays said. "So just being here is something."
Several players sat at their lockers during the 40-minute media session, looking through sheet after sheet of black-on-white type and getting faraway looks in their eyes. The NFL is hard - and that's before the pads even go on. Still, for Wyoming QB Corey Bramlett a longshot to make the team even with only three signalcallers on the roster - just wearing Patriots t-shirts and shorts was exciting.
"Looking around, seeing some of the names on the lockers it hits you a little bit," he said. "But Ill get used to it. I'm just excited to be part of it."
For now, at least.
Sam Smith grew up in Tampa, and admits he was a Buccaneers fan. But not anymore, he said. "I'm a Patriots fan now, for sure."
Belichick basically answered no comment when asked about Doug Fluties status. Flutie does not have a locker at Gillette Stadium.
Bramlet had a bag of ice on his arm after the morning session, but as the only QB in camp he had more throwing to do that afternoon. There are certainly a lot of things that he needs to work on, things that were a lot less than perfect, Belichick said. He learns from them and for the most part improves them the next time the situation comes up. Yes, it's been functional out there.
Belichick mentioned former Giant defensive lineman Jim Burt and current Patriots OL Stephen Neal as good examples of UFAs that made a difference in the NFL. "You can't get any more of a free agent than him," Belichick said of Neal. "I put the emphasis on 'free', too."
Lonie Paxton's mini-fridge of energy drinks might have looked good to the first-year guys, but the message scrawled on the face made it clear that snagging one would be a bad idea: NO ROOKIES! ... Personnel czar Scott Pioli was in and out of the lockerroom ... David Thomas, who had a reputation for catching anything thrown to him at Texas, has done nothing to change that perception as a Patriot. He had the best hands of the rookies at camp.
Be sure to check the Hot News for updates throughout the weekend.