With nearly two weeks of practice in the books and heading into the preseason opener against the defending Super Bowl champion Saints in Foxborough, the two biggest unresolved issues entering camp remained, well, unresolved.
Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins has made no indication that he plans on joining the team and surprise camp no-show Derrick Burgess has left a gaping hole on the depth chart at outside linebacker.
Mankins continues to refuse to sign his restricted free agent tender while apparently holding strong to his desire to be traded.
During his Aug. 4 press conference coach Bill Belichick was asked to put a percentage on how likely it was that Mankins would be with the Patriots for the team's first game.
"Right now I am focused on the players that are here and trying to get our team ready for a good practice this afternoon," Belichick said in his trademark style. "That's really what I'm thinking about."
The situation at left guard has become even worse for New England. The guy penciled in to fill the Mankins' void hasn't practiced since the initial days of camp. Nick Kaczur reportedly has a back injury that could limit him for some time, limiting the practice time the former starting right tackle clearly could use in his transition inside to guard.
Whereas Mankins wants his money, Burgess apparently doesn't know what he wants.
The former Pro Bowl pass rusher has had conversations with the powers that be in New England, but that wasn't enough to shed light on the veteran's future. He remains on the Patriots' reserve/did not report list. And no one, it seems, knows what his future holds.
"I don't know," Belichick responded simply when asked for an update on Aug. 4.
New England's director of player personnel, Nick Caserio, didn't have much more the following day.
"There's really no update. We've staying in contact with Derrick, so if anything changes, once we know we'll impart that information to you folks," Caserio said, adding that the team would deal with the situation on a day-to-day basis.
Part of that was considering other options at outside linebacker. The position includes returning starter Tully Banta-Cain, who exploded for 10 sacks last fall, and not much else. The Patriots reportedly worked out former Bear and Dolphin Adewale Ogunleye recently and had another option to consider when Buffalo released Aaron Schobel.
"I think this time of year, any player that gets released, we kind of go through our normal procedure and our normal process as far as evaluating the player, figuring out exactly what his skills are, how that would fit," Caserio said of Schobel. "He's no different than any player that gets released this time of the year, so we'll do our due diligence here moving forward and then we'll see how it all comes together here at some point."
Welker Being... Welker
--WR Wes Welker had a Patriots-type response for Rex Ryan when he, like the Jets coach, signed the side of Adam Schefter's training camp bus last Friday. Near where Ryan had written "soon to be champs," Welker inked, "One game at a time."
--Speaking of Welker, he took his first hit of training camp courtesy of inside linebacker and defensive captain Jerod Mayo. During a team drill, a crossing Welker caught a pass just before meeting Mayo. Even though the linebacker seemed to let up quite a bit, Welker bounced off, hit the turf and quickly jumped back up.
"I just wanted to welcome him back," a smiling Mayo said a day later.
Spikes Finding A Role
--ILB Brandon Spikes is just a rookie, but even early on in his career in New England he's being allowed to do things his own, unique way.
"I'm not really sure exactly what his style is," Bill Belichick said. "Our defense is a lot different than what they ran at Florida. Obviously, he's a big, physical player, but I'd like to watch him in our defense a little bit. I think he's got some unique skills. For a tall player, he's got probably more quickness than most guys, probably a little more leverage than a lot of other tall players. He does a lot of things well. It's kind of not by the book but (it's) effective.
"I was just talking to him down there this morning about a couple things that he was doing that are not exactly the way that everybody does them, but he does them effectively and I don't think he needs to change them, but it's just a little bit different. And so how he adapts to certain situations might not be quite the same as, say, Jerod or Gary or somebody else does it, but I think he does it and has done it effectively. It will be interesting to see how some of those things come together. Some may change and become a little more conventional. Some may be a little less conventional, but hopefully equally effective. He's an interesting player to coach."
--An annual camp tradition over the last decade in New England the face of the franchise celebrated his birthday on the practice field as Tom Brady turned 33 years old on Aug. 3.
Many fans in the bleachers lining the training camp practice fields at Gillette Stadium displayed signs wishing No. 12 some form of a Happy Birthday message. Though unlike previous years Brady's teammates did not sing Happy Birthday during the morning walk-through, in-tune fans at the day's afternoon session picked up the slack by joining forces to sing Brady his celebratory song.
Big Vince Is Excited
--NT Vince Wilfork said he and his teammates are excited for the Saints to hit town two days prior to the Aug. 12 preseason opener to share the practice field with the Patriots. The Patriots haven't held a joint training camp practice since 2001.
"It's finally time to get some new faces around and compete at a high level," Wilfork said last week. "We'll be competing throughout practice. I'm excited. This is my first time doing it, it's a little something different. I'm up for the challenge ... Just competing to see where we are as a unit and as a team, playing against the Super Bowl champs. They beat us pretty bad last year, and the first people we see (this year) is those guys. I'm excited about it. I'm going to treat it like a game situation ... hopefully everybody else will do the same thing."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Yeah, at least he came over there and shook my hand, so we were able to have a good laugh over it. I guess my arm is a little stronger than I thought it was." -- Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio on if he was happy to still have a job after he nearly decapitated team owner Robert Kraft with an errant throw on the practice field.
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