Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. I thought seeing former Patriots players Drew Bledsoe, Curtis Martin, Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Rodney Harrison, Richard Seymour, Tedy Bruschi and Troy Brown at Myra Kraft’s funeral Friday spoke volumes about the Kraft family’s football business. No ownership group is perfect, but the presence of so many distinguished alumni reinforced what I had previously believed; there is great respect for the family among many of its players.
2. Sounds like the third quarterback rule is going away in the NFL this season, and teams will be able to dress 46 players instead of 45. So the question becomes if teams are comfortable going into games with just two quarterbacks. My guess is that Bill Belichick will be comfortable with two quarterbacks, and he will use the 46th spot on a player at another position. That is significant for a coach like Belichick, who preaches situational football.
3. Some coaches believe in full-pads practices more than others, and I put Bill Belichick in that category. I think Belichick is going to have to adjust under the rules of the proposed collective bargaining agreement, which will dramatically reduce padded practices. Coaching the fundamentals, in particular, is going to be more of a challenge.
4. Along those lines, this tweet from former Patriots outside linebacker Rosevelt Colvin drew a chuckle from here: “No more 2 a days and a limited number of padded practices? Dear NFL teams..Rosevelt Colvin is no longer retired, call me!!! For real!!!”
5. The lockout has lasted longer than I anticipated. When it started, I thought owners were going to have the upper hand, mainly because it’s harder to keep thousands of players unified than 32 ownership groups, but I was wrong. Players held a harder line than I anticipated and it sounds like a deal that both sides can feel good about.
6. Rookie free agent signings are often announced to a ho-hum reaction by a majority of fans, but I get the sense there is more local-based interest this year, specifically to see where Boston College’s Mark Herzlich lands.
7. Speaking of Herzlich, he showed solid judgment in passing on the United Football League in hopes of landing in the NFL. Looks like the UFL is in trouble.
8. With teams allowed to sign 90 players to their training camp roster, up from 80 last year, I think it will make life easier for coaches in terms of managing the health of top players when it comes to early preseason games. If I’m Bill Belichick, I’m probably not putting Tom Brady on the field for the Aug. 11 preseason opener against Jacksonville. And he’s far from the only player I’d sit. Too risky given the condensed timeline and all the moving parts coming off the lockout.
9. It’s a tough break for Canton, Ohio and the Pro Football Hall of Fame with this year’s Hall of Fame preseason game between the Bears and Rams canceled. Reports estimate that the Hall will lose $1.5 million of its $20 million operating budget. Here’s hoping the NFL and its players find a way to direct that money back to the Hall.
10. Congratulations to one of the classier players to call the Patriots locker room home over the last decade, Anthony Pleasant, for having a sports complex in his hometown named after him. When I think of Pleasant, two things come to mind: 1) Ultra-professional; 2) His belief that the Patriots’ success was a result of treating the wins as critically as the losses, and not letting issues get swept under the locker-room rug after a victory.