Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. Expected to see Patriots second-year outside linebacker/defensive end Jermaine Cunningham flash a bit more to this point in training camp. In rush drills, he has been blocked easier than I thought he would be.
2. Always been a Derrick Mason fan. I like the signing by the Jets, even though the 37-year-old Mason is nearing the end. I think he’s one of the toughest players in the NFL.
3. Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio isn’t endearing himself to Bill Belichick when he talks about practicing coach-to-player communication going out because “that tends to happen in New England.” The Jaguars visit the Patriots in both teams’ preseason opener on Thursday. Last year, Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff was disciplined by the NFL for comments about the Patriots. Del Rio could be next.
4. The Packers had 43,048 fans show up for family night on Saturday. No post-lockout hangover there.
5. Ohm Youngmisuk, who covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com, passes along these thoughts on rookie free agent Mark Herzlich through the first week of training camp: “He has been with the third-team at linebacker. They’ve moved him around inside and outside. … He did have an INT off a tipped pass. Tip came behind line of scrimmage and Herzlich made a heady play, ran in, picked it off and went for what would a been pick six in 11 on 11. [Spencer] Paysinger now has groin injury so Herzlich could see more reps. Also, he'll have to be strong on special teams. That could be his key to making squad.”
6. Peyton Manning has yet to practice with the Colts as he recovers from a procedure on his neck. So when Tom Brady says the Patriots are well behind their normal pace, the Colts are that much further behind.
7. The Dolphins are moving right tackle Vernon Carey to right guard, giving them a 340-pound presence on the inside. With first-round pick Mike Pouncey at center, there will be some big bodies banging in the middle when the Patriots visit in the season opener. This is one of the offseason themes in the AFC East – each team got bigger and more physical.
8. One holdout is tough enough, but two? That’s what the Titans are dealing with as running back Chris Johnson and cornerback Cortland Finnegan are unhappy. Could be a long year in Tennessee.
9. Entering the offseason with significant salary cap space, Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli did the smart thing by making his biggest investment on someone already in the building, extending the contract of outside linebacker Tamba Hali. I like Pioli’s other signings as well, as he filled it up with tough, hard-nosed players (e.g. running back Le’Ron McClain).
10. Stirring night in Canton, Ohio on Saturday with the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Shannon Sharpe’s speech was tops from this view. Bill Parcells and Curtis Martin are among those who figure to get strong consideration next year, which would give the ceremony a bit of a Patriots twist.
11. From the not-always-Xs-and-Os, not-everything-takes-place-between-the-lines department: Pulled into Gillette Stadium on Saturday and almost threw the penalty flag on Chad Ochocinco. The infraction? Tweeting while driving as he pulled out in his Toyota Prius.