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Sunday, March 25, 2012
Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

By Mike Reiss

Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. It’s easy to forget because of his limited contributions as a rookie, but the Patriots still have high hopes for running back Shane Vereen (2nd round, 56th overall in 2011 draft). With BenJarvus Green-Ellis signing with the Bengals, the door is open for Vereen -- who battled a hamstring injury in 2011 -- to find his place atop the depth chart with Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead.

2. Bill Belichick has been on his annual Florida scouting trip, which included a visit with Jimmy Johnson (photo here). The two remain close.

3. I like what the Bills are trying to create on defense, focusing on the line, but here’s the big question from this perspective: Are they building enough depth this offseason? Like others, the Bills had a big dropoff in 2011 when forced to call on backups due to injuries. While their top talent might be better this year, I still have questions about the full 53-man roster.

4. If Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light retires, as expected, it won’t be because he can’t play any more. The 2011 season was one of his best. More than anything, I think it would be because he’s always been about more than football, appreciates the run he’s had, and would like the idea of walking away when he still can.

5. When an employee of the league-owned television network calls out a “snitch” in the Saints’ bounty investigation – as Warren Sapp did with Jeremy Shockey -- it leads to a lot of questions. Real poor judgment by Sapp; Shockey has denied it. The league has made a big statement with its harsh penalties against the Saints. If the league doesn’t reprimand Sapp in some form, it seems like a double standard.

6. Of the rule proposals and bylaws to be discussed at the NFL’s annual meeting starting Monday in Palm Beach, Florida, the most intriguing one from this perspective is a new category for injured reserve. The bylaw proposal is to allow one player who was on the roster through the first regular-season weekend to be designated on “injured reserve/return” in the event of injury. That player could begin to practice six weeks later and play in games eight weeks later.  If that rule was in play in 2011, it could have helped someone like Patriots center Dan Koppen, who suffered a broken bone in his foot in the season opener.

7. Go figure. Laurence Maroney entered the NFL as a first-round draft choice of the Patriots in 2006 and has been out of the league for more than a year; BenJarvus Green-Ellis entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Patriots in 2008 and just cashed in with a reported three-year, $9 million contract with the Bengals.

8. Some good stats from competition committee co-chairman Rich McKay: 1) Teams scored an average of 44.6 points per game in 2011, which was the highest in 46 years; 2) A total of 48 percent of games were decided by seven or fewer points; 3) Seven of eight divisions were won by new champions (Patriots the outlier); 4) There were 18 games where teams were down by 14 or more points and came back to win.

9. In an offseason that produced big news almost every other day, the NFL keeps the news cycle churning this week. A few schedule notes from the league’s annual meeting: The annual AFC coaches breakfast is scheduled for Tuesday at 7:15 a.m. ET, while the NFC coaches breakfast is set for Wednesday (7:15 a.m. ET). Commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to hold news conferences on Monday (1 p.m. ET) and Wednesday (12:30 p.m. ET).

10. One Patriots player received literature from the team that the voluntary offseason program will be held from April 16-June 15. That’s shorter than the norm and a result of the new collective bargaining agreement. That hasn’t stopped a handful of Patriots players from already gathering daily in New England and working out together, similar to last year during the lockout.