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Sunday, July 1, 2012
Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

By Mike Reiss

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

1. Because of the Patriots’ unusually compact preseason schedule, which has them playing their final three games in a span of 10 days, how Bill Belichick manages the roster will be one of the important storylines to monitor in late August. And here’s one theory: With a surplus of 90 players on the roster (10 more than usual), games 2 and 3 could be treated almost like split-squad contests in baseball’s spring training -- half the roster plays most of the second game (at home vs. the Eagles Aug. 20), then the other half takes over in the third game (on the road vs. the Buccaneers Aug. 24).

2. Taking that thought one step further, why not turn the second preseason game over to backup quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett? That contest, against the Eagles, will be nationally televised on ESPN. Can’t think of a better showcase if the Patriots have any desire to show the rest of the NFL what they have in their reserve signal-callers, assuming the idea is to generate some type of interest in them.

3. The game-time temperature in the Titans’ last three home openers has been pretty consistent -- 76 degrees (54 percent humidity), 77 degrees (45 percent humidity) and 77 degrees (83 percent humidity). The Patriots open at Tennessee this year on Sept. 9, and one reason Belichick might be considering a joint practice in Tampa with the Buccaneers around the teams’ Aug. 24 preseason road game is conditioning-based and to give players a feel for some of that thick humidity.  

4. Impressive second-year 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith avoided a scare Friday night/early Saturday morning when he reportedly was stabbed at a party (the injuries are not believed to be serious). The thought occurred to me that the incident came as the NFL was wrapping up this year’s rookie symposium, which basically serves as an introduction for rooks on life in the league -- on and off the field. Smith and other rookies didn’t have a symposium last year because of the lockout, and his story is a good reminder to all younger players -- be careful with whom you surround yourself and the situations you put yourself in.

5. Along those lines, it speaks volumes of Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater that he was one of the league’s current players selected to speak to rookies at this year’s symposium (link here). Slater has been a stand-up guy from the moment he walked in the locker room as a fifth-round draft choice in 2008. His emotional face-the-music interview with reporters after his fumbled kickoff return was a key play in a 33-10 home loss to the Steelers his rookie year is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the respect he’s earned from many over the last four years.

6. Jim Schwartz has proven to be the right choice for the Lions, who hired him as head coach in 2009 and signed him to an extension on Friday. Schwartz was entering the last year of his contract. The Lions have made more headlines this offseason for the wrong reasons (mainly player offseason issues), and now that Schwartz has some more security, he might consider being a bit more selective with the type of player that he and general manager Martin Mayhew are bringing into their program.

7. Bill Belichick is planning to open the first four days of training camp with single practices in the afternoon, from 1:30-4 p.m. This is a change from last year, as there were two practices on the first two days (10-11 a.m. and 2:30-5 p.m.), followed by a single practice on the third day (8:30-11 a.m.), then two more sessions on the fourth day (10-11 a.m., 2:30-5 p.m.). So comparing last year to this year, fans had seven chances to see the team on the field in the first four days; this year it’s four chances in four days.

8. For a comparison, the Dolphins released their training camp schedule and most of the practices are starting at 8 a.m. this year. The idea, it seems, is to beat the heat as much as possible.

9. Players with Patriots ties on Canadian Football League rosters this year: defensive end Marques Murrell (Montreal Alouettes) and linebacker Deron Mayo, brother of Jerod Mayo (Calgary Stampeders). The CFL season began this past week. (Note: defensive end Shawn Crable was initially listed as being with the Hamilton Tiger Cats, but he was released.)

10. What is holding up a contract agreement with Patriots first-round pick Dont’a Hightower? Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, citing sources, lays it out nicely. It’s all about the fourth year of the contract and how much is guaranteed. The Browns reportedly are having a holdup with 22nd overall pick Brandon Weeden, and Hightower, the 25th pick, might be waiting to see what happens with Weeden and the two others directly in front of him who remain unsigned.