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Sunday, July 22, 2012
Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

By Mike Reiss

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

1. Something that caught the eye when looking over key dates on the NFL calendar: This season’s Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 3 at the Louisiana Superdome. Arguably the greatest victory in Patriots history came in Super Bowl XXXVI over the Rams, which was played Feb. 3, 2002, at the Louisiana Superdome.

2. Remember the discussion in the 2010 draft about the Patriots passing on receiver Dez Bryant and selecting cornerback Devin McCourty after trading down twice? Anyone interested in revisiting that now? As much as McCourty dipped in 2011 and remains a question mark entering this year, the Patriots had to be scared away from Bryant because of off-field concerns, which is what the Cowboys are dealing with now.

3. Media attention from the retirement of Patriots radio analyst Gino Cappelletti after 28 years might be just what Cappelletti needs for overdue Pro Football Hall of Fame consideration. Ron Borges of the Boston Herald has the Hall vote from this market, and he did convincing work on behalf of Andre Tippett prior to Tippett’s induction in 2008. Borges said on Twitter that Cappelletti deserves a spot in the Hall (link here), so maybe now the 78-year-old Cappelletti generates momentum as a senior’s inductee. He is the American Football League’s all-time leading scorer, after all.

4. Sounds like the Saints might regret their trade with the Patriots last year in which they shipped their 2012 first-round draft choice (which the Patriots used as a trade chip to move up to select DE Chandler Jones) and 2011 second-round draft choice (RB Shane Vereen) to select running back Mark Ingram with a 2011 first-round pick. As Times-Picayune columnist Jeff Duncan and Football Outsiders noted (link here), it’s not necessarily that Ingram isn’t a good pick, but he’s more of a luxury the way they play. The Saints could have used the other chips to help their defense.

5. Former Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian might be viewed as one of the great “villains” in the Patriots’ recent run of success, but put that aside and listen to his analysis on SiriusXM NFL Radio for the pure football aspect of it, and it’s simply excellent. On Friday, over a two-hour stretch, I learned of a study the Colts did in training camp that determined players need three weeks to get into real football shape (with hitting), Polian’s detailed year-by-year breakdown of how quarterbacks progress over the first five years of their career, and why the Jets think Tim Tebow is a key to slowing down the Patriots' and Bills' spread-it-out attacks.

6. Fact that probably interests me more than others: The Patriots haven’t issued tight end Jake Ballard a jersey number since claiming him on waivers from the Giants. From this view, it’s another indication that Ballard likely won’t be in the mix until 2013.

7. The Titans have to be disappointed in 2009 first-round draft choice Kenny Britt, the receiver who was charged with driving under the influence on Friday morning. As noted by Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean (link here), it is the eighth issue Britt has had with police since he was drafted. Former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano had only good things to say about Britt when he was drafted (link here), and Schiano doesn’t strike me as the type of coach to blow smoke, but something doesn’t add up. Wonder if Britt will be on the field when the Patriots visit the Titans in the season-opener Sept. 9.

8. The Patriots have two open spots on the 90-man roster, and I still think there is a possibility they could sign free-agent tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who visited with them late last week. Shiancoe is represented by Drew Rosenhaus, who also reps tight end Rob Gronkowski, which is a unique dynamic to the situation. Still, I don’t think Rosenhaus would hesitate to send Shiancoe here if the sides could strike a deal. In addition, something to keep in mind for the future – Wes Welker’s agent (David Dunn) also reps tight end Aaron Hernandez. Not sure it means anything, but one line of thinking is that the Patriots held their line in the Welker negotiations in part so they would give themselves the best chance to retain Hernandez when his contract expires in 2014 (or before).

9. Former Steelers safety Anthony Smith, who had "guaranteed" a win over the Patriots which later prompted one of the all-time media-delivered comebacks from Bill Belichick, announced his retirement (link here). Unforgettable memory on the Patriots beat.

10. The leg injury that landed Patriots seventh-round draft choice Jeremy Ebert (Northwestern) on the active/physically unable to perform list isn’t considered major, although it did occur in spring camps and is still limiting him. If Ebert isn’t ready to go at the start of training camp on Thursday, it could be tough for him to play catch-up to compete for a roster spot once healthy. The best course of action for him might be to stay on PUP, recover slowly, not be exposed to waivers at the final cut-down, and potentially enter the mix during the season.

11. Bill Belichick is scheduled to meet with reporters each day at training camp at 1 p.m., right before the team takes the field for its lone practice (1:30-4 p.m.). Those news conferences will be in the press box at Gillette Stadium, per usual in camp, but in a change from years past, that's also where media will work throughout the 2012 season (instead of the media workroom). The team is expanding its weight room into the area where media members usually work during the season.