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July 1, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
  (11:58 AM)

Good afternoon. Thanks for joining the chat. You are die-hards. There is not much going on Patriots-wise, but I'm sure we can drum up some discussion. One programming note: The weekly Thursday chat will not take place July 8 and July 15, and will return in full force on July 22, extending through the season. We have innovative plans ahead for our Patriots coverage on ESPNBoston.com, which I think you'll be excited about once training camp starts July 29. More on that to come in the future.

Mike Reiss
  (11:58 AM)

Since I was a little late last week, let's start it up a little early this week. Hopefully Ed Hochuli isn't around to flag us for a false start.

Jon (Middletown, RI)

Hey Mike, any news on any of the contract situations? Brady? Mankins? Rookies? Do you think we're in for any holdouts from our rookies?

Mike Reiss
  (12:01 PM)

Hi Jon. There is a predictable chill with the Mankins situation. No dialogue there in recent weeks, unless something has changed over the last few days that I am unaware of. I don't see much movement there. As for Brady, the sides have had discussions but my sense is that nothing is imminent at this time. On the rookies, it is my opinion that they will all be in on time.

Brad (New Hampshire)

What do you think the Patriots will do offensively with all the new defensive backs the Jets have?

Mike Reiss
  (12:03 PM)

Brad, I was reading Rich Cimini's Jets blog over on ESPNNewYork.com and he had some strong quotes from the Jets' secondary coach that this might be the best secondary he's ever coached. When I read it, and then considered some of the questions the Jets have at defensive end, I thought that maybe the Jets will be a defense that could be run on with some success. That was a thought I was going to keep filed away for the season, but you just brought it out with the question. We'll see if that is how it unfolds.

Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)

What NFL Team are you actually a Big Fan Of?

Mike Reiss
  (12:04 PM)

Chris, I'm a fan of the game, and the people in the game, more than teams. For example, any team that someone like Josh McDaniels is a part of would be a team I'd feel good about.

Joe (Waltham, MA)

Mike,In your opinion, is there a player out there that they could trade Mankins for who would immediately help the team? I mean a realistic option, not a long shot. I know Belichick loves to collect draft picks, but I think he's set up well for next draft already.

Mike Reiss
  (12:05 PM)

Joe, I peeked in to the questions before the chat began and saw this one, and then did a quick scan around the league. Nothing jumped out to me. To me, Mankins is a Top 10 player on this roster. I don't see a Top 10 player available in a trade from another roster. We could speculate about Vincent Jackson, the WR from the Chargers, but my opinion is that the team wouldn't be interested.

Kyle (Cranston, RI)

Mike, aside from Brady and Wilfork who do you think are the five most important guys on the Patriots this year? I know it takes a team, but who needs to have a great year?

Mike Reiss
  (12:07 PM)

Let's go with Brady, Wilfork, Mayo, Moss and Meriweather/Butler. I would have put Welker in there, but I was thinking of his injury.

Barry O (Cambridge)

Do you think Cedric Benson will get suspended for his recent arrest?The incident happened on Memorial day and he didn't disclose it to the league. If he is suspended he would miss the Patriots Bengals game.

Mike Reiss
  (12:08 PM)

I don't have enough information on that to have an informed opinion, Barry, but if Benson is to face a suspension, it makes sense to think it would start with the first game of the season. That's something all Patriots followers should be keeping an eye on. The more I think about that season opener against the Bengals, the more I think it's going to be a tough game.

Johnny (Billerica, MA)

Hey Mike, how we doing? Training camp is right around the corner, beyond excited for it. How do you think the teams finish this year in the division? Pats on top? Jets on top? Dolphins on top? Thanks

Mike Reiss
  (12:09 PM)

Johnny, my stance is that the division still goes through New England. So I'm going: 1. Patriots; 2. Jets; 3. Dolphins; 4. Bills.

Chris (Annapolis, MD)

You spent time with the baseball team, and I read about Dustin Pedroia taking ground balls form his knee's today. So I was wondering which on the field (and off the field) leaders from the Pats have that kind of work ethic?

Mike Reiss
  (12:10 PM)

Chris, thanks for noticing the baseball stories. I was in at Fenway on Tuesday, playing the role of Zac Robinson to our capable Brady- and Hoyer-like Sox reporters -- Gordon Edes and Joe McDonald. Welker is the first player who comes to mind when it comes to work ethic.

Arjuna (Derry, NH)

Hey Mike, what position do you see having the most improvement from last season to this season based on what you have seen and heard?

Mike Reiss
  (12:12 PM)

Arjuna, cornerback is the first spot that came to mind. I think with Butler at LCB, Bodden at RCB, and McCourty the top backup at LCB and RCB, that's a strong 1-2-3 punch. Then you have Wilhite in the slot and it's a nice group.

Johnnymag (New Hampshire)

Mike, I'm curious about Shawn Crable. Is there any news on his progress from mini camp or anything positive regarding him as an OLB?. I know he's been injury plagued, but just interesed in why they drafted this guy in first place. I would think this year it's do or die for this young man.

Mike Reiss
  (12:14 PM)

I'd put him on the bubble right now, Johnnymag. When the Patriots drafted Crable, they liked his size, some of the different things he did from a versatility perspective, his speed, and overall the program he was coming out of at Michigan. Three years later, I think they feel the same way you do -- it's do or die time. Injuries are a factor that are part of the discussion, but I don't think the Patriots look at him and simply say 'He's just had some bad luck.'

Jwheels (NH)

When Vince was franchised earlier in the year, under the assumption that talks would happen and a deal would be made, did this use up our yearly franchise? By this I mean it's not available to franchise Mankins with. If that's the case, was Bill assuming that there wouldn't be any problems later on with contracts and wasn't expecting Mankins refusal to sign his contract? If not, and the franchise is still available could it be used on Mankins?

Mike Reiss
  (12:15 PM)

The deadline to use the franchise tag has passed Jwheels.

Maddy (RI)

Hey Mike,What exactly happens in a contract negotiation for rookies? Do the agents come up with a number (depending on the draft position), or does the team give the agents a number based on last year's assessment and counting inflation. It seems like these things take for ever and I was trying to think of a reason why? You already have a benchmark from last year. 2009 draft's 28th pick was Eric Wood, who was given a 5 yr-12 mil contract. So why cannot we sign McCourty for a 5 yr-13.5 mil (rough figure). I'm sure the player and the agent would understand the economics!

Mike Reiss
  (12:17 PM)

Sort of a loaded question, Maddy, and not one easy answer. Sometimes teams wait until the last minute from a strategic standpoint. Sometimes agents wait until the last minute because they want to see the other deals around the pick. From the standpoint of the independent observer, I'm with you, it doesn't seem that hard to hammer them out. While the structure of the deals is probably the main issue to be worked out, there should never be a holdout in my opinion.

SteveB (Millbury, MA)

Mike, One question I have (as well as everyone else) where will the pass rush come from? Do you think, now that the secondary and some of the linebackers have more experience in the system, that BB will dial up more exotic blitz schemes this year. The Pats even in their SB years never had the "big name sack artist". And be being more balanced in their approach it will be more like it was when Crennel was here. To me its about QB pressure not sacks anyway. Look no further than the Jets, who were the best at disrupting the passing game last year. They had only 32 sacks, one more than the Pats, but they had constant pressure and from all points of the compass.Your thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:19 PM)

Steve, this is probably the most prevalent question that I hear when speaking with various people around the NFL -- from personnel officials, to coaches, to media members. My answer is that I think we're going to see some scheme tweaks that help. I also think they'll have a better interior rush in sub situations, so that focuses on the linemen. I also think the coverage will be improved, which will help the rush.

GoUMass (Cbatham)

Hi Mike, Thanks for your frequent updates of Pats news. I was wondering who you considered to be the five best run organizations (owner, personnel people, coachs) in the NFL.

Mike Reiss
  (12:22 PM)

I'll take a stab at this one: Steelers, Patriots, Giants, Eagles, Ravens.

Clark (Muncie, IN)

If you are BB do you pursue a deal for Aaron Schobel? If so what would you be willing to give up? Seems Schoble has had enough of losing and would like to go out a winner. He also seems to only elite pass rusher that's even simi available.

Mike Reiss
  (12:23 PM)

I don't think you give up much, Clark, as Schobel is looking at a few more years, if that, in the NFL. You also have to ask yourself if he fits what you do, and if he doesn't and is just going to rush the passer in sub situations, how does that fit on the roster with the other parts you have?

Matt G. (Boston)

Hi Mike - Happy 4th! My question is: do outside rivalries ever make it into the Pats locker room? Do Brady and Hoyer ride each other about Michigan-Michigan State? Kade Weston (UGA) and the Florida guys? Any Sox-Yanks or C's-Lakers banter? Thanks again...

Mike Reiss
  (12:25 PM)

For sure, Matt. Especially the college football rivalries. We'll see guys have to wear another player's college uniform if his alma mater loses to that team. A lot of these players have a big passion for their college teams.

Clark (Muncie,IN)

I asked this yesterday in the comments section, I'd like your thoughts. Which was wrose for Boston fans, Bill Buckner or David Tyree?

Mike Reiss
  (12:26 PM)

As someone who grew up in New England, I'd vote Buckner. My thinking is that it had been so long since the Sox had won a World Series, they were so close, and then ...

Mike Reiss
  (12:27 PM)

... Also, Buckner was a case of a player making a mistake. Tyree was a case of a player making an out of this world catch.

Tom (New Bedford)

Hey Mike, what are the odds Thomas Welch and Brandon Deaderick make the final roster?

Mike Reiss
  (12:27 PM)

Tom, I'd put Welch on the roster right now, and Deaderick on the practice squad. Can always change in camp, but that's my early read.

Prince of Plymouth (charlotte)

Which safety would you trade and what would you expect in return for someone like Sanders or Mcgowan?

Mike Reiss
  (12:28 PM)

I wouldn't trade them unless I could get something valuable in return (minimum fourth-round pick or quality player who would be on the 45-man game-day roster). I don't think McGowan would have that value on the trade market. Sanders might.

Dave (Miami, FL)

Hey Mike, I heard that Guyton right now might be considered the ILB starter with Mayo. Considering the rookies and McKenzie all stay healthy - would you you start Guyton there?

Mike Reiss
  (12:29 PM)

Dave, I think it's an open competition, but for now, Guyton is the choice because he's the incumbent. I could see that going in another direction based on the way training camp unfolds.

Tyler (Taunton, MA)

Mike, I've been hearing everyone saying how the Jets will overthrow the Patriots in the AFC East in the coming season. Even though they made a few signings doesn't automatically mean anything. A few of them looked past their prime. Do you think the Jets could be the AFC East Champs in 2010?

Mike Reiss
  (12:30 PM)

I'm still picking the Patriots, Tyler. To me, it's a classic case of completely different philosophies of team-building, and I'm skeptical of the Jets' approach.

Dániel Kováts (Hungary)

What do you think. If the mankins situation ends up in a trade, what would be the time when we should expect such a trade would happen, or in which part of the remaining offseason he can generate intrest?

Mike Reiss
  (12:32 PM)

My sense on this one, Daniel, is that it would be in training camp, or within the first few weeks of the season. I think Mankins is ready to dig in his heels, but one thing I've learned is that it's easy to say that, but more difficult to do it once the weekly paychecks aren't coming in. So my thought is that the Patriots will wait to see if Mankins softens his stance around that time, and if he doesn't, then maybe it's a trade.

PatriotsFan401 (Rhode Island)

My question is Mankins related. With his displeasure with the contract offer the Pats made. Any chance he comes back into fold or is that bridge burned already.

Mike Reiss
  (12:33 PM)

I think Mankins could come back, PatriotsFan401. I don't see the bridge as being burned. It is in need of a few repairs, though.

Jesse (Toronto)

Mike! Happy Canada Day! Lol finally have a day off from work on a Thursday to chat (although I have been reading your stuff for years now). My question is in regards to the QB situation. I read something of yours that said Robinson was a guy likely to end up on the practice squad but I would love to see the Pats carry three QBs on the roster this year just in case. Hoyer seems solid but Robinson also had a good career in Oklahoma. Any chance he moves past Hoyer? Could you see the team keeping all three on the active roster? Thanks!

Mike Reiss
  (12:35 PM)

Thanks Jesse. Enjoy the day. They could keep three, but my hunch is that it will be two. What could change that line of thinking is if Robinson lights it up in training camp. Looking over the Patriots' roster, they are going to have to trim somewhere to keep some of their top assets, and that's mainly why I see just two quarterbacks at this time.

RW (Boston)

Mike - which NFL players (Patriots or non-Patriots) do you like watching play the game the most?

Mike Reiss
  (12:36 PM)

RW, I thought Revis was a lot of fun to watch last year. Brady and Manning are also high on my list.

Marcus (Ellington,CT)

Hi Mike, Do you see the players association ever agreeing to go back to a salary cap structure in the new collective bargaining agreement ?

Mike Reiss
  (12:37 PM)

I do see that happening, Marcus.

Ric (NJ)

Mike, if you were a GM and you start your own team and you could choose 2 offensive and 2 defensive players to build it, who would be your choices?

Mike Reiss
  (12:40 PM)

Always enjoy these scenarios, Ric. I'd start with a quarterback and you can't go wrong with Brady or Manning. The other offensive player would be a receiver in the Andre Johnson/Calvin Johnson mold. So I'll go Brady and A. Johnson on offense. ...

Mike Reiss
  (12:41 PM)

... On defense, Ware and Revis were the first two players to come to mind.

Mike Reiss
  (12:41 PM)

Feel free to take me to task on those. Hard to come up with the quick answer without really dissecting it.

Chris (Cville, Va)

In your opinion how much did the injury to Mayo limit his effectiveness even after he came back to the team? Can we expect more explosiveness and playmaking from him this season as he should be even more comfortable with the system and be 100% healthy.

Mike Reiss
  (12:41 PM)

I think it was significant, Chris. I'm expecting more from Mayo this year because of that.

Jeff (Needham, MA)

Hey Mike, Jermaine Cunningham had said at one point that at Florida he was being used to do a number of things other than rush the passer (to include dropping into coverage); do you think this could benefit him in the transition to outside linebacker in the Pats' 3-4? And (a bit of wishful thinking) could he potentially grab a starting spot by mid/late season? Thanks man

Mike Reiss
  (12:43 PM)

I do, Jeff. I'm no scout, but I watched Cunningham dropping back in coverage in practice and he looks comfortable. You notice a big difference when comparing the way he moves to someone like a Pierre Woods, who is a little more stiff. Tough to say how fast Cunningham might emerge.

RW (boston)

Mike - if you had to make a prediction today, who would have more receptions out of the follow: Tate, Holt, Price, Hernandez, Gronk?

Mike Reiss
  (12:44 PM)

Hernandez would be my choice right now.

Kevin (Boston)

Hey Mike,A little off topic, but what do you think about BC's chances this year and have you heard any news on how Herzlich is doing?

Mike Reiss
  (12:45 PM)

Kevin, I don't know enough about BC to have an informed opinion, but I did catch up with Mark Herzlich on multiple occassions in recent weeks. He is doing great, practicing, and ready to contribute. I'm excited to watch him return to the field. Great story. Seems like a great person.

Dan (Leominster)

Mike,I like Sam Cunningham and believe he deserves to be in the Pats Hall of Fame, but voted for Houston Antwine. How are some of these great "old timers" going to get in, because the younger generation will never know much about them? Wonder how many people know he has as many sacks as Richard Seymour?

Mike Reiss
  (12:46 PM)

Good one, Dan, and media members can play a part in helping fans learn more about some of the players from that generation. I'm in my mid-30s, so I rely on some of the reporters who were covering the team then -- like Gil Santos, Mike Lynch etc. -- as well as players and coaches from that era. Those guys have experience in this business, and in the NFL, that is extremely valuable in the process.

Sean (Southie)

Hey Mike- we always hear about divisional rivals scoping up some young recently waived patriot players to find out whats going on at patriot camp. Is it likely we release such long shot players before training camp opens so our information stays close to us and not the Jets?

Mike Reiss
  (12:49 PM)

Sean, I see it as more of a factor at the end of training camp than before, as the team rolls into the regular season. Like what happened with Kevin O'Connell last year.

Tony (Cumming, GA)

What is all this crap about the Jets winning the East? I don't get it Mark Sanchez had a better year than expected last year but he will be the jets demise this season. What do you think?P.S. Mark Sanchez is an extra cheerleader in my opinion!!

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

I think they'll have a tough defense, Tony. They'll be a worthy foe. I just wonder if they can keep it together in the locker room.

Ty (Taunton, MA)

Are the Patriots a realistic contender for the Super Bowl this year and are their any changes that could get them there?

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

Ty, I think any team that is in contention for a division crown is a Super Bowl contender. So I'd say "yes" on this one. A big part will be how the team develops over the course of the year.

G (Boston)

Not too informed on this subject, so the comments that follow are as much a question...The NFL recently changed the rule on overtime possessions for the post season. Any chance that will happen in the regular season? It's a little ridiculous that you get one position, drive 2/3 of the field, and win on a kick. Maybe it should be first team to get a touchdown instead of a score?

Mike Reiss
  (12:51 PM)

It doesn't look like it will happen in the regular season this year. So we have a different set of rules for the regular season than the playoffs. That seems ridiculous to me, and is why I think owners erred in pushing through the playoff vote in March. To me, all or nothing was the way to go.

Max (Boston)

Do you think the Pats will seriously consider taking anyone in the supplmental draft coming up? Have you heard anything positive about any of the players in it?

Mike Reiss
  (12:52 PM)

Max, my opinion on the supplemental draft is that if the Patriots put a "bid" in, it would be a late-round pick at the most.

Kyle (Boston)

Hey Mike - weve recently heard of Chad Jackson trying to make the squad in Buffalo. I believe theres a connection to Chad Jackson and why we didnt draft Dez Bryant in 2010. Do you believe Chad Jackson and Laurence Maroneys production as high draft picks connects to why Belichick has not warranted a high draft pick at either WR and RB?

Mike Reiss
  (12:54 PM)

My sense would be no on that one, Kyle. If Bryant checked out in all areas, I think the team would have pounced. So I don't think it is as much about the position as it is about the prospect.

Joe (Boston)

Mike, Who is going to step up this year and be the leader of the Pats defense? In years past, we had natural leaders like Rodney Harrison and Bruschi. Is there anyone on the current roster that can do the same?

Mike Reiss
  (12:54 PM)

Looks like Mayo to me, Joe. Wilfork, too.

Damas (Birstol, VT)

Hey Mike... Are you a fan of the Madden football games? Even if you're not, I was wondering if you caught a glimpse of the Patriots' player rankings and had any opinions on who was over or underrated.

Mike Reiss
  (12:55 PM)

I'm not a Madden guy, Damas. I know a lot of the players love it, but it sort of passed me by years ago.

Mike Reiss
  (12:55 PM)

Let's go for another 5...

Bo (Cape)

Since a Pats running back must be able to read and pick up the blitz. Do you think that is why so few backs excel in NE? What is your evaluation of Maroney's blocking ability?

Mike Reiss
  (12:56 PM)

I don't think that's it, Bo, as I think we've backs excel here (e.g. Dillon, Antowain Smith, Faulk). Maroney isn't afraid to put his head in there. It's not necessarily a strength of his, but I think he's willing and that's half the battle, it seems.

Sue (Quincy)

Mike - last year you brought up Richard Seymour (before he was traded) as someone who will have a big year for the patriots. It was unexpected that someone of his degree to be traded. Do you think we will be shocked again this offseason with a trade like Seymour. With a veteran starting player is traded before the season? If so - who?

Mike Reiss
  (12:57 PM)

Sue, I don't see a move like that again this year, unless it's Logan Mankins.

FB (Washington, DC)

Mike, appreciate the insider's view you give us. Two questions for you today: First, which rookie do you think will be this year's Sebastian Volmer? Second, the organization seems content with this group of running backs, seeing as they didn't draft for this position. I'm curious, who in the organization is Maroney's biggest supporter, and what might we expect from Maroney this year?

Mike Reiss
  (12:58 PM)

Thanks FB. For this year's Vollmer, I'll vote for Aaron Hernandez. On the second part, I think it's dangerous to draw the conclusion that the team is content with the RBs because it didn't select one. I think the team would have drafted one if the right situation presented itself. As for Maroney, I'd look for a repeat of last year, without the fumbles.

Guy (Enfield NH)

Any interest in the L James saga and the NBA free agency overall??? Thanks..

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

A little bit Guy. I'm just interested in where he winds up, not all the hoopla leading up to it. Same with a lot of the other big players in the NBA.

Bob (Sandwich MA)

Hey Mike - I was reading on ESPN AFC East Blog- about how the Bills are starting to integrate their defense into a 3-4. I never thought of it but it was mentioned how some players thought of it as an advantage for their offense. Where their offense can now practice against a 3-4- which so many more teams are using nowadays. With so many teams switching to 3-4 would you think its an advantage if we switched to a 4-3 base?

Mike Reiss
  (1:00 PM)

One thing I've learned about the Patriots' defense is that they can be a 4-3 at any given time. That flexibility is built into their system. So I'd say they will be working out of the base 3-4, but depending on the plan in place that week, it could be a 4-3. So I don't see a major change taking place in terms of the overall defense, but maybe in the decision-making of what to employ on a week to week basis.

supwithyou (MA)

whats up with all the red sox coverage from you? :)Also, any football columns or blogs that you follow regularly?

Mike Reiss
  (1:05 PM)

Let's end on this one, as it made me laugh. I chipped in on the Red Sox because I think it's good to get out of the comfort zone every now and then, and see how other sports work in terms of covering them. I think the experience will help me covering football, which is my primary focus and what I really enjoy. As for the football columns and blogs, I focus more on specific writers who cover the league because they offer that big-picture view. ESPN's Sal Paolantonio is one favorite, whenever he writes on the site along with Len Pasquarelli and John Clayton. I value Pat Kirwan's insight on NFL.com. I think Peter King and Don Banks on SI.com are great. There are more, but those are a few that come to mind. I find that my time is limited and those writers seldom disappoint me when I invest the time to read them.

Mike Reiss
  (1:06 PM)

Thanks to everyone for chatting today. I am always impressed what the questions and the insight. I went into today wondering what we would talk about and the hour just flew by. Looking forward to another great year covering the Patriots in 2010. Going to take a vacation break over the first two weeks of July, spend some important family time, and then come back recharged and ready to roll. Next chat will be July 22. Look forward to catching up then.