Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

July 22, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
  (11:59 AM)

Good afternoon and thanks for joining today's Patriots chat. The plan is to lock it in for the rest of the year, with our regular chats on Thursday. I'm excited for another season of covering Patriots football.

Mike Reiss
  (12:00 PM)

Let's chat.

Ty (CT)

Any chance the pats loose there minds and do not lock in brady? and how does a potential lockout affect a contract extension?

Mike Reiss
  (12:01 PM)

I'd be shocked if the Patriots and Brady don't come to a long-term contract agreement. I take owner Robert Kraft at his word. He said it would be get done -- that the team wants Brady, and Brady wants to be here. As for the potential lockout, I think the main thing is that it could delay a deal getting done. I don't see a potential lockout stopping a deal from getting done.

Har Journalist (Vancouver, Canada)

Hi Mike, do you think the Jets are the team to beat in the AFC East? I think the media is focusing more on the Jets, and if they don't have Revis they're screwed. The Media is making Rex Ryan out to be the biggest thing in Football since Barry Sanders. The Pats are the last greatest Football dynasty they deserve more attention from the National media.

Mike Reiss
  (12:02 PM)

I think the Patriots are the team to beat in the AFC East. The main reason is the difference in quarterback play.

SprungOnSports (Long Island)

Running Back should be an interesting training camp battle. Who do you think will come out on top?

Mike Reiss
  (12:04 PM)

Part of what intrigues me about running back is the number of players to keep at that position. The team kept 5 in 2009. But in doing so, the team only had 2 TEs. With 3 TEs projected to be on the roster, I wonder if that RB number could be trimmed to 4. I see Maroney and Faulk as locks. Then you have Sammy Morris/Fred Taylor/BenJarvus Green-Ellis possibly fighting for two spots. Perhaps an injury will sort the situation out, or maybe the team still keeps five. Tough call. I say let the competition play out and make the prediction based on the performance.

Jim (Boston)

Hi Mike, Would it actually make sense for Brady to hold out? Wouldnt that force the Patriots to move things along more quickly? I dont think I would blame him or think negatively of him if he did.

Mike Reiss
  (12:07 PM)

If Brady held out, it would seemingly create more urgency for the Patriots to move things along quickly. But at what cost? Brady, to me, has been mostly about winning and making memories with his teammates over his 10-year career. If he decides to hold out, he'd be putting business ahead of that. So I think we'll find out what is truly more important to him in this case. I think I already know the answer. He'll be there.

Shawn (Hillsborough NJ)

What do you think the pats would do if by next offseason Brady is not signed? Pats have the #1 pick and theirs Jake Locker. So do the pats select Locker and say bye to Brady, do they Tom and keep the pick or trade?

Mike Reiss
  (12:08 PM)

Can't imagine they wouldn't put the franchise tag on Brady, like the Colts did with Peyton Manning in 2004.

Slappy (Orlando)

Hey Mike, I know I'm getting excited as the season gets closer. I know you've talked a lot about the pass rush as being the big question for the Pats this year, so I wonder... Do you think the defense is the serious question as to whether or not the Pats can be a real contender this year? Because i actually feel better about the potential this "D" has and am less sure about the balance and playmakers on the offense.

Mike Reiss
  (12:10 PM)

I think the defense, Bill Belichick's increased role running the unit, and potential scheme alterations are a huge part of this season. One of the top issues. They will be counting on youth to emerge in some areas (e.g. Darius Butler at LCB), and on veterans in others (e.g. Gerard Warren, Damione Lewis on the DL). If I had to choose -- offense or defense? -- when it came to the big question, I'd personally lean toward the defense. I agree with you that there are some questions on offense, but I think Brady's presence is huge.

Jason (Denver, CO)

Hey, Mike, welcome back. I hope you had a great vacation. This may not be the appropriate forum, but I was wondering if there was a chance that you could put together a story on the progression for an offensive lineman entering the league. Which is the easier skill set to pick up in the NFL, run blocking or pass blocking? Does a zone blocking scheme increase the steepness of the learning curve?

Mike Reiss
  (12:11 PM)

Jason, I was in Boulder, Colorado -- your neck of the woods -- for a weekend. What a beautiful place. Bought the Denver Post for $1.50 on Sunday and was impressed with nearly 2-3 pages of football coverage. It made me feel like I was in a real football area ... I'm filing this idea away. Thanks.

Major Anthony Nelson (Cocoa Beach, FL)

The big knock on Brandon Spikes in the draft was his speed. Did he look slow in drills?

Mike Reiss
  (12:12 PM)

I didn't think he looked slow, but I'd lean toward the conservative side of judging too much when players aren't in pads.

Clark (Muncie, IN)

Welcome back Mike. Can you project what the Pats 4-3 front seven will look like? I will assume WIlfork and either Wright or Lewis will rotate for run down/pass down situations, but what about the other 6 spots?

Mike Reiss
  (12:15 PM)

I think a lot of it will depend on the opponent, Clark. So, for example, against the Colts, you might see more of a lighter front with a Banta-Cain and Burgess at end, with Wilfork and Pryor/Lewis/G. Warren/Wright inside. Then you have a lot of different combos to mix and match with at LB. But if they want to play a four-man line that is a bit sturdier, I think you put T. Warren on one end in place of the rushers. I guess the big thing is that I don't expect the 4-3 to be static. I think we'll see a lot of different combinations based on the opponent.

Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)

What is the best & the worst NFL Stadium that you have been to?

Mike Reiss
  (12:17 PM)

I remember the old "Vet" in Philly as being a tough one, Chris. And although I prefer outdoor stadiums, I was impressed with the Cardinals' new stadium from a work perspective.

Neil (Brown City)

Welcome back Mike, I hope you had a great family vacation.Mike much has already been discussed on the Tom Brady contract situation. Here is what disturbs me. According to many reports Tom Brady is upset at the lack of progress on a new contract. Now I am not worried at all about him ever leaving, I just don't see it. However if the team is not prepared to even comfort Brady through words and probably more important deeds it really does show a lack of respect for a player who has given his all for the cause and is without doubt the one of the main reasons this franchise has had it's recent successes. In your opinion what really is going on here, what is in play we fans don't know?

Mike Reiss
  (12:19 PM)

I'm going to write on this later today, Neil. To sum it up, I think both sides realize it's business. My sense is that Brady would like an extension, but he also understands the complexity of the situation. Peyton Manning, like Brady, is in a very similar spot entering the last year of his contract. More on this to come.

Creech (Westwood)

Hey Mike, I've been reading up on some Pats material and even some hometown writers think the Jets have surpassed the Pats. I know you're not ready to crown them kings of the AFC East yet, but how much stock should we put into that Week 2 matchup?

Mike Reiss
  (12:21 PM)

I think it will be a good barometer to see how the teams stack up. The Jets will be coming off a short week, having hosted the Ravens on the opening Monday night of the season. I see it as a good spot for the Patriots. If the Jets open up 2-0, they'll have a lot of confidence and momentum can build. If they go 0-2, you could start to see the seams bursting there. So I think I'd put a lot into that Week 2 matchup, while also balancing the idea that it's not always how you start, but how you finish.

Chris (Natick)

Mike, do you think possibly the media(you and few excluded) in general is getting a little more worried about the Brady contract than need be right now. I mean, until a couple chips fall there is no way he gets a new contract and he is a well informed guy and knows this. 1) Peyton Manning's Deal needs to get done to set the bar. 2)New Collective bargaining agreement with salary ramifications and any new cap. Once these things get done, he will get a new deal. Tom and Yee know this. That is why he is going to show up. I am sure he knows they will deal. Now if this drags out after those two things happen, then we should start to talk. Thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:23 PM)

I thought it would be done by now, Chris, so I think I'd be a hypocrite by saying it is no big deal. At the same time, I think people forget that Manning made it to the end of his deal in 2004 and the Colts used the franchise tag on him before agreeing to an extension. There is more time to get this done, as Manning's situation in 2004 reminds us.

Damas (Bristol, Vermont)

Mike it's great to see you back! The rookies are supposed to report to camp on Sunday, so with the four top picks still unsigned what are the chances we may see some sort of hold out or will some report to camp without a contract? Who are the most likely to sign in the next three days?

Mike Reiss
  (12:24 PM)

Rookies are supposed to report Sunday, but I personally use Thursday -- the first practice -- as the cutoff day when it comes to calling a player a "holdout". I think they'll all get done, or at least be close to done by Thursday. Once a few first-rounders sign, I'd expect McCourty to fall in line. Ditto for the second-rounders.

Jeff (Jersey City,NJ)

I know the rules are different in football than the NBA but anyway to do a sign and trade type deal with Mankins and get equal compensation in players or picks? He would get paid the money he wants and we wouldn't lose him for nothing.

Mike Reiss
  (12:27 PM)

It would basically be a sign-and-trade if another team is interested, Jeff. The Patriots would allow Mankins to negotiate with other teams and strike a deal. Then, if I am mapping it out right, Mankins would sign his tender because a player without a contract can't be traded. Mankins would be traded, that tender would be ripped up, and he'd have his new deal with his new deal. The team would then ship compensation to the Patriots in the form of draft picks and/or players.

Bill (New York, NY)

Is it possible that the years of the ruthless practice of trading and cutting veterans to avoid paying them late in their careers has created a real distrust amongst the locker room and the front office? It looks like the so-called patriot way at least among the players (Brady, Mankins) is dead.

Mike Reiss
  (12:28 PM)

I haven't detected it Bill, although I think the overall climate in the NFL is pretty dicey in that area with the uncertain labor forecast.

chains18 (Cambridge)

Hey Mike- welcome back! I was wondering- is it hard to draw the line on what you can and cannot report on from the practices? Or do you feel it is pretty black and white?

Mike Reiss
  (12:31 PM)

There are sometimes some gray areas, mainly with the strategy stuff. Here is what the Patriots ask cooperation with: 1. Please do not report on offensive or defensive strategy. This includes describing formations, personnel groups or non-conventional plays; 2. Please do not quote, paraphrase or report the comments made by coaches or players during a practice session; 3. Please do not report on practice until the practice session is over.

Mike D (Charlotte)

when is the espnboston.com IPhone app coming?

Mike Reiss
  (12:31 PM)

Good question, Mike D. Had someone ask the same one this morning. I'll write myself a note and check it out, and see if I can find out.

Dave (Mattapoisett)

Do you think Jake Inram will lose his job?

Mike Reiss
  (12:32 PM)

I'd be real surprised at that one, Dave. I think Ingram is on solid footing right now.

brian (milky way galaxy)

another special teams question - is faulk still the guy on punt returns? his hands are good, but i don't think opponents are going to be too worried about him breaking one. i would like to see edelman get the nod here.kickoff returns, don't really care - put the 2 fastest young guys back there

Mike Reiss
  (12:33 PM)

I think Edelman will be the main option on punt returns. Faulk will be a "safety" choice, for punts inside the 10 when the catch is more important than the after-the-catch aspect of the return.

Karen (Boston)

Mike - welcome back! I'm curious as to why so much is being made of the Brady contract status and so little is being made of the Manning contract status. It doesn't seem to be just because of more local coverage on Brady, since I hear more about Brady's situation than Manning's situation nationally as well. Is this a false perception, or if not, why would it be so?

Mike Reiss
  (12:34 PM)

Not sure, Karen, but it might be traced back to the Yahoo! Sports article about a "growing sense of disconnect" between the Patriots and Brady.

Jim (California)

Hey Mike. How would you best characterize what you've seen and project to see in terms of team attitude and culture this year? Is there a chip on their shoulder, are they hungry, etc? I know it's early, but I think this is one of the keys to the season.

Mike Reiss
  (12:35 PM)

Tough for me to tell, Jim, so I'd defer to the players. I thought Ty Warren's comments about a good energy on the practice field in the spring were telling.

Neil (South Boston)

Mike, much had been made of a potential work stoppage, etc. I heard one analyst in particular make the case that perhaps owners are colluding to keep from extending big-name free agents (a la Manning and Brady), thereby pressuring the entire NFLPA into making an owners-friendly deal. What are your thoughts on players like Brady & Manning being on the last year of their respective deals? It seems crazy that either team would ever let those guys walk, so what's going on?

Mike Reiss
  (12:36 PM)

I think both Manning and Brady will be with their teams for the long haul, Neil. At the same time, I think both teams don't feel the urgency to strike those deals now with the uncertain labor forecast ahead. It's a very complex issue, but those would be my thoughts boiled down into a few sentences.

Dickie (Swansea)

Mike, do you think Buddy Farnham will make the team?

Mike Reiss
  (12:37 PM)

I don't see him making the 53-man roster, Dickie. I think the practice squad is a more realistic spot.

Bucky Benson (Assonet, Mass)

Which TE will have the most receptions?

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

Assuming he stays healthy, I'd lean toward Aaron Hernandez right now.

Roberto (Mexico)

Hello from Mexico, What do you think in regards to Pats offense mainly in RB? During offseason I believe Pats not focus on this position, Maroney is not consistent, taylor last season doesnt show enough to fill that it's the solution. I'm pats fan and I'm worry in this position, last season looks predecible in all players, Brady to Walker or Faulk.Hopefully you can answer my question Regards

Mike Reiss
  (12:40 PM)

RB is one of the few positions on the roster that returns the same exact players from 2009, and health would be my biggest concern. I think the Patriots could benefit from pounding the ball a bit more, and if they do that, I think this group can be successful. So I think it's as much about the mindset and approach as the players themselves.

Travis (Somerville)

I have gotten the feeling this offseason that a lot of reporters (and fans for that matter) were somewhat scarred by last year's offseason. High expectations over Joey Galloway and the TEs, as well as some comments from Randy Moss, had a lot of people thinking of 2007 all over again. This year, acquisitions like Tory Holt are received with incredible caution. Do you think we might have seen more excitement about this year if there hadn't been so much last year?

Mike Reiss
  (12:41 PM)

I think that's a good point, Travis. Speaking for myself, I thought Galloway would be a good fit here. We saw how that turned out. So when they signed Holt, my first thought was "Looks like a good fit, but let's see how it all plays out based on last year's Galloway experiment."

Andrew (Richmond Virginia)

What are the patriots doing defensively to assure a reduction in passing yards against them?

Mike Reiss
  (12:43 PM)

I think they're altering their scheme so they hopefully don't have to blitz more than 40 percent of the time like they did in 2009. The idea is to get better pressure with the four-man rush.

John (Manchester, NH)

Welcome back, Mike. Hope you had a great vacation. Not counting Mesko, which rookie do you see moving up to the 1s first?

Mike Reiss
  (12:43 PM)

Aaron Hernandez.

Sully (Wilmington)

Mike, we did not address the RB situation, however we certainly addressed the TE position. Do you see the Pats going more of a balanced offense, or maybe establish the run, using TE as blockers, or do you think we are going to get them heavily involved in the passing game, such as Witten or Gates?

Mike Reiss
  (12:44 PM)

I think we'll see a little less spread than we did in 2009, and more compact formations with a focus on establishing that run game a bit more. Just a feeling, not based on any insider info.

Peter Griffin (Quahog, RI)

Will Butler turn in to a shut down corner?

Mike Reiss
  (12:45 PM)

I'm high on Butler. I see a very athletic player who can be a playmaker for this defense.

Mickey (Saugus)

Do you think Patrick Chung will be the starter at SS?

Mike Reiss
  (12:45 PM)

I do, Mickey. Put him in there and let him grow into the role.

Ryan (Chicago)

At lot is being made about Kyle Wilson being the next great corner back in New York. My question is, why would the Patriots draft McCourty over Wilson if Wilson was truly the No. 1 rated corner?

Mike Reiss
  (12:46 PM)

My first thought is that it's a "total package" type of thing, Ryan, on and off the field.

brian (south of the canadian border)

gonna hit the early practice session next friday with my son - any advice?

Mike Reiss
  (12:47 PM)

Bring sunscreen, binoculars, and arrive early. Also, check with the team's official website and training camp hotline just in case of bad weather.

Chuck (Milton)

Was Mezko our best draft pick? I think he will have the biggest impact as the season unfolds. A good punt can change the whole game!

Mike Reiss
  (12:47 PM)

First punter drafted in the Belichick era.

Nate (Levittown, pa)

Mike, any chance the Patriots media guide in its digital form might made availablt to the public?

Mike Reiss
  (12:48 PM)

Not sure on that one, Nate.

Bob (Bowie, MD)

What happened with Pat Parchall? I read reports he looked good at rookie camp..

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

He was released last month, Bob. My sense is that it was more of a mental thing as the spring practices were less about evaluation and more about teaching.

mike (brooklyn)

Do you see this team, as currently constituted, going any better than 8-8 for the season? If yes, why?

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

When the schedule came out, I went 11-5. I think it starts with Brady, and a projected improved defense.

Maurizio Feoli (Costa Rica)

What do you think will be the impact of Brandon Spikes, Devin McCourty and Jermaine Cunningham in this season?

Mike Reiss
  (12:51 PM)

Of the three, I feel confident that McCourty will be active on the 45-man game-day roster from the outset as the top backup and a special teams performer. Will need some more time to see Spikes and Cunningham in pads.

Chris (Charlottesville, Va)

Do we know who Wes Welker got his replacement ACL and MCL from? Having seen him out there during the OTA's I am beginning to think it was a horse or something because that is just not natural.

Mike Reiss
  (12:53 PM)

Good one, Chris. One of the big stories will be Welker's timeline. Will he be there for the first practice? My hunch is he won't be, as he'll be on PUP/Active to start camp. That wouldn't mean that he is out for the first six games of the season -- he could start practicing at any time -- but it would leave that possibility open.

MichaelCee (Washington, D.C.)

Hi Mike! The way I see it, the Pats go into the season with a bunch of TE's and slot-type guys, including Edleman, Welker, Tate, Hernandez, Crumpler, Bronkowski, and Holt (at this stage of his career) with only one outside receiving threat in Randy Moss. How do you see the Pats using all these moving parts, especially considering their similar skill sets? Do you see Brady under center more often? Would an offensive guru like Charlie Weiss be better than Bill O'Brien at coming up with a creative scheme to make the most out of his personnel?

Mike Reiss
  (12:54 PM)

I think Tate, Holt and Price can potentially be factors on the outside. I do see Brady under center a bit more, but it's just a hunch, not based on anything else. I think O'Brien will show he's capable of leading the offense in 2010.

Zack (Somerville, MA)

Hey Mike, All this talk about TO coming to the Pats lately has been ridiculous in my opinion. I also think that, despite Welker's injury, the WR area is one of the lowest areas of need on this team. Tom Brady won Super Bowls with a much less talented WR corps than the one they will field this year. I'd much rather see the team focus on balancing the offense with more of a running attack than go off chasing the likes of TO. I think this can be accomplished through offensive playcalling that focuses more on the run. Your thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:55 PM)

I'd go along with that Zack. I keep going back to comments made by Matt Light after the 2009 season. He said the offense wanted to be more physical. To me, you do that by pounding it a bit more.

Grant (Columbus, OH)

Hey Mike, Has anyone thought that maybe the deals for Brady and Manning haven't been done because the owners don't want to handcuff other fellow owners in CBA negotiations? What I mean is if both players get the huge deals they deserve, it puts the other owners behind the eight ball when trying to negotiate the salary rollback their asking for.

Mike Reiss
  (12:55 PM)

Thakns for bringing up the point, Grant.

Gary Dell'Abate (Cos Cobb, CN)

Do you think Thomas Welch will make the team? I read he long snaps and that might help him..

Mike Reiss
  (12:56 PM)

Yes, I do. Welch is a short snapper on field goals. But I'd find it hard to believe he would long snap on punts and run that 300-plus frame down the field as many as 7 times per game. Seems like that would hurt the Patriots from a coverage standpoint.

Steven (Savannah)

Hi Mike! Isn't it great to have football in the air! I think T.O. would be a good pick up for the Pats. His career is nearing an end and he knows he has to be on his best behavoir like he was in Buffalo. What do you think?

Mike Reiss
  (12:57 PM)

No T.O. for me, Steven. I like what Tedy Bruschi said about the possibility. This locker room is young and doesn't have the same influences to keep a guy like that in check. I'd stay away.

Damas L (Bristol, VT)

If Patrick Chung works as the starting SS, do you think Meriweather can turn into the superstar ball hawk his skill set would seemingly allow for, or is he destined to be simply an above average safety for his career?

Mike Reiss
  (12:58 PM)

I think the potential is there for Meriweather to be that guy, Damas. He made some great plays last year. His tackle on third-and-1 against the Jaguars in the AFC-East clincher was one of the best plays of the year in my opinion.

Dan Shaw (Raleigh, NC)

Hey Mike, do you think Dan Connoly has the chops to start consistently for the pats this year?

Mike Reiss
  (12:58 PM)

I think the Patriots would go with Nick Kaczur at guard, with Connolly as a top backup. This assumes Logan Mankins is not playing.

Ryan (Central MA)

Do you think McCourty is basically a Butler clone? Their reports are nearly identical.

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

A little different. I see McCourty as a bit more sturdy and physical in run support.

Serena (Newport Beach)

Would you put Sanders or McGowan in the safety mix with Meriweather and Chung, if you could keep one and trade the other?

Mike Reiss
  (1:00 PM)

If forced to choose one, I'd probably keep Sanders because he has the versatility to play either position, where McGowan strikes me as more of a strong safety. He's also signed through 2011, where McGowan is in the last year of his deal.

Mike Reiss
  (1:00 PM)

Let's go for a few more here...

brian (east of the mississippi)

read somewhere that owners were concerned about attracting fans to games with everyone now owning hdtvs. do the krafts have any plans in the works to enhance the game-day experience at the razor, so season tix holders can keep feeling like they are getting value from their large investment?

Mike Reiss
  (1:00 PM)

One thing the Patriots just did was replace their two video boards in the stadium.

Prince (Charlotte...unfortunately)

Mike, do you think that Bradford and Manning contracts will be signed first and essentially set the market for Brady?

Mike Reiss
  (1:01 PM)

Bradford definitely. Manning, not so sure.

Dave (NH)

There has been much mention of the option of franchising Brady if he remains unsigned. What if the new labor agreement eliminates the franchise tag?

Mike Reiss
  (1:02 PM)

That would be a concern for the Patriots, and is part of the risk in going into this year without an extension. If Brady gets through this year, is a free agent in 2011, and there is no franchise tag, he could hit the open market.

Lilo (Newport Beach)

What does it mean if McCourty doesn't have a signed contract by Thursday? (Or Gronk or Spikes or Cunningham)? Does that mean they don't show up to camp? Or are they just not obligated to but they can if they want?

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

No contract, they wouldn't show up.

Michael (Texas)

Is Shawn Crable eligible for the practice squad?

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

I don't believe so, Michael.

PatriotsFan401 (rHODE iSLAND)

It seems as if alot of ppl are sleeping on the Pats this year. Do you get that sense? And if so, why are they down on them?

Mike Reiss
  (1:07 PM)

Let's end on this one. I think expectations are lower for the Patriots than they have been in recent years, and the main reason is that there are more younger players who are going to be in key roles. Because those players don't have long resumes, they are hard to assess. I was in Colorado last weekend and this is what a Denver Post reporter wrote: "This is the high-spending Jets' chance. If QB Mark Sanchez can take the second-year leap and coach Rex Ryan can develop cohesiveness, it will be their year." I think the Jets will be tough, no doubt about it. But I think the Patriots have a lot of talent on their roster that is easy to overlook right now.

Mike Reiss
  (1:08 PM)

Thanks to everyone for chatting. I tried to get to as many questions as possible, but wasn't close to getting them all. Looking forward to sharing some of our plans for coverage on ESPNBoston.com in the coming week. On the Patriots blog today, we started a "Countdown to Camp", looking at eight top issues to monitor. There is plenty more to come.