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July 26, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
  (11:57 AM)

Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. I'm here at Gillette Stadium as the team has its first training camp practice (1:30 p.m. ET). Bill Belichick answers questions from reporters at 1 p.m. ET. So we'll plan to go until 12:50 or so today.

Mike Reiss
  (11:59 AM)

I feel old saying this, but it doesn't really feel like training camp to me. When I first started covering the team in 1997 for Patriots Football Weekly, I actually stayed over in the dorms at Bryant College and it was an all-day affair -- early morning to late night.

Chad (New York)

Do you think the Patriots stick with their current stable of RBs or do see them signing a veteran during camp?

Mike Reiss
  (12:01 PM)

Thanks for leading us off, Chad. I could see another running back added, with the idea of absorbing some of the carries late in preseason games. Another thing to consider is that FBs Tony Fiametta and Eric Kettani could see some carries, a la Heath Evans. So to sum it up, any veteran added would be on the roster bubble anyway. I think they are going with what they have, and any additions would likely be for camp purposes.

Joe (Milton)

Hey, Mike-- what do you think the O-Line will be an issue this year given the injuries to Mankins and Vollmer, as well as the uncertainty of Waters and the center position? Thanks

Mike Reiss
  (12:03 PM)

Joe, the offensive line bears watching in my view. There are significant questions there, but there are two points I'd also make: 1) There always seems to be a position in camp like that and the picture is ever-evolving. By the end of camp, that position might have questions answered, yet different questions have cropped up elsewhere. In the end, I think the Patriots will be OK along the o-line; 2) Every contender in the AFC seems to have o-line questions. I'd argue the Ravens, Steelers and Texans have greater questions than New England, for example.

Chad (New York)

Mike, do the Pats practice in pads today?

Mike Reiss
  (12:03 PM)

No pads today, Chad, per the new collective bargaining agreement.

Clayton Abernathy (Denver,CO)

Will Wes Welker's contract status affect him?

Mike Reiss
  (12:04 PM)

Clayton, we might be hearing from Wes Welker today after practice, and I'd expect he'll be saying that situation is behind him and it's all football. I believe him.

Ryan (Maryland)

In the lighthearted accountability department, which prediction stung more: "Joseph Addai - Best free agent signing" or "Jermaine Cunningham - Biggest second year jump"?

Mike Reiss
  (12:05 PM)

Tough crowd here, LOL. Addai stings more, because I should have couched it with a health question ... if healthy. Think I got too swept away by the young backs saying how great it was to have him in the meeting room.

Neil (South Boston)

Mike, like everyone else I'm concerned with Sebastian Vollmer's inability to stay on the field. The entire O-line appears to be in flux for this and a variety of other reasons, i.e. injuries & failures to report. What's the Pats plan here?

Mike Reiss
  (12:06 PM)

Neil, if Vollmer can't go, Marcus Cannon the next man in. Depth at OT thin. Developmental prospect Matt Kopa another player to watch. Spent last year on practice squad.

Erich (NH) [via mobile]

Mike, why did Joe Addai get cut? You guys reported that he failed his physical upon reporting, but so did five other players last week (and I don't recall reading about five cuts the following day!). Why not give him a few days to work and give him another crack at it? I wanted to see him stick around here.

Mike Reiss
  (12:07 PM)

Erich, a failed physical can mean different things -- injury, not passing conditioning test etc. My sense is that if Addai's situation was simply conditioning-based, he would have received more time.

MarkJ (Japan)

Mike, we are blessed to have you three amigos at ESPN Boston! Any updates for Nick McDonald?

Mike Reiss
  (12:08 PM)

Thanks MarkJ, nice to be working alongside Mike Rodak and Field Yates, for sure. Young, hungry, passionate guys who love football. My hunch on McDonald is that he probably didn't pass the conditioning test and got another crack at it this morning. We'll see if he's on the field today.

john (quincy ma)

We know Vince Wilfork will be one of the best players in the NFL every week if he stays healthy. But are Pryor, Love and Warren, good enough to be above averge players to help this fefense improve?

Mike Reiss
  (12:09 PM)

I think Love is, John. Pryor too much of a health question to truly rely on him at this point in my view. And Warren is more of a situational guy at this point, but an effective one when called upon (at least based on 2011).

J Holdgate (Nantucket)

With the release of Addai do you feel that the organization is showing faith in another UFA Ole Miss back in Brandon Bolden? And do we make another defensive addition? with open Addai slot? Thanks!

Mike Reiss
  (12:10 PM)

Word behind the scenes is that Bolden has indeed been impressive and that could have been somewhat tied to the quick hook with Addai. In terms of the open roster spot, I'd think they'd prefer an OL, but they're probably tough to find. Not a lot out there, with the rosters at 90 throughout the league. Patriots a bit thin on OL right now.

Lucky (Springfield, MA)

Mike, I just want to say that I enjoy your insight into the Patriots over the years. Between you & the guys from PFW I always maintain a great understanding of my team and keep things in perspective. My questions is, when we look back on the 2012 season, what do you think will be the single most important underrated off season move?

Mike Reiss
  (12:11 PM)

Lucky, thanks for those words. In terms of a prediction on underrated offseason move, let's see what DE Trevor Scott can do. Maybe similar to Mark Anderson from last year.

David (North Attleboro,Ma)

I like Sterling Moore l but I think he is still a young CB that could go either way. Look at McCourty's second season.Moore has played in only 9 games in the NFL. As Patriots fan are we reading too much into 9 games as a pro?

Mike Reiss
  (12:12 PM)

David, I think we can only judge based on what we've seen. My feeling on Moore is that there is solid potential there, but he's still in a "have-to-prove-it-again" type of situation.

john (london)

Mike, great job with Pats coverage year round! Any info regarding Pats - NO joint practices? Cost, time, etc?

Mike Reiss
  (12:13 PM)

John, the practices are Aug. 7 and 8. Not sure on the time yet. There is no cost.

David Katzenbogen (Hibbing,MN)

What new wrinkles might McDaniels bring to the offense?

Mike Reiss
  (12:14 PM)

David, one thought is the possibility of seeing more screen passes. Not saying it's going to happen, but it's an aspect of the offense that seemed to maybe disappear a bit of late that could come back. Also, the potential integration of a fullback.

Alison Hart-Burnett (Martha's Vineyard,MA)

Will Andre Carter return?

Mike Reiss
  (12:15 PM)

At this point, Alison, I'd say no. But these situations are always fluid and thus could change. The Patriots issued his jersey number to another player yesterday.

Conrad Hauser (St.Louis,MO)

Will Rob Gronkowski have a letdown after a stellar 2011?

Mike Reiss
  (12:15 PM)

Conrad, tough to project, but I wouldn't be surprised if Gronkowski's numbers are down a bit, but that he still has a big impact on the game and the way defenses approach the Patriots.

Ettienne Lafitte (Fer-de-Lance,LA)

Can Sebastian Vollmer, Patrick Chung, and Brandon Spikes play the entire season?

Mike Reiss
  (12:17 PM)

Their agents hope so :) Because if they do, there could be a solid payday in the waiting for them -- Vollmer and Chung are free agents after the season, and Spikes after the 2013 season. In all seriousness, that's an impossible question to answer. Injuries are somewhat about luck too.

Carl Greer (Concord,MA)

What will happen with the left side of the offensive line?

Mike Reiss
  (12:18 PM)

Carl, I think we'll see Solder at LT, Mankins at LG. If Mankins isn't ready, it's Robert Gallery's job to lose.

PatsOverJetsPerTheNorm (Florida)

Mike, you know we are diehard around ESPN Boston. You gotta help ease our minds with the Waters situation. Part of me wants to believe that the Wilson pick might have been different if BB had concerns about Waters not reporting (especially since concerns with Mankins, Vollmer, etc were pre-existing). The other part of me believes that BB knows Waters is capable of reporting late and playing at a high level, which is why there hasn't been much action at OL heading into camp. Given that it's all speculation, will you say something (anything!) that will ease our minds about Waters and the OL situation?

Mike Reiss
  (12:20 PM)

The one thing I'd say is that I don't think any of this was a surprise to Bill Belichick. So I don't think his planning would have been any different. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the signing of Robert Gallery might have been a direct result of Waters' uncertain situation. In the end, if I had to guess, it's a situation where Waters wants to play in 2012 but doesn't want to go through a camp.

Kevin Faulk (at home) [via mobile]

I still haven't heard that special Patriots ringtone. Did Bill lose my number? Let me just make sure it's still working...

Mike Reiss
  (12:21 PM)

LOL, Kevin. They know what you can do. Probably the type of thing that they could wait until after camp and it could still come together quickly, if that's the direction they want to go.

Dashiell Flaireborn (Wichita,KS)

Will first-round picks Chandler Jones or Dont'a Hightower, or any of the other rookies, have a big impact?

Mike Reiss
  (12:22 PM)

I believe they wil, Dashiell. Given the way the Patriots are in their sub defense more than the base these days (63 percent to 34 percent last season), I think both could potentially be in the 60-percent playtime range if they perform up to hopes/expectations. My thought is that, at the least, they help in sub.

Shana O'Hara (Atlanta,GA)

Can Brandon Lloyd have the same impact that Randy Moss did in 2007?

Mike Reiss
  (12:23 PM)

Shana, I think it will be a different type of impact. Moss had the deep-threat speed and was remarkable with one-handed catches and the like. There was one training camp practice in 2007 that is unforgettable, when Brady and Moss just took over. I don't see that in Lloyd, but I do see a competitive outside receiver who can make tough plays in traffic. That should be an asset to the offense.

Andrew Davis (West Simsbury, CT)

Hey Mike,I?m going to try to make it up to a practice this summer and I hope I can meet you. What is going on with Brian Waters? While I wrote off his post-Super Bowl comments as the comments of an old, tired veteran, he seems slightly disgruntled. My impression of Waters was that he has always been a consummate professional and that he was delighted to be in a winning program after playing for the University of North Texas and the KC Chiefs, which are not programs where wins are abundant. His situation is odd because he had plenty of time to think about retirement in the off-season, and his comments about his failure to report yesterday were strange as he stated ""I'm not really talking about it, you'll have to talk to the Patriots about it." While I didn't hear his tone, those words have a disgruntled edge to them, which is unexpected because the Patriots excused him from OTAs and such. He could have retired already if he really wanted to and it makes me wonder if he 1) hopes to renegotiate his contract to get Pro Bowl dollars for his last season or 2) is having some issues with Coach B and the front office or 3) Both of those combined. I would expect a guy like him to want to take one more shot at finally earning a Super Bowl ring. You have a better understanding of the personalities at play and I'm wondering about your impression of the situation? Thanks.

Mike Reiss
  (12:26 PM)

Andrew, it's all speculation at this point. My sense is that he'd like one more chance to win a ring, he had a great experience here in 2011, and he'd like to do it again -- on his timetable. Last year, he showed he could show up the week before the regular season and be effective. Why not do it again? If that's the case, and it's not about money (he is a bargain at $1.4m), it puts Bill Belichick in a bit of a tough spot from a team-building perspective. Why should one player not have to go through what everyone else does? A big part of camp is developing camaraderie, and Waters isn't here to do that. But at the same time, if he makes the team better, and you have some certainty as to what you are going to get, maybe you go along with it. Waters lives in Texas and has regularly spent his offseasons there. That's another layer to consider. It's all speculation, but when I connect the dots, those are some of the variables that seem to be in play.

Benjamin (Walpole, MA)

In your opinion, is the final WR going to come down to either Branch or Stallworth? Any chance both players make the team (assuming everyone else is healthy)?

Mike Reiss
  (12:28 PM)

Benjamin, I think the big thing for Branch will be how he looks after the "grind" of camp. If the team still feels like he has legs, I think he's here. They're running a lot of stuff with him with the top guys, so that tells me what they think of him in terms of what he might be able to contribute. I think it's going to be tough for Stallworth to make it without some injuries.

Dave (NYC)

Mike,I've been waiting for this day since the end of the SB...and would be even if we won. Here's to 7 (hopefully) months of football. There have been many chats and mail bags where the topic of trading Hoyer and Mallet has come up. You've certainly indicated that a great Pats trade is a long shot...I really think it's not even relevant when it comes to Mallet. Many have indicated it would be great to trade mallet for a 2nd round pick. Turning 7th rounders or Undrafted players into high picks is good football business sense. however, the Pats didn't draft Mallet in round 3 with the hopes of trading him for a second rounder two years later. BB has shown that he can just trade the pick into the next year and move up, not wait two years. So, unless some team is offering a 1st rounder, which isn't going to happen, Mallet's not getting traded.

Mike Reiss
  (12:30 PM)

Makes sense to me, Dave, assuming they are high on Mallett. If they think they could get a 2, and retain Brian Hoyer, perhaps that's a scenario that would work for them. But it would have to happen next year, not this year, based on the things that need to come together with Hoyer (who enters the last year of his contract). Like you, I've been waiting for this day. Exciting.

Nate (Needham)

Hey Mike, with visanthe shiancoe now signed, isn't it a bit ridiculous with the TE position. I think Gronk, Hernandez, Fells, Shiancoe, and Ballard is overkill. Or who knows, maybe belichick is re-inventing the game once again?

Mike Reiss
  (12:31 PM)

Nate, it looks like overkill on the surface. But when considering that Fells isn't ready to start training camp, and Ballard likely isn't going to play until 2013, it alters the picture in my view. Good depth, and we saw what having no tight ends behind Gronk/Hernandez meant in the Super Bowl last year.

John F (Walpole)

One day after you post your roster predcition and Field Yates is leaving you in the dust. I'm buying a Brandon Bolden jersey.

Mike Reiss
  (12:31 PM)

Field is a keeper, no doubt.

Gronk ((laying low))

will i start camp on day 1?

Mike Reiss
  (12:32 PM)

Sure looks that way to me, unless it comes down to a situation where the team wants to play it safe. Word is you came into camp in good condition.

Wayne Sneedon (Auburn,AL)

Can the Patriots get any production from their secondary, in terms of general coverage, pass breakups and interceptions? New England defensive backs simply must get their hands on more balls.

Mike Reiss
  (12:33 PM)

Wayne, I think well see McCourty/Dowling/Arrington as the top three CBs, and Chung/Gregory/Wilson as the top safeties. No certainties here, but on paper, they look stronger than last year.

paul (watertown)

Mike, Thanks for all the great work over the summer, as well as your cohorts. My question: Do you think the Pats did anything to address kickoff returns? Last year I was happy if they started on their own 20. I think Belichick underestimated the impact of returners with the new rules. Thanks.

Mike Reiss
  (12:35 PM)

Paul, I don't think they value the kickoff return as much as they once did, based on the rule changes. Woodhead and McCourty were a few players working there in spring camps.

Chuck (Swansea)

I think I'm going to sit here and stare at ESPN Boston all day, hitting the refresh button and waiting for the first camp report of the year. I'm fired up.

Mike Reiss
  (12:35 PM)

Good stuff, Chuck. Practice at 1:30 p.m. ET. Likely won't be posted until around 4 p.m. ET.

Justin (Sharon)

Hey Mike! With all of the designations players can be assigned during camp, how about a quick refresher on what they mean and whether they count towards the 90-man roster? For example, does Brian Waters (listed as Did Not Report) count towards the roster limit? How about Nick McDonald (on the Active/PUP list)?

Mike Reiss
  (12:36 PM)

Good call, Justin. Waters, as I understand it, does not count against the 90-man limit. McDonald, on PUP, does count against the limit (as do any PUP players).

Tommy (Albany,NY)

Hey mike. I have seen a good amount of people speculating that Alfonzo Dennard will not make the roster. Personally, I think he has way too much potential and skills to simply release for someone who only plays on special teams. What do you think?

Mike Reiss
  (12:37 PM)

I'd put him on there right now, Tommy. Watching him in spring camps, I thought he was competitive in coverage and showed some good ball skills. Reminded me of Ellis Hobbs a bit from a size/competitiveness perspective.

Zach (Maine)

Do you think Ras I Dowling will be the right corner this year? Also, how well do you expect him to perform? I really like his size but he has also been out for a year.

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

I do expect that, Zach, assuming good health. I think the coaching staff is really high on Dowling.

Charlie Hauck (Framingham, MA)

There have been rumors that Brian Waters thinks he's too told to be doing the whole training camp thing. Last year he was released by KC in late July and didn't sign with the Pats until Sept 4th. It would make sense that he signed relatively late last year to purposely avoid training camp. This only reinforces the belief that Waters may be using his clout with Bill Belichick to abstain from practice for as much time as possible. The fact is, he showed up a week before last years season opener and was prepared enough to put together a Pro-Bowl caliber season. Even though it's a move that would seem contra-Belichickian, do you think Bill just lets his absence slide? Mike, I know you're not a betting man but if you had to chose one way or the other, do you think that Brain Waters will eventually saddle up and play for the Pats this season?

Mike Reiss
  (12:39 PM)

Yes, if I had to guess, I think Waters plays for the Patriots this year (assuming the team is willing to work with his perceived desire to skip camp).

Justin (Sharon)

I recently read on Twitter (great job there, by the way!) that Addai did not pass his physical and that may have something to do with why he was cut. What does this actually mean? Does this indicate a lack of fitness or could it be that he has an injury that we're not aware of?

Mike Reiss
  (12:40 PM)

My sense is more of the latter, Justin.

Paul (Falmouth, ME)

Hi Mike, Great that we are so close to the first game of the season and the excitement is here!! This may be a bit long, but this needs to be cleared up. I am tired of hearing how Brady is the best QB in football here over and over, and maybe so in the regular season, but since Getting Welker and Moss, this team in the playoffs is absolutely terrible and Brady is the main reason and not the defense. Everyone blames the D for not stepping up down the stretch when it is the offense that doesn't step up!! My defense is this is supposed to maybe be the best offense ever, and the SB winning team was much better in the playoffs. The D back then gave up 14 straight points in the 4th quarter vs Rams forcing TB to score which he did like Montana did!!! Then vs Panthers, the D gave up 18 in the 4th forcing TB into a shootout vs Delhomme, and another last minute drive to win, and if McNab had not been exhausted or whatever they were beginning to make the comeback. The D's back then were better, the offenses couldn't score like today and TB is never there any more in the playoffs when the pressure is on down the stretch, and in all the losses since 07 which were their last game, they have averaged only 16 point a game, and the SB era offense thru 06 averaged almost 25 a game with a much inferior offense, and please don't say the other teams D of late is the reason, because it is much harder to shut down a team now! And had that pass to Welker been where it should have been last year it was a TD! What is your take and thanks Mike?

Mike Reiss
  (12:43 PM)

Passionate stuff, Paul. I think it's fair to say Brady's work in the playoffs recently isn't up to the high standard we've come to expect. I don't view it as a black and white issue, where it's one or the other -- offense or defense. But if I had to pick one key to this season, I'd lean defense.

Egan (Washington dc)

Mike,Any idea what drills or practice breakdown the Pats have slated for today?

Mike Reiss
  (12:44 PM)

Egan, nothing specific, but based on the past, probably basic stuff. Expect to see the offense working on lining up/formation work and some different stuff in that regard. First step in a long process.

Brandon (Bangor)

A lot of people predict this time for greatness, and with the way everything looks on paper, they could be right. The only problem for me is the last time this happened was in 08, where a few minutes into the first game, everyone had their hearts crushed. I'm trying not to get caught in the swirl of "16-0" and "superbowl or bust" because of the way 08 went. I'm really hesitant to give anyone more than 12 wins because when you step into that 13-3 category, you're talking about an .800 win percentage and when you set yourself up for such lofty expectations, especially after a year where they were one spectacular catch removed from being Superbowl champs, it sets up for a huge disappointment. I understand the track record of this team and what it has been able to over the last 11 years, but I really try to temper my expectations with a dose of realism to avoid having my hopes dashed if they end up 10-6 or 11-5 (which is still very good and could very well win the AFC East). There's always a chance for a near catastrophic injury on top of that, because it's just the nature of the game.

Mike Reiss
  (12:46 PM)

Brandon, it's funny how expectations work sometimes. They can be a curse. Or a blessing of sorts. I wrote on that a bit today. I really don't think expectations impact this team, not the way Bill Belichick runs things. In 2010, it seemed expectations were lower and they rip off 14-2. In some ways, it made that season fun to cover. Unexpected. This year, the expectations are much higher. But as you noted, things can change so quickly in this game and the picture is altered.

brandon (PENACOOK NH)

do you think the release of addai really gives bolden o legitimate chance to get on the 53 man roster or just meant to open a spot for a FB to fill?

Mike Reiss
  (12:47 PM)

Brandon, I think Bolden has a real chance. Let's see what he does with it.

Mike Reiss
  (12:47 PM)

Going to take a few more and then prepare for Bill Belichick's news conference.

Chad Johnson (Miami)

Mike do you agree with me about the comments I made about why I failed here in New England last year?

Mike Reiss
  (12:47 PM)

Pathetic.

Mike Reiss
  (12:47 PM)

Seriously, Chad.

James (Northern California)

My feeling is that BB will do what is the best for his team. If having B. Waters fresh for the season by skipping majority or all of camp, he is going to skip camp. I really think BB already worked something. If Waters doesn't report, there is a spot for someone else to get hit on during camp. Its not like anyone is going to challenge BB on this front.

Mike Reiss
  (12:48 PM)

Makes sense, James. At the same time, it sort of puts one player above the team, which isn't his way.

Will (portsmouth, NH)

mike. where is andre carter and what is his current health situation? will he get re-sighned? he was a beast before he got injured..

Mike Reiss
  (12:49 PM)

Will, I listened to Carter on Sirius XM NFL Radio last week and it sounded like that injury and recovery was more serious than maybe some realized. I just didn't get the sense he was all the way back.

Nick (VA)

Lets keep the theme of the day going with addai getting cut. How much percentage wise does this affect Kevin "the age-less wonder" Faulk possibity of being picked up?

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

Nick, I have my doubts that they'll re-sign Faulk. I'm not sure how much stock to put into that given my wonderful Addai-will-be-a-good-pickup prediction.

Dave (Ottawa, ON)

Hey Mike, I know you disagreed with me when I brought it up after the Ballard signing, but I'm betting Belichick winds up keeping four TEs this season and only five WRs.Belichick's evolution of the Tight End led offense is going to continue as we see formations and gameplans never seen before. Agree with me on the keeping 4 athletic TEs yet?

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

Dave, I could see four being there, with the fourth -- Daniel Fells -- starting the season on PUP. Thus, he wouldn't count against the 53-man limit.

Bill B. (Gillette)

Where are you, Mike? Can't start this without you.

Mike Reiss
  (12:51 PM)

LOL. Had no idea Bill Belichick had time to join our chats during camp. Very neat. Have a good camp, Bill, and I'm headed down shortly.

Mike Reiss
  (12:52 PM)

Thanks to everyone for chatting. We'll do it again next Thursday. Stay tuned to ESPNBoston.com for more coverage as things progress.