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May 23, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike
  (12:00 PM)

Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. We'll get started momentarily.

Mike
  (12:01 PM)

Feeling like there is a lot to talk about today. With a solid organized team activity on Tuesday in which media members were present, we have some actual on-field football to talk about. Fires me up. So let's roll until about 1 p.m. ET.

Peter (Hamilton) [via mobile]

Hey mike, I feel like your conclusion that Michael Jenkins practicing with Brady (and DA) means something is premature. Maybe the reason is he is too slow to participate meaningfully in special teams reps. From footage and others it seems Jenkins had a very unimpressive first day, while many are heralding Dobson's catch in traffic the "play of the day..." Don't you think Dobson still has the leg up for the starting X position?

Mike
  (12:02 PM)

Peter, let's start with this: Everything is premature at this point. We're in late May, there have been 3 practices (including today's closed-to-the-media session), and there is a long, long way to go. If we lose that context, I think we're really misrepresenting everything. So let's start there ...

Mike
  (12:05 PM)

As for Jenkins vs. Dobson, here are some additional thoughts: Jenkins wouldn't project to special teams, so yes, that is part of why he could be working with Brady on one field (with Amendola) while the rest of the club is on the other field for special teams work. But to say that's the only reason, I don't think I'd go along with that either. More than anything, what I think it reflects is how far ahead veterans are from the rookies right now, and that's just the way it usually is. Rookies have a lot of ground to make up. That doesn't mean Dobson can't make it up, but if the season were starting today (always dangerous to think along those lines), I think it would be Jenkins-Amendola based on the snapshot we saw Tuesday.

Paco (the Burg, VT)

Mike, Is it me or do Gronk's injuries become a bit more public than is usual with Pats players? The surgery this week just got me thinking back to last year when the break initially happened and then sadly re-happened. There were media reports that very night saying it was a broken arm, what the injury timeframe was, etc. I remember thinking, anybody else and all we would have gotten from BB was "Arm injury. We'll update on Wednesday as we always do." Followed by a Doubtful designation on Wednesday with no additional details. With Gronk, we always seem to have a lot more info. Do players get some input into how much can get released? Or is this just a case of he's higher profile and everyone but TB12 so it just happens to get out? Thanks in advance.

Mike
  (12:07 PM)

I'd agree with this, Paco. Someone said to me the other day, "There seem to be a lot of [media] leaks around Gronk." A little bit of an unusual case.

Brian (Philly)

How does it look like Amendola is handling his move?

Mike
  (12:08 PM)

Brian, he caught my eye Tuesday as being one of the first receivers to run through drills. Looked to me like he was a leading presence among that WR group. Came as advertised -- quick, change of direction skills real good, reliable hands. If he stays on the field, I expect there won't be a big issue with him.

Matt (Milton)

Mike, I know it's early, but forecast Ballard's role if you will-- epecially now that Gronk is out for a bit. Keep up the good work and thanks for doing weekly chats.

Mike
  (12:10 PM)

Matt, these weekly chats are great; really enjoy the interaction. Assuming there are no setbacks with Ballard, I think he's the top backup to Gronkowski as the "Y" tight end, which is the tight end who most often is aligned closer to the line of scrimmage and plays a larger role in the blocking game. At 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds, he has good size and I was most interested to watch how he ran. It wasn't effortless (it never really was with Ballard), but I thought it was better than I was expecting.

nate (norfolk) [via mobile]

Hey Mike, I think that Jamie Collins could definitely have a spot waiting for him at mlb in 2014 and beyond. I see him as a kind of modern attacking mlb in the mold of Daryl Washington out in Arizona or Lawrence Timmons in pitsburgh, yet with the coverage skills and athleticism to stay on the field on third down to rush or cover. Thoughts?

nate (norfolk) [via mobile]

Note to my question: I think Daryl Washington had like 90 tackles and 9 sacks last year

Mike
  (12:12 PM)

Nate, I don't see Collins as a middle linebacker based on when he was at his best at Southern Mississippi. To me, he's more of that edge presence in the Ninkovich mold. One 4-3 team I spoke with envisioned him as a wide-9 type of end, where you can use that athleticism in space to create some havoc. I'm not sure the middle is the best place to tap that.

Mike
  (12:12 PM)

In individual drills Tuesday, Collins was working with the Ninkovich/Bequette group at OLB/DE. Something to watch going forward as he obviously has some position flexibility.

tim (durham, nh)

surprised at the no-show by spikes?

Mike
  (12:14 PM)

Tim, I am surprised. These are voluntary workouts and players aren't required to attend, but usually they do in this program; even in years where players didn't attend the majority of the offseason program, they'd still be in town for OTAs. This year, Spikes is the only player to not be present.

Gary (No VA)

Did Spikes attend OTAs last year?

Mike
  (12:14 PM)

Yes, Gary, he was present last year.

Michael (NYC)

After what happened to Crabtree (and Suggs last year), I just hope the Pats make it out of OTAs without any injuries!

Mike
  (12:16 PM)

Michael, it's really unfortunate when you hear about injuries like Michael Crabtree's with the 49ers, and Henry Hynoski's with the Giants. It's another reminder of the importance of depth. Game of attrition in many ways -- even in May. Crazy.

Steve (San Diego)

Hey Mike! With recent speculation of Spikes' long term future in question, can you humor me and tell me which LB lineup makes more sense sans Spikes in 2014... SLB: Hightower MLB: Mayo WLB: Collins OR SLB: Collins MLB: Hightower WLB: Mayo ?? Thanks!!

Mike
  (12:17 PM)

I think Collins on the strongside would be most ideal if we're locking him into a linebacker spot.

Left Coast Pats Fan (Sacramento, CA)

Terrell Suggs got hurt playing pickup basketball. It wasn't a team activity that did him in.

Mike
  (12:17 PM)

True, true. Another reminder of the importance of depth. In retrospect, impressive how the Ravens overcame that early on last year.

Ash P. (Toronto, ONT, Canada)

Hi Mike - what's the word on Boyce? from what I read he has pretty good speed, so I'm quite interested to see what he's got and how he looks.

Mike
  (12:18 PM)

Hasn't practiced yet, Ash, as he's being held out with a foot injury sustained before being drafted.

Jared (Maine)

Of the slew of WR's the Pats brought in, did any stand out as visibly capable of beating man press coverage? Such coverage has really disrupted the Patriots passing game in recent years.

Mike
  (12:18 PM)

Jared, we didn't see any press coverage Tuesday. No pads. No full contact.

Charles (Newton, MA)

Hi Mike. What are your thoughts on WR Mark Harrison? On one hand, a guy with his measurables falling off the draft seems like a huge warning sign. On the other, I have read reports that if he can clean up his ball skills he could be a solid "big" WR. Does he even have a chance to crack the roster with all of the potential X talent on team right now?

Mike
  (12:19 PM)

Charles, Harrison is in the same position as Boyce -- foot injury, still not cleared to particiate on the field. So everything is a projection right now. If I had to guess the end result at this time, would say practice squad. But a long way to go.

Raj (Morrisville, NC)

Hi Mike, Very interesting to hear about Tom comments this morning. Do you believe that he does not mind about Wes leaving and he does not feel angry with Pats?

Mike
  (12:22 PM)

Raj, I think Brady was naturally disappointed. It stinks to lose one of his best friends. But he also has more information than most as to how it went down and I think that helps lead to more understanding of why things ended up the way they did. I don't think Brady is upset at the organization at all. I don't think Brady is upset at Welker at all. I think he gets it -- a confluence of events came together to lead to this unexpected ending. It's easy in retrospect to look back on it and say, "Man, if only this were different, we wouldn't be in this situation." But after reconciling those thoughts, Brady has the important ability to turn his focus to the area that helps him become most productive.

Mike
  (12:24 PM)

Both sides can share in some of the responsibility for the ending. It isn't just on the team. It isn't just on Welker.

Rob Goz (Boston, MA)

Someone grab a bucket of cold water and douse Mike with it, fired up over OTAs? Let's take a step back and calm down. OTAs are essentially the equivalent of Captain's Practices which are nothing more than glorified catch. Did you feel as though there were any actual takeaways from this week's media viewed session or was it just fluff to fill the blog?

Mike
  (12:26 PM)

Rob, if you can't get fired up over what you're doing, time to do something else. And anyone that downplays OTAs doesn't understand the process of what it takes to field a competitive team and probably should go into sports talk radio or something. This is much, much, much more than glorified catch. Ask the players who are grinding away in meetings and being drilled hard by coaches, or who are losing jobs because they aren't cutting it. As for notable takeaways, there were many, and I'd start with this one:

Mike
  (12:28 PM)

Jake Ballard was on the field, doing the work with the rest of his teammates, which was the first telltale sign that his recovery is on course and he could be a contributor to the 2013 Patriots. I don't know how some could call that fluff. To me, that's real important information for a team that has had its top tight end (Rob Gronkowski) have a string of bad luck medically this offseason.

space_ray (Brookline, MA)

Mike, Is Spikes and his agent trying to send an early message to the Pats by NOT attending OTA's that he expects BIG bucks come contract renewal time? What "game" do you think he's playing by not showing up?

Mike
  (12:29 PM)

I don't think that's it, space_ray. I just think Spikes is his own man and likes to do things his own way. Bill Belichick even said as much in 2010 shortly after drafting him -- Spikes marches to the beat of his own drum and does things a little unconventionally. When you draft a player like that, this is what you sign up for.

Reggie Mantle (Redmond, WA)

With the drafting of linebackers like Jamie Collins and Steve Beauharnais, and the return of Dane Fletcher, along with the releases of Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick, is it possible that the defense switches back to primarily running out of a 3-4? Or are Tommy Kelly and Armond Armstead shaping well? Is there a possibility they go for more veteran DTs like Sione Pouha?

Mike
  (12:31 PM)

Reggie, we had some of this talk in this week's mailbag. My take is that we might see a more multiple defense this year -- flip-flopping at times based on some of the hybrid players they have. But I'd be surprised if we see the 3-4 defense that was a staple of the Patriots in the 2003 and 2004 Super Bowl seasons. On Pouha, he's one of the top NT/DTs out there and I would imagine he might be on their emergency list.

Jughead Jones (Newton, MA)

Could dumping Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick (at least in part) have something to do with removing an obstacle for a John Abraham deal? If signed, he would get more playing time now, wouldn't he? I think the emphasis for next season must be on collapsing the pocket and pass rush, while being able to stop things like the 49ers read option.

Mike
  (12:33 PM)

Specific to Love and Deaderick, I don't think the reason they were released had anything to do with Abraham. I know this sounds cold, but reading between the lines I think it's mostly a case of Bill Belichick not wanting Deaderick in the program any more, and with Love, it all came down to the disagreement on his health and what he could contribute in 2013. If Love wanted to sit out '13, he could have been back in '14 to compete for a job, but that wasn't his preference.

Jojo (providence)

What is the deal with Brandon Spikes? He's not the protypical Patriot ala Nate Solder but he doesn't appear to be Adalius Thomas either. However I've been paying attention a lot this offseason (reading your work here especially) and I'm noticing a consistent subtext. I get the feeling he won't only be gone after this season but gone before the first game like Richard Seymour. Keep it real Mike, no more subtlety: what is really going on with Spikes?

Mike
  (12:36 PM)

Always try to keep it real, Jojo. Spikes has decided to stay away. It's within his rights. I would imagine Bill Belichick, privately, is disappointed by this and questions how the team could commit long-term to a player like Spikes when he's the only player who isn't committing to the voluntary work going on now. How that all plays out, the timing is tough to project. Does Spikes play out this year and leave? Do the Patriots decide they don't want Spikes in 2013 and move on? Does Spikes play here in 2013 at an All-Pro level and get re-signed? I'd just be guessing, but if you wanted my guesses, I put them in order I could envision them unfolding at this point.

Skinny Rex (Rutherford, NJ)

Hi Mike,Do Patriot fans realize just how lucky they are to have stability AND excellence in the 4 most important individual pieces of their football organization: Ownership, GM, Head Coach, and Quarterback? Perhaps that's a rhetorical question. From this view, it appears as long as Brady is good, Belichick won't go anywhere, and Brady, the way he trains, might be good for another 5+ years. After all, it's not like he relies on his legs much.

Mike
  (12:37 PM)

I think many do, Skinny Rex, but there's always that element of "you never know what you have until it's gone."

Rick Lakeland FL [via mobile]

With the revamped receiving core I see Lavelle Hawkins playing a large role, he is a good sleeper to go over 1000 yards and 8-10 touchdowns, any thoughts on this?

Mike
  (12:39 PM)

I'd say under, Rick. The biggest thing I want to see with Hawkins is how he adapts mentally. I think he has ideal physical gifts. He caught my eye Tuesday and I made the comparison to an early-career Deion Branch in terms of shiftiness. Going to be a fun player to watch, but I think the numbers here are a little high.

Chris Christie (New Jersey)

Mike,Any chance BB petitions the NFL to rename the team the Scarlet Knights?

Mike
  (12:39 PM)

LOL. 8 of the 90 players on the roster from Rutgers. Unusual, to say the least.

Mike
  (12:41 PM)

I think part of the reason we see that is the 90-man roster limit. There are more spots to fill than ever before, and on some of the back-end spots, Belichick wants to ensure he has players who have been in this type of demanding program and that's the closest it gets in his mind. If we had 80-man rosters, this might not be much of a discussion IMO, the Duron Harmon pick nonwithstanding.

grandjordanian (San Diego, CA)

One thing on Spikes, Mike. I was at the Seattle game last year, and a bunch of 12th Man Crazies were taunting me, my bro and my dad while they were wearing Marshawn Lynch facemasks. I said to them, "Hey Marshawn, watch out for #55 today, I don't think you're going to like meeting him". Then, on their first drive, Spikes blew through the backfield and lit up Lynch for a big loss to force a punt, silencing the crowd. Count me in the group that hopes Spikes sticks around for a long time. When we go up against power running teams, we'll want him.

Mike
  (12:42 PM)

Spikes the best "contact" player on the Patriots' defense. Energy-plus.

Gary (No VA)

I saw the article about the Pats having the 6th oldest starting lineups, but their roster seems to have a good blend of youth and experience. Do you think Brady skews this analysis, and there's the potential a lot of the veterans won't make the 53 man roster?

Mike
  (12:42 PM)

I thought those numbers were a bit "misleading" in the sense that if you sub out Michael Jenkins for Aaron Dobson, it brings it down. This is a young team overall.

Bridgeman (St.Kitts, Canada)

Mike, what is going on with Bolden?

Mike
  (12:44 PM)

Not healthy enough to practice. Had the knee injury last year. Picture popped up on Instagram recently that showed him in a walking boot, which I think has some speculating ankle issue right now. Wasn't cleared to even be on the field Tuesday, as he was back in the training room rehabbing. Have to keep an eye on it going forward.

jim (md)

mike, what are your thoughts on Joe Vellano making the team and potentially getting some snaps this year? he was very versatile and productive at UMD and was surprised he was not a late round pick for someone. thanks.

Mike
  (12:45 PM)

Jim, that's going to be an uphill climb for Vellano, but I wouldn't count anyone out at this point. One thing to keep in mind for a player like Vellano, a spot on the practice squad is still a possibility. We saw it last year with Marcus Forston and now Forston is in better position to compete for a roster spot in 2013.

Jake (NY)

'Afternoon, Mr. Reiss. Who is going to be the starting RB for New England?

Mike
  (12:45 PM)

Jake, Stevan Ridley led all Patriots running backs in 2012 by playing 45 percent of the offensive snaps. At this point, I envision more of the same.

Andre (NY)

Hey mike, Out of all the rookies which one grabs your eye the more during OTA's?

Mike
  (12:48 PM)

Rookies were pretty nondescript in Tuesday's OTA, Andre, which was a reminder to me of how far they have to go to catch up with the veterans. I couldn't decisively name one of them and feel good about it, because I didn't think any of them did much of note. Just blended in and tried to keep up. Going back to Dobson, from the first question of the chat, he had one nice sideline catch, but that was just one play. I thought there was at least one other catch he should have made. ...

Mike
  (12:51 PM)

... In the perfect world, Dobson emerges as that outside WR. I think the next two months are going to be key for him -- first from a conditioning standpoint, and second from a mental standpoint. He just needs to grind through the next three weeks of OTAs, try to hang with the pace, and then he can build a foundation from mid-June to mid-July that puts him in position to hit the ground running in late July when camp begins. This train moves fast, a lot faster than Marshall, and I think that's the adjustment he's going through right now. It's good for him as long as he embraces it as a way to get better.

David (North Attleborough)

Hey, Mike what are are thoughts about changing the draft to May and starting the calendar year earlier?

Mike
  (12:52 PM)

David, still processing it, but like anything else, probably a little reluctant to change. Have gotten used to it the way it is now and like it.

T. (Maine)

Mike, how many catches this year for Greg Salas? :)

Mike
  (12:54 PM)

Heard he made a nice one-handed grab in Eagles camp and thought to myself, "Maybe he gets 61 this year?" LOL. Mark the date: Aug. 9. Patriots vs. Eagles in preseason action. Salas will make the Patriots pay and vindicate me!

Tom B (not that one, sorry) (Beverly Hills CA)

Magic Mike, what WRs are on the final roster? I predict Edelman will not make the cut. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Mike
  (12:56 PM)

Tom, my locks are Amendola, Dobson, Boyce (assuming health) and Slater. So that leaves me with a maximum of three spots to fill between Edelman, Jenkins, Hawkins, Jones, Moe, Harrison, Thompkins etc. Usually an injury or two in camp sorts it out for us.

James (The Cubical!)

Hi Mike, Do you think McCourty has a good chance of going to the Pro Bowl with a full season at safety? Thought he played lights out towards the end of last season.

Mike
  (12:57 PM)

James, I like McCourty as a player. I wasn't necessarily thinking Pro Bowl based on what I saw last year, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. I like the idea of him settling in at safety and seeing how it goes.

Left Coast Pats Fan (Sacramento, CA)

Edelman will definitely make this team, Tom B. He is valuable on special teams and as an emergency backup at DB.

Mike
  (12:57 PM)

Left Coast heard from. Thanks from the East Coast.

Preston (Braintree) [via mobile]

Hey Mike, what's the word on Duron Harmon. Bill has taken a lot of flak by drafting him so early. What are your thoughts?

Mike
  (12:59 PM)

Preston, I'd say Harmon looks like he has the type of intangibles and makeup a team would want. The physical skills are what's in question. More time needed to assess that one. Would have liked to see them take Lattimore there, just in terms of the future planning.

Ed (Los Angeles, CA)

Mike, with so much added size on both defense and offense and BB's love of sub-packs and special groupings, when will we get the first previews of possible groupings and alignments? Bring on the JUMBO dime and the 4 TE/Blount alignments.

Mike
  (12:59 PM)

Great stuff, Ed. Training camp is usually when those roll out.

Mike
  (12:59 PM)

Let's go for another 5...

T. (Maine)

Mike, lingering thought after the draft. You talk about BB always building with the future in mind, and we've certainly seen that be the case at just about every position. In strictly your biased opinion, after the question earlier about consistency, when and how does he approach this with the QB position?

Mike
  (1:02 PM)

Let's break it down T. He has Mallett under contract for another two years, and it's reasonable to think that Brady (signed through 2017) will still be going strong over that time. So let's assume Mallett holds on to the No. 2 job and leaves at the end of 2014 (at the latest) in hopes of competing for a No. 1. I would think BB does something like the Giants did this year (Ryan Nassib in the fourth round) to provide insurance should there be a decline in Brady at any point from 2014-2017. I don't think we need to overthink it. Sort of like any other position, unless we see an unexpected decline from Brady.

Rob Goz (Boston, MA)

Mike,How is that an actual takeaway re: Ballard? 15+ months after he suffers an injury that only took Peterson 8 months to recover from and win an MVP, he is out on the field playing non-contact catch? What's the takeaway exactly? I think that is just par for the course, I would be much more concerned if he wasn't able to get out on the field at this point in time considering his recovery time table, THAT would be a story. And who exactly is losing jobs at this point because of on-field voluntary OTAs (that Spikes didn't even deem important enough to show up for)?I do think you have hit on the only actual OTA takeaway though which ironically is Spikes' decision to not attend (being the only one to make that decision)...that speaks more to me as an outsider than anything that is currently happening on the field.

Mike
  (1:03 PM)

Rob, I don't think Peterson had microfracture surgery like Ballard. Much more serious procedure. This was more than just an ACL. Some considered it potentially career-threatening because it was microfracture and a torn ACL. So when comparing Peterson and Ballard, it's not footballs to footballs.

Tim (Phoenix)

Lots of hand wringing about Gronk's surgeries. Blessing in disguise? Put him on PUP. He can't get hurt first 6 weeks if he's not playing and they can work the new guys in. Whattya think?

Mike
  (1:05 PM)

Tim, that's an optimistic outlook. I just don't think any time without Gronkowski is a blessing in any form. You want that guy out on the field. But if PUP is what it is, I think they have the depth to make it through the first six games and be competitive.

Chris (NY)

Following from the Edelman questions... what player at OTAs now do you feel would be the most valuable asset for the Pats but is in jeopardy of not making the team (whether it be filling a need at a weak position or playing multiple positions or just a chance to be a very good player this season)?

Mike
  (1:06 PM)

Chris, I know it's not fun to answer this way, but it's really way too early to say anything definietly in terms of what we saw Tuesday. Nothing I saw decisively changed any opinion I had going into the OTA in terms of job security. The same players I thought would be in a roster bubble type of situation (e.g. Cunningham) remain there.

Eric C. (Los Angeles)

Hey Mike, when do you think the Patriots extend Devin McCourty? I feel like it's a mere formality at this point since he seems to be Belichick's new favorite Patriot, but I'm curious. I wonder whether there will be any holdup because of his past playing cornerback and projection to safety going forward.

Mike
  (1:07 PM)

Eric, I would think they let this year play out (at least half of it) and see how he looks at safety and go from there. McCourty is signed through the 2014 season.

Superbowl (The Meadowlands)

Mike, when you look at the Pats' shortcomings which were exposed against Baltimore--no power running game, inability to stop big receivers, lack of their own physical receiver (no Gronk), some questionable coaching decisions, and some untimely drops, how well in your eyes has the team addressed each at this early stage?

Mike
  (1:10 PM)

Superbowl, if we were to go along with these thoughts, let's break it down -- power running game (LeGarrette Blount arrives), inability to stop big receivers (Talib healthy again, Adrian Wilson in); lack of their own physical receiver (still developing picture), some questionable coaching decisions (same staff in place); some untimely drops (wholesale changes at WR). In the end, I think the Patriots will be in the mix. They remain one of the elite teams in the AFC.

John McLean (Sacramento, CA)

Mike, do you think there's any chance that Mike Kafka will beat out Ryan Mallett for the backup QB job behind Tom Brady?

Mike
  (1:10 PM)

John, it seems like the Patriots are pretty high on Mallett. I would be mildly surprised if it happens.

WillyC (Brooklyn)

Hi Mike, love your team's coverage of the Pats. Given the injury situation at the Tight End position, how many TEs you think make the roster out of camp? I'd say Hoo-man and Ballard are locks, how about Zach Sudfeld? Thanks

Mike
  (1:11 PM)

Thanks Willy. I think Sudfeld is probably a year away, but if he sticks, it would be because he showed enough development and the Patriots didn't want to subject him to waivers.

Brian (Oxford, CT)

Once OTAs are over, Mike - How common is it for players to stay around and try to get some less supervised work in together? Do the LBs, for instance, have access to the practice fields, just to maybe do a dry run through after their weights work?

Mike
  (1:12 PM)

Yes, Brian, the offseason program continues through into July so a lot of players do stay around and that type of work takes place among players.

Rob Goz (Boston, MA)

Footballs to footballs? Haha...well played however I personally loved the "And anyone that downplays OTAs doesn't understand the process of what it takes to field a competitive team and probably should go into sports talk radio or something."Point to Reiss!

Mike
  (1:13 PM)

Thanks Rob. Good to get a little spirited discussion going. Seriously, though, it's a balance. We shouldn't downplay the OTAs. At the same time, let's not blow them out of proportion. They are important or the team wouldn't be doing them. But it's very, very early and we're just getting started here.

Mike
  (1:15 PM)

Let's end it there. A lot of good questions. In the past, I've sometimes tried to dip in and answer a few extras the following day on our Patriots blog. I'll try to do that Friday. Until then, here's to a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day Weekend to all our chatters. Let's not forget that it was six years ago, on Memorial Day Weekend, that Patriots DE Marquise Hill drowned in a boating accident. The Patriots still have a tribute to Hill set up in the locker room.