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June 20, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

  (11:51 AM)

Will shoot for as close to 12 p.m. as possible to start. Hang tight.

  (12:00 PM)

Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat.

  (12:03 PM)

Going to lead off with some brief thoughts on the current issues surrounding Aaron Hernandez. It goes without saying this is a real serious situation. There are a lot of questions about his potential involvement. We have to let this process play out and law enforcement go through the necessary steps so the truth can hopefully come out. For Hernandez specifically, it seems to me the "best-case scenario" is that he's guilty of associating with the wrong people.

Corey (NW Ohio)

Mike, has Aaron been cooperative with the police, or not? I keep hearing different reports. Can you clear that up?

  (12:04 PM)

Corey, that's the thing with these types of situations. We get all this "play by play" reporting and no one knows what the truth is. It's frustrating, for sure. I don't have the answer.

CB in Utah (Murray UT/Watertown MA)

Hi Mike. A good morning to you. I'm going to avoid all the TT, AH, RG stuff. My guess is others will ask those questions. Today I thought I'd ask about the 1 hold-out from OTAs. How did Brandon Spikes look in Practice last week.

  (12:06 PM)

CB, the one thing that stood out to me with Spikes was that when he entered an offense vs. defense drill late in practice, Rob Ninkovich went over to him and gave him a high-5. I thought it was reflective of acceptance from another teammate. Spikes looked to be in good enough condition. I don't think he would have been allowed in the drill if he wasn't.

Colby Guarino (Ladera Ranch, CA)

Hi Mike. I'm sure you've gotten a million of these questions, but what's the latest on the Aaron Hernandez situation and what does the NFL have to say? Do you think the two starting tight ends at the beginning of the season will be Jake Ballard and Michael Hoomanawanui?

  (12:07 PM)

Colby, the latest is that Hernandez left his North Attleboro home late this morning and arrived at Gillette Stadium. News helicopters followed him. Law enforcement is still working through the situation. It is obviously very serious. We have to let it play out to see Hernandez's involvement, if any at all. But there was enough there for law enforcement to execute a search warrant on his home.

Jeremy (Morris,CT) [via mobile]

Hey Mike, if Dowling continues his strong play, would he be the best fit as the other starting cb on the outside, while pushing the smaller dennard and less physical Arrington inside to play against the slot wr? Dennard doesn't have the height that Dowling does and would be at a physical disadvantage on jump balls.

  (12:09 PM)

Could be, Jeremy, but I think it's Dennard's job right now. If Dowling plays like he did in spring camps (he looked impressive to me), he could challenge Dennard. Dowling has always had the ideal size and physical skills, it's just a matter of putting it all together and staying healthy. Let's see if he can sustain the momentum once the pads come on.

munchkin (glenwood springs, co)

Other than pre-draft trade speculation, outside of this site, I am having a hard time finding too many writers that are very excited about Ryan Mallett. What have you all seen to date that makes you feel more positive about him as a potential NFL QB?

  (12:10 PM)

Munchkin, there is nothing I've seen in a game situation that would excite me at this point. In practice, I've seen a strong arm. There is usually a throw or two in practice that makes you stop and take notice. But there are others where the accuracy is sporadic. So, to me, this preseason is very big for Mallett. If he has a big preseason, then I think all the buzz would be warranted and he becomes a trade asset for them.

Sam Malone (Boston,MA)

I'm really interested in which undrafted free agent will make the team. I personally think it'll be Sudfeld. Now that Moe is out of the question, who do you think it will be if there is one?

  (12:13 PM)

Sam, I think TE Zach Sudfeld (Nevada) is a good pick based on what we saw in offseason camps. He'll still have to prove it when the pads come on. Here's another name to keep an eye on: WR Kenbrell Thompkins. Got a lot of reps in spring camp.

Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)

Who do you think will be the Best Rookie for the Patriots in 2013?

  (12:14 PM)

Chris, I'd start at the top with Jamie Collins, the LB/DE from Southern Mississippi (52nd overall). For a defense that was in sub packages 57 percent of the time last year, an athletic player like Collins should, at the least, find a niche in that area.

MIKE D (Sydney, Australia) [via mobile]

Hi Mike. I have to admit, hearing word of the nature of the Aaron Hernandez situation gave me a sick feeling in the stomach. I know we have to let the investigation take its course, so my question is about Aaron's and Rob Gronkowski's contracts. Those extensions they signed last year, do they only kick in after 2013 when their rookie deals end? And those signing bonuses, are they paid then as well or have the two TEs been paid those already? Thanks Mike.

  (12:16 PM)

Good one Mike. The extensions kicked in when they were signed, so the Patriots have already paid Gronkowski up-front money of $8 million and Hernandez has received $9.25 million of his $12.5 million signing bonus at this point. Those deals are structured so that the team is protected going forward (there is bigger money at the end of each deal), so it's not necessarily a devastating hit, but I do think it's fair to say that after the team invested that amount, they weren't projecting the present picture to be the outcome.

Mike (Medway) [via mobile]

You said Brandon Loyd is not an option to help the Patriots with their WR issues. Why not, he does know the system and, on field, didn't do that bad last year. Since nobody has picked him up he might be a bargain.

  (12:17 PM)

Mike, my sense on Lloyd is that Bill Belichick doesn't view him as a "program fit." I don't have a specific example as to what that means, but my feeling is that there was some question as to which Lloyd would show up on a day to day basis.If it was just about football, I think Lloyd would be with the team.

Jonas (Vejen, Denmark)

Hi Mike! Greetings from Denmark! Really love your work.I have a X & O's question regarding the WR-corps. What kind of benefits could we see from the fact that we now have receivers who can play all over the field? I know that the patriots have always emphasized receivers ability to play both in the slot and outside - but this years receiving corp seems to all have the physical stature to do so succesfully. Take Amendola for instance - he's a slot guy, a Welker-type player - but he's a bit bigger and has slightly more straight line speed compared to Welker, which makes him a bit more suited, as an outside guy, than Welker. Thoughts?

  (12:20 PM)

Jonas, I think there is something to that, although I do envision Amendola playing in the slot when there are 3 receivers on the field. At the same time, I wouldn't undersell Welker as a slot-only guy. He was pretty effective on the outside too, even though he doesn't have the ideal physical characteristics (e.g. 99-yard TD catch-and-run vs. Miami).

MarkJ (Japan)

Mike, any prediction on how Patriots use last two spots on the 90-men roster? I am guessing they will sign veteran WR and DT.

  (12:21 PM)

DT and WR are good guesses MarkJ. I'll go DT and G.

Hunter C (ATL)

Interior OL. Would the Pats be willing to extend Wendell in-season if Connolly is still on the team? Seems like that would mean A LOT of the cap is tied up in Mankins/Wendell/Connolly, and Mankins and Connolly are getting up there in age...

  (12:22 PM)

I think they'd be willing to do it if the price worked for them. One thing to keep in mind: Wendell has the same agent as Mankins (his name is Frank Bauer). Not saying it will be similar to the Mankins situation, but it could be a case where there is some back and forth.

Zack D (Middletown)

Seems like the Pats have been taking more risk on guy who have um....."character concerns" in recent years to add talent (Hernandez, Ochocinco, Haynesworth, Dennard, Lloyd, Spikes). I know they tried to clear house a year or two ago, but think it's catching up with that locker room?

  (12:26 PM)

Zack, I think this is an insightful thought by you. I'm a believer in the locker-room dynamic as being a big part of football and successful teams (to a degree). Sometimes you can just tell when the locker room has the right mix. I personally don't see the locker room as being the same as the early 2000s when there were Bruschis, Vrabels, Izzos etc. in there. Now part of that is that those players/leaders had something special going/about them. I think adding players like Adrian Wilson and Leon Washington gets them closer to where they want to be. I'm not saying that's why they're losing, but I do think it's different than what I remember from the early 2000s and into the 2007 range.

Mike (Beantown)

How is Edleman's recovery going? I know it was not technically necessary but they wanted to try and prevent another injury, so is he coming a long well? When do you think he would be able to pracice. In the rare event event that Danny and Edleman can play toether healthy, I think we would be Ok at WR, maybe throw in Dobson if he picks it up and go back to a lot of # wide sets...

  (12:27 PM)

Mike, I think he has a chance to be ready for the start of training camp. I think Edelman is going to be a bigger part of this receiver group than I maybe had initially projected. The key for him, obviously, is to stay healthy.

Andy (North Shore, MA)

Really disheartened by the AH developments, regardless of what happened earlier this week. To hear he's associating with people like this still is a major letdown, especially after he became a dad. Is there a chance he gets suspended by the NFL or even released by the Pats based on this behavior?

  (12:29 PM)

Yes, Andy, there is a chance Hernandez could get suspended. Check out this clip from SportsCenter this morning, with ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. He provides some good insight along those lines.

Hunter C (ATL)

Assuming the Pats will need multiple players to step up in the passing game this season, do you see Vereen (and possibly Leon Washington in a backup role) as a key contributor in that area this season? Did you observe an emphasis on RBs in the passing game in OTAs and minicamp?

  (12:30 PM)

Yes, but part of that Hunter is that we just watched a passing camp. Naturally there will be a heavier focus on the passing game. Vereen and Washington are the Patriots' best pass-catching backs.

Jungle Jim (San Diego)

HiMike, Love themail and the chats - nice work. The latest news is saddening. If there was ever an opportunity for TE depth to come to the forefront here it is. What is your view of the TE depth chart sans Gronk and Hernandez? We may be well in to the season before we see them.

  (12:31 PM)

TE depth chart without the two top guys: 1. Michael Hoomanawanui; 2. Jake Ballard; 3. Daniel Fells; 4. Zach Sudfeld; 5. Brandon Ford.

Mike G (Boston)

Mike, instead of the weekly check-in on John Abraham, how about your thoughts on Israel Idonije? A few years younger than Abraham, good productivity, some versatility, and a solid veteran from a team with a successful defense. Sounds like a nice piece to me that could add some leadership to a mostly young DE group.

  (12:32 PM)

I could see it, Mike, but I think they'll want to take a closer look at their in-house options first. Some young guys with potential there with Justin Francis, Jake Bequette and Michael Buchanan, not to mention Jermaine Cunningham possibly sticking. I think Bequette has made major strides this offseason.

Sue (Belmont, MA)

I have a question about why some people pick up the offense and others do not. From their public persona, I don't see, say, Gronk or Hernandez or Stallworth being particularly intelligent or serious students, yet they learned the offense very quickly and some reasonably together WRs seem unable to do so. If it's not intelligence or diligence, what is the quality that the Pats should look for in forecasting the ability to pick up the offense?

  (12:36 PM)

Sue, I think there is a difference between intellgence and football intelligence, if that makes sense. Sometimes you can overthink it (not sure it's spot-on, but Benjamin Watson comes to mind along those lines). How do you measure football intelligence: It probably starts on the board and asking the player to dissect some Xs and Os. In the end, it's always going to be tough to project how that player puts it together on the field, especially in an offense like the Patriots where there are so many adjustments at the line of scrimmage and even after the snap.

John (Manchester, NH)

Mike, talking about going from the sublime to the ridiculous, how does going from Tebowmania to the Hernandez situation feel from a reporter's perspective? I'm sure if anyone had suggested this type of circus around a Belichick coached team two weeks ago, you would have laughed.

  (12:38 PM)

John, it's been wild, for sure. That's the thing about this business -- it can be so calm at one moment and then it can be turned upside-down. The thing I keep reminding myself personally is just to try to be responsible. One slip up can blow it all up. I don't want to blow it up, but want to do as good a job as possible.

Ed (McGonagle)

Mike pretty ironic that the Pats signed two high risk TEs to long term contracts and let go Welker the more reliable and accountable WR. At one time it was all about character for Pats, what happened?

  (12:40 PM)

Ed, let's see how this all plays out, but I think it's fair to hold the Patriots accountable for their decision-making process if both TEs ultimately don't contribute for them in 2013/beyond. I think we need more answers on the TEs before we go there, but as we look at the present picture, it's not looking too good for the team.

Dan (Marco Island, FL)

MikeWe always hear about "veteran leadership" and how important it is to the team to keep the young guys in line and teach them the right way. Most often the defense is mentioned. But, recent events indicate the offense has not had any when we see Gronk dancing, body slamming on stage (instead of rehabbing), etc. and Hernandex being sued for shooting someone in the face in Florida, questioned by Staties about the murder near his home, and running off to LA to workout in a better environment (party city) and get himself in "better shape". Where was Brady or anyone on the offense during this time?Too bad the team can't hire bodyguards/babysitters for young players like these two when they make major investments in with big bucks and long term contracts. What a mess.

  (12:42 PM)

Dan, Brady is 35 going on 36. Hernandez and Gronkowski are in their young to mid 20s. There is always going to be a little gap there that is hard to bridge. I don't think this has anything to do with leadership of others as much as the TEs involved showing responsibility for their actions.

John F (Walpole)

Hi Mike:Whle it is still very early in the process, the Aaron Hernandez situation is a didaster. My question is: Who is responsible for the checking up on players habits and associates before signing them to long term mega deals? We now have numerous reporters that cover this team stating that it was common knowledge that Hernandez was gang involved as a youth and had not severed some of those associations. If the Patriot organization had this knowledge and still signed him to that deal, shame on them and if they did not have it, they are not as sharp of an outfit as I thought they were.

  (12:44 PM)

John, the team obviously does thorough background checks. This could be a bad breakdown, but let's see how the Hernandez situation plays out before saying that decisively. If it heads in the wrong direction, I think it's fair to hold the Patriots accountable and ask, "What was the team thinking extending this player's contract after just 2 years and giving him $12.5 million in the form of a signing bonus?"

grandjordanian (San Diego, CA)

Mike, going to focus on a different Florida player than Tebow and Hernandez for a change - Brandon Spikes. I respect what you're saying about the message it sends missing OTAs, but you keep talking about it like it would make a difference one way or another on an extension. C'mon Mike, you know better than that :-) They lock up guys like Mayo and the TEs way early when they want them, and otherwise, the Pats are known as the shrewdest, cheapest and most cold blooded business team in the league. Spikes sees what happened this year with Welker (and, to a lesser extent, Lloyd) and he's supposed to put his faith in that same team? I for one can't blame him for doing his own thing, especially if he thinks it puts him in a better negotiating position with a ruthless organization when it comes to contracts.

  (12:46 PM)

Fair enough, grand. If that's what it is with Spikes, that's his right. What I don't buy is the explanation that his absence was tied to becoming more of a three-down linebacker. That makes little sense to me. I would have understood if the explanation was that he didn't want to subject himself to increased risk of injury.

Dan (Sheffield, UK)

Hi Mike. A quick follow up to Sue's question: do you think it's easier to play TE than it is to play WR in the Pats' offensive scheme?

  (12:46 PM)

I think it's tougher to play TE, Dan, mainly because you're involved more in both the running and passing games.

Corey (D.C.)

I dont think its fair at all to lump Gronkowski into this Hernandez situation as an opening for criticism. Gronkowski has been a model Patriot since Day 1, and quite frankly put together maybe they best first 3 seasons by any TE in NFL history. To call that a poor decision is ludacris.

  (12:47 PM)

Corey, two different situations. One based on inury history. One based on personal character questions. Important to make that distinction.

Andrew (Hagerstown, MD)

Hey Mike,Will you please expound on what it is that indicates that rookie WRs and FA WRs is not "getting it" in regards to the system? I don't see how a few concentration drops for Aaron Dobson should indicate that he is not picking up the system and instilling confidence in TB12 and the Patriots coaching staff.

  (12:51 PM)

Andrew, I'm not suggesting that Dobson isn't picking up the system. My primary thought with Dobson is that he has a great opportunity ahead of him and I think it starts by coming to the start of training camp in the best physical condition possible. That would put him in the best position to succeed. He is a smart player, that was part of what drew the Patriots to him, and I think he deserves more than a four-week offseason stretch before writing the final book on him.

KingKev (Seattle, WA)

You listed Hoomanawanui as the #2 TE, but if the TE position remained a focal point of the offense, and both AH and Gronk missed time, wouldnt Ballard be leaned on as the primary replacement in the receving game?

  (12:53 PM)

Ballard, at 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds, would be more of the in-line TE to help in the blocking game.

Rob (Borough of Manhattan)

Hey Mike: Long time no chat. Hope all is well with you! What chance, if any, do you think there is that Robert Kraft might make an "executive decision" here and have AH cut regardless of football considerations? I don't expect these guys to be choir boys, but this is a whole different level of bad behavior and it would be nice to see this organization protect its reputation in a meaningful way.

  (12:54 PM)

Rob, my first thought is that Kraft will let the legal process play out. At that point, depending on what results from it, nothing would surprise me.


Mike, just one comment about all the "character" questions swirling around Hernandez: it was just months ago that media and fans were lauding how mature and high-character he was after receiving his extension, and overcoming whatever concerns there were about him coming out of school. Now many of those same outlets are painting him as having questionable character, and saying that there were "doubts" about him all along. I'm not taking either position, but it seems to me that everyone is trying to have it both ways, when really we don't know very much at all about the facts of this situation. I would advise all concerned to just take a deep breath and wait for some facts. Just my two cents--love the blog work, as always.

  (12:55 PM)

Good perspective here, AM. One thing I'd add: We never really know these players. Even the team itself, which does extensive research, always is operating with some form of blind spot.

  (12:56 PM)

Let's go for another 5...

Matt (Belmont)

Hi Mike, two questions. 1, Is there a chance that the Pats still stash Mallet on the practice squad? and 2, As I estimate right now, the wide reciever depth chart at the start of the seasons could be: Amendola, Boyce, Edelman, Dobson, Jenkins. What are your thoughts on that and could anyone else make the roster besides those 5? Thanks!

  (1:01 PM)

Matt, Mallett no longer has practice squad eligibility. On the current WR depth chart, this is my thought based on offseason camps: 1. Amendola; 2. Jenkins; 3. Edelman; 4. Thompkins; 5. Aiken; 6. Dobson; 7 Boyce. I wouldn't say Thompkins and Aiken are locks, but they got some good reps.

Brian G Boston [via mobile]

Hey Mike love the chats and mailbags. How do you see the defense playing out this year. I think we have a top 10 defense and I can't wait to grab them in fantasy football again this year!!

  (1:02 PM)

Brian, I think there is a quiet confidence among players right now on defense. The continuity in the secondary, specifically, is what has them thinking improvement on pass defense could be coming. I could see it unfolding that way. I think they will be better than last year.

Jake (Denver)

I think that while most of the focus currently is on the WR corps, the running game should be better than ever. How do you see the snaps being divided, and can Bolden work himself back into the good graces of the coaching staff? Seems like the time between now and camp are going to be HUGE for him.

  (1:05 PM)

Jake, I see Ridley still as the lead back (45 percent of offensive snaps in 2012), with Shane Vereen stepping into the Danny Woodhead role (34 percent of offensive snaps in 2012). Then you fill in with Bolden/Blount and get Washington involved at times.

Mango (Finland)

Hey Mike and thanks for a truly wonderful blog. I wanted to get your thoughts Tom Brady and the challenge he faces with the redo of the WR group. Could it prove to be a blessing in disguise for TB and NE?

  (1:07 PM)

Thanks Mango. I think it's a big challenge for Brady. I see immediate chemistry between Brady and Danny Amendola. After that, I see questions. But I've seen Brady do more with less (e.g. 2006) and he's one guy I wouldn't bet against.

Steve (Grafton)

Mike, if the Patriots have to let Hernandez go to preserve "the brand", is it possible Tebow could be effective as full-time TE? He certainly has the toughness for it.

  (1:08 PM)

I don't see Tebow in the TE mix personally. I think it starts with him at QB, and if he shows enough progress at that position, then I think they could experiment with some additional things to potentially increase his value.

Matt (Silver Spring - normally Elon NC)

So, uh, how's it feel to have something to report about during the "quiet part" of the offseason?

  (1:10 PM)

Let's end on this one, Matt. I think we always find stuff to report on the team, but in this case, it crosses into an area that is beyond football. It is my goal, and our goal at ESPNBoston, to do it as responsibly as possible. I'm hoping we can achieve that goal and show the proper respect to what we're reporting on in the process.

  (1:11 PM)

Thanks to everyone for chatting.