Quick-hit thoughts from around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. One line of thinking is that the Indianapolis Colts are closer to a contract extension with Peyton Manning than the Patriots are with Tom Brady. But after hearing what Colts general manager Bill Polian said Saturday, it sounds like the Colts and Manning have hardly started talking.
2. My sense of Tom Brady and his contract situation with the Patriots is that he understands all the dynamics in play and how the NFL’s uncertain labor forecast has created an additional challenge in striking an extension. I think that’s why he said Friday night: “Things happen. Some are out of your control. You've just got to go with the flow.” I’d still be shocked if the sides don’t ultimately strike a deal.
3. The New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons have opened minicamp practices to fans. The bleachers at Saints camp were full 20 minutes before Saturday’s practice, while the Colts had about 4,000 fans in attendance Saturday. That seems like good business at a time when the economy has hit many fans hard.
4. Because only 45 players are active on game day, coaches must weigh several factors when deciding who plays on special teams, where injuries are often more likely to occur. ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio brings to light a gamble that Jets coach Rex Ryan is taking in this area with linebacker Bart Scott.
5. Bill Belichick has not hesitated to use key starters on special teams units. Inside linebacker Jerod Mayo, for example, has seen time on the punt coverage unit. Mike Vrabel was a regular on that unit.
6. Good to see that former Patriots fullback Heath Evans is back on the field for the New Orleans Saints in organized team activities. Evans tore his ACL last October. He stayed in New Orleans and provided a veteran behind-the-scenes and sideline presence as the Saints marched to the Super Bowl championship.
7. Organized team activities are voluntary, but it was notable that the Patriots had all but two veterans in attendance last week (Logan Mankins, Ty Warren), and Warren is working toward his college degree. The Patriots are back on the field for organized team activities this week, with media members scheduled to be on hand Monday and Thursday.
8. As for Mankins, I think it would be a surprise if he doesn’t sign his tender and show up for mandatory minicamp June 15-17. He’s made a statement by staying away to this point, but unless he’s prepared to sit out the season, he puts himself at risk of losing close to $2 million if he doesn’t sign the tender.
9. The Green Bay Packers have moved former Boston College star Will Blackmon from cornerback to safety. Blackmon enters his fifth NFL season with the Packers and his primary contributions have come on special teams. Injuries have limited him in three of his first four seasons.
10. Cleveland Browns running back Montario Hardesty is an under-the-radar rookie who is in position to produce immediately. He’s the one player that I think the Patriots might regret not selecting in the second round. Hardesty went 59th overall.