Today marks the first day of the Patriots’ lone mandatory minicamp, which will continue through Thursday. By the end of the week, players will be on their own until training camp, although rookies and some others will continue to work out at Gillette Stadium in the team’s strength and conditioning program.
Ranked on importance to the team, here are a few areas we’ll be watching for at today’s session:
1. Spikes’ physical condition and where he lines up. Starting middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, who stayed away from voluntary organized team activities, has reported for mandatory minicamp as expected. He’s been working out in Florida this offseason and this is the first chance for the team to gauge his physical condition. It’s also a chance to see if Spikes’ absence (he was the only player on the 90-man roster to stay away) has any impact on which unit he lines up. Fourth-year linebacker Dane Fletcher has been getting the majority of repetitions in Spikes’ absence.
2. Following up on cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. Last Tuesday, Dennard – who started on the right side last year -- was carted off the field with a left shoulder injury. Dennard’s presence at practice, or lack of presence, could add more context to his status. Other players who were nicked up last week in practice included running back Stevan Ridley (right hamstring) and tight end Jake Ballard (left foot/ankle) and we'll see how that affects their participation.
3. Movement among receiving corps? In the most recent organized team activity open to reporters, the top grouping at receiver was veteran Michael Jenkins and third-year man Kamar Aiken on the outside, with Danny Amendola in the slot. Since mandatory minicamp is an extension of voluntary organized team activities, the expectation is that things wouldn’t change much, but we remain on the lookout for rookie Aaron Dobson (second round, 59th overall) to potentially make a charge.
4. Tebow’s first practice & media presence. The expectation is that the Patriots make the signing of Tim Tebow official on Tuesday morning before practice, and that Tebow is on the field for the session. He is the third player on the quarterback depth chart behind Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett and his repetitions, if he receives any on his first day, figure to be extremely limited because he hasn’t been in the team’s system. But he will obviously be watched closely, and the media attendance could be at an all-time high, starting with Bill Belichick’s 10:45 a.m. ET news conference. It would be a mild surprise if Tebow is made available to reporters as the Patriots traditionally wait a day or two before having new players meet the press.