Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots before breaking for vacation until July 20:
1. Based on the dates released by the Patriots for the start of training camp this year, the team will have four straight days of double sessions before a single practice on the fifth day. This is a change from last year, when Bill Belichick scheduled seven straight days of double-session practices to start training camp.
2. The NFL deserves a tip of the cap for its annual rookie symposium, which was held this past week, but I think there is one part that could use a tweak. Because the symposium is only for draft picks, undrafted rookies don’t receive the same important tutoring and life lessons that draft picks do. So a player like Patriots linebacker Gary Guyton, for example, is entering his third NFL season but never went to the symposium.
3. When the Pittsburgh Steelers lost starting right tackle Willie Colon to a season-ending Achilles injury last week, the first thought that came to mind was that the Patriots have the kind of depth to withstand such a blow should it occur. They’ve done a nice job developing tackles -- Matt Light (2001) Nick Kaczur (2005), Mark LeVoir (2009), Sebastian Vollmer (2009) -- and now Thomas Welch (2010) joins the mix.
4. Unlike tackle, I have more questions about the Patriots’ quality and depth on the interior of the offensive line, especially if Logan Mankins isn’t part of the mix.
5. Stories like these are one reason why Pat Kirwan of NFL.com is a great read. Here’s hoping that Kirwan has New England on his “training camp tour” for Sirius NFL radio.
6. I also liked this story from Don Banks of SI.com on the lengths that New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton went to imitate Bill Belichick.
7. And while on the reading tour, Clark Judge of CBSSports.com penned a powerful piece on the late Don Coryell, explaining his impact on the game of football and how it’s a shame he wasn’t inducted into the Hall of Fame while still alive.
8. I think picking the toughest division in the NFL right now is a challenge. I’d probably go with the NFC East, but I don’t feel great about it.
9. In going through the Patriots position by position, and rating them against the other clubs in the NFL, it was a reminder that the team will be going up against one of the NFL's best-but-least-talked-about cornerback tandems in the season opener vs. the Bengals -- Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph.
10. Before heading off on vacation, I revisited Bill Belichick’s final press conference from the 2009 season, which came one day after the embarrassing playoff loss to the Ravens. Asked how long the mourning period lasts, he said, “Honestly, it really goes until the first day of training camp. … There is a lot of work that goes into the offseason, don’t get me wrong, and I’m not trying to minimize the offseason. But it’s a lot of hot air. Until you actually get out there and start really doing it [in full pads], that’s when you feel like you can really make some progress.”
In that case, bring on training camp.
EXTRA POINT: I will be taking some vacation time over the next few weeks, extending to July 20. A few things are scheduled for the next week, and editors might post a few items on the blog, but chances are you will notice considerably less on the blog than the norm. I will look forward to catching up when I return and sharing some of the innovative plans ESPNBoston.com hopes to implement in its Patriots coverage this season.