FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Saturday, July 7 will mark the 10-year anniversary of Ben Coates being voted into the Patriots Hall of Fame, becoming the first tight end to gain entry. He currently remains the only player at the position in the team's Hall.
But Coates made one thing clear when we caught up last week: He is expecting company soon from Rob Gronkowski and he welcomes it, even as Gronkowski (474) is on the cusp of breaking Coates' franchise record for career regular-season receptions by a tight end (490).
"I watch him a lot. Every decade or every other decade, you get a player like that. It's been amazing to see some of the stuff he does, and continues to do," Coates said from his North Carolina home.
"He kind of reminds me of myself the way he breaks tackles, but he's much bigger than me (6-7, 265 vs. 6-5, 245), much stronger than me. Just to watch him, the way he catches the ball, he's very aggressive. He's not the type that is going to lay down. He becomes like a defender when he gets the ball -- he runs over people. He's trying to knock people out before they knock him out."
Coates, whose rapport with quarterback Drew Bledsoe played a major role in the Patriots' rise from NFL doormat to playoff contender in the mid-1990s, had a similar playing style that helped him earn five Pro Bowl berths and first-team All-Pro honors twice. He also was selected to the NFL 1990s All Decade Team. Like Gronkowski, he wore No. 87.
But as the 48-year-old watches today's NFL game, he doesn't see many tight ends like that, which is an area he also took pride in.
"Rob is a complete tight end. He can run block, get vertical, catch the ball. There aren't many that can run block the defensive end by himself or pass-block a very good linebacker like Von Miller," he said, noting that he's never actually met Gronkowski. "I didn't want to just catch passes. We had guys like Shannon [Sharpe] and other people in the league that were going to be pass-catching tight ends, but [my question was], 'When are we going to start looking at the complete tight end?'"
As for who the best-ever "complete" tight end might be, Coates said that will always be up for debate because of how the game has changed from era to era.
But there is no debating Gronkowski's value to the Patriots, or that Coates' franchise record of 19 years is about to be surpassed.
"It's not [bittersweet] because records are made to be broken. He's a phenomenal tight end and he's wearing the number, and I'm happy to see that number is still pretty big in New England," Coates said. "Just make sure he takes care of himself. They are totally different when he's not in the game."
2a. Players often say that one of the best parts of football is that the bonds they form in the locker room with teammates never fade. Coates, who says he is enjoying being a dad to his three kids after missing out on their early years because of his playing career, provided one example: A few months ago, when Bledsoe was visiting Charlotte, North Carolina, the two met for lunch. Bledsoe-to-Coates -- still going strong, two decades later. Coates, who has never lost contact with Bledsoe, said he also talks to offensive lineman Bruce Armstrong once or twice a week.
2b. One more leftover from Coates: "I would love to play right now; I might have 8, 900 catches. With Tom Brady or with Drew? It's pass-pass-pass these days."
3. For the first time since the lockout offseason of 2011, the Patriots aren't scheduled to hold joint practices with another team in training camp. That puts them in the minority this year, as by my count, 18 teams are scheduled to hold at least one session of joint practices.
Yes: Jets, Ravens, Texans, Colts, Jaguars, Titans, Chargers, Broncos, Raiders, Giants, Redskins, Vikings, Bears, Lions, Buccaneers, Saints, Rams, 49ers
No: Bills, Dolphins, Patriots, Browns, Bengals, Steelers, Chiefs, Eagles, Cowboys, Packers, Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks, Cardinals
The potential trickle-down effect is that it might mean some of the top Patriots players see more extended action in some preseason games.
4. One Patriots leftover from the draft: When pick No. 23 arrived, it is my belief that the team had offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn as one of a small list of possibilities that also included Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley (No. 26, Falcons). While the Patriots' need for an offensive lineman following Nate Solder's free-agent departure was probably a significant factor in Wynn being the pick, I think it's also fair to say that the team's comfort in projecting an offensive lineman to the NFL is greater than a receiver.
5. The five-year contract extension averaging $14.4 million per season for Vikings pass-rusher Danielle Hunter (reportedly including $40 million in bonuses and guarantees) sparked two thoughts:
Hunter opted for immediate financial security over possibly earning more on the open market as an unrestricted free agent after the 2018 season (e.g. similar to Patriots running back James White and center David Andrews in recent years).
With 25.5 sacks in his first three seasons, how did Hunter last until the 88th overall pick in the 2015 draft? The answer: He was one of the youngest players in the draft, declaring after his junior season at LSU, where he had just 4.5 sacks, and was viewed by some as more of an athlete than football player at that time.
6. The July 11 supplemental draft -- which is for players whose situations have changed since they didn't declare for the regular NFL draft -- is expected to generate a bit more interest this year because two of the eligible players, Western Michigan cornerback Sam Beal and Virginia Tech cornerback Adonis Alexander, have stronger-than-the-norm odds to be selected. A team picking a player in the supplemental draft gives up that corresponding pick in the 2019 draft. The Patriots have plenty of draft capital if they decide to take the plunge in the supplemental draft for the first time in Bill Belichick's 19-year coaching tenure, although it still seems like a longer shot for them. One of the biggest things with supplemental draft picks is that a team almost has to be willing to give them a redshirt year because they are so far behind everyone else when they arrive.
7. Patriots cornerbacks: Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Duke Dawson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Cyrus Jones, Ryan Lewis, Jomal Wiltz, Keion Crossen, J.C. Jackson and A.J. Moore. I view Gilmore, Rowe and Dawson as the roster locks, with Jonathan Jones -- assuming good health -- getting a spot because of his special-teams value. That seems to be a pretty crowded group, with some promising developmental prospects, too.
8. Tom Brady said family considerations were at the root of his decision to stay away from voluntary workouts this spring, and thus it probably wasn't a coincidence that his one-on-one interview with Oprah Winfrey aired on Father's Day. Brady's willingness to show his vulnerable side as a dad -- and how he had reservations about having his kids as part of the "Tom vs. Time" docuseries, while comparing his upbringing to his kids' -- stood out in this exchange:
Winfrey: Were you even aware of it, for somebody as private as you are, when the internet is blowing up, 'Tom shouldn't be kissing his kid like that?'
Brady: "I was on that, and I think what I thought was more for him. I was wondering, 'Maybe the kids at the school say something, maybe they watched.' I think that's a hard part -- is he going to have to deal with kids coming up to him and teasing him? It's hard for kids. There was a boy that came up to my son Benny the other day who says, 'I'm just friends with you because your dad is Tom Brady.' That's hard."
Winfrey: He said that?
Brady: "Yeah, but you know, he's 8 years old. I thought, 'If I'm my son, what am I thinking now?' It's hard to rationalize; you're 8 years old."
Winfrey: Did you all have a talk about it?
Brady: "I did. I said, 'You shouldn't be friends with that boy, because all your friends are going to love you for who you are. You're a great kid. You're a very sweet, caring, empathetic boy. And you're going to have a lot of friends, so don't worry about that one.' I don't necessarily know how to parent those things, either. I grew up like a lot of kids in this country, just a very normal childhood. I played on the street with my friends. I didn't have the things that my children have to deal with, and I wasn't parented the way I'm parenting my kids."
Winfrey: In what way?
Brady: "My kids have so much. They get to do this, and every opportunity; people bring them gifts all the time. 'Here, this is for your son' -- they know who my kids are, everywhere we go now. Because I'm married to Gisele, it's not just United States. It's Brazil. We go to a lot of places. Now, again, it's still [something we're] getting used to in a way."
9. Dean College football coach Steve Tirrell is thrilled to have former Patriots running back Sammy Morris on board as his running backs/special teams coach, and after officially announcing his appointment, it didn't take long for Tirrell to see an immediate impact as players and staff were immediately drawn to the 41-year-old Morris. Said Tirrell: "I had a feeling the X's and O's stuff would be easy, but he's already jumped in and started talking with the current players and helped me with recruiting. In college football, in the long run, that can be more important than the X's and O's. He's coming in a polished coach from a schematic standpoint -- being coached by some of the best in all of the game -- but him jumping in and calling the players, introducing himself, and getting them together, that's the piece, experience-wise, where he needs to jump in. And he's been awesome since he started."
10. One of the best parts of the Patriots' decision to sign Joe Andruzzi as a free agent in 2000, other than his contributions as a hard-nosed right guard on three Super Bowl championship teams, is that he ultimately settled in the New England region and does remarkable work with his charitable foundation to help families affected by cancer. The Joe Andruzzi Foundation annual golf tournament, held last Monday, raised $338,000, and has now raised more than $2.2 million in the last 10 years, according to event organizers.
VACATION COMING UP: Some family time is ahead over the next two weeks, which means the Sunday notes will return July 22. That will lead in to all Patriots players reporting by July 25, with the first public practice set for July 26.