Pats win top player development award

There is seemingly a weekly reminder from players, coaches and management that the NFL is, first and foremost, a business. Those words are heard a bit louder at this time of year as teams say goodbye to some players and sign others.

Still, it's sometimes nice to hear stories about the human touch within the business.

Along those lines, the New England Patriots earned a well-deserved tip of the cap this week when the league awarded them this year's Outstanding Overall Player Development Award.

Each year, the NFL presents awards to teams' player development departments in the areas of financial education, continuing education, career development and life skills. The Outstanding Overall Player Development Award honors the club that excels most in all four areas.

The league identified the Patriots' "Safe Boating" program, financial education seminars, and the creative implementation of life skills training sessions -- in which Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers was a guest speaker -- as reasons for why the team earned the top honor.

The "Safe Boating" program was hatched based on an idea from Patriots coach Bill Belichick, while Rivers' visit was facilitated by Belichick.

While the Patriots' commitment in this area obviously starts at the top with Belichick and owner Robert Kraft, it's also a chance to highlight some of the behind-the-scenes staffers who help players off the field -- assistant strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash, player development manager Kimberly Folkes, and operations assistant Kevin Anderson.

The Patriots will officially receive the award during the 2010 regular season when the NFL sends a representative to a regular-season game for an on-field presentation.