Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. As many teams do with bigger defensive linemen, the Patriots included a six-figure weight incentive in the one-year free-agent contract signed by veteran Gerard Warren. The 10-year veteran is listed at 6-foot-4, 325 pounds.

2. Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh employed a new strategy this year, sending members of his staff to visit with the team’s top rookies immediately after the draft. Former Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees, now serving as Baltimore’s linebackers coach, traveled to meet the team’s top pick, Sergio Kindle, with the idea of easing his transition to the team.

3. The Falcons, unlike most teams, opened their weekend minicamp to the public. While teams might be reluctant to do so because of fear that an opponent might get a head-start on scouting, the potential damage seems minimal at best. From a business perspective, it seems like a smart move to build a stronger connection between the team and its fans.

4. When Bill Belichick announced that he would be spending more time with the defense in 2010, the decision could have been viewed by some as Belichick spreading himself too thin. But there are numerous examples across the NFL of head coaches taking a similar approach, including first-year Bills head coach Chan Gailey, who is also planning to run the team’s offense.

5. Mike McLaughlin, the former Boston College linebacker who signed a rookie free-agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens, is trying to make the switch to fullback. Given the Ravens’ smash-mouth running game, and McLaughlin’s blue-collar, hard-nosed approach, it could be a solid match.

6. Count me among the group that believes Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing, who is suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season for violating the NFL’s drug policy, should be stripped of the 2009 Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

7. Similar to the Patriots last season when they lost third-round draft choice Tyrone McKenzie to a season-ending knee injury in rookie minicamp, the Colts have suffered a similar blow with cornerback Kevin Thomas, a third-round draft choice out of Southern California. He projected as the team’s fourth corner, so Indianapolis’s depth takes an early hit.

8. New Orleans’ Jahri Evans is now known as the NFL’s highest paid guard after signing a seven-year contract reportedly worth close to $57 million. Did you know he entered the league as a fourth-round draft choice of the Saints, out of Division II Bloomsburg? That's an impressive rise.

9. The Rams and Cowboys are reportedly close on a trade that will send offensive tackle Alex Barron to Dallas and linebacker Bobby Carpenter to St. Louis. Even though Barron hasn’t lived up to his first-round hype and the Rams now have tackle depth, I’d be hesitant to give up any left tackle for a linebacker because of the value of the position.

10. Tight end Aaron Hernandez is easily the youngest player on the Patriots’ roster. He doesn’t turn 21 until Nov. 6, 2010. Fellow rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski, the second-youngest player on the roster, celebrates his 21st birthday on Friday.