Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. I was impressed to learn that some Patriots players have hired their own strength and conditioning coach during the NFL's lockout. From what I understand, it’s a group effort, with a handful of players working with the same coach.
2. Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins remains in the area, a result of his kids attending school in the region. Mankins works out on his own – he won’t be hiring a personal strength coach this offseason -- and the approach obviously works for him. He did the same thing last year, showed up the first week of November, and played at a level that earned him Associated Press All-Pro distinction.
3. Rich McKay, chairman of the NFL’s Competition Committee, brought up the following statistic this week when pointing out the league’s on-field product is in a good place. In 2010, 25.4 percent of the games were decided by three or fewer points. That’s the highest total since 1999.
4. Looking forward to Tuesday morning at the NFL’s annual meeting in New Orleans, which is when the “Coaches Breakfast” will be held. Patriots coach Bill Belichick is scheduled to be in attendance answering questions from reporters. Belichick hasn’t conducted many interviews since the season ended – outside of the Pro Bowl – so it will be interesting to hear what he has to say.
5. The NFL’s annual meeting is traditionally the time when teams learn if they will receive any compensatory draft choices. The Patriots currently own nine draft choices (6 in the first 3 rounds), and a safe estimate is that they will receive at least one more via the compensatory route. That could be as high as the fifth round for losing tight end Benjamin Watson and defensive lineman Jarvis Green as compensatory free agents last offseason, while signing compensatory free agent Alge Crumpler.
6. I think this is going to be a big “quarterback” draft for the AFC East, starting with Miami and Buffalo. They need to target the position. But I also envision the Patriots selecting a quarterback at some point to groom as a backup.
7. Despite the labor uncertainty, the league is still planning to release the 2011 regular-season schedule in mid-April. That’s always a great day for football fans, although there will be a dark cloud of sorts over it if owners and players are still at odds. Their back-and-forth bickering has grown tiresome at this address.
8. Mike Vrabel’s suggestion to negotiate a new CBA without lawyers echoed what Patriots owner Robert Kraft said at the Super Bowl. Kraft’s idea was to “get the lawyers out of the room” and let those on the business side lead. The NFL’s labor battle would suddenly have an undeniable New England storyline if Vrabel and Kraft take a leadership role on both sides of the negotiating table to make that happen.
9. Patriots defensive lineman Mike Wright cleared up one of the lingering questions I had about his concussion Nov. 21 against the Colts. It was difficult to tell on TV replays how Wright sustained the concussion in a one-on-one rush against Colts left guard Kyle DeVan. He said Saturday night that it was a result of helmet-to-helmet contact, while at the same time confirming the news from March 2 that he’s making strides after experiencing motion sickness related to the concussion.
10. A lot of stars would have to align before the Patriots re-signed Randy Moss. I just don’t see it happening.