Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. Signs continue to look promising when it comes to progress in ending the NFL lockout. That could mean July, usually one of the slower months on the league calendar, becomes a free-agent frenzy. I'd be surprised if the Patriots make a big splash in free agency when the time comes, instead focusing on the mid- to lower-level.
2. The Patriots and Colts have produced some classics over the last decade. NFL Network is asking you to vote for your favorite, and the winner will air on Saturday, June 18. My favorite isn’t part of the voting – a 38-34 Patriots win in 2003.
3. Why did the Jets like defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis with their top picks in the draft? One finds out why when reading Rich Cimini’s report on ESPNNewYork.com, as he heads in the film room with Jets assistant director of player personnel Jo Jo Wooden. It starts with size, and when one looks at the AFC East in the 2011 draft, all four teams added some significant bulk.
4. The Chiefs were a surprise team in 2010, but I think they could be a prime candidate for a 2002-type Patriots step back. That’s one tough schedule. Non-division games at Indianapolis, New England and Chicago, and home tilts against Pittsburgh and Green Bay are a few of the tough ones that stand out.
5. Lions defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, the 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year, took some criticism for not showing up to more informal workouts. Fair or unfair? I enjoyed this read from ESPN NFC North reporter Kevin Seifert on the topic. I fall in the “much to do about little” on this one, especially when considering Suh is coming off shoulder surgery.
6. I view the informal workouts as good for team bonding/chemistry, and keeping players sharp mentally, but when considering that Ravens receiver Derrick Mason, Seahawks receiver Golden Tate and Jets receiver Patrick Turner participated in the Titans' workouts last week, it's a reminder that these "practices" are different from the norm.
7. There was some debate in this space last week as to how tough Gillette Stadium was as a venue for visitors. Count Colts linebacker Gary Brackett among those who feels it is. He ranked it his second toughest.
8. I liked this line from Josh Kraft, President of the Patriots Charitable Foundation: “Volunteers are seldom paid, but it’s not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.” They were delivered after the Patriots awarded $100,000 in grants to “Community MVPs” last week.
9. Once again will be tuning in to NFL Network tonight for its “Top 100 Players” series, with Vince Wilfork and Logan Mankins to be presented (8 p.m. ET). Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma presents Wilfork, while Bill Belichick does the honors for Mankins. Wilfork and Mankins will join receiver Wes Welker (No. 50) and linebacker Jerod Mayo (No. 62) on the list.
10. File this under “two former Patriots doing good things” category: Former New England outside linebacker Rosevelt Colvin is back in town Monday, as part of his volunteer efforts to run two NFL FLAG Youth Leagues – one in Foxborough, one in Indianapolis. Also, on Tuesday, Tedy Bruschi holds his annual SBLI football camp for 54 kids at Gillette Stadium.