Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the New England Patriots:
1. On July 27, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said the following to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe: "Right now, the only thing that can mess up the NFL is ownership." I was thinking about those words -- which Kraft spoke in reference to various ownership changes across the NFL -- after the league had one of, if not the most, tumultuous weeks in its history. The problems seem much deeper than just ownership right now. I still believe there is a lot of good in the NFL, and I doubt it impacts ratings, but there is no denying it affects reputation. This was a week in which significant damage was done to the NFL shield.
2. Other than veteran defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, no player released by the Patriots in the roster cut-down from 90 to 53 players is on another team’s active roster. Furthermore, draft picks Jon Halapio (sixth round, 179th overall) and Jeremy Gallon (seventh round, 244th overall) haven’t even been signed to a practice squad. What that tells us, among other things, is that maybe the Patriots weren’t as deep as initially thought.
3. There have been times in the past when Patriots coach Bill Belichick has used an early season rotation on the offensive line with the intention of keeping players fresh from a conditioning standpoint. But though Belichick rotated first-year player Jordan Devey and veteran Ryan Wendell as the fifth and sixth linemen in the 2014 season opener, the decision seemed to be less conditioning-based and more about a competition along the interior that hasn’t yet sorted itself out. "At some point, if there is a separation and we see that one guy or one group is the one we want out there, then we’ll make that move," Belichick said on 98.5 The Sports Hub last Sunday. "I’m not sure we’re there yet." I think Belichick would ultimately like rookie center Bryan Stork to be part of that mix, but his missed time in training camp (leg injury) stunted his progress.
4. There have been a lot of questions about how a potential new drug policy in the NFL could impact Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner and receiver Brian Tyms in terms of a more immediate reinstatement, but I don’t have any definitive answers in that area. Crazy as it sounds, I think the Patriots would be happy to wait until those four-game suspensions are over to have the players reinstated, because it’s almost like they have a free roster spot with them right now as they don’t count against the 53-man limit, and they're deep at those positions.
5. Bill O’Brien is putting his own personal stamp on things in his first year with the Houston Texans, but when I saw this breakdown of "Sprint 238 F Laser", it was almost as if he took a page right out of Belichick’s book. Great stuff, and congratulations to O’Brien on his first victory as an NFL head coach last Sunday.
6a. Random behind-the-scenes nugget from the locker room: Receiver Brandon LaFell says he doesn’t really like change, and one example of this is that he has worn the same football shoulder pads for the past nine years. They are purple and gold, from his time at Louisiana State. We spotted them as players packed travel bags on Friday and it reminded us of the late Marquise Hill, also an LSU alum and former Patriot, who used to do the same thing.
6b. Random behind-the-scenes nugget from the practice field: Given the speed of Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, it made sense that one of the team’s fastest players, Matthew Slater, played his role in practice last week, giving the starting defense a good look at a focal point of their game plan.
6c. Random note from the bookkeeping department: As part of their parting ways with defensive lineman Armond Armstead, the Patriots reached an injury settlement with him of $54,000.
7. Today will give us a good indication of sorts as to how different the 2014 Dolphins are from last season's team, and if they can handle prosperity a bit better. After beating the Patriots at home last December 15, the Dolphins went on the road to Buffalo and played a stinker, losing 19-0. Now, after a resounding 2014 season-opening win at home against New England, they travel to face the Bills today. Will it be déjà vu? It’s only one week, but it sure seems like first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has delivered the shot in the arm the Dolphins needed.
8. If second-year linebacker Jamie Collins is out for any extended period of time with a thigh injury, the Patriots could do worse than bringing back veteran James Anderson, who was with them in training camp and thus has knowledge of the system. Anderson most recently worked out for the Titans on Friday. The Patriots don’t have a lot of depth there.
9. Safety Harrison Smith was one Vikings player who flew a bit under the radar this week leading into today’s game against the Patriots. The 2012 first-round pick out of Notre Dame looks like he’s benefiting from Mike Zimmer’s new scheme. He only played in eight games last season because of a turf toe injury, but he’s healthy again, and wreaking some havoc as a blitzer and ballhawk. When I watched him, I thought he could fall into the category of under-appreciated safety that few in the NFL talk about.
10. Patriots rookie defensive end Zach Moore, the sixth-round draft choice from Concordia-St. Paul, has a homecoming of sorts today with New England visiting Minnesota. His presence on the Patriots' roster drew the attention of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press, which was interviewing him Friday afternoon after the club’s final practice of the week. Moore didn’t play on defense in the season-opener and was on the field for just two snaps as part of the punt return unit. Turns out those were the first two snaps that Moore has ever played on special teams, as he has basically had to learn that part of the game from scratch.