FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Quarterback Tom Brady is scheduled to report to Patriots training camp Sunday, alongside fellow veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer, the team's rookie class and any players recovering from injuries. So while the official reporting date for veterans is Wednesday, with the first public practice Thursday, the start of Brady's 2018 season officially starts earlier (all quarterbacks on the roster report earlier than veterans each year). After staying away from voluntary workouts for what he termed family considerations, Brady is described as being as excited as ever for another season, according to those close to him.
2. With players recovering from injuries reporting to camp Sunday, it serves as a notable checkpoint for them to see if they are ready to pass a physical. If they aren't, they will open training camp on the active/physically unable to perform list, or the active/non-football injury list. Rookie offensive tackle/guard Isaiah Wynn (shoulder); veteran offensive tackles Trent Brown (shoulder) and Marcus Cannon (foot); third-year guard Joe Thuney (foot); cornerback Cyrus Jones (knee); and receiver Malcolm Mitchell (knee) are among those who weren't fully practicing in the spring. Of the group, Mitchell's status interests me the most, as he missed all of last season as well as this year's OTAs. He has been a regular at Gillette Stadium this offseason to put himself in the best position to be ready.
3. How much significant drama was there surrounding the Patriots in 2017? Two players who were with the team last year but have since moved on -- Danny Amendola and James Harrison -- shared their perspective in media interviews last week:
Amendola (on Comeback SZN podcast presented by Barstool Sports): "There's not really much truth to that, to tell you the truth. There's always going to be some friction between a coach and a player, in a business -- whether it be contractual, whether it be playing time, or whatever. ... Personally, I can't speak for Tom or Bill [Belichick], but regardless of business -- and I have mixed feelings of how business is done there -- I know for a fact that Coach Belichick is one of the best coaches of all time and he has all of his players' respect. I know Tom would say the same thing, Gronk would say the same thing, regardless of how they feel about their contracts or their certain situation, or whatever may be going down. That goes without saying."
Harrison (on FS1's "Undisputed" program): "All these stories that come out -- all this friction and stuff -- I honestly believe it's made up. I came in there looking, like 'I'm about to see what's going on. They have troubles too, just like everybody else.' I get in there and I see nothing. [Belichick and Brady] were interacting, they were talking, I don't see any friction. I believe they make up these stories to pull that team tighter and closer together, because that's really all it does."
4. One thing Amendola and Harrison will miss in 2018: A sparkling new Patriots home locker room at Gillette Stadium. That was part of a notable offseason renovation at the stadium.
5a. As hard as it might be for Stephen Gostkowski to believe, he is the second-longest-tenured Patriots player in terms of service with the team (13 years), behind only Brady. He was helping run a football camp for kids in Sudbury, Massachusetts, on Saturday and I asked him how he likes being one of the older players on the roster. "I guess it's a good and a bad thing; I have a lot of white hairs on my beard now, maybe a little thin up top," the 34-year-old kicker joked. "To think I would have played professional sports for over a decade, and going into my 13th year, it's a blessing. I have nothing but gratitude and thankfulness to be in the position I'm in." As for how much longer he plans to play, Gostkowski is taking a simple approach: "You kind of reassess things every year. It's easy, after a certain year, to say 'I might do this' or 'I might do that.' But as long as I'm happy, healthy and feeling good, I'm going to try to do it."
5b. What does Gostkowski, who was also a baseball player at the University of Memphis, appreciate most about football? "It's the best game because every play matters, every game matters," he said. "Every once in a while, it would be nice to play baseball, where if you lost you'd just shrug it off and say, 'I'll go get 'em tomorrow.' [Football] is such a great game where so many different people and positions -- offense, defense, special teams -- come together for one goal."
6. Former Patriots receiver and current ESPN analyst Randy Moss entertained reporters on a Pro Football Hall of Fame conference call Monday, and two things stood out to me:
How much it means to him that his induction to the Hall is a source of pride for those in his native West Virginia, which I saw first-hand in a "Moss uncovered" 2008 Boston Globe profile.
How he called his shot in 2007, bumping into Patriots Hall of Famer Kevin Faulk upon his arrival to town and telling Faulk not only would the Patriots go undefeated in 2007, but that he would set the NFL's single-season record for touchdown receptions. Both happened, of course. It might sound like revisionist history, but for those who have been around Moss, it is entirely believable as he was one of the most fascinating people to come through the Patriots' locker room in Belichick's 19 years as coach.
7. Earlier this month, the Raiders began selling personal seat licenses for their new stadium in Las Vegas (between $3,900 to $15,000 per seat), after having previously sold PSLs for club/premium seats for $20,000 to $75,000 each, which one local columnist panned. And just a few days ago, ESPN’s Darren Rovell relayed that the Rams will have PSLs from $15,000 to $100,000 in their new L.A. digs, which serves as a reminder of one of the best things Robert Kraft has done for fans in his ownership tenure (starting in 1994): No PSLs at Gillette Stadium, which opened in 2002.
8. Receiver Brandin Cooks' five-year, $80 million contract extension with the Rams last week, which when added on to this season makes it a six-year, $88 million pact ($14.6M average season), highlights why the Patriots ultimately made the decision to trade him. While they liked Cooks, they wouldn't have valued him at those figures, and thus were proceeding as if 2018 was going to be his final season with them after assessing the receiver marketplace. So as they have in other situations (e.g. Chandler Jones), they decided to get something valuable in return for a player who didn't project to be in their long-range plans. I wonder how much last year's late-season loss in Miami -- when Rob Gronkowski didn't play (suspension), the Patriots needed a No. 1 option to emerge and Cooks struggled to get off press coverage -- helped cement the team's thinking along those lines.
9a. One final business item for the Patriots that should be on the verge of being finalized: a contract for first-round draft pick Sony Michel (No. 31 overall). Once Vikings cornerback Mike Hughes (No. 30) signed his deal on Thursday, which came after Jaguars defensive tackle Taven Bryan (No. 29) signed on Tuesday, it was expected to accelerate things with Michel. It is commonplace for teams or players to wait for players around them to sign, as it clarifies for both sides where certain parts of the deal should fall. Michel was part of the same football camp for kids that Gostkowski attended Saturday, joined by Wynn, the team's other first-round pick, as the two former Georgia teammates clearly enjoyed each other's company.
9b. One final locker-room item for the Patriots that should be squared away by the start of practice Thursday: official jersey numbers for rookies. Perhaps as a reminder that they had to earn their number, Belichick had all the draft picks in 50s and undrafted players in the 60s during spring practices.
10a. Welcome, Rob Ninkovich, to the still-growing fraternity of former Belichick-era Patriots players who transition to a sports broadcasting role as part of their post-playing-career plans. Ninkovich will be an on-field reporter for the Patriots' preseason television broadcasts this year, as first reported by the Boston Globe, as he joins Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Willie McGinest, Ty Law, Troy Brown, Damien Woody, Christian Fauria, Matt Chatham, Rosevelt Colvin, Damon Huard and Jermaine Wiggins, among others.
10b. From the "it is what it is" department: Belichick's first news conference of training camp is scheduled for Wednesday and will be followed by captains Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater and David Andrews meeting with reporters.
10c. One of the favorite nights of the preseason calendar for some Patriots season-ticket members and Foxborough residents is making a return: The team will hold a ticketed practice inside Gillette Stadium on Monday night, July 30. That's the fifth day of training camp. Last year, the in-stadium practice didn't happen, in part because the venue was being used for other events. This year's practice, as has been the case in past years, will likely come after two straight days of full-pads practices and thus projects as a lighter session. It also comes after three nights of Taylor Swift concerts at Gillette from Thursday to Saturday.
10d. Did you know: If the Patriots advance to the Super Bowl this season, they would join Miami (3) and Buffalo (4) as the only teams to reach three straight Super Bowls.