We’re about 80 days out from the start of training camp.
Offseason conditioning continues at Gillette, but the Patriots have a little down time now in terms of full-squad exercises. Activity ratchets back up May 20 with a flurry of OTA work leading to the team’s mandatory minicamp from June 11-13.
The official start date for training camp figures to be about July 25. So let’s kick through some post-draft detritus.
- Quentin Hines, signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent out of Akron, tweeted on Monday that he tore his labrum during rookie minicamp. Hines was released by the team along with Portland State linebacker Ian Sluss (another undrafted free agent) on Monday. Hines, 22, said he will be placed on injured reserve by the team which means they’ll be re-signing him after he clears waivers and then putting him on IR. Hines has had a circuitous journey already. He started out at Cincinnati in 2009 where he redshirted. After becoming disillusioned with his role in 2010, he decided to transfer. He spent a year at Murray State before landing in Akron where he opened eyes with his speed (check this run against Tennessee). Hines didn’t specify whether it was his hip or shoulder labrum that he tore. And I’m guessing that, if the team plans on him hanging around for a little while, we won’t find out from Hines since he’ll probably get a sitdown about tweeting out injury information.
- Speaking of tweeting, interesting to hear the advice for sticking in New England given to Penn State cornerback Stephon Morris by his college coach Bill O’Brien. O’Brien, the former Patriots offensive coordinator, told Morris to keep his nose clean, his head down and stay off social media.
- One guy who has stayed off social media for an extended period is linebacker Brandon Spikes. He hasn’t tweeted since February 28, breaking a fairly long string of consistent Twitter inanity. I’ve also heard he’s been pretty scarce around Foxboro during offseason workouts which -- while well within his rights -- has stuck out like a sore thumb.
- An NFL without the Dolphins in Miami would be a very different NFL. But the future of the team there was described as “bleak” after the Florida legislature decided not to put funding for stadium upgrades to a vote before Miami-Dade County voters. Dolphins fans are easily one of the most distractable fanbases in the league and -- thanks to the way the team has been marketed over past years as a social event and “happening” to the ambivalent, fence-sitting portion of the market -- it’s become less about football. J-Lo, Mark Anthony, the Williams sisters, Fergie and Jimmy Buffett owning portions of the team aren’t going to ensure the kind of consistent diehards most franchises need. I remember after last year’s Patriots’ win down there being on the field to do some TV and -- hours after the game ended -- there was a party raging in one of the luxury boxes with flashing colored lights, people dancing on tables and people doing belly shots off Don Shula’s rock-hard abs. That last detail is fiction. But the rest is true. And while there’s nothing wrong with a good Sunday evening hootenanny, it’s just different down there. Makes me wonder who’d be more disappointed if the Dolphins ever did relocate, South Florida or the Patriots, Jets and Bills fans who invade when they get the road games down there.
- I think Geno Smith’s had enough heaped on him since he began the predraft process as the “leader in the clubhouse” for the No. 1 pick and wound up going in the second round to the Jets. He’ll either work on the flaws he has or -- if the flaws are merely perceived -- will work on changing perceptions. What is worth circling back to is the evaluation by Pro Football Weekly’s Nolan Nawrocki that touched off a very public discussion of whether Nawrocki was racist because he chewed up Cam Newton two years ago and then hammered Smith this year. Given the praise Nawrocki heaped on E.J. Manuel -- a quarterback who happens to be black -- and the slams Nawrocki’s prone to give players of all hues, it was a baseless criticism from the start. And judging from the fact Smith dropped so far, Nawrocki’s evaluation (which is made with input from scouts, GMs and coaches) was merely representative of the league’s opinion. Now, we can get even more circular and suggest that those league minds are still as biased against black quarterbacks as ever -- even as RGIII and Russell Wilson put the hammer to that notion -- or we can say, damn, I guess Nawrocki nailed the evaluation of Smith. You know when we’ll know the color of a quarterback’s skin truly doesn’t matter? When a legitimate analyst can criticize without people alleging he’s racist when they disagree.
- One of the things about Wes Welker that you can’t quantify is the selflessness and work ethic he brought with his presence. Michael Jenkins comes with a pro’s attitude, according to those who worked with him in Minnesota. And Danny Amendola is a classic try-hard. But Welker was at another level because of what he’s done in terms of production that those two haven’t done (and in Jenkins’ case, won’t do.). That’s one of the reasons the maturity and smarts rookie wideouts Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson apparently bring is so important. Neither appears to be in need of professional hand-holding to understand how important their mastery of the offense will be. It’s funny, last year I banged the drum a bit for Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill. In the past few days, Hill acknowledged he “struggled with the whole football concept” as a Jets wideout in 2012. Probably wouldn’t have been a good fit in New England. Of course, the Jets themselves struggled with the whole football concept last year, so Hill was in the right spot.