Larsen thrilled to be back with McDaniels

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Larsen thrilled to be back with McDaniels

FOXBORO -- Spencer Larsen is one of the new kids in town. But, as it happens in this turnstile business, he was greeted by a few familiar faces.

Denver drafted the 6-foot-2, 245-pound fullback -- then a linebacker -- with a sixth round pick in 2008. Larsen played under former Broncos head coach, current Patriots offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels the following season.

The connection could help him find a spot on the roster despite New England's recent apathy for his position.

"I loved playing for McDaniels and I loved all the opportunity that he provided for me. I'm just excited to be back with him," Larsen said.

"I think just being with Josh from the past, I think he just likes to have options. And being with him in Denver . . . he just likes to have different things that he can do from week-to-week, so who knows. I don't think any of us know what can happen at that position. I think you just need to work and get better and let that thing happen naturally."

Larsen always has versatility in his back pocket.

Though he didn't play a snap at linebacker last season, he said he's "100-percent open" to reprising the role for the Patriots if need be. Larsen is, after all, just the fourth guy since 1990 to start a game on both offense and defense (Denver's November 16 game versus Atlanta in 2008).

Yes, he was a rookie. And he also played special teams that day.

"It was just one of those exciting days," Larsen smiled. "I didn't really play a whole lot of offense that day -- as a fullback you kind of come in and out. So it wasn't 100 percent taxing; it was a good days work."

Right.

They must teach toughness at Arizona. Which is where Larsen met Rob Gronkowski.

"I was a senior when he was a freshman, so I used to beat him up in college if you guys believe that," Larsen laughed. "It's just been good seeing him and seeing the success he's had, getting to talk to him again.

"I swear he looked like he does now as a freshman, coming out of high school. I can't imagine what he did in high school. He's one of those guys that come around and you just feel like he's going to be special. So far he's proved that."

The real reuniting begins Monday with practice. If Larsen wants to work again for McDaniels, and with Gronkowski, he needs to be a Patriot -- no easy undertaking.

"Bottom line is, it's a new year and I have to prove that I can play."

Exactly.

Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

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Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

Malcolm Butler was one of many not spotted during OTAs on Thursday when the media got a looksee at one of the practices.

Butler wasn’t the only one. But he did stand out as a missing player who hadn’t (to my knowledge) had a surgery but did have a contract that needs addressing. Another one? Rob Gronkowski. If we really want to extend it out, throw in Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan.

This is the point where it’s important to point out that these workouts are voluntary – VAW-LUN-TERR-EEEE! Players don’t have to be there. Additionally, I’m not even sure Butler or Gronkowski (or Ryan and Harmon) weren’t at the facility. All I know is they weren’t on the field. And, per usual, nobody’s tipping his hand as to why.

But we do have this, relative to Butler. ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote Sunday that he “wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to his contract status.” Reiss said that Butler “told teammates and friends he plans to push for an adjustment to his contract before the 2016 season, and staying off the field in voluntary workouts would be a decision that limits injury risk and also could be viewed as a statement to the organization that he's unhappy with the status quo and/or the movement/specifics of contract talks.”

In the same vein, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gronkowski opted out as well for the same reason, especially since he threw out a tweet that signaled dissatisfaction with his pact in March.

But in terms of a statement, not going to OTAs is more of a throat-clearing than a noisy proclamation.

Not to minimize the move if Butler, Gronkowski or anybody else is actually staying away because of business. The Patriots usually enjoy almost perfect OTA attendance. Also, there hasn’t been much contract strife around here for the past five seasons.

Money matters were an annual issue for the Patriots from about 2003 through 2010. Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Ty Warren, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Randy Moss, Adam Vinatieri, Mike Vrabel and – quietly – Tom Brady all had their contract dances back then. But the only one that got hairy in the recent past was Wes Welker.

It’s still too soon to know if any of these will get contentious. When will we know? When either a player or his agent spouts off. Or, when someone’s a no-show at mandatory minicamp beginning June 7.

That would amount to a shot across the bow. Of all the players likely to take that shot, Butler seems a reasonable bet. His base pay this season is $600K after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2015 that saw him check the opposition’s best wideout on a weekly basis. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year. He deserves longer-term security than he currently has. Gronkowski has a lot less to kick about. He may make less than lesser players, but he also was the league’s highest paid tight end when he was missing scads of games due to injury.

After Butler, Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower would figure to have the strongest cases to want new deals and want them snappy. Ryan and Harmon would be right behind those two. Then Jabaal Sheard.

Sheard, Hightower and Collins were all on the field Thursday. 

Can the Patriots get all these guys reupped? Will they even try? How do they have them prioritized? If the guy who howls loudest gets to the front of the line, the time to make some noise is close.

But we have yet to hear any of these players loud and clear.