FOXBORO - Bill Belichick made his feelings about the NFL using replacement officials clear on Thursday night. And he didn't even say anything himself.
After 15 accepted penalties were administered, Belichick was asked if he was "comfortable" with the way the game was officiated, Belichick smiled.
He then added, "I think Mike Pereira has made his comments on the officials. I dont know who knows more about NFL officiating than Mike Pereira, so well leave it to him. Im just trying to coach our team and get our team better. I'm not worried about what everybody else is doing; Its not my job."
Pereira, the NFL's former VP of Officiating, has voiced a slew of opinions about the replacement officials. None of them were very positive, which isn't a surprise since Pereira is, of course, a former NFL official. He's opined that the replacements who are working while the NFL and its officials haggle over pension benefits, mar the integrity of the game.
He's also been vocal about pointing out the flaws in the vetting process for the replacements in contrast to the process for full time refs.
The monolith on Park Avenue isn't going to like this. Mike Freeman reported Thursday that the league sent out a memo ordering teams and coaches to refer questions about officials to the league office.
A portion of the memo said, "We have attached some talking points for use by owners and a separate set of talking points for use by head coaches, if necessary. If you are asked about the negotiations or the replacement offcials, feel free to refer the question to our office. Please share these expectations with your coaches, players and operations staff so that all may contribute to the success of our officials on the field in 2012."
Belichick may have strayed off script by referencing Pereira (who definitely strayed off script).
The Patriots will be without two of last year's defensive starters when training camp begins later this week.
Both Dont'a Hightower and Alan Branch were placed on the physically unable to perform list on Monday. They are eligible to come off the list at any time. Once they are removed from the list, they will be eligible to practice fully. Players on PUP count against the 90-man training-camp roster.
Undrafted rookie tackle Andrew Jelks will begin camp on the active/non-football injury list. The Vanderbilt product dealt with knee injuries that kept him off the field each of the last two seasons.
Neither Hightower, nor Branch, nor Jelks participated in spring practices at Gillette Stadium. Hightower was present for voluntary work, but during practices open to the media he typically did some conditioning off to the side. Branch skipped optional team activities (as he usually does), and though he was in Foxboro for mandatory minicamp, he did not practice during that three-day stretch.
Hightower was limited last season with knee and shoulder injuries. The MMQB.com's Albert Breer said on Sports Sunday that Hightower's health concerns made teams reticent to make him offers that would lure him away from New England.
In what’s been a somewhat busy offseason for their secondary, veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers is in talks with the Patriots, according to Adam Schefter.
Flowers, who spent the first six seasons of his career with the Chiefs and last three with the Chargers, was released in March. He is set to meet with the Cardinals this week as well.
The Pats lost cornerback Logan Ryan this offseason, but landed the top free agent corner on the market in Stephon Gilmore. A potential addition of Flowers might give them an insurance policy if second-year pro Cyrus Jones fails to improve from a dismal rookie season.
Flowers was limited to just six games last season, as a concussion ended his season in December. He has played in at least 11 games in the rest of his NFL seasons. His lone Pro Bowl nod came in the 2013 season.