Bolden making an early impression

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Bolden making an early impression

FOXBORO -- With two practice fields stacked with nearly 90 players, a staff of coaches and support staff and myriad drills, it's hard to have your eyes on all of it at once.

Sometimes, you catch a glimpse of something as it starts to unfold and watch for a second. Often, you can identify the player based on what he does or how he moves if he's been around long enough. You don't even need to see the jersey number.

Other times, you see a player flash, look at the jersey number and realize you don't have immediate recall of his game. That's what it's been like with undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden.

The Ole Miss running back hasn't dominated camp but he runs, catches, blocks and moves in a completely NFL appropriate manner. So far, he looks like he belongs.

"He seems like he's done a decent job in the areas we've asked him to work in," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday. "Special teams, he can catch the ball, has some skill in the passing game. Had some production in the running game in college. We've only seen that in drills but based on college it looks like he can run the ball. Pretty smart guy, can catch, play in the kicking game. Like all the rookies he's made plenty of mistakes but he's definitely made progress."

This being a day on which Belichick was in a curt mood, those words were the equivalent of an ode to excellence.

Bolden is definitely in a position where he can make the 53-man roster out of camp. If the team keeps four running backs, that would mean it's Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead and Bolden. At least at this early juncture.

Belichick signaled that things will grow tougher this week, though.

"By the end of this week, we'll see how everybody's holding up," he predicted. "Then once we get closer to the Saints week (August 7-9) then our install will be closer to the top. It will just keep piling up. Some guys may be able to handle that. Other guys may get a little . . . congested. We'll see how it goes."

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

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It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona.