FOXBORO -- Everybody can't stay. That's the bottom line.
The Patriots have more talented and accomplished wide receivers in camp than available roster spots.
The team will likely keep four players whose sole job is wide receiver. Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker are on the team.
A good player -- and a guy who's got history with this organization -- is going to go. Might be Deion Branch. Might be Donte Stallworth. Might be Jabar Gaffney.
But it probably has to be one of them.
Asked about this battle for survival shaping up between friends, Tom Brady was almost emphatic in explaining why it has to be this way.
"I think competition is good for all of us," he began. "I think its up to everyone to earn the spot. You have to earn it every year. I think the one thing about this place is theres no entitlement to the positions out here. You do it based on what you earn and thats why you come out here every day working hard to develop that trust from your coaches and your teammates so that they want you out there.
"And part of being a team player is doing whats best for the team and if someone is better than you, then its better for the team for that person to play," Brady continued. "Thats why you come out here and you work hard. You work hard in the offseason to be prepared and you work hard in training camp to get an opportunity and then you work hard once you get an opportunity to take advantage of your opportunity."
So far in this camp, Stallworth is the backup to Lloyd, while Gaffney and Branch battle for the third wideout spot.
Gaffney is taking most of the reps with the presumed first team. Gaffney and Branch have not been seen on the field at the same time, amplifying the fact they are in direct competition. Money doesn't really enter into the equation with these guys. Gaffney is on a two-year deal valued at 2.3 million with a 250,000 bonus. Branch signed a one-year, 1.325 million deal in March. And Stallworth signed a one-year, 875,000 contract.
Branch, one of the most likable Patriots of the glory years and a brilliant sidekick to Brady for so long, is 33. He's up against it.
Brady the quarterback, cannot afford to get sentimental.
"The more good football players you have on the team, the better you're going to be," he reasoned. "Its better to have guys competing for spots than hoping guys were better than what they are. Its better to have a lot of good players than not have a lot of good players. Weve got some depth at the receiver position; I dont know how its going to sort out, but based on what we do out here on the field, thats everybodys opportunity: quarterback, running back, receiver, tight end. I mean, weve got a lot of competition at a lot of positions."