Pats have whirlwind schedule if July 21 deal done

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Pats have whirlwind schedule if July 21 deal done

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
If, as ESPN reported on Monday, the target date to get the new CBA ratified is July 21, that means the Patriots have just 21 days before they're on the field against the Jaguars in their preseason opener. That, obviously, could change. And probably will. But working off that assumption and the accompanying timeline for team construction that accompanied the report, let's look at what the Patriots will have to do by the approximate dates. JULY 21: Educate the clubs on the new league rules and allow voluntary training for teams and agents.The second portion of the sentence is most important. It allows veterans and rookies to report for what would probably be physicals, classwork, conditioning and logisitical work (living arrangements for rookies) in a mini-camp setting. If actual training camp opened, rookies would not be able to report without contracts. The "educate the clubs" aspect would be a seminar for personnel man Nick Caserio, contract guy Floyd Reese, overlord Bill Belichick and others to figure out the lay of the land business-wise. One has to figure Belichick has been kept abreast of things by Robert Kraft in terms of what he'll be looking at in regards to salary caps, rookie scales, etc. JULY 25: Sign undrafted rookies, as well as give free agents a chance to re-sign with their teams.Do the Patriots covet BC's Mark Herzlich, the Cam Newton of undrafted free agents? Will Matt Light be re-upped? (My guess is yes; he's been working out at Camp Mayo during the lockout.) Is Kevin Faulk coming back? This is when the window opens for the Patriots to make these moves. JULY 28: League year starts and free agency begins. The feeding frenzy begins. The 500 or so unrestricted free agents (my guess is it will be any player with four years of service and an expired contract) hit the market and the shopping that's been delayed nearly five months launches. Do the Patriots make a run at Matt Roth? Nnamdi Asomugha? Malcom Floyd? An outlier to be named? The action will be furious and -- because of the compressed schedule -- coast-to-coast tours will not be the norm. This will also be the period in which teams can try to pry restricted free agents from teams with offer sheets. Of course, with the preseason set to open for New England on August 11, will they be interested in diving deep into the pool of UFAs? Will they get bang for the buck from these players who have limited time to learn the system? The 2011 UFA class really gets screwed royally here. AUGUST 2: Rosters must be set at 90 players.The Patriots currently have 74 players under their control according to the estimable Miguel Benzan who does the Patriots salary cap page on Patsfans.com. That includes restricted free agents and Logan Mankins who's been franchised. When business reopens, some players are going to be thrown overboard (Nick Kaczur is a candidate with his estimated 4.3 million cap hit); others will be collected. AUGUST 3: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets.BenJarvus Green-Ellis is the team's highest-profile RFA. He could be the quarry for some team interested in bolstering their running game but it's hard to see much happening on this front whether it be coming or going. AUGUST 7: A four-day match period for teams to match restricted free-agent offer sheets.This is usually a 10-day window for teams to decide whether they want to ante up to keep a guy. If you consider that -- if the schedule holds -- the preseason opener is just four days away from this date you can see the practical difficulty of bringing a guy in to learn a program on the fly. AUGUST 12: Deadline for rookies to sign contracts (not yet agreed upon).The whole rookie wage scale thing is apparently the speed bump that can't be cleared in negotiations. For instance, if they don't sign by August 12, then what? What are the penalties? Either way, you have to figure the angular Coloradoan (Colorado-ite, Colorado-idian?) Nate Solder will be firmly ensconced in camp before then. Just a vibe I get. AUGUST 16: Signing period for restricted free agents ends, as does the signing period for franchise and transition tenders.This would be the deadline for Dr. Mankins, Dr. Logan Mankins to report to surgery. AUGUST 29: Deadline for players to report to earn credit for an accrued season toward free agency.This appears to be the no-holdout law that the owners are trying to push to prevent instances like what Mankins did last year, bailing on the early part of the season while irritated about being an RFA and then showing up in time to get credit for 2010. So there it is. All the dates you need to know and how the local entrant is affected. Odds of it all changing? One hundred percent. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Injury report: Amendola out for Ravens game, Bennett questionable

Injury report: Amendola out for Ravens game, Bennett questionable

Wide receiver Danny Amendola was officially listed as out on the injury report for the Patriots' Monday night home game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Amendola injured his ankle on a punt return against the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday. It will be the first game he's missed this season. The Patriots signed veteran wide receiver and kick returner Griff Whalen during the week.

Tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle, shoulder) is among the Pats listed as questionable, along with special teams ace Matt Slater (foot), who missed the Rams game, safety Jordan Richards (knee), linebacker Elandon Roberts (hamstring) and cornerback Eric Rowe (hamstring).

Whalen, part of Colts' infamous fake punt play, settles in with Patriots

Whalen, part of Colts' infamous fake punt play, settles in with Patriots

FOXBORO – Griff Whalen was at the epicenter of one of the stupidest, funniest, most “did that just happen?!” plays in NFL history.

So indescribable it never even really earned a name, it was the fourth-down gadget play the Colts tried to run against the Patriots on Sunday Night Football in the first meeting between the teams after Indy ran to the principal’s office to start Deflategate. 

Whalen was the center on that play (I tried to call it “Fourth-and-Wrong” but it didn’t take) and the millisecond between him snapping the ball and the three players processing that the ball had indeed been snapped is perhaps my favorite moment of the past several seasons. 

Whalen is a Patriot now, brought in this week in the wake of Danny Amendola’s knee injury presumably to fill Amendola’s role as a punt returner and wideout. The Colts released him last January, the Dolphins picked him up and cut him at the end of training camp and the Chargers had him on their roster from mid-September until releasing him last month after eight games, two catches and 22 yards. He returned kickoffs for San Diego but no punts since 2015.

The primary area of need for the Patriots is on punt returns. Rookie Cyrus Jones’ transition to appearing comfortable remains glacially slow. It was Jones’ muff last week that brought on Amendola in relief. When Amendola hurt his ankle on a late-game return, the Patriots were forced to decide between Jones, wideout Julian Edelman (who doesn’t need extra work) and making a move.

Whalen is a move they made.

The slight and baby-faced Whalen indicated he had fielded some punts in practice, saying it went, “Fine.” Punt returns are something he’s done “since I was a kid.”

His first impression of the team was, "A lot of what I expected to see. A lot of detail. A lot of effort in practice. Good coaching all-around. I am excited to be here. I was excited to come into a good team that I’d gone against a few times. Hopefully come in and help out the team with whatever I can.”

I asked Whalen if he saw much of the commentary or creativity last year’s failed play spawned.

“I wasn’t paying too much attention,” he said. “When it’s during the season guys are pretty locked in on what they’re doing inside the building. But I heard more about it later on afterwards.”

Asked if he’d heard anything about the play since being here, Whalen replied, “I haven’t. Kinda was [expecting it].”

The Patriots will be hoping Whalen remains as productive for them on fourth down this year as he was in 2015.