August is right around the corner, which means it's finally time to take that pigskin back out. The Patriots will officially do that today at Gillette when training camp starts, and there are more than a few storylines to watch:
1. The Lloyd Factor
Last year the Pats shocked the NFL world by trading for both Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco. A year later, it's safe to say both of those trades were epic fails. Don't expect any major swaps this time around, as the Pats seem pretty set across the board. But there was a major acquisition at wide receiver for New England as it brought in Brandon Lloyd. Ochocinco had a tough time holding on to the ball early last offseason, and it was a sign of things to come. A lot of eyes will be on Lloyd in the next few weeks, as the Pats desperately hope he's the outside threat they're missing.
2. Keep it clean, boys
Logan Mankins (knee), Brandon Spikes (knee), and Sebastian Vollmer (back) will all start camp on the Active/PUP list according to ESPNBoston.com. Those three players all had offseason surgery and it's unclear when they'll be fully recovered. Mankins is the biggest question mark, as he played with a torn ACL in the Super Bowl. All three players are extremely important to the Pats' success, and their health will be monitored closely. Noticeably absent from the list is Rob Gronkowski, who hobbled through a sprained ankle in the Super Bowl and had offseason surgery.
3. Welcome, rookies
We know what Tom Brady can do. We know what Jerod Mayo can do. What we don't know is how the rookies, specifically the pair of first-round picks in Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower, will fare in their first pro training camp. Jones, a defensive end, and Hightower, a linebacker, are both extremely versatile players. Jones is already regarded in some circles as the steal of the draft, and head coach Bill Belichick has gone on record in comparing Hightower to Mayo and Mike Vrabel.
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Pats release veteran back Joseph Addai
One day before the Patriots opened up training camp they dispensed with any drama about whether Joseph Addai would be a contributor to the team.
The veteran running back was cut, reportedly after failing a physical.
Addai, drafted in the first round by longtime Patriots rival Indianapolis in 2006, was signed in May and was expected to provide leadership to a mostly nameless group in the team’s backfield.
But injuries are nothing new for Addai, who has played in just 20 games over the past two seasons with hamstring injuries. He was held out of one organized team activity this offseason due to injury, but was expected to be ready for camp.
He’d worked with the young backs on the roster during OTAs.
The only running backs currently on the roster with any NFL?experience are Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead. Those three combined for just 849 rushing yards and three touchdowns last season.
On the bubble
A look at a few players who will have to scratch and claw to make this year’s Patriots:
Deion Branch: Tom Brady loves him, but at 32-years-old, his skills are declining.
Jermaine Cunningham: The defensive end hasn’t lived up to his potential after the Pats drafted him in the second round out of Florida in 2010.
Julian Edelman: Like, Branch Edelman has to win a numbers game. Don’t forget that Jabar Gaffney was brought in as well.
Ron Brace: It’s a do-or-die camp for the defensive lineman out of Boston College.