It’s the deadest period on the NFL calendar.
In the NFL, the run between the end of minicamp -- usually sometime the middle of June -- and the opening of training camp in late July is given over to the occasional low-level transaction or draft-pick signing. It’s a laid-back stretch, one that’s the complete opposite of the white-knuckle, 20-hour workdays that dominate the rest of the year.
In Foxborough, the Patriots will wind down just like everyone else. Even coach Bill Belichick will take off for his summer vacation on Nantucket between now and the start of training camp in six weeks, on July 30.
There is still work that needs to be done: Just one of their 12 draft picks (fourth-rounder Rich Ohrnberger, who signed his contract Tuesday) has agreed to a deal. An extension for nose tackle Vince Wilfork will also likely be on the minds of the people behind the scenes at Gillette Stadium. The logistics for a regular-season trip to London this fall have to be ironed out. And the front office is preparing for a massive self-scouting exercise that culminates in August and gives the franchise a clear direction as to what players they should keep an eye on for the duration of the college season. But none of those tasks has the same urgency as the need to take advantage of the only real break on the NFL calendar between now and next February.
The players are walking in two worlds for the next six weeks -- they want to keep their heads in the game and stay on point when it comes to football, but they also want to take some time to get away and recharge the batteries before the daily grind begins in late July.
So some guys take a vacation. Some get caught up in charity work, and others head to the golf course. Others make sure they get in plenty of time with friends and family, and some get the jump on their next career: Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light is spending some time at NFL Broadcast Boot Camp, a seminar that takes place at NFL Films later this month. (Former Patriots Kyle Brady and Damien Woody are also participating.)
But always in the back of their mind is the reminder to keep their edge -- after all, two-a-days are only six weeks away. The priority must always be football.
“One of the tasks of the offseason is to manage everything you do away from football,” Patriots running back Sammy Morris said earlier in the offseason. “The workouts are the first thing I do, and then after that, you kind of get bogged down doing a whole bunch of things.”
“Most players train harder in this period -- the worst thing you can do is to lose your conditioning and your technique in this month,” said former player Matthew Bowen, who played for four different NFL teams and now writes for the National Football Post.
“Yes, you experience some things you can’t during the season -- I would go up to a lake house in Wisconsin for the month -- but I always made my training the first priority of the day before I picked up a fishing pole or a beer.”
As for the front office, it’s vacation time as well. New England’s Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio said as much during a recent chat at the Patriots Hall of Fame when he joked about the chance to get away from Gillette Stadium for a few days in the summer.
“This is their vacation time, too,” said player agent Paul Sheehy when asked about what management does during the dead period between mid-June and late July.
“The only hiccup in that equation is if there are unsigned draft picks, but really -- part of the reason those higher-round deals are done so close to camp is that other than a call here or there, NFL management guys take some well-deserved time off, too.”
Sheehy, who has represented several players over the years in their negotiations with the Patriots, said of the New England front office, “they’re not unlike any other team during this period.” Tumbleweeds are not necessarily rolling through the hallways at Gillette Stadium, but team officials take their share of time away from the office through the end of July.
And they expect their players to do the same.
“My experience is that even teams and coaches counsel players to ‘Get away’ from it for a bit,” Sheehy said, “and come back with recharged batteries when camp opens up.”