Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was taken to a local hospital for a confidential medical issue over the weekend, Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said Sunday.

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was taken to a local hospital for a confidential medical issue over the weekend, Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said Sunday.

Hernandez, who has pleaded not guilty to murder charges in connection with the deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in the South End in 2012 and the slaying of Odin Lloyd in 2013, was taken from his cell in Bristol County jail in Dartmouth to St. Luke’€™s Hospital in New Bedford Saturday.

Hernandez was not there for long, returning to Bristol County jail about an hour after he left. Hodgson could not reveal the reason for Hernandez’€™s hospital visit, citing medical privacy laws.

Hernandez’€™s trip to the hospital came just a day after his lawyers, Michael Fee and James Sultan, announced in a transfer request that their client should be moved to another prison closer to Boston because communication between both parties as well as Hernandez’€™s well being are at risk at Bristol County.

Fee and Sultan said that Hernandez has dealt with “bizarre and unprecedented”€ issues during his attempts to communicate with then, as the former Pro Bowler cannot talk in private on the phone and can only meet with his lawyers in a specifically designated room at Bristol County.

Hernandez’€™s lawyers added that they believe Hernandez’€™s life is at risk after he faced charges for allegedly threatening to kill a prison guard and his family, as well as an alleged jail brawl with a fellow inmate. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to these charges.

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan
Getting first-round pick Dominique Easley signed will likely be the top priority over the next couple of weeks, but that doesn't mean it'll be completely quiet when it comes to personnel moves for the Patriots. (AP)

Getting first-round pick Dominique Easley signed will likely be the top priority over the next couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be completely quiet when it comes to personnel moves for the Patriots. (AP)

1. With the spring practice sessions — OTAs and minicamp — squarely in the rearview mirror, there’€™s the assumption that the NFL pretty much goes dark and rosters are frozen over the next six weeks until the start of training camp in late July. And while there are few seismic moves made between now and the start of training camp, there’€™s always some roster movement, a reminder that the team-building process never stops. Last year — not counting the signing of their own draft picks — the Patriots made eight personnel moves between the end of minicamp (June 13) and the start of training camp (July 25). Last year, those moves included the release of tight end Aaron Hernandez and wide receiver Donald Jones, as well as the addition of practice squatter Justin Green and Tim Tebow‘€™s favorite target, wide receiver Quentin Sims. This year, there are a few moves New England could make between now and late July, including the addition of veteran tight ends like Jermichael Finley or Dustin Keller. In addition, it wouldn’€™t be a surprise to see them shuffle some personnel at the back end of the roster trying to gain more depth at a variety of positions. (Linebacker? Tight end?) In addition, there are always interesting prospects who become available for one reason or another at this time on the calendar. And as of Saturday afternoon, first-round pick Dominique Easley remains unsigned. The larger point here, however, is that there are always moves to be made, even if we are in the most fallow period of the NFL calendar.

2. In that same vein, there’€™s been some talk out there about the Patriots’€™ interest level two veteran defensive free agents who are still available, cornerback Brandon Flowers and defensive end Jason Babin.

a. Flowers, 28, is a 5-foot-10, 190-pounder out of Virginia Tech who has been in the league for six seasons, and has 17 interceptions over the course of his career. Last year, he had 71 tackles (65 solo) and one interception. He’€™s just three years from signing a five-year, $50 million deal with Kansas City, with that deal playing a sizable role in Kansas City’€™s decision to move on from Flowers. In the past he’€™s shown an ability to be a game-changer (his five picks in 2009 are certainly proof of that) and while New England has never been shy about loading up at a particular spot, he might be a little out of New England’€™s price range, at least at this point. Of the teams who are reportedly in the hunt for Flowers, the Vikings might have something close to an inside track for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that they have the most money currently available under the cap — according to Sportrac — when it comes to the teams who have shown the most interest.

b. As for Babin, it feels like New England has been down this road before. The 34-year-old defensive end, who was cut loose recently by the Jaguars, has 62.5 career sacks in 10 seasons in the league, and likely at least drew the Patriots interest when he was on the open market in the past. At this stage of his career, he’€™s likely a situation pass rusher, and if New England went after him, he would be a part of a crowded picture at defensive end, a group that includes Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Will Smith, Michael Buchanan and Jake Bequette. Two thoughts jump off the page when you’€™re talking about Babin: one, if the Patriots are inclined to show interest, it could be an indication that Smith isn’€™t quite where he needs to be at this stage of the offseason. And two, in most cases when a guy has played for so many different teams over the course of his career, it could be a red flag. In Babin’€™s case, he’€™s been with six teams in 10 seasons in the NFL, an extraordinary number, even in today’€™s transitory world of professional football. New England could do its due diligence and kick the tires on Babin, but from this viewpoint, it would be a surprise if he was wearing a Patriots uniform when camp opens next month.

3. Some quick thoughts on the playbook story involving the Patriots, Jets and former New York assistant (and current Cleveland coach) Mike Pettine that caused a minor flap this week:

As many of my colleagues have pointed out over the course of the week, NFL playbook are astoundingly easy to obtain. I have been given a couple of old Patriots playbooks, but at the same time, anyone can type “NFL playbooks”€ into Google and take a look at several playbooks over the last decade plus. And while there’€™s something to be said for the idea that the playbook may have been obtained through nefarious means — and can occasionally be used as a first step in deciphering patterns and schemes — as my colleague Matt Chatham inferred in this tweet, a playbook is different than a game plan. Two completely different things: A playbook is purposefully kept vague, with many broad brushes to be used over the course of a season. A game plan is extremely specific in nature, and changes from week-to-week. There’€™s a reason you can’€™t find “NFL game plans”€ through Google.

Regardless, Pettine tried to quell the story with clarification about what he meant.

“€œMost playbooks are very broad,”€ Pettine said Friday. “We’€™ll have 80 (defensive formations) in a playbook, 30 in a game plan. We’€™ll add six or seven new ones for a given game.”

He also said he didn’€™t mean to imply Bill Belichick obtained the information illegally.

“€œIt’€™s a credit that (the Patriots) have been able to get that information,”€ Pettine added. “€œI didn’€™t mean to imply it was gathered illegally. To me, it’€™s a sign of a smart team. We’€™re not actively pursuing playbooks, but when they fall in your laps, you’€™ll study it.”

4. One more Jets note, before the start of summer vacation: it appears that rookie defensive back Calvin Pryor has no concern about putting a target on his back when it comes to Patriots-Jets battles this season. He’€™s already talked about how he knows he’€™s supposed to ‘€œhate’€ Tom Brady and New England, and given the chance to backtrack on those comments this week, he said he isn’€™t backing down.

“€œI said what I said, I put it out there, and I don’€™t take none of it back,”€ Pryor said Thursday. “The Patriots are our rivalry. We’€™re trying to fight for the same thing — the AFC East title and also a Super Bowl. That’€™s the only thing on my mind. I’€™m not worried about anything else.”

Pryor has already received a mild rebuke from quarterback Geno Smith, who indicated Pryor “hasn’€™t earned” the right to talk as much as he has. (Of course, in the next breath, he called Pryor “€œmature”€ and a “€œbig hitter.”) But that doesn’€™t seem to matter to the former Louisville star.

“I believe in myself,”€ he said. “€œYou have to believe in yourself before anybody else does. That’€™s my main thing. I have a high confidence level within me, and I don’€™t back down from anybody. I accept the challenge. Whenever the time comes when we have to play ‘€˜em, I’€™ll show up.”

5. While the veterans were able to get a jumpstart on summer vacation this week, the rookie have some business to take care of: The Patriots’€™ first-year players will be with the rest of the rookies at the annual NFL rookie symposium in Aurora, Ohio, which will open up later this week. (Players are split up by conference — the NFC runs from June 22-25, while the AFC will take part from June 25-28.)

According to NFL communications, the four core teaching principles of the Rookie Symposium are NFL History, Total Wellness, Professional Experience and Workplace Conduct. The symposium includes presentations, videos, and workshops on player health and safety, decision-making, mental health, substance abuse, workplace respect and maintaining positive relationships.

But it’€™s not just New England rookies who have been part of the symposium: Richard Seymour, Tedy Bruschi, Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater have been among the Patriots who have spoken to the rookies about how to successfully make the transition to life in the NFL. In 2002, Seymour spoke about the need to spend money wisely, and talked a night where the rookies had to take the veterans out to dinner. A first-round pick in 2001, Seymour to fork over $15,000. “That was when I decided to put myself on a budget,”€ he said.

While the symposium is often credited as an invaluable transitional tool for players looking to make the jump from college to the NFL, things have occasionally gotten ugly ‘€” there was a fight in 2008. As a rookie, LenDale White sparked controversy when he asked former NFL player Esera Tuaolo (who had recently come out as a gay man and was speaking to the rookies on the topic of homophobia), “Is it offensive if I call you a faggot if you are a faggot?”€ And a few years back, quarterback Troy Smith challenged NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, asking Goodell why he chooses to focus on all the negative things the players do, and then pressed the commissioner when Smith believed Goodell didn’€™t sufficiently answer his question.

This year, former Patriots wide receiver Donte Stallworth is one of the featured speakers –  Stallworth was convicted of DUI manslaughter in 2009 after he struck and killed a man. He lost his driver’€™s license for life although he only served a month in jail and was suspended by the NFL for a year.

“€œIt is not an accident when you decide to drive after you have been drinking,”€™ Stallworth told Fox Sports. “It is something I will live with for the rest of my life. I want it to resonate with these young guys. DUIs are totally preventable.’€™’€™

Other scheduled speakers over the course of the week include former players Warren Sapp, Cris Carter and Warrick Dunn, as well as active players Tyrann Mathieu, Gio Bernard, Kyle Long and Pat McAfee. In addition, former Patriots GM Scott Pioli is also a scheduled speaker.

6. Former Patriots wide receiver Chad Johnson was back on a football field Friday night, suiting up for the Montreal Alouettes in a preseason CFL tilt. Johnson, who is attempting a comeback with the Alouettes, used typical Ocho language when talked about what he was expecting when it came to his CFL debut. “€œIt’€™s similar to the feeling before I lost my virginity,”€ he said. “There’€™s a certain level of excitement — anticipation — not knowing what’€™s going to happen or what I’€™m going to get.”€ What he got was one pass for 13 yards from former Ohio State (and current Montreal quarterback) Troy Smith. The game was Johnson’€™s first since appearing in a preseason contest for the Dolphins on August 10, 2012 — his last NFL game of consequence came when he suited up for the Patriots against the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.

7. The quotes from 29-year-old Adrian Peterson this week — where the sturdy Vikings’€™ running back said that “age doesn’€™t apply to me”€ when it came to him possible reaching the tail end of his career — got us wondering if he had any sort of shot at breaking Emmitt Smith‘€™s record of 18,355 rushing yards. Peterson is currently 27th on the all-time list with 10,115 yards, which included an amazing 2,097 last year, just months removed from ACL surgery. (The 31-year-old Steven Jackson is currently the active leader with 10,678 rushing yards.)

History tells us that running backs traditionally hit the wall around the age of 30, but there are several instances of backs doing well into their 30s, and plenty of those guys were able to hit 1,200 yards: Curtis Martin had 1,697 rushing yards for the Jets in 1997, Walter Payton had 1,684 yards with the Bears in 1984, Tiki Barber had 1,661 yards for the Giants in 2006 and Thomas Jones had 1,402 yards with the Jets in 2009 (all at the age of 31). Payton excelled in his 30s, with four seasons of at least 1,300 rushing yards after turning 30, and Smith had his last 1,000-plus yard season in 2001, when he rushed for 1,021 rushing yards at the age of 32

It won’€™t be easy — and he’€™d have to stay healthy — but if Peterson could somehow manage 1,200 yards a season for the next five years, that would bring him to 16,115. That would certainly put him in a good neighborhood at the age of 34, 2,240 yards short of Smith. He could conceivably hang around for another couple of seasons at the end of his career hoping to pile up enough yardage in his mid-30s to try and pass the former Cowboy and Cardinal.

But who says he’€™s going to stop when he hits his mid-30s?

“€œI was talking to [Brett] Favre,’€ he said with a laugh. ‘€œForty sounds good, you know?”

8. The news that Belichick brought out the soccer balls at the end of the final minicamp practice on Thursday reminded us that futbol has held an interesting place in the Patriots locker room the last few years. One of the biggest fans of the sport was Wes Welker, who was a soccer star as a young athlete before switching to football, and long maintained that soccer was a huge help when it came to developing the requisite footwork and shiftiness he needed to become an elite slot receiver.

“€œI really feel that it’€™s helped with my footwork, getting in and out of breaks, and it seems like I can take a bunch of little steps in a very quick amount of time,”€ Welker told the Boston Globe in 2008. “Your feet get put in some awkward positions in football, but I’€™m sort of used to that from playing soccer, from moving the ball around. I definitely think that’€™s a big part of what has made me successful in the NFL.”

Welker got then-teammate Randy Moss into the game, and Moss incorporated it into his workout program. (There are still videos of Moss joining in random pickup soccer games floating around the Internet.) While we’€™re not sure if Moss still indulges in the game, current Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said he enjoyed the break, but he’€™d still prefer playing football to futbol.

“€œI didn’€™t get in that. I don’€™t even know how to kick a soccer ball,”€ Wilfork said with a smile after the workout. “€œLet me tell you something — that ball moves way too fast for me. I’€™ll stick to football. The real football. American football.”

9. Antonio Cromartie is never at a loss for words, and the former Jet and current Cardinal didn’€™t disappoint when the NFL Network asked him this week who is the best cornerback in the NFL. Cromartie, who was a teammate of Darrelle Revis in New York, said it’€™s one of the two of them at this point, dismissing talk of Seattle’€™s Richard Sherman being the best in the game.

“€œYou got three young guys [Sherman, Patrick Peterson and Joe Haden] that are up and coming, but right now it’€™s either me or [Revis] when we’€™re healthy,”€ he said. “€œAnd when we’€™re healthy, we know what we can do on the football field and we’€™re both showing it. We have zero help at all; we tell the safety to roll up to the other side. So we know what we can do.

“€œI want these guys [Sherman, Peterson and Haden] to be on an island by themselves and play zero coverage ‘€“ they [haven'€™t done] it yet. They haven’€™t done anything that me and Revis have done in a Rex Ryan defense,”€ he added. “œHonestly, I think it’€™s either me and Revis and that’€™s how I feel who’€™s the best cornerback in the league, especially when both of us are at 100 percent and we go out there and play the way we know we’€™re capable of playing and we’€™re not thinking about anything else. That’€™s what it’€™s really all about. Yes, [Sherman] has been playing great for these past two years but I think my 2012 season versus his 2012 season was a lot better than his season; that was the season when Revis went down.”

Cromartie said that one of the things that should be counted as a strike against Sherman is the fact that he traditionally plays on just one side of the field, as opposed to matching up with individual receivers in one-on-one situations.

“When you think of the best corner in the game, you think about guys matching up one-on-one as Prime Deion Sanders did; Mel Blount did the same thing back in the Steelers days,”€ Cromartie said. “€œCan a guy adjust to the defense? And what Richard has done, he has done that for his defense. But also, at the same time you have two All-Pro safeties back there. And another thing, you have another corner, they would rather throw at the other corner rather than throw at you. Deion went one season when he was only thrown at 19 times because he had another corner that was thrown at too.

“€œBut Prime did what he was supposed to do on the other side and he was covering the best guy; he covered the Jerry Rices, the Michael Irvins ‘€“ he covered those guys, and that’€™s what he wanted every single week,”€ he added. “€œAs a top defensive back, that’€™s what you want. You want to go cover the best. We have [Calvin Johnson] this year. I told [Peterson] let me take him. I want to cover the best. I had a down year last year and I felt like I didn’€™t give my team the opportunity to go out and win because I was injured.”

10. It seems like we were flying back from the AFC title game in Denver two weeks ago, but the end of the spring practice sessions means that training camp is right around the corner. The team has yet to announce the opening of training camp in July, but we can make an educated guess as to the earliest date they can open: July 23. NFL veterans — other than quarterbacks or injured players — can report to training camp no earlier than 15 days prior to first preseason game. And with the first preseason game set for Aug. 7 against Washington, that would make July 23 the earliest possible date. Circle your calendars — football is almost back.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Tom "Eugene" Curran joins the guys to discuss how the Patriots look coming out of OTAs. Then Christian and Lou discuss the Patriots playbook scandal.
Tom "Eugene" Curran joins the guys to discuss how the Patriots look coming out of OTAs. Then Christian and Lou discuss the Patriots playbook scandal.

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[0:21:03] ... grid there's no guesswork now. Pete Carroll doesn't it completely different way Mike Holmgren did it -- Joseph Gibbs stated from way so there's -- -- coaches who have been successful. And it doesn't mean that ...

Sports Illustrated legal expert Michael McCann joined Dennis & Callahan Friday morning to discuss a possible civil suit the Patriots could face as a result of the Aaron Hernandez murder case. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Sports Illustrated legal expert Michael McCann joined Dennis & Callahan Friday morning to discuss a possible civil suit the Patriots could face as a result of the Aaron Hernandez murder case. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Michael McCann

Michael McCann

The Patriots have been named co-defendants in a civil wrongful death lawsuit against Hernandez. The lawyer representing families of two Dorchester men allegedly gunned down by the former tight end is seeking a court order to prevent the team from paying $3.25 million contract bonus he is owed.

“They’re usually successful against the defendant himself. They’re less successful against the employer, and that’s because the legal relationship of the employer of the defendant and the victim is often very tenuous,” McCann said. “And I think that’s true here, where the Patriots really don’t have any legal relationship to the alleged victims of Hernandez, where Hernandez clearly does have a relationship with those victims.”

The Patriots terminated Hernandez’s contract following his arrest for Odin Lloyd‘s murder last year, but the NFL Players Association has filed a grievance for Hernandez’s $3.25 million in signing bonus money he says he is owed.

McCann said the victim’s families want the money the Patriots may owe Hernandez depending on the result of the independent NFL grievance process.

“In terms of the legal theory it’s pretty weak that the Patriots have any obligation to these families, and that’s because Hernandez wasn’t acting within the scope of his employment with the Patriots when these murders happened,” McCann said. “Assuming for a minute that he’s guilty, what relationship did the Patriots have when he did it? It wasn’t happening as a New England Patriot; it wasn’t happening during work hours; it didn’t occur at Gillette Stadium, there was no team function.

“It seems like a pretty weak argument between the Patriots and these victims who they have no legal duty to protect. So I think it’s going to be hard to argue that the Patriots have any legal relationship.”

McCann said the families may argue that there were prior concerns about Hernandez before the Patriots drafted him.

“The problem there is multi-fold,” he said. “One is Hernandez had no criminal history that we know of prior to the Patriots. There were rumors that he had some connection to a gang, but those are rumors, and it’s often difficult to get juvenile records to the extent that there are records that implicate Hernandez.

“The Patriots could argue, even if there were questions about his character, that isn’t alone a reason not to employ him. And we don’t know if he violated team rules or anything like that when he played for the Patriots. He seemed to have been, from what we could tell, a productive player who played hurt. Maybe not the best person on earth, that seems clear, but I don’t think there were really warning signs that he was a murderer. That seems like a stretch.”

In terms of Hernandez’s murder case itself, McCann said Hernandez’s lawyers could try to use an insanity defense for Hernandez given his history of concussions in his playing career. However, McCann said doesn’t see it being a successful argument.

“There is a possibility that they could argue that he had diminished capacity, maybe because of concussions or some other head injury, that it was difficult for him to plan out or intend to murder, so therefore first-degree murder isn’t appropriate,” McCann said. “Maybe second-degree is appropriate. And maybe there are medical records showing that he was easily distracted or wasn’t able to focus or that injuries playing in the NFL, sub-concussive hits, caused him to act this way.

“To me, those are a stretch. I have a hard time seeing a neurologist or neurosurgeon testify to say, because he played in the NFL and he may have taken some hits, he therefore became a multiple-time murderer. That seems like a big leap in plausibility to me.”

Another NFL story McCann touched on was the Redskins having their trademark canceled by the U.S. Patent Office on Wednesday. The team has the right to appeal the ruling to a federal court, like it did when it had its trademark canceled in 1999 — the ruling was overturned in 2003. That means it could take years for the most recent decision to have an impact on the team.

“For a while, there will be no affect,” McCann said. “Beyond an appeal, let’s say there’s an appeal and it fails, the Redskins would then have to make a choice whether to keep the team name in the absence of federal trademark protection.

“But it isn’t quite as sweeping as is being reported, in my view, by some in the media because, first of all, even under federal law they would still have some protection. They could still claim they have an exclusive right to the team name. It just wouldn’t have the same legal presumptions. But then beyond that they also have state law protections and protections from court decisions that could help them protect their team name and go after counterfeit companies.”

Blog Author: 
Nick Canelas
Darrelle Revis had long sleeves and long pants on throughout the spring workouts, no matter the temperature. (AP)

Darrelle Revis had long sleeves and long pants on throughout the spring workouts, no matter the temperature. (AP)

1. Darrelle Revis was pretty much instantly identifiable whenever he stepped on the field this spring for a few reasons, not the least of which was the fact that — no matter the weather — he was always dressed in long sleeves and long sweatpants. Not only that, he was layered, even though things were pretty hot and steamy on two of the three days of mandatory minicamp. He was asked why he wore so many clothes throughout his workouts, and he smiled and said he’s always been about the long sleeves.

“Always, man,” he said. “It’s just learning from the old guys when I was younger, man. The Ty Laws. The David Barretts. Guys that I used to look up to. Then you asked them the question, you come out in shorts and a T-shirt. They’re dressed in long sleeves and sweat jackets and you’re like ‘Why you wearing that?’ All DBs say you’ve got to stay warm, because we run a lot. That’s the answer. We’ve got to stay warm. I always try to stay covered, man.

“And I don’t want to get a tan, either.”

For what it’s worth, Revis acknowledged he wasn’t on the field at the end of practice on Wednesday. Asked if there was any cause for concern, he seemed to suggested there wasn’t a problem.

“No [cause for concern]. I’m fine. I’ll leave the injury report up to Bill,” he said. “Whatever he says, he says. But I’m fine. I was here today and I practiced today.”

Two more notes about the defensive backs: One, the last two years, they were a very happy-go-lucky group, with Aqib Talib serving as a good time ringleader, and veteran Marquice Cole always managing to keep things light. It’s still early (and things could change once we get a chance to see them interact on a daily basis together in the locker room), but this year’s group appears to be much more businesslike than the last couple of seasons. In their initial meetings with the media — Thursday’s joke from Revis about tanning aside — there’s a different tone about this group this time around. And two, when it comes to the rest of the secondary, the job of the safety position opposite Devin McCourty is Duron Harmon‘s to lose, with Tavon Wlson and Patrick Chung behind him.

2. With Aaron Dobson still on the shelf because of a foot issue and Brandon LaFell in and out of the lineup, fellow wideout Kenbrell Thompkins did a nice job of taking advantage of the opportunities that were afforded him this spring, at least from this viewpoint. The receiver, entering his second season in New England, got extensive work with the starting offense, and had perhaps the sweetest offensive play of minicamp relatively early in Wednesday’s session. In 11-on-11 work, he and quarterback Tom Brady connected on a pass play in the corner of the end zone. The ball was lofted over the outstretched arms of cornerback Brandon Browner, floated out there by the quarterback to a spot where only Thompkins could catch it. The receiver came down the with ball, much to the delight of the rest of the offense.

‘€œThat was very challenging,” Thompkins said when asked about the play after practice. “Brandon Browner is a tremendous athlete — [a] lengthy guy, long arms. But it’€™s our job to come down with it.’€

From this viewpoint — if history is any indication — Thompkins is still a candidate for the roster bubble. But in the series of workouts that were open to the media, he certainly made an impressive statement, and likely solidified his spot on the roster as a result.

3. Dobson and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard were not on the field for the spring workouts, with Dennard continuing to work his way back after offseason shoulder surgery. Neither are rookies, and so their experience in the system will help them when it comes to hitting the ground running in July when training camp opens. But following the spring practice sessions, it’s clear that both will be pushed when it comes to battling for playing time this summer. Dobson, Thompkins and LaFell will fight for snaps when it comes to working as the outside receiver.

Meanwhile, Dennard is no longer the consensus No. 2 corner in the system, a spot he occupied for the bulk of the 2013 season opposite Talib. The Patriots picked up Revis and Browner in the offseason, and while Kyle Arrington is better suited to working in the slot (and figures to be tops on the depth chart if you’re talking about a possible nickel/slot corner), Dennard could challenge him for time in that role. But at this point, Dennard and second-year man Logan Ryan figure to start training camp as the backup corners. That can all change in the blink of an eye, of course — and the fact that Browner has to sit out the first four games of the season because of a PED violation from last year will mean Dennard could still open the year as the starter opposite Revis. But Dennard can’t afford to slip up or miss any more time this summer.

4. It was different to gauge the work of either side of the line — with no pads in either the OTAs or minicamp sessions, trying to get a handle on the state of the offensive or defensive line is a dicey proposition. But on the offensive side of the ball, rookie Jon Halapio stood out as a first-year player who appeared to get plenty of reps with what looked like a reasonable facsimile of the No. 1 offense. In drills like this at this time of year, one of the main things you’re looking for is for a rookie not to look overwhelmed by his surroundings, and Halapio appeared to fit well with the rest of the starters. We’ll know more about how he’ll hold up at the NFL level when the pads go on in July, but to this point, he’s done well. One other note as it relates to the offensive line: center Bryan Stork took a lot of laps (at least three, by our count) after botched snaps. From that perspective, the Florida State product and Rimington Award winner had a rough spring.

On the other side of the ball, first-round pick Dominique Easley saw his first action (at least in front of the media) at Thursday’s minicamp session in the practice bubble. He appeared limited, but at the same time, he was able to make a series of nice cuts and bursts in drills alongside his veteran counterparts. It’s very early, but just seeing him on the field at this stage of the spring after last year’s torn ACL is enough to spark some optimism he’ll be ready for camp, at least on a limited basis.

“He’s working. He’s working just like I am — stacking days,” veteran defensive lineman Tommy Kelly said of Easley on Wednesday. “He’ll be all right. He’s a very hard worker. When he gets out here, I’ll be just as excited as you all.”

5. The depth at linebacker isn’t ideal, but James Anderson should definitely help. The veteran who had 102 tackles last season with the Bears got some good work in over minicamp alongside Dont’a Hightower, and will likely be the first choice to fill the void of pure coverage linebacker the team has lacked the last couple of years. The guys who lead the depth chart at linebacker are an impressive group, as Jerod Mayo appears to be close to being all the way back after last year’s season-ending pectoral injury, and Hightower and Jamie Collins appear poised to be every-down linebackers in 2014. Beyond that, however, there are still questions. There’s still time between now and the start of the regular-season to build depth, but at this point, if any one of the starters goes down for an extended length of time like last year, they could have issues.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO -- Darrelle Revis and Bill Belichick weren’t always pals.

The Patriots released wide receiver Reggie Dunn Thursday.

Dunn, 25, was originally signed by Pittsburgh as a rookie free agent on April 7, 2013, out of Utah. The 5-foot-9, 178-pounder was released by the Steelers after training camp and spent time on the practice squads of Green Bay, Cleveland and Miami in 2013 before joining the New England practice squad on Jan. 7.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price