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Reports: Gronkowski signs four-year deal

07.25.10 at 11:27 am ET
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According to multiple outlets, the Patriots have signed second-round pick Rob Gronkowski to a reported four-year, $4.44 million contract. (The news was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.)

In his collegiate career (22 games) with Arizona, the 6-foot-6, 258-pounder finished with 75 receptions, 1,197 receiving yards (15.9 yards per catch) and 16 touchdowns. A back injury caused Gronkowski to miss the entire 2009 season, and he decided to jump into the 2010 draft.

Gronkowski will join a crowded picture at tight end, a group that includes fellow rookie Aaron Hernandez and newly acquired veteran Alge Crumpler.

With the rookie portion of training camp set to open Sunday morning, the Patriots’ other second round pick, linebacker Brandon Spikes, remains unsigned, as does first-round selection Devin McCourty.

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Source: Pats reach agreement with Cunningham

07.24.10 at 9:19 pm ET
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Jermaine Cunningham is reportedly the latest member of the Patriots' draft class to sign a contract. (AP)

According to a league source, the Patriots have reached an agreement with second-round pick Jermaine Cunningham on a four-year contract.

The news was first reported via a Tweet from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Cunningham, who was taken in the second round (53rd overall) by New England this spring, is a 6-foot-3, 266-pounder who was a defensive end in college, who had 19½ sacks and 33 tackles for loss over the course of his collegiate career with Florida. He is expected to play outside linebacker in New England’s 3-4 system.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was impressed with the level of competition Cunningham faced on a regular basis while with Florida.

“The guy’s played against a lot of NFL tackles last year or this year — guys who are or will be playing in the NFL,” Belichick said shortly after Cunningham was selected. “I think you saw [that] at LSU or Alabama. Andre Smith from two years ago, Michael Oher from Mississippi. We saw him against a lot of good people.

“He’s a tough guy, a hard-working guy, very well respected on that football team in that program,” Belichick added. “I think he was one of the real leaders for them on defense along with [college teammate and fellow second-round pick] Brandon Spikes.”

Cunningham is the ninth member of the Patriots’ 2010 draft class to reach an agreement. Fellow second-round picks Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Spikes remain unsigned, as well as first-round pick, cornerback Devin McCourty.

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Should we be surprised that Welker might be back for camp?

07.24.10 at 3:29 pm ET
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Wes Welker. (AP)

When he heard the news that Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker might be ready to be a full participant at training camp, noted sports injury expert Will Carroll wasn’t shocked.

Welker injured his left knee in January in the regular-season finale against the Texans, and underwent surgery in February. Carroll, who will be covering football this year for SI.com (he also writes regularly here) said in an e-mail to WEEI.com that “repairs” to the anterior cruciate ligament now usually take about this long.

“I expected it all along,” Carroll said of Welker’s ability to return by training camp. “ACL repairs are starting to get this length. I know Pats fans think they’re longer because of [Tom] Brady, but his was timing. At eight months for [Brady], it was May. Could he have played? Maybe. (He also had the infection.)

“Welker’s function as the waterbug flanker really shouldn’t have much of a bearing on recovery time, though we always think that way. Welker’s back no faster than Carson Palmer or even Jerry Rice, who goes back a ways.”

Welker also had offseason surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff suffered during the season.

Despite the injuries, Welker was on the practice field with his teammates this past spring, routinely going through the first one-third of practice — stretching and drills — before vacating the premises. While he was on the field, he didn’t appear to be any worse for wear, making cuts and catching passes all while wearing a big brace on his left knee.

Depending on how healthy Welker’s knee is, the Patriots have several options at the start of camp, including placing him on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. That would mean Welker would be sidelined and still leave New England with the option of putting him on the reserve PUP list, leaving him out of commission for the first six weeks of the season but allowing the Patriots to use his roster spot for another player. (However, if Welker is to be eligible for the reserve PUP list, he must start camp on the active PUP list.)

For his part, the wide receiver was asked a few times this spring about a possible return date, but has remained noncommittal throughout the process.

“I know the coaches and teammates have confidence in me just like I do them, and we’re just going to move along as quickly as we can,” he said last month. “I want to get back as early as possible. Whenever that is, is when it is. My main goal is just working hard and getting back with my teammates as early as possible.”

In 14 games last season, Welker led the NFL with 123 receptions and finished second in receiving yards with 1,348. Since joining the Patriots prior to the 2007 season, he’s caught 346 passes, more than anyone else in the league in that time.

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Rating the Roster, Training Camp Edition (Part 2)

07.24.10 at 1:23 am ET
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Adrian Grady kicks off the second installment of "Rating the Roster." (AP)

Here’s part two of our training camp edition of “Rating the Roster,” looking at Nos. 70 through 61. (For yesterday’s list of players in the No. 71 through No. 82 spots, click here.)

As we previously explained, we settled on these rankings by considering a combination of factors, including overall ability, positional versatility, expectations, contract situation and place on the depth chart. We also looked at what might be best described as intangibles — loosely defined as a mixture of clubhouse character and willingness to work. In all, it helped us determine the overall value of each player within the Patriots system.
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Report: Welker will be full participant in camp

07.23.10 at 12:55 pm ET
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Wes Welker will reportedly be ready to go when camp rolls around on Thursday. (AP)

Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker will be a full participant when training camp begins next week, according to a Friday morning report on Boston’s CBS Radio.

If the report is accurate, that would mean Welker, who suffered a devastating left knee injury in the regular-season finale against the Texans in Houston, would not be placed on the physically unable to perform list as some had expected and instead be an active member of camp when it begins on July 29.

Throughout the spring practices, Welker was an active participant, working with the team in drills and stretching. Several reports indicated that Welker was ahead of schedule in his rehab. For his part, the wide receiver was asked a few times this spring about a possible return date, but has remained noncommittal throughout the process.

“I know the coaches and teammates have confidence in me just like I do them, and we’re just going to move along as quickly as we can,” he said last month. “I want to get back as early as possible. Whenever that is, is when it is. My main goal is just working hard and getting back with my teammates as early as possible.”

In 14 games last season, Welker led the NFL with 123 receptions and finished second in receiving yards with 1,348. Since joining the Patriots prior to the 2007 season, he’s caught  346 passes, more than anyone else in the league in that time.

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Rating the Roster, Training Camp Edition (Part 1)

07.23.10 at 1:42 am ET
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Rookie quarterback Zac Robinson starts our countdown at No. 82. (AP)

The first time we engaged in “Rating the Roster,” it was at the end of the 2009 season, roughly a week after the playoff loss to the Ravens. That exercise (check it out here and here) generated a flood of e-mail and comments, both positive and negative. There was also some concern — mostly sparked by my fellow “NFL Sunday” co-host Christian Fauria — that I had suffered some sort of debilitating neurological injury because I put a long snapper ahead of two offensive linemen, two cornerbacks and a linebacker.

Clearly, I didn’t learn my lesson, so here’s a pre-training camp edition. As was the case with our previous list, we settled on the rankings by considering a combination of factors, including overall ability, positional versatility, expectations, contract situation and place on the depth chart. We also looked at what might be best described as intangibles — loosely defined as a mixture of clubhouse character and willingness to work. In all, it helped us determine the overall value of each player within the Patriots system.

Currently, the Patriots have 82 players on the roster, and the plan is to start the countdown today with a look at Nos. 82 through 71, checking off 10 more every day until Thursday, the first day we have access to training camp:
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Pats could end up near tops of league in two-a-days

07.22.10 at 4:38 pm ET
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Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News has come up with an interesting statistical breakdown on who could lead the league in two-a-days during the upcoming NFL training camp season. According to Fraley, under current schedules, the leader is Atlanta, which has scheduled 14 two-a-day sessions. Dallas has 12 days where they will have two practices, while Baltimore rounds out the top 3 with 10.

Unlike most other teams, the Patriots have only released their schedule for the first week of camp, and Bill Belichick has seven two-a-days scheduled over the course of the first week, which means they will likely hit double digits — and probably come close to Atlanta’s 14 — by the time camp ends.

Here’s a look at the Patriots’ training camp schedule for the first week (note — times are always subject to change):

Thursday, July 29
Morning Practice: 9:30-11:15 a.m.
Afternoon Practice: 3:45-5:30 p.m.

Friday, July 30
Morning Practice: 9:30-11:15 a.m.
Afternoon Practice: 3:45-5:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 31
Morning Practice: 9:30-11:15 a.m.
Afternoon Practice: 3:45-5:30 p.m.

Sunday, August 1
Morning Practice: 9:30-11:15 a.m.
Afternoon Practice: 3:45-5:30 p.m.

Monday, August 2
Morning Practice: 9:30-11:15 a.m.
Evening Practice: 7 p.m. (note: practice is in Gillette Stadium for season ticket holders only)

Tuesday, August 3
Morning Practice: 9:30-11:15 a.m.
Afternoon Practice: 3:45-5:30 p.m.

Wednesday, August 4
Morning Practice: 9:30-11:15 a.m.
Afternoon Practice: 3:45-5:30 p.m.

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