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Kraft says quick rookie deals are ‘business as usual’

05.27.10 at 2:01 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Despite the looming labor uncertainty, Patriots owner Robert Kraft sounded optimistic Thursday afternoon all 12 of the teams’ draft choices will be signed by training camp.

While holdouts in New England are few and far between — in 2004, Benjamin Watson held out until mid-August before coming to terms with the Patriots — New England has appeared to get a jump on other teams this spring. It’s not even Memorial Day, and they’ve already signed two of their picks (third-rounder Taylor Price and sixth-rounder Ted Larsen). Last year, they didn’t get their first rookie contract done until June 16.

But Kraft says the earlier signings aren’t because of the labor situation.

“No, we’re just trying to do our business,” Kraft said of his team. “We’re doing business as usual. We’re trying to put our team in the best position to be able to compete year-in, year-out. And with the facts we have, we’re going about our business in a normal manner. I’ll be surprised if we don’t have all our players in here for training camp.”

(For what it’s worth: When Kraft was quizzed about the two rookies who have signed, he smiled and said “Two or three?” He was stopped by reporters, who asked “Do you know something we don’t?”)

Kraft’s point was echoed by Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

“We’ve always contacted the players and the agents after the draft process is over, about this time, when they start coming to camp,” Belichick said. “Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t think I’d read too much into it. I think Floyd [Reese] and Scott [Pioli] in the past have always done that. Sometimes it comes together, sometimes it’s a process that takes a little longer and people want to wait to see what everybody else is doing.”

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Kraft: No news on Mankins, Brady deals

05.27.10 at 1:54 pm ET
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FOXBORO — On Thursday afternoon, Patriots owner Robert Kraft wouldn’t comment specifically on any contract negotiations with offensive lineman Logan Mankins or quarterback Tom Brady.

“I’m not the one doing it, so I can’t answer that,” he said, speaking to a group of reporters at the Patriots 2010 Community MVP Awards program. “They are two young men who will be on this team and two important people to us for the future.”

A restricted free agent, the 28-year-old Mankins had been tendered a one-year deal of $3.268 million, and has yet to sign. He has stayed away from offseaon workouts. Brady is entering the final year of a six-year deal he signed in 2005.

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Pats installing two new video screens at Gillette Stadium

05.26.10 at 7:04 pm ET
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Here's what the new videoscreen in the south end of Gillette will look like. (Courtesy of the Patriots)

The Patriots announced Wednesday that they are in the process of installing two new high-definition Daktronics LED video scoreboards at Gillette Stadium.

According to the press release issued by the team, the south end zone will have the larger of the two screens at 41.5-feet by 164-feet scoreboard, which will be a “true” high-definition video screen. Meanwhile, the screen in the north end zone will be approximately 45-feet high by 100-feet wide, with the digital LED technology totaling nearly 4,500 square feet. Together, the new end zone displays will provide more than five times the screen size compared to the two old 27-by-48-foot screens, and will feature much greater resolution.

“With the size of these boards, along with the vivid color, image clarity and their graphic capabilities, these high-definition video boards come alive,” said The Kraft Group President Jonathan Kraft in a press release issued by the team. “The resolution is incredible. This type of video board simply didn’t exist eight years ago when the stadium was built. It is amazing to see how far the video technology has come in the past decade and it’s exciting to anticipate what in-game technological advancements will be made during the next decade.”

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A couple of quick notes from today’s OTA

05.26.10 at 2:55 pm ET
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It was a steamy day on the fields behind Gillette Stadium, but the Patriots engaged in a spirited workout that ran a little short of two hours. Not much could be gleaned from the process — there was very little hitting and players wore t-shirts without numbers — but the speed of the practice ranged from fast, non-contact action all the way through walk-through work.

•Roughly 50 or so players were in attendance — no colossal surprises on the attendance sheet, but many of the new veterans were in attendance, including Torry Holt, Alge Crumpler, Damione Lewis and Gerard Warren. David Patten was also present, and said it’s “basically a whole different system” from when he was with the Patriots earlier in his career.

•A sizable portion of returning veterans were also present, a group that included: Ron Brace, Jonathan Wilhite, Terrence Wheatley, Julian Edelman, Shawn Crable, Pierre Woods, Eric Alexander, Brandon McGowan, Mark LeVoir, Dan Connolly, Patrick Chung, Brian Hoyer, Jake Ingram, Rob Ninkovich, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, George Bussey, Brandon Tate and Tyrone McKenzie.

•As was the case for the rookie minicamps, Bill O’Brien was working closely with the offense. Patriots coach Bill Belichick spent a lot of time with the defense, while Nick Caserio jumped in to guide the scout team offense. As is usually the case with a lot of offseason workouts, a large group of support staff and front office folks also attended, including Floyd Reese.

•We’ll have more a little later this afternoon.

Brace: Rookie year was ‘humbling’

05.26.10 at 2:25 pm ET
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Patriots Camp Football

As a rookie, Ron Brace struggled to make the adjustment to life in the NFL. (AP)

FOXBORO — It’s been a long journey for Ron Brace.

“I’ve thought about it, actually — 365 days to the day I got here, I feel a lot better,” the defensive lineman said after Wednesday’s steamy OTA session on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. “I feel like a different player since I came here last season.”

By his own admission, Brace, a second-round pick out of Boston College in 2009, wasn’t ready for his rookie season with the Patriots. As a collegian, the 6-foot-3, 330-pounder was used to starting and contributing — with BC, he started 40 of his 49 games in college.

But as a rookie in New England, he was an inactive for seven games and a healthy scratch for an eighth.

He did make two starts toward the end of the season, but admitted Wednesday that as a rookie, he struggled with the mental aspect of life in the NFL, and pulled no punches when it came to assessing his play in 2009.

“There are a lot of people who are built for this game physically, but not a lot of them are made for it mentally,” he said. “I just had to get my mind up strong and catch up to everybody else, because they’ve played in this game for a long time. People coming from different colleges had their own ways of teaching players how to play.

“Before, I just had to know my gap. Now, I have to know what I’m doing, what my teammates doing, what my opponents doing. I had to put in a lot of work there. It was a real big shock right there. I have to pick it up.”
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First-round pick McCourty signs deal with Nike

05.25.10 at 11:00 pm ET
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Late Tuesday night, the agent for Patriots’ first-round pick Devin McCourty announced that the Rutgers product has agreed to a three-year deal with Nike. (Andy Simms of PlayersRep revealed the news on his Twitter feed.)

Overall, it’s been a big couple of days for McCourty and the rest of the rookie class — in addition to McCourty’s news, on Monday, the rookies got their first real taste of competition with the veterans as the teamwide organized team activities began. And on Tuesday, third-round pick Taylor Price signed a four-year deal with the team, the second of the dozen draftees to sign his contract.

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Pats announce a few details about joint practices with Saints

05.25.10 at 8:17 pm ET
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The Patriots announced a few details about their joint practices they will hold with the Saints in Foxboro in advance of their Aug. 12 preseason game at Gillette Stadium. The team revealed today that the defending Super Bow champs will visit for practices on Tuesday, Aug. 10. Times for the Patriots-Saints joint practices, as well as the dates of training camp, will be announced at a later date. The sessions will be open to the public.

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