The New England Patriots 2008 pre-season mini camps are already underway and the entire roster is set to report to camp in a few weeks to kick off training for the reigning AFC Champions. The Patriots have had plenty of time to try and forget about the Super Bowl upset and concentrate on preparing themselves for another run at a championship.
WR Matthew Slater was the first Patriots draft pick to sign a contract when he agreed to a deal with the team on June 13. Slater, a WR/DB/special teams player out of UCLA, was picked in the fifth round. He is the son of Hall of Famer Jackie Slater, a former Rams offensive linemen.
One of the teams’ main focuses during these padless mini-camps has been their attention to red-zone defense. Last season the Patriots defensive unit admits that they struggled at times within the red zone and it is certainly an area they can improve on this year.
“Red zone was a real area of weakness,” LB Mike Vrabel said. “We could have been a great defense last year if we’d played better in the red zone. Statistically, we were good, except in that area.”
Some players that will not be back in a Patriots uniform this season include; TE Kyle Brady and LB Rosevelt Colvin. Both players were released after failing team physicals. Cornerbacks Randall Gay and Asante Samuel will not be returning, both signing multi year deals with new teams. Gay signed a four year, $12 million dollar contract with the Saints and Samuel inked a six year, $59.475 million dollar deal with the Eagles. Another notable player not returning will be WR Donte Stallworth who signed with the Cleveland Browns for a seven year $35 million dollar deal.
Veteran WR Troy Brown and LB Junior Seau are currently both unsigned unrestricted free agents that have both expressed interest in returning to play one more season with the Patriots before retiring.
After setting an NFL record for receiving TD’s in a season (23), Randy Moss will definitely be back after he agreed to a three year $27 million dollar deal that has him in New England through the 2010-2011 season. LB’s Teddy Bruschi and Larry Izzo also signed new contracts with the team to ensure their return.
And of course, Tom Brady isn’t going anywhere anytime soon which instantly makes the Patriots favorites again to win the AFC East.
The first scheduled Patriots pre-season game at home is on August 7th against the Baltimore Ravens. One month to the day, the Pats will open their home regular season schedule with a game on Sept. 7th against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Patriots tickets to all home games are now available!