Robert Kraft has to be proud of the team that he has. Few have enjoyed the success that the Patriots have had over the last decade winning three Super Bowls from 2001-2004.
Last season ended in an unusual way for the Patriots. They are accustomed to ending the season in the Super Bowl or at least the AFC Championship; wherever it ends, it usual ends after a close, well fought game. The 2009 season ended a bit differently though. Tom Brady and crew were handled pretty easily by the Baltimore Ravens 33-14.
So while most teams will be looking to ascend to greatness via the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas, the New England Patriots will be looking to return to their rightful place on top of the NFL. First things first—the Patriots must get through the 2010 off-season like anyone else.
Part of the reason for the downfall of the Patriots last season was the loss of wide receiver Wes Welker. During the first quarter of their regular season finale against the Houston Texans, Welker went down with a knee injury. It was later discovered that he had torn both his ACL and MCL.
The undrafted 29-year old and former Red Raider has become one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets, and a vital part of the Patriot offensive plan. Over the last three seasons he has caught over 100 passes in each year (112 in 2007; 11 in 2008; 123 in 2009). Without one of his primary targets, Brady was much easier to defend against; in the wildcard loss he went 23 out of 42 for 154 yards and 3 interceptions.
Much of the news out of OTAs and minicamp has been about the progression of Welker as he recovers from surgery done to repair his left knee. Surprisingly, within just four months of surgery, Welker was going through some light workouts at an early June OTA.
One sign of Welker’s could very well have come after the sure handed receiver dropped a ball during a workout. As the ball bounced on the ground in front of him, Welker gave the ball a good, swift kick with his left leg while on the run; not exactly something you would expect to see from someone concerned about the strength of his knee.
With the way he appears to be progressing after OTAs and mini-camp, Welker may not be going on the physically unable to perform list as initially thought. Brady and company will likely not complain about getting the tough, reliable receiver back earlier rather than later.
No off-season for a perennial contender would be complete without a little controversy.
There has been some talk on the future status of All-Pro quarterback Tom Brady. Like many players this off-season, Brady was expecting/ looking for a contract extension before entering the final year of his current contract. Surprisingly, the Patriot front office has been stonewalling their leader. Talks have been fairly quiet leading to speculation that Brady will not be getting the extension that many think he easily deserves.
Brady may be forced to do without some of his protection as well. Left guard Logan Mankins has been absent from workouts as he holds out for a better contract. Mankins has been a mainstay on the Patriot offensive line since entering the NFL in 2005. After four short years he was deemed good enough to be named to the Patriots 50th anniversary team prior to the start of the 2009 season. Like many restricted free agents, Mankins was offered the highest tender, one which he has refused.
No controversy would be complete without Randy Moss chiming in. Early in the off-season he went on record as stating that he had no expectations of being with the Patriots in the 2010 season. He would later temper his comments by stating that he would love to be with the Patriots even though he did not think they wanted him.