While most teams hold formal press conferences at the NFL Scouting Combine sending either their head coach or general manager to the podium, the Patriots have never fallen in line with what most teams do.
So the guy who holds all the power in New England, head coach Bill Belichick, is rarely seen in Indy. The only organizational voice media and fans get to hear from during the week-long scouting showcase is that of Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio. And it comes not at a podium in front of all the media and cameras assembled, but often in a discreet session with local reporters in a corner of Lucas Oil Stadium.
Caserio held just such a meeting Thursday on the opening day of the action at the 2012 Combine, and in many ways set the state for the Patriots just more than two weeks after the team's Super Bowl XLVI defeat at the hands of the Giants at the very same facility at which he was speaking.
Like the coaches and general managers taking questions at the podium, Caserio was peppered with queries about New England's upcoming offseason - including free agency and draft possibilities. But he wasn't looking to get into specifics about Pro-Bowl free-agent wide receiver Wes Welker or the potential retirements of offensive linemen Matt Light and Brian Waters.
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"We're so early in the offseason -- the reality is that the season ended three weeks ago -- so to make a decision in two or three weeks, whether it's a player or a staff or whatever we do, I think it's just going to be a part of the process, and I think everything will take time."
As Caserio noted, free agency starts a bit later than usual, so, there's a little extra time to make those important decisions than in prior years, when the league year started the first weekend of March. And the team's offseason program won't begin until mid-April, a full month later than in past years due to the new collective bargaining agreement.
"We're two or three months before we step onto the field with whatever players we're going to have on our team," added Caserio. "We're taking our time and we're not in any rush to do anything at this point."
Caserio may not be Belichick, but he certainly avoids specific answers like the future Hall of Fame coach. One area that Caserio was somewhat definitive on was wide receiver Chad Ochocinco's future in New England.
"He's under contract. So, if he's under contract, he'll be here," Caserio said.
And as for the reason that all 32 teams are actually in Indianapolis- to get a feel for the best of the best of the 2012 NFL Draft class - Caserio assessed the talent on hand.
"As usual, I'd say the underclassmen are a big part of it. This is the most amount of underclassmen I think that asked for an evaluation from the league. The final numbers are fairly high. There's depth at more positions relative to others. I'd say receiver is a position of strength. The offensive line's a position of strength. The front seven is a position of strength. A lot of the players, front seven especially that were down at the Senior Bowl, are some of the better players in this draft. I think it's a good draft. Like every year, each position has a little more depth or balance relative to others. That's kind of where it is right now as we sit here at the Combine."
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