Notebook: Tight Ends Competitive

David Thomas (AP Photo)

The Patriots have plenty of competition for spots on the roster after OTAs and minicamp. Headed toward training camp the battles will be interesting to watch. The tight end group is just one example of a tight race.

A Tight (End) Race

The Patriots have enough of a logjam at tight end to force some difficult decisions at the end of training camp.

David Thomas, a third-round pick in 2006, could be a camp casualty with Ben Watson, Chris Baker and Alex Smith also on the roster.

"We're all out there doing our best to work hard, get better," Thomas said. "We're definitely pushing each other to get better, helping each other when we can. There's a lot of great guys in there, it's been a good competition so far."

Thomas has a lot to prove considering the fact he missed most of his second season with a foot injury and doesn't have as much experience as some veterans on the roster. He did, however, return last season with nine catches for 93 yards in 15 games. Still, he'll be challenged by Baker and Smith.

"(Baker and Smith) are good players," he said. "They've been in the league for a good bit and proven themselves. They are really good guys in the locker room and it's good to have them around."

Watson knows the drill, too, even though he's essentially guaranteed a roster spot.

"That's something that you learn," Watson said. "(Coach Bill) Belichick even says, 'Don't take stuff personally,' although it's hard sometimes because we're all human beings. We all have emotions. You just realize that it's part of the business and guys come in all the time.

"If you look back over the past however many seasons, guys have come and gone at every position. Tight end isn't the only position to ever have new guys come in."

Time will tell who makes the final cut. This is definitely a position battle to keep an eye on, starting with minicamp and throughout training camp in July.

Things A Litte Different In Foxborough

--Fifteen-year veteran Joey Galloway, who signed with the Patriots after being released by Tampa Bay, has noticed the way Belichick does things is different in the offseason, too.

"It's a little different here, with the three straight weeks of OTAs, I've never done that before," said Galloway, who has played for Seattle (1995-99), Dallas (2000-2003) and Tampa Bay (2004-2008).

Nance Elected To The Hall

--Former Patriots running back Jim Nance was elected by the fans to the team's Hall of Fame. Nance played with New England from 1965 to 1971 and is the 14th player and first running back elected.

"I am glad that the fans selected Jim Nance for this honor," said Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. "Like so many others, he was one of the reasons I became a Patriots fan. He was an attraction. He brought fans to the games and that was very important in building a loyal fan base.

"Four decades later, we still have many season ticket holders who became fans of the Patriots in the 1960s because of players like Jim Nance. The fact that he still holds some prominent rushing records 38 years after his playing career speaks volumes."

According to the Boston Herald, Nance's daughter jumped for joy when she heard of his election.

”When I got the call this morning, I had trouble keeping my composure as I expressed my gratitude and excitement to Mr. Kraft. I literally started jumping up and down in the middle of my office…and then I started crying,” Rachel Nance said in an email to the Herald. ”I can’t explain how excited I am that my dad has been given this honor and recognition."

Belichick Plays Coy

--While he's undoubtedly glad to have Wilfork and Tom Brady back on the field, coach Bill Belichick, as usual, didn't allow fans or media to read too much into his emotions.

"I like all the players. I like to see them all out there," Belichick said at the first day of minicamp Wednesday. "There are some that aren't.
It's good to see Tom and Vince, Adalius (Thomas) and Laurence (Maroney) and a lot of the players that didn't get to play all last year, so it's good to see them all out there."

As for Brady, the most indispensable player on the team, Belichick is cautiously optimistic heading into the heart of the offseason training program.

"I think everybody has a long way to go," he said, "but we are making progress and will take it one day at a time."

Former Patriot Passes Away

--Former Saints defensive tackle Pio Sagapolutele, who played five years with the Cleveland Browns and one year with the New England Patriots before coming to New Orleans, died June 6 in Chandler, Ariz.

A native of American Samoa, Sagapolutele played in 97 NFL games with 34 starts. He signed with the Saints in 1997 after playing the previous year with the Patriots and starting Super Bowl XXXI in the Superdome. He spent just one season with the Saints, the final year of his pro football career.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the 39-year-old Sagapolutele, who is survived by a wife and four children, died of an aneurism.

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