Roster Depth Continues To Be A Challenge

Tom Brady may be looking for a new deal, but at least he's still in camp. With the retirement of David Patten, the holdout of Logan Mankins and the absence of Derrick Burgess, the Patriots are thin at key positions. The question now becomes can Brady operate efficiently without some key players at key positions?

Though it may not seem this way, there's plenty going on at Patriots' training camp other than Tom Brady's contract status. For example, it appears two players the team expected to play significant roles in 2010 are on their way out the door.

The first salvo came when veteran receiver David Patten announced his retirement over the weekend, ending his second stint with the Patriots before it ever truly began. Then word got out that linebacker Derrick Burgess is telling friends and family he's played his last game in the NFL, which would explain why he hadn't reported to camp as of last week.

The Patten move doesn't hurt too much since if he was willing to retire now it's obvious he wouldn't have contributed much to begin with.

However, this is a position of interest to the Patriots in a number of ways. For starters, there's no telling how Wes Welker will respond after undergoing knee surgery last year, even if he is way ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation.

The Patriots are a bit thin behind Welker as it is, so they'll need someone to emerge from camp as a legitimate No. 3 receiver. All of this directly effects how Brady performs in 2010 with his contract status in limbo. Even if he signs a long-term deal before camps breaks, he still needs help at receiver to avoid some of the pitfalls that led to inconsistency last year.

As for Burgess apparently not playing in 2010, that's a significant loss for the Patriots considering they're thin at linebacker, too. Burgess had a decent year in 2009 and was certainly part of the team's plans this year as well. Plus, the fact they traded two draft picks to Oakland to acquire his services makes his one-year tenure in New England sting that much more.

In reality, though, this is business as usual at an NFL training camp -- particularly in New England, where it appears at least one player retires each summer before the season starts. This is nothing head coach Bill Belichick hasn't handled before, but it's worth noting the irony in two already-thin positions getting that much thinner based on two players calling it quits.
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