There isn’t much of an offseason in the NFL anymore, and that’s just the way commissioner Roger Goodell likes it. After the Super Bowl is the ever-growing combine, which is followed by the coverage leading up to the draft. The league has even made the revealing of the coming season’s schedule into a prime-time television event.
But this week, real football — not the half-speed organized team activities and minicamp — returns to the fields behind Gillette Stadium. The Patriots open training camp on Thursday, with fans able to come for free and watch their first practice Friday morning.