This week, the Patriots coaching staff will begin the difficult task of paring down the roster to meet NFL deadlines. By Tuesday at 4 p.m., all teams must pare from the camp limit of 90 players to 75; the deadline to get down to the regular-season roster limit of 53 players is next Saturday at 4 p.m.
Currently, New England has 87 players after waiving D.J. Williams and Marcus Forston last week.
It might seem late in the game — anyone who has been with the club through the offseason and training camp has had about three dozen practices, including four in full pads against two other teams, as well as three exhibition games to show that he belongs — but is it possible for someone to sway the coaches at this stage of the process?
“Every player’s situation is different,” coach Bill Belichick said during a Saturday conference call. “You know, the 53 is, I guess, one number, but it’s really more than that when you get into practice squad positions and, really, we have a number of players that have played here and have ended up playing for other teams and vice versa.
“Players that are playing have people evaluating them, both on the teams that they’re on and throughout the league, and in other leagues for that matter. Guys that want to play football that have an opportunity, I think they want to take advantage of that opportunity and make the most of it for themselves. That’s really all they can control. Whatever else happens is beyond their control.
“They can just do the best they can with the opportunities they get. Make the most of the ones they get and that will lead to more. I think, honestly, everybody pretty much understands that. We all knew at the start of the season that rosters were at 90 and they were going to be cut to 75 and the 53 and so forth.
“Everybody knows it’s a competitive situation. Just try to go out there and try to do the best you can to make the most out of it.”
Belichick said every player is discussed at least twice a week to evaluate his progress and what he needs to work on, etc. Decisions are made based on a combination of what’s best for the team and what’s best for the player, but “there’s no set formula,” the coach said.
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Receiver Brian Tyms didn’t record a touchdown in the Patriots’ win over Carolina on Friday, as he had in each of the first two exhibition games, making just one 15-yard catch. But the former Florida A&M player continues to impress Belichick.
“He’s been durable. He’s been a pretty consistent player for us, as far as being out on the field and working hard every day, showing some ability to make some big plays downfield both in practice and in the games, as well as on some of his short and intermediate routes, showing some ability to run with the ball after he catches it,” Belichick said. “He was a guy that was a little bit behind in terms of the overall installation of our offense from the spring [Tyms was signed July 27], but he’s worked hard and done a good job of catching on.
“Brian has been a great guy to have on the team — his work ethic, his toughness, his competitiveness has been really good to have and to work with. He’s worked hard to improve every day, so you can’t really ask any more than that.”
Tyms must serve a four-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs, and that could help him stick around — though he wouldn’t be able to practice with the team during that time.
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After decades of using printed photographs on the sideline to dissect plays, NFL teams have begun using custom Microsoft Surface tablets this preseason.
Belichick said the Patriots staff has been using them more and more over their first three exhibitions, and while he definitely sees the benefits, he still has some concerns about them.
His primary issue is with the reliability of in-stadium wireless availability; the team tablets use an encrypted network for security reasons. If that goes down, even for a few minutes during a game, the team would have to resort to hard copies of photos.
“There’s always a chance that they won’t be available or that the functionality will be, at some point, not optimal, so you have to have some kind of an alternate plan,” Belichick said. “It’s no different than when the coach-to-quarterback headset goes off or whatever. I’d say it’s similar to that. As long as it works, it’s fine.
“When it doesn’t work, you have to have an alternative and you have to be ready for it. But the quality of the pictures and the potential for it is good. At times it’s functioned well and at other times it needs some fine-tuning, so we’ll just see how it goes along.”
Having used them for three games now, coaches and players are becoming familiar with how the tablets work, though there is still the coordination of getting the sequence of photos right and making sure the right coaches and players — on offense, defense, special teams — get the right photos.Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.