It's because of you, the readers, that I've put so much work into the Two-Minute Drill every Wednesday for nearly two years. The "20 thoughts" concept was a spur-of-the-moment idea that I hoped would catch on over time, but it became a popular fixture on NESN.com almost immediately.
Because of that, I tried desperately to return the favor. The Two-Minute Drill consistently drew tons of clicks, and I worked hard to make sure they were worth it.
The funny thing is there's never been an actual direction with this column. Sometimes, I'd just try to empty my notebook from the previous week. Other times, I'd go in depth about a particular topic and see where it would take me. I've offered various degrees of statistical breakdowns, analysis and sourced info with the intention of providing some insight and entertainment.
So, thank you for reading every week. You've made it all worthwhile. It's time to roll out my final Two-Minute Drill for NESN.com.
1. It was difficult to come away with any definitive impressions during the Patriots' rookie camp. The media only witnessed 50 minutes over two practices, but they were low-intensity sessions anyway. More than anything, the weekend's meetings and practices were a teaching tool to get the rookies some basic knowledge so they can mesh with the veterans by the time they all unite next week for organized team activities.
2. While I can't sit here and say, "Player X looked great, and Player Y was a mess," I definitely did learn a few things, and you can check out those notes during my practice reports — day one, day two.
3. Defensive end Justin Francis was the surprising star of the camp's string of media sessions, as he shared some funny stories about the similarities between Bill Belichick and Steve Belichick, who went to Rutgers with Francis and joined the Patriots' coaching staff last week.
4. Seventh-round pick Alfonzo Dennard was not made available to the media during the camp. Obviously, he's going through some legal issues in Nebraska after allegedly punching a police officer, so the Patriots are trying to protect him from that line of questioning. It would just be nice to get to know him because a player's personality can often be useful for their overall evaluation. It's helpful to get a glimpse inside the person to see what makes them tick.
5. The Patriots are completing the second phase of their offseason workouts this week. It was a three-week phase that allowed individual drills and "perfect play" drills, in which the offense and defense could not line up against one another. The second phase spanned three weeks, and it sounded like there was some decent intensity on the field.
6. Things will get a little more exciting next week, though, when they start organized team activities, which will closely resemble real practices. The Patriots will conduct three weeks of OTAs (10 total) before their minicamp June 12-14. Then, they'll be off until training camp in late July.
7. The players should be extra amped for OTAs due to the restrictions during the first five weeks of workouts. (To be fair on that point, it's very much worth noting the players collectively bargained for a lesser workload in the offseason.)
"It's always exciting when you can get back out there, put the helmets on," Patriots wide receiver Donte Stallworth said. "When you can finally start easing out of the weight room and conditioning part of it, and get back into practicing and football-specific things, then that's always the fun part. Guys are excited.
"Monday will be the fun day, and I'm sure everyone is looking forward to it."
8. I've maintained throughout the offseason that Julian Edelman will likely play in all three phases in 2012, and I caught up with him Tuesday to ask him what he's got in store for next season.
"It's pretty simple," Edelman said. "I'm going to do whatever the coaches ask me to do. You'd probably have to ask coach [Bill] Belichick on that one. I'm going to do it with a smile on my face and can't wait to help contribute to the team this year."
9. It's always funny listening to rookies talk about the first time they got to see the Patriots' playbook. Here are a couple quotes.
Chandler Jones: "I don't have an actual measurement, but it's pretty heavy."
Francis: "It's kind of like a 'wow' thing. It's kind of big, but that's expected."
10. Keep an eye on Patriots defensive tackle Marcus Forston, an undrafted free agent out of Miami. Forston was the top defensive tackle recruit in the nation in high school, but he didn't live up to the hype at Miami, which was a big disappointment in the region because he was compared to Vince Wilfork and Warren Sapp. The talent exists, but the drive is the question. Maybe someone like Wilfork can get Forston on track, but even still, the Patriots have a good group of defensive tackles. It'll be tough for him to make the 53-man roster.
11. Forston was asked if he had any regrets after leaving school early.
"No regrets, I'm just looking forward," Forston said. "Right now, I'm just working hard. I'm glad to be a Patriot, and I'm going to give 110 percent."
12. Forston isn't a rare case, either. Amazingly, by my count, 21 of the 65 underclassmen who declared for the draft did not get selected this year. That's a serious problem that must be addressed, at least through raised awareness. But then again, it might just be an issue that's on a case-by-case basis. Either way, I was very surprised to see 21 underclassmen went undrafted. I would have guessed about five or 10.
13. I dug up a stat over the weekend and wanted to bring it back in case you missed it. Patriots wide receiver Brandon Lloyd has been more than twice as productive during his career while paired with New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and click here for more on those two.
Lloyd played 25 games for McDaniels through parts of those three seasons, and the numbers are staggering. In those games, Lloyd had 119 receptions (4.8 per game) for 1,953 yards (78.1) and 14 touchdowns (0.56). But in the other 87 games of Lloyd's career (including the conclusion of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, when the two got split up), he has 192 catches (2.2 per game) for 2,831 yards (32.6) and 17 touchdowns (0.20).
14. Patriots receiver Jeremy Ebert, a seventh-round pick, is finishing his degree at Northwestern, and he won't be able to report back to New England until June because of the school's quarter system. Great for Ebert, but I don't know how an NFL draft pick can keep such a steady head while going through the final month of his senior year.
"It's Northwestern," Ebert said. "You've got to kind of take it seriously. It's a good academic school. School comes first there, not athletics. I've got to put my head in the books a lot."
15. Good to hear from defensive end Markell Carter, who said his sister, Keyarrie, is "doing a lot better" in her battle with lupus. Keyarrie will be moving in with Carter soon because she'll be able to take advantage of some of the best doctors in the world in Boston. For more on Keyarrie, check out this story I wrote in December.
16. Stallworth and McDaniels are obviously in their second tours with the Patriots, and they were both part of the team's record-setting offense in 2007. I asked Stallworth if he's noticed any differences in McDaniels since they last worked together, and the receiver joked, "He put on some weight."
Stallworth then added, "Josh is still the same fiery guy he was when I was here last. I think, obviously, we've only been around for a few weeks now, but with him having the experience of being a head coach for a while, and leaving here and coming back, I'm sure his mentality is a little different. He probably understands things a little better. That can help us out."
17. Edelman and cornerback Devin McCourty attended a nice community event Tuesday. They visited with patients and donors at the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and it was really cool to see how everyone reacted to their presence. The players really do make a difference when they go into the community for these events.
18. Edelman and McCourty put it in perspective.
"It just definitely humbles you and puts life in perspective," Edelman said. "These people are real heroes. They're saving people every day. I'm honored that they allow us to come and meet these people."
"Sometimes we can get caught up in everything we're trying to do, getting better as football players," McCourty said. "But you step outside of that and you get to see real life, see things that really matter, these donors and getting to see some patients. If we can just put a smile on somebody's face, be some type of difference, or help them, it's a pleasure to do it."
19. Edelman said it hit home a little more because they were in the Kraft Center.
"With the Kraft family and what they do, with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute," Edelman said. "I personally got to know a little bit of Mrs. [Myra] Kraft and the time that she donated to everything. You feel like you have nothing else to do but go out here and give some time. It's definitely for a great cause."
20. For my last note, I want to thank everyone at NESN for helping me develop as a person and professional over the last three years. It's been an amazing run, and I'll always consider myself part of the NESN family. It's truly been an honor to work for a company that I grew up admiring, and I wish NESN all the best going forward. I'll always be watching.