The Patriots have basically admitted one thing as fact: last season's leadership was lacking, and it has to be better in 2010. Since they're bringing back a nearly identical roster, every veteran is taking it upon himself to be a better locker room influence. So how exactly will all of this happen?
"It's probably a process, but it just depends on the person," said Patriots center Dan Koppen. "Some guys are quiet, and they go in there and work hard and everybody can see that. If they don't say a lot, it really doesn't matter because everybody can see what they're doing and can follow them. Other guys are more vocal, and the main thing is just coming in here with a good attitude, working out, doing it the right way and hopefully lending what you've learned to the younger guys."
Koppen is entering his eighth season with the Patriots, and he has firmly implanted himself among some of the most respected veterans on the team. Yet he said he has typically led by example, preferring to work hard and remain quiet rather than asserting himself in a more vocal fashion.
It appears as though there are more players who go about it in the workmanlike way — not that it's a bad thing — than choosing to voice their leadership qualities. Guys like Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour were louder, in-your-face types who forced everyone to be accountable, but those types of leaders are both rare and exceptional.
This isn't something that can be forced, either. For a player to be taken seriously as a leader, he must command the respect of the locker room and coaching staff by performing on the field, in the weight room and at practice. Those leaders must fight through injuries and prove that football is the most important thing in their lives when they're at the stadium.
"There's a lot of factors that go into leadership," said running back Sammy Morris, who is entering his fourth season with the Patriots. "You could actually make the argument that it depends on the position and how many years each player has or whatnot. I think there are a lot of things that go into that, and I do think that we have a lot of leadership, vocally and on the field."
Players such as quarterback Tom Brady, linebacker Jerod Mayo and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork all have the ability to be vocal leaders. Others, like Koppen, Morris, cornerback Leigh Bodden and safety Brandon Meriweather have said this offseason that they plan to be even more vocal.
Plus, there is a significant group of really good people in that locker room, guys who might fall in line with the great leadership revolution of 2010. Step one was admitting last season's issues. Step two was showing up to Gillette Stadium en masse for their voluntary offseason workouts.
"Everybody needs to do their part," Koppen said. "That starts with doing your job and coming in here and working out hard every day. People like myself that maybe haven't been as vocal in the past, maybe I need to step up and get a little bit more vocal. We've got a few other guys that are ready to take those roles, and I think we'll see that develop in this offseason."
This has been a course of action since the Patriots lost to the Ravens in the playoffs, and it's not something that will take a few days or weeks. When it really comes down to it, the Patriots won't see results until the season is under way. For now, the dedication is in place.