Patriots Take a Few Chances in the Draft, Get Set to Endure the Upcoming Waiting Game


Patriots Take a Few Chances in the Draft, Get Set to Endure the Upcoming Waiting GameFOXBORO, Mass. — Patriots head coach Bill Belichick ditched the suits for a more casual look Saturday as he wrapped up the only certain aspect of the 2011 offseason.

As he strolled away from the podium — wearing jeans, a loose-fitting collared shirt and sandals — he knew the stressful part of his offseason schedule was in the books. Belichick looked like a man who was ready to relax, which might be the only thing he's allowed to do under the ever-changing guidelines of the lockout.

He joked — enjoying the crack a little too much, for sure — that he didn't know when he'd see the media again. Maybe it will be a week. Or it could be six months.

The one certainty through the first seven weeks of the lockout was that there'd be a draft. No matter how ugly it got between the owners and players, there was a weekend of football somewhere along the way in that open-ended tunnel.

Now, though, the NFL has entered its abyss.

"It's changed pretty much hourly here over the last few days, so whatever it is, that's what it is," Belichick said. "Whatever it is, we'll comply with. Whenever it changes, we'll comply with that. It's going one direction. It's going back. Who knows where it's going to go going forward."

There is no end in sight, and the only stops along the way will take place in the court room. The temporary stay could be lifted early next week, or it could be kept in place through the owners' appeal process of the injunction.

Belichick added nine players in the draft, and five of them — Colorado tackle Nate Solder, Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling, California running back Shane Vereen, LSU running back Stevan Ridley and Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett — were permitted to pay a quick visit to Gillette Stadium. But they were all forced to leave the premises by the end of the draft.

They weren't given playbooks, but they received contact information for older players on the roster who could lend advice for good spots to work out and things to learn before showing up to camp, whenever that may be. They're stuck in limbo with the coaches, though they can't contact each other until the league waves the green flag. No strategy, no contracts, no recruitment, no nothing.

"In the meantime, there's nothing we can do about free agency," Belichick said. "So there's nothing to talk about there, until we can actually talk to the players and see whether or not there's a deal to be made."

Belichick's draft class had a little bit more of a developmental feel than the group from 2010. With the strange tenor of this offseason and — what is believed to be — a below-average draft class, the Patriots appeared to take some chances on those picks, most notably TCU offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, who had a second-round grade but fell to the fifth round because he recently began treatment for Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

The Patriots didn't necessarily draft for need. However, on the heels of a 14-2 season, there weren't a lot of areas to address aside from the always-constant demand for improvements in the pass rush. They also added one first- and second-rounder in the 2012 class, which comprised two of the four trades they made during this draft.

The Patriots added some quality depth on the offensive line, at cornerback and in the offensive backfield. Because of that, they'll be protected if they lose Matt Light or BenJarvus Green-Ellis in free agency, and they've gotten another talented corner who can grow behind Devin McCourty and Leigh Bodden, who said in March he was still recovering from a torn labrum.

And now, they wait, just like everyone else. There's little more they're allowed to do aside from prepare for a return to work. It's kind of an anticlimactic way to end one of the most popular events on the NFL calendar.

"We just got through the important process of our offseason, and that's the draft and adding players onto our football team," Belichick said. "It's been, as usual, exciting to evaluate the draft class and make the selections over the last three days. We have plenty of things that we can work on in terms of our new opponents and preparation for the season and so forth. All of the other stuff is out of our control."

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