New England Patriots News 7-5 and Notes Around the AFC East

Steve Balestrieri
July 05, 2015 at 05:00am ET

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Patriots notebook: Robert Kraft thankful for team's recent run

Gillette practice fields

The Patriots are off until the players report for training camp on July 29. The first practices begin on the morning of July 30. (SBalestrieri Images)

Good morning, we here at PatsFans.com hope that you are enjoying your Fourth of July weekend.  Like the players and coaches, we’ve been enjoying some early summer get away time before the season starts with training camp at the end of the month. There are lots of nice changes coming for the web site in the next few days that should improve our reader’s enjoyment and navigation of the pages. Stay tuned.

Here are Sunday’s Patriots news notes and what’s happening around the division:

Training Camp Dates Released: The Patriots released the start dates for the initial training camp practices for 2015 and as always they will be open to the public. Parking is free and there are plenty of concessions and kid’s events for fans to enjoy.

The veterans report on July 29 and the first practice will take place on July 30 which is scheduled to be a morning workout. Times are TBA. But what is known for the time being is that the team will practice July 30 – Aug. 2 at the Gillette Stadium practice fields and most workouts are scheduled to be in the morning.

On August 5, the Patriots will hold their annual team Hall of Fame induction ceremony held at the NRG Plaza outside the team’s Hall and Pro Shop at 5 p.m. to induct this year’s honorees Willie McGinest and Houston Antwine. The event is free and open to the public. That will be followed by a 7 p.m. practice inside Gillette Stadium that is only open to season ticket holders and Foxboro residents.

Stay tuned to PatsFans as we’ll be providing constant coverage from Gillette with the different training camp positional battles as well as daily photo galleries from the day’s events.

Spikes Pleads Guilty, Sentenced To Probation: Former Patriots and Bills LB Brandon Spikes appeared in Wrentham District Court and pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and driving to endanger following a late-night crash on 495 that sent a Billerica family of three to the hospital.

Spikes was driving his un-insured Mercedes Maybach at excessive speed and rear-ended another SUV early on June 7. His On-Star system reported a crash that the driver initially reported that he hit a deer. Spikes fled the scene, telling Mass State Police that a friend drove him home after a night of drinking in RI and that he was asleep and awoke to find his friend had fled. But police state that only the driver’s side airbag was deployed and that since no shut-off switch was available for his car that he was alone.

Spikes will lose his driver’s license for one year and was fined $2650 in fines and court fees. Luckily no one was seriously injured in the accident. The Patriots released Spikes the morning after the incident.

FAA Looking At the Patriots, Giants and Cowboys For Drone Use: A story that has been making the rounds during the past week is that the newest military technology that has crossed over to the civilian market is being closely monitored by the FAA.

The commercial drone business is beginning to take off and the government is paying close attention to how it is being utilized. Drones or specifically un-manned aerial vehicles (UAV), are smaller and less armed than their military cousins.

The Patriots, Giants and Cowboys used UAVs to film their OTA practices and the results were spectacular according to Dallas coach Jason Garrett. But the teams didn’t get the proper FAA waiver to operate and the government is planning on talking to all three teams about this.

The current policy is to educate rather than punish and the FAA may indeed grant all three teams a waiver so that they may operate the UAVs safely and within limits. Currently there are over 600 waivers granted for drone use in the US. Commercial drones must operate under 500 feet and weigh less than 50 pounds. Estimates of UAV use by 2020 are expected to be between 7500 and 20,000. The first commercial delivery systems are expected to begin on July 17 using drones.

We reached out to the Patriots regarding the waiver and if the team plans on using UAVs for training camp and beyond but we received no answer. There is a Boston-based start-up UAV company that is currently operating for commercial use, Fly-4-Me. Have an outdoor event or project that you need a unique perspective on? You can check out their website here:

Players Stay Focused Thru Football Camps: While many of the players take the time before training camp to relax and spend some family time before the rigors of the season begin, others stay focused on football by conducting football camps around the area.

Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski just wrapped up a camp for military kids at Andrews AFB outside of Washington but there are plenty of others and some right in our own backyard in the next few weeks.

Several Patriots players are expected to be on-hand for Sports International Football Camp scheduled for Lowell, Mass on July 12-15, including Duron Harmon, Dominique Easley, Dont’a Hightower, Jabaal Sheard, Brandon Bolden and Chris Jones.

We’ll be there for some of the camp in Lowell and hopefully talk to some of the players in attendance about prepping for the upcoming season. We recently did an interview with Harmon on our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast and he spoke at length about this camp and giving back to the community.

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Corners, Corners Corners…Are The Pats In A Bind for 2015?: Since the news that the team declined the 2015 option for Darrelle Revis and the subsequent releases of Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington, all talk seems centered (and to a degree rightfully so) on the status of the Patriots corner back position.

Mike Reiss of ESPN posted a thought provoking piece this week asking beat writers from other AFC East teams if they’ll pick on the Patriots corners this season.

While the talent level is most definitely a step down from 2014, to argue otherwise would be folly, expect the defense to present a much different look to it than the mainly Cover1 looks from last year.

Until we can see the players in pads and making contact with hitting involved, I wouldn’t rush to judgment just yet. With a very improved front seven, things may have a way of evening out quickly. But this will be one of the key areas to watch during training camp.

Bill Belichick has a knack for bringing out the best of his players. This year’s version has a number of very versatile linebackers who can do different things that can alter what an opposing offense can do. So will the 2015 version of the Pats defense resemble the 2009-2011 defenses that were bad in coverage or more like the 2003-2004 teams that were able to scheme their way to shutting opponents down? Time will tell.

Eastbound and Down…..News from around the AFC East:

Sheldon Richardson Among Four NFL Players Suspended: The Jets who up to this point had been enjoying a quiet and fruitful off-season suffered a big blow when a stalwart member of their defense, DL Sheldon Richardson was suspended for the first four games of 2015 under the NFL’s Substance Abuse Policy.

Also suspended were Dallas LB Rolando McClain for four games and Green Bay’s Datone Jones for a single game. San Diego TE Antonio Gates was suspended for four games for violating the league’s policy on PEDs.

"I apologize for letting down my family, teammates, this organization and the fans," Richardson said in a team released statement. "However, words aren't enough,” he added.

“This is something that can only be addressed by how I handle myself from this point on. I don't want this to take away from what the team is trying to accomplish. While I won't be there at the start of the regular season, I will do whatever I can to support my teammates until I'm able to return to the field."

Richardson the 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year is a key cog of the Jets defensive line which is expected to be one of the better units in the league with the addition of first round draft pick Leonard Williams from USC.

Richardson can participate in all training camp activities and pre-season games. But his four-game suspension coupled with a Week 5 bye, means he won’t return until Week 6 against the Redskins.

Dolphins Uncertainty At Guard Could Open the Door For Mathis: This week reports surfaced out of Miami that there was legitimate concern for the two starting guard positions for the Dolphins offensive line in 2015.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, wrote that none of the guards during spring workouts seized the opportunity to grab one of the two open guard positions. Fourth round draft pick Jamil Douglas seems to have the inside track on one of the slots competing with Dallas Thomas, Billy Turners and others.

While training camp is the true test once the pads come on, the lack of certainty could open the door for former Eagles guard Evan Mathis who is a free agent. Mathis has gotten plenty of offers but up to this point has priced himself out of a job. That could change once camps open up rather quickly. Watch the Miami situation closely in the coming weeks.

Jaws – Bills will be a Playoff team in 2015: Former Eagle’s QB and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski likes what he sees in the Buffalo Bills thus far and believes that they will be a playoff team in 2015.

"The Buffalo Bills will be a playoff team. There will be great energy coming to Western New York once again," Jaworski told the Bills.com this week. Jaws likes veteran Matt Cassel to win the starting job over E.J. Manuel and Tyrod Taylor in training camp.

In another comment that is guaranteed to make Bills fans anxious for the season to begin and cringe at the same time, Jaworski favorably compared this Bills defense to the ’85 Bears and 2000 Ravens’ defenses that are looked on as two of the best ever.

Such hyperbole aside, Buffalo’s defense already #4 last season should be a beast again and it will be an interesting one to watch.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

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