FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. With the Patriots releasing wide receivers Jordan Matthews, Malcolm Mitchell and Kenny Britt, it opens the door for Cordarrelle Patterson to seize a larger role in the first four games of the season when Julian Edelman serves an NFL suspension.
Here are a few nuggets of note from a recent conversation with the upbeat Patterson:
Tom Brady -- behind the curtain. "He's been doing it for 19 years, and every locker room I've been in, people are talking about him. Everyone that played with him would say how good and humble of a guy he is, he's the GOAT, and you'd just hear a lot of good things about him. But you really don't know a guy until you get beside him, and hear him, listen to what he’s saying. He is a great guy and one thing I've seen: He comes in each and every morning with a smile on his face, and he's leaving with a smile. You need that out of your quarterback, out of your GM [on the field]."
Connecting with Brady off the field. "The first day I met Tom, we did a charity event here and he came up and introduced himself, 'What's up?' and he said my name. I was like, 'Damn, he knows who I am. That's the greatest quarterback of all time and he's saying that to little old me?' It was an honor."
Keeping a positive outlook. "I have mistakes all the time, just thinking too much, but at the end of the day I'm having fun, I'm enjoying it. I'm in a position where guys pray to be in. ... You don't want to be that guy who's always hanging his head down, not enjoying yourself. Whether it's Tom, Danny [Etling], [Brian] Hoyer, I want to show them I'm working hard, smiling, having fun, doing the little things I need to do."
2. Brady's personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, was on the team plane for the Patriots' trip to Carolina, and here is what I think the key context is regarding that. Guerrero was never banned from Gillette Stadium or the team hotel on the road last year, so he's always been around to do the work that Brady deems so important, but there was a stretch of time in 2017 when he wasn't on team flights (creating additional logistical hurdles for Guerrero/Brady). Now that he's back on, I view that as a sign that the three main pillars of the organization -- Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, Brady -- came together to find a solution/compromise. After an offseason in which there were media-based questions about the health of the dynamics between them, it reflects to me, in part, that they are currently in a good place. This pre-game snapshot would seem to further confirm it as well.
3. After Brady's successful "Tom vs. Time" docuseries, could "Bill vs. Time" be next? That question is delivered with a lighthearted touch after hearing 66-year-old Belichick tell sports radio WEEI's "OMF" program that one of the recent non-football books he has read was "Younger Next Year: A Guide to Living Like 50 Until You're 80 and Beyond." I picked up the book, written by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge M.D, and this is from the inside flap: "Younger Next Year is a convincing and passionate argument that if you train for the Next Third of life, you'll have a ball. Follow its simple rules and you'll find yourself in perhaps the best shape -- in mind, body and spirit -- of your life."
4. The annual Patriots Premiere is scheduled for Tuesday night, and it's the event in which Kraft and the entire team of players and coaches gather for an evening of celebrating the upcoming season through dinner, live and silent auctions, as well as a special program with remarks from Kraft and Belichick. The team also honors one player with the Ron Burton Community Service Award, given to the player who demonstrates the highest commitment to giving back to the community. That is also usually a checkpoint of sorts for learning the team's 2018 captains, with running back James White and safety Nate Ebner potential new additions to the more recent core of Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Matthew Slater, Devin McCourty, David Andrews and Dont'a Hightower.
5. During an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show last week, Dean Blandino, former NFL vice president of officiating, shared what it was like communicating with Belichick on a regular basis, which was an exchange he said he enjoyed. Belichick often says it's not his job to critique the rules as much as understand them, so the players can be coached accordingly, and that was reflected in Blandino’s exchange.
"Bill understands officiating on a level that not a lot of coaches at least in my experience, understood. He understood that officials make mistakes," Blandino told Eisen. "He really spends a lot of times with the rules. We would talk, probably every Friday, about different situations. They would spend a lot of time with the team. When their rookies come in, they go through a pretty comprehensive review on the differences between the college rules and the NFL rules. ... Typically during the season, he would call later in the week; talk about things that came up, things he was concerned going into the next game."
6a. Since the Patriots first began training camp in late July, one of the constants has been seeing rookie quarterback Danny Etling (seventh round, No. 219) reach the grass field before breaking out into a full sprint. No Patriot arrives on the field with such authority, and I asked Etling the meaning behind it. He explained that when he reaches that point, it's a threshold to mentally and physically get himself into the right place for the work that is to come. He said it traces back to fourth grade, when his father, Joe, told him that players should never walk onto the field.
6b. One more father-son football story from the Patriots locker room: First-year cornerback Ryan Lewis received a pleasant surprise in the preseason opener against Washington when his father, Will, watched from the press box. Lewis is vying for a roster spot and Will, a longtime NFL personnel executive with the Packers, Seahawks and Chiefs, is now scouting players for the Alliance Football League. Lewis had called his father to say hello, heard a noisy airport in the background, and only then found out his dad was coming to watch him -- and about 160 other players -- in action.
7. After watching the first three episodes of "Hard Knocks" with the Cleveland Browns, it struck me that former Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins was hardly on the radar. Then when Collins intercepted Eagles quarterback Nick Foles in Thursday's preseason game, it sparked a thought that he has fallen off the NFL's mainstream radar similar to when the Patriots traded Richard Seymour to the Raiders in 2009.
8a. Brady seemed genuinely surprised when he arrived at his Wednesday news conference at 12 p.m. and there was a packed room of reporters and TV cameras that exceeded 60. "You guys know this is preseason, right?" he asked. "Holy cow." It was another reminder that the Patriots, and Brady, move the media needle in a way that most others don't.
8b. A nugget of note to follow up on that: The Patriots-Panthers broadcast Friday did a 14.0 rating and a 27 share. That is up 11 percent from last year's third preseason game. And last week's game was up 48 percent from the 2017 second preseason game. For those who like to compare football to baseball from a viewing perspective: Friday night's Red Sox-Rays game on NESN had a 4.7 rating and a 9 share.
9. Given the Patriots' questions at receiver, the plan here will be to keep close tabs around the NFL for players who come available at the position. One name popped up Saturday when the Seahawks reportedly waived Tanner McEvoy, who at 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds was a regular on Seattle's special teams units the last two seasons. His production was limited at receiver (14 catches for 253 yards, 18.1 average), where he is viewed as more of a vertical threat. With a couple open roster spots, it would hardly be a surprise if the Patriots consider a waiver claim.
10. From the "friendly reminder" department: Before 2017, NFL teams would trim rosters from 90 to 75 after their third preseason game, and then go from 75 to 53 after the final preseason game, but this marks the second year in a row for a notable change. There is just one roster cutdown, from 90 to 53, as teams must reduce rosters to that number by 4 p.m. ET.