First look at Patriots on field; will Gronk be there?

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Kellerman's a fan of Johnson's smack talk to Pats (0:55)

Max Kellerman says Eagles OT Lane Johnson can say whatever he wants to the Patriots after beating them in the Super Bowl. (0:55)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots:

1. The Patriots begin Phase 3 of their offseason program on Monday, and for the first time this offseason, reporters will have access to watch Tuesday’s full practice. Bill Belichick often stresses how this time of year is more about teaching than evaluating, which is always good context, although sometimes it’s obvious when a player flashes and it’s clear a larger role is a possibility (such as Julian Edelman as a rookie in 2009 and Dion Lewis as a newcomer in 2015). Belichick is scheduled to answer questions from reporters at the OTA, which can include 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills for the first time this offseason. One player I’m interested in watching is seventh-round cornerback Keion Crossen of Western Carolina, whose 4.32 speed in the 40 already has had some of the Patriots’ veterans buzzing. The 5-foot-9, 178-pound Crossen projects as a slot corner.

2. Pictures of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski in Jamaica made the rounds on social media this past week, which fuel the perception of him using this offseason to unplug a bit. But he’s still putting in plenty of time at the TB12 Sports Therapy Center, which he has said has him feeling good from a conditioning perspective. While Gronkowski and quarterback Tom Brady have stayed away from the Patriots’ voluntary offseason program in the last five weeks, this week marks a checkpoint of sorts as the team shifts to the final phase of the program. If Gronkowski and Brady plan to get some multiple-week football work in with the majority of their teammates before training camp, this is the time to do it. In the past, Brady has noted the value of Phase 3 of the offseason program, which is as close to real football as it can get at this time of year.

3. Disparaging remarks by Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson about the Patriots made headlines last week, and while Johnson is entitled to his opinion, the truthfulness of part of his remarks warrant scrutiny. Specifically, when Johnson said Bill Belichick was "talking s---" to Eagles head coach Doug Pederson before the game, it reminded me a picture I took from the press box before Super Bowl LII: Belichick approaching Pederson on the field before warmups to shake his hand in what appeared to be a gesture of sportsmanship. So Johnson should explain further exactly what Belichick said to Pederson, and what owner Robert Kraft said to Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, that drew his ire -- assuming there was anything at all.

Nice moment, from high above in press box, of Bill Belichick approaching Eagles coach Doug Peterson and the two shaking hands.

Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer ago

4. The Patriots' voluntary offseason program is known among some NFL players for its intensity, and large volume of running, which was something defensive tackle Danny Shelton pointed out Thursday. That can, at times, also lead to injuries, which is what recently unfolded with veteran defensive end Adrian Clayborn. The Patriots' top free-agent signee this offseason tweaked his quad during workouts, according to a source familiar with his situation, and the injury had his workload scaled back and could now limit his availability when the team takes the field for the third phase of the offseason program this week. But if that's the case, Clayborn is expected to be ready for the start of training camp in late July. The Patriots signed Clayborn (30 career sacks) to boost their pass rush, and when they gave him a two-year contract with a base value of $10 million, it was viewed by many as a solid move, with one of the primary risks his injury history. Clayborn had a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus in 2012, a torn right biceps in 2014, a torn MCL and meniscus in 2016, and a torn left biceps in the playoffs after the 2016 regular season.

5. Patriots Hall of Fame linebacker Steve Nelson, on former teammate and member of the same draft class Andy Johnson (1974-81), who passed away last week: “Andy was as good an athlete as we had. At Georgia, he played baseball and was drafted to play baseball, but one of the reasons he didn’t sign [with Baltimore] was Brooks Robinson was playing third base for them. One thing people maybe didn’t appreciate about him was how tough he was. He could run, had that high-knee action. He was smart and also a great route-runner. But he was an incredible blocker. Where we all saw that, he was about the only guy who could block [Raiders linebacker] Ted Hendricks. Ted was tall, had long arms, he could keep people away from his feet, but for some reason, Andy could always block Ted. Those were big games we had against them, and here’s one of the best outside linebackers ever, and Andy is blocking him. Andy was a great, great football player and teammate. Anyone who crossed Andy’s path has fond memories and stories about him.”

6. The Patriots’ decision to waive 2017 third-round draft choice Antonio Garcia with a non-football illness designation was, from my view, just a bad break for Garcia. Viewed by scouts as a narrow-hipped, lighter offensive tackle prospect coming out of Troy, Garcia struggled to maintain weight while spending his rookie season on the non-football illness list after reportedly having blood clots in his lungs. The Patriots obviously believed they didn’t have the time to see if Garcia could build himself back up again this year, but the Jets – who claimed Garcia – are intrigued enough to give him a chance.

7. I’m told that Patriots pass-rushing consultant Joe Kim is expected to be with the team in organized team activities starting Monday, and through training camp, and then the sides will determine if they extend things beyond that point. Kim’s addition to the Patriots’ staff this offseason and into the preseason brings him full circle, as his first job in the NFL came with the Browns in 1992, with Bill Belichick as head coach and Kim teaching players like Rob Burnett karate as youngster Steve Belichick tagged along. The Patriots are the 11th team the martial arts expert has worked for in the NFL.

8. Two leftovers from offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ chat with reporters during Phase 2 of the offseason program:

  • Pre-draft workout helped with Jordan Matthews signing: “You learn a lot about these guys as you go through this [pre-draft] process. One thing I’ve learned, it’s not always about who’s on your team this year. We gathered information on Jordan Matthews, for example, four years ago. Now we have him. It’s a process that doesn’t just stop at the draft. There’s a lot of information you can gain about people just so you have it moving forward.”

  • On rookie quarterback Danny Etling of LSU: “He played in a tough [conference, the SEC] and multiple offenses, so he’s had to learn multiple systems. He showed the ability to take care of the football and has some decent arm strength that you want to work with. He makes good decisions. He’s shown already to be a hard worker and a guy that’s eager to learn; it looks like he has good aptitude for that. A lot of good traits from him. Good size (6-foot-2½, 222 pounds).”

9a. Did You Know: When the Patriots signed undrafted rookie punter Corey Bojorquez (New Mexico) on Monday, they became the 11th team in the NFL to carry two punters on their 90-man roster. Whether Bojorquez is a true challenger to incumbent veteran Ryan Allen remains to be seen, as sometimes teams bring a second punter in to keep their No. 1 option from being overworked.

9b. Speaking of special teams, Rick Gosselin of the Talk of Fame Network put together his all-time “special teams” squad and there were several links to Bill Belichick-coached teams: Matthew Slater, Larry Izzo, Larry Whigham, Adam Vinatieri, Steve DeOssie, Bennie Thompson and Sean Morey among them. And always nice to see the late Patriots fan favorite Mosi Tatupu recognized.

10. What constitutes a team Hall of Famer might vary depending on one’s viewpoint, but one thing that stands out to me from the last seven Patriots Hall of Fame inductees is that fans seem to place a high value on tenure. That might help explain how offensive tackle Matt Light (2001-2011) beat out Mike Vrabel (2001-2008) and Richard Seymour (2001-2008) in this year’s vote, even though Light himself said he would have put himself behind them. All seven of the most recent inductees, as voted by fans, played 10-plus years with the team.

  • 2018: Matt Light (2001-2011)

  • 2017: Raymond Clayborn (1977-89)

  • 2016: Kevin Faulk (1999-2011)

  • 2015: Willie McGinest (1994-2005)

  • 2014: Ty Law (1995-2004)

  • 2013: Tedy Bruschi (1996-2008)

  • 2012: Troy Brown (1993-2007)