Martin Gramatica is hoping to return to the NFL by replacing Adam Vinatieri.
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Given that I reside in Brookline, Mass., less than 30 miles away from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, it makes sense that I start my annual camp travels with a visit to "The Razor Blade," where the Patriots are staying put to train for a fourth consecutive year. There will be planes, trains and rented automobiles aplenty to come for me.
1. To absolutely no one's surprise, New England coach Bill Belichick made it through his first training-camp press briefing of the summer -- all 30 minutes of it -- without uttering the words "Deion Branch'' or "holdout.''
"I'm here to talk about football and coach the team,'' said Belichick blankly when asked if he was disappointed by his top receiver's absence due to unhappiness with his contract. "I'll talk about the team and players that are here this year.''
Listening to Belichick, I was getting a serious case of déjà vu, because I was at the first day of New England's training camp a year ago, when defensive lineman Richard Seymour's contract holdout was the story du jour. All Belichick would offer that day when asked if Seymour had reported to camp was: "I haven't seen him.''
Relax, Patriots Nation. Things might get uglier before they get better between Branch and the team, but this melodrama too shall pass. It's only July 28.
2. If Branch and the Patriots can negotiate themselves within striking distance of a deal, I half expect quarterback Tom Brady to jump in and ante up the difference to get his No. 1 receiver into camp. In Friday morning's first camp practice session, Brady didn't have much of a receiving corps to throw at, with San Diego castoff Reche Caldwell somehow winding up as his most experienced NFL pass-catcher.
Branch was a holdout. Troy Brown missed the workout for an undisclosed reason. And the team's second-round pick, Chad Jackson, has started camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list (PUP) thanks to a lingering hamstring pull. With David Givens, Tim Dwight, Bethel Johnson and Andre Davis all having left the team in the offseason, Brady must be wondering, "Who are these guys?''
"I'd love for Deion to be here today,'' Brady said after practice. "As a player you do everything you can to come here and to show up, and sometimes there are circumstances, and you make decisions where you don't [show up]. I'm not in that situation. I've never been in that situation, so it's hard for me to relate. It's not up to me. I wish I had a say in this, but I don't.''
Brady might not have a say in it per se, but I'm guessing the Patriots' brain trust will definitely be paying attention to his opinion when it comes to Branch's holdout.
3. I may be completely underestimating the Celebratory One, but the only way I see Martin Gramatica beating out fourth-round pick Stephen Gostkowski for the Patriots' kicking job is if the rookie either develops a terminal case of the yips or has his right leg accidentally amputated at the knee. I do not believe the tandem of Scott Pioli and Belichick would have spent a relatively pricey No. 4 pick on Gostkowski unless they were darn sure he was a better option than the former Mr. Automatica.