The first buzz kill of a new Patriots season is always which guys open up camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list. While players can come off the list at any time, and oftenit is just a case of not passing a physical and/or conditioning test, it puts a damper on things to not see important guys out there.
Let’s begin with who wasn’t practicing during the final OTA on June 13th (via Greg Bedard’s roll call).
Not present: TE Daniel Fells, TE Jake Ballard, DT Jonathan Fanene.
Rehabbing: TE Rob Gronkowski (ankle), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back), DE Jermaine Cunningham (undisclosed), LG Logan Mankins (knee), LB Brandon Spikes (knee), LB Tracy White (hernia), WR Matthew Slater (leg), Myron Pryor (shoulder).
Watching: OL Mark Zusevics, RB Brandon Bolden.
Injured: CB Alfonzo Dennard had his left leg examined and didn’t return from practice. DT Vince Wilfork walked off the field on his own.
Just about everyone on the list above could possibly open up on the PUP list, but we’re going stay positive and assume Dennard and Wilfork were fine.
My top five biggest question marks are:
- Gronk - has he completely recovered from off-season ankle surgery? We knew the timeline would make it close, but it will be excellent news if he’s out there from day one. But even if he isn’t we need him long term so there’s no need to push it. Him being active would be an uber-positive development and given his off-season activities I’ll be disappointed if he isn’t fully rehabbed.
- Vollmer - as I mentioned earlier this week the Pats really need Vollmer healthy this year. It’s one thing to replace one tackle, it’s another to replace both of them. He was still battling an ankle injury at least this spring, and I have a feeling they’ll bring him along slowly as well.
- Mankins - we’re assuming Mankins is going to be out there from day one, which is assuming the remarkable, but hey, he’s “super tough”. If he’s not out there it will mean it’s time to really start considering how Robert Gallery looks at guard. Maybe I’m crazy, but just opening camp on PUP would totally change my expectations for Mankins being ready for the opener.
- Myron Pryor - Pryor is one guy I’m really pulling for this year. The Pats need the kind of presence he brings, an active, get-up-the-field interior defensive lineman. He’s battled injuries for two years, this could be a make or break year.
- Cunningham - Cunningham struggles last season we well documented, and starting out on the PUP list would not be a good way to say good bye to his sophomore slump. He needs to be healthy and dominate in camp to win a roster spot.
Reports were that Fanene dodged a bullet with his minor injury in OTAs, hopefully that report was correct and he’s out there from the get go.
Spikes had to have surgery this off-season, he’s another one that needs a full camp or risk falling behind Dont’a Hightower on the depth chart. Stilll, if Spikes is out it will force the Pats to immerse Hightower even further.
Slater should have a roster spot locked up regardless if he’s PUP’d or not, but Tracy White will be in a fight for his life and needs to be out there.
Finally the most fun question of all, can Ron Brace finally open a training camp not on the PUP list? Seems like he’s healthy, but the conditioning run has been known to haunt him. If he can’t pass that he might be cut before training camp even starts.