NFL News of July 13, 2003

Otis Smith New England Patriots

The coaches will return to Foxboro starting tomorrow and the players will begin trickling in later this week. The first full day of Patriots training camp is still 11 days away (July 23), but the feeling at Gillette Stadium is unmistakable.

It’s back to work.

To say that the organization was “devastated” by not making the playoffs last year would be an overstatement. But given the 2001 Vince Lombardi Trophy sitting in the owner’s office, it would certainly be in the ballpark. Everyone – from owner Robert Kraft to coach Bill Belichick to personnel director Scott Pioli, to every scout and assistant – expects the Pats to be a perennial postseason participant. Playing just 16 regular-season games no longer is acceptable.

…The secondary. Two issues here. Is someone finally going to wrest the starting left cornerback job from 38-year-old Otis Smith? The top two candidates are free agent Tyrone Poole and the rookie Eugene Wilson. The other issue is at safety, where Pro Bowlers Lawyer Milloy and Harrison will have to carve out an existence. The Pats may play a split-safety defense, but at some point someone will have to play in the box and someone will have to play center field. We’ll see how the center fielder feels about it.

— Michael Felger, The Boston Herald “Pats set to go to work”

Otis Smith was cut in August of 2003 and Milloy was released 5 days before the opening game of the 2003 season. Poole started all 16 games at corner opposite Ty Law. Rookie Eugene Wilson started 15 games at free safety. Rookie Asante Samuel played in 16 games, starting 1 game.

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