Added intrigue with Patriots' vote for captains this season

Will Bill Belichick hold Tom Brady's absence from OTAs against him and take away his captaincy? David Butler II/US Presswire

Exploring some New England Patriots hot topics in mailbag form:

Stephen, captains are voted on by players -- and I believe there is oversight on the process from the coaching staff -- and it will be interesting to see how the captaincies of Tom Brady (15 years), Rob Gronkowski (2 years) and Duron Harmon (1 year) are affected by what unfolded this offseason. Specifically, Brady and Gronkowski have stayed away from voluntary workouts, while Harmon was caught trying to enter Costa Rica with marijuana. My sense is that players will be more forgiving because they are more inclined to view leadership from the prism of inside the locker room, but depending on how much input coaches have, it could threaten the election of Brady, Gronkowski and Harmon as captains because their actions could be viewed by coaches as not being a reflection of strong leadership from a big-picture perspective. Devin McCourty (defense), Dont'a Hightower (defense) and Matthew Slater (special teams) are other captains returning from 2017, and it would be a surprise if they aren't back in those positions again. Overall, this year's captains vote comes with some more intrigue based on what has unfolded this offseason.

In writing on the receiver competition on Thursday, I called Cordarrelle Patterson a roster lock because of his value as a kickoff returner and gunner, and my feeling is that anything he gives the Patriots on offense will be viewed as a bonus. They'll figure out the best way to maximize his skill set and mask some of the deficiencies that have shown up in Minnesota and Oakland, which is part of what makes Josh McDaniels and the Patriots' offensive assistants one of the top coaching staffs in the NFL. One of the main things that stood out to me with Patterson was his size; at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, he runs very well. Some have wondered how he'll adapt to the complexities of the Patriots' offense, and perhaps that becomes an issue at some point, but I don't expect him to have problems with some of the gadget-type plays that could make him a dangerous threat. For example, when I think of the end-around in the Super Bowl with Brandin Cooks, which was a disappointing play, I like the idea of Patterson running that with success in New England.

The first observation of Braxton Berrios, the sixth-round pick from Miami, is that he is wearing No. 55 and it's unusual to see a receiver/punt returner in those digits. The one time I really locked on him in Tuesday's practice was as a punt returner, and he muffed one attempt but then got right back in the drill and was sure-handed the rest of the way. Veteran Julian Edelman was working alongside him and helped him with some of the fundamentals of fielding punts from left-footed punters Ryan Allen and Corey Bojorquez. It's so early right now to make any definitive statements on any of the draft picks or rookies, but I'd say Berrios has come as advertised at this point -- a projected slot receiver who will be in the punt-return mix.