The journey begins today. The New England Patriots begin training camp and in so doing start the long trek towards attempting to defend their Super Bowl championship. Certainly not an easy prospect, but this group of coaches, players and management seems to be a very goal and challenge oriented group. Some national publications may dismiss the Patriots as potential repeat champions just because…you know, it’s like difficult to do so. If we’ve learned anything from the past three years with this team, it’s not to tell them they can’t do something. Lenny Megliola says all eyes are on the Patriots now, a startling turn of events for a franchise that was “Once the whipping boys playing in a dumpy stadium next to a horsemens’ park”. New Englanders have come to count on the Patriots to lift them out of the sports doldrums caused by the Bruins, Celtics, and yes, the Red Sox. The Red Sox will perhaps get a little less attention now, from both the media and the fans, and maybe it will even benefit them for the final two-plus months of the season. Michael Felger says the Patriots hope to learn from and apply the lessons learned during the playoff-less season of 2002 as they attempt to defend their title. Michael Parente looks at the champs back in action and starts another countdown…only 42 days until the Colts come for the regular season opener. Tom Curran provides the list of all lists heading into Training camp. Such topics as “Four good places to watch training camp”, “Five story lines guaranteed to be beaten to a bloody pulp.” and “Five items that will put Belichick in the verbal four-corners.” Ian M Clark previews the defense for the 2004 Patriots. Christopher Price agrees that it’s time to go camping. Michael Gee (subscription only) says that Bill Belichick, a student of history, needs to apply the lessons learned during the 2002 season in order to have a chance to repeat. He concludes:

Belichick made several visits to Fenway this summer. Perhaps they weren't recreational. The coach might've been absorbing a sports truth embodied by the Sox.

The team that denies its history is condemned to repeat it.

Parente has a preview of the Patriots special teams unit, a group headed by new punter Josh Miller. Michael Smith has a look at Russ Hochstein. A “burning” question of my own today…where’s the Globe? I assume they’ll start having Patriots stuff in the paper tomorrow, but other papers have been doing camp and positional previews for some time now, but there have really been nothing, other than an occasional transaction report or Sunday notes section regarding the defending Super Bowl champions in what is supposed to be the biggest and most influential newspaper (and sports section) in the area. Today is just a profile of an offensive lineman? Maybe when Ron Borges gets back from suspension the coverage will increase. Oh wait. That’s right, he’s not suspended. They’ve just chosen to give him almost six weeks off. He’s been writing columns for MSNBC like a madman recently. Some “vacation”. Mike Reiss looks at the three Patriots draft picks still unsigned coming into camp. Curran’s notebook looks at unsigned first round draft pick Benjamin Watson. Felger’s notebook looks at the Patriots signing former Bear James “Big Cat” Williams.

The Red Sox slipped back into their punchless ways last night, making Dave Borkowski, a guy who prior to this year last pitched in the majors in 2001, look like Cy Young. Sean McAdam looks at Borkowski and Javy Lopez (two homers) beating the Sox and putting an end their brief three game winning streak. Bob Hohler looks at Curt Schilling and the Sox falling to the O’s yet again. Michael Silverman says the Sox bats just went silent once again. David Heuschkel says the Red Sox bats were as quiet as could be in the 100th game of the season. David Borges also has a look at Borkowski outdueling Schilling. Gordon Edes says that things are still quiet on the trade front for the Red Sox. Karen Guregian has Pedro saying he’d like Derek Lowe and Nomar to stay with the Red Sox and not be traded. McAdam takes a look at the difficulties the Red Sox are having making anything happen in the trade market. Guregian also has a look at Curt Schilling as he tries to figure out how he lost to Borkowski and the Orioles last night. Silverman’s notebook has David Ortiz pleading for mercy with MLB disciplinarian Bob Watson. Hohler’s notebook also has Ortiz making his case for a reduced suspension. McAdam’s notebook, Heuschkel’s notebook and Borges’ notebook all carry similar themes.

Steve Conroy looks at the Bruins signing Tom Fitzgerald to a two year deal.

Howard Bryant (subscription only) says that athletes should be free to walk away from the sport they play at any time. He’s of course talking about Ricky Williams, who walked away from the Dolphins last week. Bryant cites Scott Brosius, who retired after the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, (finishing out the season) and Robert Smith of the Vikings as a couple who walked away from the high paying world of pro sports to do other things. He says Williams shouldn’t be treated as a freak for walking away from the game to do other things. That of course is based on the assumption that Williams really is walking away because he no longer wants to play or wants to pursue other interests. More and more rumors abound (some even from quotes from Williams himself) that Williams had forgotten to take a masking agent and was facing a suspension from the league for marijuana use. Buddy Thomas suggests that Williams is running away from a personal problem.

With the Red Sox on an off night, there isn’t much on TV tonight for sports. FSN will have Scott Zolak in at 6:30 and Tom Curran at 10:00 to talk about the opening of Patriots camp. With no Antowain Smith around to fail the conditioning run, what are they going to talk about?

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