By Levan Reid, WBZ-TV SportsBy Levan Reid

BOSTON (CBS) -The New England Patriots kick of their 2011 season Monday Night in Miami. Here are some quick thoughts before the season finally gets underway.

– Bill Belichick started to get the Patriots ready to play the Dolphins in the second week of the preseason.  They played the Tampa bay Buccaneers that week and coach had the starters play deep in the 2nd quarter.  From an elements perspective, the game was hot and humid and it’s going to resemble the temps the Pats will have on Monday night against Miami.

– The Pats have more than $10 million in salary cap space right now.  They are comfortable, but do have some deals on the way.  Wes Welker would like, and deserves, a new multi-year contract.  Plus they may want to give extensions to linebacker Jerod Mayo and offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer, two young and key players to this squad.

Read: Levan Reid’s Patriots Blog

– Former Patriot James Sanders landed fast on his feet after being released by the team.  He was signed by the Atlanta Falcons one day later.  Now even though he got a job, James did take a hit in the wallet.  He was scheduled to make 2.8 million dollars with the Patriots.  He ended up signing with the Falcons for 1.3 million dollars.

Making Your Mark

The Patriots let go a good number of high draft picks this off-season, as they tried to find the right team combination.  Brandon Meriweather was first round pick and he’s gone.  Darius Butler was a second round pick and he’s out of here.  Brandon Tate was picked in the 3rd round in 2009 and he’s gone.  Sanders was a 4th rounder.  When asked about this, Bill Belichick gave us a statement that basically means draft status means nothing.

Watch: The Gresh & Zo Whiteboard

“We have a saying around here, ‘It doesn’t matter how you get here, it’s what you do here,’” Belichick explained last week. “I think that’s the way we should coach the team and I think that’s what the players expect. That goes for everybody. Nobody is on a scholarship, everybody has to earn their keep. It’s a competitive situation, I think that brings out the best in everybody. [It] brings out the best in guys that are established that they’re being pushed [and] it brings out the best from guys who aren’t established, who know they have an opportunity. Competition is competition. That’s just basing on what the performance is, all that is decided on the field.”

Catching Up With Shaun Ellis

Of all the new faces on this Patriot team, Shaun Ellis is kind of the forgotten man.  The defensive end has been in the league for 11 years and he’s spent all of that time with the New York Jets.  Now he’s over on the good side and he’s planning on making a difference with the Patriots pass rush.  His nickname is the big cat and he talked about coming to New England.

Entering the NFL as a first-round pick of the Jets (12th overall) in 2000: “Just overall excitement. Disbelief. Reflection of how hard you worked to get to a certain point, and to ultimately reach that goal, it was overwhelming. It was great times. I had a ball there, with a lot of ups and downs. But overall, it was a tremendous opportunity.”

Biggest up & biggest down with the Jets: “I guess the biggest up was going to the AFC Championship game two years in a row [in 2009 and 2010]. The biggest down is losing those games. It went hand in hand.”

Signing with the Patriots this year: “It’s one of those things where you think you’ll finish where you started. Obviously, that didn’t happen. I ended up coming to be a Patriot. I had a lot of battles throughout the years with them and this organization. To actually be here now, and getting ready to suit up for a game with them, it’s still kind of weird. It’s definitely a huge opportunity for me and my family, and I’m excited to get the season started and to play with a group of guys who are great as teammates and as people. We all have the same goal in mind, to try to get to the ultimate goal. The organization is really treating me well. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Everyone works well with one another and gets along. You just understand the type of mental aspect you have to have when you come through this door.”

How tough to go from bleeding Jets green to a Patriot: “It’s just one of those where you have to move on. It’s kind of like a [personal] relationship. Once it goes bad, you just move on and try to find the next good woman. That’s what I had to do. I had to re-train my whole thinking and everything to come in and do things the Patriots’ way.”

What he likes most about football: “I just love the preparation. All the physical aspect, that comes with the territory, but just getting ready for a game in the locker room, going through your keys, your assignments, and just getting a feel mentally how the game is going to be played out. Then you get on the field, and sometimes it unfolds that way, sometimes it doesn’t. When it plays out the way you think it will play out, it’s the best feeling in the world.

Tune in to the Patriots season opener at 7pm Monday night on 98.5 The Sports Hub with pregame coverage beginning at 4pm. After the game, tune in to the Postgame show on 98.5, and to Patriots Fifth Quarter on TV38.


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