The Patriots know the date they hope their season will conclude: Feb. 1. That's when Super Bowl XLIII will be played in Tampa. Now they also know the date their Tampa-or-bust campaign will get underway: July 24.
The team announced yesterday it will open training camp at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough July 24. Rookies will report July 21, with veterans due in by July 23.
The Patriots play their first exhibition game at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 7 at Gillette against the Baltimore Ravens.
The training camp portion of the preseason will last until Aug. 14.
Last season, cornerback Asante Samuel's contract situation hovered over the start of camp. When the Patriots start three weeks from today, they won't have to worry about contract issues, but it is possible they could once again be without a starting cornerback.
Ellis Hobbs - who last season started opposite Samuel, now a Philadelphia Eagle - had surgery during the offseason to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and a sports hernia. It's unclear whether Hobbs will be cleared for practice by July 24, but his participation on Day 1 remains a possibility.
The team also must contend with Nick Kaczur's legal situation. Kaczur was arrested in April on a charge of illegal possession of prescription painkillers and has been identified as a participant in a Drug Enforcement Administration sting that netted his alleged dealer.
The training camp practices are open to the public, and both admission and parking are free.
Fans are encouraged to check the team's website or call the training camp hotline (508-549-0001) for updates and schedule changes.
The Patriots have released a tentative practice schedule for the first few days:
JULY 24: 8:45-10:30 a.m.; 5:30-7:30 p.m.
JULY 25: 2:30-4:30 p.m.
JULY 26: Training camp practices are closed to the public because of the New England Country Music Festival.
JULY 27: 8:45-10:30 a.m.; 5:30-7:30 p.m.
JULY 28: 2:30-4:30 p.m.