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He'll be up and running

Maroney is expected to be OK for season after surgery

PHOENIX -- Patriots running back Laurence Maroney underwent shoulder surgery after the team's AFC Championship Game loss to the Colts, but he should be fully recovered for the 2007 season.

Maroney was in Miami yesterday with his mother, Terri Terrell, meeting with his financial adviser.

"I think he's in great spirits," Terrell said. "He's looking forward to the season. He's fine."

Terrell did not reveal specifics of the surgery -- or which shoulder was injured -- but noted that the procedure took place in the morning and Maroney was discharged from the hospital that afternoon, which she said reflected the fact that it was routine. She said Maroney is not currently wearing a sling and is taking part in conditioning drills to stay in shape. He will be limited with certain weightlifting activities.

Four more picks
The Patriots were awarded four compensatory draft choices yesterday, picking up a fifth-round pick, two sixth-rounders, and one seventh-rounder. That gives them a total of 10 selections in the draft, which will be held April 28-29: two first-rounders, single picks in the third, fourth, fifth, and seventh rounds, and four sixth-rounders. The compensatory picks cannot be traded. The four compensatory picks tied the Ravens for the league high, and were awarded based on the Patriots losing free agents Tom Ashworth, Matt Chatham, Andre Davis, Tim Dwight, Christian Fauria, David Givens, and Adam Vinatieri. The lone compensatory free agent signed by the Patriots was Reche Caldwell.

Not ready for prime time players
The NFL announced its national television schedule for the opening weekend of the season, and the Patriots aren't part of the mix. The league also announced its three-game Thanksgiving slate, and while the Patriots were a candidate to visit Dallas that day, the league picked the Jets instead. Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft was not disappointed. He said the team's game against the Colts was a candidate for the NFL opener, but it's more likely to be a prime-time game in November, during the television sweeps period. The Colts host the Saints in the Thursday night opener Sept. 6. "New Orleans was a terrific story for the league last year, both on and off the field," said commissioner Roger Goodell, "and we thought it would be a great game to highlight during the offseason and to kick off our 2007 season."

Art of the deal
Drew Rosenhaus was one of the few sports agents present at the meetings, and he explained how negotiations unfolded with free agent receiver Donte' Stallworth and the Patriots. The key was the sides agreeing to the large bonus payment ($8 million) due next February and March. Because of that, the contract could be as short as a one-year deal or as long as a six-year pact. So why insert such a large bonus? "We needed to protect ourselves because this guy is worth the money that is in the second year, but that market wasn't there in year one, so we needed to create that opportunity for him in year two," said Rosenhaus, adding that the presence of quarterback Tom Brady was also crucial to signing with the Patriots. "Scott Pioli and I worked at it, and it was a unique deal," he said. "We expect it to be a long-term contract and fully anticipate that both sides will reap the benefits of it for a long time."

A clarification from Del Rio
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said he was taken out of context when he said his defenders should have speared Brady in the Dec. 24 meeting between the teams. The comments came in the days after the Patriots defeated the Jaguars, a game in which Brady absorbed a hard hit in the back from linebacker Clint Ingram while diving headfirst on a running play. The play was deemed legal by the NFL, although it appeared to be close to a spear. Del Rio was later asked about the hit, and he brought up another play in the game in which Brady appeared ready to slide but kept running as defenders pulled up. "They should've speared him then," Del Rio said on the team website. The coach explained himself yesterday. "I was asked a question with that word and I didn't redirect, and I answered using that word," he said. "It wasn't my thought. The word is not an appropriate word. Obviously, that act is not legal and we don't teach it. It ended up playing out differently than it was."

Change is part of his game
Former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, who is entering his third season as head coach of the Browns, said he wasn't surprised about New England's aggressive free agent shopping spree. "Bill [ Belichick] has never been a guy that you can say, 'This is what he's going to do,' or you can put him in this box," he said. "He's always been versatile, he changes, he adapts to whatever is going on. That's the same way it is with his game plans. It looks like Bill has followed his normal procedure of trying to identify areas that he thinks he needs to get impact guys -- and it looks like he's got some guys who will have impact and help their team win. That's what Bill has always been about, trying to improve the team."