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Patriots eager to stay at home for camp

- Associated Press - Monday, July 25, 2011

FOXBOROUGH, MASS. (AP) - While other teams scramble to make it to their college-based training camps this week, the New England Patriots will stay at home ... and get started quickly.

As a result of the new agreement between the players and owners on Monday, the Patriots can begin reporting to Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, if desired. Training camp will officially begin in Foxborough on Wednesday, and the first practice is set for Thursday.

The workouts on Thursday will be open to the public, though times are still to be announced. The initial practices will likely be scaled back a bit while the players continue to work toward playing shape.

Perhaps no one has had a longer offseason than New England, as it is coming off a disheartening 28-21 loss to the New York Jets at home in the AFC divisional round. Despite a 14-2 season in which they won the AFC East title, scored 518 points, and cruised to the conference's No. 1 seed, the Patriots could not escape Week 2 of the postseason.

New England will open the preseason Aug. 11 vs. Jacksonville at home, and will open the regular season, on Monday Night Football, Sept. 12 at Miami.

Perhaps they will benefit from the lack of travel during the early weeks. The Patriots are not among the many teams who still plan to transport operations to college campuses for as much as three weeks.

As the lockout ended Monday, things were quiet in Foxborough. Television news trucks set up for live shots outside, but there wasn't much traffic otherwise.

In the Patriots Pro Shop, though, there were sales to be had. Mark Lazaruk, 37, of Stony Creek, about 35 minutes outside Toronto, wasn't going to pass up the chance to buy some gear.

And he knows all about lockouts and memorabilia. After all, Lazaruk is a former owner of a sports-clothing store that went out of business because of the NHL lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season. He said 52 percent of his merchandise was NHL-related, and he couldn't make enough sales during the stoppage.

"We lost the business. We just never recovered," he said. "It's a huge trickle-down effect."

But it's likely to be a different story with the NFL.

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