FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A training camp filled with potential pitfalls went about as smoothly as the New England Patriots could have hoped.
They addressed the Aaron Hernandez situation early, minimized the attention on Tim Tebow and found promising young wide receivers after losing their top two from last season.
And Rob Gronkowski may be ready sooner than expected after back surgery.
Now the AFC East champions in nine of the last 10 years must address on-field mistakes like those they made in a 40-9 exhibition loss to the Lions last week.
"Regardless of what happened (in Detroit,)" coach Bill Belichick said, "we still have a lot of work to do on our football team. We just have to take advantage of those opportunities to do it."
They can do that without being distracted by off-field issues.
The Patriots cut Hernandez the day the star tight end was arrested and before he was charged with murder the afternoon of June 26. The day before training camp, Belichick discussed the matter at length on July 24. The next day, Tom Brady talked about it. And the next day Tebow, Hernandez’s teammate at Florida, discussed it and his own evolving role on the team.
Gronkowski had surgery on June 18, about five weeks before camp began, and was on the field Monday doing individual drills. It appears the tight end is likely to miss no more than a few games rather than start the season on the physically unable to perform list, which would require him to sit out the first six.
The Patriots avoided another potential health problem when Brady participated fully in practice the day after leaving the field midway through a practice with a mild left knee sprain Aug. 14.
Bring on the regular season.