Boston Herald:Running back Antowain Smith has failed the Pats' conditioning run two years in row. He failed last season's run after signing a big contract extension that put $4 million in his pocket in 2002. He said afterward that conditioning has ``never been my thing.''
It was a mind-boggling admission for a person who will possess NFL earning power for only a few more years, if that. For Smith, the difference between making a seven-figure paycheck and being unemployed could be the difference of a few pounds or a few hundredths of a second of speed. Wouldn't you think he'd at least put in the work needed to keep that money coming?
Maybe he finally is. Word from Patriots camp is that Smith has had a strong offseason, dropping some weight while improving his quickness and conditioning. Quarterback Tom Brady was positive in his report of Smith during the team's passing camp two weeks ago. Media members will get their first look at Smith during the team's minicamp later this week.
It remains to be seen if Bill Belichick will sign another running back to push Smith during training camp. One name that has come up around the league is Arizona's Thomas Jones. But he, too, has work ethic questions.
Jones, the sixth overall pick in 2000, stands as the biggest bust of the 2000 running back class, which includes Jamal Lewis (No. 5 to Baltimore), Dayne, Shaun Alexander (No. 19 to Seattle) and Trung Canidate (No. 31 to St. Louis).
No wonder guys such as Rashaan Salaam, who signed with San Francisco last week, are still kicking around. And don't forget former Atlanta Falcon Jamal Anderson, who may land on the Patriots' radar screen again this summer. Anderson came to Foxboro for a tryout last fall, but - surprise, surprise - he was so out of shape the Pats had to pass.