Former Boston Patriots player Tom Stephens dies at 82

Tom Stephens, one of the original members of the Boston Patriots, died last week at his home in Naples, Florida, the team announced Tuesday. Stephens was 82.

The Baltimore Colts drafted the defensive back and tight end in the 11th round of the 1959 draft. He signed with the Boston Patriots in 1960.

Chicago had one of the weakest receiving groups in the NFL last season—the team ranked dead last in passing yards per game (175.7)—so that position was clearly an area of focus this offseason for general manager Ryan Pace. The additions of Allen Robinson from Jacksonville, Taylor Gabriel from Atlanta and Anthony Miller via the draft will boost a stagnant group, assuming Robinson returns fully healthy from last September’s ACL tear. If 2015 first-round pick Kevin White can stay healthy for a full season for the first time in his ill-fated career, it’s an added bonus.

The new rules are a significant change, with former referee Terry McAulay calling them the biggest change I’ve ever seen. And if the league’s considering adjusting the rule book now (it was just published on June 28), there figures to be confusion among coaches as they try to figure out what to teach players.

The NFL officiating and football operations staff, with competition committee approval, may make some minor tweaks to the language to further clarify the rule, league spokesman Michael Signora said. If so, that information would be circulated to all clubs and the rule book updated accordingly.

The league took steps to change kickoffs to try to curb injuries, routinely describing it as the most dangerous play in the game. And even in the recently published rulebook, there were other changes which hadn’t been previously disclosed, including automatic touchbacks if a ball hits the end zone without being touched by a member of the receiving team.

It had not impact on the team’s financial performance.

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