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Will off-field distractions be too much for the New England Patriots?

Frank Schwab
Shutdown Corner

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Media stake out Aaron Hernandez's house (USA Today Sports Images)

The New England Patriots always seem insulated from any distractions surrounding them. They focus on football and keep churning out (at least) 10 wins every season.

But the events of this offseason will be pretty hard to ignore.

Wes Welker, a key piece of the Patriots' success the past few years, left to Denver. The news on Rob Gronkowski, never one to avoid the spotlight, has been about partying without his shirt in Vegas, having multiple surgeries and little else. There's a wee bit of concern about who Tom Brady will throw to. And the Patriots signed Tim Tebow, which pretty much ensures the circus will be coming through town.

And oh yeah, there's the Aaron Hernandez issue, which is about as far from your garden-variety NFL distraction as it gets.

Even for a coach like Bill Belichick, who is masterful at blocking out the outside world and winning football games, this has to be a bit much.

The Patriots have had probably the weirdest and wildest offseason of any NFL team, but linebacker Jerod Mayo told ESPN that the team will just have to block it all out.

"We always talk about ignoring the noise, and we're doing the same now," linebacker Jerod Mayo told ESPNBoston.com. "Whether it's good or bad, we always talk about ignoring the noise."

That won't be easy. And the on-field issues – replacing Welker with Danny Amendola will be a major step down, and if Hernandez is unavailable or Gronkowski isn't healthy it has to affect Brady at some point – aren't exactly wonderful news for the 2013 Patriots. But Belichick has been a master of keeping the focus on football and football alone. It'll just be a lot harder to do that this year in New England.

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