Weakened by the departure of All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis in March, the Patriots are now set to play the first quarter of the season without Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady. Already shrouded in mystery due to their own legendary quarterback's inability to throw with authority down the stretch last season, the Broncos are suddenly scrambling on the offensive line after losing Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady for the season.
Whereas the conference's lone two superpowers spent last offseason escalating an arms race, neither team is guaranteed a postseason berth this time around.
While New England and Denver are reeling, Indianapolis is feeling its oats.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano can't hide his effervescent optimism over a team that is further ahead at this point in the offseason than any since he assumed head-coach duties in 2011.
"Excited about this football team," Pagano said, via ESPN.com. "We've got great energy out there. Participation has been outstanding. We're making great progress. ... Love the young guys, love the additions, free agency, draftees, CFAs (college free agents). We've got a bunch of smart guys, guys that are picking up."
When the former University of Miami teammates reached free agency in March, they huddled together to figure out their best chance at glory before walking off into the sunset.
"That's funny you say that," Johnson replied. "Because I was thinking the same thing."
Here's what else we learned from Friday's OTAs:
- Brady's appeal to reduce his suspension is set to begin on June 23, NFL Media's Albert Breer reported Friday.
- Still seeking a new team after having his commitment questioned last year with the Jets, free agent Michael Vick is in full damage-control mode. In an interview with the Virginian-Pilot this week, Vick ticked off key buzz phrases such as "being a mentor first and foremost," "play some smart football" and "come off the bench if necessary." It might take a training-camp injury for Vick to get another shot.