FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — For a day, at least, Vince Wilfork was with the Patriots again – to collect a Super Bowl ring at the home of team owner Robert Kraft.

His presence at the celebration served as an immediate reminder that the leader won’t be in Foxborough this coming season for the first time in a long time.

The five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman who played 11 seasons with New England and won two Super Bowls is shifting to the Houston Texans, playing alongside J.J. Watt.

“Yeah, that’s the way the cookie crumbles – especially in this game where the next man is always up,” fellow tackle Alan Branch said Wednesday, as the Patriots completed Day 2 of their three-day minicamp.

“Big V was awesome. He was a big, big deal for the team, the city and everything to do with the Patriots. He was a great guy and a great leader, but … it’s next man up and that’s always the mentality of a football player.”

There is no shortage of candidates to fill the void. Branch, signed to a new two-year deal, is in the mix but not a shoo-in. Two top draft picks – Dominque Easley and Malcom Brown – both play the position. Easley is coming back from knee surgery that shortened his rookie season.

“I don’t feel like I’m where I need to be right now, but I feel like I’m going to get there,” said Easley.

Brown, who came from Texas, is 6-foot-2 and 320 pounds, five pounds lighter than Wilfork’s listed weight.

“I’m not here to replace anybody,” Brown said. “Whatever role the coaches give me, I’m going to take that role and I’m going to play my best at it.”

Wilfork played in 177 games with the Patriots, starting 19 games in the postseason. His absence means the defensive line needs to find cohesion again.

Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr is participating in a clinical trial using stem cells as a possible treatment for strokes, his family said in a statement.

Starr, 81, suffered two strokes and a mild heart attack last September.

SAINTS: Outside linebacker Junior Galette said he expects to meet with NFL officials within a month to discuss his offseason arrest stemming from a domestic disturbance at his New Orleans-area home.

Prosecutors have dropped the case against Galette and his female accuser’s attorney has withdrawn from a related civil lawsuit, leaving the Saints’ 2014 sack leader optimistic his meeting with the league will go well.

COWBOYS: Owner Jerry Jones wants Dez Bryant to spend his entire career with the team, and expects that the disgruntled All-Pro receiver will be at training camp and the regular-season opener.

Bryant has not signed his franchise tender that will guarantee him $12.8 million this season, and has indicated that he is willing to skip regular-season games without a long-term deal.

PANTHERS: The Panthers promoted Brandon Beane to assistant general manager.

Beane joined the Panthers in 1998 and has spent the past seven years as the director of football operations.

 Second-year wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is back on the sideline with more hamstring problems.

Benjamin missed minicamp practice with a strained right hamstring. A left hamstring injury kept last season’s 1,000-yard receiver out of most of Carolina’s OTAs in previous weeks.

Panthers Coach Ron Rivera said Benjamin reported to offseason workouts slightly overweight, which may have contributed to his hamstring problems. He said the team’s trainers are looking into Benjamin’s history with hamstring issues.

GIANTS: The Giants have become the latest NFL team to use a drone to videotape a portion of practice.

The Giants entered the high-tech surveillance field when they used a DJI Phantom 3 drone to videotape a part of the second day of a mandatory veterans minicamp.

The drone hovered at 50 to 60 feet over the grass field next to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center and gave coaches a chance to study plays from a straight overhead angle.

The Giants’ football video department practiced using the drone above an unoccupied field for three weeks

Victor Cruz is spending most of this week’s minicamp observing.

Cruz tore right knee ligaments in the sixth game of the 2014 season and has been working his way back since.

So he listens to the medical staff, goes through his paces with trainers – and looks ahead to the opening of training camp at the end of July, when he plans to be the dynamic receiver he has been through his previous seasons.

“Obviously, you want to push it and continue to go on the path of getting back to 100 percent, but you need your recovery days, too,” Cruz said. “So it will be a little of both, the training staff and myself are working on putting a regimen together that tailors both of those things, so we’ll see how it goes.”

CHARGERS: San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is questioning whether the Chargers are serious about staying in the city, the latest salvo in rapidly deteriorating negotiations over a new stadium for the team.

Faulconer’s comments came a day after the Chargers shot down his trial balloon for a city election this year on financing a stadium. The team said the mayor’s proposal won’t satisfy state election and environmental laws.

The mayor said the city can complete an environmental review by Oct. 1 and hold an election Jan. 12. The vote would occur around the same time.