|07.31.14 at 11:52 am ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots wrapped up their seventh session of training camp and fifth in pads Wednesday. It was a beautiful summer morning, and the workout ran for just over two hours in front of a big crowd on the practice fields behind Gillette. Here are a few quick notes:
– Matthew Slater was back on the field in pads, and Josh Boyce was also among those returning to practice. Meanwhile, linebacker Cameron Gordon was not on the field for the first time this summer. In addition, center Bryan Stork, tight end Michael Hoomanwanui, running back Tyler Gaffney and offensive lineman Chris Martin were among those not present.
– The highlight of the morning likely came late in the 11-on-11 drills. With the Patriots offense working at their own 1-yard line, quarterback Tom Brady dropped back and zipped a pass over the middle. Cornerback Darrelle Revis stepped in front of the pass and took it back roughly six yards for the score. The play drew a big cheer from the crowd, as well as the rest of the defense. Later in the same series of drills, the defense bottled up running back Stevan Ridley in a goal-line drill — the defense was cleared fired up.
– Marcus Cannon was getting a lot of work at right guard with what appeared to be a reasonable facsimile of the starting offensive line. Last year’s starting right guard Dan Connolly got a lot of work at center, likely giving Ryan Wendell a bit of a rest because Stork wasn’t on the field.
– Rob Gronkowski was in pads again, but didn’t appear to be involved in any of the 11-on-11 drills. He did get his daily dose of work on the side with Brady, and once again, Revis worked to provide some level of defense on Gronkowski.
– In that same vein, Alfonzo Dennard was again back on the field in pads, but didn’t appear to get any work in the 11-on-11 drills.
– Julian Edelman and Roy Finch worked as punt returners.
– No fireworks from Brandon Browner, who spent a relatively quiet morning going through drills with the rest of the defensive backs.
– In 11-on-11s, at the end of a Brady pass for James White, the rookie busted into the secondary and got popped by Revis, drawing a cheer from the crowd. In the same series of drills, Ryan Mallett found Shane Vereen out of the backfield, and the running back took off down the sideline for the end zone on a crisply executed play.
– The 6-foot-8, 275-pound Justin Jones is a massive and intriguing presence at tight end. He’s not the fastest guy in the world, but he presents himself as a massive target, and when a quarterback is able to get the ball in his general vicinity, he makes the catch. (He dropped a laser from Mallett in 7-on-7 drills Thursday morning.) He made a great catch in the back of the end zone in 11-on-11 drills on a ball from Mallett. While he’s probably behind D.J. Williams on the depth chart at this point in the summer, Jones is certainly one to watch as the preseason and camp continues.
– Jimmy Garoppolo continues to be a mixed bag, to be kind. He badly overthrew a receiver in an early 7-on-7 drill, and missed a throw to Brian Tyms. Later in the same drill, he overthrew Tyms on an attempted deep ball. (For what it’s worth, Tyms has grown into Garoppolo’s favorite target — the combo could be this summer’s version of Tim Tebow and Quentin Sims.) And at the end of practice, Malcolm Butler picked off Garoppolo in 11-on-11s, and almost directly after that, was almost crushed by Michael Buchanan coming off the edge. There’s no sign that any sort of deal is imminent, but if Garoppolo continues to struggle this summer, I’m not sure the Patriots would be inclined to trade Mallett.
– Edelman continues to have an excellent camp. The receiver has consistently been where he needs to be when it comes to routes, and as far as I can tell, there haven’t been any cases where Edelman and the quarterback weren’t on the same page. (Not to mention the fact that he’s caught everything that’s been thrown in his direction, particularly when going up against Revis.) He had a great catch on a deep ball against Arrington late in camp in 11-on-11s. At this point, Edelman appears to be poised to have a terrific year.
– Backup offensive lineman Jordan Devey took a lap late in practice for an unknown transgression.
– Former Patriots running back Kevin Faulk was on the sidelines watching practice, and spent time chatting with Brady during the workout.
|07.30.14 at 10:04 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When defensive back Brandon Browner got in Kenbrell Thompkins face Wednesday, the Patriots receiver didn’t take it personally.
After all, the receiver has been making big play after big play on him and figured the time had come in the training camp one-on-one competition for Browner to rise up. He did, with an interception, his first of training camp and a strip of a ball on another play against Thompkins.
Thompkins said the early sparring session in Wednesday’s padded practice was not something that will carry over to another practice.
“I don’t think so,” Thompkins said. “We still have a lot of practice against each other. We’re just out there being competitive. He’s competing against the wide receiver position. We’re competing and those things happen. At the end of the day, we go in the locker room and we all see each other’s faces and we have another six hours together. Hopefully, we’ll crack a couple of jokes later.”
Earlier in practice, during red zone drills, Browner got so frustrated he just pushed Thompkins in the back as he was beaten on a corner route in the end zone. Minutes later, in another passing drill, Browner had seen enough and got physical and loud.
The sparring session caused receivers coach Chad O’Shea to intervene, naturally defending his receiver. Browner didn’t take kindly to that and got in the face of O’Shea.
Read the rest of this entry »
|07.30.14 at 8:39 pm ET|
FOXBORO — D.J. Williams badly wants to find a home in the NFL with the Patriots. And he thinks a fresh attitude might just be the key.
The 25-year-old tight end has already been in the NFL for three years, with the Patriots serving as his third team. After being cut three times last season – including once by the Patriots – and having only nine career catches and no touchdowns, Williams figured in the offseason that a fresh outlook and approach couldn’t hurt his chances of finally making a roster to stay.
“It came with sitting on the couch for a couple of weeks not having a job waiting on a phone call,” Williams said after practice on Wednesday. “I don’t want to be that guy who is sitting at home saying he didn’t get his chance because of a hamstring or anything like that. I want to say I gave it my best, everything I had and it didn’t work out, but I couldn’t say that. I don’t want to let that opportunity slip through my hands again.”
After being drafted by the Packers out of the University of Arkansas in the fifth-round in 2011, he was cut before the start of the 2013 season and picked up by the Jaguars. He didn’t record a catch in seven games with Jacksonville and was let go.
With injuries at tight end the Patriots claimed Williams in late November, but after just one game he was let go once again as fellow tight end Michael Hoomanawanui was deemed healthy again. Then, a week after being cut he was re-signed when Rob Gronkowski went down with a season-ending ACL tear.
This brings Williams to his fourth training camp looking to make the most of yet another chance.
“I have the attitude now after being cut three times in one year — you stop pointing fingers saying this guy got paid, it didn’t work out in this system — the only person that has anything to do with it I found out is myself,” Williams said. “Looking back at it, I got comfortable. That is a terrible thing to do. Once I realized it was all my fault I stopped beating myself each and everyday. I approach everyday as a new day that you can get better and I don’t want to beat myself anymore.”
|07.30.14 at 4:01 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Third-year cornerback Alfonzo Dennard says he is now fully committed to his football career. It’s a career that is on life support after multiple run-ins with the law.
All of it began the weekend he was drafted in the seventh round by the Patriots in 2012. In his final game at Nebraska in 2011, Dennard was ejected for fighting with South Carolina receiver and current Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery. In the same month, he had a not-so-great Senior Bowl in front of scouts and coaches, causing his stock to plummet.
Then things got really messy.
Dennard was arrested in April 2012 for assaulting a police officer in Lincoln, Neb. and found guilty in February 2013, and the conviction carried a 30-day jail sentence to begin March 1, 2014 and two years of probation. Dennard was arrested again in July 2013 for suspicion of driving under the influence, which was ruled as a violation of his probation, and he was given an extra 30 days in jail and another year of probation.
Dennard was released after 38 days for good behavior after spending 35 days in the Lancaster County Adult Detention Facility in Nebraska this year.
On Wednesday, his second day back on the practice field after missing spring OTAs and minicamp, Dennard spoke to the media for the first time since he was released from jail in April.
“It’s a very good feeling,” Dennard said. “Just move forward, just moving forward. It’s all about football now. Just trying to provide for my family.”
Dennard began training camp on the physically unable to perform list before getting cleared to practice on Tuesday. He only practiced for an hour Wednesday before working on his conditioning. He admitted that he is still a ways from being a full-go in practice.
“It’s been very tough because I just want to go out there and compete with my teammates and learn from the older guys,” Dennard said. “I’m just taking it one day at a time. I’m feeling better and better every day.”
Does watching Wednesday’s on-field scuffle between Brandon Browner and Kenbrell Thompkins get his juices going?
“Oh yeah,” Dennard said. “That’s part of football and part of our secondary. That’s what the coaches are always bragging about, trying to be a physical defense. That’s what we’re trying to get done.
“Everybody is competitive on D. That’s what coaches look for so everybody is competitive.”
This is an important time for Dennard, who is likely battling Logan Ryan for a starting corner job in the first four weeks as Browner serves his four-game suspension. When does Dennard think he’ll be back part of the competition?
“I can’t say right now,” Dennard said. “It’s just a day-by-day process. Just trying to take it day-by-day, just trying to get better and better every day. Hopefully, it plays out just [right].”
|07.30.14 at 3:26 pm ET|
FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price assess the intensity of Brandon Browner and how it spilled over into shouting at teammates Kenbrell Thompkins, rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea at Patriots training camp practice Wednesday.
|07.30.14 at 3:25 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Six days into training camp and four days of padded practices hitting the same players over and over again is bound to get repetitive and frustrating for some at times. This is what occurred Wednesday with Kenbrell Thompkins and Brandon Browner when the two had a spirited exchange during a 1-on-1 drill.
Following practices Thursday and Friday, the team will get a break from hitting each other when they have a week of practice with the Redskins leading up to the first preseason game next Thursday night in Washington. This is something many of the players are looking forward to.
“Yeah, it is getting to that point,” safety Devin McCourty said. “It always around this time gets a little bit more testy in camp. I think that is what is so nice that we can go out there and practice against other teams and do different things and kind of freshen camp up a little bit.”
Logan Ryan, in his second year in the league after leading the Patriots last year in interceptions with five, doesn’t see this year any more physical — it’s just the competition within training camp.
“I wouldn’t say it’s more physical, it’s just the nature of each practice and the nature of each competition,” said Ryan. “We have great competitors. I think we had some great competitors last year. Right now you can’t ask for better competitors.”
McCourty, a four-year veteran, has a sense of when players are starting to reach the point of relishing the chance to go up against some players not on their own team.
“You see it. It gets a little more testy, guys are chomping at the bit and going at each other a little harder,” he said.
With the addition of Browner in the Patriots secondary there is no question the unit becomes more physical as he comes from Seattle, which has one of the most physical and intimidating secondaries in the NFL. Being more physical can be a good thing for a defense as long as it is channeled the right way.
“We always talk about being physical,” McCourty said. “There are times where we like it and the coaching staff tells us that’s a good job being physical and then there are times where they tell us we need to be more physical in different spots on the field. I think that’s always a work in progress, but I think overall this defense is a physical defense.”
With new head coach Jay Gruden adding some fire to the Redskins organization, it will likely be a spirited few practices next week, something the Patriots to look forward to having.
“Yeah, most definitely,” Browner said. “It gets frustrating going against the same guys every day. I’m ready to get down to Washington and see what I can do against those guys.”
|07.30.14 at 1:59 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Brandon Browner had enough.
The new Patriots cornerback said a sluggish couple of days led to a decision to crank up things at practice Wednesday morning.
“I’m tired of giving up balls,” Browner said after practice, “so I had to turn it up a little bit.”
That meant a series of back-and-forth exchanges with teammates and coaches that sparked some heat for the first time this summer.
This media is not allowed to specifically quote or even paraphrase conversations that take place on the field during camp, but in a passing drill that matched up wide receivers on defensive backs, Browner first hollered at quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Then, after Browner and Kenbrell Thompkins got physical in a one-on-one drill, he went to stick his hand out to Thompkins in what appeared to be an attempt to offer an apology. Thompkins kept walking.
Shortly after that, Browner had another physical one-on-one matchup with Brandon LaFell, and that led to a heated exchange with receivers coach Chad O’Shea — the two took some steps toward each other before players intervened.
Browner said he and O’Shea “hugged it out” after the flap, and that he respects O’Shea because he’s a coach. In addition, it’s clear he’s developed a level of respect for Thompkins, who he’s been lined up against frequently since the pads went on.
“KT has got routes at the line of scrimmage that are unmatchable,” he said. “Some guys are not as quick as that dude. It’s been real competitive going against that guy. It’s only going to make me better.”
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