|07.29.14 at 2:26 pm ET|
FOXBORO — After not practicing with the Patriots for the first four days of training camp and being on the PUP list, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard practiced with the Patriots on Tuesday morning, albeit on a limited basis. He was in pads with the team for the first time since the end of last season as the 24-year-old was recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.
The University of Nebraska product, who has played two seasons and 23 games in the NFL, was limited as he participated in one-on-one drills, but not 7-on-7s or 11-on-11s. Once practice really got going with an emphasis on physical drills, Dennard was off to the side doing sprints and other agility work with a strength and conditioning coach.
Regardless of how much he participated, it was a good sign to have him back on the field.
“It’s good because we all know he is a good player,” safety Duron Harmon said. “I am more worried about him being healthy. He’s a good player, so anytime you get a good player back it’s good.”
It is a crowded Patriots secondary with a number of skilled players battling for playing time. The group includes newcomers Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, who are highly skilled players but are new to the team, so it will take some time for the group as a whole to to jell as one cohesive unit. Getting Dennard back on the field certainly helps that advancement.
“It’s a work in progress,” Harmon said. “We’re just getting better each and every day. We’re dealing with new people so we have to feel out each other, know where they are going to be at and when they are going to be there. Like I said, it is a work in progress, something that we have to continue to get better at each and every day.”
Unlike past years when the team has been forced to use wide receivers Julian Edelman and Troy Brown in the secondary, this year’s team has a lot of depth at the position, meaning the Patriots do not need to think about rushing Dennard back and can take their time with getting him back to full strength.
Dennard has showcased his skills on the field with four career interceptions and 16 career starts, which could give him the upper hand over a few other members of the secondary when it comes to playing time. With Browner suspended for the first four games of the season, Dennard, if healthy, could have the inside track to starting on the opposite side of Revis at cornerback in the first quarter of the season.
Even though the cornerback didn’t come close to any physical action Tuesday, it was a big step in the right direction as the members of the Patriots secondary continue to get to know one another with the hope of being one of the best secondaries in the league.
|07.29.14 at 2:00 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Tommy Kelly knows that at this point in the process, it’s all about trust.
The 33-year-old defensive tackle, who suffered a season-ending knee injury just five games into the 2013 season, is back in pads for the first time since he went down last October against the Bengals. But he acknowledged after Tuesday morning’s session at Gillette that when it comes to getting all the way back, he needs to prove himself again in the eyes of his coaches and teammates.
“To me, it’s all about gaining their trust. Getting that trust back,” he said. “That’s the only thing I would try and do — just assure Bill [Belichick] and assure [head trainer Jim Whalen], ‘Baby, I’m ready to go.’ They want to do it the way they want to do it, and I’m going to do it exactly the way they want to do it with no problem.
“You have to gain their trust back. I have to get to the point where [Jerod] Mayo knows if he calls a certain call, I’m going to be where I need to be. Or if [defensive coordinator] Matt [Patricia] is going to make a call or Bill, you know what I’m saying? That’s all I’ve been trying to do — just go out there and just practice as hard as I can and show them I don’t have any restrictions on nothing. I can do anything you need me to do. But it’s a process, and I’m going to do the process.”
Of course, Kelly has some experience in this area. In 2007, he suffered another serious knee injury that limited him to seven games. He said Tuesday he knows what’s it’s been like to travel to that “dark place” where an athlete can start to let doubt creep in. But to this point in his rehab, while he understands that’s it’s better to take it too slow than too fast, he said every step in his return has been “positive” when it comes to creating an optimal outcome for his return.
“At the end of the day, [the team is] looking out for your best interest,” he said. “But you know, I’m a vet — I want to get out on the field. I’m the type of guy that I can’t roll out of bed and my game’s going to be great. I have to go out there every day and work on my hands, work on my get-out, work on my explosion, read my keys, so I’m the type of guy, I love practice.”
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|07.29.14 at 11:54 am ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots wrapped up their fifth training camp session of the summer and third practice in pads Tuesday morning on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. After taking Monday off, New England held a session that ran for roughly two hours in warm temperatures. Here are a few quick notes:
— Former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was in attendance, and he stopped to talk with coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady before the start of practice. Owner Robert Kraft strolled out to watch practice 45 into the session.
— The following players were not in pads with the rest of the team: tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, offensive lineman Dan Connolly, linebacker Deontae Skinner, offensive lineman Chris Martin, defensive lineman Dominque Easley and wide receiver Jeremy Gallon.
— The biggest names to return were cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and cornerback Daxton Swanson. Dennard appeared limited, and didn’t spend any time in the 7-on-7s or 11-on-11s, working off to the side once practice really got started.
— The rest of the players were working out off to the side: Gallon, Dobson, Easley, Slater and Skinner. (Their session included some time on the bike.)
— It appeared that Marcus Cannon got the bulk of the work in place of Connolly at the guard spot.
— There was some great theater in a series of one-on-one drills between wide receivers and defensive backs. Brandon Browner and Brandon LaFell engaged in a nice one-on-one matchup in a goal-line passing drill that was won by LaFell. Later on, Kenbrell Thompkins had his defender beat, but a miscommunication with the quarterback left everyone confused. Shortly after that, Darrelle Revis had a TERRIFIC pass breakup on a ball for Thompkins, reaching in and knocking the ball away at the last minute.
Then, Edelman had a great catch, despite the fact that Kyle Arrington knocked into him in the air. Edelman came down with the ball and his feet inbounds on a really nice play. Logan Ryan got some revenge shortly after that for the defensive backs when he stepped in front of a Brady ball intended for Edelman.
— No 11-on-11 or 7-on-7 work for Rob Gronkowski, but he was working extensively in the team drills. He also spent time in what has become fairly regular routine, working with Brady off to the side. There was one great scene where Brady was throwing to Gronkowski, with Revis working in coverage — arguably the three of the four most important players on the roster working as a group.
|07.28.14 at 11:25 pm ET|
Just in recent football lore alone, there’s been defensive tackle Sean Gilbert, Law and Revis. In past years, Mike Ditka and Tony Dorsett also hail from the Western Pennsylvania town. In basketball, there’s the late, great “Pistol” Pete Maravich and in baseball, pitcher Doc Medich.
So when Law knew that Revis would be a free agent in the offseason, the two talked and Law was pretty sure that New England would step up to the plate and offer him a deal. Law was also sure he could get more money – and years – elsewhere.
“Sometimes, learning from experience, I think he made an incredible decision to not go and take the money and have a chance to win because winning are the things that are going to be remembered for a long, long time when you get a chance to win a championship. So yeah, I’m glad he made the decision to come here and not go get the money,” Law said.
“I don’t want to say if I was influential or not, because it was ultimately his decision. I just had an opinion. I had to learn even from some of my own decisions I made. Sometimes, when you’re in the heat of battle, I didn’t have a mentor. The only person that I could depend on was me and make the decisions so some decisions I made were great and some decisions I made were not so great. If I can instill that and just tell him what I’ve been through, and same thing with my son, live and learn through me and take my mistakes and use those as a lesson as well. I think Darrelle ultimately did what was best for him but coming here was a great decision and I encouraged that.”
Revis agreed to a one-year, $12 million deal. Prove yourself in New England and millions more will follow. Of course, when Law left after the 2004 season, he had already proven himself to the tune of three Super Bowl titles. But the Patriots couldn’t afford his $12.5 million cap hit for the 2005 season and was released.
|07.28.14 at 6:16 pm ET|
The Patriots announced Monday they have claimed rookie running back Tyler Gaffney off waivers from Carolina and released veteran linebacker Josh Hull. Here’s a portion of the release from the team on the moves.
Gaffney, 23, was originally drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft (204th overall) out of Stanford. He was injured in training camp and was released by the Panthers on July 27. The 6-foot, 220-pounder, had a productive senior season in 2013, starting in all 14 games and finishing with 330 rushing attempts for 1,709 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. Gaffney played as a true in 2009 and then took the 2012 season off to play professional baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system, before returning to college football for the 2013 season.
Hull, 27, is a veteran of four NFL seasons with the St. Louis Rams (2010-12) and the Washington Redskins (2013), who was signed by the Patriots as a free agent on April 24. The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder was originally drafted by St. Louis in the seventh round (254th overall) out of Penn State in 2010. He was released by St. Louis at the end of training camp in 2013 and signed with Washington as a free agent on Oct. 15, 2013. Hull has played in 39 NFL games with one start and has registered 25 total tackles. Last season with the Rams, Hull played in 11 games and finished with 14 total tackles.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|07.28.14 at 5:48 pm ET|
Leave it to the Jets to make a Patriots off-day still worth paying attention to.
Jets linebacker Calvin Pace says his team’s defense is not only improved for 2014, but he insists it’s the best defense in football, not the defending champion Seahawks, not the vastly improved Patriots or Broncos or the young and hungry Bengals. The Jets.
“[Compared to] the rest of the defenses in the NFL? S—, man, we’re the best,” Pace told the New York Daily News. “You ask anybody around the league, we’re not the team you want to see coming in, even in a down year.”
Why would Pace make such a statement? He believes the basis of such confidence lies in his head coach Rex Ryan.
“There’s a certain type of aggression when we come [play you]. You know we’re going to come with a lot of stuff and teams don’t want to see that,” he said. “They want to see a vanilla defense, that just lines up and you know where they’re going to be. I’ll take these guys and Rex and this system any day.”
Pace is hardly the first Jet to pop off this summer. After all he’s learning from the best. Ryan has already labeled David Harris the most underrated linebacker in the NFL and Ryan describing himself as ‘a great coach” while corner Dee Milliner says he’s the best corner in the NFL.
|07.28.14 at 3:57 pm ET|
Even Law admitted Monday – after getting fitted for his Patriots Hall of Fame jacket for this Friday’s ceremony – that Revis is what fans have been longing for.
“Well, you got him now,” Law laughed Monday when told that Pats fans have longed for another shutdown corner like him in the secondary since he left after the 2004 season, the last season that ended with a Patriots Super Bowl title.
Law and Revis have long-established roots, dating back to Western Pennsylvania, where they both attended the football-frenzied Aliquippa High.
“It’s going to be different because it’s going to be more structured here with Coach Belichick,” Law said. “I did tell him don’t get caught up [with] the Belichick that you might see on TV because he’s not like that. He’s not going to give much but once you get to sit down and talk to Coach Belichick you understand how cool he is, how flexible he is with a player of your caliber. You’re not going to be pigeon-holed into anything. He is approachable. You can go up to coach Belichick and say, ‘Hey, I want to play this.’ He’s going to listen to you. A lot of people don’t understand that but you have to be a certain type of player to get away with it. And he is that type of player.
“I think he’s going to have a lot of fun and he’s going to be out there doing his job. What they paid him to do is taking out the best guy but you’re probably going to go inside, you’re probably going to do a little bit of blitzing. It’s just going to be a fun overall scheme for Darrelle because normally he goes into a situation where ‘This is who I have.’ You’re there all day.
“I said [to him] you’re going to do a lot more things because you’re not going to know from week to week if you’re playing a 4-3, a 3-4, you’re not going to know. That was the enjoyment as a player, when you come in and you have no idea what the hell is going to happen in the game plan and you’re looking forward to it. Sometimes, you’re going to get disappointed and say, ‘Aw man, why are we playing this?!’
“But Coach Belichick, it’s ‘In Bill We Trust’ so you’re going to have the best chance to win. And I think he’s going to enjoy it. He’s going to have a lot of fun.”
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