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Tight end D.J. Williams looking to stick with Patriots after finding new attitude

07.30.14 at 8:39 pm ET
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With a new attitude, tight end D.J. Williams is primed for his best season yet (AP).

With a new attitude, tight end D.J. Williams is primed for what could be a breakout season (AP).

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 ha™s 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.”

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Alfonzo Dennard says his life is ‘all about football now’

07.30.14 at 4:01 pm ET
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Alfonzo Dennard is trying to get back into game shape. (AP)

Alfonzo Dennard is trying to get back into game shape. (AP)

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].”

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Mike Petraglia, Chris Price on the intensity of Brandon Browner at Patriots training camp

07.30.14 at 3:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO —’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.

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Devin McCourty: ‘It always around this time gets a little bit more testy in camp’

07.30.14 at 3:25 pm ET
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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.”

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Brandon Browner turns up intensity in heated exchanges with coach, teammates

07.30.14 at 1:59 pm ET
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Brandon Browner

Brandon Browner

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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Danny Amendola on MFB: ‘We’re vibing on offense’

07.30.14 at 1:18 pm ET
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Wide receiver Danny Amendola checked in with Middays with MFB on Wednesday afternoon following Patriots practice. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

“I’m feeling good,” said Amendola, who battled injuries throughout 2013, his first season in New England. “I’m running around, feeling real strong, feeling healthy and ready to go.”

Injuries aside, Amendola was able to adapt to the Patriots system, something other receivers have struggled to do. However, Amendola made it clear there’s plenty of work ahead.

“This playbook’s constantly evolving,” Amendola said. “We try to change stuff up every day and progress and get better. I’m learning. Everybody’s out here learning every day, trying to get better. We’re seeing some good things out there. We’re competing. We’re vibing on offense, trying to compete with the defense to try to get better every day.”

There have been some intense battles between the receivers and the defensive backs early in training camp. Amendola said there’s a lot of trash-talking but no lingering hard feelings.

“It’s very competitive. It gets heated at times. But at the end of the day we’re brothers and we’re family,” he said. “Nothing carries over from the field to the locker room, which is huge, very professional. Everybody out here is trying to get better every day. It’s going to get heated, it’s going to get competitive. But at the end of the day, we’re family.

Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is under the microscope after the Patriots selected him in the second round of May’s draft.

“He’s doing well. He’s catching on quickly. I know he’s working really hard,” Amendola said. “The coaches are doing a great job of putting him in a position to learn and to get as many reps as he can and make the throws he needs to make. He’s a rookie. He’s getting better.”

For more Patriots news, visit the team page at

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Wednesday practice notes: Spirited sessions between WRs and DBs highlight workout

07.30.14 at 11:57 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots wrapped up their sixth session of training camp and fourth in pads Wednesday. It was a hot and sweaty morning workout that ran for just over two hours. Here are a few quick notes:

Brandon Browner

Brandon Browner

– The following players were not on the field: wide receiver Aaron Dobson (spotted in sweats), defensive back Jemea Thomas, running back Tyler Gaffney, tight end Michael Hoomanwanui, linebacker Deontae Skinner, linebacker Chris White, offensive lineman Bryan Stork, offensive lineman Chris Martin, defensive lineman Dominique Easley (sweats), wide receiver Josh Boyce and wide receiver Jeremy Gallon.

– It was a spirited practice session early on, with the wide receivers and defensive backs spending a lot of time woofing at each other. Cornerback Brandon Browner was in the middle of the action throughout the session. Kenbrell Thompkins and Browner mixed it up in a drill — nothing serious — and Browner extended his hand at the end of the play, Thompkins walked past him without acknowledging it. Later on, Browner was seen having an animated discussion with coaches and other players.

In addition — like Tuesday — there was some good drama in the drills between the rest of the wide receivers and defensive backs. Logan Ryan got away with a hold on Wilson Van Hooser. Danny Amendola made a sweet one-handed grab when going one-on-one against Patrick Chung, and Brandon LaFell made nice grab over the top of Darrelle Revis.

– Later in practice, Browner wrestled a pass away from Thompkins to force a pick.

– It was another day without much contact for tight end Rob Gronkowski. He was in pads with the rest of his teammates and going through drills but wasn’t part of the 7-on-7s or 11-on-11s. He did take his daily one-on-one session with quarterback Tom Brady, while Revis worked in coverage providing some resistance. Likewise, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was back on the field again in pads, but working in a limited capacity, steering clear of the one-on-ones. Meanwhile, defensive lineman Tommy Kelly appeared to get back to full action, working in pads and taking the majority of drills.

– With Boyce out, Roy Finch took plenty of reps while working as a kick returner. Meanwhile, with Stork out, Dan Connolly got in some snaps while working at center with Marcus Cannon at right guard.

– The Patriots cranked up the music at practice, with U2, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen.

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