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Rookie WR Malcolm Mitchell on his way to authoring positive start to career with Patriots

06.09.16 at 3:52 pm ET
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FOXBORO — There were several notable offensive skill position players absent from this week’s minicamp workouts, but of the receivers who did take part, rookie Malcolm Mitchell distinguished himself as a relatively steady and consistent performer who showed impressive flashes over the course of the three sessions.

Mitchell’s finest moment may have come in Thursday’s finale when he went up for a one-handed touchdown grab on a nicely throw ball from fellow rookie Jacoby Brissett. The quarterback showed a nice touch lofting a ball for the end zone, and Mitchell did an excellent job going up to get the ball with a defender on him.

However, Mitchell, a fourth-round pick out of Georgia, said he’s not sure if he looks at that catch as some sort of confidence builder.

“I don’t know. I have to get back and make sure I know the next play,” he said with a laugh.

“I’m just glad I knew what to do on the play.”

In the infant stages of his career in the NFL, the 5-foot-11, 198-pound Mitchell is taking everything in stride.

“It’s all about knowing what you’re doing. After that, it’s about playing football,” he said shortly after Thursday’s workout wrapped up. “But the first step for me as a rookie is to know exactly what I’m doing and make the most of every opportunity.

“I think for me right now it’s coming in every day and learning. And I trust how the coaches are installing the plays. I trust the amount of plays they have put in for us to learn. And after that, it’s not really up to them anymore. It’s our responsibility to make sure that we wake up an extra hour early to make sure we know everything coming in. I think once you get your priorities straight in that area, you’ll come in and you’ll know what you’re doing. You’ll still have a lot of room to grow and a lot to learn.”

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Thursday minicamp notes: Windy day at Gillette as Patriots wrap up week of workouts

06.09.16 at 1:28 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots just wrapped up their minicamp workouts with a session on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. It ran for roughly two hours on an occasionally overcast day in Foxboro that was pretty windy. Players were in shorts, shells and helmets.

In addition to tight end Rob Gronkowski — who was not on the field for all three workouts this week — the following players were not spotted seen on the field on Thursday: wide receiver Julian Edelman, cornerback Logan Ryan, running back LeGarrette Blount, running back Dion Lewis, defensive back Duron Harmon, defensive back Nate Ebner, linebacker C.J. Johnson, offensive lineman Shaq Mason, offensive lineman Tre’ Jackson, offensive lineman Josh Kline, offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer, offensive lineman Nate Solder, wide receiver Danny Amendola and tight end Michael Williams. (Reports now indicate that Williams suffered a torn ACL in Wednesday’s workout, and will be lost for the year.)

The quarterback snaps were pretty much divided up the same way they were over the course of the first two days of minicamp, with Tom Brady getting the bulk of the work, followed by Jimmy Garoppolo and then rookie Jacoby Brissett. One interesting thing worth passing along was the fact that Garoppolo got some work with Martellus Bennett, Aaron Dobson, Nate Washington and Malcolm Mitchell as part of a side session while Brady worked on the other field. But other than that, it was clearly Brady’s show.

As was the case the previous two days, the lack of high-level playmakers on the field (Gronkowski, Edelman, Lewis, etc.) allowed some of the guys in the middle and back end of the depth chart to get a serious chance at quality reps. To that end, Chris Harper made a great one-handed catch in the corner of the end zone in coverage against V’Angelo Bentley, one that caused a celebration with Dobson. Dobson caught a tipped ball from Brady in 11-on-11 work over Justin Coleman, and added a nice catch at the high point on another ball from Brady later in the workout. If there’s one guy who did well with the opportunities he’s been given these last three days, it was Dobson.

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Report: Patriots TE Michael Williams tore ACL, likely headed to injured reserve

06.09.16 at 12:25 pm ET
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TE Michael Williams reportedly is out for the year with a torn ACL. (Jim O'Connor/USA Today Sports)

TE Michael Williams reportedly is out for the year with a torn ACL. (Jim O’Connor/USA Today Sports)

It didn’t appear tight end Michael Williams suffered a serious injury after leaving Wednesday’s minicamp practice, but apparently it was.

According to the Boston Globe’s Jim McBride, Williams tore his left ACL and will likely be placed on season-ending injured reserve.

Last season Williams played in 15 games with nine starts finishing with three catches for 26 yards, but his primary role was as a blocker.

If Williams is indeed out for the year, the Patriots have a tight end depth chart of Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, Clay Harbor, A.J. Derby and undrafted free agents Steven Scheu and Bryce Williams.

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Baltimore’s Crockett Gillmore: Ravens have best tight ends in NFL

06.09.16 at 10:34 am ET
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Crockett Gillmore said the Ravens have the best tight ends group in the NFL. (Tommy Gilligan/USA Today Sports)

Crockett Gillmore said the Ravens have the best tight ends group in the NFL. (Tommy Gilligan/USA Today Sports)

Ravens tight end Crockett Gillmore is feeling very confident despite there being three months before the NFL season kicks off in September.

“This is the best group in the NFL,” Gillmore said of the Ravens’ tight ends via ESPN. “I’m not afraid to say it. It’s hands down [the best group].”

Along with Gillmore the Ravens have former Patriots tight end Ben Watson, Maxx Williams and Dennis Pitta. If Gillmore truly believes what he said, he’s saying that group is better than what the Patriots have in Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett to go along with Michael Williams, Clay Harbor and A.J. Derby.

While the Ravens group potentially could be very good, there are a lot of questions, most notably the ages of Watson and Pitta.

For more on how good the Patriots tight ends and specifically Bennett can be this year, check out today’s column by our own Chris Price.

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Aaron Hernandez hires new defense team, including attorney who represented Casey Anthony

06.08.16 at 7:05 pm ET
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Aaron Hernandez is back in the news.

According to ESPN, Hernandez has hired a new defense team which includes attorney Jose Baez, the one who represented Casey Anthony who was acquitted of killing her two-year-old a few years ago.

In addition to Baez, Harvard law professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., criminal defense attorney Alex Spiro, and forensic science counsel Linda Kenney Baden also will be part of the new team.

“Mr. Hernandez strongly maintains his innocence, and I plan to establish that before a jury of his peers,” Baez said in a statement. “I have fully committed myself to ensuring a fair and just trial for Mr. Hernandez. We understand that numerous reports of our client’s alleged activity have been published, but we ask the public to afford Mr. Hernandez the presumption of innocence and let the facts unfold in a court of law.”

Hernandez was convicted in the April 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He is also waiting trial on a double-murder occurring in 2012 in Boston.

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New Patriots OL Jonathan Cooper looking to make impact after tough 3 seasons with Cardinals

06.08.16 at 4:56 pm ET
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A change in scenery could be a good thing for new Patriots OL Jonathan Cooper. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

A change in scenery could be a good thing for new Patriots OL Jonathan Cooper. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Being the No. 7 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, it hasn’t been the greatest start to a career for offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper.

The 26-year-old couldn’t seem to fit in with the Cardinals as he started just 11 games over the last three seasons. He battled toe and wrist injuries last season with the Cardinals moving him around on the interior line.

Overall, Cooper has played in just 24 games in the NFL so he is still relatively new to the league, despite being 26 years old and a former top-10 pick.

Being traded along with a second-round pick to the Patriots this offseason for Chandler Jones, this year could be viewed as a fresh start with a new team, but Cooper didn’t want to go down that road.

“I honestly try and just be in the present, honestly,” Cooper said. “Try not to look back and really focus, continue to work and be better than I was before.”

The University of North Carolina product was asked if his best football is still ahead of him?

“I guess,” Cooper said. “I’ll keep working and that will remain to be seen.”

Coming from a team in Arizona coached by Bruce Arians, to now playing in New England for Bill Belichick, it certainly is a contrast of styles. Cooper tried to explain what it’s like playing for the Patriots.

“I mean, it’s definitely — I don’t know, you can’t really put the way you come in here and you feel this is something else, but you come in and work hard every day and know things are going to be all right,” he said.

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Rob Ninkovich takes pride in being versatile, playing different positions

06.08.16 at 4:04 pm ET
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Rob Ninkovich takes pride at being able to play multiple positions. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Rob Ninkovich takes pride at being able to play multiple positions. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Rob Ninkovich has been a member of the Patriots since 2009, so he knows how much the Patriots value versatility.

With a number of defensive ends on the roster and perhaps a shortage at middle linebacker, Ninkovich has seen some time at both inside and outside linebacker during the first two minicamp sessions.

Being a team-first player, the 32-year-old noted it’s all about the team.

“I’ve played multiple positions many times in my life. Whatever I am at, it’s just to help the team and do whatever I can,” Ninkovich said. “Be multiple. I figure that is one of the strengths of my game is playing multiple positions.”

Added Ninkovich: “For me it’s being an overall football player in every aspect of the game. Whatever it is helping the team. Just trying and learn different positions and being flexible. For me, it’s fun to learn different positions and try and master inside, outside, end of the line, whatever I need to do.”

Learning a new position is always challenging, but Ninkovich is up for it.

“Of course,” he said. “Again, there’s many things hard to master. Trying to learn different positions is a challenge and I embrace that.”

Currently, behind Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower at the linebacker spot the Patriots have Jonathan Freeny, Ramon Humber, Elandon Roberts, Rufus Johnson, Shea McClellin, Kevin Snyder and Kamu Grugier-Hill on the depth chart.

After the troubles the team had last year with injuries to Collins and Hightower, the team might be looking for insurance with a proven, veteran player. And with Ninkovich’s experience at being versatile — most notably long-snapping in 2014 — it shouldn’t be a huge adjustment.

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