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10 things we learned Wednesday from Patriots training camp

08.15.12 at 11:30 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€“ The Patriots held their third straight day of practice in full pads on the upper practice fields Tuesday. The team will hold their final two open practices of camp – and the season – on Thursday and Friday from 1:30-4. The team likely will be off Saturday, the same day Bruce Springsteen plays Gillette Stadium. Camp will break as the team likely will have a walkthrough on Sunday before hosting the Eagles Monday night at Gillette.

ROLL CALL

The biggest news was the return of Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd to uniform practice. Gronkowski hadn’t been on the field practicing since the preseason opener last Thursday. He had spent the last three days in sweats and a t-shirt. Hernandez hadn’t practiced since shorts and shells on Sunday while Lloyd spent the last two days on the exercise machines.

With the roster still at 88 players, there were only 72 in full uniform as nine were in shorts and went through only conditioning exercises while seven were not spotted at all.

Among the seven not seen Wednesday were safety Malcolm Williams, fullback Eric Kettani, offensive lineman Matt Kopa, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, tight end Jake Ballard and defensive linemen Gerard Warren and Jonathan Fanene.

The nine players in shorts included Myron Pryor, Daniel Fells, defensive back Alfonzo Dennard, offensive tackle Markus Zusevics, linebacker Tracy White, safety James Ihedigbo, fullback Spencer Larsen and offensive linemen Kyle Hix and Sebastian Vollmer.

Here are nine other things we learned from camp Wednesday.

MANKINS IN FULL PADS

For the first time since hitting the practice field in shorts on Sunday, Logan Mankins was in full pads on Wednesday. His load was increased as he took more snaps in 11-on-11 drills, as well as agility drills. It’s a positive sign that he has made positive steps each day this week, increasing his work load each day. “I think we all know and think that Logan is one of the tougher players on our team,” Bill Belichick said earlier in the day. “We have a lot of tough guys, but he’€™s got a lot of physical and mental toughness, no question about that.”

GAFFNEY INJURED

Jabar Gaffney pulled up a bit lame, grabbing his right quadriceps after beating Devin McCourty on a 1-on-1 matchup in receiver-cornerback drills. Tom Brady lofted up a pass for the deep right sideline and Gaffney, who beat McCourty clearly, couldn’t catch up and limped to the sideline under his own power. He was treated by training staff and seen by doctor Tom Gill before heading to the sidelines, where he spent of the rest of practice watching without his shoulder pads on. In what could be construed as a good sign, he did not leave the practice field until practice was completely over.

OFFENSIVE UNEVEN

It was not a good day for the offensive line. Several times in 11-on-11 drills, players like Brandon Spikes and Rob Ninkovich broke through and plays were whistled dead as sacks. Lineman Darrion Weems took several laps for various transgressions. At one point, Tom Brady yelled at his offensive mates to hurry up to the line and get things together as they worked hurry-up offense close to the red zone. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Aaron Hernandez, Logan Mankins, New England Patriots

Want to try the Patriots’ conditioning test? Good luck

08.15.12 at 11:07 am ET
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Every preseason, there’s always at least one guy who fails the Patriots conditioning test, and it inevitably becomes a story for one of us in the media. With that in mind, I decided to take a shot at trying to pass this year, specifically the one they give to linemen — two sets of 10 40-yard dashes in six seconds or less, with 30 seconds in between. (You would be surprised how long 40 yards is, and how difficult it is to get your body to move that fast.) With our trusty timekeeper alongside, we decided to give it a shot.

In WEEI.com fashion, we learned a few things. 1) I am not a fast man. In fact, despite being able to run a couple of miles at a stretch, I am remarkably slow and have a gait comparable to a Clydesdale. 2) I have a new level of respect for the level of fitness when it comes to the big guys in the trenches. 3) I should have stretched better before and after this — four days later, I was still sore. Anyway, I think I did pretty well for a 240-pound sportswriter. (I’ll let you watch to see if I passed.) I hope you enjoy the video, and thanks to cameraman Peter Neudel for not laughing too hard and cutting out all the really embarrassing stuff.

Steve Gregory: A different type of safety for Patriots

08.15.12 at 10:56 am ET
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FOXBORO — When the Patriots watched Steve Gregory when he was with the Chargers, they saw a different kind of defensive back.

“Versatile player,” Patriots personnel man Nick Caserio said of the 29-year-old safety, who stands 5-foot-11. “He had played a little bit of corner in college. Maybe a little bit undersized just from a height, weight, speed standpoint for the safety position; 190 pounds, but was real fast, aggressive, very instinctive player, matched up well.”

How well? The Patriots saw him go from safety to man coverage when the opposing offense went with an empty set or an extra wide receiver package.

“They played him a little bit at their money position or in some of their dime packages, played him close to the line of scrimmage,” Caserio said. “Steve has done a nice job. He’€™s a versatile player; he was able to do a number of different things in San Diego’€™s defense. I think some of the things that we’€™re doing are a little bit different, just systematically but he’€™s indoctrinated myself into our system well. He’€™s done a nice job to this point. He’€™s been here since day one of the offseason and so far so good.”

So good, indeed. He has three interceptions in camp so far. He had one on Thursday night in the preseason opener against the Saints. He has been roaming all over the field as the free safety and not missing much, player or ball. Patrick Chung had the other interception in the 7-6 win.

‘€œWe’€™ve been flying around trying to make plays on the ball and priding ourselves on working on our communication and things like that,” Gregory said after Tuesday’s camp session. “It’€™s been getting better every day.’€

His work with Chung so far seems to be the perfect ying-yang fit in the Patriots secondary.

“The more we get to know each other ‘€“ and that goes across the board with all the guys ‘€“ the more we get to know each other, get familiar with playing with each other, the better you can communicate,” Gregory said. “That’€™s what camp’€™s about and that’€™s what we’€™ve been working on.’€

Gregory has four interceptions in his six previous seasons with the Chargers, including a 26-yard pick-six last year.

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, New England Patriots, nfl, Patrick Chung

10 things we learned Tuesday from Patriots training camp

08.14.12 at 11:22 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€“ The Patriots held their second straight day of practice in full pads on the upper practice fields Tuesday. The team announced that it will practice from 1:30-4 Wednesday through Friday. The team likely will be off Saturday, the same day Bruce Springsteen plays Gillette Stadium. Camp will break as the team likely will have a walkthrough on Sunday before hosting the Eagles Monday night at Gillette.

ROLL CALL

The biggest news came off the field as the team confirmed that linebacker Dane Fletcher cleared injury waivers and was immediately placed on season-ending injured reserve. The team also confirmed that wide receiver Britt Davis was released outright after an injury settlement, meaning he is not eligible to rejoin the team on injured reserve. Tuesday’s moves leaves the active roster at 88 players.

Among the remaining players, nine were not seen on Monday, most notably tight end Aaron Hernandez. Also missing were fullback Eric Kettani,, fullback Spencer Larsen, linebacker Tracy White, offensive lineman Matt Kopa, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, tight end Jake Ballard, and defensive linemen Gerard Warren and Jonathan Fanene.

Safeties Malcolm Williams, safety James Ihedigboreturned.

There was again a lengthy list of players in shorts, including Rob Gronkowski defensive linemen Myron Pryor, Daniel Fells, receiver Brandon Lloyd for a second straight day, defensive back Alfonzo Dennard, offensive tackle Markus Zusevics, and offensive linemen Kyle Hix and Sebastian Vollmer.

Here are nine other things we learned from camp Tuesday.

MANKINS STILL HELD BACK

Logan Mankins was in padded pants on Tuesday, but again he was in only shells. The hope is he might be able to finally fully participate on Wednesday in full 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills. Mankins was again primarily an observer on the sidelines, only taking part in agility and technique drills.

PICK PARTY

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett were all victimized by a very aggressive Patriots secondary on Tuesday. All three quarterbacks were intercepted. The secondary forced a number of turnovers, getting their hands on the ball and making good on opportunities to intercept passes. Steve Gregory, Patrick Chung and Kyle Arrington were all able to corral picks, and the defense was especially strong overall during situational work. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Brian Hoyer, New England Patriots, nfl

Brandon Spikes on his approach: ‘Be a shark, it’s Shark Week, you know’

08.14.12 at 8:00 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The middle of the Patriots defense was quiet last week without its most vocal and physical influence.

Brandon Spikes has returned with a vengeance this week after missing four practices and the preseason opener at Gillette against the Saints. He has been making deflections, picking off passes, calling out signals with Jerod Mayo and sniffing out running plays.

The Patriots got a glimpse of just how big a presence he could be in 2011. After 47 tackles in eight regular season games, Spikes took it to a new level in the postseason, registering 26 tackles and a sack in three playoff games, including an 11-tackle performance in Super Bowl XLVI.

He had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and last week may have just been precautionary management to make sure he maintains his aggressive style, a style he said Tuesday will continue this week and this season.

Will his comfort level in Bill Belichick‘s defense mean he’s ready to take his aggressiveness on the ball to a new level?

‘€œAbsolutely. That’€™s my nature. Be aggressive, be a shark ‘€“ it’€™s shark week so you know, of course [laughs],” he said.

If Spikes can stay on the field, it will open up Mayo to be more of a roving linebacker, allowing him to cover backs and tight ends out of the backfield and call signals.

‘€œI think we’€™re doing a great job,” Spikes said Tuesday of the communication going on right now. “A lot of young guys are coming in, making plays; they’€™re high energy guys, flying around [and] that’€™s great. They’€™re catching on to the defense and it’€™s good, we can just build from there. So I think we’€™re having a good camp defensively.

‘€œI feel like over time and over the years, I feel like I’€™m getting better; learning the differences of the defense, where I’€™m supposed to be and where the next guy is. Being the middle linebacker I’€™ve got to kind of direct guys and it’€™s coming a lot easier this year, so hopefully I can just keep getting better.

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Brandon Spikes, Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots

Chandler Jones: ‘I’m a different player’ than Jason Pierre-Paul

08.14.12 at 9:51 am ET
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FOXBORO — For those who have closely watched Chandler Jones at Syracuse and watched in him camp with the Patriots from the OTAs to minicamp to know, there’s one current NFL player that comes to mind — Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants.

The 23-year-old right defensive end out of South Florida played a key role in the Giants “NASCAR” front that steamrolled opponents in the playoffs last year, on the way to a second Super Bowl win over the Patriots in five seasons.

The similarities are there: Jones is only 22. He is the same height (6-foot-5) and 15 pounds lighter. And both are known for their speed rush off the right end and their ability to get to the quarterback and their length to tip balls at the line of scrimmage.

But Jones made an attempt after practice Monday to put the brakes on any further comparisons.

“Jason Pierre-Paul is a great player,” Jones said. “And I’m a different player from him. I’m not going to sit here and compare us two. But he’s a great player and I respect his game. I have no comment on the comparison.”

Can Jones, as a rookie, be the same kind of disruptive force Pierre-Paul has been in two NFL seasons for the Giants? In two NFL seasons, JPP as he is so known, has 111 tackles, 21 sacks and four forced fumbles. Impressive numbers and numbers the Patriots would surely take in their defensive scheme.

“I come out and work my craft and I work on my moves, if it’s speed or power, I take what the offensive line gives me,” Jones said. “Whatever they give me, I take.”

Read More: chandler jones, Jason Pierre-Paul, New England Patriots 2012 training camp, New York Giants

10 things we learned Monday from Patriots training camp

08.13.12 at 9:35 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€“ It was another hot day Monday on the practice fields outside Gillette Stadium, ideal for training camp conditioning. Bill Belichick, linebackers coach Pepper Johnson, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia and special teams coach Scott O’€™Brien all took their opportunity to scream words of encouragement during the practice that lasted over two hours.

ROLL CALL

With Monday’€™s reported waiving of Dane Fletcher and Britt Davis, the active roster stands at 88 players.

Among the remaining players, 12 were not seen on Monday, and they include fullback Eric Kettani, safety Malcolm Williams, safety James Ihedigbo, fullback Spencer Larsen, linebacker Tracy White, offensive lineman Matt Kopa, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, tight ends Daniel Fells and Jake Ballard, and defensive linemen Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren and Jonathan Fanene.

The bigger news came with the roll call of players in shorts, including Rob Gronkowski for a second straight day. Joining Gronk were tight end Aaron Hernandez, receiver Brandon Lloyd, defensive back Alfonzo Dennard, offensive tackle Markus Zusevics, and offensive linemen Kyle Hix and Sebastian Vollmer.

Here are nine other things we learned from camp on Monday.

MANKINS MAKES STRIDES

Logan Mankins was in shorts and shells again on Monday, and again he was sporting a big black brace on his right knee. While only going through moderate drills on Sunday evening, Mankins joined in with the first team offensive line at left guard and began taking snaps with Tom Brady. Mankins lined up between left tackle Nate Solder and center Dan Koppen, who returned to the first unit rotation. Mankins was given time to recuperate in the middle of practice as the offensive line was going through intense 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills. If all goes well, Mankins is expected to be in full pads on Tuesday for the first time since being taken off PUP on Sunday.

ALL ABOUT TEMPO

After admitting that his offense ‘€œhas a long ways to go’€ on Sunday following a 10-punt, two turnover performance in the preseason opener, Bill Belichick had the offensive pick up the pace on Sunday during 11-on-11 drills. Tom Brady opened up in the hurry-up offense, going 3-for-4 with a TD toss to Deion Branch. Included in the hurry-up were six running plays from Stevan Ridley for a total of 10 snaps. Brady would’€™ve been perfect except for a drop from Julian Edelman. Ryan Mallett was not as effective as he was just 2-for-4 with four runs from Shane Vereen. Brady returned for the conventional huddle in 11-on-11 situational football, going 3-for-4, with the highlight coming on a fantastic over the shoulder grab from Alex Silvestro, getting more time with both Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski sitting out Monday’€™s practice.

SOMETHING YOU DON’€™T OFTEN SEE

During a second round of 11-on-11 drills, Brady came on and actually quarterbacked the scout team against the first-team defense. Moments later, with Brian Hoyer calling signals, he and Ridley fumbled an exchange and both had to run a lap from goal post to goal post.

TIP DRILLS

Rookie Chandler Jones continues to impress, as he tipped a pair of passes, including one by Tom Brady during 11-on-11 snaps. Jones also narrowly missed blocking a field goal by Chris Koepplin at the end of practice, an attempt that was blocked by an interior lineman. Also getting his hand up was Vince Wilfork during a red area 11-on-11 set run by Brian Hoyer. Jermaine Cunningham came over and gave Wilfork an enthusiastic congratulatory slap for his efforts. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Britt Davis, chandler jones, Dane Fletcher
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