|05.21.13 at 1:29 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots wrapped up a relatively quick OTA session on the fields behind Gillette Stadium a little while ago.
With the understanding it’s tough to make any sweeping generalizations about where players are at this time of year because no one was wearing numbers and it was a relatively low-intensity session, here are a few notes on the practice, which ran roughly 90 minutes.
‘¢Among the missing were tight end Rob Gronkowski, linebacker Brandon Spikes, wide receiver Julian Edelman and running back Brandon Bolden. There were a handful of players who spent time on stationary bikes working out, a group that included right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and rookie wide receiver Josh Boyce.
‘¢At running back, it’s clear Stevan Ridley is now in charge of the group. Leon Washington did get some reps with the rest of the running backs, and saw a lot of action as the primary option at kick returner.
‘¢New wide receivers Danny Amendola and Mike Jenkins saw extensive time with quarterback Tom Brady — at one point, just about the rest of the team was on one field working in special teams drills, they were on the other field working together with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Rookie Aaron Dobson made a nice catch in traffic, while linebacker Dont’a Hightower picked off a pass from quarterback Ryan Mallett.
|05.21.13 at 1:27 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The most telling part of Tedy Bruschi‘s conference call with the media Tuesday morning, hours after officially being elected to the Patriots Hall of Fame, was how much time he devoted to thanking the fan base.
The linebacker made it a point that he always felt at home in New England and that was a big reason he played his entire career in Foxboro and never left.
“I always felt like I was one of them,” Bruschi said when asked about his relationship with the fans of New England. “I never felt like I was any type of a special person or that I was any different than any of the people that were up there cheering on the Patriots. I always felt the New England Patriots fans did their work, got their work done, they liked to come home and spend time with their families and when they had free time, they liked to cheer on their favorite team. That’s who I am also. If I wasn’t fortunate enough to play professional football, that’s who I would have been: a good family man to my wife and kids and then cheering on my local team. I think that’s who I would be. I think that’s why I related so much to them. I already got an email from Randy Pierce, ‘Zip.’
“I still have relationships with some of the fans who I’ve met throughout the years. He congratulated me through email and I’ve already responded. There are certain relationships you form. I was never shy about forming relationships with fans because I felt very connected to them. Being here in New England my entire career, my kids being raised here, I sort of feel like I’m a transplanted New Englander. That’s the way I feel. I still live locally. I think probably the most, with my kids getting older, they’re Patriots fans too. I think one of the most exciting moments for me after Mr. [Robert] Kraft gave me the news was I told my sons and to see their faces and how happy they were and them jumping up and down and giving me a hug, I think they were more excited than I was because I don’t do very good with individual accolades.”
Bruschi also made it a point to ensure the fans that the three championships he helped bring to New England means more than this accolade or his election to the college football hall of fame.
“Championships are better, so much better,” Bruschi said. “This was never my goal. The College Football Hall of Fame was never my goal — Hall of Fames were not my goal. If they’re a player’s goal, I think his priorities are messed up. Championships were and I’m glad we got that done, but this still is very cool.”
How close did he come to not playing for one team your entire career?
“Probably mostly after my fourth year when I took a couple of free agent visits to Green Bay and Cleveland and Seattle,” he said. “It just wasn’t the same. I knew that other teams were going to have to make an incredible commitment to me to pull me away from New England. But I felt like I owed it to myself to at least go through the process, which is probably the only time I ever did that. I did take a few trips, spoke to a few general managers and you go to Seattle and [Mike] Holmgren isn’t even there, as the head coach on the visit. I said, ‘Is this a joke?’ to myself, for a lot of these other organizations and why would I ever want to leave New England? That was probably the closest. I’m a loyal type of guy. New England was always the place that I wanted to finish. I didn’t know where I was going to start but I wanted to finish there.”
|05.21.13 at 1:09 pm ET|
The receiver, signed as a free agent this offseason, said Tuesday can’t concern himself with people who might try and make a connection between him and Welker, who signed with the Broncos in the offseason after six years in New England.
“That’s not something I need to worry about,” he said after Tuesday’s OTA session on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. “I’m worried about the playbook and getting the routes down and getting on the same page with my teammates. The good thing is, I don’t have to worry about that stuff.”
Amendola, who spent a sizable portion of the nearly two-hour session working with quarterback Tom Brady, said it’s easy to see Tom Brady‘s greatness after a few sessions.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I said it today — he darted me in the chest with one ball and I was just like inside my head, ‘Wow, this guy can really wing it.’ That’s why he’s Tom Brady.
“He’s a really good quarterback. Everybody knows that. [I’m] just trying to get on the same page — so far, so good,” added Amendola, who had the chance to work with him in Southern California earlier this spring. “More work is best going into the season. Any time you get a jump and get to work with each other, that’s good. We’re getting a lot of good work in here right now. That’s the most important thing.”
Amendola does have some history in this offense, as he had the chance to work with current Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for a year in St. Louis.
“It’s familiar. When Josh was in St. Louis, I got to know it pretty good. It’s a little more intricate out here. It’s something to grasp, and I’m learning it every day,” he said.
“It’s the verbiage — it’s everything. That’s the most important thing. The vocabulary of the offense. I’m leaning, day in and day out, and studying at night.It’s a process. Second day, so I’m looking forward to the next practice and just getting ready for that.”
Amendola is one of several new faces at wide receiver for the Patriots this year. It’s a group that includes veterans Mike Jenkins and Donald Jones as well as rookies Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce. While he confessed to feeling a little like the new kid in school — even joking that he’s gotten lost inside Gillette Stadium a couple of times — there’s a feeling that he and the rest of the new guys are all in this together.
“Yeah, there’s a couple of guys here who have been here a while, but we’re leaning on them to really show us the ropes of the drills and the practice and trying to get the tempo going in the practice,” Amendola said. “We kind of thrive off that and we kind of get it going. I feel like we have a really good group. I feel like there are some guys coming from other teams with a lot of experience and it’s exciting to see what we’re going to be able to do.
“You have questions and meetings and you kind of thrive off each other. It’s definitely a group atmosphere and a group effort. That’s the way it goes.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|05.21.13 at 9:31 am ET|
The Patriots announced Tuesday that Tedy Bruschi has been voted into the team’s Hall of Fame in fan balloting. Bruschi and former radio play-by-play caller Gil Santos will be inducted on Aug. 11. Bruschi also will be honored at halftime of the home opener against the Jets on Sept. 12.
“We knew when we drafted him in 1996 that ‘Bruschi’ was going to be a fan favorite in New England,” owner Robert Kraft said in a statement. “But he was so much more than that. During the most successful era in the history of the franchise, Tedy was the heart and soul of the defense and proved to be a champion, both on and off the field. He was a high-energy, tenacious defender whose playmaking abilities helped propel the Patriots to three Super Bowl championships in four years. His remarkable and courageous return to the field following a stroke only added to his legend and solidified his place among the most iconic Patriots in franchise history. We look forward to celebrating his induction with our fans.”
A 19-person nomination committee comprised of media, alumni and staff selected three candidates for the Patriots Hall of Fame in April: coach Chuck Fairbanks, offensive tackle Leon Gray and Bruschi. Fans had a month to vote at patriots.com.
Bruschi, selected by the Patriots in the third round of the 1996 draft, helped New England to an AFC championship in his first season. He went on to appear in four more Super Bowls during his 13-year career.
A two-time All-Pro selection (2003, ’04), Bruschi finished his career with 1,110 tackles, 30.5 sacks, 12 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles in 189 games (139 starts). He is the only player in NFL history to return four consecutive interceptions for touchdowns.
|05.21.13 at 7:15 am ET|
This offseason, the Patriots lost wide receivers Wes Welker (5-foot-9, 185 pounds), Deion Branch (5-9, 195) and Brandon Lloyd (6-0, 200). They also lost Danny Woodhead (5-8, 200), who in 2012 became the first New England running back to finish with at 40 catches and 40 carries since Kevin Faulk turned the trick in 2008. In their place, the Patriots picked up several new faces, most of whom are considerably bigger guys than the ones who departed in the offseason.
Free agent signings
Mike Jenkins (6-4, 214)
Donald Jones (6-0, 208)
Danny Amendola (5-11, 188)
Lavelle Hawkins (5-11, 194)
Aaron Dobson (6-3, 210)
Josh Boyce (5-11, 206)
Rookie/undrafted free agents
Mark Harrison (6-3, 235)
TJ Moe (6-0, 200)
Kenbrell Thompkins (6-0, 196)
This is not to suggest that the Patriots have made a concerted effort to go bigger at the receiver position, but the differentiation in size is interesting contrast, especially if you go back and take a look at the receivers New England has built around over the last decade. Prior to the pickup of Jenkins, the only other 6-foot-4 receiver on the roster the last decade was Randy Moss, who spent three-plus seasons with the Patriots from 2007-2010. (Going back to 2002, Donald Hayes also stood 6-4. In addition, J.J. Stokes, who spent part of the 2003 season in New England, stood 6-4.) And at 6-3, Dobson and P.K. Sam are the two tallest receivers the Patriots have drafted since Bill Belichick took over the team prior to the 2000 season.
But this current group not only has size, but speed to go with it. Boyce, Harrison and Moe all popped favorably at the combine when it came to both speed and quickness (Moe and Boyce were both in the top five in the 3-cone drill for all players, while Boyce and Harrison were in the top 12 in the 40 for wide receivers). According to alert Tweeter Mike Loyko, all of the receivers the Patriots picked up with the exception of Jenkins ran sub 4.5 40s as part of the pre-draft process. It appears that finding a combination of size and speed — particularly on the perimeter — was a priority for New England this offseason.
(The acquisitions certainly would be in line with what one opposing scout told us when it came to offseason priorities for the Patriots in late January: ‘The Patriots need to add a vertical speed player with some size to the offense. … The Patriots do have fast wide receivers, but they are small, and require [Tom] Brady to be more accurate on his deeper throws. And because of their size, they aren’t consistent vertical threats. What they need is a wide receiver who is a vertical threat, but is also big enough to be physical in press coverage.’)
Read the rest of this entry »
|05.20.13 at 6:54 pm ET|
At first glance, the numbers jump off the page.
Wide receiver Mark Harrison was a three-year starter at Rutgers who finished his college career with 107 receptions for 1,769 yards and 18 touchdowns. A starter as a sophomore, he had 44 receptions for 829 yards and led the Big East with nine touchdowns. After struggling a bit as a junior, in 2012, Harrison played in 13 games with 11 starts, and he finished with 44 receptions for 583 yards and six touchdowns.
Physically, he appears to have the tools to succeed: The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder doesn’t necessarily possess elite speed, but he’s a big target with a sizable wingspan who can overmatch undersized defensive backs. In addition, he was one of the best receivers at the combine when it came to his vertical jump and broad jump.
So why was a physical specimen like Harrison available to the Patriots in mid-May, almost a full month after the draft? Two possible reasons.
One, fair or not, there are some questions about his background. According to one report, Harrison was one of the players at the combine this past February who had a trashed hotel room. Regarded as mid-round pick, that may or may not have played a role in the fact that he wasn’t drafted.
(For what it’s worth, Rutgers coach Kyle Flood went out of his way to defend Harrison, telling ESPN, “I’ve been on a lot of road trips and we’ve never had a single disciplinary issue with [Harrison]. He’s a model of the type of person we want here at Rutgers. It would be so out of character to be involved in this that I just cannot imagine under any circumstance that it would happen and involve him.”)
And two, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Harrison failed his physical with the Bears because of a foot injury. (Just prior to Rutgers Pro Day, he apparently broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot.) However, it was believed that Chicago was interested in re-visiting the possibility of re-signing Harrison when the injury was cleared.
As for how he projects at the NFL level, his size and skill set suggest an oversized receiver, perhaps bordering on tight end. He certainly compares to the 6-foot-1, 245-pound Aaron Hernandez, another big wide receiver who masquerades as a tight end in the New England passing game. As a collegian, Hernandez ran a 4.64 40, displayed a 33-inch vertical leap and a 9-foot, 3-inch broad jump. By way of comparison, Harrison posted a 4.46 40-yard dash, a 38.5-inch vertical leap and a 10-foot, 9-inch broad jump.
|05.20.13 at 5:40 pm ET|
Rob Gronkowski underwent another procedure on his left forearm on Monday afternoon, and according to multiple reports, the surgery was a success.
Pro Football Talk reported that the infection that had been lingering in the wake of the initial surgery was “gone,” and that the tight end had a “new plate installed” in the arm to provide support. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network also indicated that the surgery was a success, adding “no fifth surgery on the forearm” is needed, according to a source, a point that was echoed by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Gronkowski suffered the initial break in a Week 11 win over the Colts, and broke his arm again in the postseason against the Texans. The 24-year-old caught 55 passes for 790 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012.
Gronkowski will still be faced with one more medical issue this offseason, as he’s scheduled for back surgery soon for a disk problem that reportedly bothered him last year.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
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