|07.29.14 at 9:56 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Brandon LaFell is hardly the first offensive player to come to the Patriots and struggle to get with the system. Even last season, Danny Amendola needed several regular season games under his belt before he was comfortable. It’s no secret that learning the Patriots playbook can be a challenge for any player coming over from another organization.
With the complex offense quarterback Tom Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels run, training camp is one of the most important times of the year, especially for wide receivers to get on the same page as their quarterback.
For LaFell, a four-year veteran, he is still in the learning process phase after he was signed by the Patriots on March 17 coming over from Carolina after spending his first four seasons in the NFL with the Panthers. Although it’s only the fifth day of training camp, LaFell feels he is getting better with each passing day.
“I’m getting better and better everyday,” he said. “We put in a lot of plays, every night is study night for me, something I am not used to because in Carolina we ran the same offense for three years so I knew it. It’s a ton of work every night. The more and more I get reps — I started feeling good at the end of minicamp and then we took the long break so now I am trying to get back in the swing of things.”
LaFell, self-admittedly, had a rough first few days of camp with several drops in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 situations, but he’s aware of it and followed that up with a productive day on Tuesday.
“I think I’ve been OK,” said LaFell. “I haven’t been consistent. I started out slow the first couple of days with a few drops, but I picked it up from there so as of now I think I am getting better, but it is still early in camp. I have to learn to be consistent and put good days together back-to-back like the rest of this offense. We need to start putting good days back-to-back and if we continue to that we’ll get better.”
The 6-foot-3, LSU-grad, made possibly the catch of training camp thus far on Tuesday when during passing drills on a deep ball from Brady, he split Malcolm Butler and Nate Ebner in coverage taking the ball away from them in the end zone. The play fired up the offense, Brady in particular, as he met the receiver on his way back to the huddle emphatically patting him on the back.
|07.29.14 at 9:24 pm ET|
FOXBORO — To many who paid close attention to the Patriots offensive line in 2013, it was not a season to remember for Ryan Wendell. His quarterback – Tom Brady – was sacked 40 times in 2013, one shy of his career high of 41 in his first full season of 2001. Many of those pressures came over center where Wendell is not only responsible for calling out protections but helping to protect the middle of the line.
Even Wendell, a man of few words, acknowledged as much Tuesday when asked about it after the team’s third padded practice this summer.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Wendell said. “There’s more than two things, but I think you need to ask coach Belichick about what I need to improve on.”
Bill Belichick obliged Tuesday.
“I think every year you start all over again,” Belichick said when asked about Wendell’s 2013 season. “We all do. Within any year certainly we all have our moments that are good and we have some that aren’t so good that we’d like to have back. So, I’m sure you could find good and bad plays from all of us that have participated ‘ players, coaches, every position, every year.
“I think when you look at the overall performance, the overall projection of where you think the player is going to be based on whatever ‘ his age, his experience, his work ethic, his training or age, whichever way it’s going, there’s a certain projection there but you wait and let it play out. I think that’s where we are in training camp now for really all the players. They’ve all trained, they’ve all been through the spring. They’ve all worked to put themselves in this position. Now we go out there and let them compete and see how it unfolds. I don’t know how it’s going to happen.
“Certainly if we would have projected Ryan Wendell and Steve Neal their rookie years; none of us would have thought [Tom] Brady for that matter. His rookie year, he didn’t do anything either. None of us would have thought that those guys would be the contributors they ended up being. That’s why we go out there and have training camp. That’s what competition is about. Sometimes you find out things differently.”
|07.29.14 at 4:33 pm ET|
FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price talk about Darrelle Revis dominating Patriots camp on Tuesday as the team returned to practice in full pads for a third time. Tommy Kelly returned to full pads for the first time since his season-ending injury in 2013 and Ryan Wendell steps up on center stage for the Patriots’ offensive line.
|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.”
Read the rest of this entry »
|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.
Latest from Bleacher Report
- Jacoby Brissett Injury: Updates on Patriots QB's Thumb and Return
- Jacoby Brissett, QBs Making Their First Career Start Under Belichick Are...
- Shorthanded Patriots Send Emphatic Message That They Are Team to Beat in...
- Patriots vs. Texans: Full Report Card Grades for New England
- Jacoby Brissett, Julian Edelman, LeGarrette Blount Post-Week 3 Fantasy...
- Despite Injuries, Patriots Already September's Biggest Winners in the NFL
- Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots Betting Odds, Analysis, NFL Pick