|08.05.10 at 12:27 pm ET|
FOXBORO — As a heavy air hung over the two practice fields at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots just concluded their morning practice as the team got back to their two-a-day routine on Thursday. The skies were threatening with heat and humidity making for good conditioning. Here are some of the highlights from the morning session:
•The following players did not participate: wide receiver Matthew Slater, defensive back Bret Lockett, outside linebacker/defensive end Derrick Burgess, inside linebacker Gary Guyton, offensive lineman Logan Mankins, offensive linemen Nick Kaczur and defensive lineman Ty Warren. The following players were on the field, but in t-shirts and shorts: cornerback Jonathan Wilhite, defensive back Terrence Johnson, defensive lineman Myron Pryor, defensive lineman Ron Brace, defensive lineman Mike Wright and running back Thomas Clayton.
In his biggest test to date in training camp, Patriots receiver Wes Welker took a pair of heavy hits from linebacker Jerod Mayo in full scrimmage drills Thursday morning. The first hit came as Welker was running a slant pattern off the right end while the second hit came as Welker ran a crossing route. In both cases Welker held onto the pass from Tom Brady and popped right up and made his way back to the huddle.
Speaking of Brady he looked very sharp finding rookie Taylor Price and second year receiver Brandon Tate on corner routes in the end zone.
The story of Devin McCourty continues to be one that bears close attention. He not only joined Tate in returning kicks on Thursday morning but he continues to look good in corner isolation coverage as he shadowed Welker on a deep corner route, breaking up the pass from Brady by knocking it away from Welker.
Other fan highlights included bucket drills as quarterbacks Brady, Brian Hoyer and Zac Robinson attempted to land passes in a blue garbage bucket in the back left corner of the end zone from 20 and 30 yards out. Only Hoyer was able to find the target, though Brady hit the outside of the bucket several times from both distances. The good news for director of player personnel Nick Caserio was that owner Robert Kraft was no where in sight after Caserio on Wednesday threw one in the direction of owner Kraft, who was standing behind the garbage can. Caserio didn’t hit Kraft, but caused the owner to hit the deck. Caserio spoke on Thursday morning and joked that he was lucky to still have his job.
•In a bit of an unusual twist, Julian Edelman lined up in the back field as a running back. “I guess you could say I was a running back in college who also threw the ball,” the second-year Edelman said, referring to his days as Kent State’s quarterback. Edelman also took part in blitz pickup and pass-blocking drills. He admitted afterward it’s been a while.
“Actually, I did it in Pop Warner when I was 12,” Edelman joked.
The highlight of the blitz pick-up drills was Ross Ventrone and Kevin Faulk getting entangled as they both fell to the ground in the end zone as Faulk was intent on not letting the rookie free agent from Villanova and Ray’s younger brother, beat him. Kyle Arrington used his spin moves several times to beat Fred Taylor.
•For the second straight session, Brady showed his frustration with the two-minute, red zone offense. He yelled at his linemen and receiving corps to get organized inside the 5-yard line. The flip side was linemen coach Pepper Johnson high-fiving and back-slapping defensive linemen Kade Weston and Gerard Warren after they stuffed Laurence Maroney at the one on a fourth-and-1 situation.
The Patriots return to the practice field at 3:45 p.m.
|08.05.10 at 12:12 pm ET|
Patriots second-year safety Patrick Chung joined the Dale & Holley show Thursday from training camp in Foxboro. To hear the interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
In being careful not say anything to get him in trouble with his teammates or coaching staff, Chung talked about what he needs to learn as he begins his second training camp as a pro. “Last year I didn’t know anything,” he said. “I’ve still got a long way to go. I have not made it, so I’m still working. … I leave that to Bill [Belichick] to teach me all that stuff.”
Chung was most passionate when talking about special teams. “I love special teams,” he said. “That’s all on [assistant coach Scott O'Brien] — wherever he wants to put me, he can put me, I’ll play it. It’s a legalized 40-yard fistfight. … The person that crosses the line is trying to beat you and you’re trying to beat them. Any chance you get in a legalized fight, then that’s fine.”
Asked about fellow defensive back Brandon Meriweather, Chung said: “He’s intense, man. He’s very intense. But our whole secondary is intense. [Assistant coach] Corwin [Brown] puts that in us, also, He makes sure we’re on top of our stuff, and we make sure we’re on top of our stuff. We all communicate so we can play fast-paced and play intense and play good.”
|08.05.10 at 11:51 am ET|
Patriots linebacker Tully Banta-Cain joined the Dale & Holley show Thursday morning for a brief interview in between the morning and afternoon sessions at training camp in Foxboro. To hear the interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
Asked about fellow linebacker Derrick Burgess, who has yet to show up at camp or announce his future plans, Banta-Cain offered his support.
“I haven’t spoken with him,” Banta-Cain said. “I don’t want to talk him into or out of anything. I think he’s at a point of his career that I respect any decision that he makes and I support it. It’s tough to play in the league as long as he has played. If he wants to hang it up, he deserves to do it. If not, it would be great to have him back out here. But I respect it either way.”
Asked about concerns with the Patriots’ ability to pressure the passer, Banta-Cain said there is hope with the younger players. “I think the guys that we have I’m confident in,” he said. “There’s obviously guys that are lacking the experience because they haven’t had the opportunities. But there are guys that are well more than capable of getting to the quarterback and getting the job done. It’s just a matter of getting experience and more opportunities to get better at what they do.”
Asked about the possibility of former Bills defensive end Aaron Schobel coming to New England, Banta-Cain said: “I’m welcome to the idea, but I’m happy with the guys we have now.”
|08.04.10 at 6:00 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots just wrapped up their Wednesday afternoon training camp practice. It was their lone practice session of the day, and held in shorts and shells at what could probably best be described as 3/4 speed. The stands were packed on a relatively muggy afternoon, with highs in the mid-80s. Here are a few quick notes:
•The following players were not present for the workout: wide receiver Matthew Slater, defensive back Bret Lockett, outside linebacker/defensive end Derrick Burgess, inside linebacker Gary Guyton, offensive lineman Logan Mankins, offensive linemen Nick Kaczur and defensive lineman Ty Warren. The following players were on the field, but in t-shirts and shorts: cornerback Jonathan Wilhite, defensive back Terrence Johnson, defensive lineman Myron Pryor, defensive lineman Ron Brace, defensive lineman Mike Wright and running back Thomas Clayton.
•The highlight of the practice session was on the far practice field, when quarterback Tom Brady and backup Brian Hoyer recreated a drill they went through a few days ago, trying to toss a ball into a garbage can from roughly 40 yards away. Brady came the closest, hitting it once before they moved it to the middle of the field on the goal line, where Brady conked it twice. At the end of the drill, director of player personnel Nick Caserio winged one in the direction of owner Robert Kraft, who was standing behind the garbage can. Caserio didn’t hit Kraft, but caused the owner to hit the deck. Both sides enjoyed a good chuckle about it afterward.
•Wide receiver Buddy Farnham had one of the best catches of the day, reaching back to pull in a pass from quarterback Zac Robinson that was behind him.
•Operating against what appeared to be a mixture of the No. 1 and No. 2 defense, Brady and wide receiver Randy Moss made a sweet connection down the middle of the field, with Moss beating Devin McCourty (who saw a LOT of reps this afternoon) and Darius Butler to the ball. One of the highlights of the session. Later in the same series, Hoyer made a pair of impressive passes to tight end Rob Gronkowski, moving the chains and reaching the end zone. At the end of the series, the offense successfully hit on a two-point conversion when Hoyer found wide receiver Torry Holt in the corner of the end zone. Holt was so psyched, he got up and tossed the ball toward the other practice field before celebrating with Hoyer.
•Not everything was positive. Brady was at the helm for a series of misfires, a sequence where rookies Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Tate looked to be out of place and one that culminated when safety Pat Chung picked off Brady. (Brady also appeared to struggle when operating with running back Laurence Maroney — two straight attempted pass plays for Maroney went incomplete.) The offense soon rallied, however, when Brady found Tate and Hernandez on successive plays, drawing cheers from the crowd.
•On special teams work, Robinson worked as a punt protector for Zoltan Mesko. Meanwhile, running back Kevin Faulk and wide receiver Julian Edelman were working as returners.
|08.04.10 at 12:55 pm ET|
Former Patriots defensive back Rodney Harrison ripped Brett Favre on Wednesday, saying the quarterback “loves the media attention” that comes with his annual decision about whether or not to return to the NFL for another season.
Speaking on the Dan Patrick Show, Harrison, who has blasted Favre before, said he’s never understood the veteran quarterback, and added that “guys who really have class” like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning would never put their teammates through the drama.
“You get to a point at 40 years old that you know exactly what you want to do — if you want to play football or not,” Harrison said. “And that’s why I’ve been critical of this guy. Because it’s so unfair to your teammates, it’s unfair to your coaches, it’s unfair to the city, the organization that you keep leaving people hung out to dry like that.
“I’ve never understood Brett Favre. I just think he loves the media attention. At 40 years old, you know if you want to grind through an 18-week season.
“If I was a teammate of his, I’d probably be a little ticked off he’s not in training camp.”
|08.04.10 at 12:33 pm ET|
Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the complete transcript of the Q&A between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and the media today at Gillette Stadium:
BB: We have one roster move to announce this morning. We released John Wise and signed Eric Ghiaciuc. Eric has got some flexibility. He has played the inside positions. He’s been in the league so he’s got a little more experience there. We decided to back off practice this morning. It gives us a little time to catch up on film and some meetings and just clean up a few things. I feel like the players are working hard and we’ve had a lot of contact, and we felt like this was probably the best thing we could do for our team this morning. We’ll be back at it this afternoon as we move into the end of the week here. More team work, more group drills, some situational things. We’ve been doing red area and two-minute and third down, so we’ll continue to expand on some of that situational type periods in practice and then by the end of the week we should have a pretty good base on all of those things. Then we can move into next week with our preparations for New Orleans. That’s kind of where we’re at here.
Q: Can you elaborate on Ghiaciuc – just his background, your connection with him and what kind of player he is?
BB: He’s played inside and just has a little more experience than John did, obviously. Although I think John did a good job, we just felt like with the preseason games coming up and where our team is, that he’d have a little more opportunity.
Q: I’m curious on your thoughts at the competition this far at inside linebacker, particularly the new and younger players.
BB: I think all of them have done well. I think Jerod [Mayo] is doing well. Gary [Guyton] got off to a good start, definitely ahead of last year. Eric, also. Tyrone [McKenzie], it’s really his first chance and Brandon [Spikes], Thomas Williams, The new guys have been with us a little bit – Dane [Fletcher] – but the new guys have come in and I think they’ve all done well. A big part of that evaluation will be in the kicking game, as well as on defense. Some of those linebackers are a little more first and second down, some of them are a little more third down. Some of them are probably a little more of the kicking game. Some might have a combination of all three. So I think players have different values and probably different strengths [in] what they can bring to the team. But [they’re] all competitive in their respective areas. And then just how it all fits together and how, of course, they perform when we get into the preseason games and continue to evaluate here through these practices. But I think it’s a pretty solid unit, good depth and they bring a number of different skills to the position.
Read the rest of this entry »
|08.04.10 at 10:47 am ET|
FOXBORO — No active player has more sacks of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady than Aaron Schobel. So if Buffalo does indeed plan on releasing Schobel — as ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted Wednesday morning — would New England be interested? The Patriots do have a history of going after guys who have killed them in the past (Wes Welker), and Schobel would certainly fit that description.
But Patriots coach Bill Belichick wasn’t biting when asked about the two-time Pro Bowl end in his Wednesday morning press conference, saying only that Schobel, who has 12 career sacks on Brady, “has given us great competition” in the past.
“Right now, I’m really just focused on our team,” Belichick said when asked about the 6-foot-4, 243-pounder out of TCU. “I’m really just focused on our team. I couldn’t comment. He’s still under contract with Buffalo.
“But obviously, he’s a good player. He’s given us great competition on the field.”
While Schobel joining the Patriots would seem to be a good fit on paper, two noted football numbers men aren’t so sure. In this story I did this morning, Mike Tanier of Football Outsiders and Neil Hornsby of Pro Football Focus say that while the 33-year-old Schobel still has the skills to compete in the NFL, he wouldn’t necessarily work in the Patriots’ 3-4 defensive scheme.
“He had a fine season last year — we have him credited with 30 Defeats, which are stops for no gain, a loss, or short of a first down on third down), which is a high number for a defensive end. His average tackle came 0.2 yards downfield, best in the NFL,” Tanier said of Schobel, who has 78 sacks in nine seasons. “He’s really not a 3-4 player though. He’s not quick enough for outside linebacker, and would get hammered playing as a five-technique end for play after play.”
In other Patriots news, the team released rookie offensive tackle John Wise this morning and signed center Eric Ghiaciuc, who worked out for the team on Wednesday.
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