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Michael Hoomanawanui returns to practice ‘hungry’ to get back to full strength

08.18.14 at 9:07 pm ET
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Michael Hoomanawanui

Michael Hoomanawanui

FOXBORO — With only one healthy tight end on the roster for last Friday’s second preseason game with the Eagles, it was tough to watch for the other Patriots tight ends.

Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui and D.J. Williams did not suit up — and after the team released Ben Hartsock last Thursday, it left Steve Maneri as the only healthy tight end on the roster. Gronkowski had been practicing, but not cleared for contact, while Hoomanawanui and Williams missed the entire week of practice.

After re-signing rookie tight end Justin Jones, the Patriots got another tight end back when Hoomanawanui returned to practice on Monday. While 26-year-old returned to practice, he did not take any contact. After stretching he went down to the lower fields to get some conditioning work in — all part of the process in making a full return.

“I feel good,” he said. “Being out there a little bit — with what I did do today — there’€™s not much you can simulate being out there in real time situations, but there’€™s other ways we can try and stay with it. It’€™ll take a little bit. I’€™ll get back to that.”

Hoomanawanui admitted it was hard to watch Friday night, especially seeing Maneri play almost 70 snaps after being signed by the Patriots just five days before the game.

“Especially feeling for your position, knowing what they’€™re going through, taking that many reps, but I’€™ll be out there as soon as I can and be back there with them,” Hoomanawanui said.

“It’€™s obviously disappointing. You never want to be hurt,” he added. ” You watch from the sidelines or inside, watching film is hard when you’€™re not out there. There’€™s a competitive spirit in all of us. You never want to be out. It’€™s unfortunate, but I’€™ll be back. I’€™ll be fine.”

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Stevan Ridley on fumble against Eagles: ‘I hated it, it was a sick feeling for a second’

08.18.14 at 7:28 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Stevan Ridley is sick of fumbling and tired of answering all the questions that seemingly come with it.

After having fumbling issues last season — to the point where he was even a healthy scratch for Week 13 against the Texans — Ridley once again put the ball on the ground in last Friday’s second preseason game against the Eagles.

Although the Patriots recovered the fumble and on a second-look it appeared he may have been down first, the fact of the matter is he fumbled once again.

“It’s too close to call, man. Either way, I need to avoid those plays in general,” Ridley said. “There’s nothing really else to be said about it. I hated it. It was a sick feeling for a second. We looked at the play, it is what it is, but either way one out is too many. But I’m not going to harp on that. I’m going to learn from it.”

The running back didn’t play a snap following the fumble — something all too familiar for the fourth-year running back out of LSU.

“When I go back and watch the play, and the ball is out again, Week 2, it kind of sucks,” Ridley said. “But it’s football, man, and I can’t get down about it. I can’t harp about it. That’s why you have preseason. I’m just going to keep on working and keep on pushing.”

Ridley was having a good game until the fumble as he finished with 45 yards on nine carries.

“I had a nice little workload early on, and I think the coaches saw what they wanted to see,” he said. “For me, I came on out when they told me to come out. Like I said, we’re moving on. This week’s Carolina. There wasn’t too much said about it — just get back to work, learn from your mistakes just like everybody else and keep on pushing.”

Even with the frustration of fumbling on a seemingly regular basis, Ridley is always there to answer the questions from reporters and understands where the questions are coming from.

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Patriots beat writers answer ALS ice bucket challenge from Miami media

08.18.14 at 6:38 pm ET
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Patriots beat writers were challenged by members of the Dolphins media to take the ALS ice bucket challenge and help raise funds and awareness to help combat the disease. (Video courtesy Patriots PR.)

Rob Gronkowski clears another rehab hurdle with return to live practice action

08.18.14 at 6:10 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski took another step forward in his rehab Monday, as he got extensive work in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills while in full pads.

The tight end acknowledged he’s still on the road to recovery after last year’s season-ending knee injury, but just the sight of him on the practice field with the rest of his teammates engaged in something more than a low-intensity walkthrough is certainly encouraging.

“It felt good,” he said following a practice session that went for roughly two hours on Monday afternoon. “I wasn’t like full,full contact or anything like that — it was just little routes and that kind of stuff. But I’m feeling good. Progressed a lot out there — routes versus the defense in 7-on-7, some team things. Overall, it just feels good to be back out there with my teammates and competing.

“It’s always a step forward when you’re participating in more and more. Probably [Tuesday], pick it up even more,” he added. “It’s going well so far — no setbacks or anything. Just having a blast being back out there, having fun catching some balls and making some plays.”

Gronkowski didn’t go wire-to-wire in the 7-on-7s and 11-on-11 drills, but in his first action in a padded practice since last December, he certainly didn’t appear to struggle with his routes. He was able to make a couple of impressive connections in the early going with quarterback Tom Brady, and while he didn’t take any sizable hits, he did get some contact while wearing a massive black brace/sleeve on his left arm. There was one play where he was stripped near the sidelines by rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler, but other than that, he appeared to be in good shape for someone who suffered a serious knee injury the first week of December.

Of course, Gronkowski has gone through this process before. Last summer, the world anxiously awaited his return from a variety of injuries, including a forearm issue that ultimately ended his 2012 season. While he wouldnt compare last year’s rehab to the one he’s currently going through — “We’re not allowed to do that,” he said with a grin — you get the feeling that he’s more confident in his ability to play the entire regular season this time around as opposed to last summer.

“Still operating off the same plan,” he said when asked if the goal is to play the entire 2014 season.

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Monday practice notes: Rob Gronkowski, Dominique Easley jump into contact work

08.18.14 at 4:01 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots had their final training camp practice open to the media Monday afternoon, a session that ran for just over two hours in front of a large crowd. Overall, it was the 17th practice of the summer for New England, and the 12th in pads. Here are a few quick notes:

Tyler Gaffney, D.J. Williams, Cameron Gordon, Sebastian Vollmer, Tommy Kelly, Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga were not spotted at start of practice. Chris Martin was in sweats. In addition, Michael Hoomanwanui, Chris Martin, James Anderson and Bryan Stork left after stretching, and worked on the lower practice fields.

— In 7-on-7 work, the biggest news was the fact that tight end Rob Gronkowski took part in the session, working clearly and getting in and out of his routes without an issue. The big fella was only partially involved when it came to contact, but the sight of Gronkowski running routes and catching passes from quarterbacks is an encouraging sight for Patriots fans. (For what it’s worth, Gronkowski was not involved in any of the blocking drills immediately following the 7-on-7 passing drills.) Gronkowski also saw work in 11-on-11 drills for the first time all summer, and made a couple of really nice connections with Brady over the middle. Again, another encouraging sign for New England fans.

— In other 7-on-7 news, there was a really nice pass breakup by Kyle Arrington on a Brady deep ball intended for Danny Amendola. And rookie corner Malcolm Butler had a really impressive pass breakup on a pass for Gronkowski, knocking the ball away cleanly and causing a fumble.

— Later on, the Patriots welcomed first-round pick Dominique Easley to 11-on-11 work in full pads for the first time all summer. It appeared that Easley was working with a reasonable facsimile of the second-team defense. He looked very good — quick, without any issues when it came to bursting and changing direction. On his first rush, he flew past center Ryan Wendell, and beat guard Dan Connolly on his second rush. He also flashed an impressive spin move on the following play. An interesting debut for the youngster, who might be on track to get some live snaps this week against the Panthers.

— In 11-on-11 work, it was clear (as it has been all summer long) that Julian Edelman has become Brady’s default receiver. There were a handful of occasions where the quarterback found “Minitron” after looking over the field and passing on a deep option. We’ve said it before, and it bears repeating — if he stays healthy, Edelman will have a terrific year.

Bill Belichick stopped practice for a few moments about an hour or so into practice and gathered the team together in a sizable huddle. They stopped practice for a few moments before jumping back into 11-on-11 work.

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Chandler Jones on MFB: ‘There’s always room for improvement’

08.18.14 at 1:49 pm ET
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Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones

Defensive end Chandler Jones joined the Middays with MFB crew on Monday as the Patriots head into the second half of the preseason. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The first-string defense has played well in the preseason, but Jones knows the squad has a long way to go.

“We can always do better,” Jones said. “Honestly, I felt like there’s always room for improvement. There’s no perfect football team. . . .  There always areas where we can get better, and that goes for everyone.”

Added Jones: “Week in and week out we try to find weakness in our defense and get better. Every good defense, you don’t want any weaknesses at all.”

The officials have been calling games tight in the preseason. One of the points of emphasis is to look for illegal hands to the face from lineman.

“Being a pass-rusher in this league, you don’t want to run off the ball thinking about, ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to get my hands in this guy’s face.’ That should be the last thing that should be on your mind. First, your assignment, your lineman, getting off the ball and doing your job. . . .

“As a pass-rusher you just want to go out there and do whatever you can to get to the quarterback. Running off the ball, thinking about that, I haven’t really thought about it too much, because a lot of my moves are a lot of counter moves, so I don’t really start with slapping any guy’s face.”

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Julian Edelman on MFB: Patriots ‘going to adjust to how the game’s being called’

08.18.14 at 12:23 pm ET
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Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman checked in with Middays with MFB as part of Patriots Monday on WEEI and discussed the high number of penalties being caused in the preseason. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

“If they’re going to call the game like that, we’ve got to get used to it for the regular season,” Edelman said. “Kind of like training a dog, we’ve got to train everyone and throw probably a little more now to get it in guys’ heads to think towards the regular season. We’re just going to play it out. Every team has to deal with it — our defense has to deal with it. That’s the route they want to go, that’s what we’re going to have to do.”

Added Edelman: “As a player, you know the rules and you’re going to go out there and you’re going to play — do business as business is being done. So if you see it’s a tight game, you’re going to tighten it up a little. If it’s not, that’s when you’re going to loosen up, get away with the push-off or something like that. You’re going to adjust to how the game’s being called.”

Edelman is coming off a breakout, 105-catch season that led to a big contract in the offseason. With his spot secure, he acknowledged approaching training camp with a slightly different mindset.

“This year has been a little different,” he said. “Now I get to really focus on my fundamentals, plays that I go out there and not have to think about a bunch of noise, what’s going on, this, that. You really get to brush up route technique. You have the experience from last year to see what guys have done on certain plays, certain techniques, certain head-bobs, all this kind of stuff. It’s good to kind to learn from last year and try to use that as a foundation and go on from there.”

Tom Brady has taken to affectionately calling Edelman and fellow undersized receiver Danny Amendola “pygmies.”

Edelman professed ignorance about the African-derived term for short people but added: “He’s the commander in chief. What he says goes.”

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