Archive for July 29th, 2010

Training Camp Report from Thursday afternoon’s session

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

FOXBORO ‘€” A few quick notes from the Thursday afternoon practice session that just wrapped up down here at Gillette Stadium:

‘€¢The practice went an hour and 45 minutes, and was held under clear skies on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. Much nicer weather than the morning sessions with temperatures in the 80s.

‘€¢The attendance report was the same as it was in the morning session, as offensive lineman Logan Mankins and outside linebacker Derrick Burgess were missing. (Reports indicate that Burgess is contemplating retirement.) In addition, the same collection of players who were in sweats ‘€” wide receivers Darnell Jenkins and Sam Aiken, as well as defensive lineman Ron Brace ‘€” were also inactive for the session. In addition, Wes Welker was in attendance for a portion of the afternoon session. He wasn’t being put through the paces as vigorously as he was in the morning session, but the wide receiver was still on the field and (presumably) still part of the PUP list.

‘€¢There were a few offensive highlights on the afternoon, with the first coming when wide receiver Brandon Tate made an impressive one-handed, over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone, coming down with a pass from Brian Hoyer in the end zone on a play that went for approximately 40 yards. (Hoyer also made a really nice connection with David Patten earlier in the same drill.)
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Brown on D&H: Brady’s ‘focus hasn’t changed’

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Former Patriots receiver Troy Brown, who will be joining NFL Sunday on WEEI this football season, joined the Dale & Holley show Thursday to talk about what he does and doesn’t miss about training camp with New England, the status of the Tom Brady, the Patriots’ defensive coordinator position, and the team as a whole.

Following are highlights from the interview. To hear the full interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

On training camp and conditioning for the Patriots:

I never came close to failing [a conditioning run] but I’ll tell you a funny story that I’ve never told anybody. I thought I was going to fail one year because I came to training camp, and I have my birthday July 2 and I have my birthday party like every July 4, July 2, or whatever it is. I picked up a table that has the leaves to it or whatever and I picked up one end of it and I didn’t have the bottom end secured, and I picked up end of it and the bottom end fell off and fell on my big toe and cut my big toe and I had to get four stitches in my toe like 10 days before training camp started. … I had to modify my shoe and cut the big toe area out so I would be able to run. But I couldn’t train for like those 10, 11 days up until I got to do the running test and I was so concerned about passing the test, but I think my adrenaline carried me through that situation and got me through it.

On what the regimen was:

That particular year when [Bill] Parcells and Pete Carroll were in town, everything was run by Johnny Parker. His conditioning test was you had to run three, 300-yard shuttles — that’s running 50 yards and back, 50 yards and back, 50 yards and back. … The receivers and guys like myself that were either the running backs or the defensive backs, we had to do it in 56 seconds. It could be quite challenging sometimes. Especially some of the bigger guys that had to do it in 60 seconds. And every year there was probably one or two people that failed that test.

It was always pretty funny in the meeting afterward because Parcells would be like, “Well we released Bruce Walker today, and I guess you could say got released two times in one day.” Because he got released from the hospital for passing out. Then he got released from the team later on that day once they found out he was OK.

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From the sidelines, Welker remains a presence at camp

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

FOXBORO ‘€” He wasn’€™t on the field with the rest of his teammates, but Wes Welker was a presence at the first day of Patriots’€™ training camp.

The wide receiver, currently rehabbing a left knee injury he suffered in the regular-season finale against the Texans last year, started the morning in a red T-shirt and shorts, stretching with his teammates before working out on the sidelines and extra practice field with Harold Nash and Joe Van Allen of the strength and conditioning staff.

But this wasn’€™t a player going through the motions ‘€” for a large bulk of the practice session, Van Allen had Welker tethered to a resistance rope, and was clearly putting him through a series of strenuous drills, most of which included catching passes. There was work on agility and footwork, all presumably designed to get the receiver back on the field sooner rather than later.

Welker was placed on the active/PUP list earlier this week, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick sounded like he was placing Welker in a large group of players he described as ‘€œday-to-day.’€

‘€œWe have, unfortunately, a few guys that aren’€™t quite ready yet, but they’€™re all in that day-to-day category,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œWe’€™ll see how it goes on a day-to-day basis, but hopefully we’€™ll see them out here at some point here in training camp.’€

Later, Belichick did talk specifically about Welker.

‘€œ[He’€™s] like everybody else who has had an ACL [injury] ‘€” it’€™s a long rehab,’€ said Belichick. ‘€œPlayers go through different stages of it. You work on things and improve on them and if there are no setbacks, then you go to the next level. If you hit a little sticking point then you back off and wait until that clears up and move ahead.

‘€œThere’€™s a long way to go and we’€™ll see how that whole process takes place. I think the last 10 to 20 percent on those injuries is the hardest part to get back. We’€™ll see how it goes.’€

Last week, there was some talk about Welker being ready to go for the start of camp, and several reports have indicated he remains ahead of schedule in the rehab process.

‘€œI know the coaches and teammates have confidence in me just like I do them, and we’€™re just going to move along as quickly as we can,’€ he said last month. ‘€œI want to get back as early as possible. Whenever that is, is when it is. My main goal is just working hard and getting back with my teammates as early as possible.’€

In 14 games last season, Welker led the NFL with 123 receptions and finished second in receiving yards with 1,348. Since joining the Patriots prior to the 2007 season, he’€™s caught 346 passes, more than anyone else in the league in that time.

Report: Burgess pondering retirement

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Patriots outside linebacker Derrick Burgess is considering retirement, according to a report from ESPN. Burgess, who had five sacks last year in his first season with New England, was not present for the first training camp workout on Thursday morning. The 31-year-old signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the offseason with the Patriots.

Vince feels Logan’s pain

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

FOXBORO — They may play on completely different sides of the ball and are on the field at different times, but Vince Wilfork knows all too well what Logan Mankins is going through.

Having successfully endured his own contract negotiation with the Patriots, the defensive tackle Wilfork showed some support for holdout Mankins, who along with Burgess, did not report on the first day of training camp for veterans on Thursday at Gillette Stadium.

“I’ve been there,” Wilfork said. “It’s tough for him. I miss him out here and I’ll back him 110 percent. I think he’s the best offensive guard out there. But business is business and you have to respect both sides. Business is business and you have to let business take care of itself.”

[Click here to listen to Wilfork speak out on the Logan Mankins situation.]

Wilfork agreed to a five-year, $40 million contract with $25 million in guaranteed money on March 5, the first day of free agency.

With wide receiver Wes Welker starting camp on the PUP list and not eligible to work out with the team, Mankins was the only veteran on offense not accounted for as head coach Bill Belichick confirmed earlier in the day that the Pro Bowl left guard was “not under contract.”

Matt Light is another player who can certainly relate with Mankins and who is someone accustomed to normally lining up alongside Mankins. The veteran tackle not only directly referenced Mankins but indirectly pointed to a certain quarterback in contract discussions of his own.

“I stay out of all that stuff,” Light said. “Every guy on this team has gone through a contract situation, whether it’s coming in here and signing as a rookie or being a guy going into his second or even possibly third contract so we’ve all faced it and we know what it is and it’s a part of the game, unfortunately.

“The only thing I’ll say to that situation is he’s a great teammate, always been a good teammate and a guy that’s never missed a game and missed having him out here.”

The 32-year-old Light, entering his 11th season out of Purdue, is entering the final season of his contract but joked that he’s not worried about his future – at least not for now.

“I’m a good looking guy,” Light said with his typically wry smile. “That’s what I fall back on. The mirror doesn’t lie.”

Training Camp Report from Tuesday morning’s session

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

FOXBORO ‘€” Under overcast skies with a pretty persistent rain (which yielded toward the end of practice), the Patriots opened the 2010 season with a morning practice on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. In a practice that ran for roughly 90 minutes, almost everyone except linebacker Derrick Burgess and offensive lineman Logan Mankins was present and accounted for.

‘€¢Mankins’€™ absence was explained by Patriots coach Bill Belichick in his press conference, who explained, ‘€œAll of the players that are here are under contract and Logan is not under contract.’€ Nick Kaczur appeared to take the majority of snaps in his place at left guard. Dan Connolly also saw some action there as well.

‘€¢Wide receivers Sam Aiken and Darnell Jenkins and defensive lineman Ron Brace did not participate in practice, working in the corner of the field by themselves. In addition, wide receiver Wes Welker, working in shorts and a T-shirt, stretched with his teammates at the start of practice, but retired soon after to go through a spirited workout of his own in the corner of the field with Harold Nash and Joe Van Allen of the strength and conditioning staff. Welker did sprints, and worked with a resistance rope. He was out on the field for almost all practice, and appeared to really be working up a sweat. If I had to guess, this is a guy who is coming off PUP sooner rather than later.

‘€¢The first day of training camp saw more than its share of penalty laps, many of them run by veterans: Fred Taylor and Vince Wilfork each took a lap, as well as Ryan Wendell and Zac Robinson when the two failed to connect on a snap.

‘€¢Spent a lot of this morning’€™s session keeping an eye on wide receivers ‘€” Matthew Slater, who has been all over the field in his brief career in New England, was running with the receivers this morning. In addition, a Tom Brady-to-Taylor Price deep connection near the start of practice drew big cheers from the soggy crowd. But the unquestioned highlight of the day was a Brady-to-Randy Moss pass play that appeared to go for roughly 50 yards. On the play, Moss beat the defense and got behind veteran James Sanders, hauling in the pass before being knocked out at the two-yard line. (Brandon Tate just missed a pass from Brady in red-zone drills.)

‘€¢In special teams drills, Tate, Price, Julian Edelman and Devin McCourty worked as kick returners.

‘€¢When it came to positional drills, the safety tandem of Brandon Meriweather and Pat Chung were together with the starting defense, while Brandon McGowan and James Sanders were together with the No. 2 defense. At corner, Leigh Bodden and Darius Butler were there with the No. 1 defense. And Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton were together at the inside linebacker position with the starting defense, while Tyrone McKenzie rotated in.

‘€¢For his part, Pierre Woods had a couple of really impressive stops on red-zone work, taking down Laurence Maroney on a pair of sequences at the goal line, drawing cheers from the crowd.

Billick on D&C: Training camp is a ‘balance’

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Former Ravens coach and current Fox NFL analyst Brian Billick joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to discuss the current workings of the NFL, how the general managers dominate the league, and what he sees the Patriots doing during this training camp.

“Right now I think it’s a [general managers] league. I think we’re slowly transitioning more and more to the defining of roles,” Billick explained. “More and more I think we’re almost following the baseball model where before, the head coach was that pitcher or head of the organization. Now, particularly with the transition of the new coaches, you have the GMs who say, “Look, we’ll take care of the [salary] cap, we’ll take care of the personnel, you just cover the Xs and Os.’ ”

Following are highlights of the interview. To hear the full interview visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

If you were coaching today, would you prefer to be the team with a lot of expectations, or the one overlooked by critics?

At the end of the day, it’s always about talent. It’s never bad to have a lot of talent, obviously. But you do have to manage it because with that comes great expectations. You watch a team like the [New York] Jets, and typical of [coach] Rex Ryan, “Bring it on, we’re going to be this team, we’re going to win the Super Bowl, we’re going to be good.” And that can energize you, but you do understand there are pitfalls there, and that your vulnerable to some things. If things don’t go real well early, how’s your team going to respond to it?

On the flip side, yeah, it’s kind of nice to lay in the weeds. You’re sitting there in New York on one end and you have the Jets, on the other side it’s the Giants, and your not quite sure. If I know [Giants coach] Tom Coughlin, I know he likes kind of being underneath the radar. But the flip side of that is if you’re underneath the radar, it’s probably because you deserve to be. It’s probably because you have some questions about your teams. At the end of the day I’d always lean toward, “Give me the talent, I’ll deal with the expectations.”

Is it easier for coaches like Rex Ryan to motivate his team compared to Sean Payton in New Orleans?

Well, the thing you have to do when your coming off a Super Bowl [victory] is everybody wants to do well. I remember after [the 2000 Ravens] Super Bowl, I just talked to Sean Payton a couple of weeks ago, from the minute you put your hands on the Lombardi trophy, I mean the minute, all you hear is, “Can you do it again?” You get beat up with it, as do the players, the entire offseason. That can wear you out as well. And our point was, and I think Sean will take the same approach, “OK, we are the reigning Super Bowl champions. But that means nothing for this year, and we’re not even going to talk about it anymore, because this is a whole new ball game.”

I know that up in New England, I was reading where they were taking down some of the pictures of the old guys and references [to the three championships]. There’s no denying that your a three-time winning Super Bowl organization. But that means nothing for this year. So, even though that may be a little bit of coach speak, the message is very clear of what it takes to be successful this year. That’s focus on one game at a time, and what your doing now, not what you were.

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