Archive for August 2nd, 2010

Training Camp Report from Monday night practice session

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

FOXBORO — There was no Wes Welker on Monday night on the first Patriots appearance on their brand new Field Turf inside Gillette Stadium. But there was certainly plenty of Tom Brady-to-Randy Moss, much to the delight of the thousands of fans who turned out.

The two have become nearly attached at the hip on the practice field since the two started working together in the 2007 season. Monday night was no different and it was clear that their timing was still there.

Brady connected with Moss on a pair of touchdown passes in 11-on-11 two-minute drills. The first came on a patented curl route in the back of the end zone, with Brady zipping it over the middle. Brady also found Moss on a hitch and go to the right corner for six. That didn’t include a sweet 50-yard TD strike from Brady to Moss in a special five-on-five secondary drill for quarterbacks designed to make the quarterback read the secondary.

Brady also found Rob Gronkowski, who made a nice TD catch while Steve Gostkowski just missed on a 52-yard field goal but connected from inside 45 as the team worked on last-second, no timeout field goal situations.

Welker, who was taken off the PUP list on Sunday and returned to practice this weekend for the Patriots, was held out of full contact drills and scrimmage game situations, presumably as a precaution on the new turf. He was in full pads for the abbreviated practice on Monday morning.

Welker was one of 14 players on the roster not in attendance for the practice event for season ticket holders and Foxboro residents. In addition to Welker, holdout Logan Mankins, LB Derrick Burgess, the injured Gary Guyton, Nick Kaczur, Ty Warren, Ron Brace, Mike Wright, Matthew Slater, Jonathan Wilhite, Bret Lockett, Thomas Clayton, Terrance Johnson and Myron Pryor did not participate.

It was the team’s first formal practice inside the stadium since a brand new Field Turf was installed, designed to be softer and more like natural grass than its predecessor. Fans attending also got a glimpse of the brand new high definition video board in the South end zone, which ran for the entire 90 minutes of the practice.

One of the biggest cheers of the night was reserved for owner Robert Kraft, who hand-delivered a ball to a fan who was forced to give back a ball that was thrown into the stands by rookie Aaron Hernandez after the tight end made a TD catch in a drill.

Clearly punter Zoltan Mesko out of Michigan is developing a cult following among Pats fans. His name was chanted several times and he rewarded the masses with five consecutive booming punts of 50-plus yards. He also handled holding responsibilities flawlessly for Gostkowski.

Caserio taking different approach this camp

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

FOXBORO ‘€” During last year’€™s training camp, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio was a ubiquitous presence on the field. Almost every day throughout camp, Caserio was on the field and interacting with the players ‘€” especially the wide receivers ‘€” as much as any one of the assistants coaches.

This year, it’€™s a different story ‘€” through the first week, Caserio has spent most of his time standing on the fringes of the practice field and only occasionally engaging a member of the support staff. Instead, it’€™s been de facto offensive coordinator Billy O’€™Brien and wide receivers coach Chad O’€™Shea hanging out with the receivers.

Caserio said that because he’€™s been on the sidelines this season during camp, it doesn’€™t necessarily mean that his role within the franchise has changed.

‘€œThat’€™s probably the biggest change, that I’€™m not on the field conducting the drills,’€ he said. ‘€œI’€™d say there’€™s some interaction. I think it’€™s just looking at it from a different perspective, but the things that you’€™re looking for I wouldn’€™t say are too drastically different. The biggest thing is kind of that you see more of a big picture instead of one position that you’€™re focused on when you’€™re working on a day-to-day basis with them.’€

Caserio, who is entering his third full season as New England’€™s director of player personnel, said removing himself from the drills helps when it comes to developing an understanding of ‘€œthe big picture.’€

‘€œJust like a player, I take the philosophy that the more you can learn [and] the more you can understand, the better off we’€™re all going to be,’€ Caserio said.

Kraft: ‘You want to get the coach mad at me?’

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

FOXBORO — Clearly, everyone inside Gillette Stadium and within a stones throw of Patriot Place knows Robert Kraft is the boss.

But don’t ever confuse the Patriots owner with the late Yankee boss George Steinbrenner III.

For exhibit A, listen to Kraft’s response to a reporter’s question on Monday about his thoughts on the team he owns after watching practice earlier in the day.

“You want to get the coach [Bill Belichick] mad at me?” Kraft replied, we assume rhetorically. “I’ll tell ya, I love these tight ends, all three of them,” Kraft added. “Hopefully, that’ll make a big difference for us in the red zone and the running game but there are [also] so many [good] young players on defense.”

Kraft was showing some love for the part of the receiving corps, which has been overhauled – the tight ends. In addition to 32-year-old Alge Crumpler, rookies Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski have been added to the roster to give quarterback Tom Brady new weapons on offense.

Then Kraft looked ahead to the preseason, which amazingly enough is just 10 days away, with the opener on Aug. 12 at Gillette against the defending champion New Orleans Saints. That will be preceded by two days of practice against the Saints.

“I think a great test will be when New Orleans comes here next week,” Kraft continued. “We have the Super Bowl champions coming here. We’ll work with us for two days and then play them. That’ll be a real good test on where we’re at. Then I think going to Atlanta the next week, we hopefully have found a system that will help us get ready for that first game against Cincinnati here.

“Two years in a row we’ll be facing Terrell Owens. I hope our guys will be ready for it.”

Last year, the Patriots beat Owens and the Buffalo Bills, 25-24, in a miraculous opening night comeback in the Monday night season-opener at Gillette.

You can also count Kraft among those amazed with the return of wideout Wes Welker to the practice field just over seven months after a serious left knee injury that required reconstructive surgery. Kraft was on hand Monday morning for the first practice prior to Monday night’s scrimmage for season ticket holders inside Gillette Stadium.

“You see Welker out there today, he’s really unbelievable,” said Kraft, who related with the height of the 5-9 Welker. “For any guy our size, for all of America, what he represents is so special. His DNA is different because he can take those hits, do things other people just can’t do. And his attitude, what a great person. We’re so lucky to have him here.”

Will Brady be a taxing proposition?

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

FOXBORO — Say this for Congressman Barney Frank, he’s not afraid to be blunt and brutally honest.

As a Patriots fan and one of the leading lawmakers in Congress, he was asked his thoughts about the ongoing talks to re-sign star quarterback Tom Brady and what kind of input he would like to have.

“I hope he won’t be offended but I do think that part of income above $200,000 should go back to old rate,” Frank said. “My only role is the revenue. The more they make, the more we can produce.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft, speaking after a press conference on solar power generation at Patriot Place in Foxboro, sounded another optimistic note that he believes the team can sign iconic quarterback Tom Brady to a long-term contract. Kraft walked off the practice field with Brady on Monday morning and was asked if he spoke to the quarterback about his birthday plans for Tuesday.

“It’s actually unbelievable,” Kraft said of his quarterback who turns 33 on Tuesday. “He came here when he was 22 and now he’s going to be 33. He’s a great cook. He has something very special planned. We look forward to celebrating many more birthdays with him right here in Foxboro.”

Congressman Frank, Kraft and a host of local energy dignitaries were on hand for the press conference outside CBS Scene as the Patriots were heralded for their work to turn Patriot Place into a massive employment center that now runs 30 percent of its power off a 525-kilowatt solar power system.

Bill Belichick Q&A, 8/2

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Thanks to the Patriots’€™ PR staff, here’€™s the complete transcript of Bill Belichick‘€™s Q&A with the media this morning at Gillette Stadium:

BB: We announced a couple transactions here this morning. We added Rod Owens, a receiver who played at Florida State last year, and Carson Butler, a tight end who came out of Michigan two years ago [and] was in the league last year, to the roster, so that puts us at 80. That gives us a little more depth at those positions. We’€™re starting to string a few days together here. We’€™re kind of into the flow of camp. Tonight will be the [in-]stadium practice. I think that will be a good opportunity for all the players to work in the stadium with the new turf and so forth, and of course for the new players on the team to experience that before we actually do it in the preseason game in 10 days. Definitely for the specialists to be able to kick on that surface, but also for the returners to deal with the lights and just the stadium surroundings and so forth and just get used to seeing the markings on the field, the 40-second clock and just playing in that environment. So we’€™ll take care of that. That will be a step tonight. As we continue to go through camp here, we’€™ll start to ‘€“ even though we’€™ve done some situational work ‘€“ we’€™ll start to build on the situational segments in practice, more red area, more third down, more situational type things as we integrate them into our basic offensive and defensive and special teams systems. Working on the hands team, things like that today to kind of’€¦by the end of the week, hopefully we’€™ll have most of the situations covered, because then the following week when the Saints come in we’€™ll be working against them and want to review some of those situations against them and those type of situational play, which will be good teaching for both of us. That’€™s kind of where we’€™re at here.

Q: Two days ago you guys had a walk-through in the morning. What goes into the decision to have a walk-through and give the guys a little break?
BB: Really, it comes down to the teaching schedule. In training camp, when you practice twice a day, you have a lot of film to look at. You have not only the team film, but you have a lot of individual drills: one-on-ones, two-on-twos, and sometimes some individual technique drills that you want to show ball handling or certain defensive combination coverages, two-on-twos, three-on-threes, things like that. So by the time you watch all the film and then start on, ‘€˜Ok, fellas, here is all the film from today. Let’€™s get that straightened out. Ok, now here’€™s the stuff we’€™re putting in tomorrow,’€™ and then you want to talk about it, go through the playbook and you want to show them film clips of it. ‘€˜Here’€™s how we ran it in this situation. Here’€™s how we ran it in that situation.’€™ It just ‘€“ it’€™s hard. A walk-through day gives you an opportunity to catch up on that. It gives you a little bit more meeting time because you don’€™t have the film of that practice to show and it gives you an opportunity to walk though all those things with the players and make sure that they understand them. And a lot of times, those walk-throughs really encompass two or three days worth of teaching. So let’€™s just say if we did a walk-through this morning, then that would probably also include things we were going to work on on Tuesday and maybe even into Wednesday so we could really thoroughly cover them and then try to concentrate on what we’€™re doing on each individual day. You can do it the other way, just it’€™s hard when you have a full day of practice and then you have another full day of ‘€˜Ok, here’€™re 20 new things we are going to do tomorrow.’€™ You just run out of time [and then] you don’€™t watch as much film or you don’€™t do a very thorough job installing it. And when you get to the third day of camp, I think it’€™s usually a little bit of the hump day there. The first couple days, [you’€™re] going on the energy and all that. By the third day you start to feel the soreness and I think that’€™s a good time to sometimes just back down a little bit depending on how your team is doing. All of that is always conditional on how things are going. It can always change. There’s no set way it’€™s always going to be. We’€™ll do what we think is best for the team.

Training Camp Report from Monday morning practice session

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

FOXBORO ‘€” The Patriots just put the wraps on their Monday morning practice. It was their ninth practice of camp, and the eighth padded practice of the summer. Under clear skies, temps reached into the 80s, but that was mollified by a cool breeze which left the packed house happy.

‘€¢The following players were missing from the session: Defensive lineman Ty Warren, offensive lineman Nick Kaczur, wide receiver Matthew Slater, offensive lineman Logan Mankins, outside linebacker Derrick Burgess, inside linebacker Gary Guyton and defensive back Bret Lockett. The following players were present, but in sweats and T-shirts: Defensive back Jonathan Wilhite, fullback/linebacker Thomas Clayton, defensive back Terrence Johnson, defensive lineman Ron Brace and defensive lineman Mike Wright.

‘€¢It was a short practice, running just over 75 minutes. The highlight was probably at the start, when the players went through the “pig drill.” Ostensibly a drill designed to practice ball control, it’s more of an excuse to goof on the rookies. Players had to run the gauntlet on soggy turf while being sprayed by a hose. By the looks of things, it was quarterback Tom Brady who was in charge of the hose, and most every rookie ‘€” including assistant coach Corwin Brown ‘€” was soaked. Not even first-round pick Devin McCourty was spared.

‘€¢One guy who took part who probably didn’t have to was inside linebacker Tyrone McKenzie. McKenzie really isn’t a rookie ‘€” he was a 2009 draft pick who sat out all of last season with a knee injury ‘€” but he still took. One rookie who is kind of in the same boat as McKenzie is Brandon Tate. (Tate was active for three weeks last season but ended the year on injured reserve because of a knee injury.) However, Tate begged off, hiding in the back and choosing not to take part. In the end, he was spared.

‘€¢Most of the action on the field took place in a series of passing drills on the near practice field. In 7-on-7’s, quarterback Brian Hoyer did a nice job of finding a sliding wide receiver Torry Holt, who made a nice pickup. Tight end Aaron Hernandez also made a sweet grab in the same drill, while veteran wide receiver Sam Aiken also had a sweet connection with Brady on a pass over the middle.

‘€¢Hernandez and Brady nearly had what would have been the most impressive pass-and-catch of the day when the quarterback found the tight end on the goal line on a pass that went close to 50 yards. But Hernandez lost the handle when he came crashing down on his back.

‘€¢The two new guys ‘€” wide receiver Rod Owens and tight end Carson Butler ‘€” worked out with the team.  Owens was wearing No. 15, while Butler was wearing No. 86.

Patriots sign Owens, Butler

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

FOXBORO ‘€” The Patriots announced Monday morning they have signed wide receiver Rod Owens and tight end Carson Butler.

Owens, a 6-foot-1, 186-pound wide receiver, led Florida State with 61 catches for 729 yards and three touchdowns last season. A 23-year-old, he originally worked out for the Patriots in early June just after getting released by St. Louis.

Butler is a 6-foot-4, 260-pounder out of Michigan who is already on his sixth team ‘€” the 22-year old was signed by Green Bay out of college as a free agent, but has also been on the practice squad in Detroit, San Francisco and Cincinnati. He was cut by the Giants in June. In last year’s training camp with the Lions, he he caught 4 passes for 59 yards and a touchdown in the preseason before he was cut and added to the practice squad.