|We have contact for the 2011 Patriots and Mike Wright leads the way||07.30.11 at 5:53 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Perhaps no one symbolizes the bridge between the NFL training camp environment before and after the new collective bargaining agreement than Mike Wright.
And there was the Patriots nose tackle – nearly nine months after suffering what would be a season-ending concussion – back on the field on Saturday for all 2 1/2 hours, going through the drills, as the Patriots had their first full practice of camp in full pads.
It is annually one of the days coaches look forward to every summer, getting their team back on the field in practice with their pads on and get the players on the field hitting each other, building game conditioning.
“It’s good to be out here in pads,” Pats coach Bill Belichick said after practice. “I thought we had a good workday this morning, had a couple of good lead up days to it the past couple days. I think the players, even though it’s certainly challenging to come out and practice in this heat in pads and all that. But I think as football players you look forward to getting out in pads and playing football and so we did some of that today and that was what we needed.
“We’ve got a lot of mistakes that we’ve got to correct and move on and a few things we’ve got to get straightened out but I think we’re hopefully headed in the right direction and we’ll just take it day-by-day. It’s going to be a long process; we’ll just evaluate each day and try to make the most of our opportunities.”
But this year, it’s so much different. Not only is there a new agreement between owners and players to lessen the physical burden of the players in practice and camp, there’s a new awareness of the physical toll of head injuries, like the one Wright sustained last November in Pittsburgh.
He didn’t play another down after leaving the game with a head injury. Wright had 1.5 sacks in that game, giving him a career-high 5.5 for the season. Too bad, since he was in the midst of proving just how valuable he was playing tackle and end on Belichick’s constantly-evolving defensive front.
“I’m not thinking about it,” Wright said Saturday. “I’m completely over last year and just looking forward to this year. I’m glad to be out here and like I said, I’m not thinking about it. I think it’s always important to get back into physical contact. I’ve been out of it for little while and it’s good to be back out here, though.”
Wright figures to get even more playing time with the release of Ty Warren on Friday.
“I have a lot of respect for him, a lot of respect for who he is, the man he was, and he was a great player and a great influence on me and a lot of other guys,” Wright said of Warren. “Hate to see him go but I wish him well but that’s football and we have to worry about what’s going on out here.
“I took from him his professionalism, his character on and off the field, his play, how he treated people, his leadership. He was great guy and I wish him well.”
Patriots fans are wishing Mike Wright good health and a return to form in 2011.
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