With later draft and less transition time, Patriots rookies have to hit ground running
|05.14.14 at 7:00 am ET|
FOXBORO — It’s hard enough for rookies to jump right on the treadmill as they make the transition from college to the NFL every spring, but that move is even tougher this year.
With the draft two weeks later than it has been in year’s past, the 2014 rookie class has even less time to get up to speed when it comes to getting adjusted to life in the league. That means no more traditional rookie camp, a process that saw the rookies come to Foxboro, work out with their fellow first-year players and then return home before coming back again in June for mandatory minicamps.
Instead, the first-year players were at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday with the vets. And while they didn’t get a chance to mix much with the veterans — other than a few introductions — they know there’s some pressure as they work to grasp every little thing about life in the NFL at a quicker than usual pace.
‘Now the draft’s so late, we’ll just bring them in and keep them here,’ said Patriots coach Bill Belichick shortly after the draft was completed on Sunday. ‘They’re going to have to come in and get oriented to living in a new area, getting transportation, finding their way around, becoming acclimated to New England. Along with the pro football part of it and all that, that’ll just be part of the whole next five or six weeks, or whatever it is.’
In many ways, this draft class can draw some inspiration to the 2011 group, which had its own offseason program cut short because of the lockout. While many of them have enjoyed success over the last two seasons, as a group, some of those players struggled initially as rookies for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that they didn’t have a traditional offseason program.
While this group will at least get some offseason work in, the fact that they would have gotten their playbooks and gotten into the system two weeks earlier presents a unique set of challenges when compared to most rookie classes.
In the end, it means doing your best to maximize your time at the facility, a message driven home by Belichick when he met with them shortly after they arrived.
‘Being pushed back, I think two weeks — the draft — it puts us at such a disadvantage compared to the veterans,’ said second-round pick Jimmy Garoppolo. ‘Rookies have enough to catch up on, and now we have that extra bit. Honestly, it makes you study the playbook that much more, getting in the film room and talking to the coaches. Anything can really help you out in the long run.’
‘He was indeed right — we are behind,’ sixth-round pick Zach Moore said when asked about Belichick’s message. ‘As rookies, we have to catch up to these veterans and get on the same page so we can stick around and make the 53-man roster.’
‘Everyone wants to be great, so we’ve got work to do,’ said first-round pick Dominique Easley.
‘We have a lot of work (to do),’ acknowledged sixth-round pick Jon Halapio out of Florida. ‘As a rookie class, we’re way behind from the rest of the team. Right now, we’re just working hard to catch up.’