|Rob Gronkowski isn’t worried about targeting on his right knee: ‘I’m not more conscious about it’||07.29.14 at 11:44 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski has heard the rumblings that his surgically repaired right knee could be a target this season.
But he’s heard those rumblings before, even before his right knee was assaulted by a hit from Cleveland’s T.J. Ward last December.
“It’s the NFL,” Gronkowski said. “You’re hitting every single play, every single down. You an be hit anywhere. So, you just have to be aware of who’s coming at you, where they’re coming at you, you have to make your move, dive, get out of the way, you have to put your shoulder down. Whatever it is, you have to be prepared for anything. It’s the NFL. Everyone’s big, everyone’s fast and everyone can hit.
“Everyone knows that if you’re catching the ball, you can lit up at any time. Up the middle, anywhere, a guy coming from anywhere. You just have to make the play by looking at the guys around you.
“I’m not more conscious about it. Just go out there and do what I do and just basically try to make some plays and just get to the point where I’m not thinking about anything, and just out there and keep on rolling.”
Gronkowski practiced again in pads on Tuesday but was held out again from full 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills, instead continuing his work on individual drills, including red zone work with Tom Brady as Bill Belichick looked on closely. Gronkowski said he is really looking forward to the day when he can fully participate again in practice.
FOXBORO — Brandon LaFell is hardly the first offensive player to come to the Patriots and struggle to get with the system. Even last season, Danny Amendola needed several regular season games under his belt before he was comfortable. It’s no secret that learning the Patriots playbook can be a challenge for any player coming over from another organization.
With the complex offense quarterback Tom Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels run, training camp is one of the most important times of the year, especially for wide receivers to get on the same page as their quarterback.
For LaFell, a four-year veteran, he is still in the learning process phase after he was signed by the Patriots on March 17 coming over from Carolina after spending his first four seasons in the NFL with the Panthers. Although it’s only the fifth day of training camp, LaFell feels he is getting better with each passing day.
“I’m getting better and better everyday,” he said. “We put in a lot of plays, every night is study night for me, something I am not used to because in Carolina we ran the same offense for three years so I knew it. It’s a ton of work every night. The more and more I get reps — I started feeling good at the end of minicamp and then we took the long break so now I am trying to get back in the swing of things.”
LaFell, self-admittedly, had a rough first few days of camp with several drops in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 situations, but he’s aware of it and followed that up with a productive day on Tuesday.
“I think I’ve been OK,” said LaFell. “I haven’t been consistent. I started out slow the first couple of days with a few drops, but I picked it up from there so as of now I think I am getting better, but it is still early in camp. I have to learn to be consistent and put good days together back-to-back like the rest of this offense. We need to start putting good days back-to-back and if we continue to that we’ll get better.”
The 6-foot-3, LSU-grad, made possibly the catch of training camp thus far on Tuesday when during passing drills on a deep ball from Brady, he split Malcolm Butler and Nate Ebner in coverage taking the ball away from them in the end zone. The play fired up the offense, Brady in particular, as he met the receiver on his way back to the huddle emphatically patting him on the back.
FOXBORO — To many who paid close attention to the Patriots offensive line in 2013, it was not a season to remember for Ryan Wendell. His quarterback – Tom Brady – was sacked 40 times in 2013, one shy of his career high of 41 in his first full season of 2001. Many of those pressures came over center where Wendell is not only responsible for calling out protections but helping to protect the middle of the line.
Even Wendell, a man of few words, acknowledged as much Tuesday when asked about it after the team’s third padded practice this summer.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Wendell said. “There’s more than two things, but I think you need to ask coach Belichick about what I need to improve on.”
Bill Belichick obliged Tuesday.
“I think every year you start all over again,” Belichick said when asked about Wendell’s 2013 season. “We all do. Within any year certainly we all have our moments that are good and we have some that aren’t so good that we’d like to have back. So, I’m sure you could find good and bad plays from all of us that have participated ‘ players, coaches, every position, every year.
“I think when you look at the overall performance, the overall projection of where you think the player is going to be based on whatever ‘ his age, his experience, his work ethic, his training or age, whichever way it’s going, there’s a certain projection there but you wait and let it play out. I think that’s where we are in training camp now for really all the players. They’ve all trained, they’ve all been through the spring. They’ve all worked to put themselves in this position. Now we go out there and let them compete and see how it unfolds. I don’t know how it’s going to happen.
“Certainly if we would have projected Ryan Wendell and Steve Neal their rookie years; none of us would have thought [Tom] Brady for that matter. His rookie year, he didn’t do anything either. None of us would have thought that those guys would be the contributors they ended up being. That’s why we go out there and have training camp. That’s what competition is about. Sometimes you find out things differently.”
|Mike Petraglia, Chris Price on continued dominance of Darrelle Revis and time for Ryan Wendell to shine||at 4:33 pm ET|
FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price talk about Darrelle Revis dominating Patriots camp on Tuesday as the team returned to practice in full pads for a third time. Tommy Kelly returned to full pads for the first time since his season-ending injury in 2013 and Ryan Wendell steps up on center stage for the Patriots’ offensive line.
|Ty Law explains his sales job to Darrelle Revis: ‘I encouraged’ Revis to come to New England||07.28.14 at 11:25 pm ET|
Just in recent football lore alone, there’s been defensive tackle Sean Gilbert, Law and Revis. In past years, Mike Ditka and Tony Dorsett also hail from the Western Pennsylvania town. In basketball, there’s the late, great “Pistol” Pete Maravich and in baseball, pitcher Doc Medich.
So when Law knew that Revis would be a free agent in the offseason, the two talked and Law was pretty sure that New England would step up to the plate and offer him a deal. Law was also sure he could get more money – and years – elsewhere.
“Sometimes, learning from experience, I think he made an incredible decision to not go and take the money and have a chance to win because winning are the things that are going to be remembered for a long, long time when you get a chance to win a championship. So yeah, I’m glad he made the decision to come here and not go get the money,” Law said.
“I don’t want to say if I was influential or not, because it was ultimately his decision. I just had an opinion. I had to learn even from some of my own decisions I made. Sometimes, when you’re in the heat of battle, I didn’t have a mentor. The only person that I could depend on was me and make the decisions so some decisions I made were great and some decisions I made were not so great. If I can instill that and just tell him what I’ve been through, and same thing with my son, live and learn through me and take my mistakes and use those as a lesson as well. I think Darrelle ultimately did what was best for him but coming here was a great decision and I encouraged that.”
Revis agreed to a one-year, $12 million deal. Prove yourself in New England and millions more will follow. Of course, when Law left after the 2004 season, he had already proven himself to the tune of three Super Bowl titles. But the Patriots couldn’t afford his $12.5 million cap hit for the 2005 season and was released.
Even Law admitted Monday – after getting fitted for his Patriots Hall of Fame jacket for this Friday’s ceremony – that Revis is what fans have been longing for.
“Well, you got him now,” Law laughed Monday when told that Pats fans have longed for another shutdown corner like him in the secondary since he left after the 2004 season, the last season that ended with a Patriots Super Bowl title.
Law and Revis have long-established roots, dating back to Western Pennsylvania, where they both attended the football-frenzied Aliquippa High.
“It’s going to be different because it’s going to be more structured here with Coach Belichick,” Law said. “I did tell him don’t get caught up [with] the Belichick that you might see on TV because he’s not like that. He’s not going to give much but once you get to sit down and talk to Coach Belichick you understand how cool he is, how flexible he is with a player of your caliber. You’re not going to be pigeon-holed into anything. He is approachable. You can go up to coach Belichick and say, ‘Hey, I want to play this.’ He’s going to listen to you. A lot of people don’t understand that but you have to be a certain type of player to get away with it. And he is that type of player.
“I think he’s going to have a lot of fun and he’s going to be out there doing his job. What they paid him to do is taking out the best guy but you’re probably going to go inside, you’re probably going to do a little bit of blitzing. It’s just going to be a fun overall scheme for Darrelle because normally he goes into a situation where ‘This is who I have.’ You’re there all day.
“I said [to him] you’re going to do a lot more things because you’re not going to know from week to week if you’re playing a 4-3, a 3-4, you’re not going to know. That was the enjoyment as a player, when you come in and you have no idea what the hell is going to happen in the game plan and you’re looking forward to it. Sometimes, you’re going to get disappointed and say, ‘Aw man, why are we playing this?!’
“But Coach Belichick, it’s ‘In Bill We Trust’ so you’re going to have the best chance to win. And I think he’s going to enjoy it. He’s going to have a lot of fun.”
FOXBORO — Julian Edelman knows he’s a wanted man.
Since the departure of Wes Welker, he’s become the No. 1 wide receiver target of Tom Brady and second only behind Rob Gronkowski in terms of priority passing options for the Patriots quarterback. Defenses last season began to understand this and that figures to be the case again this season as Edelman draws more and more attention.
But like Welker, Edelman’s value goes far beyond the passing game. He is one of the best weapons in the game as a punt returner – ever.
Surprised? Consider that he is tied for fourth best all-time (minimum 75 returns) with Devin Hester at 12.3 yards per return and is only a half-yard from George McAfee and Jack Christiansen for the best average in NFL history.
No one is calling Edelman’s return skills “ridiculous” as was the case with Hester but still, those are lofty numbers and explain why Bill Belichick wants to devote such important resources to give Edelman the best chance at making big plays on retuns. Sunday, he was back again receiving punts as Devin McCourty and Darrelle Revis were defending the opposing gunner while Brandon Browner was on the opposite side.
“I think it’s key just because we have a returner in Julian who can make big plays and he can score touchdowns,” McCourty said. “For us, we just have to go out there and give him a chance. We’re all guys that have been in the league. We’ve all done it before, and if we give him a chance, I think he can make big plays and that helps the team win.”
Edelman’s numbers fell a bit in 2013, averaging 10.7 yards per return with a career-high 23 fair catches.
“When you get 10 yards that’s your goal and when guys are working together you get a little more which is great,” Edelman said about the importance of the entire special teams unit. “But our number one job on that unit is to get the ball in the offense’s hand and make the right decision.”
Sunday, it paid off as Edelman thrilled the 10,000 fans in attendance by breaking free down the right sideline on one return. For Edelman, it’s part of his roots with the Patriots, something he has always enjoyed because it earned him a spot on the roster.
“That’s a part of the game that gave me an opportunity to make this team,” Edelman said. “I love returning punts. I want to do that and if they ask me to do that, I’m going to do it.”
If he doesn’t do it or is unable to perform those responsibilities, the duty will fall to Danny Amendola or possibly rookie Roy Finch, assuming his makes the team. Finch took some return reps Sunday, including a bobble, but recovered quickly.
“You guys remember when I was a rookie bobbling the ball around everywhere and getting booed by the crowd, but he’s just got to get some experience, repetition,” Edelman said, adding perspective. “You got to work on catching punts, finding the tip of the ball — if it turns over, if it doesn’t — what foot punter it is, the trajectory of the punt, what return you have — if it’s a return, if it’s not a return — the situation in the game,” Edelman said. “All that stuff. It comes with experience. I still have to try in practice every day to improve what I have to do because it’s a craft. If you don’t do it every day, it will slip away.”
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