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Patriots head coach Bill Belichick decided this preseason he would try something different. He invited the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints to Foxborough a few days prior to their Thursday night exhibition game for three joint practices.
What has transpired is two days that have been a spirited learning experience for the players and coaches. By going against another team, these practices helped the Patriots coaches in their evaluation process of their players. How will the players react to different situations?
“With coach Belichick, we are always evaluating,” defensive line coach Pepper Johnson said. “Take a look at everything thoroughly and see where we’re at.”
Tuesday afternoon, both sides seemed to have increased intensity on their minds. Paul Perillo of Patriots Football Weekly discusses what he saw during this session.
-Brandon Spikes showed some nice range in pass coverage during a team period. He dropped effectively into his zone and knocked away a Drew Brees pass intended for Colston.
-With both sides working with a bit more intensity than is normally the case in practice, defenses seemed to be around the quarterbacks more often. Banta-Cain got to Brees for a would-be sack early in practice, and Will Smith actually knocked the ball out of Brady’s hand for a would-be strip sack a bit later.
As a fan I think it is difficult to take too much out of the joint practices with the Saints. However, the coaches got a chance to put their players in situations to see how they would react. These practices were a learning and evaluation experience.
For the first time in the 2010 season, the Patriots will get a chance to hit someone besides their teammates when New England hosts the Saints in joint practices on Tuesday and Wednesday. New Orleans is in town in preparation for Thursday's preseason game with the Patriots.
Tuesday's schedule has the Pats and Saints practicing at 9 A.M. and then again at 3:45 P.M. (NFL officials will be on hand as well).
Bill Belichick provided details on Monday as to what was in store the next two days:
Both teams will be on the two practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. The opening third of the practice will have the Saints on one field and the Patriots on the other.
For the final two-thirds of practice, the teams will come together.
When the teams come together, the work will be varied, including everything from 7-on-7 drills to a possible full-team scrimmage.
"This will be a chance for us to do it against somebody else," Belichick said. "Their schemes and players are different than ours, so it just creates some new matchups."
The intensity level is expected to be ramped up a bit over the next two days, which probably explains why the players sound so excited. "This will be great for the fans to see. I think there will be a pretty good buzz throughout practice this week," LT Matt Light said.
With Patriots offensive guard Logan Mankins not reporting to camp, all eyes have turned to Nick Kaczur as his replacement. Now, there is potentially bad news on the horizon for Kaczur. Mike Reiss reported (via Pats Pulpit) over the weekend that Kaczur may have a "significant back injury that could sideline him indefinitely, potentially threaten his season."
In a press conference Monday, Bill Belichick shockingly actually discussed injuries, touching upon both Kaczur and DT Ty Warren, though the details remained sparse.
'Injury-wise, Ty (Warren) and Nick Kaczur both have missed a number of practices,' Belichick said. 'Both are being evaluated by our medical staff. We’ll see what comes of that. We’ll just have to wait and see until we get a little more information. Otherwise, everyone is day-to-day. We got some guys back last week, hopefully we’ll get some more guys back this week to get us closer to full-strength.'
The injury to Kaczur is significant to follow as we head into the first pre-season game Thursday night, against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium.
Fans and media members finally got an explanation as to why defensive lineman Ron Brace has been present at practice the past week but not actually participating in the sessions with his teammates and coaches. Brace had failed his physical, according to Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio.
[Updated at 9:56 a.m.: I’m told that Brace did, in fact, not pass his conditioning run prior to camp. That’s why he’s been held out. When he passes it, he’ll practice.]
Either way, it’s not a good sign for the 2009 second-round draft pick from Boston College. A lot is expected of him, and there is an opportunity at defensive end when he is able to practice.
But will he be too far behind?
For the first time since the game against the Texans on Jan. 3, Wes Welker took part in full contact football drills, taking part in the Patriots' morning practice on Thursday.
Welker took two hits from linebacker Jerod Mayo during the drills and popped up both times with no issues.
He returned to practice earlier this week after being removed from the PUP list but Thursday marked the first time Welker was subject to contact.
It was business as usual for the New England Patriots on Tuesday. Just another day of training camp…except one thing. It was star quarterback Tom Brady’s birthday. In light celebration, the team huddled up to sing Happy Birthday to Brady at the end of the morning walk-through.
There were a few signs, acknowledging Brady’s special day. Following the session, the quarterback signed autographs, and then was greeted by his father Tom Sr., on his way off the field. The two exchanged a warm embrace (left, from Herald photog Matt Stone).
Last year’s event was certainly memorable. Brady’s teammates stole his helmet, and poured ice water over his head before smashing a birthday cake in his face. But there’s still plenty of time left in the day for a few birthday surprises for No. 12.
Might the players have something up their sleeve for the second practice session?
‘’(We haven’t done anything) yet, but it’s not over,’’ center Dan Koppen said with a smile following the walkthrough.
Stay tuned for more updates on potential shenanigans by Brady’s teammates, as well as for other more substantive camp reports.
Monday nights practice was the 10th for the Patriots this training camp, and the first held under the lights of Gillette Stadium (an event for season ticket holders). It was also the first football played on the new FieldTurf that the team had it installed six months ago; it's "designed to be softer and more like natural grass than its predecessor." So how was it?
"Turf's pretty good," defensive lineman Gerard Warren said. "It's that new, whatchamacallit, hi-tech stuff. Lot of bounce, pretty fast."
Wes Welker, although no longer on the PUP list, was held out of practice.
Pats Pulpit has the highlights:
- There was a lot of game-like action and the two-minute drill got a lot of run. Matt Patricia and Bill O'Brien once again used the radio to call in plays from the sideline, as in a real-time game situation. Overall, in the two minute work, the offense didn't fare to well, and a one point even ran a penalty lap before finally regrouping and putting together a pair of consecutive successful drives.
- The play of the day certainly had to be a Brandon Tate bomb. Brady lofted a deep ball down the right sideline. Although Devin McCourty had blanket coverage on Tate, he still dove and made a sensational catch, maintaining possession as he hit the ground. He was out of bounds, though.
- The group of injured/absent players was the same as this morning, except for Myron Pryor and Wes Welker, who were not present for the evening's practice.
- Although Zoltan Mesko has been inconsistent at time in camp, he had a great day today. He boomed punt after punt, some even going over 60 yards. If he can repeat tonight's performance consistently, the Patriots will be set at the punter position for years to come.
- A couple of rookie free agents had strong days today. Rookie Dane Fletcher consistently showed solid coverage in passing drills, while defensive lineman Kyle Love held his own when injuries gave him some opportunities to play next to Vince Wilfork.
OL George Bussey
OL Dan Connolly
WR Julian Edelman
RB Kevin Faulk
LB Jerod Mayo
S James Sanders
WR Matthew Slater
OL Sebastian Vollmer
CB Jonathan Wilhite
DL Mike Wright
It also comes with some nice perks: the players get a reserved parking spot in the first row at Gillette Stadium, and they can choose the music for the pre-practice session.
This award got notoriety in the last decade mainly because Tom Brady was a yearly recipient. But the last few seasons he has split his time between his family on the West coast and Foxborough, limiting his offseason work.
Even though all signs continue to point towards Wes Welker making a full recover in time for the start of the 2010 season, the Patriots continue to add possible depth at playmaker positions on offense. On Monday, the Patriots signed first-year tight end Carson Butler, and free agent rookie wide receiver Rod Owens. From the Pats’ website:
Butler, 6-4, 260 pounds, was originally signed by the Green Bay Packers as a rookie free agent out of Michigan in 2009….
Owens, 6-0, 183 pounds, was signed by the St. Louis Rams as a rookie free agent in April. He was released by the Rams in May. Owens finished his college career at Florida State with 91 receptions for 1,080 yards and four touchdowns.
- Wes Welker took part in some team drills this practice. Welker took part in some skeleton drills, but seemed to avoid contact. Once contact drills began, Welker moved to the side of the field and worked with the training staff again.
Before the second session, Welker spent some time answering questions from the media, where he said, "It doesn't feel like I ever left [the field]," but was also quick to remind that he's not all the way back just yet.
Q: Do you feel 100 percent?
WW: No. We're not there yet, but every day we get a little bit closer. Slowly but surely we are making progress.
Q: Did you ever think in your wildest dreams that you'd be back out there this early after the injury occurred?
WW: I don't know. I just wanted to take it each day, a day at a time and sit there and work at it and try and get better each day.
(AP Photo/Stew Milne)
Read more at Pats Pulpit.
Wes Welker, just eight months removed from an ACL knee injury and six months after major surgery to repair it, has been taken of the active/physically unable to perform list and will practice with the Patriots on Sunday.
' Director of Pro Personnel Nick Caserio made the announcement, saying that Welker had passed his physical.
"Every player has to go at their own pace. But Wes is a unique guy, there's no question about it. He realizes he has to go out there and prove himself once again regardless of what's happened in the past, just like any player, it's a tribute to him, and his work ethic and his toughness that he's back out on the field. We'll see how it goes."
Welker has been seen running and conditioning in individual drills off to the side during the Patriots' first seven practices, including five conducted in full pads. New England's second practice of Sunday is scheduled for 3:45 P.M. EDT.
Nothing is certain still, but this continues to indicate that Welker will indeed be ready for the regular season opener against the Bengals Sept. 12.
Our Patriots blog, Pats Pulpit, has the highlights from the first of two practices on Friday:
- Wide receiver Sam Aiken, who was out of action yesterday, took part in the team's practice today.
- Nick Kazcur got shaken up at one point in practice, with Dan Connolly taking his place at left guard.
- Defensive lineman Kyle Love and Ty Warren were also shaken up during practice, causing the team to be a little thin along the defensive line.
- Vince Wilfork, at one point during practice, got kicked out to end, with Gerard Warren sliding in to nose tackle. While it's still early, Gerard Warren has had a good start to camp thus far.
- Tom Brady looked really sharp again, particularly on the deep balls. He certainly is off to a better start than 2009 training camp.
- The Patriots' defense, for the second straight day, won the battle at the goal line. Tip of the cap to Tyrone McKenzie and Brandon Spikes, who both made big plays at the goal line. The offense was also forced to run a lap after failing to score. While some may point to the offense and it's goal line issues, I like what I've been hearing about the intensity on the defensive side of the ball. Belichick's "hands-on" work is definitely be showcased right now.
Head over to Pats Pulpit for a full recap, including Zoltan Mesko's day and the Play of the Practice (spoiler: it's a big hit).
On the second day, Brady spoke.
Indeed, after Friday's morning practice, Tom Brady took time to answer questions from the media, including an update on his contract, saying, "I just really enjoy playing quarterback for this team. I have since the day I stepped on the field." But like a true Patriot, he didn't offer much in the way of actual news or insight. "Coach doesn't like us talking about it a whole lot, so I kind of stick to that."
"Yeah, I think everyone [looks at] ‘spoiled athletes' and guys that are bitching about making millions of dollars. Everyone works hard to make a living for themselves. I certainly don't think we have much to gripe about. We come out, we love what we do - most of us. I just enjoy coming out and playing. That's where I get a lot of enjoyment in my life and I want to do it for a long time."
Prompted by questions from ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss about his contract status, Brady said that he wants to finish his career a Patriot, and commented on the idea that he's upset about this whole process:
"My personal feelings are my personal feelings, and certainly I don't want to express them with anybody other than very few people. It doesn't do any good. It really doesn't. It doesn't help this team. It doesn't help the organization. Really, it gets in the way to me. And everybody's situation is different. I can only comment on my situation. Everybody has a different situation, a different approach. They have to do what works for them. There are a lot of guys who are restricted free agents based on the [collective bargaining agreement] this year. It's just very different for different guys. I have to do what's comfortable for me. I've always tried to do that."
Day one of the 2010 Patriots training camp brought with it the appearance of a face that just a few months ago was wildly unexpected: Wes Welker.
While he didn't practice -- Welker remains on the active/physically unable to perform list (he is available to come of that list at any time) -- he was spotted out on the field, running drills, exercising with resistance bands and even catching some passes.
The 2010 Patriots season got underway Thursday morning with the first practice of this season's training camp, but noticeably absent was linebacker Derrick Burgess.
Burgess, whom New England traded for in 2009, did not practice with the team, and so far, has not been spotted at Gillette Stadium, a league source confirmed.
Text and voice mail messages left with Burgess have not been returned. We're trying to get confirmation from the team on what the deal is but haven't heard back.
Burgess, who signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million with New England in May of 2010, played all 16 games with the Patriots in 2009, recording 35 tackles and five sacks.
Before the morning practice that signifies the beginning of the Patriots 2010 season, Bill Belichick took to the podium for the season's first press conference.
It was what you'd expect from Belichick -- regarding players that aren't ready to practice, like Wes Welker: "They're all in that day-to-day category, we'll see how it goes on a day-by-day basis." -- but he did offer some thoughts on the receiver recently placed on the PUP list, along with the freshly-released Shawn Crable and absent Logan Mankins (an extra Belichick-ian, "All the players that are here are under contract. And Logan’s not under contract").
- Shawn Crable did not pass his physical, which is why he was released. However, there's still a chance that he may be brought back if he improves his physical condition. But in the mean time, the Patriots want to work with players who are football ready.
- The players who were put on the active PUP (aka: Kade Weston and Wes Welker) who "aren't quite ready." These players will be day to day until they're fully caught up with the rest of the team. Weston missed a lot of camp this summer because he was unable to obtain a work visa (he's from Trinidad and Tobago), so he's definitely catching up.
- Wes Welker, on the other hand, is being taken care of. He's not going to be rushed back into the offense because the team wants him 100%. Belichick said that "the last 10 to 20 percent on those injuries is the hardest to get back," which leads me to believe the Patriots won't take him back before he's ready. So no one should worry about Welker being pushed too hard, because he won't be back until he can handle it.
- Logan Mankins didn't show up and Belichick is clearly moving on. He said "all the players that are here are under control. Logan's not under contract." That most likely means that the Patriots are going to move on and plan as if Mankins won't be with the team. We'll be able to see who is going to be tapped on the shoulder to play left guard- Nick Kaczur or Dan Connolly.
- Belichick is excited about the joint practices with both the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints. He says it proves the great relationship between the franchises, going back to the relationships between Belichick and Saints' coach Sean Payton, as well as Belichick and former Patriots Head of College Scouting and current Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff. The practices are sure to give both the young players and the inexperienced coaches different scenery and new looks to prepare for the upcoming season.
The 51st season in Patriots' franchise history begins Thursday morning with the start of New England's 2010 Training Camp. The schedule for today looks like this:
9:00 A.M. Bill Belichick press conference
9:30-11:15 A.M. - Morning practice
4-5:30 P.M. - Afternoon practice
This StoyStream will have updates throughout the next few weeks, taking you right into the preseason games and down to the 53-man roster, while Pats Pulpit will be reporting from many of the practices.
Say Goodbye ...
And Say Hello To New Faces
Complete Practice Schedule For Opening Week Of Training Camp:
Friday, July 30: 9:30-11:15 a.m. morning practice; 3:45-5:30 p.m. afternoon practice
Saturday, July 31: 9:30-11:15 a.m. morning practice; 3:45-5:30 p.m. afternoon practice
Sunday, Aug. 1: 9:30-11:15 a.m. morning practice; 3:45-5:30 p.m. afternoon practice
Monday, Aug. 2: 9:30-11:15 a.m. morning practice; 3:45-5:30 p.m. afternoon practice
Tuesday, Aug. 3: 9:30-11:15 a.m. morning practice; 7 p.m. season ticket holder event
Wednesday, Aug. 4: 9:30-11:15 a.m. morning practice; 3:45-5:30 p.m. afternoon practice
Key Roster Dates:
August 31: Roster cutdown to maximum of 75 players
September 4: Roster cutdown to maximum of 53 players
September 5: Clubs establish practice squad of 8 players
Preseason Games Schedule:
2010 Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 12, 1 P.M. - Patriots vs. Bengals
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