Patriots football journey: DE Will Smith

August, 2, 2014
Aug 2
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The last three months have represented a new beginning for veteran defensive end Will Smith, who is in his first season with the Patriots after spending the initial 10 seasons of his career with the Saints.

“It’s pretty much what I expected,” Smith said after a recent training camp practice. “Obviously, we haven’t played anybody, we’ve just been practicing. But I like the coaching, I like the approach to the game, I like the way everyone practices hard. It’s something I thought would be a good situation, and so far it’s been that way.”

[+] EnlargeWill Smith
Michael Dwyer/AP PhotoWill Smith is liking his New England Patriots experience thus far.
The 33-year-old Smith is a leading candidate to serve as the team’s top backup behind Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, potentially coming on in passing situations and seeing additional playing in specific gameplans. At 6-foot-3 and 282 pounds, Smith is a power rusher whose collisions in 1-on-1 pass rush drills have been notable. His 67.5 career sacks rank fourth all-time in Saints history.

Smith, who grew up in Utica, New York, shares his “football journey”:

When he first started playing football: “Eighth grade.”

Why he started playing: “All my friends and everybody in the neighborhood were playing football at the time. Instead of me staying home while everyone else is playing, I wanted to go play with them.”

First positions: “Tight end and receiver.”

Top football memories of Proctor High School: “Beating our rivals, Rome Free Academy. We hadn’t beaten them for a long time.”

Picking Ohio State over others: “I was recruited by University of Miami, Tennessee, Virginia Tech when they had Michael Vick, Michigan, and Boston College -- I went on a visit there; they were pretty good, not a powerhouse but they were competitive week in and week out and it’s a great institution. After going to different universities and checking everything out, I felt more comfortable at Ohio State, meeting the coaches and the D-coordinator at the time.”

Top football memories at Ohio State: “Definitely winning the national championship. It had been so long since Ohio State even had a chance to make it to the game. We got lucky enough to go undefeated and play one of the best teams at the time, the University of Miami, and get a victory. It was a great experience and kind of paved the way and got them back to where they’ve been successful these last eight or nine years.”

On being selected 18th overall by the Saints in 2004: “I actually was disappointed at the time. Not because I was going to the Saints, just because I thought I would be a higher pick. I tested well at the combine and thought I did everything I needed to do. But it kind of helped me out getting drafted that late because it kind of grounded you out a little bit and let's you know there isn’t anything guaranteed in the NFL. So you have to go out and earn it and bust your butt.”

Top memories with the Saints: “Obviously it’s the Super Bowl, but also the 2006 season after [Hurricane] Katrina, coming back. Just overwhelming support of the people of Louisiana and the United States, everyone rallied behind us. We had a great season, went to the NFC Championship Game, and were a couple plays away from going to the Super Bowl. That was kind of the start of the little wave they have going on down there now.”

On being a free agent this past offseason and picking the Patriots: “I got released by the Saints and I was working to get back into football shape, playing, getting accustomed to everything. It was kind of a period where I wasn’t used to it. I wasn’t with a team, I was working out on my own, rehabbing on my own, doing everything by myself. It motivated me. I knew I wasn’t going to get picked up right away, that it would be later on. I thought this was the best fit for me.”

Mentors in his life: “My parents [William and Lisa], and my grandmother [Nancy], who even though she passed away she still showed me the right way – to work hard and do all the right things and be responsible. They’ve supported me the most.”

What he loves the most about football: “The competition. Each day is different. It might look like the same thing over and over, but there are individual battles -- one day you win, the next day you lose. It always keeps you on edge and always keeps you competing and trying to play on a high level.”

Summing up his football journey: “I don’t want to sum it up because it sounds like it’s over. But it’s been great. Football has blessed me in so many ways. It’s helped my family out in so many ways. It’s always been an exciting ride each year I’ve been playing. It hasn’t always been the happiest of times, but it’s always panned out at the end of the year to be a great ride and something I’ve become very passionate about.”

Patriots Camp Report: Day 9

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New England Patriots training camp:
  • The Patriots had their annual night practice inside Gillette Stadium for season-ticket holders and Foxborough residents, with Bill Belichick saying it was a good chance for players to get used to new FieldTurf that had been installed earlier this year. In addition, Belichick said it was good from a special-teams perspective to get used to playing under the lights. "A lot of energy in the stadium. I think everybody enjoys the environment," Belichick said.
  • The team announced that 22,886 fans were in attendance, which continued a theme of strong crowds that have been consistent throughout camp.
  • Belichick spent a lot of time during practice speaking with former players who were in town for corneback Ty Law's Patriots Hall of Fame induction. "It's a pretty good secondary standing over there with Ty and Otis [Smith] at the corner, Rodney [Harrison] and Lawyer [Milloy] at safety and then we've got Troy Brown, who could be our nickelback," Belichick cracked. "It was awesome to see those guys."
  • The Patriots' 2014 secondary has played with a physical edge in training camp, particularly cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis. "They seem to work well together," Belichick said, "but we haven't played anybody yet. We haven't done it under pressure."
  • Harrison expressed a strong opinion about the Patriots' additions in the secondary this year. "About time! About time!" he repeated. "For the last six years, I've been very disappointed. Quite frankly, I take pride in this team and what Bill Belichick believes in ... It hurt my heart to have to criticize this secondary on Sunday night [broadcasts for NBC]. But at the same time, there has to be a certain level of accountability. You get to the point where you realize 'Yes, it's nice to score points on offense, but you need a defense.' And you need guys that aren't afraid to get up there and jam guys and play man-to-man coverage and hit you in the mouth. I think that's what [Brandon] Browner and [Darrelle] Revis give you."
  • Harrison was fired up about the Patriots. "It's attitude. It's about being excited playing football," he added. "You have an opportunity to play for the greatest organization on the planet. How can you not come out here and get it done? It's not good enough to win a playoff game. It's not good enough to make it to the AFC Championship Game. It's time to win a Super Bowl, and everyone has to be held accountable."
  • Harrison on Revis: "All this talk about Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, and who's the best cornerback? The best cornerback on the planet is right here in New England -- he will prove it this year."
  • Patriots players have a day off Saturday, then the team travels to Richmond, Virginia, on Sunday for joint practices against Washington on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Revis soaks up scene with Patriots greats

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For those who appreciate strong defensive play, Gillette Stadium was the ultimate point of interest on Friday night.

The Patriots inducted former cornerback Ty Law into their Hall of Fame late in the afternoon in front of thousands of fans outside the facility at Patriot Place. A number of former teammates attended the event, including former Patriots safeties Rodney Harrison and Lawyer Milloy. And only a short time after the event concluded, Law, Harrison and Milloy stood on the sidelines watching the Patriots take part in a once-a-season nighttime practice exclusively for season ticket holders and Foxborough residents.

Before long, Darrelle Revis -- who Harrison called the “best cornerback on the planet” earlier in the day -- joined the former players for a friendly conversation. Patriots fans can only hope that the newest addition to the Patriots' secondary generates the same type of success those who preceded him provided.

“I don’t even have words for it, man,” Revis said. “I respect those guys so much, growing up watching them and watching Ty [Law] and learning from [him] and seeing Rodney play as well.”

Revis and Law both grew up in Aliquippa in Western Pennsylvania, which has produced other NFL greats such as Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett and Sean Gilbert. They share a number of similarities ranging from the same type of shutdown play to the No. 24 Patriots jersey and are close family friends. And while Revis was hesitant to say he felt any type of pressure to perform similarly to the talented secondaries of the past, he acknowledged that today’s “moment” was special.

“Those guys are legends, they’re definitely legends, I respect all of those guys,” he said. “I think the one thing as you look at it is you just try to enjoy this moment. Guys got honored today, and you just enjoy their success and what they do and go from there.

Law spoke at length in his induction ceremony about playing for Bill Belichick and the types of freedoms Belichick allowed him to take within the defense. When asked, Revis echoed that sentiment.

“Coach Belichick is very open about football, it’s football talk,” Revis said. “He’s very open about it. You can go to him about anything, you can ask him about anything, and we’re just trying to get ready and get prepared.

Seeing Revis presumably shadow the opposition’s best receiver could create flashbacks for many fans. And while Law, Harrison and Milloy will all be remembered as up-front, vocal leaders, Revis isn’t ready to make that type of proclamation about himself yet.

“I think we got a great group of veteran guys on this team,” he said. “This is my first year on this team and I’m just trying to come in and make sure I’m getting accepted by everybody and one thing I’m just trying to do is lead by example.”

On a day that celebrated the accomplishments of Law and those who surrounded him, many fans hope the newest No. 24’s example can replicate that of his predecessor.

Observations from Patriots camp: Day 9

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Observations from the New England Patriots' eighth practice of training camp, which was held in full pads inside Gillette Stadium before a crowd of 22,886:
  • Backups get most of the work: In a night practice in front of Patriots season-ticket holders and Foxborough residents, the fans did not get to see much of the starters as the practice focused on backups. With the team heading to joint practices with the Washington Redskins Monday through Wednesday, the backups earned valuable repetitions, likely with Thursday’s preseason opener in mind. Joint practices should have a heavy focus on the starters working against the Redskins, whereas the game should have backups getting most of the action.
  • Plenty of special teams work: The special teams units worked extensively on punt coverage in the previous practice, but mostly shifted gears to kickoffs in Friday’s practice. Free kicks/safety kicks, onside kicks and more traditional kickoffs were all points of emphasis on special teams. Safety Patrick Chung and wide receiver Brandon LaFell returned some kickoffs.
  • Who’s winning one-on-ones? With the starters watching from the sidelines for the bulk of practice, reserve offensive and defensive linemen took the reps. Rookie defensive end Zach Moore (6-foot-6, 275 pounds) showed his potential with an impressive speed rush under the arms of rookie Cameron Fleming. He then followed it up with a powerful push to beat second-year offensive lineman Chris Barker while lining up on the other side. Second-year defensive lineman Marcus Forston (6-3, 305) had a couple of strong rushes by aggressively using his hands on Fleming and first-year offensive tackle Jordan Devey. Rookie Jon Halapio (6-2, 320) was the lone offensive lineman to hold his ground throughout the drill, as he utilized his wide frame to his advantage.
  • Ty Law and company back at Gillette Stadium: After cornerback Ty Law’s induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame, he and many of the former Patriots players in attendance at the ceremony watched practice from the sidelines. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady spent most of the practice catching up with Law, former safeties Lawyer Milloy and Rodney Harrison, former wide receiver Troy Brown and owner Robert Kraft. After the practice, Belichick said how nice it was to have the former players in attendance.
  • Cleaning out the notebook: Tight end Rob Gronkowski engaged in blocking drills with his fellow tight ends and appeared to be planting his legs stronger and driving with more force. ... Wide receiver Derrick Johnson dropped a few passes, including a nicely thrown ball by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on a slant route in the end zone. ... Defensive lineman Marcus Forston, who had an active practice, burst into the backfield during a running drill to break up the play. ... Coaches brought out racquets to make it tough for the quarterbacks to see while making throws. ... Cornerback Logan Ryan intercepted quarterback Ryan Mallett on a pass intended for tight end D.J. Williams. ... Zach Moore brought the pressure throughout practice, especially when he collapsed the pocket on Garoppolo to force an overthrow on a ball intended for running back Stephen Houston. ... Mallett, who is not known for his running skills, managed to escape pressure and roll out for a touchdown scamper during 11-on-11s. ... Running back Stevan Ridley made a slick one-handed catch on a deep pass down the sideline during an unmanned drill. ... Houston showed good vision as he split a small gap between the guard and tackle on the left side in 11-on-11s. ... Linebacker Taylor McCuller, who is taking some reps at fullback, caught a touchdown on the goal line from Mallett. ... Punter Ryan Allen booted a punt that stopped on a dime perfectly inside the 5-yard-line. ... Wide receivers Julian Edelman and Cole Stanford, running back Brandon Bolden, tight end Justin Jones and D.J. Williams all had drops. ... Defensive lineman Sealver Siliga blew up a run play in 11-on-11s. ... Rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler had a nice pass breakup against Derrick Johnson on a pass thrown by Garoppolo.
  • Who returned: None.
  • New absences: None.
  • Who else didn’t practice: Receiver Aaron Dobson (foot/PUP), center Bryan Stork (lower leg, left midway through fifth practice), linebackerDeontae Skinner (non-football-injury list), offensive tackle Chris Martin(non-football-injury list), defensive lineman Dominique Easley (non-football-injury list), receiver Jeremy Gallon (unknown/PUP), defensive back Jemea Thomas (unknown, only practiced Day 1), tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (unknown, participated in first four practices), linebacker Cameron Gordon (unknown, participated in first six practices).
  • Notable injuries/health-related incidents: Rookie running back Roy Finch was pushed out of bounds into teammates on the sideline. He collided with safety Kanorris Davis. Finch stayed down for a few moments and then tried to walk it off. Finch then headed to the locker room and did not return to practice.
  • Who’s talking with the media: Bill Belichick, cornerback Darrelle Revis, safety Devin McCourty and special teams captain Matthew Slater.

Ty Law dances his way into Patriots Hall

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Cornerback Ty Law’s induction into the New England Patriots Hall of Fame on Friday was capped with flair, as Law provided owner Robert Kraft a new pair of shoes and the two danced on stage as music blared.

“We’re going to do this Ty Law-style!” Law said to the crowd after a lengthy speech that included one moment when Law – fitted in the traditional red jacket for inductees -- had to gather his emotions while thanking his family.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Law and Kraft have busted a move on stage.

[+] EnlargeTy Law
Mike Reiss/ESPNTy Law and Robert Kraft busted out their moves one more time on Friday.
In the Patriots’ victory parade following the Super Bowl XXXVI victory over the St. Louis Rams, Law famously called for Kraft to dance with him on stage. The two did it again in 2011 at The Tradition, an annual event hosted by the Sports Museum that honors New England greats.

This time, Law handed Kraft a gift box that included red, white and blue shoes, and called for video to be shown of their previous two dances. Then Law asked for the music to be turned up loud, and the two capped off the 90-minute ceremony with the unique touch.

Law’s celebratory dances were unforgettable during his time with the Patriots (1995-2004), and Kraft – in a humorous introduction speech -- shared the story of how Law gave him an autographed photo from the Super Bowl parade that was signed, “Who says white guys can’t dance?” That photo still hangs in Kraft’s office.

The Patriots Hall of Fame induction has turned into one of the highlights on the Patriots’ annual calendar, drawing thousands of fans who fill the 80-plus steps in the plaza outside the team’s hall, while also surrounding the stage. In addition, notable alumni return from all eras, with this year’s group consisting of safeties Lawyer Milloy and Rodney Harrison, as well as cornerback Otis Smith, who were three of Law’s closest friends during his playing career.

In his speech, Law reflected on how meaningful it was to have always received such a warm welcome from Patriots fans, even when he was “sleeping with the enemy,” a reference to his 2005 season with the New York Jets.

“I’m very humbled by you, the fans, because it was one of the best feelings in the world to come back and see those 24 jerseys out there still cheering,” he said.

Kraft also shared a story from that part of Law’s career, detailing how contract negotiations between the team and Law had reached a stalemate after the team’s final offer. Kraft said Law stopped him in the locker room and said, “Don’t you know who I am? I’m Ty F-ing Law!”

Then Kraft noted how “Ty F-ing Law” signed with the “New York F-ing Jets” and proved it by totaling a career-high 10 interceptions that season. Law was never short on confidence.

“How good was Ty Law? The best,” Kraft said in his speech. “And if you don’t believe it, just ask him.”

That led the crowd, and Law, to erupt in laughter on a memorable night that included a little bit of everything – laughs, tears, poignant memories and, of course, one final dance.

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Every once in a while, Walt Coleman will open his email and it will be there waiting for him. Usually from the western half of the United States, someone will find a way to contact him about one of the most infamous calls he's made as an official.

Coleman was the referee for the Jan. 19, 2002, "tuck rule " game between the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders in the AFC divisional playoffs when he ruled that what looked like a fumble was not a fumble, citing the tuck rule.

"I was definitely known for that, still known for that," Coleman said Friday. "It doesn't go away. That play still doesn't go away. It still floats around and I still receive emails periodically from people who live out in the western part of the country.

"So yeah, if you've been in this league long enough, you're going to wind up getting involved in stuff like that."

The tuck rule, though, has now changed. Unlike in 2001, if a quarterback is now starting to tuck in and the ball comes loose, it is an actual fumble instead of a non-fumble, which is what happened in the New England-Oakland game.

So in essence, the rule was eliminated in 2013. But it still comes up.

"Well I don't know if the tuck rule was eliminated. It just got manipulated a little and so forth, so now the player doesn't have to tuck it all the way against his body for it to be a fumble," Coleman said. "Now, if he starts the tucking motion to move it back to his body, now it becomes a fumble.

"So what looks like a fumble, now, is going to be a fumble. And that was the problem back in the game that I had. I looked like a fumble to everybody except that's not what the rule said was a fumble. That was the change."

(Read full post)

Sharing thoughts on Brady Quinn workout

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1

When it is learned that the New England Patriots have had a free-agent in for a workout, as they did with quarterback Brady Quinn earlier this week, it naturally leads to some questions.

Is it a reflection of how they feel about their current depth? Is there an injury? Are they interested in adding a fourth layer to the depth chart?

In most cases, but not all, the answer is usually that it's solely for emergency purposes. If the team has an injury or an unexpected trade interest in top backup Ryan Mallett, who enters the final year of his contract, it needs to be ready with a replacement and part of that is having as up-to-date information on the health and skills of available players as possible.

That likely best explains why the Patriots had Quinn in for a workout, as he was previously on the radar as a possible "free-agent fit" based on his experience in the team's system.

With Tom Brady, Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo, the current quarterback depth chart is well stocked, with Bill Belichick previously saying, "We feel like we have a good quarterback situation. I think there are a lot of teams in the league that maybe don't feel that good about that position, and that’s not a good position to not feel good about. We feel very good about the players we have at that spot."

Reviewing some of Ty Law's top moments

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Cornerback Ty Law will be inducted into the New England Patriots Hall of Fame today (4:30 p.m. ET). As Law dons the signature red jacket, we take a look back at Law’s greatest plays and moments of his 10-year career in New England.

[+] EnlargeTy Law
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellTy Law recorded nine career picks against Manning, including three in the 2003 AFC Championship Game.
Three interceptions against Peyton Manning in the 2003 AFC Championship Game. The Manning-led Colts had dominated the AFC playoffs in the first two games of their quest to reach Super Bowl XXXVIII. But Manning threw three interceptions to Law and the rest was history. Law intercepted Manning for the first time as he hauled the ball in with one hand as he cut in front of wide receiver Marvin Harrison. With the Colts down by two touchdowns, Law struck again with a quick interception in Colts' territory, though the offense could not turn it into points as Tom Brady was intercepted in the end zone by Walt Harris. On Law's final pick, Manning marched the Colts down the field and into Patriots territory when Law record the final pick. Law’s three interceptions on Manning make him just one of eight players with three or more interceptions in an NFL playoff game.

Pick-six on Kurt Warner in Super Bowl XXXVI. How the Patriots might slow down the “Greatest Show on Turf” was one of the big questions leading into Super Bowl XXXVI. The Patriots needed someone to step up and Law made one of the biggest plays in Patriots postseason history at the time. Quarterback Kurt Warner, facing pressure from linebacker Mike Vrabel off the edge and forced to throw off his back foot, lofted the ball toward Issac Bruce as Law undercut the route. Law raced down the sidelines in front of his cheering teammates for a 47-yard pick-6. The interception gave the Patriots a 7-3 lead and more importantly, provided the defense with some early confidence.

Nine interceptions in his first Pro Bowl season in 1998. Law's fourth NFL season was one of his best as he tied the Patriots’ franchise record of nine interceptions in one season. That also led the NFL that season and sent him to his first of five Pro Bowls, where he would be named a Co-MVP alongside Jets wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson.

2003 defense and physicality that contributed to NFL rule changes. Law’s physical style of play anchored the 2003 record-breaking Patriots defense, as the unit led the NFL in four categories, including interceptions, opponents’ passer rating and fewest passing touchdowns surrendered. Law’s aggressive use of his hands and contact set the tone and also contributed to the NFL changing some of its rules to favor the offense.

Source: Pats work out Brady Quinn

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1

The New England Patriots worked out free-agent quarterback Brady Quinn on Monday, according to a league source.

Quinn, who was hired Thursday by Fox Sports to be an analyst, said during an appearance on "The Dan Patrick Show" on Friday that he worked out with a team this week, though he did not reveal which one it was.

As it turns out, it was the Patriots, whose offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, has experience with Quinn during their time together in Denver in 2010.

The Patriots' quarterback depth chart behind Tom Brady includes Ryan Mallett and rookie second-round pick Jimmy Garoppolo.

It's unclear if the team remains in the market for a quarterback or if this was a case of due diligence.

Quinn last saw action during the 2012 season with the Kansas City Chiefs, going 112-for-197 for 1,141 yards and two TDs in 10 games. He also had eight interceptions.

(Read full post)

What we learned from Sirius on Patriots

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Sirius XM NFL Radio was on hand at Patriots training camp this week, devoting a four-hour block of programming to the team Monday.

Co-hosts Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan watched a full-pads practice and had interviews with owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady, defensive ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley and safety Devin McCourty.

For any fan of the team, the broadcast was a high-level discussion that shed great insight on the Patriots, as is usually the case on Sirius XM NFL Radio.

Here were 13 picked-up pieces:

  1. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound Ridley had a notable comment regarding his offseason diet and coming into camp in better shape: “Obviously that didn’t go too well. Coach still has me in there in ‘Fat Camp’ and running and trying to get this weight off me.”
  2. Ridley on how he’s worked on improving his fumbling: “It’s more mental. I found myself in past years, when I was making a mistake, to harp on the mistake and it’s in my head, ‘Don’t fumble, don’t fumble.’ So I found myself thinking about it. I have to put more of that energy into focusing on my elbow being tucked in, keeping my elbow glued to my ribs, keeping the tip of the ball north and south, and having the ball in the right position. If I’m focused on that, then my mind is not first on the fumbling or not fumbling.”
  3. [+] EnlargeDarrelle Revis
    AP Photo/Charles KrupaDarrelle Revis' understated nature has impressed Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
    Robert Kraft’s impressions of Darrelle Revis: “He does everything with such ease. His sense of anticipation and the way he moves, he’s not breathless, he’s just doing everything in stride. What I like about him and maybe some of the media had portrayed him differently before he came here, he’s a very understated kind of guy. There is not a lot of bravado. I notice a lot other guys are drawn to him and he does it, in in my opinion, in a very classy way, an understated way.”
  4. Kraft called the head coach position in the NFL one of the most draining jobs, estimating that it takes probably 20 hours per day to do it well. Along those lines, he shared his thought on 62-year-old Bill Belichick: “What amazes me is his energy.”
  5. When Kirwan said to Brady that 45 years old would be the marker in which he retires from the NFL, Brady chuckled. “That sounds about right for me,” Brady responded.
  6. Third-year defensive end Chandler Jones said he has actually dropped weight from his 2012 rookie season, from 266 to 260, but he’s added more muscle.
  7. Jones said with experience, he’s become more of a reactive rusher compared to his rookie season, when he often had more of a predetermined plan. This showed on the practice field, when in one repetition he sold the outside move, took what the tackle gave him, then beat him to the inside.
  8. The Patriots have featured a half-line running drill in practice in which the center, guard, tackle and tight end attempt to create openings, and Belichick explained one of the reasons that drill has been so prevalent is that it eliminates the odds of players on the ground and big pileups that could lead to injury in more full-team drills. At the same time, the half-line running drill provides players a chance to build the all-important fundamentals.
  9. Random nugget, Part I: Defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who wears Mike Vrabel’s old No. 50 and has sometimes been compared to Vrabel, said the two have never met.
  10. Random nugget, Part II: Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has picked up a few nicknames from teammates – “Jimmy G” and “Goo-op" among them.
  11. Safety Devin McCourty added context to news that he trained with Revis in Arizona in the weeks leading up to training camp, saying that he was planning to train in Arizona before Revis’ signing with the Patriots. McCourty’s connection to the workouts in Arizona was with former Cardinals and Patriots safety Adrian Wilson, one of his close friends.
  12. McCourty said one of the things that stands out with backup quarterback Ryan Mallett is arm strength. “That dude can sling the ball,” he said. “His rookie year was during the lockout and I remember the player-organized camp we [had] and you could just hear the ball coming out of his hand. At times you think you’re in the deep part of the field and you realize you’re not when Mallett’s throwing the ball. There are a couple guys when you play – the Joe Flaccos, the Ben Roethlisbergers -- who have those big arms as well. Mallett really prepares you for that.”
  13. McCourty called receiver Kenbrell Thompkins one of the hardest workers on the team, noting that he could have been satisfied with contributing as an undrafted free agent in 2013. Instead, “all offseason, you saw him putting in the work.”

Checking in on Patriots rookie class

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A quick-hit thought on each member of the New England Patriots’ rookie draft class through the first eight practices of training camp:

DL Dominique Easley (first round, 29th overall) -- Remains on the active/physically unable to perform list as he continues to build strength in his previously torn ACL.

QB Jimmy Garoppolo (second round, 62nd overall) -- Has flashed a quick release, polished presence, and a hard-working approach while throwing the most interceptions of any quarterback, as one would expect for a rookie in the initial stages of learning a complex offense. It’s too early to make any definitive judgments.

C Bryan Stork (fourth round, 105th overall) -- Had success in one-on-one rush drills against some lower-level players on the roster, and is expected to compete for a starting job, but sustained what appeared to be a lower-leg injury during the team’s fifth practice and hasn’t been on the field since.

RB James White (fourth round, 130th overall) -- Has opened eyes with how many quality reps he's getting and looks like he’ll be a significant part of the team’s attack -- on all three downs.

OT Cameron Fleming (fourth round, 140th overall) -- A developmental prospect whose size stands out (6-foot-6, 325 pounds), he has mostly been at right tackle and looks like he’ll need some more seasoning before factoring into the playing time mix.

G Jon Halapio (sixth round, 179th overall) -- Doesn’t seem ready to compete for a starting job at this point, taking some early lumps in one-on-one rush drills, but just keeps grinding away.

DE Zach Moore (sixth round, 198th overall) -- His raw talent flashes at times, such as Thursday when he forcefully pushed the pocket to sack Ryan Mallett, but there’s a long way to go as he comes from a lower level of competition in college and it shows at times.

DB Jemea Thomas (sixth round, 206th overall) -- Sustained an undisclosed injury in the first training camp practice and hasn’t been spotted since, threatening his hopes for a roster spot.

WR Jeremy Gallon (seventh round, 244th overall) -- Remains on the active/physically unable to perform list, which means he has an uphill climb for a roster spot. His best chance to stick at this point would likely be to remain on PUP.

UNDRAFTED FREE-AGENT NOTES: Defensive backs Malcolm Butler and Travis Hawkins (also a kickoff returner) have made some plays on the ball and look like strong practice squad candidates. … Tight end Justin Jones has received some quality reps. Similar to defensive end Zach Moore, he’s raw with intriguing traits, and he’s shown up in the red zone at times with his 6-foot-8 frame. … Running back/punt returner Roy Finch is quick but at one point showed up as a ball-security liability when Devin McCourty ripped the ball from his grasp -- likely more of a practice squad consideration. … Stephen Houston has run hard at the goal line, but hasn’t shown up in the special-teams mix, which could make it tough for him to earn a roster spot. … Linebacker Cameron Gordon has shown up more on special teams than defense. … Receiver Wilson Van Hooser competes hard and could be a practice squad consideration. … Early impressions have snapper Tyler Ott behind incumbent Danny Aiken from a consistency standpoint.

Wake-up call: Patriots camp Day 9

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
Every day of the New England Patriots training camp, we'll have a wake-up call that previews the day ahead.

4:30 p.m. ET -- Ty Law Patriots Hall of Fame induction
7 p.m. -- In-stadium practice for season-ticket-holders and Foxborough residents
approx. 9 p.m. -- Player interviews

Law's induction will draw several of his former teammates, including Lawyer Milloy, Rodney Harrison and Otis Smith. Milloy posted a picture to Instagram about taking a red-eye flight to Boston. With a promising weather forecast, and Law's popularity, a big-time crowd is expected for the induction which is free to the public and takes place in the plaza outside the team's Hall of Fame.

As for practice, this is the eighth overall session of training camp. The Patriots have had two practices in light shoulder pads and helmets and five in full pads. There was one day off.

Here are a few storylines we'll be following today:

1. Cornerback Darrelle Revis, who is expected to speak with reporters, and his success in practice.

2. The defense, which has mostly had the upper hand in practice, continuing its momentum.

3. Monitoring the shuffle at center and right guard, two of the top competitions in training camp as multiple players are getting reps.

4. With an in-stadium practice that should feature plenty of special teams, a check-in with the specialists -- kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen and snappers Danny Aiken and Tyler Ott -- as well as the returners.