FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Media members interviewed the Patriots’ draft class, as well as rookie free agents and Canadian Football League imports Armond Armstead and Jason Vega, before the first practice of minicamp on Friday.
Some quick hits and thoughts from this perspective:
1. Players pass the first test. Bill Belichick made the point earlier in the day that part of this rookie minicamp is acclimating players to the team’s overall program, and part of that is how to manage media. There are a lot of reporters covering the team on a daily basis, and one estimate put the count at 40-50 today when including print/web, photographers and television. It’s impossible to get to every interview in a setting like this – there were 15-20 players made available – but I was impressed with the ones I heard. Reporters who spoke with Rutgers safety Duron Harmon (third round, 91st overall) relayed that he was particularly engaging.
2. Collins adjusts to new surroundings. Top draft pick Jamie Collins, who lists McCall Creek, Mississippi as his hometown, said this was as far north as he’s ever traveled. This relates to the overall theme of the rookie minicamp, with players getting adjusted to the new environment. Overall, Collins kept his remarks short and to the point.
3. Dobson takes it all in. Receiver Aaron Dobson, the second-round draft choice out of Marshall (59th overall), said that he hasn’t spoken with quarterback Tom Brady at this point. Growing up admiring Kobe Bryant as a basketball player, Dobson (6-3, 203) also touched on how his basketball background (he was recruited for both basketball and football out of high school) has helped him on the football field. “Body control in the air, attacking the ball, how basketball players get rebounds; I definitely think it carries over,” he said.
4. Armstead a ‘bonus’ draft choice. Former Southern Cal defensive lineman Armond Armstead, who signed with the Patriots after a season in the Canadian Football League, has been working daily at Gillette Stadium since the offseason program started April 15. Armstead’s story is well-documented: He was viewed as a top prospect at Southern Cal following his junior season before a medical condition (heart) led to an abrupt end to his Trojan career and then in 2012 he landed in the CFL (in part to prove his health wasn’t an issue). Following his junior season at Southern Cal, Armstead had checked with the NFL as to where he was rated at the time. “They told me I was a second round or third [round] if I would have come out,” relayed Armstead, who has played defensive tackle and end in a 4-3 defense over his college and CFL career.
5. Allen and the punting competition. Like incumbent Zoltan Mesko and most of the punters the Patriots have employed in Bill Belichick’s 14-year tenure, rookie Ryan Allen (Louisiana Tech) is a left-footed punter. Only two NFL teams drafted punters this year – the Vikings took UCLA’s Jeff Locke in the fifth round and the Lions selected Appalachian State’s Sam Martin 10 picks later in the fifth – which put Allen, who won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s best collegiate punter in each of the last two seasons, on the free-agent market. Allen said he had a couple other options, but decided to come to New England after speaking to special teams coaches Scott O’Brien and Joe Judge. “I felt like this was a good opportunity to get my foot in the door and start somewhere,” he said, later adding that he didn’t hold on field goals and extra points in college but practiced it regularly.