- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass – Five things not to be overlooked from the Patriots’ second day of mandatory minicamp:
1. Ninkovich backs Spikes, shares impressions of Collins. When linebacker Brandon Spikes has been mentioned this offseason, it has mostly been related to his absence from voluntary organized activities, as he was the only player on the roster to stay away. Now that he’s reported for mandatory minicamp, a greater focus has been on what Spikes brings to the club. “I love having Spikes around,” said outside linebacker/defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who gave Spikes a high-five on the field this week. “It’s good for him to be here. We’ll be ready for training camp.” As for his impressions of top draft pick Jamie Collins, Ninkovich called him a “very athletic kid” who has “come in and been that quiet guy trying to absorb everything and learn everything. I think he’s done a good job coming in and doing his best.”
2. Kraft’s view of 2013 team. Owner Robert Kraft likes what he sees from the team, but based on experience, he knows things can’t accurately be judged at this time. “In the end, you need two, three, four, five games and hope there are no injuries,” he said. “I think our young players from last year have improved. They’ve worked hard. We’ve seen the greatest jump in the past of so many of our players between the first and second year. With the salary cap and free agency, you have a player for four years and if you’re going to try to build a team and get good value, that second year is pretty important. We’ve [also] been able to bring in some interesting free agents.”
3. Brady feeling ‘better than ever.’ Quarterback Tom Brady declared that he “feel[s] better than ever” and that he’s “had a great offseason to this point [and] it needs to continue.” Now in his 14th season, Brady said he has a better understanding of how he needs to prepare himself and he devotes a lot of time to that task. “Every decision in my life is based around how to be a better football player,” he said. “I think I have a decent idea how to do that and we’ll ultimately see how it pays off this year.
4. Wilfork likes approach of defense. Captain Vince Wilfork said the defense plans to keep building on the foundation created this offseason. He sounded optimistic, but also realistic. “It’s too early to say how good or how bad we are. We’re just put putting one foot in front of each one each day. That’s our goal, to get better each day and guys have been working really, really hard. I’ve been focusing on it and I’m pretty sure the rest of the teammates have been. We have to make sure we keep it to an even keel – you can’t get too high, you can’t get too low. That’s where we’re at.”
5. Jenkins a steady presence at receiver. At a receiver position that has been overhauled, veteran Michael Jenkins has seemed to be one of the more consistent players in offseason camps. He’s usually lining up with the top receiving group, alongside Danny Amendola. Jenkins could be the next in line in terms of players who produce solid results with Tom Brady. “You’ve seen it, obviously, over the years – even as an outsider. Everybody he’s brought in, and the change he’s had at certain positions, everyone still continues to do well. So you just try to do your job, and be there, where you’re supposed to be, because he’s going to get it there.”