- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Some quick hits from Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s news conference on Monday before the team’s practice:
1. No rush to fill six open roster spots. While the Patriots have six open roster spots, Belichick didn’t express much urgency to fill them. He left open the possibility that the team could do so, but also added that it wasn’t as if six players were en route to the stadium today. Belichick pointed out that the roster cutdown from 90 to 75 is Aug. 27. Thus, any player who might be signed most likely wouldn’t be around for long.
2. Getting a feel for Ballard. Tight end Jake Ballard’s workload has been managed in practices and games, as he’s started both contests (12 snaps vs. Eagles, 19 vs. Buccaneers) before coming out with the top offense. Belichick was asked what he’s seen from Ballard. “Jake’s been pretty consistent all through camp. He’s been dependable on a day-to-day basis. He’s got some experience. Big guy. Long. He’s got good blocking skill. He’s done a good job in the passing game. I think with him, it’s just keep [going] day by day. He keeps improving, he gains more confidence, and he gains more experience and builds up his overall stamina and condition. He’s in good condition, but just playing football conditioning. I think we’ve had a good pace with him and he’s been able to have steady improvement through the entire course of camp, which has been good.”
3. Collins ‘shows up’ vs. Buccaneers. Asked about top draft choice Jamie Collins (52nd overall), Belichick said he thought he “showed up.” Belichick then added: “He’s learning, he’s doing some different things for us, defensively he has some different responsibilities -- playing at the end of the line, playing off the line, playing in some sub situations; he’s playing a lot in the kicking game. He’s learning every day and I think he’s definitely making progress.”
4. Svitek adds to his value. Asked about veteran offensive lineman Will Svitek, Belichick explained how the team envisioned him initially as a swing tackle. But with a run of injuries at right guard, the team has inserted him at that spot, and “he’s handled it very well. Smart guy, adjusts quickly. He understands the whole offensive line system and communication.” With the ability to adapt to guard, Belichick said Svitek has “certainly increased his value to the team by showing that he can play two positions.”
5. Different feel to the week. After two straight weeks of joint practices with other teams, Belichick talked about getting into the routine of the Patriots practicing against themselves. “This is going to be a little bit more of a preparation week, where we have to prepare ourselves for the game, unlike practicing against a team like we had the last couple weeks; that was really a luxury,” Belichick said before noting there is a process of getting to know the Lions and the plays they run over the next few days.
6. Quick hits. Belichick praised reserve linebacker and core special teams player Dane Fletcher for coming back from a torn ACL that cost him all of the 2012 season. “I think he’s moved well and I think his play has improved,” he said, adding that he “hasn’t missed anything.” ... Belichick fielded multiple questions on quarterback Tom Brady and how his physical condition helps him sustain and recover from being banged up.