FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New England Patriots training camp:
When cornerback Brandon Browner talked about practicing in full pads for the first time in training camp, he said, "It always feels good to get them pads on and smack a little bit." Browner then backed up his words by flattening rookie running back James White in 11-on-11 drills on Sunday. Overall, the play of Browner and Darrelle Revis has been one of the top early storylines of camp. On Saturday, Revis intercepted two Tom Brady passes and broke up two others. On Sunday, it was Browner establishing a physical edge that reminded us of when safety Rodney Harrison was creating physical havoc in his first year with the team. The Patriots' defense has been practicing with a bit of an edge, and Revis and Browner are a big part of it.
The Patriots practiced in full pads for the second straight day, which created some physical and mental stress for players. In 1-on-1 pass-rush drills, veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork drove left guard Logan Mankins back into the pocket by keeping his legs churning, which was a good test for Wilfork's previously injured Achilles injury. Wilfork generated sufficient power through his lower body, as we continue to monitor his return to full-contact work. He seems to be passing every test.
One popular storyline for reporters covering a team is the "player-entering-the-final-year-of-his-contract" story, and it came up Sunday when running back Stevan Ridley met with reporters after practice. Ridley, who led the team with 773 yards on 178 carries in 2013, enters the final year of his deal and was asked how much that weighs on his mind. "I have to be honest about it -- it's there but it's not my first concern," he answered. "My first concern is going out there and being the best player for this team. I think if I go out there and have a productive year and do what I need to do, the contract will take care of itself. I'm not going to put too much thought into it, because if I start thinking about that, it could easily be a distraction. I'm just going to keep working, keep my head in the dirt and keep grinding it out."
With the Patriots practicing in full pads the last two days, fullback James Develin's hard-charging, lead-blocking presence has been hard to miss. Develin, who graduated from the practice squad to the active roster in 2013, brings an attitude to the running game and was praised by personnel director Nick Caserio for having a "great offseason." Ridley also pointed to Develin when asked about the overall running back group. "Not to single out one guy, but James has come in and done an awesome job," he said.
The crowds at training camp continue to amaze. On a day in which there were ominous clouds above and practice was cut short by about 15-20 minutes because of a heavy downpour and the threat of lightning, the team announced an official attendance of 13,186. That ups the four-day total to 45,839. "These fans are always there and are always welcoming," receiver Julian Edelman said. "It's just great to have that support and makes coming out here fun when there is a crowd and hollers and all that stuff. It's fun to play in front of people. When you're feeling a little down, you come out and see a big old crowd, it gets you a little amped."