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Patriots Practice Report, Featuring Brady and Gronk

It’s over. At long last, it’s over. After five months of talk about retirements, wrestling careers, cryptic Facebook documentaries, decoded Tweets with Juicy J lyrics that could be taken as contract demands and feelings – plants, shrubs, trees, groves, woodlands, jungles, entire forest moons of Endor worth of talk about feelings – the speculation is over. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski showed up to the first day of mandatory Patriots practice. They practiced football. They looked great doing it. And finally cancelled this offseason-long Telenovela that began in the losing locker room in Minneapolis.

By way of full explanation, I originally planned to be at the Eagles’ ceremony at the White House today. As of yesterday morning, I was ready to make the trip and had my Secret Service security clearance all set. But when a drama you’ve been living and dying with for months is mercifully coming to a close, you can’t afford to be anywhere else. Even the same historic location where JFK installed a pool where he would bang his interns two at a time. I felt I owed it to you. These are the sacrifices I make for you. Blogger. Published author. Comic. Former youth football coach. Hero? That’s for you to say, not me. But let’s not look past the fact the White House canceled about an hour after I did. Cause. Effect.

Anyway, here are some random notes from the practice:

–Obviously, I start with Brady, who looked like a man who hadn’t missed a rep the last few weeks. He took almost every snap with the first team. And the first rep in every drill, which I assume was OK with the other two quarterbacks. I mean, I didn’t get the impression Danny Etling was giving him the “Who the fuck do you think you are, Noob?” treatment. In between Brady’s plays, he tended to take off his helmet and kneel down between the coaches and other QB on the sideline. Which is something I’m really looking forward to hearing spun into some kind of passive/aggressive protest against the coach he hates so much. Or him being out of shape due to insufficient OTA participation. Because you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

–And he looked thoroughly in control, albeit in a non-contact practice. In a goal line drill, he hit Chris Hogan in the back of the end zone. Hit Jordan Matthews at the pylon. After Belichick rushed the field goal unit onto the field for an emergency kick drill, Brady hit Matthews again in the back corner. And my favorite moment of his might have been a little sight read throw to Cordarelle Patterson, after which he yelled “CP! Way to read that, baby!” and brought him in for the hand slap. Given that it was their first practice together, my heart grew three sizes that play.

–He also hit only plenty of deep passes. A couple to TE Troy Niklas in stride on deep slants. One to Kenny Britt over Eric Rowe. Another to Sony Michel who fought for the ball with some max effort before getting it broken up by Damarius Travis. Julian Edelman mostly practiced with the 2s, however. So it should come as no surprise who Brady’s best hookups were with.

–Gronk caught a deep pass over (also no surprise) Jordan Richards, and tore ass up the field giving off a loud “Whoot! Whoot!” Later he caught one crossing Pat Chung’s face and high stepped it all the way back to the huddle. Then again on a 9-route, pointing to some assistants on the sidelines and saying some hilarity I couldn’t translate into English. But without question, he was sending a message that he’s here to mix football with fun. The fun that comes from playing well and winning. Not the Cassius Marsh kind of fun where you get ridden 15 yards behind the quarterback trying to get a sack for your stat sheet and lose games. The real kind of fun.

–Last year the coaching staff shut him down for doing likewise in the first practice. This year I think they’re prepared to let him be. You would too if you saw the grab he made of a Brian Hoyer ball, with Richards and Travis bracketing him with tight coverage, he pulled the ball down without breaking stride. The play was a reminder that while maybe only 0.1% of the population is qualified to be Mojo Rawley’s partner, only the Gronk percentage of the population can beat double coverage like that. He’s in the right line of work.

–The game they’re playing with the numbers continues to be kind of vexing. I guess because I’m too pretty to do math. But also because it gets confusing when there are two No. 54s in the same linebacker corps, followed later by two No. 52s playing side by side. Add to that the fact there are two sets of identical twins on the roster and it’s a reminder of why I quit drinking vodka. June practices are likely the only time in your life you’ve ever going to hear “33 is the Mike!” But it’ll get it easier once Camp-Camp begins, I hope.

–For the record, when the Pats are running hurry up, their Electronic Battleship-like phonetic alphabet is Alpha, Bourbon, Cougar and Ditto. I’m hoping to hear all 26 letters because I’ll never use anything else when I’m on the phone with tech support in Sri Lanka and they need me to spell “THORNTON.”

–It wasn’t all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. There was enough going wrong to remind you why we have all them practices and lift all them weights. A motion play meant to look like a Jet Sweep to Edelman had all the timing you’d expect of a first rehearsal of a 2nd grade Christmas pageant and they had to abort and run it again.

–But the unquestioned highlight of the day was a snap infraction about halfway through. And Belichick was livid. “The whole team!” he yelled in a full-throated bellow. “GOOO! Fucking dammit!!!” as they all took off to run a lap, including Josh McDaniels, who brought up the rear. Still fuming, The Hooded One added “Hey, defense! Everything’s on fucking ONE!” Mid. Season. Form.

–So while all the jibber jabber and negativity of the offseason appears to be blessedly dead, buried, and mourned by no one, it’s still comforting to know that the man who was supposedly the cause of it all isn’t going to change in the slightest. And all is once again right in the world.