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Letters from Patriots Camp, Volume 2


If Tom Brady has a little pep in his step in his 19th NFL training camp and one day shy of his 41th birthday, it’s totally understandable. Like I wrote last week a couple of days into camp, he’s been tossing laser-guided precision missiles and hitting virtually all his targets. In 11-on-11 drills Wednesday he completed his last eight in a row, 11-for-13 on the day. If the biggest preparation junkie of all time can look this good after skipping OTAs, maybe the joke has been on him all through his career and he would’ve been every bit as good even if he put in the same amount of effort I did when I worked for the state. After watching him so far, if I was Belichick I’d give Ernie Adams an offseason assignment to research the positive effects of practicing less and spending more time posing for emasculating couples photos.


Brady Gisele Inst

It could revolutionize offseason workout programs.

Other notes so far:

–What’s making Brady’s performance all the more astonishing is the casualty rate at the receiver spot. Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan are fine, obviously. But I’m beginning to think 2016 Malcolm Mitchell was just a wet dream I had. You can’t step on a Patriots beat writer’s foot without him saying “OWW! ThePatriotsarereallyhighonKennyBritt!!!” You hear it so much it’s like a Tourette’s swear word. And odd, given the fact he’s still on PUP and has no chance to prove himself. But to me the biggest disappointment is Jordan Matthews, who got cut after pulling a hammy on Sunday. I was really optimistic about him, just as a former (almost) 1,000 yard receiver who would come in for one year, work his balls off, cash in in free agency, and make the Bills Mafia wish they’d never been born. But apparently that “work” didn’t involve “stretching his legs,” so he’s gone. And by all accounts, this is not one of those Ross Ventrone moves where he’s the guy they cut and re-sign to work the last roster spots. They’re done with him before we got to know him. Too bad.

–One guy who appears to NOT be injured is Dont’a Hightower, despite what my anonymous source who knows a guy who knows him said. To repeat, Hightower never missed a practice rep and reported for duty today. Though now I’m being told “he’s gonna work through it since obviously he was walking around.” But my trust issue remains. It’s easy to earn my trust. But almost impossible to get it back once you’ve lost it. You better dazzle me with a major scoop next time, Anonymous Source.

–The brightest non-Brady rocket in this particular fireworks display so far has been Trent Brown, who appears to be putting a chokehold on the left tackle spot, just as I’d hoped. By his own admission it was a slow adjustment to a new team and sliding to a side of the line he’s not familiar with. But once the pads went on and the contact drills started, he’s been Andre the Giant. In a 1-on-1 drill he ragdolled Adrian Clayborn. He moves well laterally, stays in balance and doesn’t appear too susceptible to guys getting their pads low and getting under him, which was Nate Solder’s Kryptonite. I’m still holding out hope we’ll see Isaiah Wynn alongside him to shore up the interior, but they’re working him in more slowly. The first fauxball game is next Thursday against the Redskins. And given there are no Fantasy points on the line and only the most degenerate gamblers have money on it, the left side of the line should be the focus.

–As far as injuries, Marcus Cannon has come out of practice at least a couple of times, but no one thinks it’s anything that’ll make him need a sick note from home. Sony Michel is a different story. He walked off the field under his own power and right to the medical tent and wasn’t seen this morning. He put the football on the ground in a ball security drill early in camp. And when they focus on the run game like they were early this week, they mix up the carries with Rex Burkhead getting most of them, Michel needs all the practice time he can get. So his missed time is a concern. Not to mention his name being attached to this weird new metric

What kind of sorcery is this? The internet has formed a Pre-Injury Unit like in Minority Report? Can they tell us when exactly someone’s going to get hurt so we can sit him down for that play, or is it just in general? Either way, I get the feeling insurance companies are going to use this to jack up premiums.


–It just wouldn’t be early August if I wasn’t obsessing over guys making the coveted Year 2 Jump. And in the opinion of the only guy that matters, it looks so far like last year’s rookie D-linemen, Derek Rivers (injured in training camp, lost for the season) and Deadrich Wise, Jr. (16 games, 5.0 sacks):

Q: Deatrich Wise and Derek Rivers have been hanging out a lot after practice like they did their rookie years. Is it good to see guys in their second year maybe getting comfortable in the system but still hungry to work hard and practice their crafts?

Belichick: Yeah, nobody works harder than those two guys. Nobody. So, it’s hard to find a time that they’re not in this building. They work extremely hard on the field, off the field, their training, preparation, conditioning – you name it. Yeah, they’ve kept that pace since they got here and they’ve certainly sustained it in this year. They’ve made a lot of improvement and they both have upside ahead of them. So, yeah, they work very hard.

–Belichick also went way out of his way to praise Kyle Van Noy as a leader in the middle of the defense, alongside the apparently 100 percent healthy Hightower. (Did I mention he’s NOT injured? Just wanted to make sure.) Van Noy rewarded his coach’s faith and trust by getting into a brawl with LaAdrian Waddle after getting LaPancaked by him. If you have a camp without fights, there’s something wrong with your team. I’m not saying break the quarterback’s jaw over a gambling debt, mind you. But some wholesome scrappin’ is a good thing.

–In a profile of Eric Rowe in today’s Herald, they make the assertion he’s probably in the process of locking up the outside cornerback spot opposite Stephon Gilmore. Maybe it’s just that Jason McCourty has less time in the system than Rowe or something, I don’t know. But I’m not happy. Rowe has his moments. Like tipping the Ben Roethlisberger pass in the end zone that Duron Harmon hauled in to win the game that decided homefield throughout the playoffs. But going into the season starting one of the guys who was part of that Super Bowl debacle feels like handing the next Avengers movie over to the guys who made Suicide Squad. I’m still triggered by the play of the secondary in that one. Dear God, don’t make us relive it.