Letter from Pats Camp, Part 2


Camp 1

The Patriots went with two days of shorts and shells last week followed by two days of full pads over the weekend. Then took Monday off before getting back at it for what Bill Belichick said will be a long stretch of full sessions leading into joint practices with Jacksonville and the preseason games. Here are just a few random observations from what my bloodshot, lying eyes saw from the press room and the media tent:

–The highlight of today’s practice was a full-on fight between Julian Edelman and Stephon Gilmore late in the workout. And this was no baseball brawl, with guys clutching onto each other trying to make it look good before someone breaks them up. This was about as legit as camp fights go, off in a corner in the end zone with both guys landing haymakers until everyone slowly made their way over there. Belichick of course doesn’t suffer that bullshit gladly, screaming “Just GO!” at Edelman and then booting Gilmore a minute later. Which sort of begs the question what happens when you do get tossed for fighting? It seems like it’d be an easy way to just take the end of practice off. So I’d have to imagine there’s some kind of detention they have to serve. Otherwise everyone would do it. I once coached with a fucking lunatic who would make kids who fought run a lap holding hands. But it’s 2017 and I’m glad to see society is in a better place.

–My favorite part of Belchick’s presser was him shitting all over the state of the team he took over 18 camps ago. He said a quarter of the roster couldn’t even do the conditioning run. And curb stomped both Bobby Grier and Pete Carroll with “There was not a lot of commitment on that team. It was not a very good football team on a lot of levels.” Which should help explain why Pats fans are the way we are.

–Lonnie Paxton was at the press conference. I kind of wish I’d stuck around to talk to him. Less because he was the long snapper on a three time Super Bowl champion than because he’s supposed to be the direct descendant of King Leonidas from 300, separated by like 18 generations or something. Having an ancestor who sacrificed himself to save Sparta from the Persian hordes at Thermoplyae impresses the hell out of me. Maybe because I’m the descendant of Thomas Thornton, who ditched his wife and kids in County Galway and moved to the States without telling anyone. I won’t pass up that chance again.

–It’s premature adulation to start dishing out superlatives. But the early front runner for Most Pleasant Camp Surprise is David Harris. Not that we didn’t know he’s a stud and a savvy veteran. But you could’ve expected a learning curve since he just got a playbook a few weeks ago. Instead, he’s already working out with the green dot on his helmet, which is incredible. It’s hard to not imagine a guy who played every down with the Jets and already grasps Matt Patricia’s system enough to make the calls freeing up Donta Hightower to play up on the line and give offenses a 270 lb run stuffing edge rusher to worry about.

–One guy who hasn’t been as much of a fun first date is Kony Ealy. He wasn’t on the field for the first practice. In 11-on-11s you have to keep checking the roster to remind yourself of his number because he hasn’t made an impression. And in blocking drills James O’Shaughnessy earholed him. To be fair, Belichick said today Ealy is being asked to do more than he did in Carolina like play inside, outside and coverage.

–Speaking of O’Shaughnessy, he looks like he’s giving himself a chance to stick as a third tight end. Possibly even [gather yourself … close your eyes and think of England] the second tight end. Which is to say, jump a spot over Dwayne Allen if Allen doesn’t start stepping up the performance a little. Today he had a drop on a perfect Jimmy Garoppolo throw, which is becoming a pattern. And in general just seems sluggish. It’s hard to describe, but it’s almost like the construct of time just moves a beat slower for him relative to everyone else on the field. Or maybe I just have trust issues when it comes to former Colts and their work ethics. But he and Ealy will be ones to watch closely once the fauxseason games are on TV.

–Everyone in the place was convinced we had our first major injury of camp when Elandon Roberts went down with a non-contact injury and basically did the Jon Snow death scene. That is, until he did the Jon Snow resurrection scene 10 minutes later and returned to his post for the rest of practice. Crisis averted.

–Make of this what you will, but Jimmy G has been throwing picks like a guy making it rain at a nudie bar. This morning he double clutched a throw to Chris Hogan, only to give Justin Coleman a chance to jump the route for what would’ve been a pick-6. And he followed that play by badly overthrowing Hogan along the sidelines. Even his deepest completion was an underthrown ball that was tipped and Matthew Slater came back to make the catch. Which doesn’t mean he’s not the second best QB in the AFC East. But it is happening a lot so far.

–Also just to correct something I wrote before, now that they’re back in full pads, Gronk is back to wearing the massive armored sleeve. Which is fine by me. I guess eating Brady Food and watering down his drinks will only heal a guy so fast.

–So much of Patriots practice is taken up with route running and non-contact kickoff teams, it’s always great to see Belichick throw in old school drills to stress fundamentals. Like having the offensive skill guys run across the field with two defenders trying to strip the ball from them. And a 1-on-1 coverage drill where if the defender gets beat, all the DBs have to drop and give 10 pushups. Or Brady going back to pass in 7-on-7s and only to have Belichick and Josh McDaniels randomly Frisbee a blocking pad at his head. There’s just something about watching the GOAT use the kinds of stuff you’d find in a Youth Football Coaching Techniques VHS from 1994.


–This camp so far has featured the least amount of music I can ever remember. Usually you can count on Belichick’s playlist, which runs the gamut from Bon Jovi to Springsteen and everything in between. But for the fourth straight practice, they’ve done Kenny Chesney’s Boys of Fall during stretches and that’s been it. So if you come to Gillette to hoping to hear the whole range of Jersey Rock from A to B, this is not your summer.

–And on that note, the crowd was the smallest I’ve seen in years. Apparently they were turning people away by the thousands over the weekend. So if you’re one of those who wasted the trip or heard you have to get there two hours early to get a spot or whatever, plenty of space is now available. You’re welcome. Just don’t be looking for me. Dave Dombrowski’s “not a credible source” is welcome at Gillette.