Martellus Bennett had an appreciation for Tom Brady even before he joined the Patriots. (Getty Images)

Martellus Bennett had an appreciation for Tom Brady even before he joined the Patriots. (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Martellus Bennett was acquired this offseason by the Patriots via a trade with the Bears, but the tight end has already distinguished himself as a quality pass-catcher and a terrific quote. Here are our five favorites to this point in his New England career:

“I’ve dated two girls at the same time before.” — on building chemistry at the same time with two quarterbacks he’s never worked with

“Dr. Seuss said, ‘No one can be you-er than you.’ Oscar Wilde said, ‘Be yourself, because everyone else is taken.’ I can only be one person. I just try and continue to be who I am and don’t change that. I’m a little chameleon. I just try and fit in wherever I am. When you’re authentic, people appreciate that.” — Bennett on whether or not he’ll mesh with the Patriots’ culture

“Just like any other thing in life, you just prepare to make sure you flow where the wind goes. Try to be a dandelion.” — on whether or not he was surprised he was traded

“I just tell them every day, ‘Man, you guys are lucky. You guys have been playing with Tom Brady forever.’” — on speaking with his new teammates about getting the chance to work with Brady

“Football is just fun. Anytime you get to play is exciting. I ended up on IR, in like, November, so I really haven’t had that much football for a long time,” he said. “It’s like when you break up and finally get back with the girl that you love in the first place. It’s been great to be back out there.” — on returning to the game after a stint on injured reserve in 2015

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price


FOXBORO — Rob Ninkovich came to camp this week with a freshly shaven mug, ready to look the part of a young playmaker on defense.

Ninkovich, who turned 32 on Feb. 1, is the oldest returning veteran on the defense. He keeps his job by not just maintaining a high level of play on the field but learning to do more on defense as he gets older.

The competitiveness amps up for rookies and veterans alike on Saturday with the start of full pads practice on Saturday.

“We’re starting training camp with pads and I think everyone is focused on getting those pads on and starting training camp, hitting somebody. I’m excited. It’s always good to start real football, and that’s when the pads come on.” Ninkovich said. “That’s the fun part of training camp. Right now, we’re focused on getting better and coming together as a team.”

And staying cool as a team. Ninkovich took one look at the forecast this week and saw temperatures in the 90s and knew one thing that had to go was the full beard.

“It’s hot, it’s hot,” he said. “I saw the temps so I figured I needed to take the beard off. And I look a little younger now. In this business, you don’t want to look too old, right?”

But Ninkovich knows as well as anyone, with age comes experience. And that’s gold to Bill Belichick, as long as your skills remain viable at the NFL level.

In the spring, he worked extensively with the linebacking corps, a role he hasn’t played much of late. That’s because he’s been one of the mainstays of the edge pass rush, along with Chandler Jones. But with Jones gone, it’s up to Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Geneo Grissom, Trey Flowers and Chris Long to pick up the slack. It’s a role that Ninkovich will likely play again but just in case, Ninkovich could spot a few reps in the second level of the defense if the situation arises.

Why does Belichick trust him to handle both?

“Rob’s got a great feel for the game,” Belichick said. “First of all, he’s got great physical skills. He can run, he’s athletic, he’s strong, so he can hang in there against the big guys but is athletic [enough] to play in space. Whether that be in the kicking game or as an off-the-line linebacker; you can drop him into coverage from the line of scrimmage. Mentally, he sees the game as well. He can move around, do different things. He doesn’t get bogged down. He has the ability to play in coverage, which means you have to see the game a little bit behind you in pass coverage.

“It’s not all in front of you, especially in zone defense. There are plays behind you. You have to have an awareness for where receivers are, where people are on the field. Mike [Vrabel] was able to do that. Junior [Seau] was able to do that, although Junior primarily played inside linebacker, but he played on the line quite a bit, rushed quite a bit. Tedy [Bruschi] certainly did that over the course of his career even though the majority of his college career was down and the majority of his pro career was up, but he showed the ability to do both of those things at a very high level. You get players that do that. Not everybody can do it but when you have one that can it is a big advantage.”

Belichick isn’t the only one who trusts Ninkovich. His teammates are the ones on the field with him.

“He’ s a great player, a great leader,” Dont’a Hightower said. “He orchestrates the front very well, just as far as in the meeting rooms, and he’s just a great ball player.”

Can versatility improve over time?

“Again, Lawrence [Taylor] did that, Carl [Banks] did that, Pepper [Johnson] did that in New York,” Belichick said. “I don’t think you really usually ask that guy, guys like that, to do it all at once – ‘Your first year you’re going to do all of this stuff.’ Usually it’s a progression over time due to either the player’s development, or possibly injuries or game plan situations where you need to make some variations like that.

“So, I’d say generally it’s a buildup over time but that’s kind of the way, but that would be kind of the way it would be anyways. Again, I don’t think there are too many players that you would want to bring into the league in year one and give him that kind of multiplicity defensively in a pretty short amount of time. I guess it could happen. I haven’t seen it too often.”

Ninkovich is about to enter his eighth season with the Patriots. Whether it’s long-snapping (like he did against Green Bay in 2014), playing special teams early in his time in New England, playing the edge like he did in college, shifting to linebacker early in his NFL career or switching back to play the edge like he has the last several seasons, Ninkovich feels confident he will be ready.

“Every year it’s going to be different, there is going to be change,” Ninkovich said. “That’s just the way the game is. This is really when guys start coming together in training camp. You’re working on all of the communication and just getting a feel for one another, communicating and getting everything down.

“As you’re progressing through your career, you learn a position, then you learn another one, and towards the end, you know a couple. So for me, it was playing defensive end early in my career, then learning how to play linebacker. Being able to do multiple things, for me, has helped me play as long as I have. You’ve got to continue to do that as your career moves along.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Cyrus Jones said he's confident every time he takes the field. (WEEI.com)

Cyrus Jones said he’s confident every time he takes the field. (WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Over the past few years, Patriots first-round picks have been able to make impacts in their first seasons in the league, most notably Malcom Brown and Dont’a Hightower.

This year it could be Cyrus Jones, as the cornerback has seen extensive time lining up inside Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler as the slot cornerback and also plenty of reps returning punts over the first two days of training camp.

Jones, an Alabama product, is confident he can contribute.

“I have ultimate confidence every time I step on the field,” Jones said. “Just the way the coaches prepare us and just being a competitor. It helps to have that confidence. The more prepared you are the more equipped you are to go out there and do your job at a high level. I’m definitely confident every time I step on the field.”

The Patriots struggled to find a No. 3 cornerback last season to play along with Ryan and Butler. Taking Jones in the first round is a sign the Patriots feel he could be that guy and potentially a top cornerback in a year or two.

“I feel pretty comfortable [in the slot],” Jones said. “I think I am comfortable everywhere I am on the football field. I just go out there and play my assignment, be in the right spot and make plays.”

With Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman as the primary punt returners in year’s past, the Patriots could go with Jones this year to take some of the pressure off the receivers, who have taken some big hits over the years.

“I’m really comfortable back there,” Jones said. “I did it in college, so just like all the other things, trying to come out here, listen to the coaching points and just be consistent. Not drop any balls, have secure ball-handling and use my skills when I get the ball in my hands.”

Jones praised all the veterans for helping him in his first training camp and he’s just looking to get better every day.

“Just have to come in with the mindset of learn as much as you can, especially in the film room and try and come out here and apply the best you can on the field,” he said. “String good days together and continue to progress through camp and into the season.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Jamie Collins

Jamie Collins

FOXBORO — After an apparently excused absence that managed to get him out of first day of training camp, linebacker Jamie Collins was back on the field with the rest of his teammates on Friday.

Collins talked with the media following Friday’s workout, and said that while he understands why his absence was perceived as a big deal, he wasn’t going to offer any information as to why he wasn’t at practice with the rest of his teammates.

“That’s my business,” he said.

The linebacker is one of a handful of potential free agents who will be up for a new deal prior to the start of the 2017 season, a group that includes Dont’a Hightower and Jabaal Sheard. Reportedly, there hasn’t been a lot of talk about a new deal for Collins yet when it comes to him re-upping in New England. On Friday, he didn’t sound like a guy in a rush to get a new contract completed.

“I’m just handling business, man,” Collins said. “That’ll take care of itself.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price discuss the return of linebacker Jamie Collins to the practice field Friday on Day 2 of Pariots training camp and what it means for the Patriots defense going forward. New tight end Martellus Bennett also made headlines with a couple of colorful quotes comparing working with Jimmy Garoppolo and Tom Brady with his past dating experiences and Brady’s competitiveness.

Blog Author: 
WEEI
Jacoby Brissett praised Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo on Friday. (WEEI.com)

Jacoby Brissett praised Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo on Friday. (WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Even though Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo have plenty of other things to worry about, they’ve made sure to make sure rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett is up to speed for his first NFL training camp.

While at times over the first two training camp sessions Brissett has looked like a rookie, there have been other times where he’s looked like he’s been in the league a few years.

The rookie out of NC State praised Brady and Garoppolo after practice on Friday.

“A lot,” he said when asked how much they’ve helped him. “They’ve been through this so they’ve been a great asset to have. Our room has been great.”

Added Brissett: “It’s great. We’ve got a great group and we just all help each other and try and get better each day.”

Despite almost being 39 years old, Brady has taken the time to give some advice to the rookie.

“[To take it] one day at a time,” Brissett said of the advice he’s received from Brady. “[I’m] just watching him and Jimmy operate, and seeing how they operate faster and [I’m] trying to get up to their speed.”

Brissett knows he has a long way to go, especially being behind Brady and Garoppolo on the depth chart, but he’s willing to put the work in.

“It’s learning every day,” Brissett said. “I won’t stop learning, that’s for sure.”

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

FOXBORO — When it comes to developing chemistry with two different — and new — quarterbacks at the same time, Martellus Bennett doesn’t see an issue.

“I’ve dated two girls at the same time before,” the tight end said with a smile shortly after Friday morning practice.

Martellus Bennett meets the media. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Martellus Bennett meets the media. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — When it comes to developing chemistry with two different — and new — quarterbacks at the same time, Martellus Bennett doesn’t see an issue.

“I’ve dated two girls at the same time before,” the tight end said with a smile shortly after Friday morning practice.

There are only two training camp workouts in the books, and the pads have yet to go on, but it’s been hard not to notice Bennett’s impact, regardless of who is throwing him the ball. He had a dynamite catch the back of the end zone over Patrick Chung on a pass from Jimmy Garoppolo in 7-on-7 work on Friday, and has showed a nice chemistry with Tom Brady in all phases of work, including their side sessions that also feature Rob Gronkowski.

“Football is just fun. Anytime you get to play is exciting. I ended up on IR, in like, November, so I really haven’t had that much football for a long time,” he said. “It’s like when you break up and finally get back with the girl that you love in the first place. It’s been great to be back out there.”

He said Friday that working with Garoppolo has been “cool,” but it sounds like he’s been blown away by his experience with Brady.

“He’s been competitive even when we’ve been working out,” he said. “He plays at such a high level that you have to match that level. Oil and vinegar don’t mix. You just have to make sure that you rise to the top when he rises to the top as well.”

He also reminds some of his new teammates just how lucky they are.

“I just tell them every day, ‘Man, you guys are lucky. You guys have been playing with Tom Brady forever.’”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO — While wide receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola haven’t participated yet in the first of two Patriots training camp sessions as they both are on PUP, it would appear they are making strides towards joining the rest of the team.