Patriots’ beat writers were challenged by members of the Dolphins’ media to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and help raise funds and awareness to help combat the disease. (Video courtesy Patriots PR.)

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FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski took another step forward in his rehab Monday, as he got extensive work in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills while in full pads.

The tight end acknowledged that he’€™s still on the road to recovery after last year’€™s season-ending knee injury, but just the sight of him on the practice field with the rest of his teammates engaged in something more than a low-intensity walkthrough is certainly encouraging.

‘€œIt felt good,’€ he said following a practice session that went for roughly two hours on Monday afternoon. ‘€œI wasn’€™t like full,full contact or anything like that — it was just little routes and that kind of stuff. But I’€™m feeling good. Progressed a lot out there — routes versus the defense in 7-on-7, some team things. Overall, it just feels good to be back out there with my teammates and competing.

‘€œIt’€™s always a step forward when you’€™re participating in more and more. Probably [Tuesday], pick it up even more,’€ he added. ‘€œIt’€™s going well so far — no setbacks or anything. Just having a blast being back out there, having fun catching some balls and making some plays.’€

Gronkowski didn’€™t go wire-to-wire in the 7-on-7s and 11-on-11 drills, but in his first action in a padded practice since last December, he certainly didn’€™t appear to struggle with his routes. He was able to make a couple of impressive connections in the early going with quarterback Tom Brady, and while he didn’€™t take any sizable hits, there was some contact while wearing a massive black brace/sleeve on his left arm There was one play where he was stripped near the sidelines by rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler, but other than that, he appeared to be in good shape for someone who suffered a serious knee injury the first week of December.

Of course, Gronkowski has gone through this process before. Last summer, the world anxiously awaited his return from a variety of injuries, including a forearm issue that ultimately ended his 2012 season. While he wouldn’€™t compare last year’€™s rehab to the one he’€™s currently going through — ‘€œWe’€™re not allowed to do that,’€ he said with a smile — you get the feeling that he’€™s more confident in his ability to play the entire regular season this time around as opposed to last summer.

‘€œStill operating off same plan,’€ he said when asked if the goal is to play the entire 2014 season.

When asked if he feels good enough to go play in the preseason — starting with Friday’s game against the Panthers — he smiled.

‘€œI just love playing the game of football, so whenever they let me have a chance, I definitely want to play,’€ Gronkowski said. ‘€œIt’€™s up to the training staff. We’€™ll see.

‘€œWe’€™re all on the same page and we’€™re all doing a great job with it. I’€™m feeling good out there — getting in shape, catching balls and just preparing myself the best I can right now.’€

He credited some of the success he had on Monday afternoon to his side work with Brady — the two have held regular one-on-one sessions over the course of training camp, and were occasionally joined by cornerback Darrelle Revis, who provided some resistance for the tight end as he went through his routes.

‘€œIt’€™s definitely huge to get going and be on the same page with the quarterback,’€ he said. ‘€œNot just the quarterback — you want to be on the same page with the wide receivers, be on different levels on the routes. Just be on the same page with the offense as a whole.

‘€œI’€™ve been working with Tom since I’€™ve been out here, but we haven’€™t been doing it vs. the defense or anything. So it was good to be out there and boom, just like we never missed before. He hit me — I think we had a couple of passes thrown to me for catches in 11-on-11, so that was good.’€

There are questions about his overall fitness — over the course of the summer, Gronkowski could be heard grunting and wheezing as he made his cuts while doing his side work with Brady. And he acknowledged his overall fitness was ‘€œgood, but can always be better,’€ the side sessions have also helped with that as well.

‘€œIt’€™s huge. You just can’€™t hop into 11-on-11 action. You’€™ve got to do one-on-ones [and] get your body acclimated,’€ he said. ‘€œGet your legs underneath you all before that. That’€™s why it’€™s good to do everything I was doing leading up to it so when I went out there today I felt like I was prepared and I felt like I was ready to go.’€

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO — The Patriots had their final training camp practice open to the media Monday afternoon, a session that ran for just over two hours in front of a large crowd. Overall, it was the 17th practice of the summer for New England, and the 12th in pads. Here are a few quick notes:

Tyler Gaffney, D.J. Williams, Cameron Gordon, Sebastian Vollmer, Tommy Kelly, Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga were not spotted at start of practice. Chris Martin was in sweats. In addition, Michael Hoomanwanui, Chris Martin, James Anderson and Bryan Stork left after stretching, and worked on the lower practice fields.

– In 7-on-7 work, the biggest news was the fact that tight end Rob Gronkowski took part in the session, working clearly and getting in and out of his routes without an issue. The big fella was only partially involved when it came to contact, but the sight of Gronkowski running routes and catching passes from quarterbacks is an encouraging sight for Patriots fans. (For what it’s worth, Gronkowski was not involved in any of the blocking drills immediately following the 7-on-7 passing drills.) Gronkowski also saw work in 11-on-11 drills for the first time all summer, and made a couple of really nice connections with Brady over the middle. Again, another encouraging sign for New England fans.

– In other 7-on-7 news, there was a really nice pass breakup by Kyle Arrington on a Brady deep ball intended for Danny Amendola. And rookie corner Malcolm Butler had a really impressive pass breakup on a pass for Gronkowski, knocking the ball away cleanly and causing a fumble.

– Later on, the Patriots welcomed first-round pick Dominique Easley to 11-on-11 work in full pads for the first time all summer. It appeared that Easley was working with a reasonable facsimile of the second-team defense. He looked very good — quick, without any issues when it came to bursting and changing direction. On his first rush, he flew past center Ryan Wendell, and beat guard Dan Connolly on his second rush. He also flashed an impressive spin move on the following play. An interesting debut for the youngster, who might be on track to get some live snaps this week against the Panthers.

– In 11-on-11 work, it was clear (as it has been all summer long) that Julian Edelman has become Brady’s default receiver. There were a handful of occasions where the quarterback found “Minitron” after looking over the field and passing on a deep option. We’ve said it before, and it bears repeating — if he stays healthy, Edelman will have a terrific year.

Bill Belichick stopped practice for a few moments about an hour or so into practice and gathered the team together in a sizable huddle. They stopped practice for a few moments before jumping back into 11-on-11 work.

Steve Maneri had a drop in 11-on-11 work. (He bounced back nicely with a catch shortly after that.) Meanwhile, James Develin continues to catch everything thrown in his direction. Also in 11-on-11 work, Ryan Mallett was picked off by Brandon Browner and James Anderson stepped in front of a pass from Brady for Amendola and took it all the way back for a score.

– There was mixing and matching along the offensive line again. It’s a spot continues to be a bit complicated for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the Patriots are low on tight ends and have been forced to utilize Nate Solder out on the edge from time to time, as well as the fact that Vollmer was not at practice. While the tackles appear to be set (provided Vollmer and Solder are healthy) as well as left guard (Mankins), there have been multiple personnel packages on the rest of the interior, as Connolly, Wendell, Marcus Cannon and Jordan Devey all got starting snaps on Monday.

– For the first time all summer, we saw some preseason game-planning during practice, as some of the Patriots’ scout teamers slipped into jerseys in hopes of replicating the performances out of some of the Panthers skill position players, including Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen.

– Brady and Gronkowski got their semi-regular work together off to the side on a couple of occasions. Meanwhile, Jerel Worthy and Devey worked together off to the side through the late stages of the afternoon.

– Amendola, Jeremy Gallon and Roy Finch were among those getting work as punt returners.

James White had to run a lap because of a botched exchange between the quarterback and running back. That’s notable, as White had only two college fumbles, and told the media when he first arrived in Foxboro that, “Ball security is job security.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Chandler Jones talks with the midday guys and AGAIN he's asked about his brother, Jon, right off the bat. He played 18 snaps against the Eagles and talks about the adjustments players will have to make with some of the new rules. He was also asked about when fights break out among teammates during practices.

[0:01:58] ... You know that there's -- teams have been muted but a perfect football team you know there's those areas were well we can give better and its rivals that are. -- eighteen snaps for you -- ...
[0:02:33] ... not enough on the nose -- -- play and never you know Bill Belichick hasn't done. I'm done. No surprises from seeing those guys in there and we can practice to get any kind -- Rick ...
[0:08:20] ... weeks -- look at what's going on out to California with the Oakland raiders of the Dallas Cowboys fans don't begin to get in on the arm on the fight. I mean is it. Is it something that you guys ...

On a Patriots Monday, Julian Edelman sat down talk about Friday night's game vs. the Eagles. He talked about all the flags that were thrown and how the team has to adjust. He also compares his comfort level with Tom Brady right now, to where he was heading into camp LAST season.

[0:01:10] ... these guys are playing Carolina. I have my own team so whatever Steve Smith. One of the week of practice I knew he was gonna catch ten balls for a 182 -- that he was starting PP our yeah semi easy let's go. So listen so what happened on that one play in the first quarter yes speaking of stats in Tennessee football my pre season and Salinas group because you gave credit for a cash. You know I don't know they. We got the penalty yet down ...
[0:02:25] ... call a game like that -- getting used to it for the regular season and kind of you know like train a dog get a trainer went out there and and and throw probably a little more now pending get in guys' heads to. To think towards the regular season so you know we're gonna played out every every team has to deal with that in our team has to deal our ...
[0:04:29] ... year where you are last year as an office maybe comfort them Tom Brady with everybody are you that far advanced that guys can do more because. He knows you guys more these weapons last year ...

Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones

Defensive end Chandler Jones joined the Middays with MFB crew on Monday as the Patriots head into the second half of the preseason. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The first-string defense has played well in the preseason, but Jones knows the squad has a long way to go.

“We can always do better,” Jones said. “Honestly, I felt like there’s always room for improvement. There’s no perfect football team. . . .  There always areas where we can get better, and that goes for everyone.”

Added Jones: “Week in and week out we try to find weakness in our defense and get better. Every good defense, you don’t want any weaknesses at all.”

The officials have been calling games tight in the preseason. One of the points of emphasis is to look for illegal hands to the face from lineman.

“Being a pass-rusher in this league, you don’t want to run off the ball thinking about, ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to get my hands in this guy’s face.’ That should be the last thing that should be on your mind. First, your assignment, your lineman, getting off the ball and doing your job. . . .

“As a pass-rusher you just want to go out there and do whatever you can to get to the quarterback. Running off the ball, thinking about that, I haven’t really thought about it too much, because a lot of my moves are a lot of counter moves, so I don’t really start with slapping any guy’s face.”

For more Patriots news, visit the team page at

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Jerry Spar

Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman checked in with Middays with MFB as part of Patriots Monday on WEEI and discussed the high number of penalties being caused in the preseason. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman checked in with Middays with MFB as part of Patriots Monday on WEEI and discussed the high number of penalties being caused in the preseason. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

“If they’re going to call the game like that, we’ve got to get used to it for the regular season,” Edelman said. “Kind of like training a dog, we’ve got to train everyone and throw probably a little more now to get it in guys’ heads to think towards the regular season. We’re just going to play it out. Every team has to deal with it — our defense has to deal with it. That’s the route they want to go, that’s what we’re going to have to do.”

Added Edelman: “As a player, you know the rules and you’re going to go out there and you’re going to play — do business as business is being done. So if you see it’s a tight game, you’re going to tighten it up a little. If it’s not, that’s when you’re going to loosen up, get away with the push-off or something like that. You’re going to adjust to how the game’s being called.”

Edelman is coming off a breakout, 105-catch season that led to a big contract in the offseason. With his spot secure, he acknowledged approaching training camp with a slightly different mindset.

“This year has been a little different,” he said. “Now I get to really focus on my fundamentals, plays that I go out there and not have to think about a bunch of noise, what’s going on, this, that. You really get to brush up route technique. You have the experience from last year to see what guys have done on certain plays, certain techniques, certain head-bobs, all this kind of stuff. It’s good to kind to learn from last year and try to use that as a foundation and go on from there.”

Tom Brady has taken to affectionately calling Edelman and fellow undersized receiver Danny Amendola “pygmies.”

Edelman professed ignorance about the African-derived term for short people but added: “He’s the commander in chief. What he says goes.”

For more Patriots news, visit the team page at

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Jerry Spar

At every NFL training camp, there are always out-of-the-blue success stories — players who no one was talking about at the start of the summer, but through hard work and sheer will have managed to elbow their way into contention for a roster spot. This year is no different, as the Patriots have had more than their share of under-the-radar possibilities rise up and make a name for themselves. Now, with half the preseason schedule in the books and the regular season less than three weeks away, these four underdogs have positioned themselves nicely to beat the odds and win a roster spot. Here are our favorite success stories of the summer.

Offensive lineman Jordan Devey – As of Sunday afternoon, Devey was the only player in the league who played every single snap for his team in the preseason. The 6-foot-7, 317-pounder out of Memphis, who spent all of the 2013 season on the practice squad, has lined up at both guard spots and both tackle spots in the first two preseason games. Along the way, he has injected himself into a conversation regarding who might work along the interior, as well as who would best be served to work as the backup swing tackle. He probably won’€™t start, but his versatility could make him the latest in a long line of offensive linemen who have used the fact that they can play multiple positions as an entry point for more reps. In many cases, that’€™s led to bigger and better things down the road.

‘€œI think he’€™s improved a lot from last year — he’€™s had a good offseason,’€ Bill Belichick said of Devey. ‘€œHe’€™s worked really hard. He’€™s a smart guy. His fundamentals have improved. His strength is better. His offseason program was very productive. Harold Nash and Moses [Cabrera] and their program, he really was able to take advantage of that and put himself in a very competitive position.’€

Wide receiver Brian Tyms – What’€™s the wildest part of Tyms’€™ story? How he was a foster child who bounced from home to home as a preteen? The fact that he lived in his car as a teenager? How he walked on at Florida A&M? Or how he’€™s buddies with Randy Moss? Regardless, Tyms has gone from not being on the radar screen at the start of camp to becoming front and center as part of the debate as to whether or not the Patriots will carry six receivers this season.

Over the course of the summer he’€™s displayed a fierce level of competitiveness for jump balls — he’€™s been targeted almost twice as much as any other pass catcher through two games. He hasn’€™t missed a practice. And by all accounts, he’€™s a model teammate who everyone seems to be rooting for. In addition to that, he has some roster flexibility that ultimately could tip the scales in his favor. He faces a four-game ban at the start of the season for using Adderall (according to Tyms) late last year. If the Patriots choose to keep him around (although he wouldn’t be allowed in the facility during his suspension), he wouldn’€™t count toward their final 53-man roster. That could end up working in his favor.

Ultimately, no matter happens with him, he’€™s the feel-good story of the summer in Foxboro.

‘€œI don’€™t know if you guys feel the atmosphere coming out here on this practice field, but everybody’€™s serious,’€ Tyms said earlier this month. ‘€œIt’€™s not, ‘€˜OK, this is just another practice.’€™ Everybody is serious. The level of intensity is high, so I don’€™t really have time to sit back and think, ‘€˜Wow, I’€™m missing the first four games.’€™ The moment I do that, I’€™ll hear, ‘€˜Hey Brian, sub in.’€™ And then Tom [Brady] calls a play and I don’€™t know what I’€™m doing because I’€™m thinking about a suspension.

‘€œI don’€™t really think about that. I just come out here and try to stay good on my assignments, making all my blocks, running my routes at the right depth and cheering on my teammates. That’€™s about it.’€

Cornerback Malcolm Butler – Hailing from noted Division 2 football factory West Alabama, Butler is a 5-foot-11, 190-pounder who was signed after getting a tryout during rookie minicamp. Like most of the other guys on this list, he made his bones through the first two weeks of training camp because he didn’€™t back down from anyone and maintained that same competitive attitude when he stepped on the field. In the first preseason contest against the Redskins he deflected two passes, and he also has a pick of Brady to his credit. He got the start on Friday against the Eagles and played roughly two-thirds of the snaps in the win.

‘€œI think he’€™s done a good job every day, coming out there being ready to compete,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œHe’€™s a got a long way to go. He’€™s got a lot to learn. There are a lot of things different here than where he played and who he played against. But that’€™s all in the past, so he’€™s just got to take it day by day. He’€™s learning every day, he works hard and he’€™s gotten better on a daily basis. Still has a long way to go.’€

There’€™s still time between now and the start of the season, but unless Butler is brutal in the final two preseason games, he figures to at least have the inside track on a roster spot while the Patriots wait out the four-game suspension for fellow corner Brandon Browner at the start of the regular season. That means he’€™d be the fifth corner for New England heading into Week 1 against the Dolphins.

Running back Roy Finch – The rookie free agent out of Oklahoma has gotten every chance to win a spot somewhere on this roster, and while he may not come away with a berth on the 53-man squad to start the season, it appears he’€™ll find a way to stick around Foxboro in some form, either on the practice squad or as a result of the Foxboro flu. The 5-foot-7, 167-pounder struggled in the preseason opener against the Redskins, having some issues with ball security while working on special teams. But against the Eagles he had 71 yards from scrimmage (37 rushing, 34 receiving), and averaged 7.9 yards every time he touched the ball. Good numbers for an undersized back.

‘€œRoy was a player that is good with the ball in his hands. He’€™s got pretty good quickness,’€ Patriots personnel chief Nick Caserio said earlier this summer. ‘€œWhen a guy is maybe a little bit smaller at one position relative to the other, you look for maybe a skill that separates themselves. In Roy, [that'€™s an] ability to move laterally. He was good with the ball in his hands. They played a lot of running backs at Oklahoma and when he got touches he was able to make some plays in space.’€

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to discuss the huge number of penalties given out this preseason as well as Jimmy Garoppolo‘€™s potential in New England. To listen to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

NFL referees have come under fire for aggressively calling penalties in preseason games, something that revolves around the league cracking down on illegal contact, defensive holding and illegal hands to the face.

Hasselbeck said the number of penalties should decrease once the regular season kicks off.

“I watch all of these games, and you obviously can’€™t watch them all in real time, so I feel like I’ve had the benefit of fast-forwarding through the nonsense, because the games that I’ve watched in real time, it’€™s been brutal,” Hasselbeck said. “It’€™s been absolutely brutal. There’€™s no way this continues, because the league doesn’t want games like this during the regular season, and I can tell you right now, with all of this emphasis and all of this focus on this illegal contact and that nonsense, go look at every postseason for the last five years. The further and further you get along in the postseason, refs are afraid to take the flag out of their pocket. They won’€™t do it. … I feel like the officials in the NFL kind of missed the boat on this one.”

Hasselbeck said that Garoppolo’€™s impressive performances in the team’€™s first two preseason games, coupled with Ryan Mallett‘€™s upcoming free agency, has given Garoppolo the edge in terms of fighting for the backup quarterback role on the team.

“œI think, in terms of the ownership of the system, I think you need to be in it for a full year,” Hasselbeck said. “The advantage of being in something a full year is that you have command over it, rather than just knowing it. … There’€™s so many layers of it, so I think if you’€™re in it for over a year, to start to develop that type of ability. In terms of Belichick’€™s process with these guys, because of the contract situation for Mallett going forward and when he reaches free agency and because they’ve invested a second-round pick in Garoppolo, I believe that the scale is tipped a little bit in Garoppolo’€™s favor for them to really try to get him up to speed and feel comfortable with him being the backup, and so I think that’€™s why you’€™re going to see them give him opportunities.”

While teams such as the Bills and Jets have the players and potential to make some noise this season, Hasselbeck still has New England pegged as a massive favorite to once again claim in the top spot in the AFC East.

“œEveryone is looking for the team that’€™s challenging them. Who is it? I said this last week … If [Rob] Gronkowski‘€™s healthy, I don’€™t see anybody challenging them,” Hasselbeck said. “New England has gotten better on both sides of the football, just by guys going into their second year, guys on the defensive side of the ball, in terms of additions, [Shane] Vereen being healthy, they have gotten significantly better, I believe, from a personnel standpoint.

“€œYou can talk Sammy Watkins all you want. … EJ Manuel developing, whatever it its, good quarterback play out of the Jets and their defense. But New England looks better, too. I really don’€™t think that there’€™s a team that gives them a significant run for their money in the East.”

For more Patriots news, go to the team page at

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan