SMITHFIELD, R.I. – If the Red Sox ticked off Babe Ruth, what on earth did the Patriots do? One week into training camp and I'm shaking my head in disbelief. One guy retires, another goes AWOL for a day and the entire projected starting offensive line gets hurt. At least the weather has been splendid at Bryant College. Well, except for the first day of full-squad practice when it rained. Maybe that was a message from the football gods. Maybe they were preparing us for another soggy season. Then again, maybe the early rash of bad luck is actually positive because the Patriots are getting it out of the way early.
Joe Panos retired. The man trained the entire offseason, passed Bill Belichick's grueling running test and THEN quit. Obviously Panos had his reasons and as Drew Bledsoe said, if his heart's not in it, guard isn't exactly a position where you can fake it. So be it.
Andy Katzenmoyer bolts. C'mon Big Kat. What's up with that? Anyone can sympathize with the dangers of a neck injury and its effect on a player's life, but go AWOL? Professional athletes are used to performing under great pressure so freaked or not, talk to the coach. No one can blame Katzenmoyer for questioning his future due to a neck injury, but he admittedly handled it incorrectly.
What's up with the injuries? The list seems to grow daily rather than shrink. I'm not a doctor, but that doesn't look like a good sign. Last year the Patriots canceled a practice session with the Giants because they had so many injuries on the offensive line. I thought lightning didn't strike the same spot twice.
Left tackle/guard Adrian Klemm injured his elbow Wednesday morning on the last play of practice during goal line work. His arm was immobilized and he was immediately taken away in a van. His injury leaves the entire first unit out of action. How does this happen two years in a row?
Klemm joins left guard Mike Compton (calf), center Damien Woody (knee), right guards Panos (retired) and Joe Andruzzi (back) and right tackle Matt Light (ankle) on the sideline. So much for picking five guys and sticking with them. None of the injuries appear to be long term except perhaps Klemm, but at least it's his arm and not his knee. I think that's probably a good thing because sometimes guys can play with a cast on their arm.
As it was this morning, the line looked like this: Rookie Kenyatta Jones at left tackle, Klemm at left guard (before he got hurt), Grey Ruegamer at center, Sale Isaia (yes he's back) at right guard and Greg Robinson-Randall at right tackle.
I keep shaking my head and I haven't even contemplated Terry Glenn's iffy situation and subsequent injury or Robert Edwards' anticipated comeback which hasn't materialized.
OK, I needed to scream. The heck with this wallowing in pity. This is patriots.com and if you're on the site reading this, you are a fan and you want some good news. After all, things are never as bad as they may seem.
- Linebacker Bryan Cox signed with the team and was a breath of fresh air in his first press conference. He admitted he can't cover anybody, made his mark by saying the players who make the money have to perform (obvious, but not often said by a teammate), called Bill Belichick "the best game day defensive coach I've ever played for", and admitted that this team needs to upgrade its talent. This guy is a leader and when he establishes himself with his teammates, he will be a much-needed influence.
- First-round pick Richard Seymour has looked very good in camp. From a physical standpoint, he fits right in and his size seems to be a plus. He certainly has a ways to go before he can comfortably settle into Belichick's two-gap, 3-4 scheme, but initial impressions are positive.
- Wide receiver David Patten has played exceptionally, catching virtually everything, including some highlight reel grabs.
- Troy Brown can play for me any day, any time.
- Tebucky Jones has found a home. He appears to be a solid physical presence at safety and seems to know what he's doing. We'll get a more accurate gauge when the games start, but maybe T-Buck will prove he wasn't drafted too high back in 1999.
- Linebackers Ted Johnson and Tedy Bruschi look solid. If there was a little more speed at the linebacker spot, I would feel much better about it, but those guys should be solid inside. The Patriots still need a strong coverage linebacker.
- Rookie seventh-round pick T.J. Turner has made strong initial impressions. He is tough, physical and athletic. He nearly made the play of camp in the first week while rushing off the edge. He was running toward Drew Bledsoe when the quarterback turned and tried to flip a pass over his head into the flat. Turned leaped in mid-stride, got both hands on the ball and nearly intercepted it. My reaction was "Wow." He is working with the first unit at Willie McGinest's crash end spot, which is either a testament to his ability or to the Patriots lack of depth.
- J.R. Redmond is light years ahead of where he was last year and if he nails down the starting job, newcomer Antowain Smith may end up as the goal-line and short-yardage back. His power inside isn't flashy, but he looks like he has a nose for the goal line. Some guys just a find a way in and his 26 touchdowns in four seasons indicate he's one of those guys.
- This team is definitely tougher and has more character than the team that took the field last September. That has to account for something, doesn't it? It wasn't a very good team last year, but somehow managed to stay in many games. Maybe the influx of strong character players with leadership skills can make a difference in some of those losses.
Now get off the ledge. It's only August 1 and there are still 39 days until the opener. Maybe everyone will be healthy and mentally stable by then.