With the injury list growing, team trainer Ron O'Neil may be getting more of a workout than any player on the field. The hardest hit position for the Patriots is the offensive line where six members are currently making regular trips to O'Neil's training table. The younger players, therefore, are being asked to pick up the slack by taking more repetitions and also by stepping up their quality of play. Due to the facelift on the line, Drew Bledsoe's health has become a serious concern. So much so that Belichick called off the Giants scrimmage scheduled for Thursday.
Belichick feels that some of his players need more time to develop while others need time to heal, and the Giants scrimmage was too close for either of those to happen. "We will be ready to play Monday Night. That's where the rubber meets the road," he said, emphasizing the importance of that game relative to the cancelled scrimmage.
Eric Bjornson, a six-year NFL veteran, is amazed that the injures have hit one position so hard. "I have never seen a team as banged up as this one [or with injuries] so focused on the offensive line," he said. But he did agree that Belichick's decision to forego the Giants scrimmage was a smart one, "It is the best decision for us."
In addition to the six offensive linemen on the sidelines, nine other players (16 in all) also sat out Tuesday's morning practice. Damien Woody, last year's first pick overall, is the only lineman who started in 1999 and is still healthy. Woody was looking forward to hitting players other than teammates, but the injuries hit close to home for him and he understood the scrimmage cancellation. The sidelined linemen are Max Lane, Todd Rucci, Bruce Armstrong, Grant Williams, Lance Scott, and Adrien Klemm. If Thursday's scrimmage was not cancelled, Woody, Jason Anderson, Derrick Fletcher, Adam Davis, and Gregg Robinson-Randall would have been Bledsoe's protection.
To compensate for the inexperience of the line, Charlie Weis has sought out offensive schemes that do not rely heavily upon excellent blocking. With concerns surrounding quarterback protection the, Michael Bishop has been given the reins to do what he does best. The second-year quarterback reverted to his maverick college form by rolling out of the pocket and throwing on the run throughout practice. Bishop's mobility and arm strength enabled him to menace the defense. During the team portion of practice, Bishop sprinted out of the pocket, turned the corner and headed up field for a substantial gain. The next call was another sprint-out, but this time the defense rolled up to crush Bishop. The versatile passer took advantage of a gap in the middle of the defense and fired a completion.
The running game still leaves a question mark in the Patriots playbook. J.R. Redmond, the projected starter before camp, is nursing a groin injury. In lieu of his absence, Harris and Faulk have done very well making the running back spot an interesting contest. Harris likes the competitive nature among his teammates. "We are all friends. I don't have a J.R. Redmond Voo Doo doll," he said. Whether or not Redmond is considered the front-runner, he is a still rookie and regardless of depth chart status, has to carry Harris' and Faulk's shoulder pads back to the locker room.
Camp Notes: The Patriots released Martinez Williams… Today was the first practice that NFL referees controlled scrimmage action to familiarize the new players with the rules… Pass ran around the end for a nifty touchdown… Players worked on downing the ball for the punt team… Chris Slade made the biggest effort today when he fought through Davis to tackle Harold Shaw… Tom Brady threw a 40-yard touch pass over the heads of Kelly Maleveaux and Rodney Rideau to Shockmain Davis for the crowd pleaser…Chris Floyd was stripped by Tedy Bruschi, but Rod Rutledge recovered for the offenses.