It’s not unusual for established veteran players to be given a respite from the grind of training camp for a practice or two here and there. Typically, those days of rest don’t come on the second day of camp, yet today, that’s what appeared to be the case with quarterback Tom Brady.
As players filed onto the field this Friday morning, Brady appeared without his uniform or helmet. He seemed to be in good spirits and didn’t have any obvious physical limitations as he shadowed his fellow QBs throughout the two-and-a-half-hour session.
Afterward, Brady did not speak with reporters, but his backup, Brian Hoyer, did and was asked tongue-in-cheek if he’ll be granted a day of rest on Saturday.
“Ha!” he laughed. “No, I don’t know. Whatever they want me to do.”
Of course, with Brady playing the role of spectator Friday, Hoyer saw considerably more action with the first offensive personnel grouping.
“It’s great. I love it,” he remarked about the extra workload. “I love playing. Whether it’s doing the best job I can on scout team, running our plays, whatever it is, that’s what you’re here for.”
Hoyer and rookie draft choice Jarrett Stidham were the only two passers who saw action in 11-on-11 periods Friday. Danny Etling continues to transition from QB to the wide receiver position, although he did act as a quarterback during some drill periods between the offense and defense.
Now in his 11th NFL season and the third of his second go-round with New England, Hoyer bristled when a reporter suggested that he was fighting for a job this summer.
“I get this question every year. Look, I’m just out here to play football,” he responded. “Eleven years in, I think the one thing that I’ve always had a lot of confidence in is being able to throw the football.”
However, he was quick to accept his share of the responsibility for a collective gaff by the offense late in today’s practice that prompted head coach Bill Belichick to send every player in a white jersey on a penalty lap around the practice field.
“It’s just about accountability, making sure you do the right thing,” added Hoyer. “If you’re out on the field on Sunday [during the season], you can’t have [those mistakes] going on. It just shows us you can’t take a second off. You have to be on top of everything – the personnel groupings, 10 men in the huddle, 11 men in the huddle – always be on top of it and never take anything for granted.
“We screwed up and deserved to take that lap. Hopefully, we learn from it and don’t do it again.”
Check out the best photos from Patriots Training Camp at Gillette Stadium on Friday, July 26, 2019.
Practice makes perfect?
That penalty lap served as an example of how tight a ship the Patriots try to run during their practices. There’s an almost military-like precision to the way New England’s practices are timed and structured, so as not to waste any precious seconds, or at least limit such inefficiencies.
During joint practices with the Patriots in the past, players from other teams have frequently remarked about how precise New England’s sessions are. For rookies and newcomers to the Patriots, the tempo can take some getting used to, but veterans do their best to prepare their new teammates for this.
“Whether it’s a rookie or someone from another team, it’s going to be different from where they came,” observed running back Rex Burkhead. “Just give them a heads-up about how it is beforehand and if they have any questions, be there to answer them.”
Butler keeps doing it
Though it’s certainly not unusual for an undrafted player to win a job on the Patriots’ roster, it remains a difficult goal to achieve, particularly on a squad that just won the Super Bowl.
Adam Butler managed to do just that in 2017, the season after New England won its fifth Lombardi Trophy. Now in his third season and having just won his first ring with the Patriots, the young defensive lineman admits he’s come a long way and still uses his unheralded beginnings as motivation.
“I think about it all the time,” he confessed Friday. “That’s something that just keeps me going. I think about where I was and where I am now. I just try to be better every day.”
Last season, Butler appeared as a substitute in all 19 games for the Patriots, both regular season and postseason. Coincidentally, his 17 total tackles in 2018 tanked 17th highest on the Patriots defense. He added a trio of sacks and a forced fumble and a pass defensed to his stat sheet a year ago.
As he continues to keep his job on the roster, does Butler finally feel like a proven veteran?
“Somewhat,” he answered, “but I’ve got a lot of growing to do.”
Buy: Damien Harris – The rookie running back has looked good catching the football out of the backfield during the first two days of camp. It will be interesting to see how well he carries the football when the team is allowed to wear full pads this coming weekend.
Sell: Braxton Berrios – It was a tough day at times for the second-year pass catcher. He saw a very catchable pass thrown to him on a crossing pattern bounce off his hands incomplete and later had a sure reception swatted away at the last moment by CB Stephon Gilmore.
Play of the Day: During an 11-on-11 period, tight end Matt LaCosse made a tremendous touchdown reception down the seam. Hoyer fired the pass, which was a bit behind LaCosse, but the veteran adjusted his body in order to reach behind two defenders, linebacker Elandon Roberts and safety Duron Harmon. LaCosse held onto the football as he fell hard to the ground just beyond the goal line to complete the scoring play.