If you didn't know that Kenny Britt is dealing with a frustrating injury, his face would never betray him. Whenever you see him on the practice field or inside the Patriots locker room, he seems to wear a beaming smile and walks with a spring in his step.
Trouble is, he's unable to do much more than that these days.
"I expected to be out there," he confessed to reporters Sunday, "but my hamstring told me something different."
Britt started the summer on New England's physically unable to perform list (PUP) because of that ailing hamstring, and only started wearing pads to practice two weeks ago. Although he's still not at a point where he can participate fully with his teammates, Britt is taking his rehabilitation process in stride.
"I can't go out there looking sad or miserable. That's no good for anybody. But that's just my personality," he continued. "I definitely feel like I'm behind, because I'm not out there with the guys, getting the chemistry I need with the quarterbacks, and getting on the same page with everyone."
Now in his 10th NFL season, Britt came to Foxborough only last December. After a full offseason in New England's system, Britt looked considerably more comfortable on the field and in his role in the offense during spring practices. He described himself in those sessions as focused and ready to prove himself, mentally and physically.
At some point, though, he suffered this injury and has been working steadily ever since to resume full football activities.
The Patriots could use Britt's size (6-3, 230) and just his presence right now, with the receiver position being as thin as it is. He's been held out of the first two preseason games this month and has done little more than a couple of position drills with teammates at the start of practices. Thereafter, he typically retreats to the lower practice field to continue working on rehab and conditioning.
As much as he'd like to be doing more, Britt knows he must exercise patience more than anything at this stage. He maintains he's feeling okay and hasn't suffered any setbacks.
"You never know with a hamstring," Britt added. "One day you feel good and then [snaps his fingers]… other days, it might feel bad, but it's the fastest time you ran.
"I'm doing what's manageable right now. Doing what [the medical staff and coaches] ask me to do and doing what I can. I'll be out there when I can. I miss every bit of it. The best place for me is out there on the field. That's my peace, that's where I want to be, and, of course, I want to be out there with the guys… just taking it a day at a time, doing all the workouts they're giving me."
Asked if there's any chance he'll be ready for action by September, when the Patriots will be without fellow pass catcher Julian Edelman for the month (NFL suspension), Britt offered a trademark smile and answered, "Right now, my focus is trying to get back out there tomorrow."
A Sunday that felt, appropriately, more like late September than mid-August saw the Patriots get back to on-field business. Three days after their second preseason tilt against Philadelphia, New England conducted what's known as a walkthrough practice session – where players wear helmets, but no other pads, and simulate their plays by moving through them at a walking or light jogging pace.
On such occasions, it's customary for nearly every player to attend, except for those who are seriously injured. That being the case, only four Patriots weren't spotted at the late afternoon gathering behind Gillette Stadium, and all would be considered in the "serious injury" category: right tackle Marcus Cannon (unknown), linebacker Harvey Langi (kidney, according to media reports), rookie running back Sony Michel (knee), and rookie offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, who is believed to have ruptured his left Achilles tendon Thursday night versus the Eagles. His season, according to media reports, is over.
Several other players who didn't dress for that game were able to attend the walkthrough, so as to learn by watching (what's known as getting "mental reps"), at the very least. That group included the aforementioned Britt, running back Rex Burkhead, defensive end Trey Flowers, cornerbacks Ryan Lewis and rookie Duke Dawson, and rookie wide receiver Braxton Berrios. They joined their teammates in the group stretching period at the start of the walkthrough, which was all the assembled media were allowed to observe.
Now that public training camp practice sessions are over for 2018, the Patriots are back on more of a regular season-type media schedule. Reporters are allowed a window of about 10-20 minutes of practice viewing, followed by a 45-minute interview session with players thereafter in the team's newly refurbished locker room.
Cannon, who hasn't been seen by reporters since walking off the practice field Aug. 1, made a brief appearance in the locker room during Sunday's interview period. He did not stop to speak on the record, however.
With half their preseason slate complete, the Patriots are expected to hold three more days of practice in shells (smaller, lighter shoulder pads) and/or full pads this coming week, plus another walkthrough on Thursday before they fly to North Carolina for Friday's third preseason game against the Panthers.
Gronk's biting humor
Shark attacks on humans, like the recent one involving a man on Cape Cod, are no laughing matter, of course. But if anyone can find humor in almost any situation, it's Rob Gronkowski.
Earlier this year, the Patriots All-Pro tight end filmed segments for Discovery Channel's popular "Shark Week" series, in which he swam face-to-face with tiger sharks in the waters off the Bahamas.
"I'm a shark expert," he joked with reporters, who therefore wanted his thoughts on the increasing shark sightings off the Cape this summer.
"I heard there's some great whites out there. I haven't seen any great whites yet. They don't know me yet. I only swam with tigers. So, maybe I'll go say hi to my friends."
Gronk's advice to beachgoers?
A media member then suggested that tiger sharks are potentially more dangerous than great whites. "The tigers were facing me, though, baby!" Gronk replied with a laugh as he exited the room.