Check out our favorite photos from the Patriots joint practice with the Saints on Thursday, August 20, 2015 at the the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.V. – Two of Marshall University's all-time great receivers also happen to be two of New England's all-time greats at the position. Both Randy Moss and Troy Brown hail from West Virginia and played their college ball at Marshall, here in the Mountain State.
Brown attended both Patriots-Saints joint practices here at the Greenbrier resort, and on Thursday, Moss made an appearance. He chatted before the session with head coach Bill Belichick and another West Virginia legend, NBA great Jerry West, and later had a lengthy sideline chat with QB Tom Brady. The two were teammates for several years in New England and, according to Moss, remain close friends.
Around midday, at the end of practice, Moss paid a rare visit to the assembled media and answered questions for about five minutes. He was asked right off the bat how he feels Brady is dealing with the considerable distraction of having to fight a legal battle with the NFL.
"One thing you have to realize is Tom is human," Moss began. "I'm not going to tell you it doesn't affect him. Not only does it affect him, it affects everybody in his circle. That's just something that as a professional, you just have to just live with it, just move on from it. We talk every month, but that's something we don't talk about. I told Tom, first and foremost, that I'm going to stand by him regardless of what happens, and I don't call him to talk about anything negative. Friends are supposed to stay positive and move you in the right direction. That's what I'm there for."
Brown, who also entertained reporters' questions after practice, echoed Moss' sentiments, saying he's not surprised that Brady can juggle both the pressures of leading the Patriots offense in a Super Bowl title defense and standing up for himself in a high-profile legal defense.
"He does a great job of staying focused on his mission," said Brown, "and that's to get better day after day. That's what he was focused on: getting better and getting the guys around him better. It doesn't surprise me that Tom is able to channel all his attention to the details. Nothing surprises me with Tom."
Given the current state of the Patriots' receiving corps, Brady couldn't be blamed for wanting to have the likes of Brown and Moss back in his huddle and running routes for him.
""He wanted me to," Moss said with a grin. "He threw me the ball a couple times [on the sideline].
"I was just telling Tom he looked good. He looks like the game has slowed down for him. Anytime the game slows down for you, that's dangerous because that means he's able to think a little bit slower to be able to make decisions for the offense. It just looked good to me. Just from the outside looking in, he's just making his throws, reading the defense, changing his mike calls and things like that. So I just told him that, 'Man, if the game has slowed down this much for you, only great things can happen.'"
Brown, meantime, was awestruck by the exceptional football facilities at the Greenbrier and the fact that not one, but two teams – including his old club – were training in his home state.
"Wish it happened when I was playing. I could've had a whole bunch of family here, friends… but it is great. You have to tip your hat to [Greenbrier owner] Jim Justice for doing a great job of building a great facility. You see some pro teams that, when I played, didn't have stuff this great to work with. The field's in great condition, the players have everything they want, the hotels' in great condition. The Saints have a great home here in West Virginia."
Moss ended by reflecting on his NFL and Patriots career, saying when he looks at his highlights on the internet, he's amazed he was able to do some of the acrobatic things he did on the football field. Moss would never consider coming out of retirement one last time, then, right?
"I would say never, but…" Moss paused dramatically, then smiled, "ahhhh, let's leave it at that."
The Gospel according to Matthew
While Moss may not have been available for Brady on the field Thursday, Matthew Slater was, and he came up big when Brady needed him. With several Patriots receivers, including Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, and Aaron Dobson, dealing with injuries, Slater was thrust into receiving duty more often the past couple of days.
Thursday he had his biggest impact, catching a number of passes, one of which was a deep ball for a touchdown.
"It's always fun," Slater said of stepping in at receiver. "I pride myself on being a professional and keeping myself ready. It's no mystery that we're thin at receiver right now. We've had some injuries. So, the guys need me to take some reps off their legs. I'm ready to do it."
A reporter jokingly followed up by wondering if Slater felt good enough to be a No. 1 or 2 receiver.
"I'm a special teams captain," Slater deadpanned without missing a beat. "I cover and block for kicks and do whatever else they ask me to do."
See you soon?
The Patriots are now done with the pubic viewing portion of training camp. They'll continue to hold practices in a camp-like atmosphere when they return to Foxborough next week, but those sessions will be closed off entirely to the public and only a portion of practices here on out will be viewed by the media.
As they prepared to leave the Greenbrier and head south for New Orleans, Belichick said he hoped to make a future visit to the West Virginia resort.
"It's great work against the Saints. Sean and his staff have really accommodated us in terms of on the field, the football part of it. We got a lot of good work in, a lot of good teaching. We have a tremendous amount of film with all the one-on-ones and the group drills, in addition to the team drills. That's been great for us.
"I can't say enough about the Greenbrier facility," he stressed. "We haven't really had a chance to enjoy the many amenities that they have here. Personally, I'm looking forward to coming back at a different time when I can do that. This place is beautiful, it's awesome and they've been very accommodating."
*Buy: *Rob Gronkowski – New Orleans was no match for New England's All-Pro tight end. He combined with Tom Brady to torch the Saints defense with big catches and touchdowns during Thursday's 11-on-11 action.
Sell: Marcus Cannon – The reserve o-lineman sustained some sort of injury and had to leave practice after an hour. He never returned to the field.
*Play of the Day: *During 11-on-11 against the Saints defense, Tom Brady found Matthew Slater streaking from the right side all the way across the field to the left corner of the end zone. From about 30 yards out, Brady fired an arching strike that landed perfectly in the outstretched arms of Slater, who'd gotten behind the Saints defensive backs and made the easy catch for a touchdown.