There was plenty to take away from two joint practices and a preseason game in Green Bay for Patriots rookie Christian Gonzalez.
Over the course of Wednesday and Thursday, Gonzalez and his teammates at cornerback saw dozens of reps in all kinds of situations against the Packers' young receiving squad. Second-year player Christian Watson and teammates like Romeo Doubs and Jayden Reed made their share of plays, especially on the first day, but Gonzalez and the Patriots secondary bounced back on the second, flashing tight coverage and defending a number of passes during a competitive back-and-forth session.
The rookie carried that experience over the game, where he showed improved physicality on a number of instances as he continues to assimilate to the NFL level. He picked up a pass interference penalty along the way, but it seems like each time Gonzalez takes the field, he's improving.
"It was just a lot of fun to be able to go up there and practice against a different team and see different receivers and learn from them and then learn from the vets that tell me what's coming in the film room and meetings, then going back out there and being able to practice against them and then play them in the game," said Gonzalez following Tuesday's practice session back in Foxborough.
Before the game, cameras caught Gonzalez having a moment to himself along the sidelines of Lambeau Field, his first NFL road game in one of the league's most historic stadiums.
"That's kind of something I've always done since college," said Gonzalez of the pregame ritual. "I kinda like to go out onto the field and just visualize the game.... taking it all in. That was my first time on a road trip in the NFL. Just taking in the moment, always being grateful and just excited."
Gonzalez's athleticism has instantly translated to the NFL field, where his easy and fluid movement skills have allowed him to stay with his coverage responsibilities, even making up for missteps that might doom other cover corners. It's been a process, but the rookie has fought through his mistakes and continues to ascend.
"At this position, you've got to move on, you can't dwell on one play," said Gonzalez. "You make a play, move on. You miss a play, move on. That's just kind of how the position is and if you give up a play or you make a play you move on and learn from it, what you did or what you didn't do in the classroom."
Just a month into his NFL career, there's already reason for optimism that Gonzalez will be a valuable part of the defense this year, where his skills will be a welcome addition to a secondary that are no strangers to making big plays. Like his pregame moment in Green Bay, Gonzalez is appreciative and taking it all in.
"I'm blessed to be here, to wake up and play football, that's really what I'm proud of," said Gonzalez. "I dreamed of it since I was a little kid and it's here and it's happening. Living in the moment, staying in the moment and trying to get better."