It's not uncommon during spring or summer camps to see younger players staying on the practice field long after their teammates have left for the showers. When you're an unproven talent fighting for a job, you take advantage of every opportunity to improve.
It's not every day, though, that an established veteran is the last player to leave the field, as Trey Flowers did Wednesday.
"Just working on my craft, trying to stay sharp with all the techniques and things," he told reporters with sweat still pouring down his face.
This is the same Trey Flowers who had 2.5 sacks in Super Bowl LI and tied for the team lead in tackles that night. Having his best game in the biggest game of his career punctuated a sophomore campaign that saw him increase his opportunities and productivity over the second half of 2016.
Check out our favorite photos from the Patriots mini-camp on Wednesday, June 7, 2017.
Entering his third season, the 23-year-old defensive end acknowledges that he'll likely be under more scrutiny in 2017 – both by opponents and his own teammates and coaches.
With more game experience under his belt, Flowers understands that there's more game tape of him for others to study, and he's loathe to let offensive linemen identify and exploit his tendencies. As a result, he stayed late on this particular day, he revealed, to work on countermoves, to try new methods of rushing the passer.
"You can never be satisfied," Flowers proclaimed. "That's one of the things I take pride in, to keep myself humble… I'm just a hard worker. It's not about being the last one off the field, it's just about perfecting craft if I see something wrong with it.
"Just want to be the best. That's what motivates me the most – to be the best person I can be, the best player I can be, give my team an opportunity to win games and be productive. That's all the motivation I need.
"Yeah, expectations are always high for myself," Flowers emphasized. "I'm a firm believer that no one should have higher expectations for you than yourself. I'm my own worst critic. I want the best out of myself. It doesn't matter if it's high for everyone else. It's definitely high for me."
With veterans Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard having departed via free agency this offseason, Flowers now finds himself in a potential leadership role, although he takes nothing for granted in terms of his job with New England's defense.
"Obviously, I know what type of role they expect of me as a leader and [to] be one of the first guys out [on the practice field] and lead the [defensive] line. But there are a lot of leaders still here. I'm just trying to get better each and every day."
Intensity heats up
Along with the improved weather conditions (clouds lifted, sun shone, and temperatures rose during Wednesday's practice), there was a noticeable increase in the competition level on the field, particularly between the offense and defense.
"Everyone's out here fighting for a spot. Right now it's offense against defense," safety Devin McCourty remarked.
There were a few occasions when McCourty and wide receiver Julian Edelman were clearly trading barbs after the play, which led one reporter to ask if Edelman is the top trash-talker on New England's offense.
"No, it's definitely Tom [Brady]. No doubt about it, it's Tom – whether he's in or on the sideline, he's the number-one guy talking," answered McCourty. "And we have fun with it. That's a part of this time of year, talking trash. It makes everyone raise their level."
Something's Bruin in Foxborough
Longtime former Boston Bruin forward Shawn Thornton, who helped the Bs win a Stanley Cup title in 2011, was a guest of the Patriots at mini-camp Wednesday. Thornton, now a front-office executive with the NHL's Florida Panthers, watched practice between the sidelines and, during one stretch, chatted with head coach Bill Belichick for several minutes.
Perhaps inspired by Thornton's presence, Belichick employed a hockey analogy while answering a reporter's question about fullback James Develin.
"Yeah, James works hard. He's improved every year. He's one of the strongest players on our team, very dependable, smart. He helps us in a lot of different ways. He does a lot of the unsung, dirty jobs. You know, he goes into the corner and gets the puck. He doesn't stand in front of the net and put it in, but he goes and digs it out."
The Patriots will hold one more mini-camp session this week, but Thursday's session isn't the final practice of the spring. New England will continue organized team activity practices [OTAs] on Monday of next week.