The last time we saw WR Jordan Matthews, he was hobbling off the practice field Sunday, clutching the back of his upper right leg from what looked to be a hamstring injury. We might never see Matthews in Patriots gear again.
According to a Boston Globe report, New England released the veteran pass catcher, who was the only player not seen in any capacity on the practice field when the team regrouped for its full-pads session Wednesday morning.
Matthews' release wasn't altogether surprising, given further media reports by ESPN that the Patriots had worked out veteran WR Eric Decker this week, and an NFL Network tweet that Matthews' hamstring issue was believed to be serious in nature.
Furthermore, Matthews' absence Wednesday morning, coupled with the appearance of a new player on the field who hadn't yet been identified by reporters, it seemed apparent that Matthews' brief time in Foxborough had come to an abrupt, premature end. He had come to New England as a free agent signing from Buffalo during the offseason.
After five straight camp practices, the Patriots took Tuesday off, during which time they made another roster transaction by releasing rookie TE Shane Wimann. That was necessary in order to sign veteran offensive lineman Brian Schwenke.
"Brian has some experience as a multi-position player," explained head coach Bill Belichick prior to practice. "We'll put him in there and see how it goes."
It's possible, of course, that once Matthews is healthy, he could re-sign with New England or any other team. As of this posting, the Patriots had not yet agreed to a deal with Decker.
Incidentally, that other new player spotted Wednesday is believed to be fullback Henry Poggi, according to subsequent media reports. He was wearing jersey number 48 and spent time with Pro Bowl fullback James Develin and the tight end group during Wednesday's practice.
Poggi has another connection to the Patriots, as his father, Biff, was cornerback Cyrus Jones' high school coach.
Job opportunities at WR
Even before Matthews' injury, New England had and continues to have a number of question marks at wide receiver. With Julian Edelman scheduled to miss the first month of the regular season because of an NFL suspension, an opening might exist for a younger player or two to earn a 53-man roster spot, at least temporarily.
First-year player Riley McCarron, who spent almost all of 2017 on New England's practice squad, and 2018 sixth-round draft choice Braxton Berrios are among those vying in that category. Both men have been getting chances on offense as well as special teams as kick and punt returners.
"I'm just trying to do whatever they need me to do, no matter if it's special teams, offense. I just want to be a Riley that people can depend on," McCarron declared. "Whatever the coaches decide. I'm just going to come out here and work."
"At the end of the day, it's a competition," remarked Berrios. "I'm trying to catch the ball like everybody else… We're working, going wherever they tell us to go. Yeah, it's a learning process, obviously. I've got a long way to go, but it's coming along a lot smoother since the spring."
Since joining the Patriots last September, McCarron has learned a lot, he added, by watching and talking to Edelman, even though the veteran was on injured reserve all last year.
"Just the way he goes about his business," said McCarron, "little tips here and there, technique, stuff like that. Anything I can pick his brain on, it's valuable information for me."
A Pleasant fellow
Two days before camp opened in late July, the Patriots signed veteran defensive back Eddie Pleasant. Prior to arriving in Foxborough, the 29-year-old had spent his entire NFL career with the Houston Texans.
"Never been a starter in the league, always done special teams, so, my body's not beat up, I feel good. Still feel young, even though I'm going to be 30," he told reporters with a smile Wednesday.
In college at Oregon, Pleasant was voted Most Inspirational Player by his teammates. He surmised that this was because he goes out of his way to make people, including newcomers to a team, feel comfortable.
"I guess I'm just a team guy. I fit in with everybody. It's kind of helped me out here, because… being a new guy here, these guys really took me under their wing and tried to make me feel like I'm not a new guy. They look out for me. I think it's a good thing that I'm that type of person, because that's me right now."
As a high school player from California, Pleasant was, at one time, voted the defensive player of the year in the Golden State – impressive considering how big California is and how much talent hails from there.
Pleasant drew a laugh from assembled reporters when he pointed out, "We've got the best player in the game from California – me and Tom Brady are from California. A lot of guys argue about that in the locker room, [saying] 'We've got the best football players in New Jersey,' or 'We've got the best football out here.' Hey, man, we've got Tom Brady on our side. He's from Cali."
Buy: LaAdrian Waddle – The veteran o-lineman appears to be the top choice as the backup right tackle, and has even taken snaps on the other side with the rest of the regular offensive line.
Sell: Malcom Brown – New England's 2015 first-round draft choice has consistently seen reps with the second d-line personnel grouping, but only occasional opportunities with the first unit.
Play of the Day: As he's done each day since camp started, CB Stephon Gilmore batted away a would-be deep-ball completion during a team period. Wednesday, it was a pass down the right sideline from QB Tom Brady intended for WR Chris Hogan, who appeared to be open momentarily before Gilmore leapt into the air to swat the ball out of bounds.
Quote of the Day: "You really want to know what I got him? I do kind of want to say it, but I just can't. We would all get in trouble." ~ TE Rob Gronkowski responding to a question about what he got QB Tom Brady for his 41st birthday (which is Aug. 3)