Fresh from his first practice as a New England Patriot, Akiem Hicks looked and sounded like a man whose life is going at top speed at the moment. Recently traded to the club from New Orleans, the veteran defensive lineman is racing to get caught up with his new team, new scheme, and new environment.
"Bunches of fun. Just happy to be here," he said of his initial impressions. Hicks was acquired last week, just before New England went on its bye week.
New England's coaching staff got a good look at Hicks this summer when the Patriots and Hicks' former team, the Saints, held joint training camp practices in West Virginia. Hicks said he has always admired the Patriots from afar, and even more now from up close.
"Great organization. Both sides had a lot of respect for each other," he said, recalling this summer's working relationship. "I really admire the coaching style and the style of play [here]. It was a good experience overall. For me, it's all about moving forward and getting into my new team and focusing on what I have to do here."
"I definitely want to be as versatile as I have been in the past. Just look forward to playing in this new scheme. I don't have a hold on it yet, but… It's a process. I look forward to how we get me involved."
Hicks was philosophical about the in-season change of scenery – "It's part of the business." – but joked when asked whether it was beneficial to make the move during a bye week.
"I really couldn't tell you. It's my first time being traded," he smiled.
Wendell on the mend
O-lineman/co-captain Ryan Wendell (illness) was back in uniform for the first time since coming down with an unspecified illness in early September. He took part in a scripted series of plays at the start of Monday's practice, in which the offense ran several plays from one of the field to the other. Wendell played center for that entire series with the second group.
Afterward, he entertained a few questions from curious reporters.
First one was obvious: How was practice?
"I don't know. Just like any other practice," he shrugged. "Just go out there and try to do your best. We all work hard to try to contribute to the team. You can't do that when you're not playing, so, it feels good to be out there at practice. It feels good to do your job. You don't want to get paid to do nothing."
Did he feel limited in any way?
"No, I don't think so. I didn't feel limited," Wendell responded. "I just went out there and did everything they asked me to do. I don't choose what I do or when I do it. The coaches and trainers tell me what to do."
Wendell said he focused most of his time away from the practice field on the "protocol" of conditioning and physical maintenance that was prescribed by the team's medical staff, but wouldn't elaborate on exactly what that entailed. Nor was he willing to put a percentage on his current fitness level.
"Would I say I'm 100 percent? I feel like I'm good enough to go out there and help my team as best I can," he asserted. "As far as what percentage I am, you'll have to ask Coach Belichick or the trainers."
With Wendell back, everyone on the Patriots roster, including all 10 practice squad players, suited up and took part in Monday practice, the first workout coming off New England's Week-4 bye.
Newcomer Jonathan Bostic worked with the punt protection team early on and received considerable one-on-one coaching advice from special teams coach Joe Judge.
A half-dozen players were awarded black, practice-player-of-the-week jerseys: rookie cornerback Justin Coleman, safety Tavon Wilson, d-lineman Khyri Thornton, wide receiver Keshawn Martin, practice squad tight end Asante Cleveland, and practice squad linebacker Darius Fleming.
Players will be off on Tuesday and return to the practice field on Wednesday to prepare for Sunday's road game at Dallas.