SAN JOSE, Calif. – Except for the cloudless, cerulean blue sky, 80-degree temperatures, and the occasional palm tree in the distance, it was just another ordinary autumn practice session for the New England Patriots.
The team took to the practice field at San Jose State University on Wednesday, their first full-pads session of the week in preparation for this Sunday's tilt against the 2-3 San Diego Chargers.
If not for a pair of bad breaks, the Chargers could easily be 4-1 or even undefeated. Pats players and coaches have taken note of this and aren't taking San Diego lightly.
On offense, Pats QB Matt Casselsaid that among his concerns is the Chargers defensive backfield.
"Their secondary is a solid secondary. [Antonio] Cromartie is playing really well. [Quentin] Jammer is and experienced guy who's a very good player as well. Then you've got [Eric] Weddle who's stepped in at safety and [Clinton] Hart, who's a physical guy."
"They look pretty explosive like they always do," head coach Bill Belichickobserved about the Chargers offense before his team took to the field.
"Offensively, they get the ball down the field and they have a great running game. They have a good offensive line."
Despite a nagging toe injury, Chargers All-Pro running back LaDainian Tomlinsondoesn't appear to have lost a step in Belichick's eyes. The coach also praised LT's backup, Darren Sproles.
"Oh yeah. [LT] looks good. Very patient. He has good quickness, speed, breaks tackles. Sproles has been a good change of pace for them. So, yeah, [Tomlinson's] good."
When asked to assess his opponents this week, Tomlinson said, in a conference call with reporters, that for him, studying the Pats starts with New England's front seven.
"I think their front … is always what controls their defense to me. They've got one of the best fronts in football when you look across the board: [Vince] Wilfork, [Richard] Seymour, [Ty] Warren, [Mike] Vrabel, [Adalius] Thomas. You look at those guys and they're as good as anybody in the league, so that's what my concern is when I look at their team. I think those guys are what make their defense go and when they get out there its pretty tough to move the ball on their defense."
Two members of that front seven, Wilfork and Seymour, talked with reporters prior to practice about the challenge the Chargers pose, particularly after San Diego played so poorly in their 17-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins this past Sunday.
"We have a lot of respect for this football team," Seymour said. "They're a talented team and well coached. It's going to be a hostile environment. They're coming off a loss against Miami. I'm pretty sure they'll be ready to go."
"I know, going into their home, it's going to be pretty tough to go out there and steal one," added Wilfork. "They're pumped up coming off a loss. It's going to be tough, but at the same time, we've been in those environments before. And facing [us], a team that's knocked them out of the playoffs a couple of times, gives them a little bit of motivation. We're expecting a hard-fought football game."
"We've got our work cut out for us," Cassel concluded, "and need to get a few good days of practice in and get going for Sunday."
Wondering what's new with Tom Brady and his injured left knee? So were some members of the media who asked Belichick about the status of his convalescing QB. Reports in some news outlets indicated that Brady had surgery on his injured knee in Los Angeles this week.
"We're not going to comment on that situation," Belichick flatly stated.
Brady's replacement, Matt Cassel, had this to say about his friend's predicament.
"I put in a phone call and haven't gotten a return phone call yet. I'm sure he's just resting, getting better."
Three players were not on the field for the media portion of Wednesday's practice: LB Eric Alexander, RB LaMont Jordan, and WR Kelley Washington.
On a positive note, CB Lewis Sandersreturned to practice after missing time last week, including the Niners game.
Three other players wore the coveted black practice jerseys (given to the players who had outstanding scout-team contributions the previous week): LB Shawn Crable, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and QB Matt Gutierrez.