Check out practice and media access photos as the team prepares for its upcoming game against the Chargers in San Diego.
SAN DIEGO – Chandler Jones hasn't set foot on a game field since he injured a hip in Week 7 against the New York Jets. He began practicing again last week – an important step toward his eventual return – and continues to do so this week in San Diego.
Before Thursday's practice, the defensive end spoke to assembled media for the first time since his injury sidelined him.
"My biggest focus right now," he insisted, "is just trying to catch up to the pace that my teammates are at and do what I can to help the team."
Initial reports indicated that Jones could be out for several weeks, or perhaps longer. When asked how he felt when he was diagnosed, Jones bristled, saying, "I try not to talk about that. We're not going to talk about the injury at all.
"Every day," he acknowledged, "I'm just listening to what the coaches and doctors are saying. However I can help the team – whether it's in the film room or however – that's what I'll do. Every day is progression, especially for someone [like me] who's been out. Every day forward is a good day."
Jones was asked if he had any chance of suiting up Sunday against the Chargers, but he did not respond. He simply walked away from the group of media and headed for the locker room to get dressed for practice.
Opening up about Gates
Tight end Antonio Gates remains one of San Diego's most potent offensive weapons, even after a dozen years in the NFL, and he has a number of admirers on the Patriots roster. Chief among them, New England's own superstar tight end.
"He's an unbelievable player. Ever since high school, I've looked up to him," Rob Gronkowski admitted. "I love the way he runs routes, gets open. I've always watched him and still watch him to this day to learn from him."
This week, Gates expressed concern for Gronkowski's well-being, given Gronk's aggressive style of play on the field. He even suggested that Gronk play smarter rather than harder.
"That's always a consideration," Gronk grinned when told about Gates' remarks, "but there's a time to take it easy and time not to, so, I'm just trying to play some football."
Gronkowski conceded, however, that he's impressed by Gates' longevity. In his All-Pro career, Gates has played 15 or more games in nine seasons.
"Oh, definitely, whenever you see a tight end at that caliber playing every single week – what is this, his 12th year – and making a huge impact, making huge plays, and looking like he's in his early 20s still, it's unbelievable," Gronk raved. "He knows what he's doing. It would be cool to talk to him and learn what he's done the whole time to keep playing at that high level. He's a great player and I definitely look up to him."
"Gates is still playing at a high level," cornerback Brandon Browner noted. "He's due for a big, deep ball every other game or two. Just hoping it's not against us."
Brady at home in San Diego
California native Tom Brady grew up in the northern part of the Golden State, but he revealed that he's feeling quite comfortable on the University of San Diego campus – especially once the sun finally came out on Thursday.
"It's fun. I was born and raised out here. I didn't really spend too much time in San Diego, although my best friend went to this school so I had a few visits when I was at Michigan, coming down here. It's always been a fun place to be.
"It's been good," he said of the practice facilities on campus. "I think we've had a good couple days and got off to a good start yesterday. It's still kind of early in the preparation. Now it starts to feel like California weather, as opposed to yesterday. Hopefully we'll have another good day of practice. Guys have a lot of time to kind of be together and spend a lot of time that we don't typically get to spend so that's been a real plus."
Bolden not running for the border
Running back Brandon Bolden hasn't had many opportunities to carry the football this season, as he's been mostly asked to perform on special teams, but he was a factor on offense in the loss to Green Bay last week, scoring a touchdown on the ground on one of his many carries.
"Just waiting on that chance to get in there, and when you get in there, you've got to make it happen. Luckily, I got the opportunity and was able to get in the end zone," he said Thursday before practice.
"Being patient and staying ready. You just have to execute your job, be ready to do whatever they ask you to do, if it's 'Go cover a couple of kicks' or 'Get behind Tom and run the ball,' just do what you have to do."
Bolden was asked by a local reporter if he's been tempted to make a run for the nearby Mexico border, as many tourists and visitors to San Diego often do.
"Noooo…I stay away from that border. It's been strictly business since we've been here," Bolden emphasized, adding that he'd be "terrified" if he did so and head coach Bill Belichick were to learn of it.
"My wife came down and we were going out to eat and she was like, 'Oh, 30 minutes to the border,' and I was like, 'Na-uh, stop, turn around. I'm not going any closer."
When the reporter told Bolden that the Patriots were "boring," Bolden had a ready answer.
"We have to be boring," he said. "We're coming off a loss, we have a lot of hard work to do."
For the second straight day, New England practiced without wide receiver Aaron Dobson (hamstring) linebacker Chris White (ankle). Long snapper Danny Aiken (concussion), continues to practice wearing a red (non-contact) jersey.
The Boston Herald reported Thursday that Dobson's absence will be for the remainder of 2014. Dobson, according to the report, will be placed on injured reserve after being injured at Green Bay, but as of Thursday afternoon, no announcement had come from the team.