Every spring, when the Patriots introduce their top pick in the NFL Draft to local media, the weather always seems to cooperate with sunny, blue skies and warm temperatures.
Thursday in Foxborough was no exception, as Jamie Collins received a warm welcome – from both Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Mother Nature.
Typically, the top pick comes the day before rookie mini-camp to receive his #1 jersey from Robert and Jonathan Kraft, the team's president, and answer questions from the media. Today, however, Collins, the outside linebacker from Southern Mississippi, was trotted out to the 50-yard line at Gillette Stadium, given his jersey, smiled for pictures and video cameras, and went back inside.
Robert Kraft, however, stuck around for a few minutes to field reporters' questions and share his thoughts on Collins and the rest of New England's draft picks.
"First of all, I know my mom of blessed memory lost her dad when she was 9. And here is a young man [in Collins], who lost both his parents by the time he was 6," Kraft observed.
"I know how mentally tough my mother was. I think seeing him and talking to him – I guess he also lost a brother, and he went on a team this year that was 0-12 – I think all of those things have weighed on him and he's just a very wonderful and charming young man to talk to. I think he has had a certain resiliency that a lot of young people don't have and see. I think he's really appreciative of the opportunity he has to be here."
Collins was New England's first of seven picks this year, but wasn't chosen until the second round, after the Patriots traded out of their original spot, the 29th overall selection in the first round.
Kraft was asked if, from a fan's perspective, he was disappointed that his front office decided not to make a pick, but move down and accumulate more choices later in the draft.
"As a fan, I could feel that way," he acknowledged, adding, "But I think we got the equivalent of first-round draft choices in the second and third round, the way I look at it. Time will tell.
"As someone who hates losing in the fall, which is really what matters … like I said, we picked five players in the first 102, which is more than any other team picked. The real strength of the draft … if we had drafted in the top 20-25, we would have taken the same players that we took later. For us, from a cap point of view of having financial flexibility, and the talent, I think this draft wound up very well for us. I understand fans who don't have the full knowledge of what goes and the value that's there, how they could be disappointed."
Kraft certainly didn't appear disappointed with the results. In fact, he remarked how each year at this time, when the rookies come to town for the first time, he gets excited for football season.
"It keeps me vibrant... It's such a fun time."
Rookie mini-camp starts Friday and continues into Saturday.
Jones, Ridley stop by
Defensive end Chandler Jones, last year's top pick, and running back Stevan Ridley entertained the media for a few minutes prior to Kraft and Collins' appearance.
Ridley was last seen being helped off this same Gillette Stadium turf in the AFC Championship Game after suffering a severe head injury. He maintained today that he's feeling no lingering effects from that head-to-head collision with Ravens safety Bernard Pollard.
"None at all," he insisted. "It was a nice hit that I took, but you just have to shake it off. It comes with the game. Sometimes it's to others and sometimes it's to ourselves. But either way, I love the game. I love football. It's going to happen sometimes. You just have to roll with it.
"I'll be out here this year, ready to go," he promised.
Jones, meantime, revealed that he's been working out with teammate Brandon Deaderick in Providence at a boxing and mixed martial arts facility (Jones' brother is MMA champ Jon "Bones" Jones).
When last we spoke with Jones, he said he'd planned to work out with his brother during the offseason, but that apparently never materialized, and since Bones Jones was injured in his most recent fight, it looks like the younger Jones will have to settle for his own MMA-style workouts in Providence for the time being.