Head Coach Bill Belichick held his first full squad workout during Day One of the voluntary mini-camp in Foxboro on Tuesday and there were very few surprises. The team worked out without pads and basically ran through drills on offense and defense as Belichick and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis worked hard to implement their new systems.
"I feel like we sort of officially got underway here with mini-camp," Belichick said. "What we're trying to do – basically there's still a lot of newness between the coaches, players and the systems. There's a lot of transition going on for all of us and that's one of the main reasons for doing this. We're doing a lot of group work – not as much individual stuff – and that's the main objective of the camp. That and not getting anybody hurt."
Other than the four players participating in NFL Europe, there were just two others missing – defensive tackle Henry Thomas and tight end Dave Stachleski. Thomas' whereabouts came only as a mild surprise given that the 14-year veteran generally works out on his own during the offseason. But with a new coaching staff in place, most expected him to participate. (For more on Thomas, check out pfwonline.com).
While Belichick raised doubts about Thomas' status, he was quick to point out that Stachelski sat out the workout with a mild knee injury he sustained during rookie orientation earlier this month. The rookie out of Boise State was resting back home in Idaho but is expected to be ready for training camp.
Joining Stachelski on the injured list are center/guard Lance Scott, who is continuing his rehab from a knee injury; and defensive tackle David Nugent, who is wearing a cast on his lower right leg.
The team spent the morning practice working on first- and second-down situations and the afternoon session on third-down passing formations. Quarterback Drew Bledsoe led the offense with wideouts Terry Glenn, Troy Brown, Tony Simmons and Vincent Brisby all on hand to haul in his passes. Weis unveiled his spread formation offense early in the morning session with running backs J.R. Redmond, Raymont Harris, Kevin Faulk and Patrick Pass lining up in various positions to run pass routes.
Defensively, it's still too early to say exactly which formation Belichick will use. The defense was broken into two groups, with Belichick, defensive line coach Randy Melvin and defensive assistant DeWayne Walker working with the first unit and defensive backs coach Eric Mangini and linebackers coach Rob Ryan working with the second group.
The first group consisted of Chad Eaton, Brandon Mitchell and rookie Jeff Marriott up front with Willie McGinest and Chris Slade both standing upright at the line of scrimmage. Tedy Bruschi and Ted Johnson acted as the only true linebackers, while Ty Law and Tebucky Jones lined up as cornerbacks and Lawyer Milloy and Larry Whigham at safety.
In the alignment, both Slade and McGinest were utilized as pass rushers and pass defenders, making the lineup a variation of the 4-3. Belichick did stress that at this point the personnel on the field in no way represented the overall depth chart.
"This is the kind of defense that best suits me," Slade said. "It's very similar to when Bill was here before with Bill Parcells. I enjoy being able to just rush the passer and not worry about other responsibilities. I'll still have some pass coverage things to worry about, but I'll be rushing for the most part."
Slade's comments were interesting because he was one of the more outspoken opponents of Parcells when Pete Carroll came aboard in 1997. In fact, he went as far as to say he wouldn't have re-signed with the Patriots at the time had Parcells stayed.
"Looking back on it now, maybe this is what's best for me," Slade said. "At this point in my career, I just want to do whatever it takes to win. Winning is clearly the most important thing and if that means rushing the passer all the time, that's fine with me."
With Belichick in command, winning is clearly the only thing.