Although it has become a bit of a cliché in these parts, the Patriots really are a different team when Tom Brady is in town.
The GOAT made his first appearance of 2019 in front of the media on Tuesday as the Patriots kicked off the first of three days of their mandatory minicamp in Foxborough, and Brady showed no signs of rust. While the practice took place in shorts and T-shirts with little to no competitive elements, Brady threw the ball with authority and was his typically consistent, accurate self.
He took his spot at the head of the offense, firing crisp strikes early and often. Some of those went in the direction of rookie first-round pick N’Keal Harry but more importantly the 41-year-old didn’t appear to lose anything off the fastball after a spring once again spent from the team.
Elsewhere, Bill Belichick told reporters after practice that everyone required to be in attendance was present and accounted for. There were eight players not present, including one who won’t be seen at least for the immediate future.
As the team was headed to the locker room, reports surfaced indicating the Patriots released veteran tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Seferian-Jenkins was not present at last month’s OTA session open to the media, reportedly for personal reasons. The latest news would seem to back up that claim as NFL Network said the tight end “was stepping away from football for a month to deal with personal issues” and at that point he could return. Whether that winds up being in New England or elsewhere is unclear at this time.
As for practice, here are one man’s blogservations from Day 1 of minicamp.
-In addition to Seferian-Jenkins, the Patriots were without Patrick Chung, Sony Michel, Nate Ebner, Yodny Cajuste, Nick Brossette, Demaryius Thomas and Deatrich Wise. MassLive.com reported that Michel may be dealing with lingering knee issues, but we have yet to see the second-year running back this spring.
-Gunner Olszewski, the newest member of the team after being signed a couple of weeks ago, was the first Patriot on the field.
-Members of the Iowa coaching staff, including head coach Kirk Ferentz, were on hand for practice.
-After having Troy Brown and Kevin Faulk work with the coaches during the May OTA open to the media, Brown returned and was joined by Deion Branch. Branch worked with receivers during practice.
-Robert Kraft watched the entire practice from in between the fields. He interacted with several of the players throughout the afternoon.
-Harry spent some time working with Brady during a special teams drill along with James White and Benjamin Watson along with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. It was a positive sign for the rookie as he tries to enter Brady’s “circle of trust” so to speak. Harry had some up and down moments, making some nice grabs, including a one-hander early in drills. But he also was chastised by coaches at times, seemingly not running his routes properly as some passes failed to connect.
-Speaking of McDaniels, as he did last month the donned headsets for the majority of the practice.
-Michael Bennett was in a Patriots uniform for the first time and took most of his reps working on the edge. He spoke to the media after practice and said he’s focusing on listening and doing his job, which he says is the secret to success in the NFL.
-The offensive line continues to feature a lot of moving parts. Joe Thuney once again manned the left tackle spot next to Ted Karras at left guard, David Andrews at center and Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon at their normal positions on the right side. Cole Croston and James Ferentz replaced Karras and Andrews on the next play while that tandem moved to the right side on the following snap. Brian Schwenke also took reps at both guard and center. Isaiah Wynn was back in uniform on the field but was limited to individual reps and did not take part in any work against a defense. He also did some running after practice with trainer Jim Whalen.
-As much as we try to avoid the “he looked good” comments in a non-competitive environment like minicamp, it was hard not to notice Braxton Berrios on Tuesday. The 2018 sixth-round pick missed his rookie season while on IR, but the wideout made several catches during the afternoon. The highlight was a tough diving catch down the right sideline from Brian Hoyer. Berrios enthusiastically jumped to his feet and spiked the ball after the catch and celebrated with fellow wideout Dontrelle Inman. Berrios continued to field punts throughout practice as well.
-Brady’s presence, as we noted, was notable but that wasn’t the only quarterback development of the day. Hoyer split reps with rookie Jarrett Stidham while Danny Etling received very little work. Etling even took part in some special teams drills, working with the punt team. Stidham’s arm is impressive but he clearly has a lot of work ahead of him as he acclimates to the Patriots system. He often held the ball in team drills and was late with some reads, which is understandable considering he’s been with the team for a little more than a month.
Check out photos of the Patriots practicing during mandatory minicamp at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, June 4, 2019.
-Stidham and Andrews were forced to run a lap after a botches shotgun snap went awry.
-Later in practice the quarterbacks were forced to work with wet footballs after equipment manager Brenden Murphy dunked them in a Gatorade cooler. The quarterbacks fielded snaps and threw quick, short passes into the flat to tight ends and running backs.
-Etling did stay on the field late, working with Inman and Jakob Johnson after most of his teammates had retreated to the locker room.
-Kyle Van Noy left the fields briefly before returning from the lower field with members of the training staff.
-Practice ended with the traditional conditioning work on the hill between the lower and upper fields. Some special teamers, including punt returners Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Harry and Rex Burkhead as well as Matthew Slater, Terrence Brooks, Brandon Bolden, Calvin Munson, Keion Crossen, Duke Dawson and Brandon King stayed on the field.
-Several players took time to speak with the media after practice including Bennett, Berrios, Wynn, Harry, Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty, Damien Harris, Matt LaCosse and Maurice Harris.
-Day 2 of minicamp is set for Wednesday with practice scheduled for 11:15 a.m. Once again the workout will be open to the media but closed to the public.