We saw a considerable amount of Danny Amendola on the practice field this summer, just not in uniform. The veteran wide receiver was given the slow-and-steady treatment by the Patriots medical staff while he worked his way back from offseason surgeries to his left knee and an ankle.
Designated to New England's active PUP list during the summer, Amendola frequently appeared at training camp practices to stretch with his teammates, only to retreat to a vacant field to run conditioning sprints and perform other rehabilitation exercises for the remainder of those sessions. The club also kept him out of all four preseason contests.
However, Amendola always appeared to be unhindered and going full-speed in his workouts, so, it came as little surprise that he was removed from PUP (physically unable to perform) and placed on the 53-man active roster over Labor Day Weekend. He finally suited up for the first time at practice this past Sunday and was out there again Tuesday.
"I mean, I've been ready," declared Amendola, now in his fourth season with New England. "It feels good to get out there with my teammates and be a part of the group. I feel good. I've been preparing a lot, so, I feel strong, feel fast. I'm ready to roll. I'm excited to be ready to go and looking forward to this weekend."
This weekend, of course, is the first of the 2016 regular season – New England travels to Arizona for a Sunday night tilt with the Cardinals on NBC – and will be Amendola's first game action since the AFC Championship in Denver this past January. While he admits he would have liked to have gotten some work during this preseason, he maintains that his prolonged absence won't be difficult to overcome.
"Those [preseason games] are live reps and reps that I value. I love playing every rep, whether it be in practice or a game or preseason game or whatever. I'm going to work extra hard this week, get my body ready for the opener. I've played a lot of football in my life. I know the tempo, the speed of the game. I'm ready to get out there."
Lack of summertime reps might not normally be viewed as much of a concern for a veteran of Amendola's stature, but this was no ordinary preseason. Amendola has earned the trust of quarterback Tom Brady, but backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is taking the place of the suspended Brady for the next month. So, might those precious preseason reps be missed more than usual? Amendola insists not, because of the past two years of practice work he's already accrued with Garoppolo.
And while he acknowledges that it's odd not having Brady around the facility for a while, he's not dwelling on what he can't control.
"Tom's such a great teammate and a leader. Obviously, his presence is missed in the locker room. With that said, we're focused on the future, focused on preparing with the guys that we got now. Everyone here has a job to do."
Patriots In-Kline-d to Acquire Rowe
Around midday Tuesday, word leaked that versatile interior offensive lineman Josh Kline had been traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, along with a conditional 2018 NFL draft choice, in exchange for second-year cornerback Eric Rowe. ESPN first reported the transaction. Rowe (6-1, 205) would appear to have position versatility as a corner and safety, given his size and skill set.
Hangin' with Mr. Cooper
With Kline out of the mix, it would appear that New England is content with the development of rookie draft choices Joe Thuney and Ted Karras, as well as the progress being made by veteran guards Shaq Mason (broken right hand) and Jonathan Cooper (foot) in their rehabilitation. Both latter players have been able to practice in recent days.
Cooper came to Foxborough this offseason in the trade that sent DE Chandler Jones to Arizona. He was installed as one of the two starting guards when training camp opened in late July, but on the third day, Cooper was injured and missed nearly the entire remainder of the summer. He spoke Tuesday to the media for the first time since his recent return to the practice field.
"Honestly, I can't worry about the [injury] setback," he insisted. "All I can focus on is working hard every day, continuing to get better, and taking it day-by-day. Let the future take care of itself. One of the big slogans here is, 'Don't let what you can't do dictate what you can do.' As long as I continue to work hard, I'll be fine."
If Cooper is healthy enough and active on Sunday night, he'll make his Patriots debut against his former team – a fact he did his best to downplay.
"Any game is a big game. I'm just working hard, doing the best I can to assist the team in any way I can… This is no different. It is exciting. Any primetime game is exciting," he conceded with a smile.
"[The Cardinals] they're a good team, from front to back. They have a bunch of great players and they're all going to play hard. All I can do is focus on myself, really. Learn what they're doing, and play to the best of my ability."
Foster Headed Home
Cooper isn't the only Patriot bound for familiar territory this weekend. Rookie running back D.J. Foster is a Scottsdale native who played collegiately at Arizona State. 27
"Yeah, it's pretty cool. I mean, it's a business trip," he was quick to point out. "We're going down there to accomplish something, to get a win. Just need to focus on my job, whatever that entails this week, do whatever I have to do to help this team win."
The Patriots had two open spots on their 10-man practice squad, which they filled with a pair of defensive backs: veteran Vinnie Sunseri (a preseason holdover) and Mike Hilton, an undrafted rookie who was previously with Jacksonville.
Both players suited up along with all 61 other members of the active roster and practice squad Tuesday. Among them, tight end Rob Gronkowski (lower body), who sat out this past Sunday's session and has been a limited participant in practices since sustaining his issue in the first joint practice with Chicago last month. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo also was back after having been out of action Sunday.
Hilton, meanwhile, isn't the only new face on the practice squad. RB Bishop Sankey was signed over Labor Day Weekend after being released by Tennessee. He'd been on New England's radar before.
"I had some contact [with the Patriots]," Sankey admitted. "They actually came to work me out. That obviously stuck in my mind, so, I'm excited to be here, excited to get to work."