If you're Malcolm Mitchell, you'd be excused for feeling a bit frustrated lately. The rookie wide receiver was having a solid start to training camp, then looked sharp in his preseason debut against the Saints, when he suffered a looked-worse-than-it-was left elbow injury (reportedly a dislocation) while making a catch and being hauled down.
"When I felt it," Mitchell recalled Tuesday, "I thought something just popped right there. I didn't even think about it. I was going to be fine.
"When I saw a picture of it," he added with a chuckle, "I said, 'OK, I understand everyone's reaction.' Actually, I'm not weak-stomached or anything like that. It was fine."
But the thing is, you're not Mitchell. He is. And he seems to be taking his temporary condition in stride.
Since sustaining the injury three weeks ago, Mitchell bounced back relatively quickly, appearing at practice regularly, if only to take part in conditioning running and related rehabilitation work on the lower field. He's been wearing a large, protective brace on his left arm as a precaution against further aggravation of the injury. Tuesday, for the first time since the injury, Mitchell was seen taking part in position and offense drills – an apparent step forward in his rehabilitation process.
"I'm not a big fan of hesitating or letting something slow me down. An injury is an injury. You just deal with it," he stated matter-of-factly. "I think it's worse if you think about it too much. Obviously, you have to be smart about it, but at some point you've just got to let it go and just play. Yeah, I'm trying to get ready for my next opportunity to go.
"This is a sport where injuries happen all the time. Something's going to happen [to you] eventually. So, you just take it and have to deal with it. To get frustrated over something I have no control over would be stressful, and that's unnecessary stress. It can't help me, it can only hurt me."
What has helped Mitchell over the past few weeks have been so-called "mental reps" – learning by watching film and observing other teammates in practice.
"It's helpful, very beneficial to take it all in. if you can't go out there and do everything, watching it and taking it in mentally is the next-best thing. Me coming in every day doing the best I can, that hasn't stopped. Regardless of whether it's in the training room, the meeting rooms, or when I'm out there on the field.
"While they're playing, I'm a fan at that point," he acknowledged. "Obviously, I have a different perspective because I can see stuff on the screen and know what's about to happen. That's my main focus, to cheer them on. When I'm watching them play, I'm not dissecting the play. If someone catches a pass, I'm cheering for them. Maybe when we come back in and watch film as a team, but while I'm watching them play – like in Carolina – I'm not dissecting it as the game's going on."
For such a young player, Mitchell displays a maturity and professionalism beyond his years. That, he believes, is helping him overcome what could be a frustrating delay in his development.
"You come in eager to learn, eager to play, eager to prove yourself, and then… you just have to be patient and wait for the time to be able to do that again."
Quarterback Tom Brady addressed reporters earlier today for what is likely the last time until he returns from a four-game NFL suspension in early October.
TB12 offered no details, however, about how he plans to spend the next month away from the club.
"In case someone else is in this situation in the future, I don't want to give away all my tips," he explained with a smile.
"I'm pretty positive. I'm going to use these days the best way that I possibly can. I'm going to try to get ready and do everything that I possibly can so I can be at my best when I have the opportunity to play in October. I've tried to just find different ways to be positive, but it is what it is at this point, so we'll do the best we can do."
Brady will, however, be able to take advantage of the services of his longtime friend and business partner, Alex Guerrero, to help him maintain his fitness during the suspension.
"Yeah, we've been working together for over 12 years now," Brady reflected. "He's one of my best friends, so we'll do what we always do. We'll use all these days in the best way that's possible to stay prepared and stay sharp. I have ideas of what I need to do based on all the practices that we've had and the limited playing time that I've had. My goal is to come back and be the best that I can be, just like every other year, every other offseason. I'm going to do the best that I can do over these next, however many days, 30 days or so, to do the same thing.
"I've still got a good day of practice [with the team]. I've tried to look at all these days of practices as ways to get better – having access to the field and throwing to my receivers. I try to use those days the best that I possibly can, just like I always would. I've got another, hopefully, another opportunity to play on Thursday night [in the preseason finale] and then be with the team Friday, and then try to do the best I can over the next month to stay sharp."
Aside from the 2008 season, which Brady spent almost entirely on injured reserve, he has been by Bill Belichick's side for more than a decade-and-a-half. With his suspension, Brady is precluded from having contact in any form with his head coach or anyone else from the organization once the suspension begins next week.
Belichick tried to rationalize that fact when asked about it Tuesday.
"Like you said, it was that way most of the '08 season. It's out of our control. We're not worried about it," Belichick maintained. "We're moving forward, control what we can control and do what we can do."
"I think will be very challenging watching those games in September," Brady conceded, "but I'll find ways to preoccupy my mind."
It was noteworthy that, a day after DE Jabaal Sheard (right knee) took a step forward in his rehab by joining his teammates for position and unit drills after stretching, fellow DE Rob Ninkovich (torn triceps muscle) did the same for the first time. However, DE Shea McClellin was conspicuous in his absence after having been part of the rehab/running group of late.
This being the first of two cut-down days in the NFL, other absences were likely more than coincidental. Veteran LB Ramon Humber, OL Keavon Milton, and rookie TE Steven Scheu were not on the field and reportedly have been released. Rookie CB Cre'von LeBlanc was also not in attendance, but the Boston Herald reported that he is dealing with a hip injury and has not been released.
This marks two straight practices in which special teams co-captain Matthew Slater has not suited up, for reasons unknown. Left tackle Nate Solder also did not practice, but he is believed that have been excused for the day. Also still absent entirely: right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (hip) and running back Dion Lewis (left knee).
Meanwhile, rookie LB Kamu Grugier-Hill was back on the field after a brief illness kept him out of the Carolina game and Monday's practice.