Wednesday is normally the start of an NFL team’s work week, the day when clubs begin in earnest to prepare for their next opponent. When the game falls on a Monday night, like New England’s next matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, Wednesdays become extraneous, free days to do with whatever they like.
It seemed altogether appropriate, therefore, on this particular Wednesday, that the focus was, at times, not on football, but on history.
Thousands of miles away, in the Hawaiian Islands, observations are taking place to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Naval station at Pearl Harbor.
Here in Foxborough, the milestone is especially poignant for long snapper Joe Cardona, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who still serves in the military.
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="505171"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]“It could easily have been me,” he says when thinking about the sailors, many of whom were his age, who perished in the attack.
“As a navy,” he continues, “we look back on this day and remember the lives lost, but also take a moment to appreciate those who fought in that war and defended our freedom.”
Though he never served in the military, head coach Bill Belichick has well-documented close ties to Annapolis. It’s the Maryland town where he grew up while his late father was an assistant coach at the Naval Academy.
As he often does with losses on the football field, Belichick’s reflections on this day were about the lessons to be learned from this “date which will live in infamy,” as then-president Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously described it.
“For me, the lesson on Pearl Harbor… is not what happened on December 7, although that was a lesson there, but the response and what the response was from our nation, from our military, from our civilians and from our population to battle the world on two fronts and win both of them. What this country did under Roosevelt’s leadership as well as the multiple military leaders to go fight in Europe and then go fight in Southeast Asia and Japan in response to what happened on December 7, 1941 is pretty impressive.”
He’s not yet visited Pearl Harbor, but Cardona is anxious to do so someday so that he can experience the history with his own eyes. He says he, too, draws inspiration from its lessons, as Belichick described, as well as from the handful of Pearl Harbor survivors he’s met over the years.
Cardona studied Pearl Harbor as part of his naval history courses at Annapolis. The most profound takeaways, he said, were “Preparedness, being ready for any circumstance, whether from a [military] defense standpoint or now, from a football standpoint.”
“It was a tough time for the country, tough time for the Navy,” he added. “It’s inspiring now to think about the process to rebuild and really have the impact we had in the Pacific.”
“A tough day for the Navy,” Belichick concluded. “But they responded, they bounced back… It was a great example of the patriotism of our citizens, men and women fighting together, pulling together and being victorious in a lot of different ways. It’s a special, special day, one we hope we don’t have to see again.”
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="505181"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]Rowe on the rebound
Back on the gridiron, Eric Rowe has been more and more involved in the No. 2 cornerback rotation in recent weeks. However, against the Rams this past Sunday, he had to bow out early due to a hamstring injury.
In the locker room before Wednesday’s practice, Rowe told reporters that his hamstring “is in a good place right now,” but that he’s trying not to rush himself back into action to avoid aggravating the problem. He added that he hasn’t dealt with a hamstring issue since his sophomore year in college.
“I don’t know how it happened,” Rowe said of his latest flare-up. “I was nice and stretched. Just one play, it kind of came on me… I still can’t figure it out. It is frustrating.”
Rowe, though, was dressed and taking part, at least on a limited basis, in the early part of today’s on-field session.
Jones' challenges continue
When Rowe departed versus the Rams, rookie Cyrus Jones stepped in to finish the game in his place.
“It felt good to get back out there with my teammates on defense and try to finish the game strong,” Jones said Wednesday.
Earlier in the game, Jones was getting reps as a kickoff and punt returner, but was benched after muffing a punt near midfield late in the first quarter. Jones eventually got the job back, but only after veteran Danny Amendola was injured fielding a punt late in the third quarter.
“Just got to let it go and play the next play. Can’t dwell on it too much,” he maintained about his latest miscue. “I just take whatever opportunities I get. It’s all about getting experience and eliminating mistakes. It’s tough, but you can’t do much once they happen.”
Jones has had ball security issues since arriving in Foxborough, but expects to continue getting asked to return kicks.
“I mean, Danny’s out,” he reasoned, “so, somebody’s got to get back there and do it.”
As Jones indicated, Amendola is unavailable for the time being. Media reports suggest that his injured right ankle could keep him on the sidelines for a month to six weeks, meaning he likely won’t be back on the field until the playoffs. Amendola was among four players not taking part in Wednesday’s practice.
The other three were veteran tight end Martellus Bennett, who’s been dealing with a right ankle injury and well as a shoulder problem, special teams co-captain Matthew Slater (left foot), and safety Jordan Richards (right knee).
In Bennett’s case, given the extra day to prepare for the Ravens, his absence could simply be for health maintenance. Slater, meanwhile, practiced twice last week before being held out of Friday’s workout and the Rams game. It would appear, therefore, that he suffered a setback.
Richards hasn’t practiced since sustaining his injury against the New York Jets two weeks ago. It will be interesting to see if he and/or Slater suits up on Thursday.