Coming out of Texas Christian as a fourth-round draft choice, Josh Boyce was heralded as a speedster with considerable NFL potential.
Last season, his second as a Patriot, he only wound up sticking around as a member of the practice squad, however.
"I made it to the NFL. That was the expectation," Boyce chuckled when asked about it after Thursday's practice. "Whatever they give me, I'm just trying to make the best of it.
"It was challenging," he admitted, "but you learn. There's always a positive out of everything. I'm continuing to grow right now. You have to stay locked in. You never know when you could get moved up, but I was out here trying to give everybody some good [looks] for the scout team."
In this, his third NFL season, Boyce is looking to break through and become a fixture on the 53-man roster, which won't be easy given the competition ahead of him. In the first week of training camp, though, he's seen considerable action while Brandon LaFell has been on the shelf, and more recently, the team has lost Julian Edelman and Aaron Dobson to injuries.
"With them in or out, you still have to make the plays whenever you get the chance," observed Boyce. "Whenever coach puts you in, it doesn't matter, just make the most of it."
Thursday, Boyce had perhaps his best day of camp thus far, catching nearly everything thrown his way. He also continues to get reps as a kick returner. He credited his offseason workouts with Edelman and other teammates for his increased comfort level with the Patriots offense.
"I always learn from older players. Anybody that's older, I try to pick their brain. You can learn a lot from Julian. He's played here for a while. I've picked up little things from him."
Boyce wouldn't bite when asked if this is a "make-or-break" camp for him, but he sounded confident when talking about how this summer is different for him than the previous two.
"Just playing faster. I have a good grasp of the offense. So, I'm going out there and playing, not thinking about anything. It's like second nature now. I feel a lot better. Just trying to make a play for my team and do whatever coaches tell me to do… We'll see how it goes from there."
Officiating crew adds game-like atmosphere
Check out our favorite photos from Patriots Training Camp at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, August 6, 2015.
Several game officials arrived in Foxborough Thursday for three days of on-field work with the Patriots as they prepare for the new rules changes going into effect in 2015.
"It will give us a good opportunity to let them watch us and educate us on what we are and aren't doing properly in their eyes," head coach Bill Belichick said. "Also to just kind of have the NFL officials handle the mechanics of the no-huddle or two minutes and those kinds of situations that are somewhat timing oriented. So, we'll try to take advantage of that."
In previous practices this summer, there have been times when a play was disputed by the offense and defense, but with the officiating crew on the field Thursday, any uncertainty was cleared up immediately. With one week to go until the preseason opener, the sight of the striped shirts on the field added a more competitive element to an otherwise lackluster session.
"It doesn't matter what we think, what the coaches think," running back Jonas Gray remarked. "They're the ones calling the shots on that. So, it's good to have the referees out here. It lets us know what we need to work on. We got little penalties here and there. It is a game feel to it."
Placekicker Stephen Gostkowski recently signed a four-year, $17.2 million contract extension. Now in his 10th season, the former 2006 Patriots draft pick said he's thankful every day he shows up to Gillette.
"I never thought I'd be here today… but I think that might be part of the reason I am," he mused. "I'm just grateful to have a job in the NFL and with a great organization. You'll never hear me complain about having a job in the NFL. It's a dream come true. It's a blessing. You have to be good to keep your job, and I'm just trying to be good and show them I can be consistent. You can't always control the situations you're put, in but I'm just going to work hard to be the best I can whenever I get called upon."
Gostkowski last year became New England's all-time leading scorer with 1,179 points. He admitted that he'd like to end his career in Foxborough.
"It's just awesome to be on good, winning-cultured team, and it helps me go out there and have confidence to perform my job."
The Patriots released recently-signed offensive lineman Harland Gunn, replacing him Thursday with veteran o-lineman Mark Asper. The club had one other open spot on the roster, which it filled with veteran tight end Mason Brodine.
Buy: David Andrews – The rookie o-lineman from Georgia has been getting significant snaps as the backup center, and was even given opportunities at left guard the past couple of practices. He has stood out in a positive way in his first week of camp.
Sell: Brian Tyms – The wide receiver had seemingly been surpassed by Aaron Dobson on the depth chart before he was injured and carted off the field earlier in the week. He was not on the field Thursday.
*Play of the Day: *During 11-on-11 action, WR Brandon Gibson ran a deep corner route down the right sideline. Tom Brady lofted a perfect pass to him, which Gibson managed to corral over his shoulder and maintain control with both feet in bounds as he fell to the sideline. The referees on the field confirmed the catch. Gibson beat cornerback Logan Ryan on the play.