Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe offers a story on quarterback Matt Cassel. Brady and backup Cassel are in constant competition, from sprints to leaps, and Cassel says it has helped him become a better quarterback. Cassel, the second-year player of out Southern Cal, is hoping to be the Patriots' No. 2 quarterback this year. If (and more likely, when) the Patriots sign a veteran reserve, Cassel won't give up the No. 2 position easily. "You can't worry about who's out there, who might be coming in," Cassel said yesterday between workouts. "You can't because it'll take away from your game. All I can do is concentrate on what I can do, and how I can get better." Solomon also offers Patriots notes in his articles and reports that Deion Branch was again not present at either of the workouts yesterday and will not attend today's final workout of mini camp. Tom Curran of the Providence Journal also offers a similar article.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe previews the competition between rookie kicker Stephen Gostkowski and veteran Martin Gramatica. Cafardo writes that yesterday, Gostkowski and Gramatica nailed field goals from 30, 35, 40, and 50 yards in one direction, then the other. Much like Vinatieri in 1996, expect Gostkowski to get a lot of preseason opportunities. It's tough to cut a fourth-round pick, but it's also difficult to cut a proven veteran such as Gramatica, who appears to be back in form after leg injuries led to him being waived by the Buccaneers in November 2004, and out of football in '05.
Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe takes a look at veteran wide receiver Troy Brown. With the minicamp holdout of Deion Branch, the free agent departures of David Givens, Andre' Davis, and Tim Dwight, and the trade of Bethel Johnson, Brown is the lone receiver in camp who was on the active roster last season.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that after tuesday's practice, Brady said he makes it his goal to outperform every quarterback on the roster in every drill, as if his job's at stake. He treats 7-on-7 and two-minute drills like the final drive of a Super Bowl. "I'm not used to this," rookie wide receiver Chad Jackson said. "I've never seen anything like it - a quarterback taking charge, yelling at the team, trying to get everyone up in the huddle. If you mess up a play, he's mad about it. This is new for me. He's a great quarterback to learn from." Brady's competitiveness is legendary and it comes into focus on days like yesterday, when, with absolutely nothing at stake, he refuses to settle for anything less than 100 percent effort.
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald offers a story on linebacker Monty Beisel. Felger writes that Beisel has been working with the first unit at inside linebacker, next to Tedy Bruschi and right now he looks to be firmly in the plans for 2006. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gave him credit yesterday for his smarts, strength and conditioning. One thing that may help Beisel is that he's been able to stay at the weakside, inside spot (the "will"), where the play-calling duties aren't nearly as demanding as they are at the strongside "mike," which is being manned by Bruschi. Last year, Beisel bounced between the two. More than anything, the Pats are hoping that experience proves to be the key for Beisel, no matter where he ends up. "I think he has improved," Belichick said. "I think he has improved quite a bit. He has a much better understanding of our system now than he did at this time last year and he has a lot more experience in it."
John Tomase of the Boston Herald offers his Patriots notebook. Tomase highlights a rumor going around that the Broncos have contacted the Patriots about trading wideout Ashlie Lelie for Patriots tight end Daniel Graham. According to a league source, the Broncos approached the Patriots with such a proposal, but the Pats said no thanks. On yesterday's practice, Tomase notes that safety Eugene Wilson missed practice due to an unspecified injury. Tomase also points out that the Patriots seem to be highlighting fullback play more than usual, with rookie Garrett Mills and veteran Heath Evans getting a lot of reps.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers a story on safety Tebucky Jones. Curran writes that after spending two seasons with New Orleans and one with Miami, head coach Bill Belichick commented that Jones is pretty much the same player that he was during his previous time with the Patriots. The strongest part of Jones' game was his physicality. He could hit, leap to high-point passes and be versatile enough to either play up in the box or back in coverage. The downside -- which was often maddening -- was his failure to wrap-up players and his sometimes costly misdiagnoses on angles. But the combination of Jones' work ethic, ability, versatility and general good humor will likely outweigh the irritating plays he's bound to make.
Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant writes that Corey Dillon appears to have taken on the role of mentor to rookie running back Laurence Maroney. Maroney, 21, calls Dillon, 31, a great teammate and says that Dillon is always giving him helpful tips. Asked if that is surprising given that he was brought here to take Dillon's job, Maroney said, "No. We're both trying to help the team win."
Eric McHugh of the Patriots Ledger offers a story on defensive lineman Johnathan Sullivan, who was acquired earlier this month in a trade that sent wideout Bethel Johnson to the New Orleans Saints. McHugh writes that on the first day of minicamp, Sullivan was backing up Vince Wilfork at nose tackle (a brand new position for him) and seeing action as a defensive tackle when the Patriots employed a 4-3 look. Sullivan counts two former Saints teammates - safeties Tebucky Jones and Mel Mitchell - on the roster, and of course he's been reunited with Richard Seymour, his former buddy at Georgia. "We played one year (together), but that one year we were around each other all the time," Sullivan said. "We were pretty close." If Sullivan can be even remotely close to Seymour in production and impact, the Patriots will have pulled off an all-time swindle.
Ian Clark of the Union Leader writes that with all of the questions and storylines coming out of New England Patriots' mini-camp, two men garnering extra attention are the Patriots top draft picks, running back Laurence Maroney and wide receiver Chad Jackson. Not only are they players hung with the high expectations that come from being picked early, but Maroney and Jackson deserve some extra attention because both could be impact players in their rookie years.
Michael Parente of the Woonsocket Call asks the question "Who will fill Willie's shoes?" Parente writes that the key to replacing one of the most productive outside linebackers in franchise history could revolve around the development of 27-year-old inside linebacker, Monty Beisel. Even though he rarely plays on the perimeter, Monty Beisel's performance this summer will help determine how the Patriots fill the void left by the departure of Willie McGinest. The logical choice to supplant McGinest would be Mike Vrabel, who's played that position for the past five years in New England, but he had to move inside last season because Beisel and Chad Brown struggled in their efforts to replace Tedy Bruschi and Ted Johnson. The Patriots will continue to watch how he interacts with Bruschi, and if they're convinced Beisel can shoulder the load as a starting inside linebacker, it'll allow them to move Vrabel back to the position he's most comfortable with, thereby strengthening the defense and replacing McGinest.
The Boston Globe's Mike Reiss offers his daily Patriots blog with news and notes.
Previously in the Blitz...
Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that there is probably going to be a healthy dose of both Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney this coming season, as Maroney, the rookie from Minnesota, vies for playing time with Dillon, holder of the Patriots' season record for rushing yards. For now, Maroney is learning from the 10-year veteran, as well as from eight-year vet Kevin Faulk and seven-year man Patrick Pass. "It's a good situation for a young guy," said running backs coach Ivan Fears. "The one thing about this kid is he wants to learn. He's hungry to learn. He doesn't have a big head, and the other guys see that and want to help him get better."
Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that coach Bill Belichick wished Ben Roethlisberger well in his recovery and called the Pittsburgh quarterback's motorcycle accident "unfortunate." Though several Patriots are motorcycle riders, Belichick didn't say he was more concerned about their safety after the Roethlisberger incident. "I think we all have individual choices to make and that goes for every player and coach on this team and the responsibility that we have to the team," he said. "I think it's always in the team's best interests for all of us to make good choices -- every player, every coach, everybody involved." Solomon also offers mini camp notes in his article and reports that inside linebacker Tedy Bruschi worked side-by-side with Monty Beisel, with Mike Vrabel returning to the outside for much of yesterdays workouts.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports the Deion Branch was absent from mini camp as he is in the process of negotiating a new contract. Cafardo writes that the current lack of receiver depth gives Branch leverage over the Patriots. There is nobody else among this thin receiving corps who comes close to being the accomplished, game-breaking, money receiver Branch has become. John Tomase of the Boston Herald also reports on the Deion Branch holdout.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald offers an article on second-year cornerback Ellis Hobbs. Tomase writes that Hobbs isn't a rookie anymore and after a promising debut season, he's ready to take the next step as a leader. "Obviously, that's my nature and the way I play," he said. "If I have a larger role or responsibility, whatever it is, I have to make sure I do the job and that goes for everybody out there." Hobbs looked good in drills yesterday, for whatever that's worth three months before the opener. He said he can't believe how much more comfortable he is now vs. this time last year.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes that with favorite receiver Deion Branch AWOL, quarterback Tom Brady had a frustrating day trying to hone in on unfamiliar targets. The lack of familiarity between quarterbacks and receivers clearly was an issue during practice. "Just now, in the two-minute drill, (we were) walking through that at the end of the practice," Brady said by way of example. "Before it would be Troy [Brown] and [David Givens] and Deion [Branch], and now it's Reche [Caldwell] and John Stone and Troy. So just trying to get used to those new guys and get those guys accustomed to what we're doing (takes time). Over the years you develop a rapport with guys and that's just through throwing a lot of passes."
Michael Parente of the Woonsockett Call offers a story on Tedy Bruschi. Parente writes that Bruschi is happy to be on the field sweating through two practices a day under the feverish sun at Gillette Stadium. At this time last year, Bruschi was still recovering from the minor stroke he suffered during the offseason and was unable to participate in the New England Patriots' three-day minicamp. Bruschi has participated in every voluntary and mandatory workout since the Patriots were eliminated from the playoffs in January. He's on track to start the season opener in September against Buffalo after missing seven games in 2005.