Brandin Cooks' space is one of the first ones you encounter if you use the far, left entrance to the Patriots' locker room. When media arrived inside after Wednesday's practice, there was Cooks, who chuckled knowingly when the large crowd assembled around him.
The soon-to-be-24-year-old wide receiver is perhaps the Patriot most familiar with this week's opponent because he played for New Orleans the past three seasons. The Saints drafted Cooks out of Oregon State in 2014 and he enjoyed three productive seasons in Louisiana before being traded to New England this past offseason.
Saints head coach Sean Payton notified Cooks over the phone that he'd been dealt to the reigning Super Bowl champions.
"He did a respectful job of it," Cooks recalled. "I have a ton of respect for Coach Payton still. We ended off on a great note. I love him. He's a great coach. He did me well when I was there, so, there's no bad blood at all. No bad memories at all. I love every bit of playing there. They gave me the opportunity, first team coming into the NFL."
Cooks emphasized the point by thanking by name the Saints' owner, general manager, and quarterback Drew Brees, whom Cooks referred to as "family."
While acknowledging he misses the famous food scene in New Orleans, the aptly named Cooks maintained that he has no regrets about the move to New England and isn't living in the past.
"That's a great [Saints] offense, a great team. They'll do just fine without me," he continued. "I'm here now and I'm focusing on the guys that I'm playing with. I'm just focused on being here now. I'm in an awesome place in the New England area. I can't be more thankful. It's a special place."
New Orleans was special to him at one time, too, and Cooks made a point to mention the Saints fans who supported him the past three seasons. Asked what type of reception he expects from them this Sunday when he suits up against them, he responded with a question of his own.
"I feel like we left off on a great note. I love the [Saints] fans, but, hey, I don't know. It's an away game, so, you're expecting what away fans are going to give you, right?"
"I think it will be a good reception," Brees predicted during a conference call with New England media. "I think a lot of people liked him and respected him. He was a big part of our team and our offense the last couple of years. Nothing but love and respect for him."
"If Drew says it's going to be a good reception, then it'll be one," Cooks smiled. "I just look at it as another game. When you start to get hyped up too much, you psyche yourself out. So, I'm just looking forward to Week 2 and playing some football… Especially after what happened last week."
Check out our favorite photos from Patriots practice at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017.
About Last Week
The Patriots have had a lot of extra time since last Thursday to prepare for the Saints while allowing the stunning home-opener defeat at the hands of Kansas City to fester.
To a man Wednesday, players sounded relieved to get back on the practice field.
"You lose your first one, it's tough," admitted running back Dion Lewis. "You just want to get out there as quick as possible and correct the mistakes, have a good week of practice. Yes, sir. Everybody was ready to go. That's what we're going to need tomorrow and Friday, so we can be ready to go on Sunday."
"We went out there and the sense of urgency was up," remarked wide receiver Chris Hogan. "Guys were flying around. We know we have to go out there and play better, a better four quarters.
"Obviously, this is not a feeling that we like to have, coming into this locker room after a loss. You don't ever want that feeling again… We have to move on and get ready for the Saints. We had time to look at the [Kansas City] film, make corrections, and then after that, we're moving on."
Defensively, New England gave up an uncharacteristic amount of points – their 42-point allowance was the most under head coach Bill Belichick. The number is even more remarkable when you consider that the Chiefs did so without the benefit of any turnovers by the Patriots offense.
"If you look at a lot of the big plays that we gave up in that game," safety/co-captain Duron Harmon observed, "it was just poor fundamentals, missed assignments. So, if we do what we're supposed to do and be fundamentally sound, we'll be fine. Don't lose the faith."
"It's definitely a focal point to get back to the fundamentals, the things we struggling in during the first game – tackling, setting the edge, shedding blocks," said defensive end Trey Flowers. "The key thing is knowing the bad parts of the game and fixing the mistakes. Win or lose, if you can find something to get better at, you take that step the next week."
"Everybody wants to work hard, do the right thing. Everybody wants to get back to playing good Patriot football," added Harmon. "That was the goal. We'll see where it takes us on Sunday."
Given what happened to them last Thursday night against Kansas City, it wasn't at all surprising that neither wide receiver Danny Amendola nor linebacker/co-captain Dont'a Hightower was on the field when media were allowed to view the beginning of today's practice.
Amendola suffered a concussion while fielding the first of three consecutive punts late in the third quarter of the Chiefs game. Hightower twisted his right knee around the same time. Neither player continued in the game thereafter. Amendola made a couple of cameos in the locker room post-practice Wednesday, but did not stop to talk with reporters.
Second-year defensive tackle Vincent Valentine (knee) also did not appear at the start of Wednesday's session. He didn't practice all last week either, nor did he dress for the Chiefs game.
Meanwhile, there was a new player on defense for the Patriots today. He's defensive back Ryan Lewis, who was wearing jersey number 27. That digit became available when running back D.J. Foster was signed by the Arizona Cardinals off New England's practice squad earlier this week.
Lewis is an undrafted rookie from the University of Pittsburgh. Coincidentally, he began his NFL journey with Arizona earlier this year.