In preparation for the team's home opener this Sunday against Arizona, the Patriots –as they customarily do before home games – took their Friday practice to the Gillette Stadium game field. Today's workout was in shorts, shells (smaller, lighter shoulder pads), and helmets.
The mood in the locker room beforehand and during the beginning portion of practice appeared very easy-going, yet spirited, much like it was last Friday before the team's big win at Tennessee.
For example, when Chandler Jones was approached by the media, he was giggling, and when asked why, said he'd just received some ribbing from QB Tom Brady, who begged the shirtless rookie to put some clothes on if he was going to be on-camera. Out on the field, during the group stretching period, several players were laughing and joking as they limbered up. Not uncommon at all for a Friday Patriots practice.
Following their impressive performance in the opener last week in Nashville, New England's defensive rookies have been getting quite a bit of media attention this week, much to the chagrin of their head coach (as noted in Wednesday's blog post). Jones, naturally, was asked for his thoughts on whether the initial success could go to the young players' heads.
"I feel as a rookie class, we're very mature. We are leaders of our own. That's one great characteristic we all have," he replied. "We were handed a game plan, we were told to execute that game plan, and that's what we did.
"Being humble is key, because no one likes a cocky player at all. But there's a big difference between being cocky and confident. It's good to be humble, but it's good to be confident at the same time."
He was then asked if he felt confident in himself after his dominant effort – including his strip-sack that resulted in a touchdown against the Titans.
"I have a lot of work to do. I wouldn't jump to that statement right away, saying I belong in this league. [The strip-sack] was a great play, but anyone can get a great play in this game of football. It gave me a little swagger, I'll say, but I have a lot of work to do… all around. It's being a balanced defensive end. Stopping the run, being a pass rusher. There's a lot of work to do there."
Jones' best answer may have come in response to a query about his first regular season home game.
"It's an exciting moment to have my home opener-debut-kinda-rookie-scenario… thing going on here," he said, seemingly covering all his bases. "Hopefully, we can achieve our goal, which is to win. Hopefully we can get the crowd going."
The full injury report, with game status projections, will be updated here on the blog later this afternoon, after the Cardinals have completed their practice in Arizona (shortly after 5 pm Eastern).
UPDATE… 4:07 pm
Seven Patriots are officially listed as Questionable for Sunday's game: right guard Dan Connolly (head); running back Shane Vereen (left foot); right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back); o-lineman Nick McDonald (right shoulder); tight end Daniel Fells (shin); cornerbacks Sterling Moore (knee) and rookie Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring). Safety Patrick Chung (shoulder) participated fully in practice and is Probable.
Out west in Arizona, the Cardinals listed 15 players, including starting QB John Skelton (ankle), who is Doubtful. Three others are Questionable, most notably cornerback and return specialist Patrick Peterson (groin) and starting strong safety Adrian Wilson (ankle). Backup safety Rashad Johnson is also 50-50 to play.
The remaining wounded Cardinals are all Probable: running back Beanie Wells (knee), starting left guard Daryn Colledge (elbow), starting tight end Jeff King (knee), starting safety Kerry Rhodes (foot), kicker Jay Feely (back), corner Jamell Fleming (shoulder), linebacker O'Brien Schofield (knee), guard Adam Snyder (elbow), corner Greg Toler (hip), backup running back Ryan Williams (knee), and cornerback Lyle Sendlein (back).