New England's seven draft picks, 11 rookie free agents and nine tryout players returned to the Dana Farber Field House Saturday morning for a second day of double sessions in the Patriots rookie minicamp.
With workouts taking place in shorts and helmets the work being done on the indoor turf due to the rainy, slick practice fields is clearly focused in indoctrinating the fresh-faced youngsters into the Patriots system. At this point the players are mostly competing with themselves to learn the playbook that's being thrown at them in advance of the passing camps, full-team veteran minicamp in June and the real competition of summer training camp that come down the road.
"I think we're plugging along and seeing some improvement," Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said after morning workout. "We're trying to get a look at guys doing things the second and third time around. In some cases you can really start to see some quick improvement. That's a good sign. That's what we're looking for. We've tried to reinforce that. That's part of the evaluation too, to see how quickly players improve when they start to do something and are corrected on it."
Even though the bulk of the work is instructional at rookie minicamp, as Belichick alluded to there is a level of evaluation as well. The draft picks and free agents will be sent home on Sunday with things to work on in the coming weeks while the tryout players are fighting simply to earn a contract offer.
"We'll go out there again today and wrap up some of these decision on the tryout kids," Belichick said looking ahead to Saturday afternoon's final minicamp practice. "Then try to give the players some direction and instruction on what they need to do between now and May 15 when the rookie players are allowed to come back to the facility. Then we'll start getting ready for our passing camps at the end of the month."
Some examples Belichick gave as to what the young players might be asked to work on over the next couple weeks included basic technique, strength and conditioning drills and route running.
"So when they come back in May and join the offseason program or start doing things with the team again that they'll be able to keep up or do a better job of it," Belichick concluded.
New England's rookies return to the practice field on last time Saturday afternoon for the fourth workout of the minicamp, one that is closed to the media. The players will then have meetings Sunday morning before leaving the facility. As Belichick said, by rule the rookies aren't allowed to return to Gillette Stadium until May 15.