A week ago, Greg Salas was a Ram in St. Louis. Today, he's cramming in New England.
Traded to the Patriots over the Labor Day Weekend, after final cuts were made around the NFL, the 6-1, 210-pound wide receiver is trying to catch up as quickly as possible to learn the New England offense.
He's lucky, in that it's very similar to the one he was just in. Only in his second NFL season, Salas' rookie year in St. Louis last year coincided with Josh McDaniels' one season there as offensive coordinator. He now holds that position once again in Foxborough, where Salas was absorbing his playbook at his locker prior to practice this holiday Monday.
He gave reporters three minutes of his time for introductions.
"I'm just happy to be here. Ready to do whatever's asked of me… Just refreshing myself with the material and just concentrating on everything about Tennessee," Salas said.
He described his working relationship with McDaniels as a good one.
"Josh had some firsthand experience with the player, no question," head coach Bill Belichick acknowledged. "But we scouted him coming out of Hawaii and followed him last year. We had a good feel for him before Josh was here just based on our scouting department and working him out and getting ready for the draft and all that. Of course Josh spent some time with him so that was some additional input."
Yet, with just six days to go before the Patriots open the 2012 season at Tennessee, as Salas alluded to, is that enough time to learn what he needs to contribute?
"I'm doing my best to do that," he replied.
Salas appeared headed for a very productive rookie year with the Rams. In six games last season, he hauled in 27 passes for an average of right around 10 yards per grab. Then he suffered a broken leg and his impressive debut abruptly ended.
"I'm sure every rehab is difficult, and I had to take my time to get ready again, work hard in the offseason… but that's over with now. No limitations, no," Salas maintained.
"It was tough, but I've moved on from that now. I'm just on to this season, and on to Tennessee this week."
The 24-year-old starred in college at Hawaii, a program known for its high-octane offense. In that respect, he should feel right at home with the Patriots.
"I think it helped out a lot with reading defenses and adjusting routes on the go, but, you know, every offense is different, and there are new challenges with learning new offenses. And this is different from Hawaii's offense, that's for sure"
It remains to be seen exactly where Salas finds a home when New England lines up on offense. Salas refused to say whether he was better suited for the slot or as an outside receiver.
"I feel like I can play both," he asserted. "I play hard and do everything a team asks me to do. That's what I'm here for."
If there's anything Salas has already learned in just two days as a Patriot, it's how to deal with a media onslaught. Keep your answers brief and full of praise – particularly for the guy throwing you the football.
"Yeah, I got a chance to meet [Tom Brady]. He seems like a great guy – one of the best quarterbacks ever. I'm just honored to play with him.
"It's a big difference [from St. Louis]. I know the expectations [here] are to win every game, and that's what I'm here to help do."
Copin' without Koppen
Now that long-time center Dan Koppen has been released, the job of snapping the football to Brady will fall to fourth-year player Ryan Wendell. Another in a long line of Patriots o-linemen to grow from a practice squad job to a starter's role, Wendell said Monday he's grateful for the opportunity, yet still feels for his former teammate.
"Koppen's a great guy, a great player, and a great friend of mine, and I'm happy to be his friend in the future."
Wendell added that he learned "a lot" from Koppen.
"Being behind Koppen and watching him play for the past several years has been a great learning experience on how to be a pro: work ethic, study habits, how to practice. Being a pro is a lot more than about what you do on Sundays."
Wendell started a pair of games at center for New England last season – one of four players to see time at the position because of injuries. This Sunday in Tennessee, however, will be his first start as the regular Patriots center.
"I'm really excited," Wendell admitted, "I think everyone is – to get the season started in earnest, to fight for wins that count toward our record."
Develin, the details
Former Brown University defensive end James Develin now finds himself a fullback for the Patriots. He was signed as the eighth and final member of the New England practice squad yesterday and couldn't be happier, he said Monday, to be back in the area after spending last season with Cincinnati.
"It's awesome, man," he gushed. "I've got a lot of people up here that I care about. All my friends at Brown, all my coaches, my sister actually moved up, so, it's almost like a homecoming for me. I really appreciate the opportunity to come here and play."
Develin had a choice to sign with Tampa Bay, but decided New England was a better fit for him. Not surprising, as he is now the fifth fullback to be brought in by the Patriots already this season (Tony Fiammetta left the team for personal reasons; Spencer Larsen was cut; Kareem Huggins was signed and released before ever taking the field; Eric Kettani is now on the practice squad with Develin).
So, how does a 6-3, 250-pound defensive lineman convert to fullback?
"I made the choice with my agent," Develin explained. "Coming out of college, my skill set was more geared towards fullback, because d-ends in this league are absolute freak athletes, you know. But I've always been a hard hitter and felt I could make it as a fullback."
He got his first opportunity with the United Football League in 2010, where he said he gained invaluable experience to learn his new position before entering the NFL last year. Now, he believes, he has the added advantage of having played on the other side of the ball.
"Yeah, I think it's definitely beneficial to know what defenses are looking at, what guys are trying to do to you, as far as pass rushers are concerned. That's a big thing as a fullback, to block the edge rushers," continued Develin. "But I think the main thing is the mentality: offense and defense are totally different. Offense, you have to be calm and composed and know what to do. Defense, you just go out there and try and get to the ball. That kind of fierce mentality is what helps the most."
For details about today's Patriots practice, please visit the PFW blog.