He was just a handful of plays into his preseason debut, in Week 2 last August, when then-rookie Isaiah Wynn collapsed to the turf with what would be a season-ending Achilles heel injury. A healthy scratch from the lineup a week earlier, the young offensive lineman was seeing his first game-like NFL snaps at the tackle position when the unfortunate injury occurred.
Ever since, he's been on the road to recovery, although it's been a deliberately slow process. Nearly a year removed from that fateful day, Wynn is back in uniform at practices, yet he was held out of all springtime activities and is steadily increasing his practice workload in training camp.
Wynn's reps during 11-on-11 periods have been sparse to this point, but the presumptive left tackle told reporters after Friday's workout that he's anticipating an increase in that regard very soon.
"Of course… I've been good," Wynn declared when asked if he's dealt with any setbacks in his recovery. "It feels good to be out here and compete with the guys, and also help them at whatever position I need to be at, just to overall better the team. Just being able to be fluid in everything that I do, learn from the guys in front of me, and continue to come out here every day and get better."
Initially, Wynn simpered and giggled self-consciously when asked if he's anxious to be more involved in practice and the upcoming preseason schedule, but then explained that he's still managed to be productive whether he's taking part on the field or off.
"I'm just following instructions [from the medical staff and coaches], that's it… Of course it's hard, because of that competitive nature inside you. You want to get out there and be able to help the team, but I also had to look at the bright side. I was able to help the team by being prepared every week.
"Just putting in work every day, whether it's on the field, or in the training room, or rehab and treatment. Every day I've got to get a little bit better," he continued, "so I'm trying to figure out whatever steps I need to take to get better. I need to do that. I feel like last year really gave me an opportunity to look on the brighter side of things and see how everything works, especially going as far as we went last season. Being able to see all of that as a rookie was special. Also, I was able to learn how plays operate, how practice goes, and how the guys take care of their bodies."
If Wynn isn't quite at the stage yet where he can contribute fully, he's still maximizing his time on the practice field. From a few yards behind the offense, Wynn often simulates what he would do on any given play, dropping into pass protection at the snap of the football and going through his blocking reads and technique.
"That's part of the mental aspect of the game," he added. "So when I get out there, it's not chaotic. Being able to be in the film room with the guys has helped, and also just being out here at practice. Even if I'm not getting physical reps, I can always get mental reps."
Whether or not Wynn will be ready to full-time duty in time for the regular season opener remains unclear, and the player deferred all such questions to head coach Bill Belichick, but Wynn certainly appears to be headed in a positive direction.
Brady's (almost) B-day
Most summers, the Patriots are holding a training camp practice on August 3, which happens to be Tom Brady's birthday. The way the schedule worked out this year, though, the team will have a day off tomorrow when Brady turns 42.
Astute Patriots fans who showed up to watch camp on Friday understood this and continued what has become a Foxborough tradition when they serenaded TB12 with an early chorus of "Happy Birthday" at one point during today's session.
Longtime teammate and fellow co-captain Matthew Slater referred to Brady afterward as Benjamin Button, the fictional movie character who gets younger as he ages.
"Forty-two's the new 25. That's what I told him today," Slater grinned. "I hope we all appreciate it. We live in a world where we get so caught up in comparisons and the next guy and who's going to be this and who's doing that – let's just enjoy what he's doing. For him to be 42 years old and still playing football at a high level is something everyone should be able to appreciate, Patriots fans or not."
When asked if Brady acts his age, TE Ben Watson, who's known Brady since the early days of their careers, had to laugh.
"I don't really know what that means – acting his age. I mean, I'm 38. We just act how we act. I definitely think there's a level of maturity on and off the field that you get from being older, but as far as playing the game and doing the job, he seems that same as he's always been."
What does one get a guy like Brady for a birthday present?
"I don't know," Slater replied with a smile. "He didn't get a present for me. I can't afford to get him a present."
Check out photos from Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019.
On to Detroit, but first…
After eight training camp practices here in Foxborough, the Patriots will be away from home for much of the next two weeks. First up, a visit to Detroit for joint training camp practices with the Lions. They'll return to Gillette briefly before heading out again to conduct joint sessions in Nashville with the Tennessee Titans the following week.
The Patriots understand as well as anyone that one of the luxuries of flying charter, particularly when you own your own aircraft, is being able to travel directly to your destination of choice.
However, just before the reigning Super Bowl Champions head to Michigan this Sunday, they're reportedly making a rare stop along the way, according to NFL Network.
Head coach Bill Belichick is fond of taking his teams on history-relating outings whenever possible, and this would seem like a natural and timely detour, both for the history of the game and the fact that, as indicated in the above Tweet, former Patriots cornerback Ty Law is being inducted the night before.
Buy: Derek Rivers – Now in his third NFL season, New England's top draft choice in 2017 has heretofore been mostly a non-factor due to a knee injury from his rookie training camp, but this summer, he's healthy and getting increasing reps on the edge with the Patriots top defensive personnel.
Sell: The punters – On a day when practice was a bit shorter than normal, special teams didn't receive as much attention as usual. Yet, both incumbent veteran Ryan Allen and rookie Jake Bailey struggled with consistency in what looked like a directional punting-focused team period. After practice, the duo stayed late to work on their long-distance boomers, and both appeared to do better at that time.
Play of the Day: While Friday's practice wasn't exactly a walkthrough, it certainly had a less intense feel to it, with players wearing helmets, shells (smaller, lighter shoulder pads), and shorts. The tempo picked up a bit when end-of-game situations were the focus of the 11-on-11 period. With Brady and the offense working on a Hail Mary play, the QB launched a high, arching pass into the end zone. Two of his receivers went up for the ball, but LB Jamie Collins never had to leave his feet. He simply reached over them and plucked the ball from the air. Humorously, he then politely handed the football to WR Maurice Harris in a good-natured show of sportsmanship.