Unfiltered Notebook 8/27: Damien Harris returns, NFL rule changes and locker room sound bites

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The Patriots wrapped up their last 90-man practice of the summer on Tuesday, putting the finishing touches on their preparation for Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Giants.

The biggest news of the last 24 hours came from reports that David Andrews had been hospitalized with blood clots in his lungs. Reports later had Andrews returning home, a good sign but one that doesn’t mean he’ll be playing football anytime soon.

On Tuesday, Andrews was seen at Patriots practice as an observer but is still projected to be out long term, in not the entire season.

Ted Karras would appear to be the next man up. He has five career starts, including two at center in 2017. The trickledown effect is that the interior offensive line depth will be tapped, putting a greater focus on players like James Ferentz and rookie Hjalte Froholdt. Cole Croston, who plays both guard and tackle, could see a bump in roster chances as well.

While not ideal, the Patriots at least have some experience at the position and with their excellent coaching, the offense should not miss a beat even with a change at center. Hopefully, Andrews fully recovers and is able to return to football at some point. The Patriots could choose to IR him off of their initial 53-man roster and then he would be eligible to return this season should he be able to.

Roster Moves

Running back Robert Martin was released after just one day on the roster.

Keionta Davis cleared waivers and now resorts to the team’s injured reserve, however he's not eligible to return this season.

Maurice Harris also cleared waivers but was released late Tuesday afternoon with an injury settlement. He is now free to sign elsewhere once he gets healthy.

Practice Attendance

Damien Harris returned to practice after leaving the game against the Panthers and missing the last two practices. This is probably why Robert Martin was around for such a brief stay. Once Harris was healthy the team no longer needed the insurance from Martin.

Derek Rivers, Lance Kendricks and Shilique Calhoun remain the other notable 53-man roster candidates not at practice.

NFL Rule Change Briefing

NFL referee Ron Torbert visited with the media to breakdown the rule and emphasis changes for the 2019 season. Here are the changes:

  • Offensive and Defensive Pass Interference are now reviewable.
  • Blindside block rule has been expanded.
  • Team celebrations for players in uniform only
  • Disqualifications are now applicable for football acts in addition to non-football acts (unsportsmanlike conduct).
  • Kickoff adjustments are permanent

Points of Emphasis

  • Backside holding on runs
  • Lowering head and using helmet to initiate contact

A full explanation of all the rule changes can be found on the NFL’s site here.

Locker Room Sound Bites

With the news about David Andrews breaking last night, his mates along the offensive line were happy to see him out at practice earlier on Tuesday.

"It is great," said Ted Karras. "Obviously he's a big part of the team. He's been a leader for us for a long time now. Just having him around is a big plus for our unit and our team."

Karras figures to slip into the starting center spot for Andrews, a player he has grown close with over the last three seasons.

"We're the same age but I've learned a lot from him. He came in a year early. I can't say enough good things about Dave Andrews, a dear friend of mine and a guy that I've been privileged to play a long time with."

Shaq Mason felt confident in Karras or anyone else who might be called on to fill in.

"Communication-wise, we're all on the same page," said Mason. "That comes from repetition in practice. David, Ted, we all communicate the same because it all comes from those reps. We have tremendous confidence in any guy that steps on that field. We know we went through the situation before, repetitions and things like that."

When asked about the difference between playing guard and center, Karras pointed out one key thing, "You gotta snap the ball that's the biggest difference."

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