Despite some significant turnover for the Patriots offense this season, one constant is running back James White. The now three-time offensive captain will be relied on more than ever in his seventh season in New England.
"It's been a little bit different not playing any preseason games and practicing against each other the entire camp," said White on Thursday. "Camp is always a grind. Obviously, you can't wait to go up against somebody else."
White is one of the most dynamic receiving backs in the NFL, averaging nearly 70 catches and 600 yards in his last four seasons, including career highs in 2018 in catches, yards and touchdowns as well has yards-per-rushing-attempt.
Though his numbers tailed off a bit in 2019, it was still the second-best statistical season of his career. White and his fellow running backs are locked in on the 2020 season by taking advantage of every moment in this summer.
"Each of these practices, walk-throughs, meetings are important to us all," said White. "We didn't have OTAs. You gotta make each and every second, each and every play count to build that team chemistry each and every day."
Fellow running back Rex Burkhead credited the veteran leaders for keeping everyone's focus in the right place.
"The leaders on the team have done a great job of keeping the energy up," said Burkhead. "Just understanding we're out there for a reason, we're growing together."
Bill Belichick has made sure to keep the heat turned up on his players. As tight ends coach Nick Caley pointed out on Wednesday, the heavy workload should have the team ready for their opener in just 10 days.
"Bill is going to challenge us," said White, "he tries to make it even harder than a game so when a game rolls around you don't bat an eye."
Together, the team has put their all into preparation under strange circumstances this season.
"We got a good group of guys trying to push each other, trying to make each other better so when next week rolls around we can put our best foot forward," said White.
After a day off on Wednesday the Patriots returned to the practice field on Thursday under rainy conditions. The team was in full pads as they're just 10 days away from the opening game of the season.
Returning to practice: David Andrews, Isaiah Wynn, J.C. Jackson
Limited: Jakobi Meyers (red jersey)
Absent during open portion: Gunner Olszewski (new), Scoota Harris (new), Tashaun Bower (new), Nick Thurman, Michael Barnett, Damien Harris, Beau Allen, Michael Jackson
Webex Quotes of Note
Chase Winovich on teammate John Simon:
"John Simon is a bona fide expert at setting the edge. It's always cool playing with John because he's a great leader. His wisdom, he's absolutely brilliant when it comes to football. Secondly, he's one of the guys you have to respect as a fellow football player because he's a warrior. The dude goes out there and just battles, you can tell his toughness and desire to help the team win."
Jermaine Eluemunor on pushing himself this season:
"I feel like my first few years here I was kind of like 'I made it'. I got comfortable and that's one thing you can never do in the NFL is get comfortable. Things can change in the turn of a hand. Coming into the season, [I said] I'm not going to be comfortable I'm going to make sure I work as hard as I can and give everything I got, empty the tank out out there every single practice."
Shaq Mason on the ground game:
"The running game is going to be the running game. We as five have to do our job to make the engine run. That's really all we can focus on, is doing what's called and just putting our foot best foot forward as a unit."