If you're a wide receiver, it's kind of hard to get noticed when you don't catch a pass.
But that didn't stop Kelley Washingtonlast season.
"I didn't have any catches last year. All my plays came on special teams," the Patriots veteran wide receiver observed after practice Monday.
Washington quickly became a fan favorite in that role, often drawing loud cheers from the Gillette Stadium faithful whenever he made a nice tackle. Sometimes, he'd get them excited before the play, just by waving his arms up and down or pumping his fists.
"I want to be the one out there making special teams plays, getting the crowd excited, getting the team excited," he admitted.
"It's vital part of the game. Each and every game, some part of the game, something happens on the special teams side of the ball. The more players you have that are athletic and can make plays on special teams, the better. It creates more opportunities for the ball club."
With so few roster spots available on this Patriots team, many of the limited open positions may be filled by players who can contribute on special teams. That makes the competition even more fierce for guys like Washington.
"We've got rookies that are battling for veteran spots and veterans that are battling. We just know that there are plays out there to be made. Last year, we made key plays throughout the season to help our ball club win. I'm happy we got Sam [Aiken] and [Larry] Izzo, Pierre [Woods]… we got a good group. We just got to continue to come out here and work hard and improve from last year."
At the same time, Washington wouldn't mind contributing more on offense as well.
"I'm a wide receiver first. I've always had the mentality that I just want to play on Sundays. I've been in a position where I end up just lifting weights on Sundays and don't even get to dress [for games]. So, I'm going to work as hard as I can to get on the field offensively. If the coaches want me out there making plays, then I'm willing to do that. It all starts out here on the practice field.
"So, I'm going to try to make some plays this preseason and show the team that I'm reliable like I've done in the past in my career."
MONDAY TRAINING CAMP NOTEBOOK
Who's Hot: RB Sammy Morris
He looks good carrying the ball, making quick cuts and showing a nice open-field burst once he gets through the line. He's also blocked well in pass protection drills.
Who's Not: The passing attack* *Minus Moss, the aerial offense sputtered, even with QB Tom Brady behind center. The team is also without slot machine Wes Welker, so that may have something to do with it.
Play of the Day: Brady to Aiken TD
When Brady did connect, it was pretty. In 7-on-7 work, WR Sam Aiken made a great fake on rookie cornerback Terrence Wheatleyin the back of the end zone to get open in the right corner. Brady floated a perfect pass over Wheatley's head into the waiting arms of Aiken.
Just one practice on Monday. It was a full-pads, mid-afternoon session held outside under hazy skies, 80-degree temperatures, with an occasional cool breeze.
All 10 remaining PUP players, plus CB Jason Webster, LB Vince Redd, LB Tedy Bruschi, LT Matt Light, and WR Randy Mossdid not take part in Monday's practice. Early on, TE David Thomas, who's had a history of injury problems as a Patriot, left the field and did not return. LB Adalius Thomasstepped aside for a few plays to have his left hand taped by trainers, but he did return to action and didn't seem hindered.
In the RB-versus-LB pass-rush drill, rookie LB Jerod Mayoruled the day. He was virtually unstoppable getting to the quarterback, using a variety of moves, from bull rushes to swim moves to all-out fakes. The only player who snuffed him once was Morris. Veteran RB Kevin Faulkstruggled in the drill, as did newly signed ball carrier LaMont Jordan.
In 7-on-7 passing, A.D. made a nice effort to break up what would have been a touchdown from QB Matt Casselto TE Marcus Pollard, who was streaking across the goal line. As the ball arrived at Pollard's hands, so did Thomas, who knocked it down at the last second. A few plays later, another would-be TD was scuttled. Brady lobbed a great pass to a tightly covered Morris down the right sideline. Morris misjudged the throw, which hit him in the chest when he extended his arms for it.
In kickoff return work, rookie Matthew Slaterhad a good effort that would have at least gotten the ball past midfield, if not all the way for a score. Wheatley, meantime, was stuffed around his own 20-yard line on consecutive attempts.
In full squad scrimmaging, the defense had the upper hand most of the afternoon. Several times, Brady and the other QBs had to check down to every option, but couldn't fire a pass because the coverage was too tight. The offense was reduced to heaving desperation passes into the end zone, most of which were overthrown or broken up by the secondary. At one point, DE Richard Seymourhad a strong rush against tackle Nick Kaczur(who moved over to replace the absent Light) and stripped Brady of the ball just as he was about to pass.
Cassel threw another pick-six in 11-on-11 action, this time to LB Pierre Woods.
For the second consecutive day, head coach Bill Belichicksigned autographs for the fans before ducking back into his office after practice. And he seemed to enjoy the interaction.
"I sign them during the year during training camp," he said. "It was nice. I could have been out there for quite a while. There were a lot of people out there. The fan support has been good and I really feel like I have a personal connection. I have spent a lot of time in New England going to school here, living here. I always spent summers up here and it's great. I appreciate it."