McDaniels excited to be back in New England

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McDaniels excited to be back in New England

FOXBORO -- Josh McDaniels sprinted ahead of his players from one offensive drill to the next like a border collie excitedly leading its owners to the front door for a walk.

Even from afar, it was clear that McDaniels was happy to be back in New England, running the Patriots offense at training camp.

"You're so excited to be out here because you're with the guys and it's a new season and, training camp, you've worked a lot of days to get ready for this day," McDaniels said.

"You come out and you make some exciting plays. You make a lot of mistakes that you have to correct, but that's the fun part. We get to go in now and watch the film with the players and correct some of the things we didn't do well today. Hopefully we'll have a better day tomorrow, but it was good to be back out here."

McDaniels was last in charge of New England's offense in 2008. After leading Matt Cassel to an 11-5 record, he was rewarded with a chance to be the head coach of the Broncos at the tender age of 32. It's been almost four years since he's been back -- he went through two disappointing seasons in Denver and a one-year stint as offensive coordinator in St. Louis since then -- and now he's trying to rebuild the bonds he had among Patriots players before he left.

"Every year you reestablish all those connections, with the position group that you coach or the offense, if you're the coordinator," McDaniels said. "You work hard to try to recreate those relationships. Each one of those relationships probably grows and matures each year, and I think that's where Tom Brady and I are. But we'll always try to get better and communicate better as we go forward through camp."

Brady's a familiar face. So is Wes Welker. And of course there's his boss, Bill Belichick. But there are a lot of new players McDaniels hasn't coached before that he's trying to get to know better. He was with the team as they prepared for the Super Bowl last year, but back then the offense was still Bill O'Brien's.

Now that McDaniels is in charge, he's learning more and more about his personnel.

"The tight ends are different, the backs are a little younger," McDaniels said. "Things have changed. There's a few different coaches on our staff. But I think that happens to every team every year in the NFL. We just adapt."

He elaborated on his two game-changing tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, a little more.

"Based on seeing them before I got here, you knew how they caught the football," he said. "Not being in the meeting room with them until this year, you realize how intelligent they are and the things they can pick up and how well coached they've been, and how easy to coach the are. They listen well. They take good notes in the meeting room. It's extremely important to both of them. They both love football and I don't know that you wouldnecessarily know that unless you were here. Having the opportunity to know them this spring and now more in training camp, I think that's what I appreciate about them."

After one day it seems like McDaniels appreciates everything about his new, yet familiar, situation.

"This is home for me," he said, "and it feels great to be back."

Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report: Jimmy G., Brissett both 'limited'

Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report: Jimmy G., Brissett both 'limited'

FOXBORO -- The highly-anticipated first Patriots injury report of the week was released on Wednesday afternoon, and it was fairly predictable. 

Both injured quarterbacks were active but limited in their practice participation, the report indicated. That comes as little surprise as both Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) were spotted throwing passes early in Wednesday's practice. Neither appeared to be experiencing any significant discomfort as they made their warm-up throws. 

Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) were also limited. Gronkowski admitted that the team was taking it slow with him in his first game back on the field last week -- he played just 14 snaps in New England's win over Houston -- but he said on Wednesday that he hoped to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)

BUFFALO BILLS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Charles Clay (knee)
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)

Garoppolo: Not pressured by Patriots to return last Thursday

Garoppolo: Not pressured by Patriots to return last Thursday

FOXBORO -- Jimmy Garoppolo spoke Wednesday for the first time since getting his shoulder separated by the Dolphins’ Kiko Alonso. Standing by his locker, Garoppolo was predictably vague about the status of his arm, unless you consider, “Getting better day by day,” as being insightful. 

The only two responses offered that were worth a damn came when asked if he could have done anything different when he got squished by Alonso while retreating and buying time.  

“Just have to be smart I guess,” said Garoppolo. “I mean, it’s football and stuff’s gonna happen like that, but have to be smart in those situations.”

Asked if he regretted holding the ball as long as he did on a third-down play with the Patriots up 21-0, Garoppolo replied, “After it’s all said and done it’s easy to say that, but it’s one of those things, you’re in the heat of the game. But bottom line I have to be smarter than that.”

Agreed.  

Meanwhile, as he worked last week to get back for Thursday night’s game against Houston, The Boston Herald reported that the Patriots were “putting pressure” on Garoppolo to be ready for the game. Working hard to get key players ready for upcoming games is standard operating procedure for a medical staff. Trying to force a player to perform is not. 

I asked Garoppolo if he felt unduly pressured. He replied, “No.”