Slater loving WR reps, but happy anywhere

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Slater loving WR reps, but happy anywhere

FOXBORO -- Anyone watching Patriots training camp Thursday probably saw a depleted receiving corps by the end of the session. No Brandon Lloyd, no Deion Branch, no Jabar Gaffney.
One guy saw something else. A rare opportunity.
Matthew Slater reaped most of the reps that were left on the field by the trio of absentees. As a listed wide receiver who had just one catch in 16 games last season, he was more than happy to get extra targets this week.
"I'm excited," said Slater. "Whatever position I'm in, just trying to get better. Every year I feel like I've had such great veterans to learn from and the list goes on this year. So many guys at that position have been there, done that. I'm just trying to learn. And I love playing football so I'm having fun."
The windfall of passes might not last long. New England has more than enough receivers in camp when everyone is healthy, and Slater knows the numbers will get whittled down come September.
But it's not the end of the world. The 26-year old has plenty of value elsewhere.
"Obviously, special teams has been my ticket, how I've paid my bills," Slater smiled. "And I still feel like I have a lot of room for improvement. There are a lot of things I can do better and special teams coach Scott O'Brien is staying on me, challenging me to get better.
"At receiver, safety, or offensive line -- wherever it may be -- there's a lot to learn. I haven't spent as much time playing those positions so obviously there's a lot of room for improvement."
The offensive line reference was just a crack, but Slater did indeed get a few reps at safety last season. That shouldn't be necessary this year with the additions of Tavon Wilson and Steve Gregory --which is important to Slater. The special teams captain needs to pour his energy into helping New England improve areas like 2011's 29th-ranked kick return.
"We understand that we struggled, to say the least, there last year. It wasn't any one person's fault, it was the whole unit. We realized that's something we really have to focus on and try to do a better job of setting up Tom Brady and the offense this year."
The pressure is on.
"We have to stick with it. We can't get frustrated, we can't get down on ourselves. But at the same time, we have to keep challenging ourselves, keep working on our techniques. And it goes back to fundamentals. That's the great thing about training camp: You focus on the fundamentals and the little things, and those little things hopefully will give us a chance to make some plays during the season."
Even if the playmaking potential doesn't fall to him at receiver on game days, Slater will find opportunity somewhere, and love every minute of it.

Tom Brady will play Friday night vs. Panthers

Tom Brady will play Friday night vs. Panthers

CHARLOTTE - Tom Brady didn't merely fly to Carolina because he likes having his ears pop. 

The Patriots quarterback will indeed play Friday night against the Carolina Panthers. Given Bill Belichick's stated objective of making Jimmy Garoppolo's preparation for the season's first four games a priority, it was uncertain whether Brady would be on the field even though he traveled. But with Brady a late scratch last Thursday against the Bears after gouging his thumb just before kickoff, his chances for game reps before his exile were waning. 

Brady made it very clear this week that he doesn't just want the game reps for tuning up and getting knocked around but because he believes it's his job and responsibility to be out there leading the team, regardless of where he'll be the first four weeks of the year. With him feeling that strongly about playing being important for his preparation and for his standing within the team, it makes sense for Belichick to give him reps. 

It's not known whether Brady or Garoppolo will start or how many series either quarterback will play Friday night. 

Branch reinstated by Patriots after week-long suspension

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Branch reinstated by Patriots after week-long suspension

Alan Branch has been reinstated by the Patriots after the team suspended him prior to last week's preseason game with the Bears, according to Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran. 

When Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about Branch's absence last week, he replied, "It's a club matter."

What got Branch suspended by the team is still unknown, but he is expected to be a contributing player on the interior of the Patriots defensive line in 2016. He started in 17 games last season, including both playoff games, often lining up alongside fellow defensive tackle Malcom Brown. 

Through training camp the Patriots have also used Terrance Knighton, Vincent Valentine, Anthony Johnson and Joe Vellano on the interior of their defensive front. Branch, however, has consistently been used with the team's first defensive grouping. It's unclear how a week away from the team might impact his spot on the depth chart. 

Field Yates of ESPN was the first to report the news that Branch had been reinstated.

Brady makes trip with Patriots to Carolina

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Brady makes trip with Patriots to Carolina

Tom Brady traveled with the Patriots to Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, ahead of the third preseason game Friday night against the Carolina Panthers.

Jeff Howe of The Boston Herald was first to report the news. 

There’s no word on if Brady will play. He missed the opener against the Saints and, after cutting his thumb with scissors, missed the second exhibition game last Thursday against the Bears, both at Gillette Stadium.

Brady, of course, will miss the first four games of the regular season serving his NFL-imposed Deflategate suspension.