Patriots receiver group thinned out with Amendola, Mitchell unavailable

Patriots receiver group thinned out with Amendola, Mitchell unavailable

FOXBORO -- Chris Hogan looked exhausted when he slammed his helmet to the turf after a pass sent his way fell incomplete. Matthew Slater, annually one of the team's most well-connditioned players, seemed gassed. And when Julian Edelman was sent off for fighting with Stephon Gilmore, one of his fellow wideouts hoped an exception could be made to Bill Belichick's fight-and-you're-gone rule. 

Why? Patriots receivers were already spent, and they knew they still had to grind through an 11-on-11 hurry-up period under the August sun to finish off practice. 

The Patriots receiver group was considered to be one of the deepest spots on the roster going into training camp. But with both Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell sitting out for the majority of camp practices thus far, that spot looks thinner than many anticipated.

By the end of Tuesday's session, Hogan and Brandin Cooks -- consistently among the top-three players on the field for team periods -- were flanked at times by Slater and undrafted rookie Austin Carr. There just aren't many healthy and capable bodies at the position.

It's unclear as to what Amendola and Mitchell are dealing with. They have been on the field to start practices consistently, but they typically head to another field when team drills commence. Undrafted rookie wideout, Cody Hollister, has been out injured since Sunday. Tony Washington was signed on July 27. KJ Maye came on board Sunday. The only other receiver who has been a full participant in practices is second-year man Devin Lucien, who spent last season on the practice squad.  

The numbers game Tuesday meant the receiver group was ground down by the time the morning's work was through. Slater simply laughed when asked about all the extra conditioning he and his teammates got once Edelman was sent off. 

"Yeah," he said. "We needed conditioning. And I think that was the theme of today with the temperature and the practice structure. But this is going to make our team better. We need this. Coach Belichick knows what he's doing, he knows how to get his team ready to go, and there are no shortcuts to this thing. There's only one way to do it, and that's put in the work."

Amendola returned to Tuesday's session at the very end to field punts from the JUGS machine, and he appeared to be moving without issue. Perhaps the team is simply trying to manage their 31-year-old slot man at this point in the year so that he can be at his best in December in January. Last year, after catching 23 passes in the regular season, he caught 10 in the postseason, including eight for 78 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl LI.

Mitchell's situation bears watching as he has endured serious knee injuries dating back to his college days. His preseason work was limited last year after he suffered a dislocated elbow. 

Does the receiver situation in Foxboro warrant panic? No. Cooks, Edelman and Hogan provide the Patriots with a top-three that many teams would envy.

But if they can't get more able bodies on the field in short order, how the coaching staff manages the reps at that spot could become pretty tricky.

Goodell statement calls Trump's comments 'divisive'

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Goodell statement calls Trump's comments 'divisive'

In separate statements Saturday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith each criticized President Donald Trump's verbal attack on NFL players. 

Goodell's statement: 

The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month.  Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.

 

And Smith's statement: 

Whether or not Roger or the owners will speak for themselves about their views on player rights and their commitment to player safety remains to be seen. This union, however, will never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men who compete in a game that exposes them to great risks. 

 

NFLPA president Eric Winston, a tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals, also tweeted a statement critical of the President:

At a rally in Alabama on Friday night, Trump said NFL owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem. And he encouraged NFL fans to walk out of games in protest. 

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ’Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,” Trump told the rally. 

He also lamented that football has become less violent.

“They’re ruining the game,” he complained.

McCourty tweets criticism of Trump's shot at NFL players

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McCourty tweets criticism of Trump's shot at NFL players

Patriots safety Devin McCourty tweeted criticism of President Donald Trump's harsh words toward NFL players who have been kneeling in protest during the national anthem.

McCourty shares a Twitter account with his twin brother Jason of the Cleveland Browns but put his DMac signature on this tweet. Devin McCourty was one of several Pats who didn't go to the White House this past spring to celebrate the team's Super Bowl championship with Trump. 

At a rally in Alabama on Friday night, Trump said NFL owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem. And he encouraged NFL fans to walk out of games in protest. 

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ’Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,” Trump told the rally to loud applause.

McCourty and then-teammate Martellus Bennett raised clenched fists in protest after the anthem at the Patriots opening game last season and McCourty said he received plenty of criticism for it. 

“I got a lot of [backlash],” McCourty told CSN Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran last year in the days following that protest. "You gotta remember, a lot of these people, they don’t know me. They like the way I play football and they like some of the things I do in the community but they don’t know me. I talked to my brother [then with the Tennessee Titans] because we have the same Twitter and the Titans got a bunch of calls from people saying they don’t respect [the Titans who made symbolic gestures] and they need to be gone. He said their community relations people said, ‘If you just knew them, your opinion would change.’ ”

Several NFL players and other athletes, most prominently former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have refused to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest the treatment of African-Americans by police.