Notes: Pats practice hard; Woodhead dodges queries


Notes: Pats practice hard; Woodhead dodges queries

By Danny Picard

FOXBORO -- There's a sign at Gillette stadium, when Patriots players enter and exit the building, that reads, "Don't believe the hype."

At 14-2, and having a first-round bye in the playoffs, these Patriots have, so far, exceeded the expectations of those outside the locker room.

But with this weekend off, and knowing that this weekend is only given off to the elite teams in the league, just how will the Patriots go about staying humble?

Veteran Vince Wilfork believes that's not an issue.

"Trust me, you have a bunch of guys in this locker room that hate to lose, hate to lose," said Wilfork prior to Thursday's practice. "Starting with me, I'm one of them . . . We all love football, but at the same time, we have to be able to take it one day at a time, especially now. Without a game this week, we definitely have to take it one day at a time, day-by-day right now, because we need to get better as a ball club, and that's exactly what we're trying to do now."

The Patriots practiced in full pads for the second straight day on Thursday. Wilfork hinted that perhaps coach Bill Belichick will give the team the rest of the weekend off, after Thursday's practice, saying, "Hopefully, Wednesday and Thursday will be enough."

"With us not having a game this week, I think we're trying to just stay on our regular routine," said Wilfork. "Going out and practicing, putting us in pads and everything, just so we don't lose a lot. Understandable, understandable, so I think we got some good work done yesterday. I really think we got better as a football team yesterday. And we need to continue that today."

Running back Danny Woodhead (head) practiced in a rednon-contact jersey for the second straight day on Thursday. When asked about his apparent head injury before the practice, Woodhead dodged the questions.

"I get better at what I do every day, and that's, whether it's pass blocking or running the ball, or whatever," said Woodhead. "I'm just trying to do my job better every single day."

When asked if he felt like he had dodged a bullet, Woodhead responded by saying, "Honestly? I'm just trying to get better at what I do every single day, try to do my job better every day. Sorry, I've got to go guys. I've got a meeting."

Joining him with a red top at Thursday's practice was offensive lineman Dan Koppen. Five Patriots players were missing from the session altogether. Those players were Aaron Hernandez, Jermaine Cunningham, Mike Wight, Eric Moore, and Sebastian Vollmer.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on

Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'


Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

FOXBORO -- After starting the offseason "five weeks behind," as Bill Belichick put it, the Patriots have caught up. 

"I think we’re probably caught up to where we are now," he said before Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium. "I think it’s being behind in draft, free agency and that type of thing.

"I think at this point, we’re ready for OTAs. We’ll be ready for training camp. I think that part of it we’ll be on schedule on. It’s the catching up on all the spring projects, draft and free agency. It’s the initial part of it."

Belichick made headlines on the morning after winning his fifth Lombardi Trophy with the Patriots when he said, "As of today, and as great as today feels and as great as today is, in all honesty we're five weeks behind in the 2017 season to most teams in the league. Fortunately we have a great personnel staff

"Look, in a couple weeks we're going to be looking at the combine, obviously the draft, all-star games have already occurred, and in a month we're into free agency, not to mention all the internal Patriots players (whose) contracts are up and we're going to have to work with in some form or fashion like every team in the league does."

Leaning on evaluations of players that began in the build-up to previous drafts, Belichick and his staff opted to trade away some of this year's draft capital for veterans like Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy and Dwayne Allen. They also gave up their fifth-rounder to sign restricted free agent Mike Gillislee.

Before heading out to the team's third practice of the week -- the first week the Patriots were allowed to introduce helmets and run offense versus defense periods -- Belichick said that part of his focus will be spent on finding out how those players he picked up this offseason are progressing.

"Yeah, that’s definitely part of it," he said. "Seeing the new players, how they’re doing and also how they’re doing relevant to the rest of the other players that I’m a little more familiar with. Again, each year is a new year, so even though we’ve seen some of these guys multiple years, it’s still starting all over again, seeing where they are, how they’re progressing in their training and preparation for the season."

Brandin Cooks knows he'll still probably have to stash the arrows in 2017

Brandin Cooks knows he'll still probably have to stash the arrows in 2017

FOXBORO -- Toward the end of Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium, Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks caught a touchdown from Tom Brady in the back corner of the end zone despite close coverage from corner Malcolm Butler. Cooks reached behind him, as if he was pulling an invisible arrow from an invisible quiver on his back, starting what was once his signature touchdown celebration. 

But he stopped there. 

"I didn't want to shoot it," he said with a smile after the workout. "Just having fun out there with the guys, competing every day. That's what it's all about."

Cooks may have to continue showing restraint during the regular season when it comes to his post-touchdown choices. Even though the NFL has eased off of the penalties for certain celebrations, Cooks still probably won't be shooting any arrows in 2017.

"No, I'm gonna be respectful," he said. "If it's a penalty, it's a penalty. I'm not going to do anything to hurt the team . . . I think it still will be [a penalty]."

Cooks was not able to execute his preferred celebration after it was made clear last season that imitating archery was off-limits. Josh Norman was fined $10,000 last season for his bow-and-arrow act. 

There is a biblical origin story to Cooks' celebration, he told the New Orleans Advocate last year. 

"Send forth lightning and scatter your enemy, and shoot your arrows and rout them," Cooks said, referring to Psalms 144:6. "I just remember it sticking with me for such a long time, I remember thinking, maybe I can do something with this."

He added: ”I’ve been doing it for three years now, and there was never a complaint about it. Now, all of a sudden, there is. It just reminds me that, it's almost as if they try to take so much away from us, but for something like this, that means so much to someone that has nothing to do with violence, it's frustrating. I'll definitely continue to speak my opinion about it, and if they have a problem with it, so be it."

After the NFL announced that it was relaxing its policy on penalizing celebrations, Cooks tweeted "#shootyourarrows" four times with several bow-and-arrow emojis. But just a few days later, he appeared resigned to keeping his celebration in moth balls so that his team wouldn't be penalized for an act that the league might deem "threatening." He wasn't thrilled.

"It's for God," he said, "so if that's threatening, then I think we've got a problem."