Patriots have 34 players present for Trump White House visit

Patriots have 34 players present for Trump White House visit

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- All things considered, the Patriots had a good crowd show up to Wednesday's White House visit. 

The team invited 68 players -- including all 53 players on the active roster at the end of the season, practice-squad members and those on injured reserve -- and exactly half showed up to celebrate the team's Super Bowl victory with president Donald Trump.

This was on the high end of what the club was expecting. The projected range of attendees was thought to be somewhere between 27 (the number of players that showed up for the Patriots visit to the White House in 2005) and 36 (the number that showed up to the White House visit in 2004). As was the case in those years, the thinking was that the number of players present was reduced in part because for some who were invited the novelty of going to the White House wasn't the same as it was two years ago. 

Of course, there are players who opted not to show due to their feeling about Trump and his administration. Devin McCourty, Alan Branch, Chris Long, Martellus Bennett and LeGarrette Blount all have been outspoken about the fact that they did not feel as though it was appropriate for them to take part in the festivities because of the man occupying the nation's highest office. 

There were other reasons for player absences, however. Run-of-the mill reasons. One player said he would not be able to make it earlier this week because he had the dates mixed up and couldn't miss a family birthday party. Another had a surgery scheduled for his dog. 

Tom Brady's absence was the most notable. He had a personal family matter to attend to, he told ESPN's Mike Reiss. The only players no longer on the Patriots to make the trip were Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo -- both now members of the Colts. 

Brissett sees room for improvement but feels he's 'moving in the right direction'

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Brissett sees room for improvement but feels he's 'moving in the right direction'

HOUSTON -- It wasn't the mechanics of his throwing motion that he was concerned about. For Jacoby Brissett, it was the way in which he was seeing the Texans defense, the length of time it took to get a feel for the game, and how his night ended that bothered him. 

"I felt like I was getting my rhythm," Brissett said after the Patriots lost their exhibition with the Texans on Saturday, 23-20. "But you can't really remember all that stuff when the last play happens like that. It's the last one."

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Though the outcome of the game meant nothing, Brissett and his teammates were looking for a game-winning touchdown with less than a minute left when Brissett had the ball knocked from his hands and out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. 

Brissett's night finished up with him going 5-for-10 for 36 yards. He was sacked twice and pressured on seven of his 15 drop-backs. 

The reserves playing for the Texans in the fourth quarter made life difficult for Brissett and his teammates as their first two drives resulted in punts. Brissett was hit twice on those drives, and his first third-down attempt failed when Houston sniffed out a screen. The Patriots had what looked like a third-and-21 conversion on their next sequence, but Devin Lucien bobbled a catch deep over the middle of the field that fell incomplete. 

Brissett seemed to make a couple of relatively difficult throws during his time on the field -- he nearly had a game-winning touchdown pass completed to Cody Hollister on a fade to the back corner of Houston's end zone, but Hollister got just one foot in-bounds -- yet he wished he could have done more to spark the Patriots offense quickly.

"I think I'm throwing the ball good," he said. "I don't think that's the issue. I think it's more so just my eyes and the timing of everything. I don't think it's throwing -- actually throwing. I think it's the mechanics of playing the game."

There was some good to be taken from Brissett's brief outing. After taking over possession with less than two minutes left, he helped the Patriots get deep into Texans territory with completions to Lucien, Sam Cotton and a third-down strike to DJ Foster. He also avoided a near sack, getting out of bounds to stop the clock, and he wisely spiked the football into the turf when he realized Houston had figured out another screen was coming.

Brissett looked back on where the third-team offense was at the start of camp -- with players like receivers Tony Washington and KJ Maye having just been added to the roster -- and pointed out that he felt they were significantly ahead of where they were then.

"I think we've gotten a lot better," Brissett said. "Just this two-minute drive is a good example. Last week we didn't make it past, what, the 40-yard line [against Jacksonville]? This week we're in the red zone with a chance to win the game. I think a lot of our young guys are stepping up and making plays and we're getting a little continuity together."

As for Brissett himself? The 2016 third-round pick has been the subject of some media speculation as to whether or not his spot on the 53-man roster is safe. After seeing some inconsistency in his play during camp practices and last week's game against the Jaguars, there were those who wondered if he was progressing at a rate that would help him survive this year's cutdown date. 

Asked to give a self-evaluation after the Texans game, Brissett said, "I definitely want to do more and play better, but there are good things getting done, good learning experiences. Moving in the right direction . . . 

"I feel like I'm still getting better. I think I'm doing good things. I mean, this league is hard. You just continue to work on things and continue to get better. Yeah, [tonight] the end result is a loss, but there were some good things we did out there. Some things it's good to get on film and learn from. It's a learning experience. That's what this is right now."

Whether the coaching staff sees the improvement Brissett described is unclear. 

"We've all got a long way to go," Belichick said following Saturday's game when asked about Brissett's progress. "I don't think anybody's where we need to be. Any player. Any coach. Any anybody . . . Just grinding it out. It's going to take a while."

Brissett insisted that coaches have been just as tight-lipped behind the scenes when it comes to how they've seen him grow summer. 

"I don't know what they think," Brissett said with a smile. "They don't tell me . . . I'm putting my best foot forward. It's up to them if they think I've been getting better or not."