Patriots veterans trust in team's youth movement

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Patriots veterans trust in team's youth movement

FOXBORO -- First it was Donte' Stallworth. Then Jabar Gaffney. Then came Dan Koppen, Deion Branch and Brian Hoyer. One by one, veterans fell, casualties of training camp cuts. And with them went the Patriots' average age.

Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe pointed out over the weekend that of all the teams fielded by Bill Belichick during his tenure with the Patriots, this is the youngest roster he will take into a Week 1 game.

It's a youth movement that's opened eyes in the locker room.

"Yeah this locker room is starting to make me feel old now," Wes Welker said. "But it's been good. A lot of energy, a lot of energetic type guys and young guys. And, you know, I think the main thing is focusing day in and day out and understand it's a long season and you gotta keep on maturing and keep on playing well throughout the season."

Logan Mankins -- all of 30 years old -- joked about it, too.

"I am getting old," he said. "See all this gray hair? I guess it happens to us all."

Between New England's young tackles and tight ends, Mankins may find himself surrounded by relative whippersnappers, but he trusts them as he trusts veterans. He doesn't really have much of a choice.

"We are a lot younger team," he said. "Some older guys are gone so you just gotta count on each other that they're going to do their job, put in the film study, put in their work on the field so hopefully it shows up on Sundays."

The defense is where the Patriots have seen the most significant infusion of youth. Its starters, including rookies Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower, average 25 years old. Second-rounder Tavon Wilson also worked his way into a prominent role for the defense during training camp. And second-year corner Ras-I Dowling should also contribute a great deal to the secondary when healthy.

"To be honest with you, I think we have a mature group," said Jerod Mayo, now in his fifth season one of the elder statesmen of the defense. "Guys come to work every day. They come in early and leave late. We're fortunate to have them."

But even Mayo knows there's no substitute for experience, and he's hoping that the enormity of playing in their first regular season NFL game doesn't get the best of his rookie teammates, from whom much is expected.

"It's definitely an unknown," he said. "We talk about the different speeds of the game, we talk about the preseason, the regular season and the playoffs. But I'm sure those guys . . . We've been prepared. We've been preparing, and the coaches have been doing an unbelievable job of getting us ready."

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Football is coming.

The Patriots announced on Thursday that veterans will report to training camp on Wednesday, July 26 and that the first public practice will take place the following day.

Each of the team's first four practices -- from July 27-30 -- are scheduled to take place on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium "in the nine o'clock hour," according to the Patriots. Updates to the training camp schedule, including more specific start times for practices, can be found at patriots.com/trainingcamp.

The Patriots Hall of Fame will hold its induction ceremony for former corner Raymond Clayborn on Saturday, July 29 around midday following that morning's training camp practice. Held on the plaza outside the Hall at Patriot Place, the ceremony will be free and open to the public.

The Patriots will host the Jaguars for two days of joint practices open to the public on Monday, Aug. 7 and Tuesday, Aug. 8. The preseason opener for both clubs will take place at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 10.