Postcard From Camp: Texans put pressure on Patriots

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Postcard From Camp: Texans put pressure on Patriots

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, West Virginia -- The Patriots made their way to the mountains of West Virginia for the first of two joint practices with the Texans at the Greenbrier resort on Tuesday. Here's what we saw . . . 

ATTENDANCE
* Matthew Slater, Nate Solder, Matt Lengel and Brandon King were not spotted for the second consecutive day. Mike Gillislee was not spotted on Tuesday, and neither were Keionta Davis, Shea McClellin, Tony Garcia, Deatrich Wise, Andrew Jelks (NFI) and Dont'a Hightower (PUP). 

* Patriots corner Stephon Gilmore did not take part in team drills. It's unclear as to why he was limited. He was spotted laughing and smiling with Malcolm Butler on the sidelines late in the practice, but his status moving forward obviously bears watching.

* Undrafted rookie running back LeShun Daniels did not finish practice after he appeared to suffer some type of injury. 

* Back in full pads were Eric Rowe, Alan Branch, James O'Shaughnessy, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola. Branch returned off of PUP on Monday and took part in that day's shorts-and-shells workout. Branch, Rowe, Mitchell and Amendola all appeared to be full participants. O'Shaughnessy was not spotted working in during team drills. 

* In red jerseys on Tuesday were all three quarterbacks as well as Cody Hollister and Damarius Travis. 

* Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney did not participate, robbing Patriots offensive linemen of some valuable snaps against one of Houston's top pass-rushers. Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins also sat out the session. 

NOTEWORTHY MOMENTS
* Texans defensive linemen got ready for the day's work by playing 4-square with coaches. The best player in the group -- not to mention the guy who was trying the hardest -- was Houston defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel. 

 * During special-teams work, with the Patriots working on their kick-return blocking, Elandon Roberts, Derek Rivers, Glenn Gronkowski, Harvey Langi, Nate Ebner all had winning reps. Brandon Bolden took a hard shot from Texans rookie Avery Williams and was put on his back, leading to a loud celebration by the Houston special-teams unit.  

* When the drill was flipped, Ebner was stopped cold by Williams. Jordan Richards was driven out of the play by D'Onta Foreman. Williams caught LeShun Daniels and knocked him on his back as well. Williams, an undrafted rookie from Temple, had a dominant day in the kicking-game drills.

11-ON-11 NOTES
* The Patriots offensive line had their hands full with the Texans front for much of the afternoon -- both in one-on-one periods and team drills. JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus appeared to get pressure on Tom Brady on multiple occasions. Marcus Cannon and Joe Thuney appeared to be the primary culprits when Watt got into the backfield. Mercilus generated pressure while working on LaAdrian Waddle, Cameron Fleming and Rob Gronkowski. In the quarterback numbers listed below, we give credit for completions even if it appeared as though sacks would have occurred on the play. Without live contact, it's sometimes difficult to gauge what would or wouldn't have happened.

* Brady completed the play of the day to Chris Hogan, a 50-yard completion down the middle of the field with both Jonathan Joseph and Kurtis Drummond in coverage. Brandin Cooks was not heard from for most of the afternoon, but Hogan stepped up as an effective down-the-field threat instead.

* Mitchell looked healthy in his first fully-padded practice of the season. He was a reliable deep threat on Brady's left side, and he came down with some contested catches that resulted in him tangling with a defensive back. He had what he may consider a drop on a low throw from Jimmy Garoppolo at the end of the session, but all in all it was a strong day for him.

* Langi, Lawrence Guy, Malcom Brown, Vincent Valentine and Trey Flowers started the practice up front for the Patriots in 11-on-11 work. Kyle Van Noy, David Harris, Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Malcolm Butler and Eric Rowe rounded out the top group. When Duron Harmon came on in the "big nickel" look, Valentine came off the field. 

* Undrafted rookie corners Kenny Moore and DJ Killings both continue to flash potential as both came up with pass breakups. Moore has been working in on the punt unit as one of its top gunners perhaps in an effort to see if he can bring them any value in the kicking game. 

1-ON-1 NOTES
* The Patriots and Texans had a competitive set of one-on-ones focused on blocking for and defending the running game. Thuney, Fleming and Shaq Mason had a tough time with their technique against Carlos Watkins, Ufomba Kamalu and Christian Covington, respectively. LaAdrian Waddle beat Mercilus on one rep with a jarring punch, while Conor McDermott, Ted Karras and James Ferentz also recorded decisive wins. 

* During pass-rush one-on-ones between the Patriots defense and the Texans offense, Flowers continued to impress, flashing a spin move to beat veteran tackle Chris Clark. Kony Ealy had a pair of solid reps against Kendall Lamm and Josh Walker. Rivers showed a good speed-to-power move against Breno Giacomini but then ran himself out of one rep by trying to bend around Julien Davenport. Alan Branch got Nick Martin on a spin move, and Malcom Brown won one and lost one to Xavier Su'a-Filo. 

* Hogan, who had the best catch of the day in team periods, also made an impressive grab in one-on-one work. Leaping up over a defender, he fought through contact and fell hard to the turf but was able to hold on to Brady's pass. After a few days off (Monday's session in shorts-and-shells was his first on the field work since last Wednesday's walkthrough), Hogan appeared to be much fresher. He was leaned on heavily in padded practices with Mitchell, Amendola and Slater missing time recently.

QUARTERBACKS IN FOCUS
* Brady ended up 18-for-27 in team drills and was forced to work with pressure bearing down on him for good chunks of the day. On one rep, he tried to evade Watt, who drove Thuney back into the pocket. It appeared as though Thuney and Brady's feet got caught up, resulting in a rare moment when Brady was on his back. 

* Garoppolo went 12-for-21 and had difficulty finding open receivers for much of the practice. Particularly in the red zone, there were reps when Garoppolo appeared to force a pass into a spot that he might not if it were a game situation. He did complete a nice pass deep down the left sideline to Mitchell. He was also nearly picked by safety Corey Moore while attempting a shot to Austin Carr. Dwayne Allen also dropped a deep Garoppolo pass, and Garoppolo had one pass batted at the line by Carlos Watkins. During one three-play stretch of 7-on-7 work, Garoppolo threw two incompletions when he couldn't find an open receiver, and the third pass was dropped by Amendola.

* Jacoby Brissett got work at the very end of the practice, when it appeared as though Texans defenders were going about half-speed. 

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.

President Trump responded again on Twitter Saturday afternoon, saying players who don't stand for the anthem should, "Find something else to do!"

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.

President Trump responded again on Twitter Saturday afternoon, saying players who don't stand for the anthem should, "Find something else to do!"

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.