Postcards from Patriots Camp: Day 19

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Postcards from Patriots Camp: Day 19

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski missed his second practice and Aaron Hernandez missed his first on Sunday. Brandon Lloyd was also sidelined for Day 19 of training camp, instead joining the rehab group in shorts and a t-shirt.
I'll say it now before you start to panic: There is nothing serious to worry about with any of the trio as far as we know.
So let's get on to the rest of practice.
WEATHERIn the sun? Hotter than hell. The temperature had to be mid-80s and you could feel every degree. But when clouds rolled through it was okay because the humidity wasn't out of control.
WHAT THEY WOREBack to full pads.
WHAT THEY DIDA lot of walkthrough to start. A lot. And Mallet took several of the QB snaps.
2:00-2:09: Basic running, dynamic running, team stretches.
2:09-2:15: Stretching in position groups.
2:15-2:32: Drills. For the secondary, more time was spent working on their drop and catching a ball thrown high. Josh Barrett did some pushups after one pass went through his hands.
2:32-2:36: 1-on-1s. A few noteworthy moments: Tom Brady threw a bad ball to Jabar Gaffney that had no chance. Devin McCourty got the best of Julian Edelman. Marquice Cole, who hasn't impressed much this camp, had great route recognition against Jeremy Ebert to break up the play. McCourty also bothered Edelman enough to cause an incompletion. Edelman came back and made Sterling Moore look foolish his next time out. Mallett threw an awful, awful pass to Jesse Holley who could have beaten Ross Ventrone. Kyle Arrington got Donte' Stallworth around the neck for blatant pass interference.
2:36-2:58: 11-on-11; 2-minute drill.
2:58-3:03: Special teams practiced blocking on punt return.
3:03-3:04: The barrel came out -- finally. Brady, Brian Hoyer, and Mallett tried their luck from about 30-yards out on the right hashmark. None of the three quarterbacks hit. In fact, Josh McDaniels got closest when he hit the front of the barrel.
3:06-3:25: 1-on-1s: O-line vs. D-line. Elsewhere, 7-on-7.
3:30-3:33: "Tackling!" somebody shouted. Your highlights: Matthew Slater got absolutely horse collared by Rob Ninkovich. Justin Francis gave Brandon Bolden the what-for. Welker was far too fast for Dont'a Hightower. Bobby Carpenter looked tough against everybody he faced.
3:33-3:42: More punts, where players worked on line calls. Ebert had an issue somewhere and muffed one. Slater was there for the recovery. Deion Branch, Edelman, and Welker each went back to receive.
3:42-3:48: More 11-on-11.
3:48-3:50: Chris Koepplin got to practice some field goals. One, he dropped dead-center from 55-yards out.
WHAT WE SAWFunny to see the Hernandez ride a bike with the ball tucked under his arm while the rest of the team stretched and ran.
Others who did not practice: Spencer Larsen, Eric Kettani, Daniel Fells, Sebastian Vollmer, Kyle Hix, Alfonzo Dennard, Visanthe Shiancoe, James Ihedigbo, Markus Zusevics, Tracy White, Gerard Warren, Jonathan Fanene, Malcolm Williams, Myron Pryor, Dane Fletcher and Britt Davis (both waived today). Jake Ballard remains out and Brian Waters still hasn't reported.
Logan Mankins was in light pads (today was the last day before he can suit up completely).
Dan Koppen started with the 1s at center.
Stephen Gostkowski was doing handstands at the beginning of practice. Nothing to add to that. Just odd.
No injuries to report, but keep an eye on Julian Edelman and Dont'a Hightower. Edelman came off the field during 11-on-11 and had a trainer attend to his right wrist or hand. The receiver waited a while before putting his glove back on, but did rejoin the drills after a few minutes. Hightower laid on his back during the second hour of practice and got his right ankle taped.
Mallett was moving at a glacial pace during the 2-minute drill. He would have gotten rocked by a Trevor Scott sack on one play and had to throw the ball away. On the next snap, Shane Vereen showcased his speed on a nice shallow crossing route.
Justin Francis and Jake Bequette did a lap. Stevan Ridley and Brian Hoyer both had to run after fumbling a handoff.
Ridley continues to get the stuffing knocked out of him. Jerod Mayo blitzed on one play and just crushed the running back.
Ridley got some revenge on the defense during red zone drills when he beat Dont'a Hightower in the flat and made it in for a touchdown.
WHO'S HOTI'll say Alex Silvestro just because he had his best offensive day of camp. During 11-on-11, the DE-turned-TE jumped over Nate Ebner to make a nice catch on a Brady ball up the seam. The QB was so excited he hugged Silvestro.
Deion Branch also looks to be moving back into good favor in the passing game. Branch got more reps with the 1s today. During red zone 11-on-11 he got over McCourty in the back of the end zone for a TD.
Yesterday I mentioned Mayo for his on-field leadership. Today, I'll keep him under this heading for his play. He created problems for the run whenever he got the chance and had one particularly decisive stuff on Danny Woodhead.
WHO'S NOTKyle Arrington. Yes, he's been working a lot against Welker in the slot, which will make a lot of guys look bad. But he also dropped an easy interception that was thrown right to him. Today is not the first day he's looked un-Arrington like. The one nice play I saw was during 7-on-7 when he bothered Welker enough for an incomplete between the receiver and Brady.
Julian Edelman had two dropped passes and a pass interference penalty. It wasn't all bad; Edelman's just been so good that it's worth noting when he's off.
The offensive line looked leaky at times. Woodhead got stuffed by Ninkovich during red zonegoal line practice and Jeff Tarpinian took advantage of Koppen's ineffectiveness to blow up a screen on the line of scrimmage.
WHAT THEY SAID"Not really. You just have to know everything." -- Nick McDonald on if playing all five spots on the offensive line is challenging.

Patriots LB Ellis 'all in' on football before giving medical school a shot

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Patriots LB Ellis 'all in' on football before giving medical school a shot

FOXBORO -- When a new player arrives to the Patriots, there's a familiar refrain that's recited from behind the podium at Gillette Stadium: "Football is important to him."

Whether the subject is a rookie or an established veteran, those five words can serve as Bill Belichick's stamp of approval. It means the player cares. It means the player is willing to put in time.

Belichick hasn't gone on the record on any of the members of this year's class of undrafted free agents just yet, but linebacker Brooks Ellis seems to fall into that category of players to whom football is important.

If it wasn't, he would probably be putting all of his energy into getting accepted into medical school right now.  

Ellis was a two-year captain at Arkansas and one of 12 finalists for the Campbell Trophy, also known as the "Academic Heisman." He maintained a 3.82 grade point average as a pre-professional exercise science major with a minor in biology, he was the first two-time Academic All-American in program history, and he was the SEC's Scholar-Athlete of the year for 2016.

All that is to say, Ellis had options upon graduation.

Football won out. He agreed to a deal with the Patriots soon after the draft, and he's spent the better part of the last month trying to learn defensive terminology and special-teams techniques. 

But eventually Ellis hopes to be an orthopedic surgeon, and later this summer he'll submit his applications to medical schools in order to kick-start that process for whenever it's time to pursue his next plan full-throttle.

"I'm putting my all into this right now," Ellis said, wearing Patriots gear while standing on the Gillette Stadium turf last week. "But when I get some spare time, I'm finishing applications, and then when I get back in July I'm sending those in.

"If I get accepted somewhere, I'm going to tell them I need to defer until I know for sure what the football situation is going to be. So I'm all in on football, and just in case, I'm going to have that ready to go when I get out of it."

If all goes well for Ellis this spring and summer, it could be a while before he's taking the Hippocratic Oath. The Patriots have a long history of giving worthy undrafted players a shot at the 53-man roster, and Ellis plays one of the few positions on New England's loaded roster that might have room for a newcomer or two.

On paper, he certainly looks like their type.

The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder was his team's leading tackler for two seasons. He played all three linebacker positions in Arkansas' defense -- strong-side, middle and weak-side -- and he started 31 consecutive games to finish his career. Ellis also has extensive special teams experience, and he recorded one of the quickest three-cone drills among linebackers at this year's NFL Scouting Combine.

That he learned under Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema can't hurt his chances, either.

Bielema began his coaching career at Iowa under former Belichick assistant Kirk Ferentz, and Belichick has dipped into Bielema's programs at Wisconsin and Arkansas several times over the course of the last few seasons. Running back James White, defensive end Trey Flowers and former tight end AJ Derby all played for Bielema, and Ellis joins fellow Arkansas rookies Deatrich Wise (fourth-round pick) and Cody Hollister (undrafted) on this year's squad.  

"He came in, started about halfway through his true freshman year -- we weren't a really good football team, we were 3-9 -- threw him in the middle of it, didn't bat an eye, and he got better every game," Bielema said of Ellis on Quick Slants the Podcast. "Sophomore year, [he] really began to mature, develop. He's another guy that the potential -- because we never redshirted him -- to grow in this year is going to be huge . . .

"He's just truly very, very intelligent, compassionate. And the value that he brings is he could be an unbelievable role player. I'm not saying he's going to be a four-time All-Pro or anything like that, but he'll be reliable, dependable, in every phase of the game."

Robb Smith, Arkansas defensive coordinator from 2014-16, believes Ellis landed in the perfect spot. Prior to his time at Arkansas, he worked under Greg Schiano at Rutgers, where he coached Patriots safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon, former Patriots corner Logan Ryan, Patriots linebacker Jonathan Freeny and safeties coach Steve Belichick.

"He's one of those guys that's not only going to know his job, but what the other 10 guys around him are supposed to do," Smith said of Ellis. "He'll be able to be a leader from that standpoint in terms of helping guys with the system and the scheme. He's very good instinctively . . ."

"This guy's going to be replacing my knee someday. I'm serious. He's going to be an orthopedic surgeon that's outstanding. I know that's what his goals are. But hopefully he gets to play a lot of football between now and then."

There's one more Patriots link connecting Ellis to New England. His agent, Neil Cornrich, has counted Belichick as a client and also represents Bielema, Ferentz, Flowers, Derby, undrafted Patriots rookies Cole Croston and LeShun Daniels (both of whom played under Ferentz at Iowa) and Patriots running back Rex Burkhead. 

It may come as no surprise then that when Ellis signed with the Patriots, no one knew. He didn't announce it on Twitter, as is the norm for undrafted players when they come to an agreement with a team. And the news wasn't leaked. Instead, he waited for the team to announce it, which his new employers probably appreciated.

Ellis, who according to the Boston Globe received the fifth-most guaranteed money of the 19 undrafted rookies the Patriots signed, said he received some simplie advice from Cornrich before making his way to New England.

"He just said that you'll fit in well there," Ellis said. "You're the type of guy they like, and you're the type of guy that succeeds in that organization. Don't do anything special. Just go out there and work like you do every day, and it'll turn out for the best."

Even if it doesn't, Ellis will have medical school. But he acknowledges there's some unpredictability with that path, just as there is being an undrafted player in the NFL. He still has to be accepted. His application, including personal statements, interviews and MCAT results -- "It was horrible, I don't want to take that ever again," Ellis said -- still has to be deemed up-to-snuff.  

Whenever Ellis starts, it will be the beginning of almost a decade of training between schooling and residency. It will be a challenge, he knows, and it's one that he looks forward to. But he's hoping it can wait because football is important to him. 

"It just makes you work harder," he said of his uncertain future. "It makes you really focus on right now, and make sure that you're doing all you can in this area because even the next area might not be there.

"That's what I've done. I'm just working as hard as I can on this, and if that doesn't work out, then I've got the next thing, and I'm going to work as hard as I can in that area."

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski is a model citizen in the NFL. In fact, the NFL Players Association is advising rookies to be more like Gronk, according to The Boston Globe

The New England Patriots tight end has developed a name for himself on and off the football field. With that attention comes branding. And at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere from May 18 to 20, the NFLPA encouraged rookies to develop their own brand -- much like Gronkowski.

“Some people think he’s just this extension of a frat boy, and that it’s sort of accidental,” Ahmad Nassar said, via The Globe. Nassar is the president of NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA. “And that’s wrong. It’s not accidental, it’s very purposeful. So the message there is, really good branding is where you don’t even feel it. You think, ‘Oh, that’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ Actually, that’s his brand, but it’s so good and so ingrained and so authentic, you don’t even know it’s a brand or think it.”

Gronkowski's "Summer of Gronk" has indirectly become one of his streams of income. The tight end makes appearances for magazines and sponsors. Because of his earnings from branding and endorsements, he didn't touch his NFL salary during the early years of his career.

Gronk was one of three players who were the topics of discussion during the symposium. Dak Prescott and Odell Beckham were also used as examples of players who have been able to generate additional income from endorsements. Beckham, in particular, has been in the spotlight off the football field. He's appeared on the cover of Madden, and just signed a deal with NIke which is reportedly worth $25 million over five years with upwards of $48 million over eight years. His deal, which is a record for an NFL player, will pay him more than his contract with the Giants.

“A lot of people talk to the players about, ‘You should be careful with your money and you should treat your family this way and you should treat your girlfriend or your wife.’ Which is fine. I think that’s valuable,” Nassar said, via The Globe. “But we don’t often give them a chance to answer the question: How do you see yourself as a brand? Because Gronk, Odell, none of those guys accidentally ended up where they are from a branding and marketing standpoint.”