Praise for Bailey continues with Patriots players

906457.jpg

Praise for Bailey continues with Patriots players

FOXBORO -- When you think about how long Champ Bailey has been playing football, and how he's still playing at a high level, it makes you wonder how he was ever traded in 2004.
Just ask Bill Belichick, who had towering praise for the 34-year old cornerback Friday.
"He's, to me, one of the few corners in the league that really can match up against anybody," the coach said. "He matches up against the Andre Johnson's of the world, the big, strong, physical, fast guys. And then he'll match up against quick, real good route-running quick receivers. It doesn't really make any difference."
Patriots players, getting ready to ready to face the Broncos and Bailey this weekend, echoed the accolades let loose by their coach.
"He's just a great ballplayer. I think he just gets out of bed and he's just great," said receiver Wes Welker. "He's very patient and does a good job of getting his hands on you, and plays really well. He's a smart guy, good instincts, all those things It's why he's stayed around for a while."
Bailey is playing in his 14th NFL season this year. He's an 11-time Pro Bowler (including three consecutive from 2009-2011), a six-time All Pro, and sits on the NFL's 2000s All-Decade Team.
Patriots wideout Brandon Lloyd played with Bailey in Denver from 2009 to 2011. Lloyd said he got to see the cornerback's dedication, both in film study and on the field, up close.
As in, duking-it-out-in-practice close.
"They were good battles," Lloyd smiled. "I learned a lot from him from a technique standpoint -- catching and finishing the play because Champ's one of the only cornerbacks I've gone against where the play is never over. You can even catch the ball, and if you're not bringing it in, if you're not protecting it, then he'll find a way to get it out."
Welker understands the challenge. The key, he said, is precision and variation. Patriots receivers will need to stay physical for 60 minutes to try to get open, and stay open.
There may be something else to getting the better of Bailey, but Lloyd joked that insider information was never swapped.
"I don't know. We've never really talked about the secrets," he smirked.

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

bill-belichick-patriots-practice-072916.jpg

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."