RBs Won't Make or Break Pats

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RBs Won't Make or Break Pats

Since the start Training Camp, theres been a lot of conversation about what the Patriots will do at running back.

At this point, as Tom E. Curran notes, it looks like Stevan Ridleys job to lose, but regardless of who starts whether its Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead or Marion Butts the Pats RB picture is cloudier than its been in years.

For all that Benjarvus Green-Ellis wasnt, he was the starting running back. For two years. Now, not only has BJGE fled to Cincinnati, but the Pats dont have anyone to replace him. Not in the general sense, but specifically. Green-Ellis was a head-down, no-frills running back. He was Antowain Smith. And that kind of player no longer exists on the Pats roster (unless they go with Butts). In a way, thats slightly concerning, but more than anything, its exciting.

With more dynamic runners at their disposal and a dynamic offensive mind pulling the strings, theres a chance that the Pats a have real dynamic backfield. (Did I say dynamic?) It could add a very powerful dimension to an offense that has already ranked first and third in the NFL over the last two years. And thats the best part:

Regardless of what happens with this running game, the Pats offense is going to be all right.

Even in the worst case scenario: Let's say, Ridley can't hold onto the ball, Vereen doesn't pan out, Woodhead gets hurt . . . and in a bind, the Pats have to sign Sammie Morris and Larry Johnson to fill out the backfield. The Patriots offense is still a force to be reckoned with. Give me McDaniel, Brady, Welker, Lloyd, Gronk and Hernandez, plus any halway decent NFL RB and the Pats are still one of the Super Bowl favorites.

To that, you can say: Well, what happens when it's snowy and cold and the Pats need a guy to grind the ball on the ground?

To that, I'll say: Are you kidding? If anything, the Pats throw MORE when it's cold and snowy. This is an all conditions offense. One that's not so dependent on a running game.

This is comforting, since we're still not sure if the Patriots have one.

But I've got a good feeling that they do.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Gronk 'taking all positives' out of new preseason approach

Gronk 'taking all positives' out of new preseason approach

For the first time since 2012, Rob Gronkowski played in a preseason game. It was uneventful, much like a majority of this training camp for the Patriots tight end. No touches, no seismic collisions, and no problems in 14 snaps. Was it worth it? Gronk says yes.

“I just felt the benefit when I was out there; the speed of the game, live game speed. It’s been a while for me,” he said. “I felt the benefit of getting in sync blocking-wise, the cadence and everything like that. I’m taking all positives out of it.”

But this isn’t even remotely following the plan over these last handful of seasons. The Pats have treated Gronk differently than just about everyone else. He wasn’t required to play in these games in August. Heck, there were times when his presence in practice wasn’t mandatory. Gronk had his own set of rules. This approach surely isn’t that.

“No matter what it is, preseason,” said Gronkowski. “I’ll be ready to play 60 minutes. The past has been the past, but it was great going out there and getting some work.”

Not exactly enlightening, but were you expecting something else?  Unless we’re getting a joint statement from Gronk INC and the Pats brass, that’s usually how these press briefings go, mixed in with the occasionally goofy Gronkowski. Yes, we got that too when Gronk was asked who would win the Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor fight.

“We don’t make predictions,” answered Gronkowski, before backing away from the podium, smiling brightly and commending himself for doing a good Bill Belichick imitation. It wasn’t all that, and maybe it wasn’t that funny, but the big fella is always looking to bring a little levity to just about any situation. 

That trend continued as we tried to delve deeper into his newfound relationship with Tom Brady’s body, Alex Guerrero. So much is made of Guerrero’s belief in muscle pliability and hydration, but there’s also that diet, and a cookbook of Brady’s to boot. The quarterback has proclaimed all of those meals to be delicious. Gronkowski gave it mixed reviews, saying some of the dishes were “kind of hard to eat” although others got the seal of approval: “they’re really, really good.”  Gronk also made sure to clarify that giving up booze in-season is the norm. 

“I don’t do that stuff right now,” he said. “It’s football time. I’ve never really have done that stuff during football time.”

But that he’s approaching the season differently is clearly a nod to Gronk’s football mortality, and the desire to wring out more than just a couple more years from his battered body. He believes Guerrero’s methods are paying dividends, though again, he wouldn’t elaborate how or compare this season to previous ones.

“It’s hard to say because I couldn’t tell you how I felt in the middle of August every single year,” said Gronkowski. “It’s always a new year, and they all blend together, and now going into my eighth season now, it just feels good to be out there practicing every day with the guys.”

Burkhead not spotted at the start of practice for second consecutive day

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Burkhead not spotted at the start of practice for second consecutive day

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady went into detail on Wednesday as to why it's important for him to play with some of his new teammates during the preseason. Even exhibition games are played at a different speed than practice, he explained, and so to be out there mimicking what will happen Week 1 is critical. Brady even went out of his way to mention Rex Burkhead specifically, saying that it was nice to get Burkhead a touchdown against the Texans last weekend. 

Might Burkhead's preseason reps be limited later this week in Detroit? The former Bengals running back has not been spotted at the beginning of Patriots practices on Tuesday or Wednesday. Injury reports are not released during the preseason, so it will be worth watching pregame Friday whether or not Burkhead is on the field and in uniform. 

Burkhead looked healthy by the end of his time playing in Houston -- his final play was a 22-yard catch-and-run touchdown -- and he spoke to reporters on Monday afternoon. 

Also missing from Wednesday's session were Malcolm Mitchell, Matthew Slater, Matt Lengel, Shea McClellin and Tony Garcia. Undrafted rookies Keionta Davis and Andrew Jelks (NFI) were present but not in uniform for the shells-and-shorts session. 

Mitchell played in New England's preseason matchup with Houston but appeared to tweak his knee during one of his first snaps on the field. He stayed in the game, but he has not been seen by reporters at either Patriots practice this week.