Best and worst from Patriots practice

191543.jpg

Best and worst from Patriots practice

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Wednesday night's practice inside Gillette Stadium was reserved for Patriots' season ticket holders. Boxed out? Fear not. Some Best, Worsts and OthersBEST SALUTE TO THE MASSESAt about the midpoint of the session, Patriots' president Jonathan Kraft addressed fans, thanking them for their loyalty and patience during the lockout. He told fans that, even though head coach Bill Belichick might not like early appraisals, Kraft believed the team had a "great" draft and had made "great" pickups in free agency. He predicted a "special" season. Special in a good way. BEST "MOE & CURLY" IMITATION (OR LOVE HURTS)The defensive linemen did a drill in which one player put his hands toward the other and tried to get them on his jersey. The player whose space was being violated needed to slap the hands away before they got contact. Kyle Love and Mike Wright were matched up for the drill and somehow when Love went to put his hands on Wright, Wright slapped them aside and went upside Love's head. And they laughed. My, how they laughed. BEST IMITATION OF CHAD JOHNSONHave I watched every rep of every practice? Noooo. Have I seen enough occasions where Chad Ochocinco had balls ricochet off his hands or shoulder pads to conclude that he hasn't been at peak performance level? Yesssss. But Wednesday night, Ocho had a very good practice, especially in red zone drills working with Tom Brady and in 1-on-1s with a defensive back. The way Ocho gets out of breaks low and fast is very impressive. As opposed to Deion Branch, whose route-running is subtle and economic, Ocho covers a lot of ground fast and seems to work on explosion rather than disguise to get separation. It's also interesting to watch the interplay between Brady and Ocho. During the 1-on-1s, Ocho perfectly set up rookie defensive back Malcolm Williams with a little slant-and-go move off the left. When Ocho turned to look for the ball, Brady had thrown it to the outside. Ocho was looking inside. Ocho turned and looked back at Brady, aghast. Brady pressed his thumb against his chest to indicate it was his mistake, not Ocho's. BEST ABILITY TO CHEW UP SPACEDuring a red zone passing drill, the potency of Rob Gronkowski's size-speed combo was on display. Running 1-on-1s, the offense should always win in a drill like this. But to see Gronkowski start on the right, run directly at safety Sergio Brown, shake left then step through to the right and leave Brown standing there was alarming on two counts. First, it shows how much space the 6-7 Gronk can cover with each stride. Second, it was disturbing to see Gronk walk past an NFL safety like that. He also posted up Patrick Chung at the goal line on a route where Chung had otherwise outstanding coverage for the better part of three seconds. Gronk's a tough, tough cover. WORST DISGUISING OF GIDDINESSPatriots' offensive tackle Matt Light spoke to the media during the early part of practice. He said there's "never been a time in my life when I've been more ready to play football." Light added that, for the rookies, "It's going to be a little bit of a challenge. It's gonna be uphill for them for a while."As the days fall off the calendar and first-round pick Nate Solder's holdout continues, the hill's incline grows steeper. ODDS AND ENDS Yahoo! Sports.com writer Jason Cole was at the stadium Wednesday night. He's got a good relationship with Bill Belichick among national writers and says he'll be popping out a story on Albert Haynesworth's addition to the team. Darius Butler was not seen at practice Wednesday night. Players are supposed to give their final approval of the newly-hatched collective bargaining agreement on Thursday. But the CBA isn't done yet. At issue? Drug testing and the appeals process for personal conduct fines and suspensions. The league is pushing for HGH testing. It's not been agreed to yet. The players want there to be an arbitrator to rule on appeals of punishment handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (Goodell currently reviews all appeals). As a practical matter, until the CBA is completed and approved, no players working under newly-signed contracts (except rookies) can practice.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

Brady on Thomas criticism: 'I love Earl . . . Wish him the best'

Brady on Thomas criticism: 'I love Earl . . . Wish him the best'

Tom Brady was getting hit from all sorts of different angles on Saturday night. Not only was he dealing with Texans pass-rushers Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney, he was also catching social-media shrapnel from Earl Thomas and Ray Lewis. 

Thomas was adamant that Brady had an easy road every year because he played in the AFC East. Lewis, meanwhile, got on Brady for complaining to officials when he thought they should have called a penalty for roughing the passer. 

On Monday, joining WEEI's Kirk and Callahan program, Brady responded to both. 

"I don't think I've ever been one to, you know, say something negative about anybody," Brady said of Thomas, who missed the end of the season with a broken leg. "It's just not my personality. I love Earl. I think he's a hell of a player. I really wish him the best in his recovery."

When it came to Lewis' critique, Brady acknowledged he complained to the officials. And he noted that it might've worked. Soon after he threw a fit when a flag wasn't thrown, the Patriots did pick up 15 extra yards when Clowney was tagged with a roughing-the-passer call.

"We had a lot of battles with Ray on the field," Brady said. "And yeah, I would love to try to make sure the officials are paying close attention. If we can get one of those 15-yard penalties, those are important."

Brady on Brown Facebook video: Wouldn't go over well with Belichick

Brady on Brown Facebook video: Wouldn't go over well with Belichick

We know how Bill Belichick feels about social media. For years now he's been openly mocking the names of different platforms. 

RELATED

How then would Belichick feel about one of his players streaming his postgame speech live to an online audience of thousands? Probably not great. 

"That's against our team policy," Tom Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show on Monday morning. "I don't think that would go over well with our coach."

Brady was referencing the video posted to Facebook Live by Steelers wideout Antonio Brown late Sunday night. With over 20,000 fans watching, Brown streamed the postgame locker room prayer as well as Tomlin's speech. 

Tomlin called the Patriots a-holes, and he made note of the fact that because the Steelers-Chiefs game had been pushed to Sunday night the Patriots had a day-and-a-half more to rest and prepare than the Steelers did. Then when he spotted a player on his phone, Tomlin told his players to get off social media -- all while Brown continued to stream from behind a bank of lockers. 

"Every coach has a different style," said Brady, who recently began using an Instagram account. "Our coach, he's been in the league for 42 years and he's pretty old school. He's not into social media, and I think he lets everyone know that. I think our team has a policy. We don't show anything that should be private because he feels when we are inside our stadium, inside the walls, there has to be a degree of privacy that we have. What's done in the locker room should stay in the locker room."