New England's offseason program ended early as the team canceled the final day of mini-camp. But there's still a little bit of meat on the bones to pick at before the real NFL starvation of late June and early July sets in.
- Bill Belichick's take on his defensive backs raving about safety Adrian WIlson's leadership qualities:
BB: "Adrian has done a good job. He’s worked hard, very professional. He has a real good attitude; has a lot of experience. We’ll see how the rest of it plays out. But, I would imagine probably what they were referring to is just the way he carries himself, the way he goes about his job. Works hard, smart guy, he’s experienced. He’s really tried to learn and buy into our program and do everything he can to find a way to contribute. I think he’s very well respected."
Two things stand out to me here. The first is that Belichick had no problem answering the question. There was no, 'I don't know, you'll have to ask so-and-so.' It sounds like the coach might sincerely be impressed.
The second thing is the idea of Wilson "buying in" to New England's program. We're talking about an NFL veteran entering his 13th NFL season, and not only that, but this will be the first year he's played for any team other than Arizona. You have to wonder how open and adaptable a 33-year old will be. Perhaps Wilson is acclimating well.
- Wilson on how he the voluntary and mandatory workouts have gone:
AW: "I think on the field, the communication is a lot better than it is in the classroom. We can’t actually call the calls in the classroom as we can on the field. The classroom stuff is the classroom stuff. Actually getting out on the field and learning against live competition is something different."
When you consider a player like Wilson, one who has over a decade of experience in the league but zero with his current team, you can really see why the offseason's slow grind is so important. He started in at least 14 games for the last five-straight seasons and is talking about learning. During mini--camp. And these guys aren't even tackling yet.
More on this in two seconds.
- Nose tackle Vince Wilfork on if the lack of physical contact during mini-camp is frustrating:
VW: "No. We get the opportunity to actually teach and learn. That's where we're at. We don't have pads on because you have to take this time to refresh guys and new guys get the chance to understand our defense or offense. It's more like a teaching tool. In training camp we have all the time in the world to tackle and be physical, but it's more about teaching right now.
On if he's pleased with the offseason progress of the defense:
"We have a long ways to go. We're going to keep building. It's too early to say how good or how bad we are. We've just got to take it one day at a time."
What's so funny about this? By comparison, a quote from Belichick yesterday was more revealing. The coach at least said the Patriots have "made a lot of progress" since the beginning of April. Just when you think you've got everybody figured out…
- Quarterback Tom Brady on why a caught pass by Danny Amendola during OTA's made him scream some high-pitched approval, repeatedly, across the practice field.
TB: "We talk about a lot of things so when you can take something from the film room or a correction the previous day and actually apply it on the field in maybe a little bit of a different look on a little bit of different play but it’s similar to what you talked about and he can pick it up, it’s fun. That’s how you make improvements. That’s how you can exceed expectations, is to continue to do the right thing over and over. We talked about something and the first time he didn’t quite get it and the second time he got it a little more but not quite and finally we nailed it. Hopefully once you get that feeling of nailing it, you can understand it.
"Danny has come in and he’s been fun to play with. He’s come in and worked so hard. He’s diving out there for catches. He’s really done everything that we’ve asked him to do. It’s been a lot of fun."
Will this be the year Brady and a new, veteran receiver really hit it off? It didn't happen with Chad Johnson. Brandon Lloyd didn't impress enough to stick around. A major difference this season is that old reliable Wes Welker isn't around to fall back on. In this instance, Wilfork was right -- it was way, way too early to decide whether or not Brady and Amendola will work well together. Especially considering all the oohs and ahhs Lloy'd training camp catches inspired last year.
- Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft on what he think of the 2013 Patriots so far:
RKK: "To be honest, after the draft I’m always excited, I’m always excited now. But in the end, you need two, three, four, five, six games and hope there are no injuries. I am excited about this team. I think our young players from last year have improved. They’ve worked hard. We’ve seen the greatest jump in the past of so many of our players between the first and second year.
"With the salary cap and free agency, you have a player for four years and if you’re going to try to build a team and get good value, that second year is pretty important. We’ve been able to bring in some interesting free agents. I’m very excited about the team."
Kraft must listen to his head coach; Belichick has said, time and time again, that guys can take huge strides after their rookie year.
A refresher on who some of those second-year players are: Running back Brandon Bolden, defensive backs Alfonzo Dennard and Tavon Wilson, defensive linemen Justin Francis and Chandler Jones, and linebacker Dont'a Hightower. The good news? There's room for all to earn more snaps. The bad? Room for error has gone from an inch to a millimeter.