Best and worst from Patriots practice


Best and worst from Patriots practice

By Tom E. Curran 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! 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.
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Brady enjoys 'unique experience' of road trip


Brady enjoys 'unique experience' of road trip

While being away from home isn’t uncommon for the Patriots - just think about all those Super Bowl trips - Tom Brady believes each excursion takes on its own feel, its own flavor and - eventually - its own meaning.

Back in 2014, the Pats went from playing in Green Bay and losing to the Packers straight to San Diego for a week on the West Coast prior to a rousing victory over the Chargers. That week, many players said in the aftermath, helped propel the team to great heights,.  You’ll recall, that season ended in grand fashion, a triumph in Super Bowl 49 over Seattle, at the time - and maybe still - the greatest Super Bowl ever played.

“I think all these experiences are pretty unique,” Brady said Friday from Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy. “That was a very unique experience. This is different.”

Brady spoke about the number of stops the Pats have and will have to make on this trip - from Denver to Colorado Springs then on to Mexico City Saturday before a Sunday night return to Foxboro and their own beds for the first time in 10 nights.

“When you’re on the road like this, there’s less to do,” he said. “You know my family is not here, my kids aren’t here. There’s nobody telling me what I did wrong in the house. It’s just being at home and now it’s being here and trying to figure out a way to win a game.”

Brady quickly smoothed over any possible ill-will at home - why make Gisele mad? - smiling and saying “I didn’t mean that so I’ll take it back.”

Kidding aside, the 40-year old signal caller seemed pleased with the work the Patriots have put in during this long trip. A week of team-bonding can’t be a bad thing, especially for a group that seems to be hitting it’s stride both on and off the field. There’s the five wins in a row and also a locker room that has a better understanding of one another than it did during the first month of the season. But Brady is not ready to make any grand proclamations. That just wouldn’t be his style.

“I think it’s still work in progress,” he said of team chemistry. “You look at still adding a player like Marty (Bennett) last week. Things are always changing and evolving. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re doing well and after 8 or 9 weeks, you start to figure those things out. Now we have to work hard at those things, try to really own them, and use them going forward to try and win the most important games. We have a lot of important games coming up, starting with this one. Hopefully we can play our best football going forward.”

Brady said he’s been fired up for this game with the Raiders south of the border ever since the schedule was released all those months ago.

“I’ve never been to Mexico City,” he said. “It’s been a game you kind of look forward to. We’re playing against a really good football team in a pretty cool environment. It will be very memorable. I think everyone is excited.”

Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out


Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

The Patriots will be without center David Andrews on Sunday when they play the Raiders in Mexico City. Andrews, who hasn’t all practice all week with an illness, is one of four Pats listed as out on the injury report released Friday.


Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, who didn’t play last week against the Broncos is also out, along with wide receiver Chris Hogan and special teams captain Matthew Slater. Offensive linemen Ted Karras and Joe Thuney each took reps at center so one of them will likely start in Andrews’ absence. LaAdrian Waddle filled in for Cannon and performed well last week vs. Denver. 

Here’s the full injury report for the Patriots and Raiders: