Hill makes strong opening bid for Patriots' big-back job

Hill makes strong opening bid for Patriots' big-back job

FOXBORO – Facing a throng of reporters in the Patriots locker room Thursday night, Patriots running back Jeremy Hill was asked about the field-goal drive New England had just before halftime.

“It was a three-possession game at that point and that made it a two-possession game,” Hill said earnestly of the drive that narrowed the score to 17-3. “That put us right back in the game.”

There were a couple of incongruous things here to observe.

First, it’s not just a preseason game but it’s the FIRST preseason game. It’s the tuneup di tutti tuneups. The score is usually a formality, at best.

But it was kind of endearing to hear Hill – a former Cincinnati Bengal – talking about whittling the Washington lead to two scores to bring the Patriots within striking distance in the second half.

Because to him, this game isn’t meaningless. At all.

“This is a blessing for me,” Hill said to me after the main crowd dispersed. “Being on [injured reserve after going under bone spur surgery] last year, having football taken away, words can’t even explain the feeling I have when I’m going out there.

“Watching every Sunday last year I kinda felt like I was on the outside looking in,” he admitted. “Being able to go out there and play, it’s a blessing. I’m excited about every opportunity.

Hill’s been pretty good so far for the Patriots since coming here in March on a one-year deal. The team asked him to slim down from 235 into the 220s and Hill said this week he’s at 226 – his lightest since high school. Thursday, Hill carried 11 times for 51 yards and a TD and got plenty of use on special teams (eight snaps, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss).

He’s in competition with Mike Gillislee for the Patriots big back role and – while Gillislee had a decent enough game – Hill seems to have a bit more elusiveness than Gillislee.

The team shouldn’t have any worries about Hill competing with urgency.

“Coach just wanted us to play tougher,” he said when asked about the second-half flurry by the Patriots offense. "We were letting them get a lot of easy stops and he wanted us to play tougher and that paid off when we strung some long drives together. Just playing tougher was important.”

Which brings us to the other incongruous aspect of Hill’s postgame. My guess is Hill has never in his professional life seen a media crowd like he did after last night’s game. Nor has he been in a more businesslike and professional atmosphere.

Having been to both camps and in both locker rooms, I can attest that Cincinnati under Marvin Lewis is worlds apart from New England under Bill Belichick.

When asked, Hill steered clear of comparisons but was willing to say that, “This place has done so much winning and being able to be a part of it, I’m definitely blessed and privileged to have this opportunity.”  

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How dire is Tom Brady's 'sore back' ?

How dire is Tom Brady's 'sore back' ?

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady’s training camp workload’s been a little lighter in the past week and he didn’t take a snap in Thursday’s preseason opener against Washington. 

Jim McBride of the Boston Globe reports that Brady sat because he is “dealing with a sore back.”

How dire is it? Not dire enough to put Brady out of action completely. He did warm up before Thursday’s game and was in uniform on the sidelines and not showing signs of discomfort. 

Also, to offer a little further evidence he’s not ready for traction, on Tuesday of this week Brady launched a downfield bomb intended for wide receiver Philip Dorsett on one of the few reps Brady did take in a Danny Etling-heavy practice.

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Even if Brady weren’t 41 years old, any physical issue limiting the defending league MVP is news. 

When you take Brady’s age into account and consider the Patriots’ possible reluctance to cast their lot with him long term, any missed time with an ache or pain ratchets up the stakes. 

Asked on a conference call Friday morning if he had any updates on Brady’s reportedly sore back, Belichick said, "No. Sorry, I don't." 

You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take. 

Not only is Brady entering his 19th regular season, he’s also played more than two seasons worth of playoff games over his career (37). 

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Belichick, responding to a question from Mike Giardi about managing preseason and training camp reps, said, "Playing late into the season the year before is definitely what we want to do, so we're not complaining about that, but it does affect the following season, there's no question about that.

"In the end, we try to take everything into consideration that we have, what our opportunities are, where we are as a football team collectively and individually with certain players that may need a modification of their workload . . . and try to do the best we can with that time and those opportunities for our players and the team development as a whole. That's a balance we talk about every day."

When asked about Brady in particular, Belichick said, "We have a number of players who are in various [situations]; their workload is affected by other factors."
 

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Lewis takes blame for messing up Grissom's potential TD

Lewis takes blame for messing up Grissom's potential TD

FOXBORO -- A play to remember, a play to forget. That sums up the Thursday night for Patriots cornerback Ryan Lewis, a practice squad player in 2017 who’s battling to make the team. 

The good for Lewis came in the first half: A clean, well-executed hit on Washington wideout Trey Quinn on a high throw from Colt McCoy. The hit sent Quinn to the sidelines for the rest of the game and signaled that physicality won’t be an issue at all for the 6-foot, 195-pound Lewis. 

Lewis has had several good moments in training camp so it was good to see him carry that over into the game. 

PATRIOTS 26, REDSKINS 17

Not as good to see? His premature celebration during Geneo Grissom’s long fumble return in the fourth quarter. Lewis was the escort on what should have been a touchdown for Grissom but he slowed a bit and put a celebratory finger in the air just as Washington’s Simmie Cobbs closed in from the right and hauled Grissom down. 

Grissom himself seemed to slow and get into some head-waggling as well but Lewis’ lapse was more clear. And he knew it. 

“I didn’t see the receiver,” said Lewis. “That’s a good hustle play by him and it’s unfortunate that I didn’t see him. I need to get that next time. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t score and I’ll take the blame. 

“I’m pretty sure I’ll be hearing about it tomorrow,” he agreed. “I’m ready for it. I’ll just take my loss and move on.”

PATRIOTS 26, REDSKINS 17

The Patriots ultimately punched it in after two plays from the Washington 1. 

Depending on how the team views Lewis overall, it’s the kind of play that could either be a teachable moment or a significant strike.  

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