Patriots

Butler absent from Day 3 of minicamp; Ealy departs early

Butler absent from Day 3 of minicamp; Ealy departs early

FOXBORO - There was one notable absence from Thursday's proceedings on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium, Day 3 of mandatory minicamp: Malcolm Butler. 

One half of one of the top cornerback duos in the league, Butler had been at both of the previous minicamp workouts earlier this week. With Butler out, cornerback Eric Rowe saw a bit more work against the top group of Patriots offensive weapons. Stephon Gilmore, who saw reps with the second group of defensive backs on Wednesday, was back with the top group. 

Here are a handful of other observations from the practice . . . 

* Defensive lineman Lawrence Guy was also absent on Thursday. He missed Wednesday's practice as well. Undrafted rookie offensive lineman Andrew Jelks was not spotted, either. Linebacker Dont'a Hightower, receiver Malcolm Mitchell and defensive lineman Alan Branch did not participate but worked out on a lower field.

* Defensive lineman Kony Ealy departed the practice field and headed toward the locker room with about an hour remaining in the workout and did not return. 

* Early in the session, quarterbacks and receivers worked on "scramble drill" plays with no defense. Later on, red-zone work and hurry-up came into focus. 

* Defensively, corners and safeties worked on dropping into zones. They were also drilled on passing off receivers when targets floated in and out of their areas. 

* A pair of defensive backs had two of the better plays of the day. During 7-on-7 work, Rowe made a one-handed interception along the sideline while in coverage on Danny Amendola. Soon thereafter, Patrick Chung broke up what would have been a long completion from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski. Chung has seen plenty of Gronkowski over the course of the last three days. He indicated after the workout -- which included a meeting with The Hills -- that he was exhausted.

* A couple of new acquisitions for the Patriots offense continue to indoctrinated in the detail-oriented fashion in which practices are run. Running back Rex Burkhead took coaching from Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady for the second consecutive day on the nuances of route-running depending on the posture of the defensive back covering him. Meanwhile, tight end Dwayne Allen was met by Brady for what appeared to be some instruction soon after an incompletion during a 7-on-7 period. 

* Undrafted rookies Kenny Moore and Harvey Langi were both asked to run laps at one point. Chris Hogan took a lap as well after committing a false-start penalty during 11-on-11 work. The entire defense -- including coordinator Matt Patricia -- ran laps after two consecutive mishaps during 11-on-11 work. 

* For the second consecutive day, Vanderbilt coaches were present at practice, as was San Antonio Spurs vice president of basketball operations Monty Williams.

Two years after clutch Super Bowl performance, Malcolm Mitchell retires from football

Two years after clutch Super Bowl performance, Malcolm Mitchell retires from football

The last time Malcolm Mitchell left the site of a game that mattered, he did so nonchalantly. He carried a to-go plate in one hand, a half-eaten wing in the other. 

He'd just caught six passes for 70 yards and helped the Patriots win Super Bowl LI. I spoke to him about how two weeks prior, on the fields behind Gillette Stadium, he hadn't been playing like a guy who would come up with some of the most critical plays in the last game of the season. He'd been dealing with some drops. He admitted they were probably the result of over-thinking his Super Bowl prep. 

Mitchell was thankful, remembering how he flipped the switch, that Tom Brady pulled him aside at the time and told him to focus on one play at a time. Mitchell smiled, strolling through the bowels of NRG Stadium in the direction of the team’s Super Bowl party as one of its most promising young players fresh off a championship.

At that point, who knew how many more big-game performances Mitchell would put together over the course of his career?

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As it turned out, he wouldn’t play in another game outside of a preseason contest in Houston the following summer. Mitchell announced at an event at the University of Georgia this week, more than two years after that clutch performance against the Falcons, that he was retiring from football. 

He followed up his announcement with an instagram post that read in part, “Everything will work out.”

Mitchell’s knees wouldn’t allow him to continue his career after spending a portion of last offseason with the Patriots. Though he’s been gone for almost a full calendar year, his absence is still felt at One Patriot Place. 

The fourth-round pick in 2016 — who fell that far in part because of injury concerns — was the most productive rookie receiver the Patriots had featured since Deion Branch in 2002. Receiver remains among the most glaring needs on the Patriots roster as they work to build around Julian Edelman. 

Mitchell’s football career was short-lived, but his one year in New England — and in particular that one night beating up on Falcons corners — has given him a platform to serve as a literacy advocate. He’s written children’s books and continues to speak about the importance of reading for kids from all walks of life. 

Mitchell may be done with the game for which he’s known, but his retirement announcement certainly won’t be the last we hear from him. 

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Robert Kraft trying to thread the needle with statement/apology

Robert Kraft trying to thread the needle with statement/apology

The septuagenarian speaketh. Or maketh a statement as the case may be.

Which was a good idea.

The stupidity exhibited by Patriots owner Robert Kraft leading to a month all of us gasbagging about multiple ill-fated visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa.

It needed input from the guy who made the decision to go there in the first place. Twice. On consecutive days.

Kraft made it clear in his statement that it wasn’t his choice to dummy up and not own his decisions. He said he wanted to do it a month ago. The lawyers wouldn’t let him.

What’s changed?

A few things.

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First, earlier this week, Florida prosecutors offered a plea deal only a drooling moron would agree to.

“We’ll drop the charges if you tell everyone you’re guilty and you know it, clap your hands…deal?”

Then Kraft let it be known that he wasn’t taking that deal and that he was still maintaining he “hadn’t done anything illegal” (a wise semantic dodge, keeping the word “innocent” out of this mess).

Then, Sheriff Buford T. Pusser 2.0 saber-rattled that video of Robert Kraft’s saber-rattling was inevitably going to get out there and that most folks might not like it.

Then, Kraft’s attorneys returned fire Friday intimating that the full legal fury of a multi-billionaire would visit upon the precinct house if that damn video – part of an investigation they allege was illegal – got out.

And of course, the NFL’s Annual Meeting convenes Sunday in Arizona and the image of Kraft scuttling from elevator to meeting room to limousine without comment for four days while his fellow owners had to answer for him was destined to be some of the worst optics since … well, since whatever’s on that video.

So what to make of the statement? I dunno.

Kraft was trying to threading the needle between apologizing without admitting guilt while saying, “I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a long time but couldn’t…” On that front, it worked.  

Also, without saying the women he interacted with were specifically disrespected by him, he at least acknowledged that transactional sex in general isn’t the highest form of love.

Personally, I loathe that he brought up Myra Kraft in the statement. Regardless how important she was in shaping your morals and respect for women and how deep your love for her continues to be, references to her in a statement regarding? What are we doing?

The last bit expecting to be judged by his words and not his actions and working to regain trust? Good. Fine. ‘Nuf said.

We are a long way from reaching the point of, “Remember when Kraft got pinched at the massage joint …” and having a good nostalgic laugh about it, though.

There’s a court date next Thursday. The ever-present specter of the video being released is dangling. The NFL has to decide how it proceeds with punishment.

There are miles to go before we sleep but at least Kraft’s head can hit the pillow tonight knowing he’s publicly acknowledged … something.

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