FOXBORO — Isaiah Wynn may be a relentless optimist. Or he might just be extra cheery because he's finally able to get back on the field after missing a football season for the first time in his life.
The second-year offensive lineman was all smiles as he walked off the hot Gillette Stadium practice fields Thursday. It had been almost a year since he tore his Achilles in a preseason game last summer as a rookie, but he's healthy now (he avoided landing on the physically unable to perform list to start training camp), he's taking some snaps protecting Tom Brady's blind side, and on Thursday he had the look of a guy who couldn't be brought down.
Not even a reporter waiving him over to a shady spot for a quick conversation before he got back inside the team facility could wipe the grin off his face.
"It definitely feels good," Wynn said beaming. "Just being out here. Trying to better myself every day, just trying to help out the team."
Wynn wasn't a full participant in Thursday's workout — the first training camp practice of the summer for the Patriots — but he did take early snaps at left tackle with other expected starters along the line.
Later in the session, when the offense and defense started to work against one another, Wynn took a breather. It was Joe Thuney who took the left tackle snaps at that point, opening up the left guard spot for Ted Karras. Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon manned their normal positions at right guard and right tackle, respectively. At center, with David Andrews missing the workout, James Ferentz saw first-team work.
"They've been good," Wynn said of his veteran teammates. "Even starting back from last year when I got injured. Everybody was helping me out, asking me if I had any questions or concerns. I could go to them. This whole process has been great."
Great? Wynn wasn't able to play a single snap as the highly-touted No. 23 overall pick out of Georgia last year. He ended up watching as left tackle Trent Brown put together a tremendous season as a run-blocker and pass-protector, parlaying his contract year under Dante Scarnecchia into a new deal with the Raiders — the most lucrative deal an offensive lineman has ever seen.
As Brown and the Patriots offense rolled to a Super Bowl, Wynn was afforded time to learn as he rehabbed. So there's that. "Great" might be strong. "Beneficial" might be more apt. But this is Mr. Optimism we're talking about, after all.
"This whole thing has just been about patience," Wynn said. "Practicing patience . . . [Rehab] didn't suck. It didn't suck. I just learned a lot of patience. It gave me an opportunity to sit back and see how everything else works."
He added: "I wasn't tripping too much. Everything happens for a reason. Everything happens for a reason. God's got a plan."
Wynn is coming off of a promising spring in which he didn't take part in team drills. He did, however, move well during individual work as a blocker during minicamp. Asked if he's champing at the bit to do more, if he ever felt as though he could do more but is being held back by the team's plan to slowly-but-surely get him back to full speed, Wynn smiled.
Of course he did.
"That's a you-gotta-ask-Bill one," he said.
Part of the reason the Patriots might be bringing Wynn along slowly is they know they want him on the left side of the line and feeling strong when the games matter. He'll be critical to the overall operation if he's out there. Yes, the position is a crucial one. But his skill set makes him that much more valuable. He's undersized, but he has the feet to mirror athletes — athletes who seem to get more impressive by the year — screaming off the edge.
Given his draft status and the vacancy — a vacancy that might only otherwise be filled by Thuney, who has been a stalwart at left guard since 2016 — Wynn seems like the obvious choice as the Patriots left tackle for 2019. But, bright-eyed as he is, he wouldn't go so far as to say he's expecting to land the gig.
"No," he said. "I mean, I expect to come out here and get better every day but that's it there."
That alone is more than Wynn could do for the majority of last year. You can understand why now, as players around the league dread the start of camp, he might be in a better mood than most.
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