DETROIT — Phillip Dorsett remembers when Braxton Berrios was a teenager. The two were teammates at the University of Miami. Dorsett was a senior who was about to become a first-round pick. Berrios was a diminutive freshman with big-time skill who made enough of an impact that eventually he was starting.
It wasn't always the smoothest ride to the starting lineup for Berrios, Dorsett recalled this week. But even then, it didn't take long for Dorsett to understand that his younger teammate had a mindset that would give him staying power.
Bad plays came and went. Berrios kept running routes crisply, kept getting open, kept catching footballs. It's an approach he's maintained and it's served him well this summer in his second training camp with the Patriots.
"I think that's what makes a lot of guys in the NFL pretty good because they're able to throw those things in the back of their mind," Dorsett said. "When stuff don't go your way, you gotta have a short-term memory and go out there and make the next play. I always say, if you make the next play, the last play don't matter."
Things weren't going Berrios' way from the outset of camp. On Day 1 of practices on the fields behind Gillette Stadium, one target sent his way was picked. Another was broken up. He had a drop on Day 2. A few days later he had three targets broken up by every just about every slot corner on the depth chart — Jonthan Jones, Duke Dawson, D'Angelo Ross) — and another drop.
Not ideal. Particularly for a receiver trying to bounce back from a season off. He spent last year on injured reserve after being drafted in the seventh round, and he bounced back this year with some strong work during OTAs and minicamp this spring.
Even he would acknowledge that not every opportunity early in camp has gone the way he's wanted, but that mindset that suited him so well at Miami is one he continues to ply as a pro.
"As a competitor it's tough because all you wanna do is show what you're capable of every single time," Berrios said Tuesday. "Whether it's a missed block, or a wrong route, or a drop . . . you have to learn that there is the next play.
"You always hear that. You hear that in basketball, baseball, football. Play the next play. Don't worry about it. That's something, especially at this level, where you want to do something at such a high level and because you're here, you know you can. And it's something you have to get used to. You have to understand that, 'Hey, the guy on the other side he gets paid too. He's here for a reason too.' It's definitely something that you have to understand and take step by step."
Berrios has taken nothing but positive steps since arriving in Michigan for joint practices with the Lions this week. We highlighted his work with Tom Brady in our Postcard from Camp on Tuesday, but he was one of the team's best receivers on both days of competitive joint work with Detroit.
He snapped off routes to create big-time separation in one-on-one periods, connecting with Brady five times in those situations over two days. Brady completed five more passes to Berrios in hurry-up periods. On one of their last hook-ups, Berrios ended up in the end zone, and Brady chased him down for a celebratory head-butt.
On Thursday night, Berrios likely won't be working alongside Brady since many Patriots starters aren't expected to play. But he should see some early reps — he was taking first-team snaps with Dorsett and undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers in Wednesday's walkthrough — at Ford Field and he'll have an opportunity to continue to put good moments on tape.
It's still plenty early. Though he has his work cut out for him as he battles for a roster spot with the likes of Meyers and Maurice Harris — two of the most impressive Patriots receivers in camp — there are about three more weeks of work left for Berrios to show the Patriots that he's worth a shot at the active roster. Not only might he be next-in-line to fill the low-cut slot receiver job they've had every year since Troy Brown's prime, but he could provide some value as a punt-returner as well.
Berrios isn't getting that far ahead of himself. He knows there will continue to be ups and downs. How he responds is all he's worried about.
"You gotta come out here and you gotta perform at a certain level every single day," he said. "Some days you might exceed it. Some days you might fall short. But everything's a lesson. Getting a little bit better each day. Not making the same mistake twice. . . . That's the goal."
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