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MountaineerDave 07-28-2003 02:22 PM

Training Camp Notes
Being a citizen of my second pro football city, I've always had a hankering to head out to catch some training camp goings-on. But, in Pittsburgh, you have to travel to Latrobe, which, if you're headed to the Rolling Rock Brewery as well, is worth it, but otherwise, there's not much there and, well... there are usually things to do closer to home for far less hassle.

For the last five summers, I've been in Boston, and while not a huge Patriots fan, can stomach them, especially in the post-Carroll era. I didn't have a strong compunction to drive an hour down 95 while the Pats had training camp in Rhode Island, but when they moved training camp to the regular facilities this summer, a mere ten miles from my house, I felt compelled to get in the car and drive down to catch as much as possible.

Training camp opened on Wednesday. The Pats' public-access practice field is about 150 yards on the south end of Gillette Stadium. You park in general stadium parking for free, and get to watch for the two hour periods that training takes place. They avail particular units to autograph seekers shortly after practices. On two-a-day days, they have a 9a start and a 6p start.

When they opened on Wednesday, rain closed the public access field, although they did practice on closed circuit TV that could be watched INSIDE of Gillette. I didn't bother attending, but understood it was a cool gesture, and one that would be repeated throughout camp. Rain had the same effect on Thursday, and I didn't have time to make it on Friday. Saturday morning, though, I packed up my 23-mo. old daughter and drove 15 minutes to watch in some boiling field level heat (we didn't stay long) while guys did some run-blocking drills and a brief bit of throwing drills.

I made it out again this morning, and made the following notes.
  • Rohan Davey v Damon Huard for #2 QB looks like a tough battle, given the performance and snaps each are getting.
  • Antowain Smith, despite initial concerns, looks very good. I never realized he was so tall.
  • Mike Cloud looked good and will compete for #2 RB when he can play come week five
  • Otis Smith was notably absent on Day Five of Training Camp
  • Ty Law must be overweight. He was outfitted in a full sweatsuit, complete with a ski mask and gloves, UNDER the pads, jersey and pants. The temperature was around 80 at 10am...
  • WR David Givens looked VERY GOOD, and will be difficult to keep off the field, given his six-inch height advantage over the rest of the receiving corps.
  • Rookie corners Assante Samuel and Eugene Wilson were getting plenty of time in first team defensive drills
  • Troy Brown schooled Samuel in route-run/cover drills
  • Deion Branch similarly schooled Assante Samuel
  • Rodney Harrison lined up as the weak-side safety. He had two highlightable plays:
    [1] Lined up as weak-side safety, came over to cover TE Daniel Graham and covered him LIKE a BLANKET. Knocked a very catchable ball away, and got hoots from the crowd for showing some pretty decent speed.
    [2] Lined up as strong-side safety and blitzed over the left tackle. Would have killed QB Tom Brady in game situation as the ball was released.
  • P Daniel Pope needs better hangtime if he wants to unseat Walter. Meanwhile, his kicks averaged about 10-15 yards longer.
  • No sign of second-year knee injury case RB Antoine Womack.
  • Kliff Kingsbury, who looked good on Saturday, is much taller than I realized, and looked tired Monday morning. Zip that was present on Saturday was gone, and he was looking a little confused in actual play practice.
  • While he was on the field a bit, I didn't notice much from Roosevelt Colvin

I don't know how the world at-large spends their mornings, but there are few things better than sitting in the sun on a beautiful day and watching guys play football, even if it isn't for real yet. I hated having to come to work after.

So, if you have time, and don't have to travel over the bridge and through the woods to get to your local team's training camp site (or even if you do) feel free to share your notes. I'll add to mine, despite the fact that few on the board care about the Pats. As it is, I don't care that strongly about the Pats either. It's sort of an amateur interest and love of the game thing for me.

(Larry Centers, my favorite all-time fullback, was apparently signed by the Pats over the weekend, but wasn't on the field. Patrick Pass, with whom he'd compete for playing time, had a noticeable giddy-up to his step; he wasn't practicing Saturday; Fred McCrary continues to not be on the practice field.)


I OWN THIS 07-29-2003 12:02 PM

Dave, are the Pats using Eugene Wilson for punt returns or kick off returns? I really like Wilson coming out of Illinois, for I think he can be a contributor immediately.

The Pats secondary would seem to be in good shape with the likes of Law, Milloy, and Harrison.

Still can't get over the fact that Kevin Faulk has not panned out to be a better running back in the NFL than he has been so far. What kind of role do you see him playing this season?


Anthony 07-29-2003 12:37 PM

Even though they neglected to make the playoffs in 2002, one big plus overshadowed all the minuses put together for the Patriots: Tom Brady proved he's for real. The Steelers should be so lucky this year with Tommy Maddox - but probably won't be.

Marc 07-29-2003 12:42 PM

Thanks for the report, Dave. Interesting stuff. That's cool that you get to see the team practice. I'd like to do that sometime.

MountaineerDave 07-29-2003 05:19 PM

Joey, the punt return practice I saw Monday, they alternated Faulk, Brown, Branch, Wilson, and Samuel in return. None had much opportunity to show anything. If anything, I'd say that Branch had the best opportunity to do anything once he caught the ball, but they weren't doing much return/coverage stuff; more punt and catch.

I meant to mention that both the rookie corners were back there taking punts, but forgot, so thanks for checking on that.

As for Faulk, I didn't see him get many carries. He got a couple, but most of the carries went to Smith and Cloud, with Redmond tending to line up with the second offense and almost exclusively acting as a receiver out of the backfield. Which is weird, given that Faulk proved last season he could be a real threat on 3rd down, catching or running.

I failed to mention that during play practice, they ran the HB direct snap SEVERAL times (I lost track of how many times). I think that was split between Redmond and Faulk, but I don't recall the split on number of snaps each got.

If I had to guess from one training session, I'd say Faulk may be returning punts and splitting 3rd downs with Redmond. However, I may have seen so much Redmond because he's a guy really on the borderline, especially with Cloud looking stronger than expected. I'd say that when Cloud is eligible to play in Week Five, if he doesn't have setback in training or during preseason, that either Redmond or Faulk will be cut.

Brady is for real. He looked pretty sharp, especially short, his forte. Of course, he did chased out of the pocket once and looked very uncomfortable scrambling, and threw a pass nearly picked by Law.


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