On Friday, we all got our first look of the new members of the New England Patriots, on field at Dana Farber Field House at Gillette Stadium for the 2012 Patriots Rookie Minicamp.
During the draft, defense was the primary concern, as the Patriots traded up twice in the first round to select Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones at No. 21 and Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower at No. 25 overall. The team went on to make some great value in selecting Arkansas DE/OLB Jake Bequette in the third round and Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard in the seventh round. Second round pick Tavon Wilson was the most questionable pick of them all, as he was viewed by many as a potential undrafted free agent.
But talk is talk. These players got their chance today to give the Patriots coaching staff a solid first impression about how they can contribute to a team that is looking to get back to the Super Bowl in 2012. Just prior to the start of their workouts, some of the participants spoke with the media about their first impressions about beginning their first official pro practice. For Chandler Jones, it's all about making that first impression.
"A lot of people tell me I only get the opportunity to make one first impression. This week is my opportunity to make a first impression," Jones said. "What I'm trying to do is learn this playbook and impress the coaches."
"[I need to] learn all the do's and don't's. Be a sponge," Jones said. "Know your role and just earn the respect from everyone."
Yesterday, the Patriots announced a bit of a shuffle in their coaching staff. Longtime defensive line coach Pepper Johnson has moved back to coaching linebackers, what he did from 2001 to 2003. One person who is very familiar with Coach Johnson is Dont'a Hightower, who will be one of his pupils this season.
"I've heard a lot about him, read a lot about him, and there were times when I was at Alabama and Coach Saban would bring his name up, and that's how I kind of got a bead on him," Hightower told reporters. "Being able to be coached under a guy like that is definitely going to help me out with my game and I'm just real eager to picking his brain."
As stated before, the most intriguing person at minicamp for the Patriots is Tavon Wilson, who was considered a stretch in the second round. He wasn't even projected to be drafted, by many. While it's easy for one's goals to be to go out and prove everybody wrong, Wilson is just looking to be the best player he can be.
"It's really not about proving nobody wrong, it's just about Tavon being the best player he can be," said Wilson. "I've never been a person to try go out and prove somebody something, I'm just going to go and be the best player Tavon can be everyday and try to get better."
"This level is a whole different level as far as mental toughness goes. I'm just going to try do the best I can," Wilson said. "I feel like the things I've been through have helped me to this point, but I still got a long way to go. I'm just going to continue to try to grow as a person and as a player."
Here are some more tidbits from Friday's Minicamp:
Jake Bequette On His Role With The Patriots:
"Just do whatever I can to help the team," Bequette said when asked what he was looking to accomplish this weekend at the team's rookie minicamp. "Just be here, be seen, working as hard as I can, just to try to establish myself."
Jeremy Ebert On The Opprotunity To Learn From The Patriots' Experienced Receivers:
"It's a fantastic opportunity to learn from all of the wide receivers. They're all great," said Ebert. "They play in the NFL, so learning from all of these guys is going to be awesome. I'm just really excited to get the opportunity to meet them and be a sponge and soak up as much as I can."
Bandon Bolden On The Early Competition At Minicamp:
"There's a lot of young guys and everybody's trying to prove the same point. Why not throw my two cents in as well? I'm just here to make them better, to push them as well as they're going to push me.
"That's why I'm here... to try and figure out what I need to do. They're going to evaluate me just like they're going to do everybody else. Just try. Just try my hardest, that's all I can do."
All quotes courtesy of ESPN Boston and CSN New England