Well, the wait is finally over! The New England Patriots returned from their nearly month long hiatus to report to Training Camp in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Besides Brian Waters, who was excused from camp for "personal reasons", the Patriots were out in full force today with 88 players on the practice field. Some, including All-Pro guard Logan Mankins, spent the first day of camp on the sidelines rehabbing injuries. Even though star players like Mankins were sidelined with injury, others were able to return to the field after missing offseason workouts.
Joining Mankins on the sideline was Sebastian Vollmer, Daniel Fells, Jake Ballard, Jeremy Ebert, Nate Ebner, Nick McDonald and Markus Zusevics. All players were listed on the PUP or the Non-Football Injury list except Nate Ebner. It's unclear as to why Ebner was not on the field, but no announcement has been made to this point.
Among the notables out on the practice field was tight end Rob Gronkowski, who spent the majority of the offseason either out partying or rehabbing his injured ankle. It was a great sign for the nearly 12,000 Patriots fans who came out to watch him and his teammates on Day one of camp. Brandon Spikes was also another welcome addition, as he too was able to practice after an offseason full of rehab.
While Tom Brady did not have media availability, we were able to hear from a few big name players on Thursday. Among them were Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, Deion Branch, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Chandler Jones, and coordinators Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia.
Check out some quotes from the above players and coaches, after the jump!
Wes Welker on whether he's disappointed or not about his contract situation:
"Not at all. Everyone tried. I tried, they tried and it just didn't work out and now it's in the past and we're on to this season, which we expect to be a good one. We're working towards it and working hard to have a great season this year."
Jabar Gaffney on the importance of the chemistry between he and quarterback Tom Brady:
"It's real important. It's real important," said the 31-year-old Gaffney. "You have to be able to be on the same page with your quarterback and the quarterback has to be on the same page as his wide receiver. See things the same. That's how plays get made on the field."
Deion Branch on not-so-new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels:
"I think he really loves being around the game, loves coaching these guys, always instructing guys on certain things," Branch said. "I always feel he could play, if he had a little bit more talent. If he was a little bit more stronger he'd probably have a chance. He loves the game."
Vince Wilfork says that last year's in his rear view mirror and he's ready for this season:
"That's last year," Wilfork said. "That's something we're not focused on. Our goal is every day now. This is a new season, new team. We have guys that weren't here last year. You can't dwell on what happened in the past.
"You have to move forward. Each year is different. We've got 32 teams and all of us are starting from the same position. We just have to use every day as a steppingstone. And that's exactly what we're doing. We're not paying attention to the future or what happened in the past. We just have to pay attention to what's going on now."
Jerod Mayo on being a team leader:
"To be honest with you, I still feel young," Mayo continued. "Coach Belichick has some type of way making me still feel like a little guy. I am one of the older guys, but I just kind of try to lead by example."
Chandler Jones on the tight bond that the Patriots draft class has formed:
"Definitely. Believe it or not, I knew half of those rookies before we got drafted. I met some of them at the Combine. I even played against some of them. We kind of all knew each other before. I was following them on Twitter before we even got drafted. The bond was already there and now it's just a matter of time before we get that trust out on the field."
Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels on if what has changed since he left:
"The tight ends are different. The backs are a little younger. Things have changed. There are few different coaches on our staff, but I think that happens to every team each year in the NFL. But we just adapt and we're so used to doing it by now that it just kind of comes with the territory. It's exciting to start to formulate what you're actually going to be in training camp in terms of, ‘OK, that worked well with these guys.' And there are always some things that change in training camp, too, so it will be exciting to see how it all unfolds."
Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia on the early outlook of the defense:
I don't think you can really give a grand scheme picture of what it's going to look like. It's going to be an improving thing every day where we're just trying to get better. I think in general, we're just going to try to go out and run our defense and evolve it every day.