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Patriots OTA highlights: A focused Malcolm Butler noncommittal on his future

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All the news and notes from Thursday’s OTAs.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots Press Conference Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Cold fronts and Bill Belichick-ran practices — a match made in football heaven.

“It’s perfect.” Belichick told reporters on Thursday afternoon according to the team’s transcripts. “Good day to work.”

Temperatures on Thursday in Foxborough hovered in the low fifties, with an annoying rain-mist mix that dampened the area. It was as if the Patriots’ head coach had planned it — a welcoming gift to the media on their first day of availability since OTAs began.

Aside from the slight perks of excitement when asked about the weather and next weekend's NCAA Lacrosse Championships being hosted at Gillette Stadium, the remainder of Belichick's post-practice presser offered little to no real football information (as one would expect) with most answers ending in "we'll see how it goes."

When the team was on the field, many eyes were on Malcolm Butler. The 2018 unrestricted free agent corner looked sharp in his first-team reps against newcomer Brandin Cooks. Afterwards, according the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe, Butler said all the right things to reporters.

“We got a better player," Butler said of the Gilmore addition. "We got another good player on this team. Anything to help the team, I’m down with."

Butler was also asked multiples about his future.

"The past is the past," Butler said. "I’m just here to do a job and do anything to help the team win. Just moving forward. Whatever happens, happens.

"Just got to keep working. Ignore the noise and keep working no matter what. You’ve got a job to do no matter where you’re at. I’m glad to be here to do this job."


Standouts: TE Rob Gronkowski, RB D.J. Foster

Foster, an undrafted rookie in 2016 from Arizona State, flashed enough shake and versatility last season to remain on the team’s radar — bouncing between the 53-man roster and the practice squad. According to Doug Kyed of NESN, he showed that ability again on Thursday, stringing together three “highlight” catches while others struggled to secure routine passes in the cold, damp conditions. With the arrival of Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead to the running back room this offseason, Foster will need to continue to dazzle when given his opportunities.

Rob Gronkowski, by all accounts, dominated on Thursday. Only one of his targets failed to be completed as he took safeties Patrick Chung and Jordan Richards to task. Cleared this morning by team physicians, Gronk took full advantage of the opportunity to show off just how healthy he is.

Strugglers: CB Cyrus Jones, S Jordan Richards

Not only was Cyrus Jones beat soundly on a deep route by Danny Amendola, but according to the Howe, he had a forgettable day at the office in a familiar role.

Yes, it’s only May. Yes, there was weather. But given just how poorly Jones’ rookie season went, and with the addition of Stephon Gilmore at corner, the second-round pick from Alabama can’t afford to have too many days like this — especially as he attempts to regain the trust of the coaching staff as a contributor on special teams.

The same can be said for Richards. Gronk makes everyone look bad, but at some point the former second-rounder will need to make his presence felt in the secondary if he has any plans at sniffing a roster spot heading into September.

Players not in attendance: (6)

  • Dont’a Hightower
  • Alan Branch
  • Stephen Gostkowski
  • Malcolm Mitchell
  • Joe Cardona
  • Max Rich (UDFA)

OTAs are, of course, not mandatory. With the first three comfortably under contract, the reason for the absences of Mitchell and Cardona have yet to be reported. As a recent Harvard graduate, undrafted rookie offensive tackle Max Rich was presumably attending the university’s commencement ceremony on Thursday.

Notables

For those curious how on how the brewing quarterback controversy is shaping up, Tom Brady completed 9 of 14 passes, while Garoppolo completed 7 of 13 — a clear victory for the incumbent.

Jonathan Freeny, who played 5 games in 2016 before being shelved for the season, wore a red non-contact jersey Thursday.

Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, signed Wednesday, was wearing #16. DeAndrew White moved to (the dreaded) #17.

Go ahead and follow Brian Phillips on Twitter - @BPhillips_NFL