The New England Patriots’ first week of training camp is in the books, and as the page turns to what comes next in the process of getting ready for the upcoming season the team’s rookies all share a common goal: trying to get better. After five practices, two of which in full pads, signs of improvement are already visible — whether it is getting reps with the starters, or simply making plays on a more consistent basis.
Now, the next step is to build on what has already been learned as wide receiver N’Keal Harry pointed out following Sunday’s session: “My focus is coming out and improving every day — making sure that if I make a mistake, I don’t make this mistake twice. [...] The more I learn the playbook, the more I get comfortable out there, the less I have to think and the easier it’ll become,” New England’s first round draft pick said.
So far, Harry has seen steady action during training camp. While he has been running mostly with the second unit during 11-on-11 work, he did join quarterback Tom Brady regularly for some individual work. For the rookie, this is all part of his role. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win,” he said. “Whatever I did in college doesn’t matter: I’m in the NFL now, so it is a clean slate and I’m looking to do anything I can to help our team get wins.”
Third-round selection Chase Winovich shared a similar sentiment when speaking about his first taste of an NFL training camp. “It’s been an experience, for sure,” said the defensive edge, who heard his name called as the 77th overall player in late April’s draft. “Like anything else, you put yourself in a new environment that’s when you’ll grow. I’m happy to do different techniques than I did in college, you just see that out on the field.”
“Luckily for me, I’ve got a great coaching staff and a lot of great teammates and great role models to look after and model my game after, and to pick their brains. So I’m in a great position, I think,” continued Winovich. Like Harry, the 24-year-old has been running mostly with the second-stringers but he showed his upside on a regular basis — whether it is setting the edge in the running game or rushing the passer, he is adapting quickly to his new environment.
Winovich’s goal, ultimately, is the same as the other rookies’: improving, and putting the necessary work in to make it happen. “[I’m] just trying to be a better teammate and a better football player every day,” the Michigan product noted. “It’s not what you’ve done in the past, it’s what you do today. I’m trying to build my football endurance and football shape, and every single day I’m out here I’m trying to get in better and better shape.”
Getting better also is on the top of wide receiver Jakobi Meyers’ list of to-dos. But while the undrafted rookie has shown tremendous progress so far, he knows that he needs to continue learning in order to put himself in a position to be successful and by extension make the team: “I’m just trying to learn everything that I can possible learn. There’s a lot of great guys out here, just soak up everything and trying to be a sponge,” Meyers said.
“You’ve got to learn everything; everything is worked for, nothing’s given. There are a lot of great guys out here so if you don’t catch up fast — and I mean fast — you will get left behind,” the 22-year-old said before pointing out that he knows what he has to do: “All you’ve got to do is pay attention to what the coaches tell you. They give you the playbook and show you how to read it. If you just listen and pay attention, it will be easy for you.”
Learning the playbook is also something fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham needs to do, especially considering that he plays the most important position on offense. The rookie quarterback has looked good in stretches during his first five practice sessions, but still has a long way to go before moving past his third-string status. That being said, he did point out that he has enjoyed the process up to this point.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Stidham, who is essentially guaranteed a roster spot due to his status as the 133rd overall selection of this year’s draft, said. “[I’m] just trying to come out here and learn as much as possible, and just continue to get better every day. [...] There’s a lot to improve on in every facet of my game. Coming into a new situation, just trying to learn as much as I can and trying to stack days together and not make the same mistake twice.”
Ultimately, N’Keal Harry — the first rookie to join the Patriots this year — summed up the first-year players’ mindset perfectly when speaking about his own: “I’ve got to come in here willing to work every day,” he said. The rest of New England’s rookie class apparently tackles training camp the same way.