It may have been just their first training camp practice of the summer, but it very much seemed as if the New England Patriots already were focused on making the most out of it. Wednesday’s session was a high-intensity affair, after all, with both sides of the ball going hard against each other despite nobody wearing any full pads just yet.
That should not have come as a surprise, though, given how the veteran leadership on the roster approaches camp.
“Being out here at training camp and knowing what’s at stake and how soon the turnaround is from training camp to preseason and into the actual season, it kind of lights a fire up under your ass,” long-time team captain Dont’a Hightower told reporters after the session.
“There’s no time to play around. There’s no time to take plays off or practices off. Guys are just trying to learn and trying to get better.”
Entering his first training camp since 2019 — he opted out of last season due to the Coronavirus pandemic — Hightower is back in his role as one of the team’s starting linebackers and leaders both on and off the field. As such, he also is responsible in helping set the tone for his teammates. And it is obvious that the 31-year-old is not interested in any acclimation period to start training camp.
“In training camp you don’t have time to go stop and slow down, or to go back”, Hightower said. “Your time is limited to learn.”
Hightower did acknowledge, however, that he would not be the only player to lead the team in this regard. Quite the opposite, actually: he and the rest of the elder statesmen are actively trying to help the younger players on the roster and show them the way.
“A lot of the older guys, we’re not trying to keep secrets or anything, whether it’s [Lawrence Guy] or Dev[in McCourty], or the older offensive linemen with David [Andrews] and Shaq [Mason],” he said on Wednesday. “We realize you’re only as strong as your weakest link. So, we’re just trying to pull everybody along.”
That process of pulling others along will continue on Thursday when the Patriots will return to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium for their second practice of the week. Based on Hightower’s remarks, the goal is to once again not waste any time.