The first of five straight days of practices is in the books, and it was an eventful one for the New England Patriots. But while quarterback Cam Newton’s surprise absence due to an apparent “misunderstanding” of Covid-19 protocols stole the headlines, it was far from the only noteworthy development.
With that said, let’s clean out the notebook from what was the 16th day of Patriots training camp.
Bill Belichick gives an update on Stephon Gilmore’s status with the Patriots
Before Monday’s practice, head coach Bill Belichick held a 20-minute press conference. Among the topics mentioned was the continuing absence of star cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who remains on the physically unable to perform list after a partially torn quad ended his 2020 season in mid-December.
Gilmore has been spotted repeatedly working out away from the rest of the team, but so far he has not yet returned to the field. On Monday, Belichick gave a minor update about where the veteran defender currently is at.
“I know that Steph’s been working extremely hard. See him in here all the time, and he’s doing other things while we’re practicing, so we don’t really see him on the practice field, but you know, he’s been doing everything he can do,” Belichick said.
“The things he hasn’t been able to do, he hasn’t been able to do. I’d say it’s day-to-day. We just keep trying to put days together and stack them together. When he’s ready to be out there, then he’ll be out there. If he’s not ready to be out there, then he’ll work on the things that he can work on to try to get ready to be out there. We’ll just take it day-to-day.”
Gilmore’s injury status is not the only concern at the moment. The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year also held out of mandatory minicamp in a contract dispute, and the two sides have not reached a common ground yet.
Still, Gilmore is present at Gillette Stadium and working on an apparent return to the field.
“I know he’s doing what he can. I know that we’re doing what we can, and when he’s ready, he’s ready. If he’s not ready, then I don’t think him being out there is a smart decision for any of us. We’re not going to do that, nor should we do that. We’ll take it as it comes,” Belichick said.
“There are still other preparations and other things we can do as far as communication and scheme and studying film and that kind of thing that we’re doing as well. That’s true for any players not participating, and we have a number of them that fall into that category. It seems like we always have somebody. So does every other team. So, for those players and for the team, the best thing is for that player to focus on what he can do.”
Yodny Cajuste is happy to see the Patriots support Haiti
Patriots offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste has close ties to Haiti, which has recently been struck by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 2,200 people and left over 12,000 hospitalized. His entire family with the exception of his mother and two brothers are living in the country, and he spoke about the current situation on Monday.
“Things aren’t going really well over there right now,” Cajuste said.
The Patriots sent one of their team planes to Haiti on Saturday to help deliver supplies and medical equipment. The belief is that more than 600,000 people are in need of humanitarian help.
“I’m happy to see that we were able to fly our team plane to send some things over to help,” said Cajuste. “Anything we can help just to make things better over there, because it is going really rough over there right now.”
Isaiah Wynn explains what going up against Matthew Judon and Josh Uche is like
The Patriots invested considerable resources in their defensive front seven during the offseason, upgrading both their run defense and the pass rush. In practice, the group is going up against another top-notch unit: an offensive line that could be among the best in the NFL this season.
One of its members, starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn, spoke about the challenge of going up against two of New England’s talented pass rushers in particular on Monday.
“They’re both good edge players,” Wynn said about Matthew Judon and Yodny Cajuste. “They both play physical, and they’re both quick off the edge. Just being able to have a chance to go against them in practice, it’s pretty helpful. You know, iron sharpens iron. So, being able to go against them — they’ve been able to get me better and vice versa.”
While Uche is in his second year in the system after getting drafted in 2020, Judon arrived via free agency in March. Both are expected to play sizable roles for the Patriots this season.
“Both of them are very good players, and I believe they’re working every day to become better,” Wynn said about them.
J.J. Taylor compares 2020 to 2021
Running back J.J. Taylor is making a strong push towards the Patriots’ 53-man roster this summer, leading the team in all-purpose yards after two of its three preseason games. The former rookie free agent therefore appears to be in the process of making the famous second-year jump.
On Monday, he spoke about the differences between his rookie season and his second year in the system.
“Personally, rookie year was very stressful,” Taylor said. “We didn’t have any opportunities to come in early, and no opportunity to meet all the guys. Everything was virtual. It was a rough transition, but it taught me more than I could ask for.”
Taylor joined the Patriots shortly after the Coronavirus outbreak began in the United States. As a result of the pandemic, the league was forced to cancel offseason workouts and preseason games, creating a challenging environment for rookie players in particular.
While Covid-19 is still dominating life in the NFL — just ask Cam Newton — the league as a whole is slowly returning to normalcy. As a result, Taylor and the other second-year players on New England’s roster are in a better position than they were a year ago.
“It feels more like regular football again,” he said. “Being around the guys, being able to be around the teammates and practice, and come together. It just feels normal.”
Mac Jones is not worried about the starting position
With Cam Newton out until Thursday, Mac Jones will likely continue to take the bulk of practice reps. But while the first-round rookie was now elevated to the QB1 spot for now, his focus is not on eventually earning the starting role.
Appearing on WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni & Fauria show, he called becoming a starter “more of a future thing.”
“Today I’m trying to just learn the plays that I messed up at practice,” he said. “That’s really my focus. Fix those and then move on to the next day. I think I’m starting to get a good grasp of it. I’m just here to be a good teammate and help the quarterback room. When I’m in there I need to execute the plays and I can continue to get better at that — and I will. It’s just a learning experience and I’m ready to play any role that I need to play.”
On Monday, Jones needed to play the role of the top quarterback — one he will keep until Newton is cleared to return.