The New England Patriots were back on the practice fields on Monday morning for the fifth session of this year’s training camp. While not as intense as some of the previous practices, it still produced some memorable moments both during practice itself and during the subsequent media availability.
With that being said, let’s clean out the notebook from Day 5 of the Patriots’ 2021 camp.
Kendrick Bourne draws comparisons between New England and San Francisco
Before joining the Patriots on a three-year contract this offseason, Kendrick Bourne spent four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. On Monday, he was asked to compare his past experience with training camp in New England.
“I’ve only been at one [other team], obviously, my last team, but it’s definitely harder. We work harder here,” the 25-year-old said.
Bourne has been actively involved in his first training camp as a Patriot, seeing starter-level reps and establishing himself as a player to watch on a daily basis. While it remains to be seen how this translates to in-season success, the young wideout has built a solid foundation so far.
As for him joining the Patriots’ hard-work environment, Bourne had a simple statement to make.
“I’m just glad to be here.”
Marcus Martin gets some opportunities
With Ted Karras still out after getting rolled up on during Friday’s practice, the Patriots needed to find a new top backup interior offensive lineman. They might have found one in the form of Marcus Martin, giving him considerable reps at all three interior spots on during Monday’s practice.
A third-round draft pick by the 49ers in 2014, Martin has 24 starts on his career résumé. While he turned into a journeyman after his departure from San Francisco — he played only six snaps in total during the 2020 season, for example — he is trying to get his career back on track in New England. With Karras remaining absent, he has a golden opportunity to prove his value to the team.
Brandon Bolden missed the team during his opt-out — ‘even Bill’
The Patriots saw a league-high eight of their players decide to opt out of the 2020 season due to Concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic. Among them was running back Brandon Bolden, who has since returned to the active roster and is now participating in his first training camp since the summer of 2019.
On Monday, Bolden spoke about his opt-out and returning to the Patriots.
“I opted out for health reasons but had a great time with my kids, was a dad for a year. So, that was different,” he said. “But it’s great to be back out here with the guys. I just had to let them know the first day back, I missed them all — even Bill [Belichick]. Yeah, me and him had a little heart-to-heart when I got back.”
Entering his 10th season in the league, Bolden is fully back in football mode after having spent the last year with his family.
“It’s been fun getting back into the swing of things, just break a sweat and chasing other grown men instead of kids all day.”
Josh Uche returns Matthew Judon’s praise
Last week, veteran linebacker Matthew Judon spoke highly about second-year defender Josh Uche. On Monday, the youngster returned the favor when asked about Judon’s statements.
“Is that what he said?” Uche asked during his media availability session. “I’m going to have to go ask him about that one. But it’s great. Judon is just a great mentor to have. Just the pass rush knowledge, his overall understanding of football he brings to the game. I couldn’t ask for a better mentor from the guys inside the linebacker room to learn from. It’s great having him.”
While Judon only joined the Patriots as a free agent earlier this offseason, he does have plenty of NFL experience. A fifth-round draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2016, he has appeared in a combined 80 regular season and playoff games over the first five years of his career.
Uche, for comparison, was limited to just nine games during his 2020 rookie season. The former second-round draft pick is therefore still looking up to the veterans on New England’s roster for guidance.
“I’m just learning from them, I’m watching them,” he said. “Competition-wise, I’m competing versus myself every day. I’m trying to get better, be better than I was the day before. And just seeing those guys, seeing how they approach the game, seeing their preparation for practice and games, just learning from them and just learning from the greats, taking stuff from them and putting it in my game.”
A look at the other quarterbacks
The competition for the starting quarterback position between incumbent Cam Newton and first-round rookie Mac Jones has gotten most of the headlines early in training camp, but the performance of backups Brian Hoyer and Jake Dolegala also is worth taking a look at. With Jarrett Stidham set to miss the early portions of the regular season after undergoing back surgery, chances are that one of them might make the 53-man squad.
If Monday’s practice is an indication, that player will be Brian Hoyer. While the veteran went 5-for-5 with the scout team offense versus the starting defense, Dolegala did not see any action in competitive team drills.
One practice alone is not going to decide who does or does not make the team, but at this point in time it is obvious that Hoyer is farther ahead than Dolegala. That does not mean he will make the 53 — New England might decide to keep two quarterbacks until Stidham’s return off PUP — but it shows that the veteran is the frontrunner to earn the No. 3 spot behind Newton and Jones.
Mac Jones steals the show during the rookie premiere
The Patriots held their annual rookie premiere over the weekend and it seems as if Mac Jones stole the show. The 15th overall selection of this year’s draft took the stage dressed as Cam Newton, and he apparently delivered a convincing performance.
“This is my fifth year in the league. That’s probably the best rookie impersonation I’ve ever seen. That’s probably the best one. I give him kudos for that,” said linebacker Raekwon McMillan.
“It was spot-on about everything that Cam does, how he dresses. He came in with a suitcase. You know Cam’s swagged up to the floor, so he came in and he kind of jumped out of his comfort zone, too. Mac’s kind of a chill guy, relaxed, kicked back, and he came in acting like Cam. It was dope.”
While no photos or videos of the event have made it outside of Gillette Stadium, players came away impressed with Jones’ performance. Defensive back Jalen Mills also praised the youngster for his skit.
“Mac, he came in dressed as Cam. He had the big hat on, had a scarf on, came in saying Cam slogans, different things like that,” Mills said. “It was real funny to see him getting out of character.”
The rookie premiere is a lighthearted event, but it can very well help players earn a special standing among their more experienced teammates. Former Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, for example, won over the locker room in 2014 when he dressed up as special teams coordinator Scott O’Brien.