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NFL: JUN 08 New England Patriots Minicamp Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots are back on the practice fields to start their preparation for the 2022 season. On Wednesday, they held their first training camp session of the summer in perfect conditions behind Gillette Stadium.

The session itself was focused primarily on red zone work, but it was a high-energy affair and encouraging start into camp. A lot of things happened during and after the session, so let’s clean out the notebook.

The energy level is high. As noted above, the energy was high throughout the day — both in the stands and on the field. Players seemed to be feeding off of it, with wide receiver DeVante Parker actively engaging with the fans in attendance.

Of course, the start of the day when it came to receiving the love from the audience was quarterback Mac Jones. The sophomore received a standing ovation when he entered the field as the second player behind cornerback Terrance Mitchell. The Foxborough Faithful sure holds QB1 in a high regard.

Players make sure to remind everybody training camp has only just started. Special teams captain Matthew Slater mentioned on Tuesday that returning to camp has a “first day back at school” vibe, and his teammates expressed similar feelings after their practice debut. One message all of them shared as well, however: it’s only Day 1.

“It’s just the first day today, but I feel good,” said linebacker Josh Uche. “Personally, I’m just in a good space and I just look forward to the challenge ahead.”

Wednesday’s practice was a continuation of the offseason workout program. There was no full contact and players did not yet wear pads. Once that changes next Monday, the energy and the course of training camp itself will change. While that projects to be a challenge, the players are ready for it.

“The real Day 1 is when we put the pads on,” said offensive tackle Trent Brown. “That’s when we see what we really got, and that’s when we really start building. Today is definitely a stepping stone, we don’t want to discount it at all but when we get the pads on that’s when we start playing real football.”

Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, whose physical brand of football was not yet on display due to the practice rules, shared a similar mindset — all while mentioning multiple times that it was only just the first day of many.

“It’s nice to do anything football-related. Anytime you get a chance to get out here, to build that camaraderie, whether it’s pads or no pads — obviously can’t wait to throw the pads on,” he said. “But it’s a process, we recognize that.”

It appears we have entered “former first-round left tackles moving to right tackle” season. Wednesday’s practice was a continuation of the offseason in more ways than one. It also saw the Patriots again use their starting offensive tackles differently than they did last season: Trent Brown aligned at left tackle again, with Isaiah Wynn once more making the move to the right side of the line.

If Wynn stays there permanently — and there is little to suggest he will not at the moment — “former first-round left tackles moving to right tackle” season might truly be upon us. On the very same day the Patriots opened their training camp, after all, the New York Jets also announced making such a move: Mekhi Becton will be the team’s right tackle moving forward.

Becton was drafted 11th overall in 2020; Wynn joined the Patriots as the 23rd overall selection in 2018. Both men have exclusively been used on the left side before this year.

Mac Jones wants to make ‘the guys around me better.’ The aforementioned Mac Jones will play a crucial role in the Patriots’ development and success this season. Despite the pressure that brings with it, the former first-round draft pick is not concerned. Quite the opposite: he is taking the same approach he has had going back to his days at the University of Alabama.

“I just have to go out there and kind of do what I’ve always done in fall camp and just compete and compete against myself, get the guys around me better,” the 23-year-old said.

“It’s Year 2 but at the same time it’s still football and that’s the important part to realize. We’re all in this together. How old you are doesn’t really matter. You’re here in this together and that’s the whole point.”

New helmets are catching the eye, and Josh Uche’s imagination. One of the most visible changes the NFL has made at all its 32 training camps is the use of special padding atop the helmets of a select group of players: linemen on either side of the ball as well as linebackers and tight ends are mandated to wear those protective caps over their helmets.

Among those is Patriots second-year defender Josh Uche, who compared wearing them to looking like Q-tips.

“It just looks funny, right?” he said after Wednesday’s practice. “I’m sure everyone’s seeing guys running around with this big, goofy cap on. We look like Q-tips, almost. But it is what it is. I didn’t really notice that much of a difference. Still working hands, still working feet techniques and stuff like that, so it didn’t really bother me.”

Tight end Hunter Henry saw those Guardian Caps at the high school level before but personally had no prior experience with them. Nonetheless, he appears to be a fan for one simple reason: player safety.

“Anything to increase the safety, obviously, so commend the NFL and NFLPA for always looking out for us,” he said. “You’ve kind of got to get used to it. It’s something different, and different looking at it in a way, too, but it is what it is.”

Hunter Henry likes what he sees out of DeVante Parker. Offseason trade acquisition DeVante Parker was one of the stars of Wednesday’s practice, immediately making his presence felt as a big-bodied red zone target for Mac Jones. That presence should not just help the young quarterback, but Parker’s fellow skill position players as well.

“It’s awesome adding a piece like that — a guy that’s been around, played a long time in the league, works really hard; big body, can make a lot of plays, contested catches. Always nice to add a guy like that,” Hunter Henry said.

“Takes a little pressure off everybody else and continues to add weapons because the more weapons you have all over the place it’s hard for them to defend.”

Parker joined the Patriots from the Miami Dolphins in early April and projects as a starter-caliber member of the team’s wide receiver corps alongside Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor. As opposed to those three, however, he adds an element of size and playmaking ability to the perimeter of the offense that the unit had previously been missing.

Joejuan Williams is not going down without a fight. Seeing Joejuan Williams make a sudden Year 4 jump would be a surprise, but the former second-round draft pick is still standing and in a position to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster — despite his disappointing stint up until this point. It also appears he will not be going down without a fight.

Williams, after all, made one of the best defensive plays of Wednesday’s practice. He was able to take advantage of his 6-foot-4 frame to climb the ladder and intercept a Brian Hoyer pass intended for Tre Nixon. The play was as good as any Williams has made in his previous three training camps; now it is about showing it was not a fluke.

Why did the Patriots sign Davon Godchaux to an extension? A few hours after the Patriots’ first practice of camp came to an end, news broke that the team and defensive tackle Davon Godchaux had reached an agreement on a two-year contract extension on a reported maximum value of $20.8 million. Godchaux, a free agency addition in 2021, was entering the final year of his current deal.

The news triggered plenty of reactions, not all of them positive. The Patriots’ run defense, after all, had its issues in 2021 and Godchaux was unable to help turn the unit’s fortunes around. However, it appears the Patriots do not see him as the culprit — quite the opposite: they are quite happy with how the ex-Dolphin performed in his first year in their system. So much so that they have now locked him up for two more years.

Additionally, signing Godchaux to an extension will allow New England to get some additional cap relief. The team had entered training camp at just $1.4 million under the NFL’s spending threshold.