The New England Patriots were back on the practice fields on Friday to hold their third straight session of training camp. While full contact was not yet permitted, players did put on some padding for the first time all year in what was a competitive session.
Afterwards, several players spoke with the media to share their thoughts on camp and whatnot. Here are some takeaways plus other thoughts on Day 3 of #patscamp.
Damien Harris raves about ‘special guy’ Mac Jones. Running back Damien Harris and quarterback Mac Jones go way back, having built a close relationship since their days at the University of Alabama. Now, both of them are playing starter roles for the Patriots and ready to lead the offense into 2022.
Given his position, Jones in particular will be playing an important role in this process. And according to Harris he is more than suited to take command of the unit and the Patriots as a whole.
“Mac is just an infectious guy that everybody gravitates to,” he said. “He’s a great leader, he’s a great football player, he’s an incredibly hard worker and he’s an even better friend. Whenever you take all of those attributes and you put them into one person, it’s easy to see why so many people gravitate towards him, why so many people want to be around him and want to follow him.”
Part of what makes Jones such a good leader in Harris’ book is his work ethic and ability to raise the standard for himself and those around him.
“He’s the hardest worker. He works incredibly hard,” Harris said. “He always comes out here to do his best, not only to be his best but to make everybody around him better.
“When you put all those things together, man, he’s a special guy. I know that I feel so fortunate to share this field with him for the second time in my football career. This is just a guy who comes in every day trying to be his best and trying to make everybody better, so it’s very easy to gravitate towards a guy like that.”
Jakobi Meyers appreciates working closely with Bill Belichick. With coordinator Josh McDaniels leaving for Las Vegas, Patriots’ offense has seen some major changes this offseason. One of those is the involvement of head coach Bill Belichick, who is taking a more hands-on approach on this side of the ball this summer.
The team’s number one wide receiver of the last two seasons, Jakobi Meyers, seems appreciative of this opportunity.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “We all knew who he was growing up. Now that I have the opportunity for him to just coach me on different things — because I know he’s a great defensive coach, a great DB coach specifically — just knowing now his perspective as a receiver coach and just helping us with what they might be thinking I’m very fortunate just having him. ...
“He’s been a lot of help this year, so I’m happy to have him on our side. The right side, you know what I mean?”
Bill Murray is putting in the work along the offensive line. Third-year Patriot Bill Murray has made a position change so far this training camp. After spending his entire college career plus his first two seasons in the NFL along the defensive line, he has now moved to the right guard position in hopes of carving out a backup role on the New England roster.
Time will tell whether or not Murray will be successful, but the former rookie free agent certainly is doing all he can to be competitive. On Friday, for example, he stayed on the practice fields late to do some technique work with starter Michael Onwenu.
Marcus Jones speaks about his relationship with fellow rookie cornerback Jack Jones. The Patriots selected not one but two cornerbacks named Jones in the middle round of this year’s draft: Marcus out of Houston was selected in the third round, with Arizona State’s Jack following him in the fourth.
Both are virtual locks to make New England’s roster this year, and to possibly even see some regular playing time alongside one another. Luckily, they already built some chemistry with one another.
While not on the same level like the aforementioned Mac Jones and Damien Harris, Marcus and Jack have gotten familiar with one another before hearing their names called on back-to-back days. Marcus said as such during his media availability following Friday’s practice.
“We definitely knew each other before getting drafted,” he said. “It was one of those situations where we’ve seen each other at the Combine and things like that, and we’ve been cool ever since.”
Whereas Marcus projects as a return man and slot cornerback, Jack has seen plenty of action on the outside of the defense thus far.
Raekwon McMillan draws’ inspiration from Patriots legend Dont’a Hightower. Even though he is no longer on New England’s roster, long-time linebacker Dont’a Hightower is having an impact on a member of this year’s team. Raekwon McMillan, who first joined the club as a free agent signing in 2021, still draws inspiration from the future Patriots Hall of Famer.
“It’s crazy because, back in high school, before my high school games, I used to type in ‘Dont’a Hightower highlights’ and sit and watch his highlights before my high school games, and now we’re sitting side by side in the locker room,” he said about his experience joining the team last year.
“He was kind of one of my inspirations growing up. Always looked up to his game. I thought he was one of the best in the league and a potential Hall of Famer. I for sure watched him growing up.”
Whereas Hightower remains unsigned in free agency, McMillan is one of the candidates to fill his shoes. The former second-round draft pick who started his career in Miami and Las Vegas has seen considerable action with the starting-level defense through the first three days of camp.
Don’t sleep on Brenden Schooler. The Patriots’ undrafted rookie streak is legendary, and this year’s top candidate might be safety Brenden Schooler. While it seems unlikely that the Texas product earns any noticeable playing time at his listed position, he has closely followed core special teamers Matthew Slater and Cody Davis throughout camp.
Schooler is a roster bubble player at this point in time, but his kicking game outlook is a promising one. Accordingly, he might just be able to sneak his way onto the 53-man squad as well.