Belichick preaches patience
FOXBOROUGH — With the full team not in full pads for the first two days of training camp, and given it’s early in the process, Bill Belichick cautioned Friday it’s too early to make judgments on players.
Speaking before the Patriots’ second training camp practice, Belichick was asked how tight end Rob Gronkowski looked after offseason surgery to repair torn tendons in his left ankle.
“I think when you get to training camp, you try to keep from making minute-to-minute evaluations on anybody,” he said. “You look at a body of work and I would expect everybody after the first day to get a little bit more refined, get a little bit better timing, get a little bit better football playing — anticipation, execution, and all that. We’ll see how that goes after a few days.
“I would say that about all of our players. Get out there, we got going [Thursday], hopefully things will be better today for everybody. Hopefully they’ll be better tomorrow than they were today. At some period of time after we’ve had an opportunity to get everybody acclimated and get everybody enough reps and opportunity to do something, then we’ll sit down and we’ll really take a closer look at the evaluation. We try not to evaluate play-to-play at this point in the season.”
Belichick knows exactly how many practices the Patriots will have over the course of the season, and he divides each session with specific goals in mind. So the player who looked strong on one day when one thing was emphasized might struggle the next day with a different set of plays.
“I don’t think we want to get into a ‘How did he do on this play? How did he do on that play?’ We’ll go a little while here, we’ll have a lot of plays, a lot of days strung together — we’ll be looking at a couple hundred plays instead of a handful on the first day,” Belichick said. “I think it’s a little too early to get too high or too low on somebody on the first day of practice.”
But, to many, the time for real evaluation starts Saturday, when the team will be in full pads for the first time.
With depth on the offensive line an issue, the Patriots signed undrafted rookie tackle Darrion Weems.
Weems, a 6-foot-5-inch, 302-pound Oregon product was signed by the Vikings in May, but was released July 24. He started 14 games at left tackle last fall for the Ducks, an offense that ranked third in the nation in scoring and sixth in total offense.
With Logan Mankins (knee) and Sebastian Vollmer (back) on the physically unable to perform list and Brian Waters not yet in camp, the offensive line has been in a state of flux.
There were changes again Friday, with Dan Connolly at left guard (he was at right guard Thursday) and Robert Gallery exclusively at right guard (he and Ryan Wendell took snaps at left guard Thursday). Nate Solder, Dan Koppen, and Marcus Cannon were at left tackle, center, and right tackle, respectively.
James Ihedigbo waited for the Patriots to call him about a return engagement, and once he got the call, after June minicamp, he was happy to rejoin the team.
“It’s all part of the business,” said the Massachusetts native and former UMass standout. “I’m glad to be back here, I’m glad to be back with the team. I’m glad to really get back to work so we can get this thing going.”
After offseason shoulder surgery — he suffered numerous stingers last season and was in pain but never missed a game — Ihedigbo is wearing a red non-contact jersey.
On Thursday, he tackled running back Stevan Ridley, sending both to the grass, which Ihedigbo said was accidental, saying the players were trying to hold each other up.
The Patriots signed safety Steve Gregory in free agency and drafted Tavon Wilson in the second round, but there still might be room for Ihedigbo, who was noted for his smarts last season.
The Patriots’ training camp attendance record didn’t last long: After 12,163 fans packed the fields behind Gillette on the first day, the team announced that 13,654 were on hand Friday, despite the threat of rain early in the day . . . Tom Brady Sr., who seems to make an annual trip east during training camp, was on hand Friday.