FOXBOROUGH – Patriots coach Bill Belichick, looking slightly scruffier than the first day of training camp, said the goal on Saturday was to build on what the team started during Friday’s soggy opener. The Patriots will spend one more day in shorts and light gear before putting on full pads on Sunday.
“We’re really in the mindset now of just trying to string them together, take the things we did yesterday, correct them, go back over them, add new things to put in today, go out and work on those, just grind it day by day,” Belichick said, prior to the team’s second camp practice. “No magic wand, no special formula, just hard work, putting the pieces in place one at a time, day by day, period by period. Each guy has a lot of things they all need to work on, we all need to work on, coaches included, this time of year.”
With the offseason turmoil at tight end – Rob Gronkowski is injured and Aaron Hernandez no longer with the team – Belichick was asked about the available players at that position, and what kind of opportunity they’ll have in training camp to make an impression.
Daniel Fells and Jake Ballard were with the team last year, but neither made a big impact. Ballard spent the season on injured reserve, and Fells, despite playing, had just four catches.
“[Fells] had a good spring, looks like he’s in good condition,” Belichick said. “I’m sure that he’s looking to build on his spring here in fall training camp, and I feel the same way.”
Discussing Ballard, who was signed after being released by the Giants: “I think he has good, solid, physical characteristics. Works hard, smart kid, has a good attitude, works hard on his preparation, has worked very hard on his rehab. It’s great for him to be able to make that kind of progress to get back out onto the field and attain that goal of getting back out and playing competitively. We’ll see see how it goes from here.”
Another pair of tight ends, Michael Hoomanawanui and Zach Sudfeld, were also brought up.
“As always, unfortunately, when players that are on your team can’t perform, it gives more opportunities to somebody else, whoever that is,” Belichick said. “Mike and Zach have done that, they’ve worked hard, they’ve certainly taken advantage of the reps that they’ve gotten, and they’ve definitely gotten more because some of the players that would normally play that position weren’t participating, so that’s good for them. I’d say this is Wally Pipp-Lou Gehrig, that’s the classic story.”
Belichick was also asked about the mostly new crop of receivers (six rookies), if Leon Washington can become a suitable solution at kick returner, and his thoughts on Monday’s induction of Gil Santos and Tedy Bruschi into the team’s hall of fame.
“The success that we’ve had during [Bruschi’s] time here has been remarkable, and he’s played a huge, huge part in it all the way through,” Belichick said. “The energy, enthusiasm, and competitiveness he brought to this organization … there’s no way that can be understated. He’s one of the all-time greats that’s ever played here.”