FOXBOROUGH — The roar was missing. The energy was not.
For the last 20 years, Patriots training camp practices didn’t really begin until Tom Brady bounced up the stairs and was met by a thunderous ovation from the fans in the overflowing bleachers.
Though there was no Brady and there were no fans Monday morning for New England’s first padded practice of 2020 — and the first session media were allowed to watch — there was still an electricity in the air. And it was provided by a quarterback.
Cam Newton jogged across the field about eight minutes before the first horn of the day, sporting a wide smile and exhorting his teammates.
Even before Drake’s “Laugh Now Cry Later” began blaring over the speakers, Newton was dancing on the sideline and calling out to his teammates.
Cornerback Justin Bethel said Newton’s energy was welcomed.
“You got guys out there hyping you up and trying to get juice in practice,” he said. “It always helps to get it going. I like it and I think it’s cool.”
Newton separated himself with his enthusiasm, but there was no real separation in the quarterback battle with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer. All three took turns leading drills.
For safety Terrence Brooks, the energy began in the locker room and was felt from all corners.
“Honestly, it seemed awesome,” he said. “Everyone was excited and ready to go. I was telling the guys in the locker room, it feels like we’re in Pop Warner again, just getting your pads again.
“There’s been a lot of guys, cooped up in the house, just waiting to do anything. I know for me, I thought for a while, just running into a few of my kids a few times, just to get that flow back.
“As for just getting out there, man, it felt great. Everyone is excited, everyone’s ready to go. I think everyone is just ready for this opportunity.‘’
Gilmore is unfazed
Stephon Gilmore won’t be spending any time worrying about the personnel losses the Patriots defense suffered in the offseason. The NFL’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year knows change is a constant in the NFL.
The Patriots lost linebackers Dont’a Hightower (opt out), Kyle Van Noy (Dolphins), Jamie Collins (Lions), and Elandon Roberts (Dolphins). In addition, Patrick Chung opted out.
“It happens a lot in the league; people come, people go,” said Gilmore, who had a league-high six interceptions last year. “You’ve got to adjust and try to be consistent with your game, just control what you can control. And that’s what I’m going to do — control what I can control and try to make plays for my teammates.”
New England’s defense was superb for most of 2019 and finished atop the league in total defense (275.9 yards per game) and points allowed per game (14.1).
Gilmore, 29, won’t be resting on any of his individual or the team’s accomplishments. He knows it’s all about the here and now.
“I have to earn it,” he said. “Whatever my goals are, whatever I want to achieve, I have to earn it.
“It’s not easy. Practicing hard, working on my technique, and making plays with my teammates. It takes day-to-day preparation and day-to-day execution. So, just looking forward to training camp and looking forward to the season and seeing how it goes.”
His time has come
Chase Winovich is excited to watch linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley become a deeper contributor this year, with all the vacancies in the front seven. “He’s a great commander of the defense,” Winovich said. “He’s got great presence out there on the field.” … Veteran safety Cody Davis appears to be a prime candidate to assume some of Nate Ebner’s responsibilities, which included being the up back or personal protector on punt coverage. Davis has been a special teams standout throughout his eight-year career. “I think the No. 1 thing that probably jumps out is speed,” Davis said when asked what he brings to the table. “I’m going to try and be the fastest one on the field, first one down on kickoffs. [Also] effort and football IQ. Be the one who’s making the calls, making the checks, and putting our team in position to win.”
The Patriots signed a pair of tight ends, according to a league source, including the well-traveled Alex Ellis, who has been with five clubs in his four seasons — the Titans, Jaguars, Saints, Chiefs, and Eagles, who released him last month. He has played in 11 career games, with three catches … The club also inked veteran Paul Butler, who has been in the Raiders and Lions organizations but has yet to see a regular-season snap. They join a group that includes Ryan Izzo and rookies Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene … The Patriots also signed offensive lineman Ben Braden. A Michigan product, he has spent time in the Jets and Packers organization since joining the league as an undrafted free agent in 2016 … Undrafted rookie Rashod Berry, who played tight end and defensive end at Ohio State, wore a blue (defense) No. 62 jersey.