In between OTAs and minicamp, Patriots linebacker Josh Uche took a trip out to Las Vegas.
The weekend stop in Sin City was hardly a reprieve from football; rather, Uche was among a select group of players invited to longtime Broncos linebacker Von Miller’s fifth annual pass rush summit.
“I’ve been looking up to Von since I was little,” Uche said Wednesday after New England’s final minicamp practice. “I’ve been on YouTube watching the pass rush summits since middle school, I want to say.”
Uche was one of 12 players to participate in this year’s event, where he received instruction from Miller as well as pass rushing coach Chuck Smith and Super Bowl 50 champion DeMarcus Ware. Other attendees included Packers linebacker (and Uche’s former Michigan teammate) Rashan Gary, drafted 12th overall in 2019; Raiders defensive tackle Solomon Thomas, drafted third overall in 2017; and Jaguars defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson, drafted 20th overall in 2020.
Much of their time was dedicated to learning how to develop and execute signature moves, discussing the intricate details of their craft, and building relationships with fellow pass rushers across the league.
“It was just great to exchange wisdom with different guys who have done it at a high level,” Uche said. “A lot of insight was taught.”
Uche, selected 60th overall in 2020, actually FaceTimed with Miller the night he was drafted, and the two have forged a bond. He called the opportunity to attend Miller’s pass rush camp “a dream come true.”
Entering his second NFL season, Uche will have no shortage of veterans on the Patriots to turn to for guidance. New England’s pass rush has welcomed in defensive end Matthew Judon, who signed a four-year contract this offseason; and welcomed back linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who spent the 2020 season with the Dolphins, and linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who elected not to play last year amid the pandemic.
Uche’s rookie offseason was atypical because of the coronavirus protocols in place. Teams largely operated virtually, with just a fraction of the in-person learning opportunities than in a typical year.
Now that many restrictions have been lifted, Uche is taking advantage of his time on the field with his teammates and coaches. Even though players have yet to put on pads, Uche emphasized the importance of mastering the fundamentals.
“Any time you’re in person with somebody and you guys can go through the play together, adjustments can be made quicker because I can ask him right then and there, instead of having to wait to text or call,” he said. “It’s been great.”
The Patriots wrapped up their mandatory minicamp Wednesday, marking the end of their nine-week offseason program. Up next is training camp, scheduled to begin at the end of July.
In the meantime, Uche will be working, with hopes of building off his promising albeit truncated rookie year. He appeared in nine games last season, battling injuries at the start and end, and finished with nine tackles, including two for a loss, along with seven quarterback hits.
“This isn’t something you can turn on and off, in my opinion,” Uche said. “Football is something I try to work on year-round, whether it’s watching film, watching old games, or just continuing to be involved in football and what it is we do here at the Patriots.”
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.