FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots received another potential blow to their depth at wide receiver Tuesday when Phillip Dorsett suffered an apparent right knee injury during 11-on-11 drills.
A hush fell over the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium as Dorsett fell while running a crossing route. He spent about a minute on the ground as teammates signaled for trainers, then got up and walked gingerly to the medical tent alongside two members of the training staff.
Things initially appeared dire as Dorsett briefly emerged from the blue tent, got a hug and a pat on the back from two team employees, and then went back for more treatment. Though he didn’t return to team drills for the remainder of the session, spending time sitting on a cooler and chatting with teammates, Dorsett did catch passes from a staffer while standing in place.
The 25-year-old from the University of Miami intimated he was OK after practice, giving a thumbs up as he made his way back to the locker room.
Quarterback Tom Brady echoed the sentiments of teammates in expressing concern for the second-year Patriot.
“You never like to see it,” Brady said. “I think everyone wanted to go over and see how he was doing, because he’s been doing so well in the spring and in training camp.”
The injury scare comes amid a patch of uncertainty for New England’s battered receiving corps. Julian Edelman will miss the first four games of the regular season serving a PED suspension, Jordan Matthews and Malcolm Mitchell were cut earlier in training camp, Kenny Britt hasn’t been a full participant in practice, and newly acquired Eric Decker struggled in his first week in Foxborough.
Dorsett has shown signs of improved play during training camp after logging what amounted to a forgettable 2017 season. Suiting up in 15 games for New England, Dorsett had career lows in receptions (12), yards (194), and targets (18). He didn’t score once in his first Patriots campaign.
Things appeared to be turning around for the former Indianapolis Colt before the grass gave out under him Tuesday. Dorsett has shouldered a larger workload in training camp and has shownoccasional flashes of electricity on deep routes despite continuing to battle the drop demons that have plagued him in years past.
If the murmurs out of Foxborough that Dorsett dodged a serious injury are true — that he was sidelined for the rest of practice as a precautionary measure — Brady and others look forward to seeing what No. 13 can accomplish once given a clean bill of health.
“Hopefully he’s OK,” Brady said. “I certainly hope he is. He’s got a great opportunity ahead of him. I hope he takes advantage of it.”
It’s not always easy to spot Patriots defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn during training camp. Oftentimes Clayborn’s cascading dreadlocks obscure the No. 94 he wears across his back, making him difficult to locate among the sea of big bodies.
On the field, though, Clayborn is almost impossible to overlook. Standing 6 feet 3 inches and weighing 280 pounds, the defensive end out of Iowa made a name for himself by pestering quarterbacks in four seasons with Tampa Bay and three with Atlanta.
Though two of Clayborn’s four years with the Buccaneers were riddled by injuries, he thrived when healthy. His stint in Atlanta proved he could consistently stay on the field and maintain a disruptive presence. In a game against Dallas last season, Clayborn set the Falcons’ record for sacks, bringing Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to the ground six times and forcing a fumble.
Now, Clayborn has the help he has long yearned for, both in the form of a young, promising defensive line and a coaching staff rife with wisdom.
“Nobody [on this line] is a slacker,” Clayborn said. “We’re all hard workers. It’s going to be nice once we get into the season and start playing against different bodies to show what we can do.”
Spending time with coach Bill Belichick in particular has been a boon.
“We’ve had a couple conversations,” Clayborn said. “He’s a great man to talk to. He knows football very well, so it’s fun to hear those things from a head coach’s perspective who has been in the league for so long.”
Clayborn looked sharp in trench drills Tuesday, which pitted the offensive and defensive lines against each other and included lots of one-on-one work. Clayborn said his new environment prompted him to add a few fresh tricks to his pass-rushing repertoire. Other days, it’s all about perfecting the skills that he already owns.
“Everyone’s been welcoming and I’m enjoying my time,” Clayborn said. “[I’m] just working hard so I can be on the field and show what I can do.”
Eagles offensive lineman Lane Johnson has been rather vocal regarding the team he helped beat in Super Bowl LII. Over the course of the offseason, Johnson described New England as a “fear-based organization,” referred to players who “act like robots,” and posted on social media that Belichick and owner Robert Kraft engaged in trash talk with Eagles coach Doug Pederson and owner Jeffrey Lurie ahead of February’s big game.
Belichick is hardly susceptible to quote-baiting, and batted away an inquiry about Johnson ahead of Tuesday’s practice.
“We’re focused on what we’re doing,” he said. “We need to have a good practice today and try to improve our team today.”
The Patriots will face Philadelphia on Thursday at Gillette Stadium in the team’s second exhibition contest.
Owen Pence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.