All Patriots are expected to be in house when veterans report for the start of training camp July 24.
That it’s a Wednesday is particularly perfect for Isaiah Wynn, New England’s top pick in 2018, who will begin the next step in his comeback from a lost rookie campaign.
The big offensive lineman has made a lot of fans with his #WinWithWynnWednesday tweets that offer simple messages of encouragement to people dealing with adversities large and small.
His most recent post:
“Whatever obstacles you encounter today, embrace them. They are only there to better us so just play the hand you were dealt. You’ll be thankful for it in hindsight. Have a great #WinWithWynnWednesday twitter fam!”
Wynn started the practice during his time at Georgia when he used to get morale boosts from loved ones.
“My mom and my family used to always send me [inspirational] text messages, so I started to think, ‘Let’s see if I can put it out there and try to influence somebody else,’ ’’ Wynn said. “Now it’s just a tradition that has stuck with me and I enjoy other’s people’s feedback, like, ‘Yeah, that actually got me through the day’ or ‘That’s helped me along the way.’ ’’
Wynn always found the messages helpful and now he gets an extra boost knowing that he’s affected others, even if it’s in the smallest way.
“Of course,’’ he said. “Because, I put something positive out there and they’re responding to it with something positive, so they’re just building off it. That’s a good thing.’’
Maintaining a positive outlook has always been a part of Wynn’s personality and he was tested pretty early in his NFL career when he suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon during the Patriots’ final exhibition game against the Eagles last August. It was an innocent-looking play as Wynn backpedaled into pass protection. He limped to the sideline and things took an ominous turn after he was carted from the sideline to the locker room.
Word surfaced about the severity of the injury and expectations for the No. 23 overall pick had to be reset. He was no longer in the mix to replace Nate Solder as the starting left tackle — and truth be told, Trent Brown had pretty much won that job — or be the team’s top swing tackle.
It was quite the physical blow for Wynn, but he refused to get down mentally. He again leaned on those words of encouragement he received — and passed along — on social media.
“I got over the disappointment fairly quickly,’’ he said following a minicamp practice last month. “You know, you can’t sit there and dwell on your sorrows or whatever. Everything happens for a reason.’’
He embraced his “redshirt season” with the same exuberance he would have displayed had he been injury free. He rigorously attacked his rehab and was a regular participant in team meetings, soaking up the knowledge he knew he’d need when he got back to playing.
“He’s done a great job,’’ offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said during the spring.
“Everything’s an opportunity and I looked at it as an opportunity to see how everything here works. Get a foundation and be around the guys,’’ said Wynn.
That time spent around the guys taught him a lot about patience and professionalism.
“Just being here with the team was an education,’’ said Wynn. “There’s no sense of sitting around feeling sorry for yourself when the rest of the team is out there grinding and working hard. So, I just wanted to get back, you know. It feels good to be back out here working with these guys.’’
Wynn was held out of team drills during minicamp, though he said from a physical standpoint he “feels good” as camp approaches.
He enters this camp in much the same way as he entered his rookie season: In a battle to claim one of the most important jobs in the NFL — protecting Tom Brady’s blind side.
It was a job that Brown handled with aplomb last year. Brown was so good he landed a four-year, $66 million contract with the Raiders in the offseason.
Wynn said he pays “no attention” to the popular belief that he’s the odds-on favorite to settle into the left tackle spot. His only stated summer goal is to continue to “get better” every day.
“Wherever the team needs me,’’ Wynn said when asked where he sees himself this season. “I’m just working every day to be that guy who can be dependable to the coaches, the team, and just the whole organization.’’
Training camp comes with it’s inevitable ups and downs. A day after winning every one-on-one battle you could find yourself running multiple penalty laps. Wynn knows this and he also knows staying up is the best way to handle every situation. And he’ll remind of you of that every Wednesday if you let him.
“Morning Twitter fam. Just in case you haven’t heard it in a minute, I’m proud of you!! Your work ethic will soon speak volumes for you. Keep it boomin cause the best [is] yet to come! #WinWithWynnWednesday.”
REUNION OF SORTS
Ex-staffers ahead in joint practices
As they have so often in recent years, the Patriots will hold joint practices this summer. Bill Belichick will take his campers on the road for a sort of Friends and Family tour in Detroit (hello, Matt Patricia) and Nashville (hey there, Mike Vrabel).
Besides giving players the opportunity to literally butt heads with new faces — guys often talk about how tiresome it becomes hitting the same guys day after day — the sessions are extremely valuable for building roster depth.
Not only do coaches get a chance to evaluate their own guys, it gives them the chance to investigate opposing players who could possibly fit into their plans down the line.
The Patriots have a long history of acquiring former foes via trade or free agency after being impressed with their performances during the game-like situations that often occur during joint practices. Sure, you get to see them for a handful of snaps during the game but to get an extended look at how a player carries himself and handles any adversity through a series of practices can be an invaluable evaluation opportunity.
“Obviously the main focus is on us and I think that it’s important that we get out of it some good work, scripting the practices, having some called situations, some scrimmage situations. We’re really focused on that, trying to get the same thing out of it whether we’re practicing alone or against Tampa Bay like we did last year or this year against the Patriots,’’ Vrabel said during a recent call. “And then certainly we’ll look at — [general manager] John [Robinson] and I will look at their roster and see if players become available just like our scouting department and John does daily throughout training camp and the offseason.’’
About the best recent example of talent swapping as a result of the up-close looks came in 2015 when the Patriots and Saints pulled off a trade in September after the teams practiced together in August.
The Patriots acquired defensive tackle Akiem Hicks in exchange for tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. Hicks was a hit in his one year in Foxborough (he later cashed in with the Bears) and Hoomanawanui had a solid two-season run in New Orleans.
New England has added several other key pieces after joint workouts, most notably running back LeGarrette Blount and linebacker Jonathan Casillas after practicing with the Buccaneers in 2012 and 2013.
It’ll be a hectic two-week stretch for the Patriots as they take their show on the road for multiple-day stays in Detroit and Nashville, but it’ll be beneficial in the long run.
After wrapping things up with the Titans with a Saturday night game on Aug. 17, the defending Super Bowl champs will be able to settle in at home for nearly a month before they have to pack up again for their Sept. 15 game in Miami Gardens.
Not having to worry about traveling logistics for four weeks gives the organization the ability to focus on the final weeks of camp and preparations for the season opener against the Steelers Sept. 8.
Ball in Goodell’s hands on Gordon
With camp rapidly approaching, one of the hottest topics for Patriots fans is the status of Josh Gordon, who was suspended indefinitely by the league late last season for violating the terms of his reinstatement under the NFL’s drug policy.
Commissioner Roger Goodell has stated that his goal is to get Gordon back on the playing field, so it would stand to reason that he’d reinstate the talented but troubled receiver in time for the start of camp. Allowing Gordon to be in a nurturing environment and get into a structured routine from the start of the season would seem the best route to success.
Gordon picked up the Patriots’ offense with remarkable speed last season, catching 40 passes for 720 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games before his missteps. Those numbers could grow exponentially with an entire camp and season under his belt.
The amount of support Gordon received from the organization was impressive from the start. Even after Gordon was punished, his teammates continued to support him publicly as they surged toward a sixth Super Bowl crown.
During the offseason there have been plenty of signs that Gordon still enjoys plenty of support from his Patriots family, most notably his game of catch with Tom Brady that was caught on social media.
There are a lot of questions about the Patriots’ receiving corps and a healthy and engaged Gordon could provide some answers.
A dream grouping of Gordon, Demaryius Thomas, and N’Keal Harry to complement Julian Edelman would surely cause nightmares for the rest of the league.
Patriots schedule: mostly going zone
The 2019 season doesn’t offer a ton of enticing or exciting road trips for Patriots fans as the club will leave the Eastern time zone just once – the Thanksgiving weekend game in Houston Dec. 1. Even the always popular Southern sojourn to Miami Gardens won’t provide a winter escape as it lands in Week 2.
Next season, however, the schedule is packed with frequent-flyer possibilities as the Patriots will play in Los Angeles twice and take another cross-country flight to Seattle. The trips to Los Angeles come with the added bonus of playing in a brand-spanking new stadium that is set to open next summer.
The $2.6 billion facility that will house both the Rams and Chargers will be more like a city than a football stadium. Built on the site of the old Hollywood Park racetrack, the place will also feature a hotel, restaurants, shops, parks, a man-made lake, and 2,500 housing units.
A quick glimpse at recent aerial photos of the structure, which will host Super Bowl LVI in February 2022, reveals it looks a bit like the outline of the Flying Elvis Patriots logo.
Bernard Pollard. Sheesh. Does anything scream “look at me” more than calling Tom Brady a system quarterback? Pollard is clearly looking for a job or jobs where he can get paid to spew ridiculous hot takes — he does it for free on Twitter now. Labeling Brady a “system quarterback” is so lazy. Technically, every quarterback plays in a system. Brady has played in multiple, and it’s his ability to master every single one that separates him from everyone else. It’s ironic that Pollard includes the phrase “don’t get offended” in his Twitter bio when clearly that’s what he’s out to do . . . Wishing a rapid recovery to Tedy Bruschi as he recuperates from his second stroke. Class move by the Patriot Hall of Famer to include the warning signs for a stroke in his thank you tweet to fans for their thoughts and prayers . . . Nice to read Jeremy Hill tell The Advocate that he is “pretty close” to 100 percent after the running back tore his ACL in the Patriots opener last season. Hill had a strong camp and appeared poised to be a consistent contributor before disaster struck. Hill always was affable with the media and clearly enjoyed his time and teammates in New England. Hill is confident job opportunities will come his way when he’s fully recovered . . . Risky move by Melvin Gordon as the Chargers running back has threatened to not report to training camp unless he gets a new deal. On the surface it would seem the team has the advantage in this situation as Gordon is under contract (he’s scheduled to make $5.6 million in the fifth year of his rookie deal) and could get slapped with the franchise tag next year. But Gordon does have some leverage. With Gordon, who has 38 combined rushing and receiving touchdowns in his four-year career, the Chargers are definitely a playoff/Super Bowl contender. Without Gordon? Maybe not so much. Phillip Rivers needs good players around him. Melvin Gordon is a good player. Not sure he’s earned a contract similar to those of Todd Gurley ($14.375 million per year), Le’Veon Bell ($13.125 million), or David Johnson ($13 million) but it certainly makes sense for the sides to find some middle ground and hammer out a pact that keeps the player happy and the team in contention. Patriots running back James White, who shared the Wisconsin backfield with Gordon, left no doubt who he’s rooting for when he tweeted “Pay my dawg!” . . . Nick Caserio got some laughs during the draft when he ended an evaluation of third-round pick Chase Winovich with “and he’s got long hair, which I’m sure everybody will enjoy — until we tell him to cut it.’’ So it was a bit of a surprise when Winovich showed up to minicamp with his golden locks flowing from beneath his helmet. That may change for training camp, however. Winovich recently posted a post-practice Instagram shot of himself walking with Tom Brady with the caption, “Hey, I might be looking for a new barber, know anybody? @tombrady” . . . Count me in favor of the new rule that allows reviewing pass interference. Coaches will be allowed to challenge pass interference — and just as important non calls until the two-minute warning at the end of the first half and the game. After that and including overtime, challenges will come from the booth. It’s not a perfect system and certainly problems and controversies will arise, but it’s better than doing nothing at all. The missed pass interference call in the NFC Championship game was a travesty and this measure should ensure that that kind of bungle never happens again . . . Running back Duke Johnson, who has demanded a trade from the Browns, recently switched agents and is now represented by Drew Rosenhaus, who will try to jumpstart the process of finding Johnson a new home.