FOXBOROUGH — Cody Kessler’s first experience with the Patriots was a memorable one, but it wasn’t because of anything the then-Browns rookie quarterback did.
It came back in Week 5 of 2016 when a certain other signal-caller was making his season debut after sitting out four games as part of the Deflategate punishment. Tom Brady shredded Cleveland, throwing for 406 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-13 win in the Dawg Pound.
Kessler just got pounded.
Dont’a Hightower broke through untouched on an early blitz and thumped Kessler as he tried to throw a screen pass. The ball hit the ground and rolled out of the end zone for a safety. Kessler hit the ground, hurt his shoulder, and never returned.
Kessler will get another chance to make an impression on the Patriots as the club signed him to a free agent deal Wednesday. Kessler spent the summer with the Eagles but was cut at the end of camp. He’s also been with the Jaguars.
Bill Belichick said earlier in the day that any transactions would be about “roster management” and not tied to reducing Brady’s practice workload. Brady was twice limited in practice last week with a calf issue.
New England also has Jarrett Stidham in the quarterback room. Though he threw a pick-6 in his NFL debut Sunday, Belichick said Stidham is “coming along well” in his rookie season.
Julian Edelman was one of 10 Patriots limited at practice after the receiver suffered a rib injury in the victory over the Jets on Sunday. According to a league source, Edelman is considered day to day and his status likely will remain as such until Sunday, when the Patriots face the Bills in Buffalo.
As always, Edelman did his stretching and jogging among the offensive linemen at practice. He then ran some half-speed routes catching balls from Stidham during the window when media was allowed to watch.
“He’ll do everything he can to get ready to go,’’ said Brady. “Certainly, when he’s out there, it’s a big boost for our offense. He just does so many things for us and he’s so dependable, consistent — he’s a great player. When he’s not out there, it’s definitely noticeable for all of us.’’
Sean McDermott acknowledged he’s a big fan of Edelman and his toughness when the Bills coach was asked about how the Patriots’ offense changes when Edelman is not part of the equation.
“Well, he’s one of the best receivers, bar none, in this league,’’ McDermott said. “I have a lot of respect for him. I love the way he plays the game. He plays the game the way it’s meant to be played in terms of hard, tough, physical. When you use those adjectives to describe a player, it’s rare when it’s a receiver, and he does a phenomenal job.’’
The Patriots added tight end Jason Vander Laan to the practice squad. A standout quarterback at Division 2 Ferris State, Vander Laan entered the NFL with the Jets as an undrafted free agent and spent time on their practice squad.
He played in four games (no stats) with the Colts in 2017. He was on the Panthers’ active roster and practice squad in 2018 and was released by Carolina in August.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 244-pound Vander Laan set the NCAA all-divisions mark for rushing yards by a quarterback (5,953) and the Division 2 season rushing record for a QB with 1,607 in 2013.
He won a pair of Harlon Hill Trophies (the Division 2 Heisman Trophy equivalent) at Ferris State, and it’s entirely possible he’s playing the role of Bills quarterback Josh Allen for the Patriots scout team this week.
The 6-5, 238-pound Allen has a very strong arm, but he’s also a very nimble yet strong runner, facts Belichick has reminded his club about.
“He’s like a running back. He breaks tackles, he’s got good speed, good power, and he’s shifty and he avoids and breaks a lot of tackles,’’ said the coach. “[He adds] another dimension. A sixth receiver in the passing game, if you will, and gives you another blocker in the running game when they have designed run plays for him. They’ve hit a lot of them at critical times, a lot of big plays, touchdowns, red area, third-down conversions, things like that.’’
Jake Bailey was named AFC special teams player of the week after the rookie punter landed five punts inside the 12-yard line in the win over the Jets . . . In addition to Brady (calf) and Edelman, running back Rex Burkhead (foot), tight ends Ryan Izzo (calf) and Matt LaCosse (ankle), guard Joe Thuney (shoulder), offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse (illness), Hightower (shoulder), defensive end Michael Bennett (shoulder), and special teamer Nate Ebner (groin) also were limited. Right tackle Marcus Cannon (shoulder) was a full participant.