BOSTON (CBS) — This year’s iteration of NFL training camp is nothing like training camps of years past. But on Wednesday, things looked a little more on the normal side for the New England Patriots.
Patriots players and coaches took over the fields behind Gillette Stadium for the first time this summer on Wednesday, taking the next step in camp. Up until today, coaches were not permitted on the field as players mostly did strength and conditioning work. Though there was plenty of stretching, Wednesday looked a lot more like an actual practice, with players running through positional drills during the morning session.
They still didn’t put on any pads (that will come next week), but players were wearing helmets for the first time. The session lasted 90 minutes, and the Pats will be back on the field again on Thursday.
“It was great, it really was, just to get out there, put the helmets on and move around at a faster tempo,” running back Rex Burkhead said on a conference call after practice. “Everyone is really itching to get out there at a faster pace and it was nice.”
“I think more than anything, it was just great energy,” added offensive lineman Shaq Mason. “Everybody was just excited to get back out on the football field and grind.”
After getting a glance of what he looks like in a Pats uniform, we got our first look at Cam Newton going through the motions as a New England quarterback. The team’s official Twitter account posted a live stream of the early part of the practice (roughly 30 minutes), so we got to see Newton in action. You can see him at the 4:55 mark (stretching and getting his groove on) and the 24:15 mark (rolling out and throwing an actual pass!) of the video.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) August 12, 2020
There was a lot going on Wednesday, and here are some quick observations from those who observed the session from afar:
Hoyer Gets First Reps At QB
Since Newton signed in New England, all the quarterback talk has been centered around his battle with Jarrett Stidham for the starting job. But neither of those two took the first reps in QB drills — that honor belonged to veteran Brian Hoyer.
So pencil Hoyer in as QB1 on Sept. 13 against Miami? Not quite. Hoyer took the first rep of the team’s rollout drill, but that’s likely because he’s the quarterback with the most experience in New England. This is Belichick’s way of rewarding the veteran for his years of service, while also making it clear to Stidham and Hoyer that nothing will be handed to them.
Stidham took the second rep, Newton went third, and undrafted rookie Brian Lewerke rounded out the group.
First Impressions Of Newton
Ask any player their first impressions of Newton, and they all go to how big the quarterback is. Newton’s 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame is imposing, and his new teammates are taking note.
“He’s a big guy, just his physical presence,” said Burkhead.
Most of the team already knew that, especially new wide receiver Damiere Byrd, who played three seasons with Newton in Carolina.
“Cam is a great player and he’s going to bring a lot of experience to this team and to that room,” Byrd said of Newton. “I know [the wide receiver] room was excited to have him and all those guys are working their tails off to get better every day.”
Andrews Gets Back To Work
Starting center David Andrews took part in his first practice since last preseason, when it was revealed he would miss the entire 2019 season with blood clots in his lungs. Burkhead said that having Andrews back to centering the offensive line is “huge.”
“He’s an unbelievable player, not only just player but captain for this team, leader of this team and just what else he brings,” said Burkhead. “He’s a master communicator up front, to get everyone in the right position and moving on the same page. He does it every single day with consistency. He’s a great guy to follow for those young guys and that room to go to if they have any questions.”
Masked Bill Belichick
Belichick was wearing a mask and kept his distance on the field during Wednesday’s session. The 68-year-old head coach is taking the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols very seriously, it would appear.
Bill Belichick, masked up and extremely distanced. pic.twitter.com/fsYljzqg5Q
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) August 12, 2020
No word on what kind of mask that is, but maybe he made his own out of all those sleeves he has cut off his hoodies over the years.